Boston Globe: Out of a fairy tale

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Boston Globe: Out of a fairy tale

Unread post by silentfilm » Mon May 12, 2008 8:29 pm ... airy_tale/

Out of a fairy tale

For the members of Tiger Saw, scoring films is a classic experience
Members of Tiger Saw — (from left) Chris Barrett, Erik Tans, Dylan Clarke, and Dylan Metrano — play along to "The Adventures of Prince Achmed," a feature-length animated film from 1926. (Globe Staff / Justine Hunt)

By Jonathan Perry
Globe Correspondent / May 9, 2008

CHELSEA - Inside a cramped apartment, amid shelves of books, rows of DVDs, and a living room stuffed with musical gear, a young prince is locked in an epic battle with an evil sorcerer. The stakes? Winning the hand of a beautiful princess. A vintage Rock'em Sock'em Robots toy, its red and blue adversaries poised to strike each other on the kitchen counter nearby, is not nearly as old or animated as the struggle taking place on a far wall.

Event Tiger Saw performs its original score May 10

Beneath this silhouetted spectacle of prince and sorcerer - actually, a phantasmagoric array of paper cuts and minutely detailed shapes brought to life by a laptop computer and movie projector - the members of Tiger Saw are riveted to the events unfolding before their eyes. They accent the action with martial blasts of trumpet, shards of noisy guitar, and drum rolls that evaporate into a spooky ether of sound effects from a keyboard.

"A few years ago we did an original score for 'Nosferatu,' " says Tiger Saw founder Dylan Metrano of the F.W. Murnau silent-film classic. "It was just such a fun experience for us that it's always been in the back of my mind that we should try to score another film at some point."

That film - the alluring bit of fantasy occupying the wall - is "The Adventures of Prince Achmed," by the German animator Lotte Reiniger. The 1926 cartoon, which Reiniger crafted utilizing elaborate paper cutouts made from cardboard, is considered the world's oldest surviving feature-length animated film. Based on a "1001 Arabian Nights" tale titled "The Story of Prince Achmed and the Fairy Paribanou," the film is not only a landmark but a stunningly imaginative work.

With musical accompaniment by Tiger Saw, a shape-shifting Newburyport musical collective, the film will screen tomorrow at midnight at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, as well as May 16-17 at the Ioka Theater in Exeter, N.H. Tiger Saw will perform its original score live at each of the showings.

Taking a break with his band inside keyboardist-trumpet player Chris Barrett's apartment-cum-rehearsal space, Metrano says Reiniger's movie immediately captivated Tiger Saw.

"It just seemed like a really different, unique one to do," says Metrano, 33, whose band is now at work on its fifth album. "It stands out because it's animated, but with these beautiful paper cuts. It's so different from any other film I've ever seen. The degree of intricacy and detail that goes into these cuttings is just amazing."

"It lent itself to so many different ideas," says bassist Erik Tans, 34, of "The Adventures of Prince Achmed." Not the least of which, he says, was to explore how effectively a modern-day rock band might be able to mix with material from another epoch "to be true to ourselves, but to be true to the movie as well," he adds. "There's so much beauty in how [Reiniger] portrayed water, or how wings are fluttering. We wanted to see how our instruments and sounds can do that [imagery] justice, how to put a mirror to all the beauty and the work that the director did."

The key to coming up with a suitable score was balancing musical intuition and improvisational spirit, but also with a firm sense of structure to keep the whole thing cohesive. "It's about watching the film and trying to find our way into it, but not being overbearing or trying to overtake it," Metrano says. "I think the worst kind of score is if it takes you out of the film."

Reflecting beauty - through either a gauzily contemplative lens or a noisily rambunctious approach - is something Tiger Saw has all but perfected during its tenure. The band at times consists of just Metrano and an acoustic guitar (in fact, he just finished a three-week tour with Boston rapper Cathy Cathodic). At others, it can fill up a stage as a 15-piece orchestra with percussionists and brass. More than 100 musicians have passed through its constantly expanding and contracting ranks. All are welcomed back to the fold at any time, and some have rejoined Tiger Saw years later.

Ultimately, the size and shape of the band, as well as its musical direction, depends solely on whatever is inspiring it at the moment: music, books, paintings, or, in this case, an 82-year-old animated film.

"If you're talking about influences, sure," Metrano says. "I've also spent a lot of time up in Maine, and I've written so many songs up there, just feeling that inspiration. It's more than just music. It can be nature, art, or literature - it's everything."

© Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company.

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