Score! Silent films paired with live music at Pavilion

Score! Silent films paired with live music at Pavilion
Innovative ensemble: Composer and keyboardist Andrew Alden, violinist and violist Beltran Del Campo, guitarist Nat Saralamba, and drummer Andy Cantu pair uniquely composed live music to the screenings of silent films.
Courtesy of the Andrew Alden Ensemble

Who needs Dolby digital?

Traveling Boston-based quartet Andrew Alden Ensemble will perform original contemporary chamber music to soundless, full-length motion picture classics screened at the Prospect Park West moviehouse the Pavilion Theater.

“Each movie we do has a very distinctive feel,” said the eponymous composer, who formed the four-man troupe a year ago. “The whole thing is written to exactly mirror the action going on in the film.”

The group, made up of Alden on the keyboard, a violinist, an electric guitarist, and a drummer, got its movie performance series underway earlier this month at the 85-year-old multiplex with the showing of the 1925 version of “The Phantom of the Opera” and the 1968 horror film “Night of the Living Dead” — which is not silent but was shown with subtitles instead of sound.

The mobile band, which has brought its cinematic music series to old movie houses across the northeast, will perform at screenings of the 1925 dinosaur film “The Lost World,” the 1922 horror “Nosferatu,” which is the first Dracula movie ever made, and the 1925 Russian epic “Battleship Potemkin.”

“There’s nothing exactly like what we sound like,” said Alden, who added that it takes up to seven weeks to write one musical score. “It’s like a massive wave of encompassing sounds.”

The film and music fanatic said that he selects movies that resonate with him and then he carefully views the flick multiple times marking off the dramatic and high-tension scenes and notes the themes before penning a concerto.

During performances the group even improvises, said Alden, who described the band’s sound as “post-minimalist chamber music mixed with rock and jazz.” Influences include modern classical composer Philip Glass, Radiohead, and saxophonist John Coltrane.

“It’s such a unique thing to get to see these movies in a theater on the big screen and what we do is something you don’t get to see everyday,” he said.

The Pavilion applied for a liquor license last year so it can serve booze during movie screenings, and wrote on its Facebook page that the “Silent Film Festival” is part of the theater’s ongoing renovations under new management.

The Andrew Alden Ensemble at the Pavilion Theater [188 Prospect Park West at 14th Street in Park Slope, (718) 369–0838, www.paviliontheater.com]. “The Lost World,” April 24, 8 pm, “Nosferatu,” May 1, 8 pm, “Battleship Potemkin,” May 8, 8 pm. $15.

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at nmusumeci@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.

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