A three-man ensemble
which composes and performs original live scores for silent film
s. Their raucous scores employ a wide array of weird musical instrument
, truck springs, sheet metal, bedpan
, etc -- "junk percussion
", all displayed in a big rack onstage) along with more conventional ones (banjo
). They're fantastic; you've haven't seen a silent movie until you've seen it with these guys playing along. Their music
brings the films to life, and the audience gets the added treat of watching the musician
s, as they crash, bang, toot, twiddle and skweetch in perfect synchronization
with the timing of events on screen -- no small feat
. Go see them.
Terry Donahue - percussion, accordion and vocals
Ken Winokur - percussion, clarinet
Roger C. Miller - synthesizer
Caleb Sampson (synthesizer) died in 1998, and Miller joined the group shortly thereafter.
They tour fairly extensively within America, slightly less so internationally, so you probably have a reasonable chance of getting to see them live. You've probably already heard something of theirs, because according to their website, "in addition to their work with silents, the Orchestra has contributed soundtracks to commercial videos for IBM, UPS, The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the National Park Service and other projects." They provided tunes for Errol Morris's films Fast, Cheap and Out of Control and Mr. Death: the Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter Jr. They scored director Jane Gillooly's short film Dragonflies, the Baby Cries (2000), which Winokur produced. Their music has also been used on NPR as segue music.
An incomplete list of silent films they've scored:
- Metropolis (1926) dir. Fritz Lang (this was the first film they scored -- in 1991)
- The Wind (l927), with Lillian Gish
- Sylvester (1923), little-known German film
- Aelita, Queen of Mars (1924), early sci-fi film cum Bolshevik propaganda film
- Lonesome (1928-9), forgotten American film, released at the very end of the silent era
- Plane Crazy (1928), Walt Disney's first (?) Mickey Mouse short
- The Unknown (1927) dir. Tod Browning, with Lon Cheney, Sr. and Joan Crawford
- Steamboat Bill Jr. (1927) with Buster Keaton
- A Trip to the Moon (1902) dir. Georges Meliès
- One Week (1920) with Buster Keaton
- Big Business (1929) with Laurel and Hardy
- Easy Street (1916) with Charlie Chaplin
- The Man With the Movie Camera (1929), documentary from USSR
- The Lost World (1925), dir. Harry O. Hoyt
- South (1919), Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance Expedition
- Strike! (1924) dir. Sergei M. Eisenstein
- Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horror (1922) dir. F. W. Murnau
- They're working on a score for Son of the Sheik (1926), Rudolph Valentino's last film, for 2002.
So far there are three CDs of their scores:
- New Music for Silent Films, 1994, Accurate Records (AC-5005). With Sampson; includes Neil Leonard on saxophone. Features material from Metropolis; The Wind; Sylvester; and Aelita, Queen of Mars.
- Silents, Accurate Records (AC-5026). With Sampson. Features material from Plane Crazy, The Lost World, Nosferatu, Metropolis, The Unknown.
- Masters of Slapstick, 1999, Accurate Records (AC-5037). With Miller. Features material from One Week, Big Business, and Easy Street.
These CDs, as well as tour dates, and VHS tapes and DVDs of a few movies with Alloy scores, are available at their website, www.alloyorchestra.com.