January 31 to February 2, 2017
Grades 7 and 8
Pre-show Information for Teachers
Acclaimed pianist Roman Zavada brings silent films of the past to life for modern-day audiences. From Charlie Chaplin to Micky Mouse, Zavada accompanies a series of clips that inspire wonder and laughter in young audiences, helping them discover the origins of cinema.
With the black and white piano keys, Roman Zavada brings black and white silent films to life! His piano improvisations are more than just musical backgrounds to the motion pictures. A musical dialogue is created and immerses the audience in the heart of the action.
Roman is a Quebec-born pianist who wrote his first piano composition when he was just four years of age. He took formal piano lessons but quickly realised that this learning approach did not suit him; he much preferred to improvise and reinvent the pieces. He taught himself to play, continually experimented and released two self-produced albums before taking on a position as a silent film accompanist. He improvises musical narration in real-time in such a way that the musical notes of the soundtrack seem part of the film.
Questions/ Suggested Discussion Points
Roman recently completed a large-scale project involving real-time playing to accompany the Aurora Borealis in the night sky, playing in a Northwest Territories boreal forest! Equipped with an upright piano planted in the rock of the Canadian Shield, sitting on the edge of the taiga, Roman Zavada pushed his creative boundaries by getting inspiration from one of the most majestic and grand phenomena on our planet: the Northern Lights.
Discuss how the music is influenced by and reflects the external factors of this unique setting.
Discuss the role of instrumental music for both silent and sound films. (i.e., create an atmosphere for a setting or situation, such as romance or danger; to compliment a setting or suggest geographical location; to create emotions in the audience, such as tension, anticipation, etc.; as a sound effect).
How do musical elements such as tempo, pitch, complexity of the music, and instrument selection achieve these effects?
Silent films were most prevalent in the 1920s and 1930s. Silent films have no spoken dialogue and usually no synchronized recorded soundtrack. One device sometimes used to convey meaning in silent films is the use of title cards. Discuss how this relates to the use of flash cards in today’s social media and the comparative impact of written word versus spoken word in visual arts.
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This presentation is made possible in part by a grant from the Ontario Arts Council’s Ontario Touring program.