Welt am Draht (original German and Japanese market score)

Gottfried Hüngsberg and Eiko Ishibashi

" it sometimes feels like a direct copy of the original "

Written by Joep de Bruijn - Review of the download only release

Welt Am Draht (World on a Wire) is a 1973 mini-series directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, one of the most important (German) directors of all time. The project was his first and only science fiction production in a turbulent, short-lived career in which he produced nearly 40 films in 14 years. It was based on the Simulacron-3 novel by Daniel F. Galouye. The well-known story is about a company that produces a computer program called Simulacron, that simulates an alternated reality. As weird and unexplained things happen, a doctor tries to unravel the mysteries, amidst a situation in which there’s a fine thin line in between every day reality and the simulated world.

Seen from todays point of view, the subject has been used in a variety of films and is likely to appeal. And yet, what sets it apart is the intentionally artificial acting and archetypical aesthetic Fassbinder dialogues.The music was composed by Gottfried Hüngsberg. He once shared an apartment with Fassbinder and played an important role in a few of his productions, both theatre and films, contributing as sound designer and composer. Ironically, he soon pursued a different career as a computer scientist.

The musical design for Welt Am Draht consisted of a mixture of (archival) music played in different settings; classical music for scenes filmed outside the company, while on the inside this guitar muzak defined the company’s sound. Hüngsberg' music is freely used in between those worlds, primarily focusing on the very concept of what is reality. His music tied in with the krautrock movement of the 1970s, producing experimental synthesized sounds to allude to the concept. The estranging synthesized music is very fitting to appeal to a sense of disorientation and paranoia by the use of dissonant unexplainable noises and sound waves. Obviously, nowadays these sounds, as individual pieces, are likely to be taken seriously because of their outdated, early synthesizer sound, but that is an unfair assessment for music that is still is as functional as it was in 1973.

Eiko Ishibashis is a Japanese singer-songwriter, musician and composer. Her first encounter with the work of Fassbinder was through her work on the Japanese version of his play Der Mull, Der Stadt und Der Tod in 2013. In 2016 Welt am Draht was released for the Japanese market, for which she replaced an unknown amount of music. Now in 2020, her music has finally been released on Bandcamp as the album ‘Trip on a Wire.’

Whenever someone of influence purchases distribution rights, you can only assume they believe in the product and release it in its original form. Unfortunately, so many examples prove that they feel it needs ill-fated adjustment to appeal to their regional target audience, and the content of the deal can authorize such alterations, such as replacing the original score. I usually strongly oppose musical alterations, tempering with the orginal intent, which often happen without involving the initial makers. And yet, I can sometimes see the reason for replacements, but in the case of Welt Am Draht it’s a quite a mystery.

There’s no doubt the purpose of Hüngsberg ’ music is still highly effective, but it’s conceivable the Japanese didn’t think so highly of it. I can also see that the early synthesizers have not aged well and ‘needed’ an update in the form of a new score. Another possibility is that they simply replaced the music because they could, which I think is the most likely idea behind Ishibuashi’ new music. Her music is strikingly similar to the original, including the same hallucinating, dissonant synthesizers, it sometimes feels like a direct copy of the original. There are some differences, but overall feels and sounds alike. Since I haven’t seen how Isibuashi’s is used in the Japanese version, I can only make assumptions based on the 30-minute release.

Ishibuashi’s score is quite intriguing and would wholeheartedly recommend it anyone who appreciates dissonant soundscapes. Also, it probably works just as effective in context, but this is exactly what renders it worthless.

Gottfried Hüngsberg’ original score remains unreleased.

Eiko Ishibashis’ replacement score was released on Bandcamp. The tracklist is as follows:

1. trip on a wire 1 07:03
2.trip on a wire 2 09:56
3.trip on a wire 3 04:40
4.trip on a wire 4 04:26
5.trip on a wire 5 05:17

Total duration 31:22

(click to rate this score)  
(total of 1 votes - average 3/5)

Released by

Bandcamp (download only release 2020)