Personal Statement

Playing for silent film is a lot like playing for dance and composing for opera. There are moments of recitative (spoken dialogue), moments of aria (emotional expression) and moments of pure action. The most important thing a composer does for a film is to establish the overall mood. The music should become so much a part of the film that one cannot feel the separation between sound and image, but rather a synthesis of the two.

I learned many things  playing for modern dance classes that have aided me in playing for silent film. One of these things was to let a gesture speak in silence, having the music appear later, as if in conversation with the moving body. Another was to always support the action on the screen, never calling attention to the music at the expense of that action. A third lesson was to develop a sense of timing, which means sensing when a particular tempo had reached its natural conclusion and when a contrasting rate of speed needed to be introduced. The weaving together of different musical themes and the transformation and development of these themes are what unifies the score to a film. My process is what I refer to as structured improvisation. After previewing a film, I make decisions about musical themes, harmonic vocabulary and style. All this forms the basis for the improvisation. It is in this manner that my music for silent film takes shape.

I haven’t written anything here for quite some time but now have a bit to report.

This summer ( 2013) I made my debut at the SFSilent Film Festival, playing for two of the silent Hitchcock series – CHAMPAGNE and EASY VIRTUE.  It was very exciting and things went very well.  Then, in late August, I played for all nine of Hitchcock silents at Pacific Film Archive, which was intense but a real joy.  Playing at Cinefest in Syracuse was such a life-afirming experience. I am to return there for the next two years.  I continue to play for dance at Stanford and am continuing my studies in art history.