Organist holds masterclass on improvising film scores
Krasinski also accompanies a silent film at Irvine Auditorium every Halloween
October 31, 2013, 9:41 pm · Updated October 31, 2013, 10:51 pm·
Yesterday at professional organist Peter Krasinski’s master class, “The Art of Accompanying Silent Films,” curious students found that silent films can, in fact, speak through music.
Krasinski’s class — part of the University’s “Year of Sound” programming — covered the art of improvising scores to silent movies on the Curtis Organ, housed in Irvine Auditorium. Because Krasinski never composes scores in advance, each performance is a unique experience that varies with every venue and audience.
Krasinski began his class by laying out his technique for scoring the films. He explained that before each performance, he first watches the film to get a feel for the scenes — whether they are happy, tragic, comedic or eerie.
He also considers the action of the scene, accompanying it in a method known as “Mickey Mousing,” in which the music supports what is happening on screen, adding depth to the moment and speaking in place of the characters.
Then began the exemplification of these techniques.
Krasinski’s first piece accompanied a clip from the 1902 French film A Trip to the Moon. Here he illustrated the “Mickey Mousing” method, creating music that matched the exaggerated movements in scenes portraying characters building a rocket ship. The music fit so naturally with the scene that it was amazing to realize it was being created on the spot.
Clip from Nosferatu and The Phantom of the Opera were then played as examples of horror films, appropriate for the Halloween season. Strange, dissonant sounds were used to create a creepy theme. Krasinski’s technique is often used to highlight the disturbing nature of the films he scores and add to their foreboding atmosphere.
Doug Backman, a longtime admirer of Krasinski who has attended many of his past performances, praised Krasinski’s productions as “amazing, they’re different every time. It was different at three and it will be different at seven.”
Krasinski explained that comedy films are the most difficult to accompany, due to the need to not upstage the comedian’s performance. The actor must remain the comedian, he said, and the composer must not interfere with their performance. This was followed with a backing of Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times.
Krasinski ended the course with a discussion session, requesting that all return for the showing of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” which he would be accompanying on the Curtis Organ later in the evening.
Krasinski typically plays along to a silent film in Irvine Auditorium every Halloween night.