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Noises Off

Wednesday, Mar 29 2000
Noises Off
If you've grown weary of having your senses blasted by special effects and Dolby digital, Alloy Orchestra offers a refresher course in the purity of sound and image. In the last decade, the three-man, post-rock, post-industrial percussion ensemble has composed and performed original scores for 11 silent films, including Lonesome, Nosferatu, and The Man With a Movie Camera. The Boston-based group -- Ken Winokur, Roger C. Miller (former member of the seminal punk band Mission to Burma), and Terry Donahue -- uses sweet melodies and propulsive rhythms provided by an assortment of gongs, drums, junk metal, clarinet, accordion, and synthesizer to create visceral excitement while conjuring images of urban alienation. "We're highly eclectic, dramatic, and energetic -- bordering on bombastic," says Alloy co-founder Winokur. "People ask us: 'Is it classical? Is it jazz? Is it Bach?' And it's all those. We're bigger in sound. We're a little more aggressive and we do a very raucous show."

Metropolis, Fritz Lang's expressionist masterpiece about the dehumanizing effects of corporate greed and mechanistic working conditions on a futuristic society, is back for an encore engagement at the Castro Theater; the rollicking event packed the house last year. (Alloy put together the thrilling score that accompanies the film in a scant two weeks.) As part of a double bill, the group will also perform "Masters of Slapstick." The new program, created to inaugurate the opening of the Chuck Jones Theater at the Telluride Film Festival, is made up of silent shorts from comic geniuses. In One Week (1920), Buster Keaton attempts to build a house the hard way -- from a kit -- but is foiled by a nefarious rival who has mislabeled the parts; Charlie Chaplin was already a big star when he played a cop in Easy Street (1916), a film about life in the slums; and Big Business (1929), produced by Hal Roach, features Laurel and Hardy still in the process of perfecting their act, before their talkie days. "We're really excited about the selection of comedies because kids go crazy for this stuff, and because every time someone has a pratfall, there needs to be a sound effect," says Winokur. "My score reads: 'Buster gets smacked in the head -- hit wood block.'"

The Alloy Orchestra accompanies a double bill of "Masters of Slapstick" (7:30 p.m.) and Metropolis (9:30 p.m.) Friday, March 31, at the Castro Theater, 429 Castro (at Market), S.F. Admission is $7; call 621-6120. The show repeats Saturday, April 1, at the Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth St. (at A Street), San Rafael. Admission is $7; call 454-1222.

About The Author

Sura Wood


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