Rock with the silents

Also appearing at the San Francisco International Film Festival is the frankly bizarre combination of 70’s new wave odd ball Jonathan Richman providing a score for Sjöström’s The Phantom Carriage. It appears that it was one of several silents shown to Richman, who then picked it as the one he wanted to provide a score for. It’s hard to imagine a more unlikely combination of composer and film, but who knows?

I’ve previously expressed wariness over the fondness for some modern rock and jazz musicians to provide scores for silent film, simply because the the films are too often used as inspiration for often incongruous musical expression, placing the musician first rather than the film, as it should be. Certainly there have been some dire vanity projects, but also some felicitious comings-together of modern sounds and silent film form, and the attention they bring to the medium is always welcome.

I guess the trend started with Giorgio Moroder’s renowned/notorious score to Metropolis. I’ve mentioned jazz musician Dave Douglas’ take on Fatty Arbuckle, and Gary Lucas‘ bravura guitar score for Der Golem. John Cale turned up at Pordenone in 1994 and provided a score for The Unknown. Joby Talbot of Divine Comedy provided a score for Hitchcock’s The Lodger. Jazz guitarist Bill Frisell (another personal favourite) has produced two CDs inspired by Buster’s Keaton’s Go West and The High Sign/One Week. Any more examples, anyone?

2 responses

  1. It’s not quite the same as accompanying a silent, but Queen’s pop video for “Heaven for Everyone” (1995) comprised entirely of footage from Georges Melies’ Voyage dans la lune (1902). As I recall, the Melies people insisted on a Star-Film logo at the bottom right-hand corner throughout, which looked peculiar.

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