CU Denver Alumni Live-Score Film

CU Denver alumni put their talent to use in scoring the silent film ‘Metropolis’.


On Feb. 3, local musicians, CU Denver alumni, and former CU Denver newspaper staff Paul Buscarello and Billy Overton impressed the film community with a sold-out live scoring of the silent film Metropolis. The event was part of a series entitled Star Wars: The Origins Of The Force, featured at the SIE Film Center on Colfax. The idea was to watch and discuss films that heavily influenced the making of the Star Wars films.

Metropolis originally debuted in 1927, based on a book of the same title written by Thea Von Harbou two years prior. Metropolis is one of the first great works of Science Fiction and is considered one of the greatest films ever made. Its legacy can be seen in such films as the previously mentioned Star Wars films, as well as Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Mad Max.

Buscarello and Overton’s sounds perfectly accompanied the film’s unique sensibilities. The music was a combination of jaunting piano chords, flowing single-line guitar melodies, and a tasteful set of preprogrammed sounds. Buscarello jumped between his guitar and a few drums scattered off to the side of the theater while Overton led the way through a maze of odd chords and effects. Buscarello and Overton also play as Loanword, a duo project with a similar musical aesthetic.

Buscarello began doing live music to silent films about two years ago at SIE Film Center. The idea came from his attendance at a Silent Film Festival as well as deciding to cater to his own artistic pursuits. “It was hard to find a venue for the type of music I was making,” Buscarello said. “I went to the Silent Film Fest three years ago and was just so impressed by how dynamic the musicians were. I was impressed by the way they were able to do a duet with the film and create this dance between music and film in a really dynamic way. So I thought, ‘That’s it—I’ve got to try it.’”

Metropolis is Buscarello’s eighth live film score, but this is the first time Overton has accompanied him. Creating the music took hours upon hours of work for the two composers. “We worked on this for a month, and that was short,” Buscarello said. “I’ve worked on these projects for two or three months before.”

Many of the chords and melodic motifs were carefully crafted by the duo, while some of the music was improvised on the spot. “There is no sheet music or anything,” Overton said.

“There are a few points where we say ‘OK, this is exactly what we are going to be playing,’ but usually it’s mostly improvised,” Buscarello said. “The motifs are kind of a tool set that we can whip out at any time.”

The most fascinating aspect about creating live improvised music to a film is that each time the experience changes. Every viewing is like looking at the film through the eyes of a different person as every note gives each moment a different feeling. Buscarello and Overton impressively tackled sharing their view of Metropolis and will be returning for an encore showing on Sunday, Feb. 21 at 2 p.m.

—Dylan Streight

Above: Paul Buscarello and Billy Overton scored a sold-out show.

photo: Nicole Elizabeth • CU Denver Sentry

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