People & Places

Alloy Orchestra is new sound of silent files

Group oerforming at Coe College Sept. 26, Englert Theatre Sept. 27

Alloy Orchestra will accompany a restoration of the silent film, “The Lost World,” on Tuesday night (9/26) at Coe College’s Sinclair Auditorium in Cedar Rapids.
Alloy Orchestra will accompany a restoration of the silent film, “The Lost World,” on Tuesday night (9/26) at Coe College’s Sinclair Auditorium in Cedar Rapids.

The late film critic Roger Ebert called Alloy Orchestra “the best in the world at accompanying silent films.”

The trio, based in Cambridge, Mass., is returning to the Corridor with two very different films this week. The orchestra will perform to “The Lost World” on Tuesday night (9/26) at Coe College in Cedar Rapids and to “A Page of Madness” on Wednesday night (9/27) at the Englert Theatre in downtown Iowa City.

The ensemble includes director and former Iowa City resident Ken Winokur on percussion and clarinet; Terry Donahue on junk percussion, musical saw and accordion; and Roger C. Miller on keyboard. They have performed at The San Francisco Silent Film Festival, The Telluride Film Festival, The Louvre in Paris, Lincoln Center, The Academy of Motion Pictures, the National Gallery of Art and many other venues.

Their artistry has helped revive some of the great masterpieces of the silent era, using a “rack of junk” combination of found percussion and state-of-the-art electronics to create any sound imaginable in a variety of musical styles.

They can conjure up a French symphony or a simple German bar band of the 1920s, and can make audience members think they are being attacked by tigers, contacted by radio signals from Mars or swept up in the Russian Revolution.


Dinosaurs are not dead in this 93-minute film from 1925, directed by Harry O. Hoyt. The earliest known example of stop-motion animation, “The Lost World” features dinosaurs and other exotic creatures.

The movie is a screen adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and was animated by Willis O’Brian, who later brought King Kong to life. Alloy will accompany a new restoration of this classic film by master preservationist David Shepard.


l Showtime for this Marquis Series event: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday (9/26) in Sinclair Auditorium, 1220 First Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors, available at the door or in advance at the Coe Box Office, (319) 399-8600 or


One of the rare Japanese silents to survive World War II, this film was lost for 45 years until rediscovered in the 1970s in a warehouse. It’s an enduring piece of the Shinkankakuha (School of New Perceptions) avant-garde group of Japanese artists.

A newly restored version also was completed by David Shepard, and is available for the first time in the United States.

“Using superimpositions, rapid and insistent visual patterns, fantasy sequences, and the visual flamboyance of actors impersonating mad people, ‘A Page of Madness’ builds an atmosphere of astonishing intensity,” said film critic Chris Fujiwara.

Directed by Teinosuke Kinugasa, it takes place in a countryside asylum and loosely tells the story of its janitor.

l Showtime: 7 p.m. Wednesday (9/27) at the Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St., Iowa City, Tickets are $15 to $25 at the Englert Box Office, (319) 688-2653 or



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