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In An Act Of Nostalgic Filmmaking That Also Incorporates Modernism And Live Performance, Phoenix-Based, Proto-Industrial Americana Band RPM Orchestra Will Score Their Sixth Silent Film Live At Film Bar Friday Night


By Jeff Moses
Modern Times Magazine

April 17, 2014 — “First of all, you have to be really quiet,” said found-sound musician Vic Void about his band RPM Orchestra’s upcoming task of live scoring a silent film.

The veteran performer chuckled as he asked “how can it be silent if we are making all this noise?” Found Sounds are the sort of things that are heard but not really thought of as music, for instance the sound of two heavy pieces of sheet metal clanging together. Which is one of the many sounds Void will be playing with RPM at Phoenix’s Film Bar when they live score the 1920 film “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” on Friday evening at 10 p.m.

Along with his heavy pieces of sheet metal, Void will also be using a jack, and metal planter to create the one of kind sounds for the orchestra’s performance. His band mates for the most part will be playing on equally odd instruments including Pete Petrisko’s dual shortwave radio setup and microponeded metal wrack, and Jocelyn Ruiz Dustan’s toy piano, mini accordion, and marbles in a bowl. The only member playing a traditional instrument will be guitarist and bassist Jim Dustan.

This will be the sixth time that RPM has live scored a silent film, and no two performances have ever been the same, in fact no two RPM Orchestra sets ever have been the same.

We’ve never actually played the same set twice, we don't have setlists, we create our show from scratch each time so every performance is wholly different from the next one,” said Dustan.

Void added, “I try not to bring the same thing twice ever, so it’d be impossible to reproduce one.”

RPM Orchestra got into scoring silent films because “it just seemed like a fun thing to do” according to Petrisko who is also the bands founder.A lot of times our music tends toward cinematic anyway so it seemed like a good fit,”They continue doing it because of popular demand. They have scored silent films at the Phoenix Center for Performing Arts, as well as The Phoenix Icehouse, and at Film Bar before too. But regardless of venue each performance ends the same, with the audience wondering when the dieselpunks will be at it again.

When asked why they choose to do it Petrisko said, “have you seen these films? They're beautiful, and who watches them anymore? Lets bring them a modern score, bring in a modern audience and introduce people to some really finely crafted films.”

“They are also in the public domain, so it’s free,” Dustan said.

As to why they chose to play such odd instruments Dustan said, “its a really open ended chance for interpretation and to expand on music.”

While his wife Jocelyn added “It’s more fun for us.”

The evening will opened by a DJ set by duo Wind Up Conspiracy before the film.

“Ideally if we do it right we capture the essence of the film with the sound,” said Petrisko.

Jeff Moses a senior contributor at Modern Times Magazine. He can be reached at
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