About the Orchestra
For the past four years, The Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra has actively redefined both the local music and film cultures of St. Louis. In addition to its prolific composition and live performance of new film scores for films of the Silent Era, the ensemble--equal parts indie/punk-stalwart and academically trained composers/musicians--has provided the soundtracks for many of St. Louis' most vital and acclaimed locally-produced contemporary films.
Silent Era Film Score Composition and Performance
The R&P MPO has set for itself an audacious mission in this, our 21st Century media culture: to draw greater and more diverse audiences to the singularly strange and beautiful medium of Silent Era film.
So, how to go about presenting 1920s silent films to a 21st Century audience? R&P MPO employs a perspective that films of the Silent Era are not dusty museum pieces, but rather vital and urgently relevant works of art. The ensemble consciously eschews the styles that dominated early film accompaniment--often the popular tunes of the time--in observance of the century of popular music that has since shaped the contemporary ear. The group consists of a string section, a brass section, piano, and percussion. Informed by classical and contemporary sources alike, the R&P MPO's forays into noise, folk, and psychedelia are tempered by a melodic sensibility rooted firmly in the Romantics. In other words, the R&P MPO is a contemporary motion picture orchestra serving a contemporary audience, imbuing the film narratives with a genuinely complementary and supportive aural accompaniment.
Large, diverse, and contemporary audiences have responded enthusiastically. From commissioned and sold-out premieres at university auditoriums, to elementary school audiences, to sold-out bar shows at venues such as Off Broadway, the R&P MPO has moved Silent Era film appreciation beyond the hermetic world of the silent film cinephile and into our larger contemporary culture. Two recent performances illustrate R&P MPO's broad audience appeal within and beyond St. Louis: the ensemble premiered its new score to Benjamin Christensen's Häxan last fall to a sold-out audience at the St. Louis International Film Festival. This spring, the ensemble filled a Cherokee Street backyard to overflow performing its three scores to three Buster Keaton shorts as part of the 2011 SGC International Conference.
To draw a larger and more diverse audience requires a large, diverse, and prolific film score repertoire. Some nine hours of film score music has been composed by the R&P MPO for Silent Era film accompaniment. Click here for the ensemble's Silent Era film score repertoire.
Contemporary Film Soundtrack Scoring
In scoring contemporary films, The Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra employ the same ethic they apply to Silent Era classics: everything in service of the film and the audience. The R&P MPO's soundtrack composition and recording work seeks to support and enhance contemporary filmmakers' visions without overwhelming them. The producers and directors of St. Louis' most vital and acclaimed documentaries have sought out R&P MPO, and the ensemble has enthusiastically obliged. Telling the stories of our community not only enriches our understanding of one another, but spotlights and furthers the work of St. Louis filmmakers as they reach out to new audiences within and beyond the region. R&P MPO's contemporary film score soundtrack works include:
· Doug Whyte's Silver Spurs, 2007
· Cody Stokes' Heartland Transport, 2009
· Mike Pagano's Chicken and Waffles, 2010
· Bill Streeter's Brick by Chance and Fortune, 2011
R&P MPO believes that St. Louis, like Silent Era film, is singularly strange and beautiful. The stories of St. Louis--again, like Silent Era film--are invaluable not only for a greater understanding of ourselves, but hold meaning for new audiences. While continuing to enrich, entertain, and inspire St. Louis audiences, the group is geared to be St. Louis' cultural ambassadors outside the region. It's all about furthering the mission.