Notes on the score for Page of Madness.


Page of Madness is a little different from my other silent film scores in that it contains a large measure of improvisation. The others are mostly through-composed, with elements of improvisation built into parts of the composition in mostly very limited and structured ways.

The improvisation here is combined with passages of written music and sections which mix the two in different ways, but with the main emphasis being on different routines for improvisation, but scored directly to the film.

The musicians use synchronized stop watches in order to stay in sync with each other and the film, while also responding directly to the film, according to a manner suggested by the score. So for 80 minutes the musicians must a) watch the film, b) watch the score, c) watch the stopwatches, and d) watch the conductor (me), or rather a constantly rapidly alternating sequence of the four.

For example, the two pages of the soprano part shown below, in total, comprise the score for Track 1 on the Page of Madness CD.



In some sections, for example, two instruments are playing written material while two others are improvising, with each other and against the written score. In others, one solist is improvising in a developing way, following the story line (such as it is), and others come in and out responding the specific visual or narrative cues.

Certain motifs return in different forms in different sections, and are developed throughout the entire score. The "Mad Dancer Theme" is a one bar phrase, played by the piano, which recurs regularly throughout the film, basically intact. But the "Idealized Dancer Theme" (see page 2, above) recurs three times, beginning, middle and end. The initial melody is presented over and ostinato of fifths in the piano, it then returns, but with moving harmony in the accompaniment. The third time it returns, the melody has been developed, in response to the moving harmony.


(To be continued)