Sounds for silent films

Before Hollywood added sound to celluloid in the late-1920s, action and dialogue were enhanced by live music.

Through the first quarter of the 20th century, theater organists and pianists played prepared scores and sometimes improvised as the movie's plot unfolded. In bigger cities, some theaters hired ten- or twelve-piece orchestras to perform before and during the films.

When Cinefest 28 convenes Thursday through Sunday March 13-16, at the Holiday Inn on Electronics Parkway, three accomplished pianists will accompany the silent movies.

Music and movies

All three of the musicians have worldwide reputations for their collaborations with film. Dr. Philip Carli and Gabriel Thibaudeau are returning to Cinefest while Makia Matsumura makes her Syracuse debut.

Rochester's Phil Carli says that the music accompanying a silent film should blend so well with the action as to be unnoticeable.

"In an ideal performance," Carli says, "the audience should be caught up in the excitement -- or humor, or pathos -- of the drama without specific awareness of the accompaniment, even while it is helping to intensify the film's emotional message The score and performance should serve the film above all, regardless of the particular genre of the music."

'Phantom' composer

Carli has played at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery in Washington, the Cinematheque Quebecoise in Montreal, the National Film Theatre in London, and the Berlin International Film Festival. He is staff accompanist for the George Eastman House in Rochester.

Thibaudeau, pianist for the Cin (c)math que qu (c)b (c)coise, has composed scores for three of the most famous silent films ever made, "The Phantom of the Opera," "The Man Who Laughs" and "Nanook of the North."

Matsumara, who has written soundtracks for many film and video productions, has performed with the Hungary National Symphony, the Berlin Great Radio Orchestra and the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra.

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