Benedict Mason  ChaplinOperas

[Cinema / Music]

ChaplinOperas is the work of a composer and film-maker investigating ways of combining music and film so that great films from the early 20th century can be presented to audiences today.

In 1989, the centenary of Charlie Chaplin’s birth, the Ensemble Modern asked Benedict Mason to compose a score for three silent movies made in 1917: Easy Street, The Immigrant and The Adventurer. The composition was designed as an “invisible” or reverse opera. For the text images displayed on the screen, he added elements of text sung and spoken by the musicians, plus actual sounds that have been sampled. This is not a caricature or a Hollywood-style rendition of musical platitudes, but rather an expression of respect for the silent nature of such cinematographic works, highlighting the pensive nature of silent films with a composition not intended as either background music or as a score to overshadow and compete with the visual work. ChaplinOperas is a performance where music follows the frantic movement of the images but without paraphrasing them, offering instead a different experience, as if the sense of sight accepted guidance from the sense of hearing. The score changes the role of the musicians who become actors, in particular with the unusual use of percussion instruments. Benedict Mason recognizes the contributions of Jacques Tati and Jean-Luc Godard to his approach to sound in ChaplinOperas, and has effectively devised a new aesthetic for the genre.
Duration: 1 hour 15 minutes