Film Noir Series: What We Do

Our 8th annual Film Noir concert, Brando Noir, will be just before Halloween on Monday Oct. 29th 2012 8pm. The concert is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC and will be held in NEC’s Jordan Hall Boston, MA.

In a nutshell, current students, alum, faculty, and special guests will perform live music while film noir video is playing on a large projector screen behind them in Jordan Hall. In a little more detail, this is what we do:


1) The summer before the concert, Ran Blake and Aaron Hartley take one or two classic film noir movies and isolate specific content pertinent to the plot. Sometimes more films, like in 2006 or this year’s project, as examples.

2) We then have our master film editor, Josh Drake, compile these hand selected scenes onto a DVD. In the process, the audio is cut in order to allow our participants to perform live music over the edited film. Subtitles (and sometimes original film audio) are added depending on content.

3) At the start of the Fall semester, the edited DVD is distributed to all concert participants. Often there will be a second draft issued, which will be the final concert draft.

Audio: repertoire, ensembles, rehearsals, etc.

1) Repertoire, ensembles, and scenes are assigned at the beginning of the semester. It’s our goal to assign these things so that our student’s talents and abilities will be highlighted, while still maintaining the flow of the film plot and theme of the concert as a whole.

2) Each ensemble will be expected to memorize/internalize their assigned repertoire and the scene they’re performing with. This is an individual task, but also an ensemble task.

3) Ideally, within the first week the scene, repertoire, and personnel unity will be established. The following week students will meet in time slots with Ran Blake and Aaron Hartley. These 20-30 minute coaching sessions will involve rethinking, reimagining, and/or recompose the assigned material. While performing a piece of music verbatim, as originally intended, is very important to all musicians (and we may have some ensembles do this), we primarily encourage students to use their aural training to “push the envelope” and “think outside of the box,” so to speak.

4) Outside of the 20-30 minute weekly coachings, ensembles are expected to have their own weekly rehearsals on their own time. Due to the number of participants it is imposable for Ran or Aaron to sit in on every ensemble’s private weekly session. As much as we’d really like to, it’s just not possible. However, there can be special requests if an ensemble would like extra attention.

5) Ideally, student ensembles will come into coaching sessions with a grasp of what they want their scene to sound like, creating an arrangement (what Ran calls a “storyboard”) that utilizes the accompanying video and adequately presents the assigned repertoire without completely abandoning the core fundamentals of the piece.

I hope this gives you a general idea of what this concert is, how we will prepare for it, and what is expected of you. If you have any questions, please email me directly at or Ran at We will get back to you ASAP.

Suggestions, comments, criticisms, praises, etc. are always welcome and strongly encouraged. We’ve been doing this concert series for eight years now and every year student, faculty, guest artist, and audience feedback guides us to make the following years better and better. Don’t hesitate to speak your mind.


Sign Up for Ran’s Monthly E-Newsletter