If you're scoring a modern silent film about ancient eldritch horrors, you're going to need to do something a little different. An organ isn't going to get it done; a piano is right out. Even a full orchestra, for all its dynamic range and variety of timbre, isn't going to have quite the right mix of options. No, you need something as weird as the subject material and medium of the film. Luckily, that's exactly what BLOrk will bring to the table this weekend.
See also: Composer Paul Buscarello on scoring the ninety-year-old silent film The Phantom Carriage
BLOrk is short for the Boulder Laptop Orchestra, a mixed ensemble that includes laptops and traditional instruments. Tomorrow BLOrk will score the 2005 silent film The Call of Cthulu live, accompanying the film as it unspools its vision of sanity-destroying elder gods descending upon mankind with a soundtrack composed especially for the occasion.
"We composed the score as a collaborative effort. We split it up, identified major characters/themes, and came up with about eleven or twelve different themes that support the narrative of what's going on in the movie," explains John Gunther, co-director of BLOrk. "Then we were able to switch to one of those soundscapes to support the film. There's some improvising and reaction to what's in the film."
Giving voice to a silent film about ancient, sanity-shattering beings from beyond space and time is no easy task, but the men and women of the BLOrk were able to answer the call by drawing on their diverse musical backgrounds.
"It's a real mix. We have some jazz students, we have some programmers and straight-up electronic musicians. We have people coming from the classical department," Gunther says. "It's a terrific mix of genres and styles and improvisation. Everything from jazz to Stockhausen to a dash of Aphex Twin."
This isn't the first silent film the BLOrk has tackled since its formation in 2008, but it may be the weirdest, which arguably makes it the best fit for the ensemble's unusual approach.
"I wasn't familiar with it myself [before we selected it], but I'm becoming an H.P. Lovecraft fan now," Gunther admits. "It turned out to be a really good fit."
(Note: The audio here is not from the score composed by BLOrk.)
See the film with the live accompaniment by BLOrk at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 26 at Atlas Black Box Theater. Admission is free, but arrive at least ten minutes early to get a seat. For more information, visit the BLOrk website.
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