Login

Playing In The Silence

Shadow Ensemble scores red carpet party

photo.caption|escapejs

Photographs by Courtesy Photo

From humble beginnings in 2015 in Ryan Cockerham’s classroom at NWACC, the Shadow Ensemble — made up of musicians from many backgrounds using instruments from world music and days gone by — has grown to a schedule this fall that takes performers from Houston to San Antonio to Little Rock to Tulsa.

Ryan Cockerham thinks films are fine things. But that's not where his passion lies. He scores silent films with a live band -- which he calls the Shadow Ensemble -- to enjoy the juxtaposition of music, musicians and the movies.

"At my core, I'm a musician, so for me the allure is from a sonic perspective," says Cockerham, who teaches music theory at Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville. "The appeal of not writing it down is that just as much as the film affects the music, we -- the musicians -- affect the music. And both things affect the film."

FAQ

Red Carpet/Silver Screen

Opening Night Party

WHEN — 7 p.m. Thursday

WHERE — UARK Bowl on Dickson Street in Fayetteville

COST — Free

INFO — fayettevillefilmfest.org

BONUS — The event includes food from Blackboard Eatery and craft beers from Fossil Cove, Apple Blossom, Core and Lost 40 Brewery ($12 for an armband).

During the Fayetteville Film Festival's Red Carpet/Silver Screen Opening Night Party on Thursday, Cockerham and his colleagues will be scoring a selection of film shorts, primarily in the science fiction/horror genres: "Metropolis," "Nosferatu," perhaps "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari." "Part of the fun is finding really obscure silent films," he says.

But where does the score come from?

"In our rehearsal process, we watch a film many, many, many times and come up with specific cues for certain things we want to do," he explains. "But no, we don't try to write a score. The whole purpose of this is to respond."

In the days of silent film, he explains, an organist accompanied the screening. But scores were neither written down nor recorded. That means no two performances are ever the same. Cockerham explains that his ensemble has played along with the film "Metropolis" several times, but perhaps never as well as when a storm was rushing in on the Hot Springs Art in the Park Festival. "It was so gloomy, and that ambiance really changed how our score sounded."

From humble beginnings in 2015 in Cockerham's classroom at NWACC, the Shadow Ensemble -- made up of musicians from many backgrounds using instruments from world music and days gone by -- has grown to a schedule this fall that takes performers from Houston to San Antonio to Little Rock to Tulsa. Cockerham can't say he's surprised.

"Northwest Arkansas is very receptive to weird things," he says. "It's an oasis where you can do almost anything."

-- Becca Martin-Brown

bmartin@nwadg.com

NAN What's Up on 09/08/2017

Log in to comment