Films With Live Accompaniment

Music heightens the aural landscape of a film. Each line adds a brush stroke of breadth and emotion with a single solo instrument, an ensemble, a singer, a choir, or the forces of a full orchestra. Canvas this selection of live accompaniments available for film. These scores are as historic as George Antheil's Ballet mécanique (1923) or as new as Julia Wolfe's Pulitzer Prize-winning Anthracite Fields (2014).
"[Film music] opens up unexplored possibilities for composers and poses some interesting questions for the musical film patron."
— Aaron Copland, Film Music (1940)

Samuel Barber
Overture to "The School for Scandal"part of the Filmelodic series This title accompanies the original film Sam and Barb's School for Scandal, one work in the Filmelodic film-with-live-orchestra series by Adam Grannick Multimedia, LLC. The film is about two close friends, Sam and Barb. On the night of their “Five Year Roommate Anniversary”, they engage in constant one–upmanship in a game of wits, only to realize they might be in love with one another. But because they’re both terrified to admit it, they continue to make each other jealous and engage in a series of more and more harmful behavior, until someone gets hurt.
Jeff Beal
House of Cards in Concert House of Cards in Concert is a live concert event for full symphony orchestra, soprano soloist, and a large screen showing montage video-clip highlights of the Netflix original series' first three seasons. Audiences will re-imagine the vivid characters and plot lines of “House of Cards” through symphonic suites from the award-winning musical score, composed and conducted by Jeff Beal.

The General (2002) The four-time Emmy award-winning composer of “House of Cards” wrote the symphonic score for this classic Buster Keaton silent film. Beal feels that Keaton's sense of comedy “was the first thing that excited [him] about seeing the film. Keaton is well known for his use of deadpan: never cracking a smile in his films, always underplaying his reactions to the absurd and dangerous situations he would find himself in."

Hector Berlioz
Symphonie Fantastique, Op. 14 (Movements II and IV only)part of the Filmelodic series This title accompanies the original film Last Night's Symphonie, one work in the Filmelodic film-with-live-orchestra series by Adam Grannick Multimedia, LLC. In the film, Hector Berlioz's 19th-century classic comes alive in modern New York City to tell the story of two lives forever changed by one passionate night of rash decisions. This film has little sound other than the music of Symphonie Fantastique, which inspires not only the story, but also informs each character's actions.

Howard Blake
The Snowman (Concert Version) The charming Christmas story by Raymond Briggs — a boy builds a snowman who comes to life — has become a children's classic. Its popularity has been further enhanced by the award-winning animated film The Snowman with an orchestral score by Howard Blake. It includes the song 'Walking in the Air.'

Stewart Copeland
BEN-HUR, A Tale of Christ - MGM's silent classic film (2012)"When the 2009 Ben Hur Live arena production of the Lew Wallace novel finished its run in 2011, I felt strongly that the symphonic score I had composed for this project deserved a life of its own… At a concert hall or festival, I believe the new version I have envisioned will be an excellent mix of story, film and symphonic performance."
— Stewart Copeland

John Corigliano
The Red Violin: Film With Live Orchestra Version Spanning four centuries and five countries, François Girard's Academy Award-winning film The Red Violin traces the journey of a mysteriously-colored red violin and the lives of the musicians it touches, revealing how music transcends time and geography. In this film with live orchestra presentation, the original score by composer John Corigliano is played by live orchestra as the re-mastered film is screened overhead to stunning effect.

Karsten Fundal
Mikaël (2003)"Karsten Fundal succeeds in making the characters live in the music by assigning them individually audible instrumental colors. The men stand out as the central figures, while the role of the princess as a dramatic ingredient is brought out with a tonal refinement that is positively delicious. The intensity of the imagery is reflected and enhanced, mostly with great success, in the score. The color-saturated musical idiom is mainly compact in texture, which suits Dreyer's lingering close-up style."
—Thomas Michelsen, Politiken, August 2013

Philip Glass
Icarus at the Edge of Time (2010)For this film adaptation of Brian Greene's book for children, Glass composed a 40-minute work for full orchestra. "Right from the start, a constant drone in the strings sounded like a faint hum" describes critic Kay Kempin. The music is "a clear indication of the endless monotony aboard Icarus’ family starship and their 23 trillion year journey to discover a new star. Even as tension in the story built up, the music remained repetitive and cyclical, reminding us of the ever-present routine….The most compelling part of the performance was the combined visual and audio manifestation of Einstein’s theory of relativity."
— Kay Kimplin, Bachtrack, June 2012

Visitors (2013))This film is the fourth feature collaboration between Glass and director Godfrey Reggio. "What Glass's score brings is a connection between the image and the spectator, in what he and Reggio hope will evoke a unique experience for each individual."
—Molly Yeh, WQXR, February 2014

Michael Gordon
Decasia (2001) "While imagining the music that might complement this film, I thought of a piano that hadn't been tuned in twenty years. It's a beautiful sound. Once you've heard that sound you never forget it. 'What's the orchestral equivalent?' I wondered. I set out to make the orchestra sound like it was covered in cobwebs, with instruments that had been sitting for a hundred years, creaky and warped and deteriorated, and the musicians happen to come by, pick them up and play."
—Michael Gordon

Dystopia (2007) In part of his ongoing project with filmmaker Bill Morrison, Gordon strives to capture the aura of Los Angeles in this work. "The goal was to start at high speed and never slow down," Gordon explains, "like a ride down the freeway at 90 mph with only a few detours….Musically, I explore the gray areas between harmony and dissonance, where pleasure meets pain."

Gotham (2004)
The first work in his series of collaborative projects with filmmaker Bill Morrison, a work where the primarily black and white footage was cut to fit Gordon's music, Gotham is intended to capture the aura of New York City. The opening evokes "places we go to escape New York….The middle movement captures the daily assault of the city….[While] the third section is…an ecstatic dance gone wrong."
—Michael Gordon

El Sol Caliente (2014) "Gordon provided the glue to the images via his music for El Sol Caliente," writes Independent Ethos blogger Hans Morgenstern. The work is a tribute to Miama, Florida, where Gordon spent his childhood. When creating the work Gordon reminisced about spending time in Miami and how the music was influenced by "seeing this little, tiny strip of land, surrounded by this huge bay and then this large ocean and the crashing of the waves and then stillness of the waves." A sense of impermanence is ultimately implied through the juxtaposition of image and sound.

The Unchanging Sea (2016) — available for performances after May 2018 Named after cinema pinoeer D.W. Griffith's 1912 film, the imagery in this film-with-live-orchestra collaboration between Gordon and Bill Morrison is linked by the common theme of a voyage out to sea. "Regardless of how the oceans have changed over millions of years, our relationship to the sea has very much remained the same," Gordon explains. "I tried to make an environment that is very ocean-like, transferring the sound of the waves and the rhythm of the waves to the piano and to the rest of the orchestra — slowly rolling, slowly increasing; the winds come in, the brass comes in, then the strings, and the whole orchestra builds up, but always in waves, always swelling and dying away."

Alfred Schnittke - available in the USA, Canada and Mexico only
The Last Days of St. Petersburg - Suite of Music from the Silent Film [The End of St. Petersburg] (1992) From the composer who coined the concept of polystylism comes a suite for Pudovkin's 1927 silent film, The End of St. Petersburg. As The Guardian journalist Tom Service writes, "the real legacy of Schnittke's music is its multidimentional exploration of what musical truth in the 20th century might be."

Joby Talbot
The Lodger (1999)Composing music for The Lodger seventy-three years after the film's completion, Talbot wanted his music to help elicit in a modern audience the responses of viewers in 1927. "One cannot simply ignore the intervening years and respond to the movie as if it had been made yesterday," Talbot explains, "but neither should one treat it as just a piece of historical nostalgia."

Tan Dun
The Map (2002) "The Map is a multi-media concerto grosso. I wanted to discover the counterpoint between different media, different time-spaces and differente cultures….Metaphorically, the orchestra becomes nature, the soloist symbolizes people, and video represents tradition."
—Tan Dun

Martial Arts Trilogy (rev. 2013)A cycle of concerti for soloists, orchestra, and video based on Tan Dun's award-winning film scores: "Crouching Tiger" (cello soloist); "The Banquet" (piano soloist); "Hero" (violin soloist); with a fourth movement, The Triple Resurrection (cello, piano, and violin soloists), added in 2013.

Nu Shu: The Secret Songs of Women - Symphony for harp, 13 micro films, and orchestra (2013)A deeply researched creation that reveals an extraordinary disappearing vocal and linguistic tradition which passed exclusively between generations of women since the 13th century in Hunan, China. Nu Shu fluently marries anthropology, musicology, history, and philosophy. Thirteen distinct "micro films" — projected on-screen about the lives of mothers, daughters, and sisters as derived from Tan Dun's field recordings — serve as the conceptual and visual center of the composition. Both a heartrending and enlightening work, harp and orchestra blend this experience into a beautiful holistic message.

Virgil Thomson
The Plow that Broke the Plains (1936)Referred to as "Music to Heal a Land of Dust and Floods" by The New York Times, Thomson's original score for Pare Lorentz's documentary helps "tell a grim saga of unchecked development in the Great Plains." The near-continuous score was originally performed by "a pickup orchestra of players from the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera."
—Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, February 2007

Louisiana Story: Suite (1948)Written for documentary-writer Robert Flaherty's last film, Thomson's score received the Pulizer Prize in 1949 — the first time in history that film music had received such recognition. Thomson is noted to have looked to Louisiana folk music for inspiration when constructing this four-movement suite.

Richard Wagner
Tannhäuser Overturepart of the Filmelodic series This title accompanies the original film Runaway Overture, one work in the Filmelodic film-with-live-orchestra series by Adam Grannick Multimedia, LLC. Filmed without dialogue, Runaway Overture tells the story of an orphaned young painter who leaves home for the last time, willing to brave all obstacles for an opportunity in New York City. Simultaneously, the film also tells the story of an aging painter who struggles to let go of his dreams of becoming an artist, once he realizes that his dreams of painting have almost destroyed his relationship with his daughter.

Julia Wolfe
Fuel (2007) "The ideas for Fuel began in conversations with filmmaker Bill Morrison. We talked about the mystery and economy of how things run — the controversy and necessity of fuel — the global implications, the human need. The music takes its inspiration from the fiery strings of Ensemble Resonanz. The members of the group challenged me to write something rip-roaring and virtuosic, asking me to push the group to the limit. This request merged with the sounds of transport and harbors — New York and Hamburg — large ships, creaking docks, whistling sounds and a relentless energy."
—Julia Wolfe

"While filmmaking and videography are primarily visual art forms, the importance of a gripping score can't be overstated."
— Scott Porter, Premium Beat

George Antheil
Ballet Mécanique (original version) (1923)Antheil's most notorious piece, Ballet mécanique aroused controversy and fistfights at its premieres. With an orchestration that calls for xylophones, airplane propellers, pianolas and sirens, Ballet mécanique "is a highly rhythmic, often brutalistic piece combining, among other elements, sounds of the industrial age, atonal music, and jazz."
—Paul D. Lehrman, 2003

Michael Gordon
Who By Water (2004) "Who By Water is inspired by a prayer from the Rosh Hashanah liturgy, the service marking the Jewish New Year—.Bill Morrison's accompanying film features distressed black-and-white images of people on the great old ships that crossed the sea before airplanes became the popular mode of travel."
—Michael Gordon

Benedict Mason
ChaplinOperas (1988) This work for vocal soloists and ensemble combines three early Chaplin shorts: Easy Street, The Immigrant and The Adventurer. With considerable depth and brilliance, the composer creates accompanying scores for each film that go far beyond the standard musical treatment that is put to silent cinema. The multilayering, including voicing, is not only witty and quicksilver but is also full of literary, historic and cultural allusions that both illustrate and subvert the visual images.

"We have a very deep understanding of what music is doing [during a film]….We can feel it going into our ears via sound waves and it can produce all sorts of physical responses."
— Neil Brand

Michael Gordon
Gene Takes a Drink (2012) "Nine composers, including the three founders, have come up with short works that use pre-recorded material, whether specially created or extracted from archives, as their starting points to create Field Recordings, an hour-long sequence topped and tailed with electronic sounds and turntable effects, which the musicians of Bang on a Can All-Stars played for the first time at the Barbican. Such collective projects are almost inevitably uneven, but Field Recordings has no total duds….Three pieces involve video images. Michael Gordon's Gene Takes a Drink provides a sonic background to mostly pastoral images by Bill Morrison"
—Andrew Clements, The Guardian, March 2012

Joby Talbot
The Dying Swan (2002) "The Dying Swan, a score to a 1916 Russian silent film made by Yevgeny Bauer, was commissioned by the British Film Institute in 2002….Not the first silent film Talbot has scored for…The Dying Swan is intriguing because its heroine is a mute. She turns to ballet dancing after loosing out in love. She dances the famous Dying Swan (the images match Saint-Saëns' music so perfectly that Talbot retains the music, although not in the Suite) and, in so doing, fascinates an aristocratic dabbler in the arts who wants to catch the essence of death on canvas."
—Nick Breckenfield, 2002

Daniel Wohl
Corpus (from Corps Exquis) (2012) Daniel Wohl's Corps Exquis shares its unexpected juxtapositions with the early twentieth-century surrealist collaboration cadavre exquis created by André Breton and his Paris friends. In turn, their wordplay was modeled after the Victorian parlor game Consequences.
"Of all the artistic tools at a filmmaker's disposal, it can be argued that music is among the most vital — and certainly one of the most powerful."
— Scott Porter, Premium Beat

Michael Gordon
All Vows (2004) Gordon's music heightens the zeitgeist of All Vows. The title is a translation of the Yom Kippur incantation 'Kol Nidre,' used to nullify any unintentional future vows. Using this allusion, Gordon and filmmaker Bill Morrison depict an unknowable future.

Light is Calling (cello or violin versions) (2001) "I wrote Light Is Calling in my studio on Desbrosses Street in the days and months after September 11, 2001. I live close to Ground Zero, and I wanted to make something beautiful after witnessing something ugly and tragic. The piece juxtaposes the sound of an acoustic cello with warped electronic pulses played backwards."
—Michael Gordon

"When well-contrived, there is no question but that a musical score can be of enormous help to a picture."
— Aaron Copland, Film Music (1940)

Michael Gordon
Every Stop on the F Train (2007) "In 2007, Francisco J. Núñez asked me to write a new piece for his wonderful children's chorus, Young People's Chorus of New York City. He asked me to pick an urban topic, and I thought, What's more urban than the subway? So I decided to set the name of every stop on the F train, which starts in Jamaica, Queens, and ends at Coney Island, Brooklyn. I picked the F Train simply because I liked the names of the stops. Written for treble voices, the chorus is divided into four groups that sing in a close canon throughout."
—Michael Gordon

Julia Wolfe
Anthracite Fields (2014)"My aim with Anthracite Fields is to honor the people who persevered and endured in the Pennsylvania Anthracite coal region during a time when the industry fueled the nation, and to reveal a bit about who we are as American workers."
—Julia Wolfe

For the films by Bill Morrison, please contact for video rental information.

Related News