So, what does a silent film like Tarzan of the Apes have to do with music? Well, the answer isn’t some sort of Cagean 4’33’’ nonsense. Rather, it’s that Kermit Poling – host of Red River Radio and a talented composer living no further away than Shreveport – has written a brand new score for Tarzan of the Apes and that he will be here in Alexandria with his West Edge String Quartet to perform this composition live alongside the screening of the film. Why a new score? Because the original has been lost since the film’s premiere in 1918. Silent films were, in fact, never silent per se. There simply was not the ability to have spoken dialogue because of the lack of an audio track. Yet, there was plenty of music to tell the stories – you’d always have orchestras, organists, pianists, or string quartets playing live alongside the pre-recorded visual component. I wish we could still hear live music at the movie theater!
As people have begun to rediscover the films of the silent era, there’s been a conscious effort to restore their musical component. Poling has in fact written two scores for classic silent films – besides Tarzan, there is also a new score for Nosferatu, a German adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Additionally, Poling has many times been engaged in the live performance of film scores, either from the conductor’s podium or on his violin. In my conversations with him, he has recounted that it can sometimes be quite tricky keeping the live and the recorded aspects of these productions in sync, but it seems well worth the challenge as he continues to give these sorts of performances.
Tarzan of the Apes is really going to be quite amazing whether you’re a music lover, film buff, or just like a good adventure story. So come on over to Coughlin-Saunders Performing Arts Center tomorrow evening – Tuesday, October 29 – for 6:00 PM and see Tarzan of the Apes, Kermit Poling, the West Edge String Quartet, and the rest of the crew!
About Jackson. Jackson Harmeyer is a recent graduate of the Louisiana Scholars’ College – Louisiana’s designated honors college located on the campus of Northwestern State University. There, he studied music history, completing an undergraduate thesis entitled “Learning from the Past: The Influence of Johann Sebastian Bach upon the Soviet Composers.” Now living in Alexandria, he is one of the founding members of TicketCentral and will also be writing this season’s program notes for the Rapides Symphony Orchestra.