Alloy Orchestra

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Alloy Orchestra
OriginCambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.
Years active1991–present
LabelsAccurate Records, Third Man
WebsiteAlloy Orchestra
MembersTerry Donahue
Ken Winokur
Roger Miller
Past membersCaleb Sampson

Alloy Orchestra is a musical ensemble based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, that performs its own accompaniments to silent films of the classic movie era. Percussionists Terry Donahue and Ken Winokur and keyboardist Caleb Sampson founded the group in 1990. After Sampson's death in 1998,[1] the band was joined by keyboardist Roger Miller, better known as the guitarist of post-punk band Mission of Burma. They have released four collections of film music and have toured both North America and Europe in support of cinematic shows.


Since its first performance on December 31, 1991, in Boston, the Alloy Orchestra has developed an extensive repertoire of music and sounds that it performs during the projection of silent films. Its three musicians use an array of found objects and electronics as well as traditional percussion, wind and keyboard instruments.[2] Three years later, the trio released New Music for Silent Films through Accurate Records.[3] It was followed in 1995 by the album Lonesome, which appeared through BIB Records.[4] The collection Silents from 1997 brought together the contemporary scores for the films Plain Crazy, The Lost World, Nosferatu, Metropolis, and The Unknown.[5]

In 1999 they released Masters of Slapstick, which presented largely incidental music for One Week, Big Business, and Easy Street.[6] In the same year, Entertainment Weekly put the ensemble on its list of the 100 most creative people or groupings in the entertainment world. Terry Gross on National Public Radio called the trio "one of the pioneers in composing new music for old movies" and Lloyd Schwartz discussed their recording of scores to a pair of Buster Keaton films: "Most silent movie music just fills the void. Some of it even gets in the way. But the Alloy Orchestra really helps us see what we're watching and often the music, whether driving or fanciful, is worth listening to on its own."[7]

The ensemble has performed at film festivals and a variety of cultural events worldwide, including an annual performance within Maryland Film Festival each May. They also perform on tour throughout the United States at local movie houses.[2] The trio revise their scores as better and more integral prints of films become available. For instance, they performed a new score to accompany the recently restored version of Fritz Lang's Metropolis at the TCM Classic Movie Festival in April 2010.[8]

Alloy also works in collaboration with film archivists and collectors, such as George Eastman House and the British Film Institute, to present audiences with the very best available prints of some of history's greatest films. For example, Alloy acquired its own new print of Dziga Vertov's Man with a Movie Camera from the Moscow Film Archive and wrote its own score based on Vertov's notes for the film’s 1928 premiere.[9]

In addition to their work on silent films, Alloy Orchestra has done music for contemporary films, including Fast, Cheap & Out of Control and Vakvagany. In 2014 a recording of the music for the film Man with the Movie Camera was released on double vinyl by Third Man Records.[10]


  • New Music for Silent Films (1994)
  • Lonesome (1995)
  • Silents (1997)
  • Man with the Movie Camera (2014)


  1. ^ "Caleb Sampson Obituary". Sun Journal. Retrieved December 11, 2012.
  2. ^ a b Biography on the Official Website, (accessed January 3, 2015).
  3. ^ Listing of the New Music for Silent Films album on, (accessed January 3, 2015).
  4. ^ Listing for the Lonesome album on, (accessed January 3, 2015).
  5. ^ Listing for the Silents collection on, (accessed January 3, 2015).
  6. ^ Listing of Masters of Slapstick collection on, (accessed January 3, 2015).
  7. ^ National Public Radio: Lloyd Schwartz, "The Alloy Orchestra: Silent Movie Scores," March 16, 2004, accessed June 7, 2010
  8. ^ WBUR: Andrea Sea, "Retro 'Metropolis:' Boston Trio Re-Scores A Sci-Fi Classic," April 23, 2010, accessed June 7, 2010
  9. ^ Listing of the films acquired, scored and toured by the Alloy Orchestra, (accessed January 3, 2015).
  10. ^ Newsitem on the Third Man Records website, October 2, 2014.


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