Letting viewers “hear” silent films through original music is at the heart of a JU College of Fine Arts Division of Music project benefiting from a $10,000 grant by the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville.
JU Assistant Music Prof. Tony Steve, one of only a few composers keeping alive the art of scoring silent film music, will lead JU student and alumni players as they synchronize live music and sound effects to movies
The project, titled “Hearing What Wasn’t Said: The Music of Silent Film,” involves three free public screenings of different films that will reflect timely seasonal themes and occur during the city’s First Wednesday Downtown Art Walks.
According to Steve, audience engagement will be a huge part of each event, especially when showing the same film twice but playing a separate score each time. For example, he said, one score may represent a performance style aligning with the 1900s, and one may be an original score written by a JU student that uses different instruments.
“The two scores will enable the audience to view the same film in different contexts, demonstrating how varying tempos and instruments can emote opposite feelings even with the absence of dialogue.”
Each screening will also be followed by a brief audience Q&A with Prof. Steve.
FUN FACT: “Coney Island,” which stars two of the biggest names in silent films—Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton—was originally censored and required the cutting of a scene with a girl raising her dress over her knees.