Ben Model fell in love with silent movies as a kid. It was only natural then that he should enroll in New York University years later to study filmmaking. It was during his time as a student at NYU that he noticed and was bothered by the fact that the silent films shown in his classes bombed with the other students. Ben attributed it to the fact the films were shown silent. In other words, without musical accompaniment so he went to the head of the department and volunteered to accompany those films himself and in some instances write his own music, music that was “pretty enough to listen to, but simple so that it didn’t detract from the movies.”
Fast forward to more than thirty years and several hundred film scores later and you have in Ben Model one of the leading silent film accompanist in the nation. And if you follow him on social media you’ll note his schedule is mind-blowing, the epitome of untiring dedication and love for film.
Aside from being a resident film accompanist at the Museum of Modern Art (NY) and at the Library of Congress’ Packard Campus Theater, Mr. Model performs at film festivals throughout the U.S. and in Norway, at universities, museums, historic theaters, is instrumental in music education programs and his music can be heard on numerous DVD/Blu-Ray releases and on TCM. To Start.
Although I don’t live far from Mr. Model’s “hub” if you will, New York City I’ve only seen/heard him perform live once, but it was thrilling. In fact, it remains
one of the best film experiences I’ve ever heard – when I lived his chilling accompaniment to Murnau’s NOSFERATU at the gorgeous Loews Jersey City last Halloween. On my to-do list is his Silent Clowns Film Series, now in its 18th season in NYC. If you’re in or near New York City check out his Silent Film Accompaniment Schedule for the rest of this month.
Anyway, you get the picture – Ben Model has made his passion his career and rare film and in some cases long forgotten stars owe him a debt of gratitude. As we all do.
I decided to post this now because Ben recently revamped his Silent Film Music podcast after a sabbatical and you should listen to it! Whether you’re a long-time silent film aficionado or a novice like me, Ben’s podcasts are sure to entertain and enlighten. In each episode he discusses different aspects of silent film scoring, offers insights as to how to approach scoring a silent film and conducts interviews of interesting players in the silent film music world among many other things. In this week’s podcast, he interviews almost-98-year-old film pianist Harry Weiss. You can imagine the stories Mr. Weiss has to tell. He began playing music to film in the 1930s. You can subscribe to and listen to the podcasts here.
If this post has piqued your interest in regards to Ben Model’s silent film world I strongly suggest you follow him on social media. On Twitter he’s @SilentFilmMusic on Facebook he’s Ben Model. You can listen to some of his work on his YouTube channel at Undercrank Productions. Oh yeah, did I mention he has his own DVD label? Well, he does. Just recently he released The Marcel Perez Collection curated by Mr. Model and film historian Steve Massa.
I didn’t intend in making note of Ben Model’s resume, but I am somewhat in awe of all he’s doing with regard to silent film. I couldn’t be more excited about adding the Silent Film Music podcast to my classic film to-dos every week and urge you to do the same. Model’s expertise coupled with a fan’s passion is irresistible.