Observations: The sound of silents
Friday 29 October 2010
Alfred Hitchcock's close collaborations with soundtrack composers are the stuff of movie legend, but the accompaniment to one of his early works is shrouded in mystery.
In 1929, Blackmail was one of the first British talkies, though with sound yet to catch on, producers ordered its director to also make a silent version. And despite Hitchcock's interest in the dramatic possibilities of music, experts have no record of what the music for this work sounded like.
"We don't even have the cue cards," says Neil Brand, a long-standing piano accompanist to pre-sound films who collaborated with Paul Merton on the comedian's Silent Clowns touring show. Yet Brand will not be performing this weekend at a rare screening of the silent version of the film. Instead, he has composed a score to be performed by the 82-strong BBC Symphony Orchestra.
His aim is to devise for this obscure part of the great Alfred's oeuvre the sort of lush orchestration and dramatic invention that accompanied the likes of Psycho and North by Northwest.
"I wanted to give it the Hollywood treatment," Brand explains. "Bernard Herrmann and all those other great composers took a similar approach: dark, complex, but with beautiful, soaring melodies."
Sunday's screening also features an introduction by the bequiffed film pundit Mark Kermode and a post-concert Q&A with Brand and the broadcaster Francine Stock, as befits a landmark event.
Normally, these shows feature much smaller ensembles. The composer reckons this is the first UK silent drama to enjoy a full orchestral score since sound came in.
Alfred Hitchcock's 'Blackmail' is screened at the Barbican, London EC2 (www.barbican.org.uk) 8pm, 31 October
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Stolen Instagram photo sells for $90,000
- 2 Before you complain about your GP, this is what you need to know about actually doing the job
- 3 UK's biggest male rape charity Survivors UK has state funding slashed to zero despite 120% rise in men reporting sexual violence and seeking help
- 4 'Don't blame all men for rape' campaign backfires spectacularly
- 5 Charlie Charlie Challenge explained: not a Mexican demon being summoned — it's gravity
Stolen Instagram photo sells for $90,000
Grace of Monaco film panned: Screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman as movie gets US debut
Thrill of the chaste: The truth about Gandhi's sex life
Suicide Squad: leaked footage shows first look at Batmobile chasing Joker through city streets
ASAP Rocky sparks outrage with misogynistic lyrics about Rita Ora in new song 'Better Things'
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'