Filmharmonia presents F. W. Murnau's Faust

Filmharmonia presents F. W. Murnau's Faust
Newly restored and reconstructed!

New musical score written and performed by Filmharmonia (Dennis James and Mark Goldstein)
utilizing Pipe Organ, Theremin and Buchla Lightning Wands

Murnau's masterpiece runs for two hours (timed without intermission) and is made up of two parts. The first, based on the folk legend, shows how Faust initially agrees to the pact with Mephisto in order to banish the plague from the town, but he subordinates himself entirely to the devil in order to find eternal youth. The second part, closely based on Goethe's drama, focuses more on the Gretchen tragedy. In 1926 Murnau had reached the climax of his career. Together with Lubitsch, Lang and G. W. Pabst, he had established a standard for German silent film that was unsurpassed. Innovative light effects and special effects made the fantastic appear real, and the real appear fantastic, especially in this sparkling reconstruction.

The new musical score by Dennis James and Mark Goldstein provides a modern tribute to the historically authentic film scoring practice of all real-time (as opposed to pre-programmed, recorded or sequenced) performance of a compilation of period music from a variety of sources along with the interpolation of newly composed elements and structured improvisations. The musical texture conception underscores the fundamental struggle between the forces of Good and Evil by assigning the organ in opposition to electronic synthesis. Featured instruments are presenter-supplied organ (preferably large concert/symphonic pipe instrument) plus musician-supplied electronic instruments: the Theremin (the primary electronic musical instrument developed in 1920) and the Lightning (Don Buchla's wireless synthesis controller developed in the 1990).


Filmharmonia ensembles perform authentic musical accompaniments to classic silent films. Founded by Dennis James, each ensemble showcases unusual musical instruments in traditional accompaniment scorings that recapture the silent film era's sounds and musical styles in performances that are both historically accurate and entertaining. Participating instrumentalists are selected for each performance from an association of professional musicians based in on the West coast.

Unusual historical instruments, showcased together with the traditional acoustic piano or pipe organ and traditional cello, include the theremin, Stroh phonoviolin, Marxophone, autoharp, flexatone, cristal d' Baschet and various acoustic sound effects in use during the 1920's in addition to a variety of modern devices. The ensemble collaborates with film archives around the world to present exquisitely beautiful prints of some of the century's greatest films to create multi-media experiences that revive silent films' extraordinary vitality and excitement.

"Silent movies could not talk, but there was nothing they couldn't do. The more you watch them, the more aware you become of the heady excitement the medium was able to inspire. Most of today's movies are made for the purpose of attracting audiences; many silent classics were made in the conviction they could inspire and even transform audiences."

The first Filmharmonia ensemble was formed in 1990 for The Aelita Project, the recreation of the original film music for the Soviet futurist-fantasy silent film Aelita, Queen of Mars. The score incorporates both surviving original score fragments and period Soviet generic silent film music publications. The Aelita Project was designed especially to include use of the pioneering 1920 Soviet musical instrument invention, the theremin, in tribute to its most famous later role as a sound effect in science-fiction film music scoring.

Quickly expanding their range of unusual instruments and historic generic source music, Filmharmonia accepted a commission in early 1996 for a new score to the Soviet comedy The House on Trubnaya Square in celebration of U. C. Berkeley's Pacific Film Archive 25th anniversary. The critical acclaim for that score has led to various commissions, including an accurate realization of director Dziga Vertov's own musical scoring notes for his The Man with a Movie Camera, (premiered at Berkeley's Pacific Film Archive in 1996) plus organ & electronics duo scores for Metropolis (premiered at the San Francisco Int'l Film Festival in 2001) and Woman in the Moon (premiered at the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. in 2002).

Filmharmonia’s loyalty to the filmmakers' visions at first seems as anachronistic as the reality of a live musical ensemble providing a true soundtrack, one that supports the film rather than overpowering it in this modern Digital Sound recording era.  Filmharmonia bridges the worlds of film appreciation, musical imagination and historical preservation to craft works of art, timeless creations that transcends any era.


DENNIS JAMES (Organ & Theremin)
Musica Curiosa founder Dennis James is an exotic instrument revitalizer and professional silent film musician. James attended Indiana University's School of Music as a student of concert and church organ performance, earning his Bachelor's and Master's degrees. He has played a pivotal role in the international revival of silent films presented with live music and tours his musical score restorations, recreations and/or new compositions internationally for solo and small ensemble presentations plus performances with major symphony orchestras.

Dennis James appears regularly at, or on tour under the auspices of, the National Gallery of Art Cineconcert Series, Pacific Film Archive, Museum of Modern Art, Museum of the Moving Image, Library of Congress, Cinematheque Francais, Louvre Museum film series, British Film Institute, National Film Theatre, Pordenone Cinema Muto Festival, Mozarteum in Salzburg, and the Palazzo Delle Esposizioni in Rome for presentations of film archive silent film restorations.  James has been a featured solo performer at such annual film festivals as the San Francisco International Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Washington D.C. International Film Festival and Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema, plus he appears frequently at the High Museum in Atlanta, Walker Film Center in Minneapolis, Cleveland Cinematheque, George Eastman House in Rochester, and for the Chicago Art Institute's Film Series.  James has served as American tour musician for the Munich Filmmuseum.

Mark Goldstein is a free-lance percussionist and music technology consultant from the San Francisco Bay area. He holds a percussion degree from the Peabody Conservatory of Music and computer science degrees from The Johns Hopkins University and Stanford University. Mark performs in a wide variety of idioms in both the analog and digital domains. He has also worked for the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies (U.C. Berkeley), the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (Stanford), Gibson Guitar G-WIZ Labs, and Studer Editech/Integrated Media Systems. Goldstein collaborates with composers and instrument builders and explores the relationship between sound, movement and gesture, creating software, hardware and repertoire for electronic and computer music instruments in live performance.

"I am interested in the evolving technologies of sound synthesis and innovative instrumental controllers, especially those that employ the wide variety of percussive-inspired techniques. I've got an unusual perspective because I'm trying to tackle these problems with the rigor of a computer scientist, the seriousness of a conservatory-trained 'art musician', and the looseness of a shameless jazz improvisor."

Invented in 1920 by Professor Lev Sergeyevich Termen (anglicized later to Leon Theremin) of the Institute Physico-Technique in Leningrad, the THEREMIN was the first truly practical and mass-marketed electronic musical instrument.  Originally called the aetherphone or thereminvox (literally 'voice of theremin'), it is played by the motion of the musician's hands in the space surrounding the instrument's antennae.  Dennis James plays a concert theremin constructed by noted electronic instrument designer Robert Moog.

LIGHTNING is a specialized MIDI controller, developed in 1990 by California-based electronic instrument inventor Don Buchla, that senses position and movement of handheld wands and transforms this information to MIDI signals for expressive control of electronic musical instrumentation.  Based on the principles of optical triangulation, LIGHTNING gathers its information by tracking tiny infrared transmitters that are built into baton-like wands. From this information, LIGHTNING's digital signal processor computes instantaneous velocity and acceleration, and performs detailed analysis of gesture.