Strange Cities a sonic experiment
Чужие города Strange Cities is an interactive digital work, hybrid documentary and fictional musical by Tatiana Pentes (Writer/Director) & Geoffrey Weary (Co-Development/ Cinematography & Photography), Eurydice Aroney (Producer), Roi Huberman (Sound & Music Design), Glenn Remington (Interface Design), with music by Sergei Ermolaeff (Serge Ermoll). Produced in association with Screen Australia the Australian Film Commission (AFC). Чужие города Strange Cities collected and archived by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) 2018, and the work has been exhibited inter/nationally. It won Best Arts/Cultural Title/Site, AMY (AIMIA) Awards, 2000, and Most Innovative/Creative Multimedia Title, ATOM Awards, 2000, Australia. It has been acquired by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Département audiovisuel / Multimédia, Paris, FRANCE 2015, Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) Multimedia Collection, Australian Film & Television School (AFTRS) Library, University of Hawaii, University of Sydney, University of Technology, Sydney, the National Library Australia and many inter/national archives. Strange Cities was selected for Dart dLux Media Arts in partnership with Sydney Film Festival, 1999, Experimenta Media national travelling Exhibition, The Red Room, Institute of Modern Art (IMA) & promoted New Talent Pavilion, MILIA Games, Cannes, France in February 1999. Online exhibition Australia-Japan New Media Gallery, Australian Embassy, JAPAN.
Xenia Vladimirovna – Xenia Wayne; Sergei Ermolaeff – Peter Tartarinoff; Newsreader – Tony Baldwin; Sasha (Voice) – Katya Rozenblit; Young Sasha (Visuals) singer/pianist – Isabella Manfredi; Rose Tsing (Visuals) – Rose Tang; Tango Dancers – Katya Rozenblit & Evan Darnley-Pentes, Serge Ermoll (Sergei Emolaeff) piano.
Чужие города Strange Cities is an experimental interactive multimedia work authored for digital release and exhibition. The aesthetics of the cut-up and collage are at its core. Through the disclosure of evidence, Sasha dreams, discovers and remembers the exotic identity of her grandparents Xenia and Sergei Ermolaeff (a composer and orchestra leader) in fragments and traces of their music and struggle to survive the Russian and Chinese Communist Revolutions. The dulcet tones of the transatlantic voice of ABC Radio – Tony Baldwin as Newsreader deepen the nostalgia of this interactive drama/history.
The inspiration for the work is a tune of the same name Чужие города Strange Cities (Chuzie Goroda) an avant-garde music experiment. – by Alexander Vertinsky, Serge Ermoll and Ira Bloch, a musical illustration, an imaginary vision of old Shanghai (looking back to motherland Russia – St Petersberg), Chinese metropolis and international settlement which conjures mythic, filmic, musical and personal images of the city port. This musical team also created the legendary song Над розовым морем Over The Rosy Sea/ The Pink Sea – (Nad Rosavuim Morem). Alexander Vertinsky, of Ukrainian and Polish/ Russian descent, was the originator of the black Russian cabaret, where he embodied the figure of a dark Pierrot. His sojourn in Shanghai 1935 – 1943 via Harbin, China, before his return to soviet Russia (USSR), was fertile and he (founded) played the famous Russian cabaret clubs Gardenia, Arcadia, and Tkachenko’s with Oleg Lundstrem.
In 1926, Vertinsky made one of the earliest recordings of the song Dorogoi dlinnoyu Дорогой длинною or Endless Road written by Boris Fomin (1900–1948) with words by the poet Konstantin Podrevskii, which, with English lyrics by Gene Raskin, was a major hit for Mary Hopkin in 1968 as Those Were the Days. 
Serge Ermoll and His Music Masters was managed by Dick Hamilton-Mills Vaudeville Entertainments, Shanghai located in Hamilton House and enjoyed residencies at establishments such as The Paramount Ballroom (1934-36), Ladlows Casanova, Lido (1936) Astor House Hotel (1930), the big band at Cercle Sportif Français (1938-1943 French Club) signed with Dick Hamilton for exclusice cabaret the Arcadia club in the French Concession and the ‘Tower Nightclub’, The Cathay Hotel, Officer’s Club, Silk Hat (1945-1949) with trio, At the Arcadia club (1936) Sergei met the celebrated crooner, poet and singer/ composer Alexander Vertinsky, during his Shanghai sojourn. The collision produced the immortal A and B side of a record – Чужие города Strange Cities (Chuzie Goroda) – music and words by Alexander Vertinsky, Serge Ermoll and Ira Bloch, and Над розовым морем Over The Rosy Sea/ The Pink Sea – (Nad Rosavuim Morem), music and words by Alexander Vertinsky, Serge Ermoll and George Ivanoff, [Registered with Melodiya Copyright Agency USSR 1972 & APRA] Sergei claimed to have played with Whitey Smith’s band at Chiang Kai Chek’s wedding to Mei-Lie Soong, and held a residency at the famous demolished Majestic Hotel 1930.
Coined capital of the international underworld, the city of Shanghai became a seductively strange locale symbolized in the Western imagination. In reality however the city was most often the final port of call for political refugees. The visual imagery for the project was shot in St Petersberg, Shanghai, Tokyo, and Sydney and involves found photographs, film footage, simulated radio archives, and original musical compositions.
Strange Cities experiments with performance, sound, image and text and their dramatic representation in the interactive environment. Providing a challenging approach to traditional modes of story-telling and music in the interface design, the user is provoked to discover the Strange Cities tune in the graphic portrayal of its musical script, sonic perception of its vocal lyric, and orchestration through user interactivity.
In the exploration of Strange Cities the user will experience a questioning of the relationship between fictional, biographical, historical and musical narrative possibilities produced through the slippage between and across a series of interactive screens. Participation with the interface provides for the user an experience which challenges traditional modes of narrative in audiovisual presentation, the perception of musical structure, storytelling and in historical, biographical and fictional texts in the multimedia environment.
Strange Cities was selected for the 1999 Experimenta Media Art CD-Rom Exhibition and has been promoted at the New Talent Pavilion, MILIA Games, Cannes, France in February 1999.
AWARDS & FESTIVALS
Best Arts/Cultural Title/ Site, Amy Awards, Australian Interactive Multimedia Industry Association (AIMIA) 2000, AUSTRALIA
Most Innovative/Creative Multimedia Production, Australian Teachers of Media, ATOM Awards 2000, AUSTRALIA
This project has been produced in association with Screen Australia (Australian Film Commission)
Strange Cities has been curated as part of the Australia-Japan New Media Gallery, Australian Embassy Japan http://newmedia.australia.or.jp/artist/info.php?name=tatiana
Ultimately this project led to the production of a film produced in association with Screen Australia (AFC), Scenes From A Shanghai Hotel (2008) shot in the old Cathay Hotel (Peace Fairmont Hotel) Shanghai.