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PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2007 7:28 am 
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dave41n wrote:
But for the sake of discussion, I'm wondering if anyone here uses music from their own collection when viewing silents? .

Well, as you pointed out, with many films on the Kino Avantgarde sets it is almost mandatory to use your own accompaniment, at least if that Marotta guy did the 'music'. Something that almost always works for me especially with those avantgarde films is piano music by Erik Satie. Not the well known pieces like the "Gymnopedies" or "Gnossiennes", but try with a collection of his shorter and more playful music. I guess one of the reasons why it works so well is that Satie actually invented the concept of 'furniture music' (we would now call it 'ambient music', but it's essentially the same), music that doesn't have too much of its own value, but serves as a backdrop for other activities. And this is precisely what is needed for silent film music, of course.
If you come to a more 'passionate' or 'melodramatic' film, say of German origin, you might also try early (!) string quartets from Schönberg or Berg. Though these pieces are far too good to be used only as a backdrop.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 04, 2007 1:05 am 
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A few years ago, I saw Tom Verlaine and Jimmy Ripp perform live accompaniment to some of the avant-garde shorts from the Rohauer collection. This was interesting -- they played very unusual music (within the context of silent film scoring) that complemented the films perfectly.

The Yo La Tengo scores for 1920s nature films are pretty fun. I'm fond of the Bill Frisell scores for Buster Keaton's movies, but I've never been able to get them to sync up to the DVDs.

I also really love the Alloys -- seeing their Metropolis helped me to fall in love with that movie at an impressionable age.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 04, 2007 10:11 pm 
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ogygia avenue wrote:
A few years ago, I saw Tom Verlaine and Jimmy Rip perform live accompaniment to some of the avant-garde shorts from the Rohauer collection. This was interesting -- they played very unusual music (within the context of silent film scoring) that complemented the films perfectly.

Did you know about Kino's DVD of this project?
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I'm fond of the Bill Frisell scores for Buster Keaton's movies, but I've never been able to get them to sync up to the DVDs.

I tried that once, too. They must have been projecting them at a slightly different speed. There's probably not much chance of those recordings ever being included on any officially released Keaton DVD, unfortunately.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 04, 2007 11:20 pm 
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Gregory wrote:
There's probably not much chance of those recordings ever being included on any officially released Keaton DVD, unfortunately.

Why is that?

I just saw the Kino DVD of the Ripp/Verlaine shorts. Unfortunately, I have no money and would like to own that...


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 05, 2007 12:12 am 
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In R1, Kino has already released the films and they almost never revamp any of their titles. Even if they eventually go to a new format, including that kind of feature just isn't something Kino would do. Maybe if Go West gets re-released in R2 it could happen but even if whoever produced the disc thought to include this music it might be too expensive to license it from Elektra/Nonesuch .


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 05, 2007 1:13 am 
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Gregory wrote:
In R1, Kino has already released the films and they almost never revamp any of their titles. .

Correction-- they only revamp them only if they're completely insignificant like SHE (which I have fun w here & there too but it wasn't exactly screaming out for revisitation, missing footage or no), or NOSFERATU which has already been out in six gajillion releases.

And don't fuck with Mr. Terranova on needless releases-- forget about getting ME pissed...


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 05, 2007 5:55 pm 
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"Correction"? Anyway, I say the more precedents for Kino revamping the better. Especially with Nosferatu. If I had to pick one film from their DVD catalog to take to a desert island, that would probably be it, so the better they can get it in R1 it can only be a good thing for the state of the world. I'll personally be buying the MoC instead, of course.
I definitely know what you mean about other releases being more pressing, but with Kino you take what you get (as you already know of course).

Back on topic a little more, the DVD Talk review of the Verlaine/Rip releasehere (the only one I've found so far) is totally worthless. The reviewer claims that many of these films haven't been seen in decades, which isn't true (they've all been on DVD before in R1). All he really says about them, is that they're "mostly abstract" (the DVDs subtitle is "Music for Experimental Film") and that many are by Man Ray (there are two). And he spelled Bill Frisell's name wrong. Finally, he gives the DVD 2/5 stars for video quality because the original films were in disrepair.
I had quoted another part of the review but deleted them -- it felt just a little too mean-spirited. I'm going to dash off a quick email to him with the corrections.


Last edited by Gregory on Mon Nov 05, 2007 6:25 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 05, 2007 6:02 pm 
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You're right greg, reading back I shouldn't have used the word "correction". I was trying to say, in reply to your "they almost never upgrade": "Even worse than 'almost never'. They only do it when it's completely uncalled for."

Their old, shit cut of FAUST should have been upgraded far before NOS imho.

But thanx for linking to that review-- I didn't even know that disc had silents on it. I just thought it was a music doc/performance vid.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 05, 2007 6:14 pm 
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No worries, I was just pushing your buttons a little.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 05, 2007 7:50 pm 
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Location: Portland, OR
dave41n wrote:
But for the sake of discussion, I'm wondering if anyone here uses music from their own collection when viewing silents?

I tried this at various points in Man with a Movie Camera and uploaded this clip to Google Video which syncs Aaron Jay Kernis's New Era Dance to the end of the film. I've been eager try more of this sort of thing, but I just haven't had the time to dedicate to it lately. It would be an interesting experiment to try in conjunction with efforts to become more well-rounded in silent film altogether, which is something else I haven't had time for lately.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2007 2:49 am 
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Nice work Kirk, the Kernis works really well... joyous in places.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2007 8:11 am 
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Talking of silent film music, here's one I nearly forgot to mention: the widely unknown (I believe) "Napoli che canta" (1926) by Roberto Roberti with music by Italian singer Giuni Russo.

The film itself would fit into the old thread about "lesser-known City Symphonies": it's a wonderful, and very 'romantic' portrait of Naples in the 20s, with enchanting shots of the sea, the harbour and the daily life of the people. Taken from a print which miraculously found its way to the George Eastman House, it's beautifully restored and tinted, and the music is a very well-fitting selection and new interpretation of traditional Napolitan folk songs which greatly enhances the impact. I totally freaked out when I watched this first (possibly a little influenced by my stay in that city where I also happened to pick up the dvd rather by chance, but I think it IS brilliant).

Details about the film and the dvd can be found here; but as the picture wouldn't load right now, also have a look here. It seems to be out of print, but if you can get it somewhere, I'd highly recommend it, even if the film is only 30 minutes. The film itself has English subs (or even titles, can't remember right now), the extras are insignificant and are all centered around the singer (and are in Italian exclusively). It seems to be out of print, but if you can get it somewhere, I'd highly recommend it, even if the film is only 30 minutes. Truly a gem.


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 Post subject: Devil Music Ensemble
PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2008 5:22 pm 
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Eh, i really couldn't think of were else to put this...but this is as good as any spot.

Last year I saw Nosferatu on the big screen at a special event in DE, with a live music score (different from the original film score) played by the Devil Music Ensemble. and they were awesome. I almost didn't pay any attention to the film; I was so enraptured with their performance, switching up instruments and such. Anyway, they've released their fall tour; they're doing live music for Red Heroine (?), Cabinet of Dr Caligari, and Dr Jeckyl and Mr Hyde.

I highly recommend this experience.


Last edited by LQ on Fri Oct 16, 2009 11:11 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Devil Music Ensemble
PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2008 6:26 pm 
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LQ wrote:
Red Heroine (?)

The lone surviving episode to a Chinese wuxia serial. It's been doing the rounds recently. Interesting choice.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2008 7:28 pm 

Joined: Sun Dec 09, 2007 8:29 pm
Location: Los Angeles CA
In Southern California, it will be at the Silent Movie Theatre on Sept 24 and the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena on Sept 25. Looking forward to it.


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 Post subject: Re: Devil Music Ensemble
PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2008 7:53 am 
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Cold Bishop wrote:
LQ wrote:
Red Heroine (?)

The lone surviving episode to a Chinese wuxia serial. It's been doing the rounds recently. Interesting choice.

They're being sponsored by the Boston Asian Community Developement Co, so perhaps that's why its their major attraction.


Last edited by LQ on Fri Oct 16, 2009 11:10 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Silent Film Music
PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2009 4:15 pm 

Joined: Mon Feb 02, 2009 6:19 pm
I usually watch the silents silent, I like to feel the flow of images, the cuts in the editing with my eyes. (Was it Arnheim or somebody else in the 20s who advocated silent projection with real-time discussion of the movie by the audience? too lazy to look it up.) "Traditional" comping usually does nothing for me, most of the time the music has aged much more rapidly than the film (it was utility music after all, which changes with the seasons and fads, not art in itself), and just putting on some random Sibelius will give the film more emotional impact than the soundtrack it is sold with most of the time.

I do enjoy experimental soundtracks (I maybe have to say that most of these "experiments" are safely within the sounds I listen to as music every day). I hugely enjoy the KTL edition of Phantom Carriage. Yes, it does overburden the film somewhen through the middle, but the beginning and end are so haunting. Hell, I even enjoy the Cinematic Orchestra soundtrack to The Man with a Movie Camera (maybe it's facile, but it carries the whole thing surprisingly well). Iris ter Shiphorst on La Coquille et le Clergyman is very good. Also there's a splendid music to Nosferatu by Jose Maria Sanchez Verdu, very minimal, bleak, and inexorable sounding, though I don't think it's made it to dvd.

Ok, caveat, I'm playing silents myself, but on the whole I have found live experiences of music to silents much more invigorating than almost any DVD version. I remember a guitar on percussion duo (can't remember who they were, it's a shame) absolutely syncing half an hour of Melies which was the only time I really loved watching his stuff. (And usually I'm strictly a sync it and you sink it guy.) I enjoy the feeling of: hey, this is one possible interpretation, it's in the now and you can violently disagree and still enjoy, that the live experience brings.

Witchcraft through the Ages, which someone mentions here, really combines all that's great imho. It's the only dvd track I know of that feels like being there . . .


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 Post subject: Re: Silent Film Music
PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2009 5:24 pm 
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If you like Witchcraft Through The Ages (which benefits more from the dry larynx of Honest Uncle Bill Burroughs than it does Jean luc P), you'd probably dig this edition of Menilmontant.. which is just a bit too immature to my nose. But I've heard worse misfires.


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 Post subject: Re: Silent Film Music
PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2009 6:12 pm 
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Wombatz wrote:
I hugely enjoy the KTL edition of Phantom Carriage. Yes, it does overburden the film somewhen through the middle, but the beginning and end are so haunting.

I have to disagree – I bought the KTL on the strength of the ‘taster’ on the other edition, which was indeed very effective and chilling, focusing on the famously creepy soul-gathering sequences. The trouble is that Phantom Carriage, though indescribably eerie in those scenes, is not a horror film, and it feels like the KTL guys are not really in tune with what the film is trying to do.

I had a similar experience recently seeing Nosferatu accompanied live by a band who call themselves Misty’s Big Adventure (sounds like a Miyazaki film...) There were a few good ideas in there, but the whole thing was maddeningly repetitive. The first act of Nosferatu is not exactly thrilling to begin with; accompanied by an endlessly repeated phrase on the glockenspiel, it’s like the Spanish Inquisition. There was one lovely bit when Hutter, about to be visited in his room by Orlock, takes out the book on vampire lore and stares at it in horror, and the creepy music suddenly flared up into a sort of hellish wail, as though the book itself were possessed by demons; a great uncanny moment, obviously drawing upon the techniques of recent ‘J-horror’ films. But therein lies the problem: experimental accompanists like KTL and Misty seem to be trying to impose a more ‘modern’ flavour on these films, rather than interpreting them. It’s hard to see why they took on the projects, other than for the prestige value. The experimental approach can turn into navel-gazing; at some point, whether you sync absolutely or not, you have to be self-effacing enough to provide accompaniment.

Matti Bye’s score for Phantom Carriage was also disappointing. He seems much more comfortable with the epic sweep of Stiller’s Gosta Berling and Sir Arne. Sjostrom’s subtler and (ironically in this instance) more down-to-earth style demanded something slower and more restrained, maybe a solo piano. I found myself thinking of Carl Davis’s great ‘bar-room’ music for Greed.

Speaking of Davis, I’ve seen him three times at Symphony Hall in Birmingham accompanying Keaton and Lloyd with his own full-orchestra scores, to a packed (Symphony Hall is enormous) and extremely responsive house. Like a once-in-a-lifetime experience, only more frequent.

Wombatz – what sort of films have you accompanied? Are you solo, or in a band?


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 Post subject: Re: Silent Film Music
PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2009 6:35 pm 
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I think Daniel Humair is always worth listening to, and his score for Witchcraft Through the Ages is outstanding. I certainly wouldn't want to watch that version every time, of course.

The Exzentrische Filmorchester music for Ménilmontant that Schreck linked is intriguing, and I wish I knew whether they're still active. Two of the three musicians in the group -- Willi Kellers and Heiner Reinhardt -- are familiar to me, as they've been making creative and engaging music within the European improv scene for decades. But although they're playing good music together as a group, I find it too tempestuous for Kirsanoff's film at several moments.\

Substituting alternate soundtracks for silent film DVDs used to be something I did occasionally, but now I do it most of the time. I don't think I'll ever sit through another dull synthesizer score again, if I can help it. (All the predictable piano scores have started to grate somewhat.) Last night I watched The Wicked Darling from the Image DVD and Queen of Sports from the Chinese Film Classics Collection, and both had me frantically reaching for the turntable within moments.


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 Post subject: Re: Silent Film Music
PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2009 1:49 am 

Joined: Mon Feb 02, 2009 6:19 pm
HerrSchreck wrote:
If you like Witchcraft Through The Ages (which benefits more from the dry larynx of Honest Uncle Bill Burroughs than it does Jean luc P), you'd probably dig this edition of Menilmontant.. which is just a bit too immature to my nose. But I've heard worse misfires.

Thanks for the link. 5 minutes in I suspect I completely disagree with the music (I mean why do the girls get somewhat more clatter then the wringing of necks, and the sounds generally really crowd the images) . . . but then I think due to its episodic nature Haxan needs some input from the soundtrack, which Menilmontant doesn't. Yeah, I'd hate this on a dvd soundtrack, but I'd love going out to see the film and get this kind of interpretation.


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 Post subject: Re: Silent Film Music
PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2009 2:45 am 

Joined: Mon Feb 02, 2009 6:19 pm
Sloper wrote:
Wombatz wrote:
I hugely enjoy the KTL edition of Phantom Carriage. Yes, it does overburden the film somewhen through the middle, but the beginning and end are so haunting.

I have to disagree – I bought the KTL on the strength of the ‘taster’ on the other edition, which was indeed very effective and chilling, focusing on the famously creepy soul-gathering sequences. The trouble is that Phantom Carriage, though indescribably eerie in those scenes, is not a horror film, and it feels like the KTL guys are not really in tune with what the film is trying to do.

I had a similar experience recently seeing Nosferatu accompanied live by a band who call themselves Misty’s Big Adventure (sounds like a Miyazaki film...) There were a few good ideas in there, but the whole thing was maddeningly repetitive. The first act of Nosferatu is not exactly thrilling to begin with; accompanied by an endlessly repeated phrase on the glockenspiel, it’s like the Spanish Inquisition. There was one lovely bit when Hutter, about to be visited in his room by Orlock, takes out the book on vampire lore and stares at it in horror, and the creepy music suddenly flared up into a sort of hellish wail, as though the book itself were possessed by demons; a great uncanny moment, obviously drawing upon the techniques of recent ‘J-horror’ films. But therein lies the problem: experimental accompanists like KTL and Misty seem to be trying to impose a more ‘modern’ flavour on these films, rather than interpreting them. It’s hard to see why they took on the projects, other than for the prestige value. The experimental approach can turn into navel-gazing; at some point, whether you sync absolutely or not, you have to be self-effacing enough to provide accompaniment.

I think we sort of agree on the KTL thing, the music doesn't work for the complete film. Only I value the initial impact more, it's very inspiring.

While I generally would agree about providing accompaniment, that's a difficult topic. Usually one would tolerate a pianist switching between hesitant ragtime and mock chopin simply because that's the accepted formula handed down by tradition, but I find this approach grating, because it dates the film, which, if it is good, is timeless. Still I agree it doesn't need a modern flavor, but it's all about interpretation. (Being maddeningly repetitive can be part of the game though, most movie scores thrive on a couple of themes. We've played Nosferatu, by the way, and I think how you tackle the first act is the core to an interpretation, you need to avoid Hutter looking like a caricature, he must be someone acting head- and hopelessly because he's unable to see beneath surfaces. In the end, we put a single development of mood over the whole film, no breaks, just swells and ebbs and lots of static crackle. It went over well with the audience, only I think the organiser had expected more notes per buck, he seemed quite flabbergasted.) But to pick out an extreme example, no average audience here could sit through Dulac's L'invitation au voyage without some massive support from the musicians. There's no use being self-effacing there, you need to start translating.

(Thanks for the interest, we're a duo, have only played a dozen or so films yet. Most of it in local clubs; we pitch the films we love to them, play in front of mostly open-minded folks who do not know what to expect, then pass around the hat afterwards. If you follow the link in my profile you get to our myspace site, which is still very much in construction. But I'm posting here strictly as a enthusiastic consumer, of course :) )


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 Post subject: Re: Silent Film Music
PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2009 2:20 pm 

Joined: Tue Feb 05, 2008 8:54 pm
Wombatz wrote:
Usually one would tolerate a pianist switching between hesitant ragtime and mock chopin simply because that's the accepted formula handed down by tradition, but I find this approach grating, because it dates the film, which, if it is good, is timeless.

With respect to period music "dating" a film: I think that it rather depends upon the movie in question.

If you're talking about a movie such as, for example, Metropolis where the time period of the setting is unspecified and indeterminate ..... then, yes, using music that is too specifically tied to the period of the movie's production can have that effect. The same thing can happen if the movie was a period piece at that time. In a movie set in ancient Rome a score that is too identifiably rooted in the Jazz Age just become incongruous.

However, if you are talking about a movie that is very specifically set in the 1910's or 1920's then using music appropriate to that time period becomes a scoring choice that might very well have been made regardless of when the movie was actually made. In that case, using a period styled score can still work very well.

A year or so ago I attended a screening of Wings in an old "movie palace" that still has its original 1920-something pipe organ with sound effect keys. Wings is so obviously and specifically tied to the World War I time period setting that the live organist's choices of period music felt perfectly appropriate; not "dated" at all to my ear.


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 Post subject: Re: Silent Film Music
PostPosted: Thu Mar 12, 2009 5:30 am 

Joined: Mon Feb 02, 2009 6:19 pm
I haven't seen Wings, but yes, and speaking of Clara Bow it maybe also wouldn't make much sense to do a contemporary soundtrack to her vehicles. But in a way, that means "dating" the film (as opposed to making it look dated). And I wouldn't want to watch a serious movie like The Crowd with somebody happily tickling the ivories period-style.

Back to Menilmontant: wherever there's a clue (eg the clock, but also a change of location), it seems Das exzentrische Filmorchester is several seconds off, they probably played to a different cut (as will usually happen). So I think I'd have thoroughly enjoyed that screening. Much better than the echo-drenched sauce Paul Mercer smears over the story (also on youtube). Even if he seems to channel Ponty at times :roll:


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 Post subject: Re: Silent Film Music
PostPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2011 5:46 pm 
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Hundreds of original scores to silent films unearthed in England


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