Drawing from minimalist composers like Philip Glass and Steve Reich, and the swelling dynamics of post-rock, Modern Robot gives Night of the Living Dead a modern feel, and a heightened sense of tension as the characters face the horrors both inside and outside the abandoned house they’ve barricaded themselves into.
A radio interview with WFDD’s Eddie Garcia, editing NOTLD and developing the show at fringe: “There's something really straightforward about it, and something just dramatically realistic in a lot of the way this movie works for me.”
Showing the full movie involved creating a “Frankensteined” version of the foley (all the noises and sounds that are part of the movie but not the soundtrack.) And like an undead-elf, Singer has been tinkering way. “I obviously needed to cut where the movie has its own background music,” Singer explained of the editing process. “But that also means cutting footsteps, hammering, scraping, zombie grunts, all that. So I chopped the original audio into tiny samples and recreated the soundtrack with cut and paste.”
Romero acknowledged that the main inspiration for his film was not Haitian folklore, but Richard Matheson’s classic novel I Am Legend, in which civilization is destroyed by a plague of scientifically-created vampires. In interviews, Romero called Night of the Living Dead his version of I Am Legend. Now Singer has re-imagined Romero’s reimagining of Matheson.
Admirably precise percussive patterns, haunting, echoey, blues-inflected passages and some suitably raging storms to reflect the onscreen building of tension in a truncated version of the zombie film.
'My big surprise watching Night of the Living Dead was, in fact, its poignancy.' So says Ben Singer, perhaps one of only a handful of people ever to describe a zombie movie as poignant.
Questions and answers with Gareth Vile, Theatre Editor for UK's The List, delving into dramaturgy and the development of Alive: Music for Night of the Living Dead.
As if a midnight showing of a film about a cannibalistic zombie horde wasn’t creepy enough, the soundtrack that North Carolina-based Modern Robot dubs over the film is appropriately spine-tingling.
Absorbing, Entertaining, Enchanting, Masterful, Original. “I felt that I walked out differently than when I came in. The best show I've seen so far.”
At the Crossroads: Music for Faust receives FringNYC's an overall excellence award for Music Composition.
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 guitar match the bold visuals of the film as the music lurks ominously under the already haunting imagery.
In the film’s brutal climax, both musicians get a chance to shine, with fuzz pedal distortion and other hard rock pyrotechnics put to effective use. A neglected classic, Faust is ripe for rediscovery, and the added energy of live music makes it all the more compelling.
Indeed, when Gretchen enters the story about halfway through, the atmosphere of the performance changes from absorbing and entertaining to genuinely heart-rending, in large part because of Singer and Cohen's skillful work. At the Crossroads achieves an amazing feat: simultaneously taking us back to the silent era while creating something utterly contemporary.
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.
Listening to the news items on the vinyl recording, Singer was amazed to discover how deeply they resonated with the current historical moment: Here was President Johnson speaking about an ambitious legislative agenda, contrasted with current times when Congress can’t seem to accomplish anything. Here was the passage of the Voting Rights Act, which would be significantly unraveled by the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby v. Holder decision. Here was the creation of Medicare and Medicaid prompting hysterical right-wing charges of socialism — a precursor to similar charges against President Obama. Here was the Watts riots, foreshadowing militant anger today about unarmed black men killed by the police and mass incarceration.
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.
The highlight, although it feels ridiculous to attempt to choose one, is without doubt the scene where Gretchen, the love interest of Faust, slowly loses the will to keep looking after her bastard child while battling a snowstorm. Ben takes centre stage here, with the effects pedal being used to completely draw you into the story while simultaneously providing an auditory masterclass of the howling wind that faces Gretchen through her struggle. It doesn’t stop there as the crescendo at the end of the movie is pulsating and powerful enough to make you completely forget the age of the film you are watching. This is a supremely good show. The quality of the musicianship on the show is astronomical, and twinned with the iconoclastic Faust, it makes for an experience I wouldn’t mind reliving again and again.
I love stuff like this. It’s doesn’t get much more old school than playing along with a silent film, but there’s an avant garde sensibility in staging it at a coffeehouse, with a one-off band of bold-faced names and a slate of opening acts that complemented the vibe. It’s the kind of thing that just organically happens when a cultural scene galvanizes and creativity is empowered. It’s the kind of thing that people talk about when they bump into each other on the street.
The duo's first movie-show debuted in August at the Green Bean. Past shows have featured the movie “Sita Sings the Blues,” a commentary on modern life using animation and an ancient Indian myth, as well as “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” a 1959 film by Edward D. Wood Jr. that resurfaced in the 1980s when a writer called it the worst movie ever made.