“I’m trying to create music that’s pretty enough to listen to but not interesting enough to pay attention to.”
Ben Model has made a career for himself as a silent-film accompanist, playing for audiences throughout the US (and a city in Norway!). I was thrilled to have him on the show and ask him how he got his start and how he reached the top of his field. We talk about the not-exactly-secret society of his peers, the challenge of reading and adapting to audience and movie simultaneously, the importance of audience preservation, the differences between playing live and recording a score for a movie, the reasons young and old audiences get engaged by silent movies, why you need to city Chaplin’s City Lights with a live orchestra, and more! Give it a listen!
“No film collector is going to hold up a 4tb hard drive and say, ‘Look at all the movies I have!'”
Ben & I also discuss the difference between digital and “real” instruments, the way his style has evolved, the Kickstarter revolution and how it funds his DVD label, the Stan Laurel comedy that makes little kids lose their minds, his love for Ernie Kovacs, the awful and sometimes incomprehensible stereotypes of century-old comedy, his theory of Undercranking, where the next generation of accompanists is coming from, the multi-decade dearth of comedic filmmakers with distinct vision, the lost comic genius of Marcel Perez, and what it’s like to create “music of momentary significance” (as his mentor described it). Go listen!
“Bringing the silent movie experience to a place where it doesn’t usually get to happen is great fun for me.”
About our Guest
Ben Model is one of the nation’s leading silent film accompanists, and performs on both piano and theatre organ. Ben works full-time presenting and accompanying silent films in a wide variety of venues around the USA and internationally, carrying on a tradition he learned from silent film organist Lee Erwin (1919-2000). Over the past 30+ years Ben has created and performed live scores for several hundred silent films, films lasting anywhere from one minute to five hours. Ben is a resident film accompanist at the Museum of Modern Art (NY) and at the Library of Congress’ Packard Campus Theatre. His recorded scores can be heard on numerous DVD/Blu-Ray releases, on TCM and on his YouTube channel. His indie DVD label Undercrank Productions has released several discs of rare/lost silent films, including films preserved by the Library of Congress. Ben is a regular accompanist at classic film festivals around the U.S.A. and in Norway, and performs at universities, museums, and historic theaters. Ben is the producer and co-founder of The Silent Clowns Film Series, now in its 19th season in NYC. Ben has composed film scores for both orchestra and concert band for accompaniment to films by Chaplin and Keaton. These scores are performed around the U.S. every year by both professional and school ensembles. In his work as a programmer, Ben has co-curated a film series for MoMA, and co-programs a monthly silent film series at the Cinema Arts Center. As archivist of the Ernie Kovacs/Edie Adams collection, he also curated two recent DVD box sets of Ernie Kovacs television shows for Shout! Factory. He is currently a Visiting Professor of Film Studies at Wesleyan University.
Credits: This episode’s music is Ben noodling on my friend’s Steinway. The conversation was recorded at my friend’s place in Manhattan on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. B/W photo of Mr. Model by me; no attribution for the color photo.
“We have to decide what sort of comics industry we want before we decide what sort of books we’re going to work on.”
Roger Langridge has become the best all-ages cartoonist in the business, despite (or because of) starting out in a “mature readers” indy-comics environment. He joins the Virtual Memories Show to talk about how he found that niche, his work on (and love of) The Muppets, Popeye, and Dr. Who, the responsibility of helping attract the next generation of comics readers, his lifetime love of vaudeville, his upbringing in New Zealand, how he learned to write his own stories, how he accidentally became a pioneer in webcomics, why he decided not to work with Marvel or DC anymore, and the one character from one of those companies that he’d love to work on. It’s a delightful conversation with one of the nicest guys in comics!
“I kept entering competitions to draw Popeye, and the prize was always the Robert Altman Popeye film, so I saw it about six times.”
“I’m not capable of drawing on model to save my life. I try my best to do that, but it always comes out looking like me.”
About our Guest
Roger Langridge has been producing comics for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has written and drawn Snarked!, Popeye, The Muppet Show and Thor: The Mighty Avenger. In collaboration with his brother Andrew, he drew Zoot! and Art D’Ecco, and his great solo work is the NCS, Ignatz, Eisner and Harvey Award-nominated comic book Fred the Clown. He recently (late 2011 is recent, right?) published The Show Must Go On, a collection of 20 years of his strips. He currently lives in London with his wife Sylvie, their two children and a box of his own hair.
Credits: This episode’s music is Mahna Mahna by Piero Umiliani. The conversation was recorded at the Bethesda North Marriott during SPX 2013 on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 mics feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded in my home office on a Blue Yeti USB microphone. File-splitting is done on a Mac Mini using Audacity. All editing and processing were done in Garage Band. Photo by me.