SFF MUSICAL SPOTLIGHT: Silent Film Musical Accompanist PETER TAVALIN! And THE ARTIST'S PENELOPE ANN MILLER!
Silent movies are back! In just a moment we have a SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW with Peter Tavalin, a renowned and accomplish musical accompanist for silent film screenings. Peter will be improvising synthesized orchestral music accompaniment to our screening of BUSTER KEATON in THE BALLOONATIC on Sunday at 1:15 PM. (This short screens with THE BLACK BALLOON and THE RED BALLOON.) CLICK HERE TO BUY TICKETS NOW!
Remember, THE ARTIST swept the Oscars and we have Penelope Ann Miller from THE ARTIST in town on Friday for an incredible luncheon at the Sarasota Yacht Club at Noon CLICK HERE TO BUY TICKETS NOW and for an IN CONVERSATION on Saturday at 1:00 PM at the Sarasota High School CLICK HERE TO BUY TICKETS NOW!
Peter Tavalin is an extraordinary performer and composer who toured New England in his youth, performed in Savannah at five-star hotels, and now resides in Sarasota, Florida. His venues extend to Gallery Openings, Private Parties, Fundraising Events, Special Occasions, Silent Movies and more. I had the great pleasure of chatting with Peter about his life and craft. It was musical and magical! CLICK HERE TO VISIT HIS SITE AND LEARN HOW TO CONTACT PETER FOR ENGAGEMENTS!
THE INSIDER: Was it a coincidence that your father accompanied silent movies?
PETER TAVALIN: Yes. When I told him what I was going to do, he told me he played his fiddle in a small group in Astoria, Queens. He worked with a drummer, a piano player and a trumpeter. They had six or eight musical themes that they played over and over. The drummer, who was watching the flick, just called out the theme number and they switched. I had no idea.
THE INSIDER: Did your training in composition help you with improvising music to silent films?
PETER TAVALIN: Yes. I have written two neo-classical orchestral works. One is for full orchestra and I also have a piece for strings.
THE INSIDER: How were you first approached about playing music accompanying a silent film?
PETER TAVALIN: I was first approached when I lived in Vermont. The local theater had a beautiful print of Buster Keaton's The General. The manager knew that I improvised and invited me to try my hand at playing to this film on the piano. Five minutes into watching the print I asked the projectionist to stop and back up the film. He asked why. I said, because he just pulled this bit where he circled around these boys to get them to leave so he could be with his girlfriend and I can play that. I can play every pratfall. I can play every explosion. Suddenly I was looking the process in a totally different way. I was looking for my cues. It's more than just playing music to match the tone and pace of the piece. I'm watching the third car in the background line up with the actor's shoulders and then he's going to slip on a banana peel on the street that you barely see.
THE INSIDER: So being able to read body language is essential?
PETER TAVALIN: Yes. Everything acting wise in silent movies is body language. Everything. The most successful silents that I have played are where people are simply acting as those characters and not posing. I feel that I've worked with Keaton and Chaplin and Harold Lloyd. Lillian Gish can glance off to the side and change the mood of what just happened, and you have to play that. If you don't go from that peaceful place to that moment of sadness, what's behind her eyes, you've missed the point. So when you put stock music behind things it's very, very awkward. I'm always with the mood, the pace, always with the cues.
THE INSIDER: How many times do you watch a silent before playing accompaniment to it with an audience?
PETER TAVALIN: You have to study the film quite a bit to get an in-depth understanding of what's coming at all times. Ben Hur is two hours and twenty minutes long. I watched it four times before I performed to it. For the comedies I might watch a certain scene fifteen times. Not to figure out in advance what I'm going to play, but to understand the scene. I have no idea how I'm going to approach it when I sit down to play it.
Wanted by motion picture executives for revealing industry secrets to a public with the Right to Know, "The Insider" has spent over 15 years working behind the scenes in almost every aspect of "The Biz" developing a secret network of contacts, spies, moles, and highly trained counter-intelligence operatives and movie ninjas whose only goal is to inform and entertain you-and help you make this the best year of the Sarasota Film Festival ever!