Silent Film Music and other Sounding Off

Talking about music, consciousness, silent film, Italian food, travel, good books, married life, kids, and more

Thursday, January 31, 2008

2008 in the Silent Film Music world

Well, I intend to write more often this year! That's my first New Year's resolution on this page. The fall was a whirlwind of silent film performances and workshops, including appearances at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music in September, talking to composition students, then a trip to Syracuse NY to work with local high school and Le Moyne College music students. Joanna and I demonstrated different ways of treating the same film scenes, and then the students had a chance to join us and create their own music for a Keaton clip and some avant-garde shorts. We had a great crowd at the Palace Theater for our presentation of the original KING KONG, using the DVD with subtitles and replacing the wonderful Steiner score with our live synth, screaming and Tyrannosaurus snarls (thanks to our friend Aaron Pichel who came down from Ithaca to help out with that!)

We went next to the College of Staten Island and after the workshop, showed TABU with our music. Joanna's percussion and singing blended with my synthesizer orchestra.

Then I was off to Pordenone for the annual festival there, and played for a few Griffith films (AMERICA, THE WHITE ROSE) and a great Dupont film, DAS ALTE GESETZ, which would be wonderful to show here this year.

The Virginia Film Festival invited us back for the 5th time at the end of October, and I had the chance to bring together two of my friends to enliven the proceedings. Stewart Stern, who wrote REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, came to introduce that fabulous film, as well as PETER PAN, which is the basis for his story. I had met songwriter/teacher Paul Reisler, director of Kid Pan Alley, early in the summer, and he and I, along with Charlottesville songwriter Terri Allard, worked with 200 kids during the week before the festival, writing songs, three of them for the film. We put this all together in a spectacular show at the Paramount Theater for 500 people. Joanna introduced Stewart (, who spoke about his lifelong love of Peter Pan, then Paul and Terri led the kids in one of their songs, Joanna sang "Never-Never Land" and we showed the 1924 film by Herbert Brenon, with Betty Bronson in the title role. The kids were great and the festival would like to have us to a similar event every year, they said.

A week later Joanna and I brought Layne Longfellow and his cousin Ann Hutchinson Guest to the National Gallery for a 200th birthday celebration of Longfellow poetry, read by Layne, and the silent film EVANGELINE, with Joanna singing and my music. This was a memorable occasion for all of us. Vicki Toye, the great-great-granddaughter of the village blacksmith Longfellow wrote about, actually works at the National Gallery, so for her to share the stage with Ann, Longfellow's great-granddaughter, was quite a moment.

A few other films rounded out the year. There were Danish films at BAM, including the curious A TRIP TO MARS, and HELEN'S BABIES with Baby Peggy and Clara Bow at Lincoln Center.

Clara and I made a trip to Port Townsend, Washington's delightful Rose Theatre last weekend, where I played for two screenings of IT. And in Kenyon Hall, a jewel of a little theater on Seattle's West side, BLOOD AND SAND (Valentino) followed by MUD AND SAND (Stan Laurel) made a great double bill.

Back in NY, the Film Society of Lincoln Center is in the middle of a Russian film program, and I contributed my score for POTEMKIN last night. More news on these programs on my website: Coming events: SAFETY LAST in Germantown, NY, and two Vertov films in March at the Harvard Film Archive. Hope to see you there! Best, Donald

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home