Lovers of vintage film, Gary Winokur and his wife, Jane Gillooly, jumped at the chance to purchase the best available 35 mm print of The Phantom of the Opera, the 1925 silent classic starring Lon Chaney, and restore its original glory, including extensive color tinting and a famous early Technicolor sequence. But another challenge remained: Composing a new musical score for the film, the sort of thing for which Winokur's Alloy Orchestra is renowned.
Since 1991 the Cambridge, Mass.-based trio -- also including Terry Donahue and former Mission of Burma member Roger C. Miller -- has created scores for 21 silent films, mostly classics, and played them around the world. The percussion- and electronic-based Alloy is best known for its "rack of junk," upon which it raises a racket with bedpan and hubcap, cookpan and ductwork. But while such materiel supercharged recent Pittsburgh gigs with Nosferatu, The Black Pirate and The General, it wouldn't necessarily complement Phantom's crepuscular horror, including the famous rooftop scene and the masked ball with its two-strip Technicolor, the latter not seen in theaters for years.
"This is a film that's based on the implication of threat," says Winokur. "We've left most of our junk-metal assemblage out of the score." Alloy debuts Phantom March 11 in Baltimore, then visits Pittsburgh March 16. Expect "quiet, creepy melodies" on Winokur's clarinet and Terry Donahue's accordion and musical saw, with lighter percussion on horseshoe and truck spring. As Winokur says, "It's really nice to be taken out of your normal style and forced to create something different."