Scoring a Silent Film

Stephen Horne Q&A

8 November 2017

Ahead of a very special evening in the cinema this Fri 10 November, when audiences will be treated to a screening of The Informer with live piano score, we sat down with acclaimed silent film pianist Stephen Horne to find out more about what he does, why you should see him performing alongside The Informer, and what his all-time favourite silent film is...

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

I am a professional silent film composer and accompanist – a job that I have been doing for over 30 years! Although principally a pianist, I often incorporate other instruments into performances, sometimes simultaneously.

Can you tell us a bit about The Informer?

Like Blackmail (1929), The Informer was shot in both silent and sound versions. Also like Hitchcock’s film, the silent version – although largely forgotten for decades – is now generally regarded as superior.

Do you have a favourite sequence in the film?

There is a great sequence involving a gramophone record being played at the same time that the central couple are having a dramatic argument. The implication is that the mood of the song is in stark contrast to the action. An interesting challenge for the accompanist!

 "I do think it is a masterpiece"

Is there anything audiences should be listening out for when they come along to the screening?

Although the film is nominally about ‘The Troubles’ and portrays an organisation clearly modelled on the IRA, this element is really just the background to a proto-Film Noir story. So while my music is inflicted by Celtic elements, I try to concentrate primarily on underscoring the central drama.

Do you have an all-time favourite silent film?

Anthony Asquith’s A Cottage on Dartmoor. Although I do think it is a masterpiece, this is partly for sentimental reasons. The score that I composed for this film became my passport to the international scene, after I was invited to accompany it at the silent film festival in Pordenone.

Don't miss Stephen when he returns to Dundee to perform his score alongside The Informer on Fri 10 November, 19:00.

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