Now one of the world’s most-acclaimed silent movie pianists, Philip Carli saw his first silent films at Disneyland in California. It was love at first sight. These silent films inspired him to create little films of his own as a kid, and experiment with accompanying them on the piano.
At thirteen, he set up a projector in the school auditorium and accompanied The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923). Some teachers wandered in and out of the auditorium, and later asked him to accompany Hunchback for the entire school—which was a hit. This inspired Philip Carli and his parents to put together a summer silent film series, which became Philip Carli’s summer job. He’s now played at the Museum of Modern Art, the Library of Congress, and has performed at the Dryden Theater since 1989 for their Tuesday Silent Film series.
“I’m a film accompanist,” Philip Carli says. “You need to play ahead of the film, and have a feel for drama and opera.” Philip Carli especially enjoys the communal aspect of film, and contributing to a larger presentation. “You’ve got to know how to add color and tell a story through your music,” he says, which he says applies to any kind of accompaniment—film or art song.
His advice to aspiring accompanists of all kinds is simple “Learn how to tell and story and tell a joke.”