Strange Cities

Australia, 2000

Creator: Tatiana Pentes
Original musical score: Serge Ermoll (Sergei Emolaeff) and Alexander Vertinsky
Co-development & Cinematography: Geoffrey James Weary
Producer: Eurydice Aroney
Sound Design: Roi Huberman
Interface Design and Programming: Glenn Remington


‘Strange Cities’ is an experimental interactive multimedia work that tells of the survival of the Russian and Chinese Communist Revolutions by two Russian exiles. It draws upon the legacy of the Shanghai milieu, the Chinese gangster film, a musical cabaret genre, orientalist erotic literature, intrigue novels, and the films of Josef von Sternberg to explore memory, transience and the urban imagination. It is an experimental interactive multimedia work authored for CD-Rom release and exhibition. Through the disclosure of evidence, Sasha dreams, discovers, remembers the exilic identity of her grandparents Xenia and Sergei Ermolaeff (a composer and orchestra leader) in fragments and traces of their music, memories, personal effects and photographs, in their struggle to survive the Russian and Chinese Communist Revolutions. The inspiration for the work is a tune of the same name - a musical illustration, an imaginary vision of old Shanghai, Chinese metropolis, and International Settlement, conjuring mythic, filmic, musical and personal images of the city port. The ‘Strange cities’ musical score1 written by Alexander Vertinsky, Serge Ermoll and Ira Bloch, was first performed by a jazz orchestra of White Russian emigres in the cabarets of the International Settlement of Shanghai, China in the 1930’s and 40’s. ‘Strange cities’ draws upon the legacy of the Shanghai milieu, the Chinese gangster film, a musical cabaret genre, orientalist erotic literature, intrigue novels, and the films of Josef von Sternberg. Coined capital of the international underworld, the city of Shanghai became a seductively strange locale symbolized in the Western imagination, in reality the city was most often the final port of call for political refugees.

Artist statement:
Strange Cities (Чужие города, Chuzie Goroda) digital work references Shanghainese sinified jazz music, ‘Yellow Music’ (黃色音樂; huángsè yīnyuè) or Shidaiqu (時代曲) - Chinese popular music of the 1920s to 1940s. The color yellow associated with eroticism was condemned as seductive (咪咪知音) ‘decadent sound’ (mimi zhi yin). “A hybrid form inspired by American jazz: Gershwin meets Chinese folk melodies, Tang dynasty love poems, and the romantic cliché of Tin Pan Alley, were expressed in tunes like 美美我愛你 “Darling I Love You” (Meimei wo ai ni)”, see ‘Listening to the Chinese Jazz Age’, in A.F. Jones, Yellow Music, 2001. This music is experiencing a contemporary renaissance as cultural nostalgia to mined. Read more:

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Tatiana Pentes


Tatiana Pentes


Eurydice Aroney


Tatiana Pentes

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Digital Art






CD ROM; Master

CD ROM; Copy

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