Every once in a while, after one of my shows, someone will come up to me and ask me if I’m writing a book about silent film accompaniment. My answer is that I’m not, although this blog is pretty close to doing just that. But it wasn’t always…and that’s why I started doing a podcast, back in 2012.
My brilliant idea for doing the podcast was that it would be a workaround for the difficulty I’d had maintaining a blog. I’d launched my blog in 2006. It sputtered and fizzled and occasionally came to life, like Jack Benny’s Maxwell. I figured, it’d be easier for me to post my reports about shows I was doing by talking into a mic instead of articulating it into informal prose and typing it up.
It had seemed like an interesting idea when I started. I have a vivid memory of sitting the lobby of the Thon Polar hotel in Tromsø, Norway, using the Windows PC that had internet access (!) for guests to check their email, and keying in one of my first blog posts. It was my first year playing at the brand new “Stumfilmdager” festival in the city known in some circles as The Paris of the North. My idea at the time was to share insights about what I did as a silent film accompanist, info about theaters I’d performed in and films I’d played for.
After 6 years of fits and starts blogging, I came up with the workaround of doing the blog in audio form. More fits, starts and sputtering, like Mel Blanc’s vocalizations of Benny’s auto. Ironically, it wasn’t until I got more heavily into actually listening to podcasts a few years ago that I learned the value of blogging, and of doing do regularly.
Driving to or from teaching my class at Wesleyan over the last few years, I listened to episodes of Seth Godin’s Akimbo and Michael Boezi’s Marketing Without the Marketing podcasts — as well as non-marketing-related podcasts by Gilbert Gottfried and Roman Mars (“99% Invisible”) — and got inspired to resume blogging. Not as a platform to report on shows, I’d done, but as a forum to share what I know about silent film accompaniment and about silent film.
It was a way to leave something behind, and to make my ideas about working with this cinematic medium available. It’s gotten way easier latelty to write a blog post, just from doing it over and over, on a pretty regular basis. Now, if I can just apply this same model to podcasting…
As of this past Wednesday, I’ve now posted 33 episodes of “The Silent Film Music Podcast with Ben Model”. I’ll admit, that’s not a fantastic track record for a podcast that launched 7 years ago. Or considering the amount of time it actually takes me to put together an episode. But I’m trying to find ways to goose the frequency of posting episodes, and I find that people I meet at shows I do tell me they listen to it and enjoy it.
As I have done with my blogging, over the last year or so I’ve started using the podcast as a way to share ideas and techniques and examples of film accompaniment, and not just use it as a stack of audio postcards about shows I’ve played. Although, it’s kind of a mix of both now.
Episode 33 gives you a chance to hear snippets of live performances on piano at the Park Theater in Glens Falls, DOROT in Manhattan and on theatre organ at Capitolfest in Rome NY and at the Library of Congress in Culpeper VA. These audio clips illustrate things like using a theatre organ like it’s an orchestra and how two back-to-back performances of the same Chaplin comedy are similar and different.
To listen to my very first podcast episode (that’d be #1), you’ll have to listen to it on this blog page. There is something about the way podcasts are made available that limits the number of episodes that can be available, as far as I can tell. My first 7 or 8 episodes cannot be accessed or downloaded from any of the podcast platforms, so I’ve embedded a link for you to listen to it (below). Here is Episode #1, from June 2012!