Back around 2008 or so Austin post-rock darlings My Education started tinkering around with an creating an original score to F. W. Murnau‘s 1927 silent film classic Sunrise: A Song For Two Humans ( you can watch the film in its entirety here: http://youtu.be/GnLVMREVA6M ). The band performed with the film at various screenings across the country. Their score was so well received that an abbreviated version of their score was eventually released by Strange Attractors Audio House in 2010. This Friday, the ensemble will perform their score live at Discovery Green. We reached out to the band and James Alexander (Viola) was kind enough to talk a little about the film and their score.
I think most people are familiar with Murnau as the director of Nosferatu but beyond that I’d think that most people are unfamiliar with his work. Can you tell us a bit about the film, how it approaches its subject matter and its significance?
Alexander – This film recently is frequently mentioned by critics as being one of the best of all time. Based on a short story by German author Hermann Sudermann, the film stands as a timeless portrait of the power of love to conquer adversity – in this case adversity is represented by economics, a brazen ‘woman from the city’, and the forces of nature. As a film it is known for its use of archetype, limited use of ‘title card’ narration, and for some truly stunning cinematography.
What do you think will surprise people most?
Alexander – After having seen this film perhaps 20 times or more, I’m still blown away by how deeply this very simple story can pull you in.
How did you come to do this project? Were you handed the project or was this something you developed yourselves?
Alexander – Having previously done a score for an Anime called Angel’s Egg for them, the Alamo Drafthouse approached us with the idea to do something new. We went off to gather ideas for possible films (with the knowledge that many of the obvious choices had already been done by other bands). Sunrise floated quickly to the top of the list and we just ran with it.
How did My Education approach scoring the film?
Alexander – We sat down and watched the film and made some notes about what kind of musical mood we would like to match to the various scenes – this film has some quite long continuous scenes and so it is well suited for complete tunes. We wanted to utilize some of our existing material as well as some new compositions. Ultimately we arranged versions of these new and existing pieces to align with larger scenes, but without the idea of scoring to shorter scenes and set pieces.
How does this project fit in with My Education’s previous work?
Alexander – We’ve been definitely influenced by cinema and the idea of the soundtrack. That’s a natural for an instrumental band. We hope to do more in this vein, whether that be scoring another silent film or providing soundtracks to new films.
Has this project affected the way the band approaches music?
Alexander – Probably not. We did adapt our soundtrack to make an album version, also called Sunrise. But since then we’ve moved on into some new musical directions.
OK, play sommelier for us. Let’s say I was going to bring a wine in a picnic basket. What should I bring (wine and snacks) to pair with the performance and why?
Alexander – I would go with the classics. A good brie, crusty French bread, and some pork pate or saucisson (the pork connection will be evident after you see the film). And for the wine, a cru Beaujolais of course.
Before we go, what’s in the horizon for My Education?
Alexander – A new album out soon, some shows with our good friends Theta Naught (we combine forces as Sound Mass), and a Spring 2013 European Tour.
Friday Sep 14, 2012
Houston Public Media Silent Film Concerts Presents
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
(1927, unrated, 95 minutes)
with Original Score written and performed by My Education
@ Discovery Green, Anheuser-Busch Stage
8:00 PM, Free Blankets, lawn chairs and picnics are welcome; food, beer and wine are available at the Lake House. No glass containers or outside alcoholic beverages, please.