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A gig reflection silent films with The Muffin ensemble by Mattias Olsson

A gig reflection Silent films with The Muffin ensemble, Larrys Corner 29th January 2014

Mathias Danielsson at his trusty pedal steel Tape echo combo.
Im calling this a gig reflection instead of a review quite simply because I was sick when I was there and I missed the two last films. It would be unfair to…everyone.
As some of you might know I have been playing to Silent movies for 13 or 14 years now on and off with the Matti Bye Ensemble. We have played pretty much all around the world and it has been an amazing experience. The venues has been everything from the majestic Castro theatre in San Francisco to a small communal theatre in russian barentsburg, Svalbard.
My dear friend Rickard P. Stumm
Therefor I was thrilled when Mathias invited to come and see them play at Larrys Corner. He warned me. Its small, really small. And usually people exaggerate about venue sizes but he was pretty much on the money. It IS really small. So I can also add that the place was packed. Not an empty seat in the house.
The two films I had the pleasure to catch were Lot in Sodom and Létoile de Mer by Man Ray.
At the different silent film festivals I have played I have seen a number of different ensembles take on the challenge and there seems to be two different lines of thought. One is the heavily scripted and arranged. The other is a more ambient approach. And the feeling I get is that people tend to start with Plan A and then drift into Plan B occasionally. Also there is the whole school of using instruments of the era. Pianos and theatre organs.
I have no real sharp opinion, if it works with the film….it works.
 
The Muffin Ensemble
The Muffin Ensemble are firmly routed in the second category. The lap steel becomes an orchestra creating washes of chords using tape echoes. The fretless bass has a more relaxed role often just giving pulse or accents using loop pedals and pitch shift effects but also playing freer melody lines. Also prerecorded voice were used to highlight sections.
With my raging fever and Man Rays avant garde approach to film (and focus) this approach created a sort of seemless ambient feel. I found it hard to grasp if there were any traditional themes as such but more a flowing arrangement line.
I thought it suited the films and the setting very very well.
Also I loved the idea of the small setting and D.I.Y feel of the event. Its great to take control of a small margin cultural phenomena and make it your own. It felt intimate and personal. I love the inititiative and the passion that goes into aranging stuff like this. Good stuff. I would have loved to have a bit more of a background about the films. Maybe just a little programme so that the viewer can have some background info and put things into a bigger historical context.
Read it at Mattias Olsson’s blog here;
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