MoMA is resuming its silent film screening events with live audience this month, with the ambitious “Biograph/Edison: Restorations and Rediscoveries from the Collection” program which was originally scheduled in March 2020. And I was the last pianist played for the series before it was canceled due to MoMA’s shutdown due to the pandemic.
It was March 12, 2020. I was going to have a very busy month, scheduled to play for a total of 15 screenings there, and that 6:30 PM show on March 12 was the 6th performance. With 9 more bookings left, MoMA, along with most of the other venues and institutions, closed on March 13. The city eventually went into a lockdown that lasted for weeks.
18 months later, I am delighted to be resuming my public performance at the very same place I hit the last note. When I closed the piano lid on March 12 after that performance last year, I had no idea that would have been the last performance for such a long time. It feels so fitting that I am restarting live performance at MoMA, playing the same program that has been rescheduled from March 2020. It feels like the PAUSE – as NY State called the lockdown back then – is finally lifted, and the cultural life of NYC, as well as my livelihood, comes back to life.
Playing for silent films at a theatre is a unique experience: there is no spotlight, the house light goes off, and I sit at the piano in the dark right next to the audience, watching and experiencing the film with everyone while improvising the music as the film calls for it. Even if it’s the same film, the screening with live music experience is always dynamic, interactive, and “live.” The old black-and-white moving image on the screen suddenly becomes relatable, relevant, and alive, with the just-born music inspired by this very experience right here, right now. I can’t wait to be part of this special experience at MoMA this month. I will be playing for 8 screenings this month, and it is my honor to be sharing the piano bench with 2 of my mentors/teachers that I truly respect and admire: the wonderful Donald Sosin and Ben Model. You can check the screening schedule along with the pianist assignments here – hope to see you at MoMA!