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Commissioned by Brighton Festival 2016.

Film director: Lizzie Thynne

Editor: Phil Reynolds

Composer: Ed Hughes

Brighton: Symphony of a City was conceived in collaboration with the film maker Lizzie Thynne. The project was inspired by the city symphony films of the 1920s and 1930s. Through a silent film with live music the aim was a visual and musical portrait of the city of Brighton. It was commissioned for the 50th anniversary of the Brighton Festival and premiered in the Brighton Dome with the Orchestra of Sound and Light, conducted by the composer, on 11 May 2016.  The film creates a dynamic portrait of Brighton today, and in its dawn to dusk and then night approach consciously references Walter Ruttmann’s great rhythmic and poetic film ‘Berlin: Symphony of a Great City’ (1927). The music conveys colour and contrasts, echoing those of the modern urban environment, but constantly aware of seascape. As writer and musicologist Mervyn Cooke observes, gently pulsating cross rhythms and subtle dislocations of the metre, combined with long-breathed dynamic ebbs and flows and vividly contrasting orchestral colours, wonderfully capture not only the broad sweep of the city itself, but also (as with Vigo’s Nice) the alluring expanse of the open sea beyond its shore.

Unlike Ruttmann’s film, Thynne also draws on archival silent moving images from Screen Archive South East, creating unexpected, informative and poignant juxtapositions. Towards the close of the film the images employ montage and the music and picture seem to fuse into a state of symphony as their separate languages merge.


46 minutes

Orchestra of Sound and Light cond. Ed Hughes, Brighton Dome Concert Hall, Brighton Festival, 11th May 2016

2 Flute, 1 Oboe, 1 Oboe (=Cor anglais), 1 B-flat Clarinet, 1 B-flat Clarinet (=Bass Clarinet in B-flat), 2 Bassoon, 1 Alto Saxophone, 2 Horn in F, 2 Trumpet in B-flat, 2 Trombone, 1 Percussion, 1 Timpani, 1 Drum Kit, 1 Piano, 3 Electric Guitar, 1 Electric Bass, 2 Violins, 1 Viola, 2 Violoncellos, 1 Double bass
Composition date


Symphonic Visions - music for silent films by Ed Hughes Clare Hammond, New Music Players, Orchestra of Sound and Light, Richard Casey 1st February 2018


1 June 2018

Unitarian Chapel, New Road, Brighton 

Brighton Sinfonietta

Ed Hughes (conductor)

7 October 2016

Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, University of Sussex

Orchestra of Sound and LIght, conductor Ed Hughes

11 May 2016

Brighton Dome Concert Hall

Orchestra of Sound and Light, cond. Ed Hughes