SQÜRL - Some Music for Robby Müller
These recordings were made by SQÜRL to provide the score to the documentary film LIVING THE LIGHT by Claire Pijman. The subject of Claire's film is Robby Müller, the unparalleled Dutch cinematographer and poet of light whose work includes: PARIS TEXAS, DEAD MAN, BREAKING THE WAVES, BARFLY, 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE and at least 70 other remarkable films. He also produced many still photographs, like these luminous Polaroids on the jacket of this vinyl recording. Claire Pijman is also Dutch, and also a cinematographer. Her film is, happily, not a conventional or formulaic documentary, but more a personal essay focused on Robby’s vision, his gathered images, and his approach to light, to storytelling and to life itself. LIVING THE LIGHT has now been screened at numerous important film festivals around the world, and was recently awarded the top prize for best feature documentary at the Netherlands Film Festival. I first met Robby in 1981, in a bar on a boat in Rotterdam during the film festival (where I was presenting my first feature film, PERMANENT VACATION). Wim Wenders knew I was a huge fan of Robby’s work and he told me exactly where I might meet Robby – in that bar on that boat seated next to the peanut machine which rested on top of the bar. And yes, there he was. I nervously introduced myself, and then we talked and talked and talked. This was the beginning of one of the most important relationships of my life.
Robby became my close friend, my collaborator and my teacher too. From him I learned about the emotional qualities of light, about telling stories with a camera, about artistic intuition, collaboration, and integrity. We worked together on the films DOWN BY LAW, MYSTERY TRAIN, DEAD MAN, parts of COFFEE AND CIGARETTES, and GHOST DOG: THE WAY OF SAMURAI. We spent time together in many interesting places in the world, and became parts of each other’s families. Honestly, I can’t even begin express all that I learned from Robby, the joy I had just being with him, or the depth of my respect for him as a compassionate, energetic and rebellious human being. I miss him very much.
As SQÜRL approached creating music for Claire’s film, we attempted to be guided by the beautiful and illuminated elements of Robby’s spirit. We tried to channel his love of the special light during “magic hour,” his love of moving images – from trains and cars, the sadness of certain architecture, or the vibrant energy that can be felt emanating from all living things.
Just before recording, SQÜRL borrowed an unusual vintage Japanese electric guitar from the wonderful Brooklyn–based Dutch luthier, Flip Scipio. We used it for all the guitar parts, its tonal qualities also somehow channeling the spirit of Robby. Robby liked formal purity and focus but he also embraced imperfection, accidents and experimentation. He was well aware that contradictions can and should become strengths.
"So here is Some Music for Robby Müller created by SQÜRL in NYC and inspired by Claire Pijman’s film, LIVING THE LIGHT, and of course by Robby himself; his perceptions, his wonderful presence, his mind, his heart and his twinkling, mischievous eyes -- through which he communicated, and with which he surveyed the same illusive world still vibrating around us." -Jim Jarmusch, NYC, October 2019