You have to be a dedicated cinephile to watch silent movies and a hardcore movie nut to go to the theater to watch them. But you can’t touch the Alloy Orchestra’s celluloid commitment: Since 1991, this Massachusetts trio has composed original scores for 23 silent flicks and 20 shorts to perform as live accompaniment to big-screen action. (Check out examples at Alloyorchestra.com.)
Terry Donahue, Ken Winokur and Roger Miller (the last one in that list is from post-punk giants Mission of Burma) can provide a full soundtrack despite being just three deep because they play a lot of things: bells, metal, saws, clarinet, accordion, drums, electronic keyboards and more. It’s a full orchestra of audio options.
The musicians are on the move constantly, too, providing not only dramatic musical scores but sound effects — because you can’t have a massive on-screen pratfall without a crashing accompaniment. If only real life were like that.
Alloy Orchestra visits AFI’s Silver Theatre (Afi.com/silver) Sat. through Mon. to accompany “Underworld” (1927), “The Last Command” (1928), “The Overcoat” (1926) and “Man With a Movie Camera” (1929).