October 12, 2010

The Music and The Movies

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This fall, Cornell Cinema will be transformed into a multimedia-lover’s paradise. With the help of a grant from the Atkinson Forum in American Studies, the fall season at Cornell’s premier film exhibition program will be highlighted by a series in “Live Music and Film.”

The unique combination, pioneered by groups such as Boston-based Alloy Orchestra, combines non-traditional scores with classic silent films.

Over the last few years, Cornell Cinema has had the opportunity to showcase several of these events — including the well-attended 13 Most Beautiful … Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests that featured live music from indie group Dean & Britta and Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, a 1970 Czech New Wave film with a psychedelic acid folk score by The Valerie Project.

This semester, the Cinema has the opportunity to host an eclectic mix of these multi-dimensional film and sound experiences.

“The goal is to show how a range of ways live music and film [can be combined] in a theatre setting,” Cornell Cinema Managing Director Christopher Riley said.

The season has already spotlighted several of these events, including the Alto Motion Picture Orchestra performing their original score to silent films Edward Sedgwick’s The Cameraman and F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise and animator/musician Brent Green showing and performing alongside a stop motion animated film, Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then.

“There’s an immediacy [in the events] that you can’t get with pre-recorded soundtracks. It engages the audience in ways similar to live theatre. The combination of [live music and film] creates an engaging hybrid,” Riley said.

On Oct. 23, the series continues with filmmaker Sam Green’s Utopia in Four Movements, a unique live documentary experience that features Brooklyn-based folk act The Quavers and investigates the meaning of idealism in contemporary culture.

This event is different from other silent film/live music experiences as it has a live video component and a sound component in addition to the live music. Green will be on stage narrating the film live and sound artist Dave Surf will be providing an additional aural component.

“We are lucky to have this — it’s an experience that will never be able to be on DVD,” Riley said.

French film preservationist and entertainer Serge Bromberg will screen his “Treasures From a Chest,” a program of short, rare films with live music reminiscent of vaudeville on Oct. 28.

Bromberg, president of Lobster Films, one of the most important private film collections in world, will accompany his films with live commentary and piano.

“This [show] is usually only in Paris or New York City. It’s magical in a way that I couldn’t anticipate,” Riley said.

On Nov.  4, Cornell Cinema will be collaborating with the Polish Cultural Institute for “SzaZa & Polanski,” a program of seven early short films by Academy Award-winning director Roman Polanski accompanied by electroacoustic duo SzaZa. SzaZa, a Warsaw-based duo paying homage to Polish jazz of the ’60s, uses clarinets, violins and analogue loopstations to create bizarre, unusual sounds.

On Nov. 6, the Alloy Orchestra will return to Cornell to perform an original, revised score to the restoration of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, a 1927 German science fiction film.

The orchestra, which creates modern accompaniments to silent films of the classic movie era, uses a variety of found objects and electronics in addition to traditional percussion, wind and keyboard instruments.

“For Cornell Cinema’s 40th anniversary, Alloy Orchestra sold out a performance of Metropolis on a hot June night. Every person was completely riveted and there was a unanimous standing ovation,” Riley said.

As a capstone to the series, Rochester-based silent film pianist Phillip Carll returns to Cornell Cinema to improvise scores to classic silent films at the end of the semester.

The first three live music/film events have been well attended and Riley hopes that the rest of the events bring strong crowds.

“These are experiences that students should be interested in — they are thought-provoking, the kind of thing that [you’d find] in a city, but doesn’t happen as much on a college campus,” Riley said

Original Author: Chris Leo Palermino