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Metropolis and the Alloy Orchestra by ARTalk

"The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must be the Heart!"

[by Farre Nixon ’11]

Check out the Metropolis trailer!

On Saturday, March 5, the Somerville Theatre was packed for a World Music Crash Arts event. There was a sold-out showing of Metropolis (1927) that I had the pleasure of attending that evening. If you have heard of or seen Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, then you’ll know that it was one of the first films ever made, which by virtue makes it a—gasp—silent film! You may wonder how the showing of a classic silent film could pack an entire theatre. When Metropolis and other silent films were originally shown, a large orchestra would play a score made especially for the film to accompany the visuals. What drew such large crowds for this particular screening was the fact that the Alloy Orchestra would be playing their version of the score alongside the film. Such an event is rare; even Roger Ebert was quoted saying that this would be “the event of the year” to attend.

The Alloy Orchestra, based here in Cambridge, is composed of Terry Donahue, Ken Winokur, and Roger Miller (from the band Mission of Burma, who also played here at MIT once). They’ve created accompaniments to several classic silent films such as F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, Dziga Vertov’s Man With a Movie Camera, and Sergei Eisentien’s Strike. If you happen to take film or video classes here at MIT such as The Film Experience (21L.011) or Introduction to Video (4.351), you’ll surely be exposed to some of these classics.

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Now back to the event itself. The film and music were amazing! There’s nothing like seeing a silent film on the big screen, especially when the orchestra does such a phenomenal job seamlessly integrating a modern score with a classic work. The Alloy orchestra used a synthesizer, a musical saw, and (my favorite) a junk, among other instruments to create the soundtrack. The film is a precursor to almost every sci-fi movie made, because Fritz Lang’s vision of utopia and its implications still resonate today. What he was able to accomplish in the 1920’s in terms of set design and special effects is remarkable! Typical to German Expressionist films, the acting is over-the-top and, at some points, hilarious. You have to check this movie out, especially to see Maria, the protagonist turned antagonist, dance on stage. Her facial expressions are absolutely entertaining!

It was mentioned during the introduction of the film that due to the high demand for the event, it might happen again in the fall. If you are interested, visit the World Music Crash Arts website for further details.

There are a ton of upcoming arts events on and off campus! If you have a chance, stop by Harvard’s Carpenter Center to see the exhibition About Academia by Antoni Muntadas. It features images and dialogue concerning education at Harvard and MIT, including some interviews with Noam Chomsky and other MIT faculty.

4 responses to “Metropolis and the Alloy Orchestra”

  1. Phoebe says:

    I love Metropolis! It’s like the ultimate epic movie. The version I’ve seen has missing scenes though, and some of them sounded pretty epic (like a sword fight).

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