The Velvet Underground And Nico
(A Symphony of Sound)

Title: The Velvet Underground And Nico (A Symphony of Sound)
Director, Producer, Camera-operator: Andy Warhol
Director of photography: Paul Morrissey
Production Company: Andy Warhol Films
Music: The Velvet Underground And Nico
Running Time: 67 minutes (16 mm/black & white)
Release Date: 1966-08-00 [US]
Cast: The Velvet Underground & Nico: Lou Reed rhythm guitar, John Cale viola, electronic noise, Sterling Morrison rhythm guitar, Nico lap top guitar, maracas, tambourine, rattling a screwdriver across the strings of a bass; + Ari Boulogne maracas
Gerard Malanga
Billy Name
Stephen Shore
Andy Warhol
Note: The Velvet Underground & Nico The Factory, 231 East 47th St., (loft on 4th floor), New York City, 1966-01-00.

The Velvet Underground And Nico (A Symphony of Sound) is a portrait of the band, recorded during a practice session at the Factory; shot in January 1966, it shows the group rehearsing for what was probably their opening at the Film-Makers' Cinematheque basement theater, 125 West 41 St, New York City, in on February 08. The music is an instrumental number; Nico, the German singer and actress whom Warhol introduced into the band, sits on a stool and bangs a tambourine, while her son Ari plays on the floor at her feet. The two reels contain a great deal of wild camerawork and psychedelic zooming, which indicates that this film was intended for exhibition, probably in double-screen, behind the Velvet Underground on stage. It is easy to imagine how this footage might have looked projected in a large, crowded theater in an atmosphere of deafening music, wild dancing, and strobe lighting.

As if to authenticate the film's countercultural status, the second reel documents the arrival of the New York City police during the filming, apparently in response to a telephoned complaint about the noise level at the Factory. After a disarmingly self-conscious cop appears on screen to adjust the amplifier, the rehearsal is stopped, and the camera pulls back to show the deep space of the studio-one of the few documentary of the Factory in Warhol's films-where Warhol is seen talking with the police while the Velvets, Gerard Malanga, Billy Name, and other Factory regulars mill around."

This was never meant even as an experiment. It was meant as an item of wallpaper made for use behind the musical group as they set up and tuned their instruments. I had been using five different prints of silent footage, mainly screen tests, for simultaneous projection behind them. This was extremely effective while the music was played but in the long stretches between numbers when there was no sound coming from the stage, it was very boring.

I thought of recording the Velvets just making up sounds as they went along to have on film so I could turn both soundtracks up at the same time along with the other three silent films being projected. The cacophonous noise added a lot of energy to these boring sections and sounded a lot like the group itself. The show put on for the group was certainly the first mixed media show of its kind, was extremely effective and I have never since seen such an interesting one even in this age of super-colossal rock concerts.

Paul Morrissey

This film was shown at the Fondation Cartier exposition in Jouy-en-Josas 1990-06-15. A 6:20 excerpt was broadcast 1991-06-29 on French TV channel FR3.
A Symphony of Sound
A Symphony of Sound

© 1996-2011
Serge Mironneau