Bridges Go Round is a 7 minute experimental film from 1958, directed by Shirley Clarke and shot around New York City. Clarke commissioned two scores for the film, but it’s unclear exactly why she chose to do this. Teo Macero’s score is organic, with brass and voices, while Louis & Bebe Barron’s is much more mechanical and composed with a synthesizer. (The Barron’s had just made the first fully electronic film score in 1956, for Forbidden Planet). Each soundtrack suffuses the bridge forms with a tone of industrial mystery, but each one accentuates different elements in the film.
The film was made from stock footage that Clarke shot for something entirely different, and is comprised of various shots of traffic bridges from unusual angles and juxtapositions. The editing is set up not unlike a visual rondo, with repeating motifs set in perpetual motion. Clarke began her artistic career as a choreographer, but turned to filmmaking after the dance career fizzled. She studied with German filmmaker Hans Richter in the 1950s, famous for his Rhythmus cycles. Rhythmus 21, Rhythmus 23 and Rhythmus 25 were films made of pure geometric shapes set in motion, and you can easily see the influence on Bridges Go Round. Clarke once said, “You can make a dance film without dancers.” This is made abundantly clear in Bridges Go Round, where industrial objects come to life, as if awakened from a deep sleep.
You can actually see some of Clarke’s films here, on Ubuweb.