A centaur blares a horn on top of a mountain. The sun cuts through gloomy clouds. The beat kicks in. Cherubic unicorns and pegasi awaken from a long slumber, and a rainbow-trailing fairy flies overhead. A friendly piano melody mingles around the tinny-sounding percussion to Valentin Stip's "Regards sur l'enfance (I et II)."
Morale was low for Miami's electronic duo Legs Benedict (AKA Will Buck and David Sinopoli) when the world began to shut down nearly a year ago.
"We had years of post-apocalyptic plans if things went down," Sinopoli tells New Times. "We had Will's family cabin in Maine to chill out in and wait to see if the zombies were coming. Two weeks into it, we realized we weren't going anywhere anytime soon, so we opened up Fantasia."
The two considered a project to replace the original score of the animated 1940 Disney masterwork with a downtempo electronic mix for years.
"Fantasia was something always playing on the side of the Club Space VIP section," explains Sinopoli, who is a co-owner of the 11th Street club and the III Points music festival. "I remember seeing it in the club in 2017. I think tech-house was playing, and it was pretty crazy seeing this with house music on the side, but it seemed like it was way too fast for the sequence of the film."
It has been 81 years since the music was performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra, led by conductor Leopold Stokowski, for the film. The new score would have to be profoundly fluid and slow — synched to every second of the film in order to reflect its nature fully.
"I remember thinking [Fantasia] was a kids' movie," recalls Buck. "But it was really about death; it was dark themes."
With nostalgia at full peak and little to distract them, Buck and Sinopoli retreated to a snowed-in cabin in the woods of Maine and got to work on their rescoring, titled "Hallucinasia." Over the span of 100-plus hours, Legs Benedict painstakingly composed a mix of productions from Burial, Nicolas Jaar, and Four Tet, along with original works and ambient samples to guard against any moments of awkward silence.
They'd never taken on a project of this magnitude.
"Before this, we would kind of weave in clips from movies and sounds from nature and just interesting non-songs," Buck explains. "This was the first time we tried to do something to a movie or a scene playing. We approached it like a DJ mix, put it all into Ableton [software], and tried to time out scenes with different breaks and parts in the song. So when things were happening in the movie — like a crash of a hammer or a big flashing light — we would time the changes in the songs so they would happen at that very moment."
One memorable Fantasia scene, for example, shows jungle animals (including tutu-clad hippos) dancing to Ponchielli's "Dance of the Hours." Buck and Sinopoli have the creatures twirling to Legs Benedict's "Temul Talk," a liquid track that samples Asha Puthli's "Space Talk" minced with acoustic slaps and wavering pianos.
The duo had no promotional goal in mind with the project. Instead, they sent out 100 USB sticks of the rescored film to friends.
"I think me and Will really liked the idea of something physical going to our friends, and the ability for them to watch it at home," Sinopoli says. "A couple of people reached out to us saying, 'Once this pandemic is over, we want to screen it in Miami.'"
"They do so much incredible programming in Miami," Sinopoli says. "They had just purchased this new canopy that goes over the crowd, and James had the idea to project it onto the canopy. They had just purchased a new LED screen too."
The bandshell screening is a private event open to friends and family only.
But additional screenings are scheduled for consecutive Fridays — February 12 and February 19, at Space Park. An RSVP is required, capacity will be reduced for adequate social distancing, and other CDC protocols will be in place. (Tickets are already sold out for the second screening.)
With the new era of livestream not exactly providing the same energy as in-person events, the idea of safely screening the project for an audience felt organic.
"I thought this was a good way where I could be visually creative, and I thought people would actually have fun watching it as opposed to being online," Buck says.
For Legs Benedict, the fact that Fantasia began with a full orchestra ensemble, and less than a hundred years later, two people sequestered in a cabin can mix an entire soundtrack with computer software, is humbling.
As Sinopoli puts it, "It was a trippy experience to watch [Fantasia] so slowly, and really analyze what the fuck was going on at that moment in this world."
Hallucinasia. 8 p.m. Friday, February 12 (sold out) and February 19, at Space Park, 298 NE 61st St., Miami. Admission is free with RSVP via eventbrite.com.
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