Ben Model, Piano Accompaniment to Silent Film [Rebroadcast from 6/9]
January 24, 2011, 11:22 pm
Filed under: Film, Music

It took a while to get Ben on the show and I’m glad I did. Ben practices a very unique and valuable craft. He is one of the few musicians out there who professionally accompanies silent cinema with piano. If you’ve been to New York and sat in a screening of a classic silent movie at the MoMA and there was piano playing alongside it, it was probably Ben.

He has a whole philosophy to his craft. He doesn’t play with music in front of him, but rather improvises based on cues from the audiences and his interpretation of a film. Each time he plays in front of a film it becomes a different experience. In the interview, he tells me why silent cinema will always be a relevant artifact to our world’s culture, and why it remains so entertaining and accessible to modern skeptical audiences.

I’ve seen him play alongside some Buster Keaton works at the museum. Since I’ve started enjoying Buster Keaton, I usually watched his works on disc or online, but sitting with a projector and live piano in the room is an entirely different experience. Ben attributes the phenomenon to a higher state of focus the brain experiences. He pointed out to me that when you watch a movie projected from film, you are literally sitting in utter darkness for half the time you watch the movie, but your brain doesn’t register it. He suggested to me that the brain actually tunes itself into the movie. (insomanywords). I thought it was cool and I believed it coming from a man who has devoted his life to recreating a bygone classical era in our culture.

this is his website

There’s much more though. it’s one of my favorite interviews. Have a listen.