The concept sounds painful: Three guys perform heavily percussive scores for silent movies by banging on garbage cans, saws, and keyboards, with a little accordion and clarinet tossed in for color. Even longtime Alloy contributor Roger C. Miller was skeptical in 1991 when, as a spectator, he first went to see the Alloy Orchestra perform its new score for Fritz Lang's 1927 classic Metropolis. Miller, who also plays with cult-rockers Mission of Burma, was familiar with Alloy's reputation for quirky public performance. He'd also seen the 1984 re-release of Metropolis with its contemporary soundtrack by artists like Queen, Pat Benatar, and Bonnie Tyler, so expectations were reasonable.
"It's not that the music [in the 1984 version] was bad," Miller told the Flyer in a 2006 interview. "It was just inappropriate." He thought the Alloy Orchestra's efforts might be artier but just as misguided. Then something unexpected happened. The lights went down, and using a mix of traditional and nontraditional instruments, the small group created a huge sonic experience as expressive and masterful as Lang's expressionist tour de force. "When it was over, I joined in the standing ovation," Miller said.
The Alloy Orchestra has become a film festival institution and has wowed Indie Memphis audiences on a few occasions with original scores performed alongside films like The Phantom of the Opera, The General, and Man With a Movie Camera. They'll be back in town on Wednesday, October 17th, to perform their original score to Metropolis at Malco's Cinema Paradiso.
Alloy Orchestra plays its score for Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" Wednesday, October 17th, 8 p.m. at Malco's Cinema Paradiso. Tickets are $12 for Indie Memphis members and $15 nonmembers. indiememphis.com