by Foluke Gabrielle Denis
In the 21st century, we’ve grown to know and love the 3D and IMAX experience. However, these forms of cinematic bliss were first built on the foundation of 20th century silent films. Silent films are not nostalgic for this generation, however Not-So-Silent films is a group giving this period a face-lift with live accompaniment to some of the classics of the early 20th century.
It all began when Cooney was offered a gig at a concert series in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. He was asked to play the piano for the original vampire film, Nosferatu. He played along as he watched the silent film for the first time and experienced a light-bulb moment.
“You can reach out to new audiences who wouldn’t normally come and listen to a piano player perform for 80 minutes straight, or maybe come out and listen to a certain type of music that I often would play,” says Cooney.
With a varied background ranging from classical to bluegrass, Cooney creates ambitious scores to these timeless films. The music gene runs in his family but he believes it is excessive ambition that drove his passion to music and composing.
“That’s what is great about this Not-So-Silent cinema project, that I have been able to incorporate a lot of my different musical influences into these film scores. For each film I pick a different group of musicians and different type of genre concept,” says Cooney.
The “Buster Keaton Shorts” is the current project on tour. The film is accompanied with banjo prodigy, Kyle Tuttle; Andy Bergman, a clarinet player from the afro-funk band The Macrotones; and Cooney on the keys. This charismatic group takes you through acting legend Buster Keaton’s, timeless stunts and shenanigans in glorious black and white.
“When an art form is in its early stages we really see some of most creative and interesting products before a former art has been codified into a certain formula. Some of these early films don’t follow the formula that these modern forms do,” explains Cooney.
The project intends for its audience to come away with a deeper appreciation of early films. Cooney wants people to understand how music controls the emotion of a film and plays a major part in how one experiences the picture.
Not-So-Silent Cinema is coming to the area. The banjo-clarinet-piano ensemble will be in the Philadelphia area performing The Buster Keaton Shorts in April- the 16th in Ambler, the 17th in Doylestown and the 18th at the International House. Ticket info is available on Not-So-Silent Cinema’s website.