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“Modern Robot provide a pulsating, breathtakingly epic score to the film. The distinct, atmospheric movements accompanying the different scenes and themes of the film are expertly arranged and the post-rock Godspeed You Black Emperor-esque guitar and drumming is of an exceptional quality.”
Over five years, Modern Robot has performed accompaniments to dozens of films: odd instructional and industrial films, campy B-movies, flight and space footage, and a wide range of more traditional silent films. What started out as an loose improvisational group has become a project that takes each movie as its own creative concept and composition. For each show, Ben Singer assembles performers and creates a musical world that both complements the film and creates something new out of the combination.
In 2015, Modern Robot presented an original, contemporary score to Murnau’s 1926 film, Faust at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, playing eleven shows with Glasgow drummer Phil Hague. In a five-star review, Broadway Baby called it “a pulsating, breathtaking epic score of the film” and “a supremely good show”.
Encouraged by the artistic atmosphere of the Fringe circuit, Modern Robot took At the Crossroads: Music for Faust to several fringes in 2016, beginning with the oldest Fringe Festival in the US, the Orlando Fringe. Downbeat award-winning drummer Paul Gavin accompanied Ben for this run, and the show was invited back for the 2017 Orlando Fringe Winter Mini-Fest, a hand-picked selection of audience favorites. The same year, At the Crossroads was selected for the New York International Fringe Festival, playing it with New York drummer Spencer Cohen and winning an Overall Excellence Award for Music Composition. The show received 100% positive ratings on Show-Score, and reviewed as “absorbing and entertaining to genuinely heart-rending” and “beautifully percussive and melodic”.
In 2017, Ben premiered a score for George Romero’s 1968 zombie classic, Night of the Living Dead with drummer Nick Falk (Berklee, the Monk Institute, and Dori Freeman). In a new development for Modern Robot, this show included the dialog of the film, which required meticulous editing and recycling of the film’s existing foley. Modern Robot brought Alive: Music for Night of the Living Dead to both the 2017 Orlando Fringe and for 24 shows at the Edinburgh Fringe, where it was reviewed as “haunting” and with “suitably raging storms”. The horror festival FearNYC honored George A. Romero in 2017, featuring a solo Modern Robot performance of NOTLD.
Ben Singer lives in Greensboro, NC, where he performs as a singer/songwriter, joins musicians on guitar and piano, films and edits music videos and documentaries, and writes music software. He most recently played the US/Canada tour of PostSecret: The Show.
Modern Robot is currently booking both Night of the Living Dead (which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2018) and At the Crossroads (Faust).
Modern Robot’s live drum and electric guitar accompaniment helped me view the often told story anew, by introducing an unexpected harmonic rock element. The sensitively played music softened the story, directing our attention to the very ordinary human frailty highlighted by the actors and effects, without sensationalism or discordant surprises.
(Louise Rodgers, ThreeWeeks)
Charlie Chaplin was a genius, of course. He laid the foundation for modern American cinema when the medium was a newborn thing… Ben Singer may be a genius as well.
(Brian Clarey, Triad City Beat)
This is a supremely good show. The quality of the musicianship on the show is astronomical … an experience I wouldn’t mind reliving again and again. ★★★★★
(Conor Matchett, BroadwayBaby)
The sheer musicianship displayed by the duo was something to behold. The soundtrack fit the mood of the film well … If you like music and classic film, you’ll enjoy this mashup.
(Michael Williams, Orlando Sentinel)
The brilliance of this esoteric art lies in the intimate intersection of the new music and the venerable images on the screen. At times sweet and benign, at times driven and relentless, the music accompanies the German Expressionist aesthetic of distorted perspectives, powerful clashing of light and dark, and long, convoluted shadows.
(Kathryn Osenlund, CurtainUp Report )
“At the Crossroads” achieves an amazing feat: simultaneously taking us back to the silent era while creating something utterly contemporary.
(Regina Robbins, Theatre is Easy)
The result is a largely mesmerizing experience, one that gives audience members a new appreciation for the power of music and its ability to set a mood. Cohen’s driving drums and Singer’s slide guitar match the bold visuals of the film as the music lurks ominously under the already haunting imagery.
(David Gordon, New York City Theater)
Creating admirably precise percussive patterns, haunting, echoey, blues-inflected passages and some suitably raging storms to reflect the onscreen building of tension.
(The Herald Scotland)