Transformation for String Quartet
II. Towards Liberty
V. For Life
VI. One Out of Many
Alice Guy’s 1912 silent film, Making an American Citizen is a groundbreaking examination of power—the egalitarian culture of a new country, the dominance of older, patriarchal values, and the ultimate triumph of the human spirit. Barbara Harbach’s newly composed soundtrack enhances the eight episodes and captures the aural essence of each scene. The string quartet is the perfect vehicle for conveying not only nuance, but also the wide range of emotion that ranges from liquid gold to uneasy edginess. The short scenes build in intensity corresponding with Ivan’s brutality towards his wife. A rising and haunting melody in the cello introduces the score as well as several scenes; it is a motif of vulnerability and even mortality. The moods of the soundtrack range from nostalgia to folk Americana, from agitation to rage to resolution. The final scene recaps some of the earlier drama, as the audience weighs the apparent change in Ivan Orloff.
The scene titles of Making an American Citizen:
- Ivan Orloff and his unhappy wife encounter several emigrants. The couple is invited to share their journey to America.
- In the land of freedom. His first lesson in Americanism.
- In their new home, Ivan receives his second lesson in Americanism.
- In the country, his third lesson.
- Ivan’s wife begins to live in the American way.
- As a fourth lesson, Ivan is sentenced to six months of penal servitude.
- Ivan begins to profit from all the good advice he has received.
- Completely Americanized!