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Silent Films / Live Music:
The Passion of Joan of Arc


Silent Films/Live Music is curated by John Schaefer.

The Passion of Joan of Arc is scored and performed by David Cieri.

Join us for the finale of the Silent Film/Live Music series in the Winter Garden at Brookfield Place with a film that is widely regarded as a landmark of cinema, “The Passion of Joan of Arc.” The finale is scored and performed by composer David Cieri with his ensemble of instruments and vocalists.

Ensemble: David Cieri (piano), Sam Ospovat (drums), Mike Brown (double bass), Trina Basu (violin), Chris Rodriguez (bagpipes), Shazad Ismaily (electronics), Tenores de Aterúe: Avery Book, Gideon Crevoshay, Carl Linich, Doug Paisley (vocals).

Click here to view the program


Silent films were never really silent.  Throughout the 1910s and 20s, these movies would be shown with live musicians, often improvising or incorporating popular songs and classical music.  Since the turn of this century, we’ve been presenting silent films in the Winter Garden at Brookfield Place with live music from some of today’s most adventurous musicians, who extend that tradition with their own scores.  This annual series has been popular for a couple of reasons: the Winter Garden atrium, with its huge size, live palm trees, and dramatic lighting, dwarfs even the grandest of the old-time movie palaces – to say nothing of today’s tiny screens.  And hearing new instrumental music in this setting is an easy way to enter the world of contemporary composition. Plus, we record the performances for broadcast on WNYC’s “New Sounds.”

This year’s silent films include two of the all-time classics as well as a contemporary silent film created specifically with the live musicians in mind.  The latter is “Electric Appalachia,” put together by Eric Dawson, the director at TAMIS – the Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound.  Using archival footage, he offers “a meditation on electricity and modernity in East Tennessee” – which sounds like a dull afternoon on PBS but turns out to be a surprisingly engaging, even poignant film.  Guitarist William Tyler and the suddenly ubiquitous harpist Mary Lattimore add a moving, occasionally cosmic score.  After that, the extraordinary guitarist Yasmin Williams (you’ll have to see her play to understand what makes her extraordinary) will give us the world premiere of a new score to the Charlie Chaplin classic “The Kid.”  This wonderful film is both funny and deeply humane – and also stars a young Jackie Coogan in his first role.  Finally, we have “The Passion Of Joan Of Arc,” which regularly tops the lists of the best silent films and which is considered one of the best films of any kind.  Composer David Cieri has written music for many of Ken Burns’ documentaries, among others, and brings a sizable ensemble of instruments and vocalists to this grand finale of our 2023 series.


David Cieri, a musician and composer, makes music for film, concert, and album release. Cieri has worked with numerous celebrated filmmakers including Ken Burns, the Ewers Brothers, and Barak Goodman. He has recorded fourteen acclaimed albums under his own name, that last six of which were released by Ropeadope Records. He has collaborated on a major live documentary project with the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage and has made two records with the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa. David wrote and performed the live scores for the first three seasons of The Paris Review podcasts. He teaches courses on Film Scoring and Music for Film at The City College of New York.


John Schaefer is the host and producer of WNYC’s long-running new music show New Sounds (“The #1 radio show for the Global Village” – Billboard), founded in 1982, and its innovative Soundcheck podcast, which has featured live performances and interviews with a variety of guests since 2002. He created the New Sounds Live concert series in 1986, which features new works, commissioned pieces, and a special series devoted to live music for silent films. Done largely at Brookfield Place and Merkin Concert Hall in NY, the series continues to this day.

Schaefer has written extensively about music, including the book New Sounds: A Listener’s Guide to New Music (Harper & Row, NY, 1987; Virgin Books, London, 1990); the Cambridge Companion to Singing: World Music (Cambridge University Press, U.K., 2000); and the TV program Bravo Profile: Bobby McFerrin (Bravo Television, 2003). He has also written about horse racing (Bloodlines: A Horse Racing Anthology, Vintage, NY 2006), hosted panels for the World Science Festival, and been a regular panelist on the BBC’s soccer-based program Sports World.


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