Film Scores: A Tradition Carried on by Few

Posted by on Nov 14 2012 | Motion Pictures

(Clyde Bruckman and Buster Keaton, US 1926)

Live film accompaniment is a rare thing these days. Before the onset of sound on film almost every film was accompanied by a piano player, an organist, or even a small orchestra or jazz band. Today, we often forget this lost art and take film scores for granted. The scores for silent films were sometimes written and improvised by the accompanist. Accompanists were recognizable and part of the film-going experience and seeing your favorite accompanist perform for a new film and was billed as an added attraction. The tradition is carried on by few. Accompanists such as Philip Carli—who performs every Tuesday night for our Silent Tuesdays series—exist, but it requires a breadth of technique, a wide repertory and an understanding of not only music and improvisation but the rhythms and structure of silent films.

This week, we’re excited to welcome back the Alloy Orchestra who will provide their distinctive sound live to our screening of Buster Keaton’s The General. Their music creates a unique experience that will expand your understanding of what film accompaniment is capable of. They have been performing along side silent films for 22 year and are continuously finding ways to breathe new life into the century-old films they are accompanying – often utilizing the sounds from objects we wouldn’t normally consider to be instruments. We’re honored to once again have them joining us at the Dryden Theatre.

Although it bombed when it was originally released in 1926, Buster Keaton’s The General is now widely considered a crowning achievement of not only Buster Keaton’s career but of silent comedy. Standing on its own, it represents everything that a silent comedy can be: Keaton makes us laugh, cry, and even wince with his antics. Come see the deadpan comic’s film in all its 35mm glory.


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