Composer, saxophonist, bandleader and film music scholar Phillip Johnston released his new soundtrack for The Adventures of Prince Achmed via Asynchronous. The album contains the music he scored for the 1926 animation film of the same name and broke up into twelve individual tracks. Listen to “Pari Banu Kidnapped” from the album via the player below:
The Adventures of Prince Achmed was directed by female film pioneer Charlotte “Lotte” Reiniger and is the oldest documented surviving animated film. It is based upon One Thousand and One Nights, a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales commonly referred to as The Arabian Nights.
Reiniger employed a silhouette animation technique she invented, inspired by the Southeast Asian Wayang shadow puppets. The technique involved manipulating cutouts made from cardboard thing sheets of lead under a camera. The production also involved several notable avant-garde animators, including filmmaker Walter Ruttman, best remembered for his 1927 masterwork Berlin: Symphony of a Great City.
Johnston’s music is a continuous score of 65-minutes to be performed live with the film by a quartet of soprano sax, trombone and two keyboards, against a pre-recorded track of samples, loops and live drums. For this recording of The Adventures of Prince Achmed, the music is performed by Johnston with trombonist James Greening, drummer Nic Cecire and organist-keyboardists Alister Spence and Casey Golden.
Johnston, who has been composing and performing original scores for silent films for 25 years, previously worked on the scores for such films as Faust (F.W. Murnau, 1926), The Unknown (Tod Browning, 1927) and The Merry Frolics of Méliès, which compiled selected works of pioneering French cineaste Georges Méliès from 1902 to 1909. The label Asynchronous released Johnston’s The Adventures of Prince Achmed simultaneously with another Johnston project: Diggin’ Bones, a jazz album by Phillip Johnston & The Coolerators.