The Navigator (2007)

for theater organ, 60 minutes


Instrumentation: theater organ



Performer: Andrew E Simpson, organ (live performance, AFI Silver Theatre)


Film synopsis and musical notes:

Keaton plays Rollo Treadway, a daft young rich man who winds up stranded on a steamer with his would-be fiancee (unnamed, played by Kathryn Maguire) who has already rejected his proposal of marriage.  The film focuses at first on the hilarious misadventures which befall a pampered wealthy pair who must suddenly fend for themselves on a boat set adrift in the Pacific (fortunately, well-supplied with provisions).  In time, they adapt marvelously well, and together escape attacking cannibals by the thinnest of hairs. 


My score for The Navigator was my theatre organ debut, in late May 2007 at the American Film Institute's Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, MD.  This film offers marvelous opportunities for diverse musical textures.  The underwater sequence in which Keaton, in a deep-sea diving suit, works to fix a breach in the Navigator's hull and is attacked by a swordfish, suggests an ethereal, otherwordly musical accompaniment, which the slow-motion action supports particularly well.  The cannibals also invite drum-like sounds played low on the organ manuals. 


Two songs are referred to in the course of the film: an early 20th-century song titled "Alice, Where art Thou?" and "Many Brave Hearts are Asleep in the Deep."  Also, a song from Victor Herbert's 1905 operetta Mademoiselle Modiste, "Kiss Me Again," is referenced.  When musical artifacts are referred to in a film, it is an invitation to engage with the tune without necessarily quoting it in full.  Rather, my structured improvisation takes the tune as its subject, and builds a new structure on that foundation.


--Andrew Earle Simpson

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