In the cinema with the whole orchestra
The beginning of the 20th century is considered to be the heyday of the silent film era: then experiments with editing and special effects began, storylines, art forms and the first stories about the Tramp appeared, which quickly made Charlie Chaplin famous.
The films were released on screens without sound, but as soundtrack they used live music performed by an orchestra or a pianist – a pianist who was forced to literally pound the keys, his instrument was of such poor quality. Hence the name of the profession (pianist from French – “knock”, “clap”). Usually pianists improvised, and orchestras played from scores written for a particular film. By the 1930s, with the advent of talkie, tappers had practically disappeared.
Today, musicians “play” pianos – they unite in improvisational clubs, give concerts and even hold festivals. For example, in Yekaterinburg and St. Petersburg the project “Silent Cinema – Live Music” was held. In Moscow, film shows with a pianist can be seen in Illusion, where they demonstrate the classics of cinema, accompanied by Sergei Aksenov, who has been dubbing silent films in a skyscraper on Kotelnicheskaya Embankment for 20 years. The style of pianist performance, which is based on improvisation, continues the ArtPokaz project within the framework of its film program “Silent Cinema”. Accompanied by an authentic jazz ensemble, you can see the best silent comedies: Charlie Chaplin’s short films “At 1 AM” (1916) and “Quiet Street” (1917), paintings “Theater” by Buster Keaton, where he plays all the members of the troupe at once, spectators and an undisciplined monkey.
“It is more interesting to watch short films, each lasting 20-30 minutes, they contain the maximum concentration of jokes, in fact, all modern comedy has grown from them,” said Dmitry Pokrovsky, head of the ArtPokaz project. The program “Silent Cinema” is shown in Moscow (cinema “Cosmos”) and St. Petersburg (“Rodina”). Tickets cost from 500 to 700 rubles. In Moscow, the films are accompanied by an ensemble led by Pyotr Vostokov, founder of the Bolshoi Jazz Orchestra.
“The score approach assumes that a score is prepared for the film. Or a ready-made one is used, if it has been preserved. We have a different concept. The guys get ready, they watch films, dot, look for suitable compositions, transitions, but at the show it can be transformed, improvisation is possible. It makes no sense to hone everything, because then it will not be an authentic show, ”Pokrovsky explained.
The practice of film screenings, accompanied by musicians, both small groups and symphony orchestras, is widespread throughout the world. We are talking not only about silent films, but also about modern classics and animation. For example, in Switzerland, at the Lucerne Cultural Congress Center during the Christmas holidays, screenings of films about Harry Potter accompanied by an orchestra are shown three times a day. The trilogy “The Lord of the Rings”, “The Matrix”, “West Side Story” and other films are shown with live music at London’s Albert Hall. “This format is especially popular in England, Germany, Switzerland and the USA,” said Suren Ter-Hovsepyan, founder of the Zapomni group of companies.
Zapomni organizes film concerts based on films from Disney, Universal Pictures, 20th Century Fox, DreamWorks, Soyuzmultfilm and, more recently, National Geographic. On December 10, in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, for the first time in Russia, a film concert “Symphony of Our World” will take place – a journey through ecosystems, for each of which its own musical accompaniment was created. Zapomni had a similar experience with the project “Flight over Russia”, the famous Hollywood composer Boris Salkhov worked on the soundtrack. “All large-scale world film studios have been reformatting their films for a movie concert format for a long time. The score is being reworked, a special video is written, which is broadcast to the conductor on the screen so that he can control the synchronization of the picture and sound, the technical equipment for the orchestra is being organized, “Ter-Hovsepyan added.
Often times, the score is either restored or rewritten. For example, in the multiconcert project with Soyuzmultfilm, the program of which included Cheburashka, Bremen Town Musicians, Well, Wait!, Flying Ship and others, it was impossible to get the original score, some materials were lost. Therefore, composers and arrangers wrote it anew: they listened to the composition and wrote down the notes. The Zapomni program unites the most popular Russian and foreign cartoons: Cold Heart, Beauty and the Beast, Toy Story and others.
Cinema concerts are designed not only for the family segment. On November 13, Zaryadye hosted the premiere of the Star Wars. Episode IV: A New Hope “performed by a symphony orchestra. True, not everyone could afford a ticket: prices – from 4500 to 7500 rubles.
“The cost of tickets depends on the cost of the concert itself. The price could be lower if we showed films in stadiums. But for us it is important to be present in the cultural field, we hold shows in the best concert halls in Russia: the Moscow Conservatory, Zaryadye, the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theater, the Samara Opera and Ballet Theater, the Mariinsky Theater, and so on. When children, for example, listen in this format for 10 minutes of Gershwin without stopping, without the desire to go home or be distracted, as is usually the case at classical concerts, you understand how this whole concept works and how important it is, ”explains the founder of Zapomni.