– a clip from “The Black Pirate,” sadly without the music of the Alloy Orchestra…
Review by J Hunter
I used to love going to the movies, but I don’t do it very much any more: Too many blockbusters, too little plot, too much CGI… and, if I really get down to it, I think MASS MoCA has ruined me for modern films. I mean, why watch a snail race around Indianapolis when the animations Bill Frisell accompanied in the singular gallery’s courtyard were more original and more bizarre? Why watch Adam Sandler try to be funny (let alone relevant) when I’ve seen Charlie Chaplin and Laurel & Hardy do their best work to the music of Marc Ribot and Steven Bernstein’s Millenial Territory Orchestra? And, most importantly, why should I watch Liam Neesen and a cast of nobodies ruin a perfectly good board game when I can watch Douglas Fairbanks ride the high seas in “The Black Pirate,” all to the music of MASS MoCA faves Alloy Orchestra?
Alloy’s become a beloved tradition at MASS MoCA, thanks mostly to their multiple appearances backing Fritz Lang’s iconic silent film “Metropolis.” (Alloy’s 2011 show was the eighth time they’d brought Fritz Lang’s twisted sci-fi masterpiece to North Adams.) Both “Metropolis” and “The Black Pirate” are two of many films Alloy has helped regenerate, including Lon Chaney’s “Phantom of the Opera” and the vampire movie equivalent of Genesis, F.W. Murneau’s “Nosferatu.”
Le Spectre Rouge (1907) aka The Red Spectre, is a nine minute horror fantasy directed by Segundo de Chomón, Ferdinand Zecca, It is innovative with a red tint. One reason to look forward to seeing it on a big screen is that the film itself has unusually detailed visual design. With the Alloy Orchestra's fresh music score and foley effects. it should be stunning.
Quietly and without a lot of advance publicity, one of my Mass MoCA favorites, The Alloy Orchestra, with all of three musicians and the imagination of many more, will present an unusual program of new music for short films.
Scheduled on Tuesday April 10th at the unusual time of 12:30 pm and costing just a fiver, it sounds like a fun way to give everyone’s Tuesday a lift. Perhaps it is directed at moms dealing with school vacation week, but even for adults, who minds a few youngsters having fun when that is the whole idea behind Alloy’s work.
Dragging out the “Rack of Junk”
Alloy Orchestra has composed scores for full length films, but this time it is four shorter films that Terry Donahue, Roger Miller and Ken Winokur have been making some great new music for. Utilizing its famous “rack of junk”, they thrash and grind soulful music from an unusual combination of found percussion and state-of-the-art electronics that give the Orchestra the ability to create any sound imaginable in a spectacular variety of styles. They can be a musicologists nightmare: how do you explain a combination of Music for Elevators mixed with Spike Jones in a scholarly way?
Okay, maybe you wouldn’t drive through a pelting rainstorm to see a long, dark, wrenching German Expressionist silent film, but plenty of others would. MASS MoCA’s parking lot was create-a-space jammed by the time I navigated the detours on Route 2, and the 8:30pm screening started ten minutes late in order to accommodate the long line outside the Hunter Center. Mind you, this wasn’t just any German Expressionist film – this was the iconic 1927 science-fiction epic “Metropolis,” with an original score performed live by Alloy Orchestra.
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