Silent Film Metropolis (1927) Gets a Live Movie Score From Glass Apple Bonzai

I was able to catch up with Glass Apple Bonzai to discuss his experiences with putting together a live movie score for the 1927 movie Metropolis....

March 17, 2019

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On December 2014, at Round in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Glass Apple Bonzai did a live score for one of the most beloved classic silent films, Metropolis. The score was improvised with little rehearsal, and the recording released on Bandcamp was taken straight from the soundboard exactly as it was recorded that night.

Metropolis being one of the very first cyberpunk style movies, is a continued inspiration even generations after its release. Considering its age and the fact that it is a completely silent film, there have been many attempts to add a soundtrack to the movie over the years. Perhaps the most notable restorations was done by none other than Giorgio Moroder in 1984. Not only did he reassemble the movie almost frame by frame, he also added an entire movie score for it. The score featured the sounds of the 80s with its glorious sweeping synthesizer sounds. He also brought in artists like Bonnie Tyler, Adam Ant, Freddy Mercury to help flesh out its musical landscape. While it was not an easy task it was certainly a labor of love. Although the finished product was met with mixed reviews, it remains a huge inspiration not only to fans of the movie, but to fans of synthwave as well.

I always find these types of projects fascinating. To find something that was created generations ago, let it inspire you, and continue the story for future generations, is something truly beautiful and epic. It's a love letter to the past for the future and it's something that really strikes a chord in me.

Over the holidays I was able to catch up with Daniel Belasco, the man behind Glass Apple Bonzai to discuss his experiences with putting it all together.

How did you first get introduced to the movie Metropolis?

Late night TV in the 90’s. I remember it being on WNED Channel 21 from Buffalo (right across the border from where I live in Canada) on a show called Off Beat Cinema. They played the version with the score by Giorgio Moroder and I was sold. The movie was amazing, the music was amazing, the whole atmosphere was just perfect.Years later I obtained a bootleg copy of, what was at the time the most complete version of the film and watched it religiously.

What were the events leading up to your decision to do a live score for the movie?

Honestly, I don’t recall exactly. I remember it was a join effort between myself and my long-time friend Ryan Clark, who has been a show promoter in Toronto for ages.I asked my regular bandmate Steve and our friend Ethan Moseley (Promonium Jesters, Hidden Hierarchies, En Esch, Adaptive Reaction) to join in as it would be a bit too much music for one person to handle. Everything was performed live. Nothing was pre-recorded or tracked. Upon retrospect it was fairly ambitious seeing as how the cut of the film we used is almost 3 hours (with intermission).

The three of us did a run-through at my house a few days before just to make sure everything worked properly. There’s a recording of that somewhere too. I have to find that.

What did it feel like to provide music for a 92 year old silent film?

It was an awesome experience. The subject matter of Metropolis is so accommodating of electronic music that you can take things in so many different directions and it all seems to fit just right.

Do you have any experiences from the evening you would like to share?

The way the whole thing was set up was what made it memorable for me.Steve, Ethan, and myself were setup on a stage off to the side of the venue while the audience was seated facing a large screen. Not looking at us at all. Just experiencing the entire presentation. The focus was on the film and the music we provided. It felt like actual theatre, and it was wonderful. At the end the audience applauded both the film and the musicians. It was all around a fantastic experience. Very satisfying.

Would you ever consider doing another live score for another movie like Metropolis?

As a matter of fact we’re planning a live scoring of Jean Luc Godard’s sci-fi classic “Alphaville”, which while not silent it allows us the opportunity of turning the audio off and letting the subtitles (the film being recorded in French) to carry the dialogue. I’m not sure when it will happen but it’s been on the plate for a while now so it’s just a matter of time.

If you're ready to dive into the world of Metropolis make sure to head over to Glass Apple Bonzai's Bandcamp and pick up a copy of this amazing live score for yourself.

Dennis Gruetter

Published March 17, 2019

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