About this blog
The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Blog posting written by Brian McCormick, Film, Photo and Visuals Arts '12, FLEFF Intern, Wilbraham, MA
I had a great conversation with musician Chris White the other day about his upcoming performance at FLEFF, playing the cello for a live musical score of the silent film Storm Over Asia.
This is happening Sunday, April 17th, 7pm at Cinemapolis -- a one time event!
Accompanying White in the performance will be fellow musicians Robby Aceto and Peter Dodge.
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White isn't new to FLEFF -- he has been performing for the silent films for the past few years. With years of experience playing classical and non-classical cello, White is very open to and excited about musical improvisation. Here's what he had to say about what he's done and his upcoming FLEFF performance.
Q: Can you talk about your history as a cellist and where you're at now?
A: "I studied cello in western New Hampshire, and also in France and Spain, and then I did a masters in cello performance at Ithaca College. While I was growing up learning cello, I was also playing the guitar self-taught on the side, just improving on the guitar. At a certain point I decided to start trying to improv on the cello and to jazz and stuff like that. When I lived in Spain I'd play flamenco with singer-songwriters and all kinds of fun stuff.
I also founded and am director of a cello festival for cellists who are interested in non-classical uses of the cello. That's an annual event , and the 17th annual is going to happen at Ithaca College on June 10th - 12th. That puts me in touch with people around the world who are doing innovative things with the cello, all different kinds of styles, rock, pop, and world music, and all kinds of cool stuff."
Q: How did you get involved with FLEFF and performing for silent films?
A: "About six years ago, Patty Zimmerman asked me if I'd consider playing along with the The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and I said "Sure, I'll give it a try." I played with my electric cello and some electronic effects, and I had a really fun time and got good feedback from others.
It's been like that pretty much every year where I've been doing at least one silent film. It was a few years ago I started to do it with other musicians as well. I'm doing this one with Peter Dodge and *Robby Aceto, and that sort of opened up a whole other new area of collaboration and improvisation."
[ * Read the interview by Kelsey with Robby Aceto here! ]
Q: What are you looking forward to?
A: "It's been a very fulfilling experience playing in FLEFF, playing in a theater -- we've been playing in Cinemapolis -- and I'm looking forward to playing in the new Cinemapolis, the past two times we were in the old Cinemapolis. The people that did the sound, and the lighting were really good and helped create a really nice ambience there.
Just playing for a live audience where we're kind of watching the film with everybody else. We've gotten feedback like, "The music was great, I just got lost in the film, and sometimes I forgot that there was live music playing." That was kind of cool because that would be our goal, for people to really feel like the music worked that well with the movie that they just took it all in.
I think for this year we're really looking forward to the new space, and I just really like working with the FLEFF team and I feel really well treated by everybody. We're excited."
Q: How do you prepare for this kind of performance?
A: "We definitely get together and rehearse. The first time we got together, for this year, we just watched the film and as we watched it we'd stop and talk about this scene or that scene or the feeling that we'd like to have there.
One of our approaches is to take turns being the person that would sort of lead a certain scene or feeling so that the others could come in as they wish and join that. The different people generating the music that would make it so that it's more variant rather than just jumping in all at once. We'll try to have just one person playing or two and three and try to change it up that way, too."
Q: What does the cello bring to creating the appropriate film ambience of the silent film?
A: "The cello has a lot of warmth and texture and into the human voice like range, I think that speaks to a lot of people that way, the sound of the cello. Because its a bow instrument, and the bow gives a lot of life to the sound and vibrancy that also works. It makes it so that I can stand out and hold a note as long as I want, and I can also change that as I go.
With the bow you can do effects that sound like distortion, and there's just a wide palette of sounds to choose from just from the use of the bow. There's spiccato if I'm plucking at it, it can feel like a base and driving sound, a percussive rhythm that way. I can use some electronic things like the looper which allows me to layer different notes on top of each other or a series of a notes. Robby, the guitarist, also uses looping so we can kind of create a bigger ambience of sound that way and build upon that to sound like we're a much bigger group sometimes."
Q: How is performing for a silent film different from other things you have done?
A: "It's more free for me because it's wide open and the parts of the film inspire us in different ways. It's very different from jazz or classical or most of the other types of improvisation I've done because it's so open and unscripted. The script is kind of like the movie, we're kind of creating the score as we go.
We do watch the movie and then play together with the movie to anticipate the changes in the different moods and feelings we want to convey. It will be sort of like playing and improvising to poetry maybe or art where you can do what you want, but you're still trying to fit into the mood of what you're watching. It's pretty cool, it's very different."
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Don't miss this once in a lifetime performance!
With Chris White, Robby Aceto, and Peter Dodge playing LIVE, come see Storm Over Asia, 7PM on Sunday, April 17th at Cinemapolis!