Tuesday, October 24, 2006

cat story

While taking my daughter to school this morning, a boy who looked like he was around 11 (and who attends her school) came up to us. He asked me, "Are you the guy who showed a Buster Keaton movie at school last year?" I said I was (I had showed One Week and handed out pieces of 35mm movie film to everyone). He said "My cat's name is Buster. But his nickname is Buster Keaton...instead of Buster Kitten."

:)Ben Model

Sunday, October 22, 2006

2 organ shows: Red Bank Film Fest and Silent Clowns

October 14 - RED BANK, NJ - well, my 4th silent film for the annual Red Bank International Film Festival was a presentation of Don Q, Son of Zorro with Douglas Fairbanks. 35mm print came from Douris, and I accompanied on an Allen electronic theatre organ. Print looked great, and projection was quite good. The show was held in the Count Basie Theater, one of 3 cinemas in Red Bank that the RBIFF uses. The CB is a movie house that opened in November 1926, about 1200 seats with a balcony. Its original TPO is long gone, but the fest has sprung for an Allen (rented) every year. This year the instrument was much like the one I used at Vassar in terms of looks and sound, except this was a 2-manual. The sound is okay, but is not digital samples of real organ ranks. Still better than a piano (and costs about the same as what the CB theater would have charged the fest to use their piano anyway). Film went over great; turnout not so fantastic, but Sat afternoon is a tough sell for classic film in the suburbs I've found. We will do another silent next year, and maybe try a different day or time slot.

October 22 - NYC - accompanied Phantom of the Opera on the mighty Miditzer theatre organ. Print was actually a composite of a few prints in 16mm (we can only do 16mm at the SCFS but Bruce (Lawton) makes 16mm look good. Miditzer set-up was pretty straightforward and quick, as always, with the laptop running into XLR inputs (panned L and R for stereo) in the stage. The instrument, while not as ornate or impressive-looking as the rented Allen, sounds way more like a real Wurli. [Allen's more recent organs do sound like the real thing, but those models generally are not the ones available for rentals. I've played their 2-manual C19 for a few shows, and it sounds great.] Not exactly a huge throng (we got squeezed out of being listed...it's all a matter of space in a mag like TimeOut), but the people who came had a great time and really liked the theatre organ sound. Wish I could use the Miditzer for more shows.

Other shows that've happened in the last 10 days, were a couple education programs at AMMI of CC's The Immigrant, and the opening program of MoMA's "Friday Night at the Movies", a weekly series for high school students. The kids get free pizza and a movie, plus a 'student' pass to get into MoMA for a year.

Coming up in the next coupla weeks...spooky silent comedy shorts at the Turtle Bay Music School (Bruce and I have been hired to do a 1-hour show as part of their day-long open house), a Nosferatu show (on Miditzer) at Simon's Rock College (Great Barrington, MA), a few more AMMI Immigrant programs, and a show (on Miditzer) of the recently discovered and preserved "lost" Mabel Normand feature Head Over Heels at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Busy, busy, busy...

Haven't had a chance to post, because of all the work and gigs. Here's a quick update.

Am in the midst of composing/recording a score for Haldane of the Secret Service (1923), starring Harry Houdini (also prod/dir). It's a straight detective melodrama, and not a pair of 'cuffs in the whole 6 reels. Am using a chamber orch sound (strings, with occasional solos by reed or horn) with my Kurz+pedals, so it's taking longer than a solo piano score. This seemed the right choice to support the picture, as its drama is all in the titles, plus the film was transferred too slow (IMHO), looks like about 18 or 19 fps. Also, was just contacted by Kino for another project; more on that in a future posting.

Silent Clowns got off to a start on its 10th season last Sunday. A great show, the highlight of which for me was Steve Massa's excellent live recreation of Winsor McKay's Gertie the Dinosaur vaudeville act. We may get to perform it for a vaudeville night in NJ in Dec; stay tuned...

Here you see me and Phil Carli (that's Dr. Philip C. Carli, to you) in front of the Lions Lincoln Theatre in Massillon, OH. We were the accompanists for the Fall Cinesation this year (9/27-10/1). Phil's been playing for them for years, and this was my first year. A great fest, almost all films screened were brand new (some wet from the lab!) restorations by GEH and LOC.

Just before going, I had a double-header of university shows. Pratt College in the morning, playing (piano) for DeMille's The Cheat in a nice tinted 16mm print. Course is taught by Elena Rossi Snook, head archivist at the Donnell Media Center; print also came from there. That save evening, I played (organ) for Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu on DVD at Vassar College for their cinema studies classes. Was supposed to do this show on Miditzer, but their new state-of-the-art theater couldn't accomodate running audio from my laptop into their house sound system. Luckily, the NYTOS chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society had just purchased a 3-manual Allen, and the instrument resides in Poughkeepsie (where Vassar is). Also a board member of NYTOS works at Vassar, so *poof* we had a physical theatre organ for the show. Did not sound as authentic as the Miditzer, but we had the ornate-piece-of-furniture aspect going for us, and a dozen or so students came up and asked questions about the instrument after the show. Am still not impressed with video projection; blowing up a DVD image still looks like a 16mm dupe.