Monday, 19 November 2012

UNSilent Movies with the Seat of the Pants Orchestra - Four Silent Films with Improvised Accompaniment - Exeter Phoenix Theatre Monday 26 November 2012 "NO PLACE LIKE HOME"

newly married and building a happy home
Buster Keaton & Sybil Seely
set to work in 'One Week' (1920)


Starting at Dartington Hall in July, the 'Seat of the Pants' orchestra has been touring Devon with its live accompaniment to the Antony Asquith's 1929 silent film 'Escape from Dartmoor'.


After five appearances they will turn their attention from thriller to comedy.

At Exeter Phoenix on Monday 26th November, they will provide live, improvised, musical accompaniment for Buster Keaton's 1920 collaboration with Edward Cline, 'One Week'.

This was Keaton's first film as director with Joseph Schenck's 'Comique Film Company' after Roscoe Arbuckle left to join Paramount. Building on their pre-war success, Keaton introduces more expensive and complicated props, for more exciting stunts. There is an early cameo appearance by Joe Roberts, who would later work with Keaton on several movies - filling the place of the supremely popular 'Fatty' Arbuckle.

The title 'One Week' sounds like it was simply a play on Sidney Franklin's 'Two Weeks', made earlier in the same year. (In 1921 Keaton responded to Charlie Chaplin's shift to melodrama with 'The Kid', by giving his new action comedy the irrelevant, and irreverent, title 'The Goat'.) Where 'Two Weeks' had starred Constance Talmadge, younger sister of the stunning star Norma Talmadge, Keaton cast a new leading lady in 'One Week' - the delightful Sybil Seely.

The combination of romance and slapstick as Keaton tried to build a house for his new bride is everything you would expect - and a perfect opportunity for orchestral experimentation. Shifting seamlessly from tenderness to catastrophic pratfall, 'One Week' almost writes its own score - perfect for a quick witted orchestra of classically trained musicians.

New to the team this time is Exeter Symphony Orchestra flautist, and 'Nonclassical' star, Ruth Molins. In her own words, Ruth likes to sing - with her flute. a very sweet supplement to the 'Seat of the Pants' sound.

Keaton's two-reeler lasts just twenty five minutes, leaving time for another film made almost a century later. 'Block' is a ten minute documentary made by Emily Richardson over ten months in 2005. This movie has not been on public release - so a double first, the first screening, and the first performance of the new score.

(Echoes of 'Pruitt-Igoe' from Philip Glass's score to Godfrey Reggio's 1982 silent documentary 'Koyaanisqatsi' perhaps? Pruitt-Igoe was Minoru Yamasaki's St Louis housing project, completed in 1955 but completely destroyed as uninhabitable in 1972 - ironically the year that Kamasaki's other great project was realised - the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in Lower Manhattan.)

Starting and ending the set will be shorts spanning the twentieth century. The evening will open with pioneering documentary footage shot by Mitchell and Kenyon in 1901 (and rediscovered in 1994), and end with home movies made by current Exeter residents - all with improvised accompaniment by the orchestra.

The full membership of the orchestra is extensive (see full listing on previous post). From that wealth of talent (according to the very reliable Ruth Molins) the line-up next Monday will be:

viola: Andrew Gillett
double bass: Marcus Vergette
violin & double bass: Emma Welton
clarinets: Anita Munson
flutes: Ruth Molins
keyboards, shakuhachi flute: Mike McInerney
vocals, sound manipulation: Sarah Owen
vocals, bagpipes, bouzouki: Paul Whittall
vocals, 'cello, saw, electric guitar: Matthew Shepherd
vocals, alto saxophone, banjo, bowed psaltery, Indian 'shruti petti': Philip Robinson


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