'Unsilent Film,' now entering its second year, features original compositions from NYU Steinhardt’s Screen Scoring students.

An old movie projector
Courtesy of Getty Images.

Silent films have never been truly silent. In the early twentieth century, musicians—and even at times full orchestras—accompanied the onscreen narrative, underscoring its comedy or drama for moviegoers. It’s a medium that attracted the attention of composer Noah Horowitz , a student in student in NYU Steinhardt’s Screen Scoring program, for its narrative potential.  

While NYU Steinhardt’s composition students study, analyze, and compose scores for contemporary narrative films, video games, and other visual mediums, Horowitz thought an event revolving around silent film offered a unique opportunity. “Silent film offers a really special opportunity in the way it highlights the music,” he says. 

Enter Unsilent Film: Live New Music to Silent Film, which takes place March 7 at 8 p.m. Now in its second year, the evening features original compositions by Screen Scoring students set to silent films of their choice. This year’s films include 1924’s Sherlock Jr.; 1926’s Battling Butler; and 1927’s Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans; among others.

[Watch a clip below from last year's Unsilent Film, featuring Horowitz's composition for Buster Keaton's 1922 film Cops.]

Sergi Casanelles, program manager and faculty member of Screen Scoring, serves as the faculty liasion for the entirely student-organized event. “We encourage our students to explore the relationship between music and film in myriad approaches—from the most commercial, to the most artistic,” he says. “This concert highlights a celebration of film as an art form in its interaction with music. It is another contribution to an increasingly popular and artistically relevant genre of concerts that include accompanying visuals.”

Performing live also provides students with an opportunity to introduce audiences to the world of screen scoring, which is recorded. "There’s a live element in the room when everyone’s playing together," says Horowitz. "There’s an energy you don’t really get if you’re just watching a film."

The event comes at a time when more institutions have recognized audiences’ appreciation for live scores. “You see people like Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer performing at Coachella, or you see Game of Thrones music in a stadium tour,” says Horowitz. “Unsilent Film is part of this growing trend and interest in scoring, and the connection between music, film, and popular culture.”

Unsilent Film takes place at 35 West 4th Street in room 303. 

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