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Squaw Man shows; Chaplin orchestral performance

[FYI…I have now fixed the setting on this blog that allows you to post comments so that it works now.]

Played for DeMille’s The Squaw Man (1914) twice last week, and brought my MD recorder to the second show to make a reference recording. We ran the film at 20fps both times. What was interesting to me was that, even though the film seemed a bit fast at 20, it seemed all right the second time through. Often, even if a film is available on video (or 16mm) for a look-see before a show, there just isn’t time to do this. The score that gets created during the show is usually just fine or better; the audience response at the end of the first performance surprised me as I thought it hadn’t gone all that well…mainly because of the challenges of playing (nearly cold) for a pre-1919 feature-length drama.

Most feature-length dramas, Griffith’s work aside, are stagey and gesticular, with expository titles telegraphing the dramatic action of the scene and a certain amount of lip-reading skills necessary to follow what’s going on. In these cases, I’ve learned to watch the screen more closely than usual — meaning that I have to watch faces and constantly look around to see “who’s got the ball” and shift the music based on this, since there is little cutting or medium-shots to make it clear. The second show of Squaw Man availed me the chance to anticipate more, and I was able to do more with tempo shifts and chord progressions and transitions — one of Lee Erwin’s main techniques — to follow the drama.

Below is a clip of the first 3.5 mins of the performance. You won’t be able to tell what’s going on necessarily, but I thought you’d like to hear samples of my playing “hot off the press” as it were.
[Note: the music and recording posted below is © 2007 by Ben Model – all rights reserved. The recording of these live scores at the shows is not allowed, but I gave myself special permission.]

Got a chance to hear a courtesy recording of the performance of my orchestral score for Charlie Chaplin’s The Adventurer, from Feb 1 in Boise, ID. The kids in the Treasure Valley Youth Symphony (mostly all-state or all-county musicians) did a great job, as did their conductor Dr. David Saunders. He’s got the hardest job, staying in synch with the film. It was great to hear the new stuff I added to the score; I’d had to revise it as the original composition was to a 15-minute version of the film, as commissioned by the New York Ragtime Orchestra (Masanobu Ikemiya, conductor).

Coming up next is a show of Keaton’s Our Hospitality in Huntington NY (on Long Island). This second show at the Cinema Arts Centre is turning into a series, as they’ve just asked me about a date/film for March. Stay tuned or just keep checking my performance schedule at my silent film website. Will also be playing for The Beggar Maid (dir Herbert Blaché, starring Mary Astor) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as part of their Tiffany exhibit. I’ll try to make sure my MD recorder is charged and in my bag when I do these shows and you can hear clips from them in a couple weeks.

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