Tuesday, April 22, 2008

altscore.com plugged on Bioscope blog

There's a nice write-up on my altscore.com site at the Bioscope blog, run by Luke McKernan. Click here to read it!

Monday, April 21, 2008

sharing the bill with Bernstein, Barber and Williams

Here's a review of a concert by the Green Bay Civic Symphony from yesterday. The orchestra's final concert of the season was comprised of movie music by Leonard Bernstein, Samuel Barber, and John Williams. Oh yeah, and me. They performed my orchestral score to Charlie Chaplin's The Adventurer (score was originally commissioned in 2000 by Masanobu Ikemiya and the New York Ragtime Orchestra, then revised for the Boise Philharmonic in 2006). This is the third of four performances of orchestral scores of mine I've licensed this year (so far). Next one is in June, when a high school in Milford CT will be presenting the world premiere of my concert band arrangement of my Adventurer score.


Civic Symphony has merry, moving time with movies
By Warren Gerds
April 20, 2008

Concert review
Green Bay Civic Symphony Orchestra
4 stars out of 4

Comedy and laughter are not all that common at a symphonic concert, but the Green Bay Civic Symphony Orchestra supplied that in abundance in a movie-themed, variety-filled program Sunday afternoon at the Meyer Theatre. The orchestra normally has a steady supply of wit from its droll narrator/host, Stuart Smith. He was up to his usual Sunday, dropping quips to introduce selections.

But the concert had an added layer of humor from the presence of Charlie Chaplin in two 20-minute films accompanied by live music. As the films rolled, laughter often burst at the sight of Chaplin’s wacky stunts, abundant pratfalls, hustle-bustle action and sight gags.

The fascination started when organist Frank Rippl of Appleton offered a pre-concert talk about the theater’s canary-yellow Mighty Wurlitzer organ.

A retired schoolteacher, Rippl has a nice way of getting his information across. He’s also an adept organist. The combination made his presentation a treat.

Rippl put the Meyer Wurlitzer in perspective. Of 7,000 theater organs built during the heyday of 1915 to 1935, 40 remain in their original locations. One is the Meyer’s.

“It’s a beauty, it really is,” he said.

Along with demonstration the organ’s musical effects, Rippl played samples from its “toy counter” – castanets, snare drums, tympani, bass drum, crash cymbal, Chinese wood block, glockenspiel and more.

They’re all real instruments located in a room with the organ’s pipes to the side of the stage, he said.

Rippl employed many such effects when playing along with Chaplin’s “The Rink,” a tale of mayhem in a restaurant and a roller-skating rink.

Rippl wrote the score. It’s playful and fits the moods. Rippl’s playing seamlessly kept pace with the screen action. He did what he said he would do in his pre-concert talk, “underline moments with music” rather than have the music dominate the action.

Later in the program, conductor Seong-Kyung Graham led the 75-member orchestra in music Ben Model scored for Chaplin’s “The Adventurer.”

This time, Chaplin is on the edge of panic all the way through as an escapee from prison who, among other things, rescues a beauty, her mother and a lout from drowning.

The orchestra tuned in on Model’s recurring themes – jaunty, gliding and rapid (for all the chases) – in perhaps its smoothest segment of the afternoon.

Hearing an orchestra play live to film action is a rarity in Green Bay, and Graham and the orchestra made the occasion special.

The orchestra also took on two works with the assistance of the 58-voice Ripon College Choral Union, which Graham also conducts, and the 28-voice Civic Symphony Chorus, organized and prepared by Kent Paulsen.

John Williams’ “The Phantom Menace: Star Wars for Orchestra and Chorus” at its most spectacular featured the orchestra and choirs combined in the robust, fiery, all-out energy of “Duel of the Fates.”

The choirs then stayed on to sing alone Samuel Barber’s “Agnus Dei,” which was heard in instrumental form in the movie “Platoon.” Graham and the choirs captured the works slow, flowing melancholy. It’s a work of somber beauty.

To close, the orchestra performed Leonard Bernstein’s “On the Waterfront Symphonic Suite.” The work made up of snippets of elegance, violence, angst, romance and power, and the orchestra had many strong moments.

At the conclusion, during bows, Graham made a point of calling attention to the brass players. Their part of the score is extremely difficult and their playing was “magnificent,” she said.

The Civic Symphony will return to the Meyer in fall for its 14th season. Its concert dates are Oct. 18, Nov. 15, Feb. 6 and April 19.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

April update part 1

Well...a month has flown by since my last posting, and much has happened. no way to catch up but to do it in pieces. Here's an initial stab at catching up...

Last week I spent three days recording scores for ten comedy shorts for the upcoming American Slapstick 2 DVD set from AllDay Entertainment. Five were on piano and five were on Miditzer theatre organ. Recording is always a challenge, not having the live audience there and also knowing people are going to be listening to the music more. But I think the scores came out all right. The set will be out in July.

Have now sold several downloads of my score for Sherlock, Jr. on altscore.com and one download of my score for Beyond the Rocks. Have added scores for two of the Houdini films on the set that's just come out, and added another freebie. Have a few more scores in the works, some of which may wind up being bundled with commentary tracks (by other historians, not me).

Have started taking a clown class with Eric Davis, and am having a great time. It feels great to get back to creating comedy, and especially on a physical and non-verbal level. It's been years since I set comedy-writing and filmmaking aside, and I'm really excited about this.

Am also further exploring understanding silent film actors'/comedians' movement style...since they all knew the films would be shown faster I'm discovering that when the films were shot they put little pauses or beats in-between certain movements so they'd read better. Also noticed that they may actually have also either deliberately moved slower or just took their time. There's a reason silent film doesn't look the way regular film does when it's sped up.

I took a short piece of silent film and slowed it down to real time, basing the speed on watching the weight of people and also their lip movements. Watched Chaplin's The Adventurer the other night slowed down to real time and realized most of it was shot at 14 fps, with a couple of shots at 15 fps and a lot of the chase or action sequences cranked at 12 fps. So the increase in speed was usually expected to be 135-150%. I plan to continue to do this with films or sequences and maybe post them on YouTube so other filmmakers or clowns can take a look.

I continue to book shows every day or two, and my July is looking like it's going to be another packed one, with 24 shows already lined up. Next week my orchestral score for The Adventurer will be performed by the Green Bay Civic Symphony. I am also now booked to play on the Wurlitzer at a major venue in May (shown at right). Will write more about this, and everything else that's been going on, later...