Stephen Horne accompanying The Hound of the Baskervilles (1921), from http://www.stephenhorne.co.uk
Stephen Horne, one of the UK’s premier silent film pianists, has just published his website, www.stephenhorne.co.uk. To mark the occasion, I thought it would be interesting to produce a round-up of silent film musicians’ websites, where you can find out what industrious lives they lead, listen to sound samples, and maybe purchase a DVD or two.
The three-man Alloy Orchestra (Terry Donahue, Ken Winokur, Roger Miller) are among the best-known of silent film accompanists, though their ‘aural onslaught’ of electronica and found percussion is controversial for some. Their site includes details of the films they have accompanied, touring shedule, CD and DVD store, reviews, information about the instruments they use, and video clips with their scores from Blip.tv (One Week, The Lost World, The Unknown, Manslaughter etc) so you may judge for yourselves.
Elizabeth-Jane Baldry is a harpist, particularly expert in Victorian fairy harp music. She has recently branched out into accompanying silent films, and there is a section of her site devoted to her silent film work, alongside other professional information, including her own filmmaking work.
Neil Brand with friends
Probably the best-known improvising silent film pianist working today, Neil Brand is also a playwright, actor, composer, scholar and eloquent advocate for the art of silent film in general. His website covers his musical and writing biographies, with news, reviews, and events calendar. There is a radio interview with Neil available (from 2000) and audio extracts from some of his scores (including Diary of a Lost Girl, The Ring and his recent orchestral score for Hitchcock’s Blackmail).
Timothy Brock is a conductor and composer specialising in concert works of early 20th-century music and silent films. His site gives details of his original silent film scores (Nosferatu, Lady Windermere’s Fan, Sherlock Jr. etc.) and restored scores (The Gold Rush, A Woman of Paris, City Lights etc.), images, news, articles and events calendar.
Composr and pianist Robert Bruce includes silent film performances in his repertoire, particularly the films of Buster Keaton. His site includes video clips of his live performances.
Günter Buchwald is a pianist and violinist as renowned for his accompaniments alongside other silent film musicians as he is for his solo accompaniments. He often works as a duo with percussionist Frank Bockius or pianist Neil Brand, or with the Silent Movie Music Company as a trio or quartet. His site (in German) gives repertoire, reviews and events calendar.
Phil Carli is a silent film accompanist, musicologist and film archivist. He has made special study of film, music and culture of the late 19th/early 20th centuries, and conducts the Flower City Society Orchestra of Rochester, New York, which is modeled on the ‘society orchestras’ that entertained guests in upper-class restaurants and resorts at the turn of the last century. His website covers this and his silent film work, including a list of broadcasts and DVD releases with his scores (including Regeneration, Sally of the Sawdust, Stella Maris etc.).
Club Foot Orchestra
Radical San Francisco ensemble which has come to specialise in silent film accompaniments. The site covers the films it has scored (Nosferatu, Pandora’s Box, The Hands of Orlac etc.) with links to CDs/DVDs where available.
Italian pianist Coppola is a silent film accompanist of long-standing and high repuation. His site (in Italian, English and French) has a short biography and a long list of film directors (surname only) whose work he has played to.
Composer and conductor Carl Davis is the best-known of all silent film musicians, for his work with Kevin Brownlow and Photoplay Productions, which did so much from the 1980s onwards to revive interest in silent films with live orchestral accompaniment, most notably his epic score for Abel Gance’s Napoleon. His site, however, does not dwell much on the past and is mostly interested in upcoming events, which continue to include silent films accompaniments with orchestra (notably Chaplin).
Devil Music Ensemble
Boston trio comprising Brendon Wood (guitars, lap steel, synthesizer), Jonah Rapino (electric violin, vibraphone, synthesizer) and Tim Nylander (drums, percussion, synthesizer). The group’s many forms of music performance include silent film accompaniments (Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Nosferatu etc.), for which they provide video clips.
David Drazin is among the most prolific and praised of American silent film accompanists. His web page lists the main films he has accompanied, plus some information on his jazz, ballet and modern dance music work.
Arthur Dulay (1891-1971) is perhaps the only silent film accompanist of an earlier generation to have website dedicated to him. Dulay played for silents from 1908, and late in his career as a musician in the 1950s he became resident pianist for the accompaniment of silent films at London’s National Film Theatre. The site includes sound samples of his work and a radio interview, as well as samples of his other musical work.
London-based composer, arranger, silent film and jazz pianist, who regularly plays to silents at the BFI Southbank and the London Film Festival. His site has background information on the various aspects of his career, including silent filmwork, with a news section listing his silent film performances.
Composer and pianist Gerhard Gruber is Austria’s leading silent film pianist. His site includes testimonials, a repertoire list, links to festivals where he has played and to sound and video excerpts (including A Page of Madness). Much the same material also appears in a blog, silentfilm.wordpress.com, and on another site, www.silentmovie.eu.
Hasse is an American composer based in the UK whose works includes silent film scores and accompanying silent films. The Visible Music site that she shares with other composers includes a list of the films for which she has composed scores with some short clips and some background information including her thoughts on composing for Faust.
Hesperus is a five-member ensemble with overlapping membership which performs a fusion of early and traditional styles from a variety of cultures. Its silent film work has included Robin Hood with English Renaissance music, The General with American Civil War music, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame with French medieval music. Its website is under construction, but there is information on its work at Class Acts on Tour.
Pianist Frederick Hodges specialises in American songbook material from the 1920s and 1930s. His extensive silent film work incldes DVD recordings for Image Entertainment, Flicker Alley and Unknown Video, and his site has an informative page on silent film music and musical sources.
Stephen Horne has come to prominence recently, in particular for his scores for A Cottage in Dartmoor and The Battle of the Somme. His stylish site includes a short biography (he is a regular dance accompanist and has written screenplays), list of live dates, gallery and reviews. He can also boast a Facebook fan group, We’re in love with Stephen Horne.
In the Nursery
Rock band In the Nursery (ITN), headed by the twins Klive and Nigel Humberstone, have branched out into silent film scores for live performance and as DVD and CD releases. Their work includes Man with a Movie Camera, Hindle Wakes, the Electric Edwardians compilation and most recently The Passion of Joan of Arc. Their site includes discography, biography, reviews, films details, and MP3 downloads for purchase.
American Dennis James has accompanied silent films with piano, chamber ensemble and full symphony orchestra, but is probably best known for his theatre organ accompaniments, for which is perhaps the world’s leading exponent. His web page has a biography and list of engagements.
British saxophonist Jan Kopinski is best-known for his radical jazz ensemble Pinski Zoo. With pianist Steve Iliffe he performs original compositions to silent films, including Earth, Berlin: Symphony of a Great City and The Seashell and the Clergyman. His site covers his various muscial outputs, with audio samples and video clips (including Earth and Nosferatu in performance).
Experimental guitarist Lucas, best known for his work with Captain Beefheart and Jeff Buckley, is perhaps the person from the rock music world most dedicated to silent films. He has played his scores for Sounds of the Surreal (three films by Clair, Leger and Starewicz) and Der Golem at numerous venues, and in 2009 produced scores for J’Accuse and The Unholy Three.
Mackenzie is the cinema organist at the Odeon Leicester Square, in the heart of London’s West End cinemas. He has accompanied silents at the Odeon and at venues across Britain and Europe, and includes many of the classics in his repertoire, among them The Phantom of the Opera, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The King of Kings, Carmen, The Black Pirate, Metropolis and Nosferatu. His site includes a biography and details of the Odeon’s cinema organ.
German composer and improvising pianist Eunice Martins has played at numerous silent film events. Her site includes her extensive repertoire, photographs and upcoming schedule.
Composer, pianist and silent film accompanist who has played to silents in New York, Tokyo and Pordenone and accompanies Within the Law (1923) on the Kino DVD release. Her website has biographical information.
Minima are a British-based band which performs live accompaniments to silents and avant-garde film at cinemas, art festivals and music festivals. Their repertoire includes The Lodger, Nosferatu, Aelita and The Seashell and the Clergyman. Their website includes a performance calendar and a compilation video.
Jon Mirsalis is a film buff extraordinaire, a silent film pianist, and a leading bioscientist. This web page, which provides biographical details, is modestly tucked away as part of his Lon Chaney website.
The proud possessor of http://www.silentfilmmusic.com is the resident silent film accompanist for The Museum of Modern Art in New York. Model plays piano, theatre organ and a virtual theatre organ called the Miditzer. His site includes performance schedule, scores on DVD, and details of his orchestral scores. Model has also pioneered the idea of producing alternative scores to DVD releases of silent films as MP3 downloads, from his altscore.com site, and has a blog, Silent Film Music.
The Mont Alto Orchestra
The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
Mont Alto, led by Rodney Sauer, is an American five to seven piece chamber ensemble that recreates the small local orchestras popular in America from 1890 through to 1930. The ensemble has become well known for its many silent film scores for video and DVD releases, particularly for Film Preservation Associates and Milestone Video. Its site provides detailed information on the films for which it has provided scores (with some audio files), a schedule of its forthcoming silent film accompaniments and dances, and useful information for the general enquirer about silent film music of the period and today.
Michael D. Mortilla is a composer, orchestrator and performer, who has produced hundreds of scores for film, television, dance, theatre, silent film, magic, mime, industrials, commercials, special events and the concert stage. The silents work has included Harry Houdini’s The Master Mystery serial and Chaplin Mutuals, and he has performed at many American silent film festivals. His site documents his many different activities.
Dutch composer and pianist Maud Nelissen has performed for the Nederlands Filmmuseum, the Film in Concert Foundation and various festivals. She leads the six-member group The Sprockets, which has specialised in accompanying silent comedies (Chaplin, Keaton, Laurel and Hardy). Her scores for The Patsy and The Merry Widow (a combination of Léhar’s music and her own) are performed by the Orchestra da Camera Oscura, and the Asta Harmonists play her music for Asta Nielsen films. Her impressive website covers all facets of her musical career and includes silent film video clips.
Daughter of the renowned Hollywood composer Alfred Newman, Maria Newman has produced scores for silents for the Mary Pickford Foundation and Turner Classic Movies. Information on her work can also be found in her entry on GarageBand.com.
The Panopikon Orchestra
The Panoptikon Orchestra
Panoptikon is a Swedish ensemble (trio), led by Matti Bye, that plays music for silent films, both precomposed scores and improvised music, using both traditional and modern instruments. Its site provides background information on the ensemble, a list of records and videos,with some audio samples (Joyless Street, The Phantom Carriage) and general news.
William Perry is an American composer and television producer. His wide-ranging musical career has included many scores for silent films during twelve years as music director and composer-in-residence at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. His television series, The Silent Years (1971, 1975) starring Orson Welles and Lillian Gish, won an Emmy Award. His site gives basic biographical information.
Forrester Clifton Pyke
Forrester Pyke is a composer, teacher, church organist and silent film accompanist. He is based in Scotland and has played to silent films at the Filmhouse Edinburgh and Glasgow Film Theatre and compaosed scores for Scottish Screen Archive films. His site covers the various aspects of his music career.
American composer, performer and silent film accompanist. His lively Silent Film Live Music blog documents the life of the silent film pianist in an entertaining fashion.
Touve R. Ratovondrahety
Madagascan musician who has a strong profile as a silent film accompanist, hacing played at several festivals including Pordenone. His website gives some silent film events in its calendar section but is otherwise devoted to his work as pianist, organist and composer.
Judy Rosenberg is a silent film pianist and composer, as well as being (like others in the profession) a dance accompanist. She plays regularly to silents for the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, California and at the Niles Silent Film Museum in Niles, CA. Her site lists the films she has accompanied, gives upcoming screenings, and has a thoughtful statement on her art, comparing silent film and dance accompaniment.
Spanish jazz pianist and composer who has made a speciality of accompanying the magical films of Segundo de Chomón, as well the films of Buster Keaton and Nosferatu. His website (in Spanish) includes video clips, alongside photographs and an extensive curriculum vitae.
German four-piece ensemble, comprising Susanne Peusquens, Matthias Jahner, Joachim Bärenz (a leading solo silent film pianist) and Christian Roderburg. Their site is in German, English and Italian, and has information on their scores for The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, The Golem, the films of Max Davidson, and others, with audio samples.
The Silent Orchestra
American duo Carlos Garza (keyboards) and Rich O’Meara (percussion) make up the Silent Orchestra who accompany silent films with both improvised and composed scores. Their site lists the films they have accompanied, including Nosferatu and Salomé which are Image Entertainment DVD releases, and there is news of past shows and reviews.
The Snark Ensemble
The Snark Ensemble is an American instrumental chamber ensemble dedicated to the creation and performance of new original scores for silent film. Its work includes DVD sets for Harry Langdon and Charley Chase. The site has video clips, complete sound files for some films, news and a catalogue of their work. Members Andrew Simpson and Maurice Saylor each have individual sites with more information on their silent work, solo and as a group.
The proud possessors of http://www.silent-film-music.com are pianist Donald Sosin and his singer/actress wife Joanna Seaton. Sosin keeps up a prodigious work rate through live performances, DVD releases and workshops, as documented on the website. Also to be found there are audio and video clips (Foolish Wives, Manhatta, King of Kings etc.) and a listing of recordings Sosin has made of his own performances which are available for purchase from Farmhouse Window Productions. Sosin also maintains a blog, Silent Film Music and other Sounding Off.
Thibaudeau is composer, conductor, and pianist for the Cinémathèque québécoise, and has been composing silent film scores since 1990. He performs composed and improvised scores the world over, including at many festivals and major arts institutions. His bi-lingual (English / French) site lists the many films for which he has produced composed scores, some with audio or video clips, plus biographical information and news.
Dutch pianist Yvo Veerschoor plays regularly at the Filmmuseum and other venues in the Netherlands. His strikingly-designed website (mostly in Dutch, but with the key section also available in English and German) covers his career, repertoire and thoughts on silent film accompaniment, with a potted history of silent film and several QuickTime videoclips (including a television news item on Veerschoor’s work).
Vox Lumiere combines rock music, live theatre and silent film. It brings together musicians, dancers, singers, multi-media and light shows to retells such films as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Metropolis and The Phantom of the Opera as rock musical experiences. The multi-lingual site includes audio and video clips, image gallery, calendar and shop.
Organist Clark Wilson has played at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, Cinequest, and plays a silent picture annually at LA’s Walt Disney Concert Hall. His site lists his many silent film scores, including Broken Blossoms, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Camille. He also runs his own pipe organ business.
For other silent film musicians, not all of whom have sites of web pages of their own (Robert Israel, Neal Kurz, Eric Beheim etc.), see the Silent Era’s page of weblinks for composers and musicians. Some, such as Britain’s John Sweeney, a Pordenone regular, and Germany’s Ekkehard Wölk at least have a Wikipedia page, while others, such as American organists Dennis Scott and Ken Double, France’s Eric LeGuen, Holland’s Hugo van Neck and Poland’s Adrian Konarksi, have websites or web pages but don’t provide any information on their silent film activities (or virtually none).
If anyone knows of any other musicians’ sites, do let me know, and I’ll add them to the record.