Sunday, January 8, 2017

After illness, returning to the keyboard
with 'Metropolis' at Aeronaut Brewery on 1/8

What time is it? Time to return the keyboard!

Very excited about my first big show of the new year: doing live music for 'Metropolis' (1927) on Sunday, Jan. 8 at 7 p.m. at the Aeronaut Brewing Co. in Somerville Mass.

More details in the press release below!

First, a personal note: In show biz, they say timing is everything. And that's certainly true in the very tiny corner of it occupied by silent film.

So get this: Three days before Christmas, I woke up to find the hearing in my left ear was messed up!

For some reason, what I heard through my left ear was distorted, and also sounded far away.

Also, there was a cluster of frequencies—tones around middle C on the musical scale—that were physically painful to hear, producing that "nails on a chalkboard" effect.


I had no other symptoms, and couldn't imagine what was going on. There was no wax in my ear, and I hadn't been exposed to loud noise. There was no sign of any physical damage, and nothing felt wrong with my ear.

Annoyingly, voices in the "weird" range were hard to take. When I heard news on the radio read by a woman in that alto range, I had to switch stations.

In my left ear, a dial tone sounded about a whole step higher, and distant, and also would shift pitch slightly upwards if I tried to listen to it.

Another weird sound effect is that at home in the evenings, I would hear a rushing sound, like the water was running somewhere in another room. But it was a completely phantom thing—there was no water running anywhere.

I wangled a doctor's appointment that day and nothing was found. I was told to take Sudafed as an anti-inflammatory, and Naproxen as well, and if nothing changed over Christmas weekend, to get an appointment with an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist.

Well, nothing changed, except over Christmas I came down with a monumental head cold that quickly took over and spread throughout my throat and respiratory systems. Uck!

With my hearing still screwed up, I then found that trying to get a referral to a specialist in the week between Christmas and New Year's is like expecting an invitation to join the American Academy of Arts and Letters. It just ain't gonna happen.

So I was getting a little panicky there, as my cold worsened and with my hearing awry and with some other problems that all happened at once.

I got through doing music for a screening of 'Tramp Tramp Tramp' (1926) on Christmas Day, but found I had to point one of my speakers away from me because its output was just too painful to take at the volume it had to be at.

What does this have to do with timing? Well, I was very fortunate, I felt, for this to happen at the one time of the year when I don't have a lot of silent film screenings. Count your blessings!

And it was a good thing, because this went on for two solid weeks. Over this time, my hearing has gotten closer to normal, which is a relief. But the cold got worse, causing me to stay home in bed for two entire days last week.

And then I finally got an appointment with a specialist, which took place yesterday.

Alas, the hearing loss in my left ear isn't related to the head/sinus cold I've had. The hearing loss is "Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss," a condition that happens spontaneously to a relatively small number of people. It occurs when something disturbs the process of how signals are carried from the ear's hardware to the brain, and is little understood. Read on:
About half of people with SSHL will recover some or all of their hearing spontaneously, usually within one to two weeks from onset. Eighty-five percent of those who receive treatment from an otolaryngologist (a doctor, sometimes called an ENT, who specializes in diseases of the ears, nose, throat, and neck) will recover some of their hearing.

Experts estimate that SSHL strikes one person per 5,000 every year, typically adults in their 40s and 50s. The actual number of new cases of SSHL each year could be much higher because the condition often goes undiagnosed. Many people recover quickly and never seek medical help.
If my hearing doesn't recover, the next step would be to take a course of steroids (yikes!) and wish for the best. Hope it doesn't come to that, and I'm encouraged that the left ear seems to be coming back.

Even so, next week I'm having my head scanned as a precaution (hooray!) due to the very small chance there's a disruption (i.e. tumor!) that's causing this.

Meanwhile, the cold is dissipating. Today (Saturday, Jan. 7) is the first day in two weeks I've felt back to normal, or as close to it as I ever am.

Alto voices no longer make my teeth chatter, which is a huge relief. A dial tone sounds almost the same from one to the other.

And just in time for a big gulp of a screening: 'Metropolis' (1927) on Sunday, Jan. 8 at 7 p.m. at the Aeronaut Brewing Co. in Somerville, Mass.

I'm afraid seating is limited, and it sounds like they're very close to selling out. So before you trek down to Somerville for this, please check their online listings for info about ticket status, or call them directly using the contact info in the press release below.

Happy New Year and looking forward to making a lot of music (and hearing it, too!) in 2017!

* * *

Vintage poster art for 'Metropolis.' (1927)

For more info, contact: Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Restored sci-fi classic 'Metropolis' to screen at Aeronaut Brewery on Sunday, Jan. 8

Landmark early fantasy movie about a dystopian future, with half-hour of rediscovered footage, to be shown with live music

SOMERVILLE, Mass.—A silent film hailed as the grandfather of all science fiction fantasy movies will be screened with live music on Sunday, Jan. 8 at 7 p.m. at the Aeronaut Brewery, 14 Tyler St. (near Union Square), Somerville, Mass.

This special screening with live music is open to the public and is part of the Aeronaut's commitment to showcase local music, art, and performance.

Admission is $10 per person. Tickets are available online at; search on "Aeronaut Brewery."

"This is one of the great all-time classics of cinema, and we're thrilled to present it so fans can experience it with an audience and live music," said Aeronaut spokesperson Christine Holmes.

Original music for 'Metropolis' will be performed live by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based composer and silent film accompanist who performs at venues in New England and around the nation.

'Metropolis' (1927), regarded as German director Fritz Lang's masterpiece, is set in a futuristic city where a privileged elite pursue lives of leisure while the masses toil on vast machines and live deep underground.

The film, with its visions of futuristic factories and underground cities, set new standards for visual design and inspired generations of dystopian fantasies from Ridley Scott's 'Blade Runner' to Terry Gilliam's 'Brazil.'

In reviving 'Metropolis' and other great films of cinema's early years, the Aeronaut aims to show silent movies as they were meant to be seen—in high quality prints, on a large screen, with live music, and with an audience.

"All those elements are important parts of the silent film experience," said Rapsis, who will improvise an original live score for 'Metropolis' on the spot. "Recreate those conditions, and the classics of early cinema leap back to life."

In 'Metropolis,' the story centers on an upper class young man who falls in love with a woman who works with the poor. The tale encompasses mad scientists, human-like robots, underground spiritual movements, and industrial espionage, all set in a society divided between haves and have-nots.

A scene from 'Metropolis' (1927).

The version of 'Metropolis' to be screened at the Aeronaut is a newly restored edition that includes nearly a half-hour of missing footage cut following the film's premiere in 1927. The lost footage, discovered in 2008 in an archive in Argentina, has since been added to the existing 'Metropolis,' allowing plot threads and characters to be developed more fully.

When first screened in Berlin, Germany on Jan. 10, 1927, the sci-fi epic ran an estimated 153 minutes. After its premiere, the film's distributors (including Paramount in the U.S.) drastically shortened 'Metropolis' to maximize the film's commercial potential. By the time it debuted in the U.S. later that year, the film was only about 90 minutes long.

Even in its shortened form, 'Metropolis' became a cornerstone of science fiction cinema. Due to its enduring popularity, the film has undergone numerous restorations in the intervening decades in attempts to recover Lang's original vision.

In 1984, the film was reissued with additional footage, color tints, and a pop rock score (but with many of its intertitles removed) by music producer Giorgio Moroder. A more archival restoration was completed in 1987, under the direction of Enno Patalas of the Munich Film Archive, in which missing scenes were represented with title cards and still photographs. More recently, a 2001 restoration combined footage from four archives and ran at a triumphant 124 minutes.

It was widely believed that this would be the most complete version of Lang's film that contemporary audiences could ever hope to see. But, in the summer of 2008, the curator of the Buenos Aires Museo del Cine discovered a 16mm dupe negative of 'Metropolis' that was considerably longer than any existing print.

It included 25 minutes of "lost" footage, about a fifth of the film, that had not been seen since its Berlin debut.

The discovery of such a significant amount of material called for yet another restoration, a 2½-hour version that debuted in 2010 to widespread acclaim. It's this fully restored edition that will be screened at the Aeronaut.

" 'Metropolis' stands as an stunning example of the power of silent film to tell a compelling story without words, and reach across the generations to touch movie-goers from the real future, which means us," said accompanist Jeff Rapsis.

To score a silent film, Rapsis uses a digital synthesizer to recreate the texture of the full orchestra. The soundtrack is created live in real time as the movie is screened. Rather than focus exclusively on authentic music of the period, Rapsis creates new music for silent films that draws from movie scoring techniques that today's audiences expect from the cinema.

The restored 'Metropolis' will be shown on Sunday, Jan. 8 at 7 p.m. at the Aeronaut Brewery, 14 Tyler St. (near Union Square), Somerville, Mass. Admission is $10 per person. Tickets are available online at; search on "Aeronaut Brewery." For more info about Aeronaut Brewing, visit

For more information on the music, visit

Below are the links to the Facebook page and EventBrite page:


“'Metropolis' does what many great films do, creating a time, place and characters so striking that they become part of our arsenal of images for imagining the world.”
—Roger Ebert, 2010, The Chicago Sun-Times

“If it comes anywhere near your town, go see it and thank the movie Gods that it even exists. There’s no star rating high enough.”
—Brian Tallerico,

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For more info, contact:
Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •
Images attached.
More high-resolution digital images available upon request.

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