Jonny Best

Silent Film Musician

Four extracts from G.W. Pabst’s 1929 Pandora’s Box starring Louise Brooks. This improvised score was performed at Hull Truck Theatre for Hull Independent Cinema on September 21 2018.


This is an improvised score to The Call of the Road (1920). This is the film that opened Sheffield’s Abbeydale Picture House in December 1920 and this 2015 screening at the Abbeydale celebrated the re-opening of this wonderful venue after almost forty years of closure. This music accompanies a tender, romanic scene in the first half of the film. The recording isn’t great, it’s audio only - and that clicking sound you can hear is the 35mm projector. I have fond memories of this performance - it was one of the first feature films I accompanied. I couldn’t prepare much for this show because the archive print was not available on disc. I did have a simple, five-note figure in my mind before the screening - based on the rhythm of the title, ‘the call of the road’. You can hear it running through this section in various different guises.

The Recycled Silent Movie is a project I worked on for arts festival Hat Fair and Corby Cube. It’s a film by Richard Hurford and SDNA exploring the memories of older residents of Winchester and Corby through personal objects which each person selected for themselves. The film mixes newly shot scenes with archive footage from Winchester and Corby. I worked with young musicians in each town to create semi-improvised scores for performances in December 2018. This version has an improvised piano score, drawing on some of the material used in those live performances. It’s a playful, nostalgic score using pop and musical theatre styles, various pastiches - and some outright stealing. The film’s director wanted me to tug on the audience’s heartstrings a little and I was happy to oblige. The project was funded by Arts Council England and Baring Foundation.