RPM Orchestra’s Live Score to The Unknown at FilmBar (with Video)

7 Nov

RPM Orchestra takes forgotten audio and weaves it into a pastiche of Avant-garde folk music. By its own definition, their sound comprises “field recordings, lost & found sound, old phonographs, et cetera.”

It’s the “et cetera” part that makes things really interesting. Because RPM Orchestra isn’t just an amalgamation of sounds frozen and forgotten in time – it’s mutable, living music that puts a spontaneous spin on archaic audio. Sort of like pop culture archeology on acid.

Case in point: RPM Orchestra’s live score to the 1927 silent film The Unknown, starring Lon Chaney and Joan Crawford, which showed at the FilmBar in Phoenix on Friday, October 14. I previewed this event in a “Cheap Dates Around the Valley” roundup blog, and true to their word, RPM Orchestra showed up with a plethora of pipes, whistles, horns, rattlers, pans and other assorted implements of percussion. Audience members were encouraged to participate, and were divided into three “toy instruments” sections and given cues.

The resulting score opens with human chatter and laughter, then swells with tolling bells, ebbs with eerie flutes, and crackles along with vague gongs and punctuated snaps. It’s simultaneously smooth and bizarre, jarring at times but fitting for a film about an apparently armless knife thrower who falls in love with a circus owner’s daughter.

You can see some of The Unknown and hear the live RPM Orchestra score below, thanks to Phoenix purveyor of the cool and unusual, Pete Petrisko, who wrote that he “cobbled this ‘home video’ version together…with one part live 40-member orchestra performance audio recording, one part moving pictures, and a little elbow grease.”

Check out the RPM Orchestra Facebook page for more info.

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One Response to “RPM Orchestra’s Live Score to The Unknown at FilmBar (with Video)”

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  1. 10 Things You Should Know About RPM Orchestra | RPM ORCHESTRA - March 16, 2013

    […] mutable, living music that puts a spontaneous spin on archaic audio. Sort of like pop culture archeo…. [4] […]

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