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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 Gillian Smith at 7:05PM
Robby Aceto

Blog post written by Gillian Smith, FLEFF Intern, Journalism, Harwich, Massachusetts

Today we are visited by composer Robby Aceto, who will be playing live music along with the documentary Nanook Of The North on closing night of FLEFF.

7 pm: Robby is part of an improvisational trio, and they have played at FLEFF for several years. He says that filling the seats will be the number one thing that will keep the festival going, and believes FLEFF is at the caliber where it could compete with other national festivals. He describes how when film first emerged, the technology was not available to synchronize music so therein lies the importance of improvised soundtracks. 

7:05 pm: "A hundred years ago, a lot of these things were just fantasy. There's a tendency to feel superior to people creating things a hundred years ago. They look so silly. These guys were making films and making it up as they went along." Its incredible to see the passion that Aceto has towards the importance of composing music for film. "They had to work and think more creatively than a filmmaker now. I think they had a lot more on the ball than filmmakers now." Aceto explains how he's done both documentary and narrative films: "The way a story is told, you have an expectation of being overwhelmed with sound and I just don't feel like it needs to be like that. We've narrowed what our expectations of a film experience should be."

7:09 pm: Its really interesting to hear Aceto talk about the importance of scores on silent films, especially with the most recent Martin Scorcese film, The Artist, which was awarded five Oscars at the Academy Awards this past Sunday. 

7:11 pm: Aceto describes why he refers to himself as a 'color guitarist'. "The word came about as a way to say what I do is different from what you would expect from the interest. Guitars can do so much more than we think they can do." He also talks about being a freelance musician. "You have to diversify and see where the umbrella is of my talents. You have to look for situations where you can play. I consider myself a musician so I just look for opportunities. Working with FLEFF I was hired as a guitar player in an ensemble for commission on Anne and Phil's film. It was a great experience and great fun and it just went from there." He instructs students to make themselves available and make a name for themselves. 

7:14 pm He talks a little bit about his experience working with the Talking Heads. "I was invited to come along. I went down to what was a jam and it turned out to be a pilot session for a new album. After a question asked by a student, he goes on to explain the difference with recording and live improv. "Its just whatever happens. There's a different mindset. There's the rapport you have with the other musicians, you have to embrace the accidents that are going to occur and figure out how to utilize them and figure out how not to cause a disaster. There's a real adrenalin underneath all of this." 

7:16 pm "Not making a sound is just as important as making a sound." Aceto says he tries to get into the mindset of the filmmaker. He says you have to respect the wishes of the filmmaker, and what he achieved with his film. " You can't laugh behind your hand at it. Even if it looks silly, you have to remind yourself they were deathly serious about the film. Everything else has to go from there." 

7:19 pm: For a specific film, Aceto says you have to create an ensemble. This includes whether its kids toys making noise, a computer, or physical instruments. "You're always going to respond in a different way depending on how you feel about the moment. Thats why you can have the same ensemble but it will sound completely different unless you are performing a composed score." 

7:20 pm: A student asks how to make a cohesive sound when different artists can feel differently about a film. "If you respect the material, you can have a completely wildly divergent opinion, but you can still work with someone else's. You have to agree that whatever ideas you have, whatever concept you are going to use, it has to come to a fundamental agreement on the core of the work" Aceto says. With FLEFF, Aceto says all the films he has composed for have been well known films. 

7:26 pm: Lots of questions were asked of Robby before we get to listen to some of his clips. The interns are very clearly interested in what he does. He goes on to describe the scene for which we are hearing the music. "Robber Claudius and his men, the terror." The film is black and white, with quotations every few minutes. The music is fascinating to listen to. The segment was ten minutes long, and was highly entertaining. The score, which was very intricate and almost Indian sounding. It is truly impressive that this entire score was created by these brilliant minds in the moment. 

7:41 pm: We watch a five minute clip entitled "She Gives Him Up," as section of a German film translated as "The Wild Cat."

7:48 pm: The clip that we watch is a bit different from the previous clip, because we could hear the audience laughing during the film. Aceto describes that there is a mandarin, a key board that sounds like an accordian, a toy piano, and a technique called audio capture where he captures things happening on the stage and create textures that are overlaid. These textures are "created on the fly" he says, which is incredible. 

7:50 pm: "The idea is that you are there to underscore, not to comment." I would never have thought of how using literal sounds in these silent films could possibly ruin the film or seem as if you are commenting on them, but from Aceto's point of view it seems that they are trying to create a mood and take the filmmaker very seriously, even if the idea of the film is comedic. 

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