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FLEFF Intern Voices

The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view

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Posted by Michael Mulvey at 5:40AM

Written by Michael Mulvey

"All art is a political act" 

Cloud Chamber Orchestra consists of Robby Aceto, Peter Dodge and Chris White.  An invitation to perform live, improvisational scores for silent film screenings at FLEFF led to ensemble’s formation in 2007. Their first public collaboration was an April 6, 2008 screening of the 1925 Cooper/Schoedsack silent film Grass, which documents the migration of the Persian Bakhtiari tribe. A live recording of the performance was released as a CD by the band in 2012.

This Year FLEFF celebrates a decade of collaboration with Cloud Chamber Orchestra by hosting a screening of Jose Manuel Moneta’s 1927 Antarctic silent documentary Entre los Hielos de las Islas Orcadas. You can read a great overview of this film’s history and significance, as well as excerpts of an interview with Moneta by clicking here. The screening will be held Saturday April 14, with Cloud Chamber Orchestra performing a live improvisational score. Robbie Aceto recently visited the FLEFF blogging staff to talk about his work.

The Aceto’s were a musical family in Rochester NY. As a kid Robby and his two brothers, who are also professional musicians, performed at community events and fund-raisers. Robby a trained pianist since childhood has no formal training in guitar. During his visit he quipped that, having never learned the rules for guitar, he’s not bound by, or at all hesitant to break them. When pressed for his approach to the instrument, he points to his conceptual art education at the University of Halifax Art School.  

“You must decide as an artist how relevant you want to be”

In a culture awash with guitarists of every stripe, Robby Aceto distinguishes himself by extending the utility and voice of the instrument. Applying concepts from his artistic training, like color and spaciality, Aceto creates sonic landscapes that convey the images and temperament of the music. Standard approach to guitar often suggests playing a chord progression in support a melody. Aceto employs his sonic palette in order to support the sentiment or imagery he perceives in the music.

The current technical term for the approach is Modern Guitar. Aceto prefers Color Guitar, as that descriptor evokes his art school experience. In listening to Aceto’s work and hearing him speak about it, I sense a correlation to drawing or painting. His sonic musings are evocative, perhaps conveying the tension of a city street, or the blissful reassurance of waves lapping at the shore. Like the illustrations in a book, these sonic landscapes reveal and augment the primary narrative, enriching the experience.

“If it doesn’t have a political subtext, it probably isn’t art”

While discussing his work composing film scores, Aceto again points to his art education, this time for, “training me to conceptualize before I put anything into motion.”  Prior to beginning a film scoring gig, he’ll first sit down and watch the entire film once through. Then he’ll think about it, approaching the entire film from the point of view of an artist. When composing a score for a contemporary film, the music is usually subservient to the narrative of the story. In addition he has to incorporate the director’s input into the conceptual process.

With Cloud Chamber Orchestra’s live improv accompaniment, Robby Aceto favors a more aleatoric approach. He’ll leave much more to the moment of creative expression.  He’ll watch the movie, think about it, develop a sense of the arc of the entire film, and understand its pace. He may also make a few notes or write his impressions, but that’s about it. During the performance these three dynamic and engaging artists will enter into an entirely unrehearsed musical discourse with the film, each other and the moment.

This is the stuff that I live for!

For more about Robby Aceto,  check out his website. Here's a good interview with Robby from Guitar Moderne.


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