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Iconic Joan of Arc Photoplay Gets Krasinski Treatment


Joan_of_Arc_miniatureThe Seraphim Singers, under the direction of Jennifer Lester, collaborates with organist Peter Krasinski to present La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc. With improvised organ accompaniment and through-composed choral elaboration, Krasinski and the chamber choir will provide a theatrical presentation of Carl Theodore Dreyer’s 1928 masterpiece. March 29th at First Lutheran Church (Boston), and April 5th at the Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola (Chestnut Hill).

Through the use of intense and un-forgiving close-ups and distorting camera angles La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc compresses the many sessions of Joan’s infamous interrogations into a relentlessly moving 83 minutes. Renée Falconetti’s Joan is probably the finest performance ever recorded on film, but the lesser roles are no less distinctive. One especial treat for some is seeing the author of “The Theatre of Cruelty,” Antonin Artaud as the only sympathetic inquisitor. As one of the greatest silent films rarely to be performed with its original score, the Passion, has suffered from all sorts of treatments since its debut, including being shown without any music, and worse, with a 1950’s baroque potpourri by Joseph-Marie Lo Duca. The best of the later scores, and a standard for presentations where budgets for small orchestras and royalties are available, is Richard Einhorn’s perhaps overly hypnotic oratorio Voices of Light.

In addition to the overall voice of the film, the organ improvisation, The Seraphim/Krasinski treatment will feature the five choral works, including specially-commissioned music by Elliott Gyger:

Maurice Duruflé: Notre Père (The Lord’s Prayer)
Alberto Ginastera: Lamentaciones de Jeremias Propheta
Elliott Gyger:  (b. 1968) Eleven Questions; Three Temptations; Libera ma (World premieres)Daniel Pinkham:“In monte Oliveti” from Passion Music
Works of Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179)

BMInt spoke with organist Peter Krasinski about his work in the silent movie field.

You refer to your art as improvisation, yet that improvisation is in a defined context. You watch films and take notes of exact cues and timings well before you perform for them. Please explain how the planning and improvisation unfold in performances.

Peter Krasinski (file photo)
Peter Krasinski (file photo)

Any good improvisation depends on a good grasp of music theory, respect for the theme, and understanding of existing music. Koussevitzky loved the idea of “The Central Line” in a piece of music and passed that important concept on to, among others, Leonard Bernstein. I search for that Central Line in the film to be played for, and engage far more than just music theory and form to help me to empathize with the story there… it’s an organic holistic approach that strives to totally respect the world that the movie is presenting. That musical reflection of feeling, story telling, drawn from my own experience, is then utilized to support the visual story as it unfolds, hopefully resulting in a dynamic, breathing and living accompaniment, which always puts the master of the images first, and flows effortlessly to create an organic whole for the audience.

Like any fine musical performance, preparation is key so that the performance becomes a logical journey. The art of improvisation is often a mis-understood one, particularly as taught in some circles. For me it’s always been a natural thing… to just “make music”. In a way music making as a child was on the creative side as opposed to the interpretive side, preferring the act of “playing by ear” to “reading the score”. This perspective, undoubtedly formed by a certain neurological construct, leaves room for chance, spontaneity and discovery during a true improvisation.

So, in this case specifically, I’ve seen the film on a number of different levels at different times… as observer, interpreter, narrator, music maker, historian. From this I hope to have discovered the central line of this piece, which in broad terms is “a journey of truth spoken to power with the resultant consequences”.

Jenn and I met a number of times to see the film and discuss what choral music might be appropriate to highlight scenes, “phrase gestures”, the visual rhythm, and story segments. We then decided that we should not limit ourselves to only one style of period of music (This in some way might answer your question about “updating a film”… some of this music was written far before the film’s creation, some written during it, and some after, and yet more composed specifically for it). These choral sections will be woven into the larger improvised texture provided by the organ improvisation and the organ will sometimes accompany, sometimes be silent, sometimes be in dialog and even in disagreement with the chorus pieces.

The process included viewing the film with chorus members and entering into dialogue about feelings and thoughts about the film. After learning the repertory chosen, rehearsals included moments with starting a few seconds before the choral cues with an improvisation, preparing the chorus for the scene they sing for, singing the segment, and then exiting the scene. During this rehearsal process many discoveries were made about tempo, dynamics and even key relationships and the relationship of the sound to the image became a passion for all involved.

During the performance the organist and conductor will be using the timing of the film as well as the images themselves to cue the chorus. A true multi-media event, but one whose sole purpose is to narrate the story presented by the film: it is not for us to judge the content of the film, only to present in sound what that content says.

In the case of The Passion of Jeanne D’Arc, you will also be working with The Seraphim Singers for whom you will be playing the accompaniments in pieces listed above.

No, not necessarilyin some moments I may be supporting those pieces, in others section I may be sonically fighting those pieces, in others improvising accompaniments, in still others playing completely different music in juxtaposition – and, so far in rehearsal, these have always been different every time due to both internal and external influences.

Renée Falconetti as Joan
Renée Falconetti

Do you and the chorus have any freedom to improvise within those fully composed works?

Yes… except for the commissioned works by Gyger the pieces were not written for the film so, of course, they will serve that theme and might have to be altered in tempo, key, rhythm, dynamics, mode and length, to mention just a few variables. The Gyger pieces will be untouched however, they are perfectly timed and created and when they occur I will be supporting that voice.

What other music will you be drawing from in your performance? I note that your rehearsal notes refer to wandering chords—that sounds completely improvisational, but from what I’ve heard of your other performances, you do incorporate recognizable tunes from the period of the films you are scoring.

Indeed, some films demand that previously composed music be utilizedthe drinking and marching songs in The Big Parade, Gounod’s Faust music in Phantom, the angelus and chants in Hunchback, etc. Those musical quotes should not draw attention to themselves, of course. Years ago I once heard “Raindrops keep falling on my head” played in the sewer scene in Phantom… sort of funny, but pretty terrible and extremely distracting from the film.  Even some of the more respected accompanists from the gilded age of the WurliTzers and orchestral scores might not always get it right by playing, for instance, the “Kol Nidre” because it sounds “Jewish” during a scene in The Ten Commandments when the cast is portraying a completely different moment from the Exodus experience, or the “La Marseillaise” in a German expressionist film when the scene has nothing to do with France. Composer Victor Herbert objected to the use of pre-existing music in film score because he believe it would be distracting to an audience that was familiar with the music. For the most part, silent film composers Riensenfeld, Wilson, Zamecnik, Rapee and others went this route.

In this case, the music improvised with be not so much “drawn from” as “worked from” and created. When the music from Gyger arrived I instantly recognized the use of fourths along with other compositional language which I will be using. Along with this, the choral pieces also have their own language, which will be used in the improvisations. Finally, for me, and this I can’t explain, I’ve had a “sound “ in my mind the moment I saw this film for the first time— that will be there also. Finally, yes, there are sections the chorus will improvise as well—in fact; they got very comfortable with that as the rehearsal process continued. Film is a fixed [in time] art form; the improvised music and even the choral repertoire are fluid art forms. Trust and imagination on the part of all the participants will be key to this project, holding these two aspects in creative tension and balance.

Some of the great silent films had original musical accompaniment written for them at the time of their premieres, although I gather no such score exists for Joan, though Richard Einhorn has written a much-performed cantata for use either with the film or as a stand-alone. [A comment from Dennis James induces a retraction. There was an original score. See first comment below, and click here for excerpts of the original Victor Alix & Leo Pouget version (first six selections)]

According to Casper Tybjerg the director of Joan, Carl Theodor Dreyer, was known to have banished on set music that traditionally was used during filming to get the actors into the right mood – “it’s something artificial that…does not give them a true emotion…In the depth of silence there is always oneself.” He told the same interviewer that ‘He was in favor of showing films with out any musical accompaniment.’ However, Dreyer was also ‘crucially concerned that actors should draw from their own emotional depths, that they should merge with their characters.’ Interestingly, this is always what I strive for when I accompany a film and it’s also what the singers have been learning to do. This is no surprise because this group often does achieve this in performances of composed music. With the opportunity provided by the Seraphim Singers to partner and collaborate with them, I felt another musical take on the film was in order: one that would more closely reflect the visual rhythm, over all form, and emotional content of the film.

Do you ever use those original-to-the-film scores for your performances?

The most recent pre-composed score I’ve used for a film was my own realization for organ of Prokofiev’s music for Alexander Nevsky. This was in a performance for the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts with chorus, soloist and percussion. After reading a great deal about the process of that original film score, the problems and obstacles presented to the composer during editing and recording, the political realities of the time, I created as much as possible a score as close to what the composer intended, except of course for the fact that it was not played by an orchestra, but by a 1921 E. M. Skinner organ.

In my younger years I heard live accompaniments played live by Lee Irwin, Gaylord Carter, and others. I also enjoyed recordings of Jesse Crawford and others. There is always something to be gleaned from hearing these performances and indeed, they inspired me. The fact is, when I started playing silent film regularly there were few score available and I had to create them myself.

Antonin Artaud as Massieu
Antonin Artaud as Massieu

Do you look at the original cue sheets and suggestions that often were included with films that were not fully scored?

I’ve seen these and am always interested in any approaches to film accompaniment from both the silent and sound track time periods. They most often depend heavily on originally composed music that was never intended to accompany the scene in question. If, when reviewing a film, I am reminded of a piece previously written, I can imagine that music as a model of mood, form, and structure (basically, what does the piece say) and from that create something similar but different. There are two reasons for this: To slavishly quote an actual piece at an inappropriate time will draw attention to itself and away from the film. (This was what Victor Herbert had expressed years ago). Also, a piece composed in real time, using the film as the source material: this will, of course, work better.  All that said, sometimes a real musical quote is the only way to go… scenes of Faust in Phantom for instance to “Take me out to the ball game.” in a Harold Lloyd feature for instance.

Do you think silent films need musical updating for modern audiences?

What do you mean by updating? The music (read ANY) should fit the rhythm, pace, story, arc, characters, sets, emotion of the film. Having a Jazz trio accompany Salome might not work very well, although during the “Dance of the seven veils” it might be just the ticket (if they’re really good and sensitive). Hearing a WurliTzers pipe organ with the tremolos pumping away all night can be exhausting, particularly if there are scenes of quite introspection in the film, It’s a complex question worthy of discussion for sure. It’s all about serving the theme, which in this case, is the film.

What do you think of the work of the film scorers Erno Rappee, Hugo Riesenfeld and  J.S. Zamecnik?

Of those that I’ve experienced, ground breaking, of course. Hearing that music performed live with full orchestra must be riveting, but that is something rare indeed. The performance aspect of these presentations cannot be easily described – it must be experienced to be fully understood. Gosh, it isn’t watching a DVD at home, that’s for sure. That doesn’t come close, ever.

Do you have a collection of period photoplay music?

No, but finding this material is not that difficult and over time many people have sent me examples of cue sheets and such.  In the late 1970’s the rented 16mm came just as advertised: silent. At Hammond Castle I would review the film and take notes, eat dinner and come back and play the film. It was a very enjoyable process and I discovered that it seemed the most natural music making I did. (Hammond Castle was the location where I played three Phantom performances in one evening) The Rapee cue book was available, but seemed somewhat limited to me…”love scene”-“train wreck”-“sailing” all with corresponding classical cues.  I’d been playing dramatic accompaniments for fun since childhood. Of course, we can always learn something! The wonderful work of Gillian Anderson and Dennis James in reconstructing music from the silent ear must be appreciated and applauded.

In Joan will your score highlight action and be tightly cued?

Of course, but hopefully without drawing attention to itself.

Will you assign motivic elements that will recur?

Given the nature of this film, probably not… this story: among many things,  it’s a progression.

Do you agree that some silent film scores, like Riesenfeld’s for Sunrise are perfect and that it is hubris to try to create a new one?

Well, there is a lot of ill advised accompaniment going on and has been for some time… it’s hard to know exactly what to say about that. Now I’m no fan of the Giorgio Moroder score for Metropolis, however it undoubtedly helped to create a new and young audience for silent film…

What to say about rock bands accompanying silent films that seem to have not even seen the film? We’ll it’s really about them, isn’t it, and I suppose their fans enjoy it. As long as they know it’s not about the film. I’m impressed with much of the work of Berklee students as presented at the Coolidge Corner Theater, but some of that composing seems more about itself than the film also. On a slightly different tack, many directors were unhappy with the scores created for their films and just as many films have been saved by a great score.

For your upcoming performances you will be playing on two very different organs. At First Lutheran Church we will hear you on a Baroque tracker, while at BC you will play an American classic Casavant. How will the performances differ?

Great question! Exactly how the performances will be different will be an unfolding experience. That said, there are some obvious influence of audience, instrument, building, style, aesthetic and faith that will play into these performances

First Lutheran Church, Boston:
The organ is a North German/Dutch influenced mechanical action (direct contact from fingers to pallet) instrument lovingly built by Richards, Fowkes and Co. Its tuning is distinctive (not equal temperament) and has a very different color depending on the key played in. Its voice is bold, singing, and speaks right into the room from the back gallery where the chorus will be, except for some special moments. To me it somehow seems a sort of sound pointing toward the people of Joan’s time. Some stops call out to be voices for those portrayed in the film, particularly in the closing reels of the film. The building, a 1956 Pietro Belluschi design, has fantastic live acoustics and a modern feel. I feel that the film will be a perfect fulcrum, balanced between this structure and the music in it. The audience will hopefully be diverse and drawn from the general public, but the church is well known to academics and the intellectually and theologically minded musicians in the city as well. Its members are an active congregation, very much connected to their faith.

Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola:
The organ, an American classic with a French accent, Casavant Opus number 1691, was rebuilt and expanded recently.  This sound might be more related to the “sound temperature” familiar to those that made this film in the 1920s. This organ can get very soft because of swell boxes and is located in both the Rear Gallery and the South Transept creating a ‘surround sound” effect if desired. More orchestral in nature than the “pure organ design” of FLC, this instrument will point more forward to 20th century symphonic than back toward the medieval esthetic that FLC will provide. The building is stylized 20th century Gothic, is traditionally “churchy” looking and had a congregation drawn for the Boston College Community. The audience will reflect that as well.

Each of these places will bring its own weight to the performance. One might be so bold to say that the Lutheran traditions and Catholic traditions come to the story of Joan from two very different perspectives. It will indeed be interesting to see if the very souls of these two sacred spaces will in someway shape these two performances in ways unexpected, unfolding and meaningful. For performing musicians, the composer and the composition are the primary focus. For improvisers, the theme is the primary focus. In this endeavor, it is the film that is the theme, and it is from this that all our sonic assistance will spring. We will aim to create a production that is meaningful, serious, dynamic, fluid, and above all, relevant to our present time. The politics of power that we experience every day are nothing new – and Joan was unique in her way of speaking truth to power.

Ed. Note: This article was clarified in response to a comment. See related review here.

Passionate Poster
Passionate PosterLa Passion de Jeanne dArc (1928) Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer

Performed with live and improvised accompaniment by:

Peter Edwin Krasinski – International Sonic Artist, organ
The Seraphim Singers – Jennifer Lester, Music Director & Conductor

Saturday, March 29, 2014, 8:00 pm
First Lutheran Church. 299 Berkeley Street, Boston
$20 general admission / $15 for students and seniors (available at the door)

Saturday, April 5, 2014, 8:00 pm
Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola, 28 Commonwealth Avenue, Chestnut Hill
Free Admission
Panel discussion begins at 7:00pm


18 Comments [leave a civil comment (others will be removed) and please disclose relevant affiliations]

  1. A simple Web search reveals, of course, that the original score to Passion of Joan of Arc published in 1928 DOES survive intact and it is often played together with the film by historically-informed musicians of taste, conscience and integrity. In fact, I toured extensively with my own restoration of this Victor Alix and Leo Pouget original, through-composed score issued top be performed with the Passion of Joan of Arc in its original theatrical release for several years after that long undiscovered complete original print (pre studio fire that destroyed the original negative) was finally found in that asylum basement in Norway.

    The original Passion of Joan of Arc score is stylistically a perfect match for the Poulenc ‘Organ Concerto, so for modern-day organ centric presentations such as this being done in the Boston are! I reduced the A&P original instrumentation to match the Poulenc, needing therefore only the string parts, harp and tympani as hires, and I played the rest of the parts, winds and brass, intact in transcription at the organ throughout the film. There is an extensive choral part in the A&P as well, so I had either full choirs, or did in sometimes in reduction to one voice per part. Both versions were and are still quite effective.

    Such a sad waste of time and such an extensive use of coverup verbiage to justify whatever the replacement scoring effort was expended . . . it is so much easier, and so much. more appropriate from any point of view, to simply perform the music written for these films that was intended by the filmmakers themselves to be played and that was actually heard together with the films by the audiences of the time.

    Dennis James, Silent Film Concerts, Corning, NY

    Comment by Dennis James — March 25, 2014 at 8:46 pm

  2. Major concert halls all across Europe have gotten very excited in recent years about what they are coming to refer to as my authentic American historically-informed recreations of the silent film experience. With World War Two wiping out many of the downtown motion picture houses along with the economic travails experienced in cultural upheaval transitions in the years since, most of their original organ-equipped silent film exhibition sites as well as their aged populace who were experienced in the actualities of silent film as a live music accompanied exhibition art form have all but vanished. My Silent Film Concerts historical materials-sourced programs presented there as continuity extensions of the silent film era are actually preferred in the major European cities such as Amsterdam, Paris, Cologne, Rome, Salzburg and Vienna. They are ever-increasingly being welcomed by their audiences as appropriate concert hall fare, seen now to be preservation endeavors maintaining public access to ongoing experience of historical lineage already deemed appropriate in presentations on the scale of symphonic music, opera, ballet and the other past-era sourced cultural activities. For instance, I began concert hall screenings of silent films using in the grand 5 manual, 113 rank Rieger pipe-organ (installed 1913) for the Vienna Konzerthaus back in the 1980’s with regular followup occasionally televised performances there ever since. It is interesting to find, now three decades later, that my organ-centric approach to historical silent film exhibitions is still spreading across the continent- coming up next season are the next two screenings in my now multi-year Silent Film Concerts screenings in the Grosser Salle at the Mozarteum in Salzburg and my third appearance coming up in at the Cologne Philharmonie. Dennis James – Silent Film Concerts – Corning, NY

    Comment by Dennis James — March 25, 2014 at 8:49 pm

  3. Live in-performance scoring to silent films has often slipped these days into the hands of historical revisionist film performers such as these who often deny such historical silent film industry-participant created original period scores ever existed, or, along other self-presumptive experts, claim the original scores do not survive, or are not worthy of consideration for modern day performance using dismissive qualitative judgements mandating outright replacement with such anachronistic performer display scorings. These needless efforts prevent audiences from experiencing vital historical works of referential artistic merit intact and presented as intended, shifting otherwise trumpeted historical revival efforts into events of replacement imposition fanning the flames of dire cultural impact into travesty. Original scores are the genuine music accompaniment scores prepared in the period of initial release by professional industry participant musicians that were actually performed together with these films, intact both in content and style as the filmmakers intended and the audiences expected. One hopes that emerging enthusiastic presenters of silent films will also schedule professional performances of the actual scores written for these films for their period original releases or historically-informed period-sensitive scorings incorporating the actual published film scoring materials utilized by the musicians of the day, whatever the choice carefully performed in stylistic authentic manner to match attention to such equivalent historical visual details. – Dennis James, Silent Film Concerts

    Comment by Dennis James — March 25, 2014 at 8:55 pm

  4. I very much agree with Dennis James’s sentiments about maintaining the integrity of silent films by performing the music that their directors expected audiences to hear. But I do not agree with his contention that “it is so much easier, and so much more appropriate from any point of view, to simply perform the music written for these films that was intended by the filmmakers themselves to be played.”

    The scores of the silent period are not always easy to find. Often one has to do substantial research or deal with hoarders. So it is not easy by any means to achieve what James recommends.

    But the results usually reward the efforts.

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — March 26, 2014 at 8:41 am

  5. I have read with interest the enlightening commentary of Mr. James above and have nothing but best wishes for his approach and success. There seems plenty of room for such interpretation from all sides and ultimately, for me at least, it is always the film that deserves to be best served by the sound that accompanies it. Throughout my career of playing for and listening to music created for silent films I have often been struck by the various perspectives that different film scores illuminate for a single film-when the original score, created under the direction of the creator of the film is available, that is often, but not always a well crafted vehicle that highlights the entire enterprise. Sadly, there are examples where the music created does not take into account the story on the screen and sometimes even fights against it. Just being first doesn’t mean being best and sometimes the original recommendations for music for these films is simply not good or misses the mark somehow. Our goal in this performance is to offer a sonic aspect to this visual masterpiece that respects the central line of the story and brings audiences a truly moving experience. I encourage audiences to attend ANY performance of silent film and judge for themselves whether the experience was worthy of their time. Joan of Arc is a figure that has much to say to our time and place- The Seraphim Singers, composer Eliot Gyger and I all intend to tell her story in a way that will serve her legacy as well as the films artistic integrity.

    Comment by Peter Krasinski — March 27, 2014 at 10:24 am

  6. This is a really fascinating article and started a very interesting debate about what’s authentic and appropriate. There is merit to both the purist approach and Peter Krasinski’s reinterpretation and creation of new music for these amazing films. But even if there is an original score and even if it was perfect for the film at the time, we are in a different time and would not hear it in the same way, and being too fussy about purity takes these works and freezes them in time, not allowing them to be recreated in ways that illuminate their meaning in a new way. We might not always want to see Shakespeare plays or Greek tragedy in settings and dress of some radically different era but many such performances have been truly revelatory, bringing out connections to the material we wouldn’t otherwise grasp. It may be riskier than staying with original music, but it is more interesting and exciting! I look forward to what might be revealed both about Joan and Dreyer’s film!

    Ed. Note: Eileen Sweeny is a member of Seraphim Singers, the presenting group.
    Site policy expects disclosure of such affiliations.

    Comment by Eileen Sweeney — March 28, 2014 at 9:55 pm

  7. Eileen: excellent point. The whole project is so wonderfully creative. I am quite sure that we will all gain new insight into Dreyer’s film and into Joan, and above all into the human heart and spirit, especially at this “passion” time of year, when the very troubling notion of sacrifice is upon us, so to speak.

    Comment by Ashley — March 29, 2014 at 6:52 am

  8. I agree with Eileen’s point. While Mr. James’s is clearly passionate about preserving the integrity of the historically accurate accompaniment, I take exception to him calling this interpretation a sad waste of time without even hearing it! I believe there is a place for both approaches and to automatically dismiss contemporary interpretations is both narrow-minded and short-sighted. The Seraphim Singers and Peter Krasinski’s new interpretation is curated with such care and intention by Peter Krasinski and Jennifer Lester that it truly does enhance the viewing experience for the modern audience. Adding vocal performers provides another dimension to the traditional organ accompaniment audiences have come to expect with silent films and the choices of compositions from many eras are perfectly matched to the action on screen. From the ethereal Hildegard von Bingen chants that open the performance to the original music by Elliott Gyger that closes it this new interpretation is worth experiencing. The performance this Saturday, April 5th at St. Ignatius of Loyola church at Boston College is free to the public and will be also feature a panel discussion at 7:00 pm with film historian John Michalczyk, Joan of Arc scholar Karen Sullivan and Mr. Krasinski. I would encourage Mr. James to attend the performance this Saturday so that he can see and hear for himself before completely dismissing it.

    Ed. Note: Wendy is listed as a member of the Seraphim Singers, the presenting group.
    Site policy expects disclosure of such affiliations.

    Comment by Wendy — April 2, 2014 at 7:52 am

  9. How static life would be if we failed to reinterpret..

    Philadelphia’s LOVE Park was conceived by Edmund Bacon and Vincent Kling. They wanted a plaza that would give people a place to congregate and reflect on the stunning architecture that lies between City Hall, to the southeast, and the Art Museum, to the northwest.
    It also happened to be a near perfect skate-park, drawing skateboarders from all over to its marble slabs.
    The original designers and architects responded in a refreshing way:

    “You—skateboarders—are the leading edge of a revolution of the human being’s relation to his or her environment.” —Edmund Bacon

    “I built this place so that people could enjoy it. And that includes skateboarders.” -Vincent Kling (92 year old Bacon skating LOVE park in protest)

    Ed. Note: Cami is Peter Krasinki’s colleague.
    Site policy expects disclosure of such affiliations

    Comment by Cami — April 2, 2014 at 8:33 am

  10. To summarize, it’s okay to deface marble slabs with skateboards. Translation- no great work of art should be immune to vandalism, because vandalism is enjoyable to some.

    Can’t agree with Cami. Joan does not need a mustache.

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — April 2, 2014 at 10:08 am

  11. I would also encourage Mr. Eiseman to attend Saturday’s performance. We cannot hope to build audiences for classical music and classic film if we persist in remaining static as Cami has put it. The point of her comment is that the original designers and architects of the park welcomed the contributions of the skateboarders to their creation. Neither Mr. Eiseman nor Mr. James know what reaction Dreyer might have had to this new accompaniment and their rigid thinking is antithetical to creativity that is necessary for classical music to continue in our society. The Seraphim Singers and Mr. Krasinski should be applauded for their careful, sensitive, and musically informed approach to this project. But don’t take my word for it. Come see for yourselves.

    Ed. Note: Wendy is listed as a member of the Seraphim Singers, the presenting group.
    Site policy expects disclosure of such affiliations.

    Comment by Wendy — April 2, 2014 at 10:57 am

  12. Well, I will come with open mind- and I have given Peter Krasinski a favorable review on these pages for his accompaniment of a silent comedy

    Some people consider me a crank on the subject of our obligation to respect art history, but I believe that where the director’s intent is known, it should be honored. With copyrighted material this is also a legal obligation.

    The great studios in the silent era chose some of the best composers they could afford, and tremendous effort made some of those scores inevitable with the films they married. Imagine the time required to write 2 hours of music and all of parts for a large orchestra. This was not achieved by watching the film and scribbling some themes down.

    Imagine if some upstart presenter decided that “Magic Flute” was a great story, but it needed an updated score to make it relevant to a modern audience…

    And beyond historicity, there is the matter of craft. The great films were plotted and planned with tremendous thought and detail. Lighting and shot setup did not happen by accident. Great sets were built and mise-en-scenes ran to hundreds of pages. The scores that accompanied them were in many cases also put together with consummate craft.

    Today’s low budget films can be improvisatory hand-held quickies- this can democratize the process of film making, but such films have no craft.

    Musical improvisation is easy for some, and when resources and time are scarce, and the improviser is sensitive, respectful and interesting, it can be ok, but there is no reason to prefer it when real music is available.

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — April 2, 2014 at 11:37 am

  13. Readers may want to decide for themselves whether the authentic score for the original screenings of Joan is worth reviving. The YouTube link here points to six excerpts for the Victor Alix & Leo Pouget score. Pay no attention to the announcer’s speculations about the authorship.

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — April 3, 2014 at 1:12 pm

  14. Certainly, Peter Krasinski’s artistry is hardly in question, as he has received glowing reviews for his film improvisation.

    (Full disclosure: I have hosted two of Krasinski’s films at St. Cecilia Church in the Back Bay: “King of Kings” and “The Ten Commandments.” Review here: I have also had two works premiered by the Seraphim Singers.)

    Regarding the Victor Alix & Leo Pouget score, it will be a fascinating comparison, although difficult to compare in these YouTube videos without the film image. Krasinski addresses in this article, director Carl Theodor Dreyer’s attitudes on the role of music during filming and for his films, which do not reflect a definitive mindset regarding scoring, other than ‘He was in favor of showing films with out any musical accompaniment.’ As such, comparison to “Die Zauberflöte” is a bit out of place. Dryer’s preference for NO music takes this conversation to another place altogether.

    From a wider perspective and looking at Krasinski’s large body of work in silent film, he is broadening the audience for both the organ and for these classic films to steady. He is has audiences highly engaged. Now, he adds to the conversation here that no one would be having without his consist display of masterful artistry.

    So I ask, is the classical music scene (and silent film scene) so healthy that we can’t creatively broaden the audience as Krasinski is doing so effectively to superlative reviews?

    Enter the conversation and go see the film tonight.

    Comment by Richard J. Clark — April 5, 2014 at 12:16 pm

  15. I apologize for my copious typos. ^^ Not getting much sleep of late!

    Comment by Richard J. Clark — April 5, 2014 at 12:19 pm

  16. It’s a mistake to conclude that Dreyer’s apparent preference for silence on the set had anything at all to do with his intentions for exhibition, which, in the case of Joan, was for the Victor Alix & Leo Pouget score.

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — April 5, 2014 at 12:49 pm

  17. Lee, agreed, but this article goes on: “He (Dryer) told the same interviewer that ‘He was in favor of showing films with out any musical accompaniment.’ ” It’s a fascinating debate. Thank you for bringing such wonderful attention to Krasinski’s work and this classic film.

    Comment by Richard J. Clark — April 5, 2014 at 12:57 pm

  18. If one really wants to divine Dreyer’s attitude toward accompanimental music for films, then one should watch his Vampyr of 1932. Though it was made early in the sound era (four years after Joan), it’s very much a silent movie with added dialogue. The score by Wolfgang Zeller is nearly continuous and is quite like the Victor Alix & Leo Pouget score for Joan in its affect and style. What Dreyer did was more reliable than what he is said to have opined. It’s on Hulu Plus, btw.

    see y’all tonight.

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — April 5, 2014 at 5:18 pm

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