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The Alloy Orchestra


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I mentioned the music of the Alloy Orchestra in a thread last year, when they came to town to perform a live score for Murnau's silent classic, NOSFERATU. For those of you who haven't heard of them, The Alloy Orchestra are a trio from Boston that provides live musical accompaniment for silent films. They travel all over the world to film fests and revival houses and have even provided the soundtrack for a few silent films on dvd. If you've seen the Lon Chaney/Joan Crawford silent, THE UNKNOWN, or the silent version of THE LOST WORLD on TCM, then you've heard their music, which is a mix of synthesizers and unusual percussion, with some clarinet and accordion thrown in for good measure. If you bought TCM's wonderful LON CHANEY COLLECTION on dvd, their score for THE UNKNOWN is included on that disc.

 

Speaking of Chaney, The Alloy Orchestra are returning here to KC again this weekend with a film score for the silent version of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. I am going Saturday night, and am really looking forward to it, as the print that I will be seeing is said to be the most complete and best preserved print of the film that exists. The print is touring film festivals this year, after months of 'tweaking' and painstaking restoration work. It will be shown here twice over the weekend as part of the 'Kansas International Film Festival' (I know such a thing sounds preposterous, but it's actually a pretty good little film fest--Kansasfilm.com).

 

Just wanted to say that if The Alloy Orchestra makes it to a theater near you, you should check them out. Their website includes a tour schedule. If you love silent film, as I do, seeing them provide the soundtrack for a film one of the most fascinating film experiences you will have and is absolutely essential. I have seen them roughly a half dozen times in the past decade and they are nothing short of wonderful. It's rare to get to see silent films on the big screen, unless your town has a cool revival house like the great ones in New York and L.A. So to get to see one, for me, is a treat. To see the film with a live music score is an EXPERIENCE!

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Sorry about the grammatical error in the third paragraph, as I feel so foolish for not proofreading as closely as I should. My kingdom for an EDIT button on this board!

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Yes, The Alloy Orchestra are amazing. The first time I saw The Unknown, after years of waiting to see it, I was even more impressed by their score, though the film is thoroughly enjoyable in itself. I especially enjoyed their work on the Image release of Man with the Movie Camera, even though they were adapting the cues prepared by Vertov himself. I know I'm not going to be disappointed when I see they've scored a film. And I also think it's hilarious that one of the members shares a name with one of favourite silly performers of all time, Roger Miller. In The Alloy Orchestra, it's Roger C. Miller. Maybe the 'C' is there to make the distinction, though the older Miller has passed on. I've never had the opportunity to hear them live but lucky you! Enjoy!

 

(And I think we're all allowed a minor grammatical slip now and again. The other day I wrote 'convulted' instead of 'convoluted.' I was so embarrassed yet probably no one noticed.)

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I am familiar with the Roger Miller of 'King Of The Road' fame, if that's who you are referring to, johnny. I remember my father being a fan of his. I was actually a fan of Alloy's Roger C. Miller long before the formation of the orchestra, when he was guitarist/vocalist in the early 80's Post-Punk band, MISSION OF BURMA. R.E.M's Michael Stipe said that Mission Of Burma was one of the bands that inspired him to start his own and R.E.M even covered a couple of their songs live, early in their career.

 

Mission of Burma split up long ago, but reformed and released a better-than-average reunion cd called ON OFF ON in 2004, 22 years (!) after their final record. Lucky for us film fans, he is back with The Alloy Orchestra and touring again. The Alloy Orchestra has some cds of their work available on their website, as well as Amazon.com, etc. The cd I would recommend to any who might be interested is simply called, SILENTS and features pieces from their scores from LOST WORLD, NOSFERATU, METROPOLIS, and THE UNKNOWN. It's a great introduction to their work.

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I didn't know Mission of Burma put out a reunion record. I used to hear that band way-back-when at friends' houses but never seemed to get any for myself. I was too busy then listening to Bauhaus and The Sisters of Mercy. What was I thinking? To go from there to Dub/Reggae and then Roger Miller (of '60s fame) is ridiculous. (Hmmm, Roger Miller wrote a song in around 1961 called Burma Shave...connection??) I'll have to give On Off On a listen. Great title for a reunion record. Also the Silents disc. I really, really enjoyed their stuff on The Unknown and would love to drive my wife crazy with it on the road in the vehicle (though she actually sat through the film with me and enjoyed it---she's not one for the silents). Thanks!

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