Pianist/composer/improviser Ran Blake and producer/trombonist Aaron Hartley bring an extra dimension to Hallowe’en with specimens of that most haunting genre, film noir. Now an annual tradition, this year’s concert is based on one of the best-known specimens of the genre: Otto Preminger’s 1944 Laura, as well as another Preminger title—Whirlpool— and John Stahl’s Leave Her to Heaven.
One of Hollywood’s most notorious rebels, Preminger constantly defied censorship by treating such themes as drug addiction and rape. He worked with predominantly black casts, jazz scores, and blacklisted screenwriters at times when all of these went against the unwritten rules of Hollywood.
What does Leave Her to Heaven have in common with the two Preminger films? All three are haunted by Gene Tierney in a starring role, and were made in the prime noir era of the mid-to-late 1940s. Tierney’s often tragic life and battles with mental illness cast a retrospective shadow over the nuanced performances from the prime of her career that will be seen tonight when students and faculty of NEC’s Contemporary Improvisation department perform along with scenes from these films.
NEC’s musicians will create a real-time original score as they respond to the drama through improvisations, recompositions, and reinterpretations of David Raksin’s original music for the two Preminger titles, and Alfred Newman’s score for Leave Her to Heaven.
Members of Aaron Hartley’s Storyboard Noir Ensemble play a key role in this annual Film Noir concert. Each fall, ensemble members engage in a rich exploration of creating music for film, through aural study of original scores, development of student compositions in tandem with traditional repertoire, and collective improvisation.