Several years ago, Kevin Saunders Hayes stumbled into a shop while on the simple quest for a few t-shirts. Instead, he happened across a bin filled with videotapes marked at a dollar apiece. He picked up five silent films simply because the price was right, went home and began to watch.
“I stuck one in the VCR and I was completely blown away by these movies,” Hayes recalls. “They were like 80, 90 years old and were incredibly beautiful movies.”
Preceding this incident, Hayes had, as he says, “one of those ideas that you tuck into the back of your mind.” He had spent years successfully working as a composer and songwriter, his work having appeared in numerous films, television programs and commercials. Yet he had never handled both tasks at the same time. Those silent films he found in the bargain bin presented him with the opportunity to realize this ambition.
Hayes worked on the newfound project in his spare time, inviting his friends to sing his new songs. After some experimentation, he had another one of his “three o’clock in the morning” ideas – to perform these new soundtracks live.
For roughly four years, Hayes’ company Vox Lumiere has been staging multi-media events across the globe. Combining theater, rock performance and film, the group works under the tag “Silents you can hear.”
Hayes concedes that combining live music and silent film is “nothing new.” After all, the original silents were accompanied at least by live piano. However, turning an age-old movie into a musical theater experience that plays simultaneously with the original work is a novel approach.
“It’s not quite theater and not quite film,” he explains, “but as far as entertainment goes, it’s pretty amazingly entertaining.”
With productions of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Peter Pan, The Phantom of the Opera, and Intolerance under its belt, Vox Lumiere is now ready to unleash Metropolis 3.0. This is Hayes’ third incarnation of his first silent film experiment, which is based on Fritz Lang’s landmark science fiction masterpiece, Metropolis. The original remains one of the most frequently referenced silent films in contemporary music. Aside from artists like Madonna and Nine Inch Nails paying homage to Lang’s work in their own videos, several musicians, most notably producer Giorgio Moroder and Detroit techno pioneer Jeff Mills, have created scores to accompany the film. Similarly, Hayes is not blind to Metropolis’ cross-media impact.
“It’s so visually compelling,” he explains, noting the detailed sets and special effects as some of the work’s greatest attributes. “It’s not amazing because they did these cool things,” he adds, “but because they told this incredible story and it was really quite visionary.”
The world premiere of Metropolis 3.0 will be performed as part of the Santa Monica Pier’s Santa Monica Drive-In series on September 13.
This Week’s Music Highlights
Fridays off the 405 featuring Them Jeans, DJ Swayzee @ Getty Center
El Tambor @ Skirball Center
Karaoke with the Big Kahuna @ Rusty’s Surf Ranch
Acoustic Tuesdays @ 14 Below
Rootz Underground, Cezar, Pan Dulce featuring Alan Lightner @ Temple Bar