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Live Film Scoring
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Play Out! Performance Modulars  
Author Live Film Scoring


The film society in my area does a regular event where local musicians perform scores alongside silent films. I was recently asked to do "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" and it was really enjoyable - challenging in many ways I didn't expect.

I used a large modular setup (2x LC9 and 2x LCB), an SH-101 and an JX-8P and built the score in 3 movements, two relatively improvisational and one more structured and "techno-y" (the chase scene for anyone who is familiar with the film)

The degree to which the score impacts the film became very clear to me as I was in the process of writing. Not wanting to impose to severely upon the film was perhaps the most challenging exercise. Indeed, a friend commented that her favorite parts where when the score 'sank into the background' so to speak.

Anyways, I was curious if anyone else had experience with this sort of thing. I'd recommend it - even as an experiment at home to coax new ideas out of your setup.


Cool! I've done this sort of thing before and it's great fun (Tarkovsky's Stalker was my last one)! Doing my first entirely modular soundtracking next week, but I won't get to see the film before, so no idea how that is going to work out...

Did you devise your three sections with separate elements of your modular, or did you need to re-patch during?


Great movie, fun to score! Did you go for a flowing score or did you emphasize the cuts?

I am at moment scoring a live action play version of Dr. Caligari for orchestra and electronics, sadly I won't get to play live because the distance is too far to travel. So the modular is all recorded and the orchestra plays on top.

The chase scene in my score is also rather techno/electro, built around a distorted double Antioscillator pattern and ending in a massive cluster chord.

If you have audio, I'd love to hear it (in three months, when I am done writing, lol)


I wish that I wasn't too neurotic to try and repatch live - I admire anyone who can.

I aimed for a relatively structured score that emphasized the cuts and tracked the on screen action - I didn't want things to feel too "pre recorded" or seem like I was aimlessly noodling while a film played in the background. That said, it is a spooky film, so long attack envelopes with quick releases served to build tension. I also used two lightplanes controlling filters/VCAs to bring in FM'd dissonance and then ran that through so extra reverb and delay to help it all settle in to a mix. I also relied on slow sequencing of MI elements / clouds parameters to get a lot of sonic variety out of a relatively contained patch.

The JX-8P was running a few pre-recorded polyphonic MIDI sequences from an Alesis MMT-8 which provided a consistent "horror soundtrack" glue to kind of hold everything together. The SH101 served to both transpose the bassline during the chase scene and provide stabs of filtered noise during the tense stabbing+strangling scenes. Using the three channels of voltage from a Brains / 2xPP combo helped create relate relationships between the different patches and keep everything coherent. Clouds w/ alternate firmware in resonator mode was VERY fruitful for this sort of thing.


I would really like to try something like this. Does anyone know where you might be able to download some movies like this, so that I could give it a try?


You can download many silent movies for free, since they are public domain. comes to mind, or just youtube with a browser using a downloader extension.


This is probably a dumb question but what browser has a youtube downloader extension?


Wow! I wish I had know this was going on, I would have made it out. @Voidshell and I have been talking about doing just this. This is fun!


While this isn't necessarily an instance of silent-film scoring, one of the best "live soundtracks" I've ever seen was a performance by LA-based LUCKY DRAGONS of THE RED BALLOON - it was successful not only because of their restraint, but also because they were running the film's original sound through their system and processing it live. This allowed for diegetic audio moments within the film to materialize through their live track - ie a train whistle or a character's footsteps would emerge from within their composition, adding confusion as to what was their's and what belonged to the film...

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