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scoring Porter (Edwin S., that is)

Have just recorded three scores for an upcoming DVD release by Kino. The films, all shorts directed by Edwin S. Porter for the Thomas Edison Co., are to be extras for the main feature, a doc on Porter’s work. So, here are three more Edison shorts you can add to your collection which are not on the 4-disc set Kino put out a year ago.

Two of the shorts were pretty straightforward, but Porter’s Life of a Cowboy was a bit more of a challenge. The film is listed on IMDB as being one reel with a running time of 13 mins, but this edition was perhaps run slower and comes in at a little more than 16 mins. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not usually a fan of slowing film down to 14 or 16 fps, but this short — all long takes and wide shots — needs it to work and for the action to register. I had to watch the film twice, before diving in, because it was hard to follow (on a TV set). This is one of those cases where the best thing to do to help the audience is to take a good look and see where the drama is occuring in the frame and play to that mood, so the audience will know where to look and will know what the story point is.

I’ve scanned the four post-its I jotted info down on; the numbers you see refer to timecode superimposed on the image (click on the image at the left to see this full-size). I recorded the film in several pieces, one segment for each filmed segment or shot (there’s no intercutting or close or medium shots), much like a series of theatrical tableaus might be (I think these were referred to as “tab” shows during the days of vaudeville). Having the timecode numbers helped me know where to wrap up a piece or create a segue before the segment ended. I really had to watch the film carefully to see who were the good guys and who were the bad guys; there’s a group of people who come into the saloon at the beginning who appear to be part of the story but leave after a few minutes and are never seen again. There are no titles (in this print) explaining who everyone is and who they are to each other, so the music and its moods have help telegraph that.

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Have now booked another silent in Huntington — Lloyd’s Safety Last — for April. Now need to get my head and music together for a show of DeMille’s King of Kings at the church of St. Paul the Apostle in NYC (near Lincoln Ctr), which I’ll accompany on the church’s restored 4/82 Moller pipe organ next week.

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