One Week (2014-15)

Music to accompany the 1920 silent comedy starring Buster Keaton, 22 minutes


Orchestra: 3 (3 dbl picc) 3 3 (3 dbl bs cl) 3/ 4 3 3 1/ timp 2 perc hp pno strings


Premiere: 31 January 2015, Columbia (MD) Orchestra, Jason Love, Music Director and Conductor Andrew Simpson, guest conductor



One Week Clip 1, "Building the House"


One Week Clip 2, "Storm"


One Week Clip 3, "Train Hit"



Program Notes:

Dear Nephew:
As a wedding present I am giving you a house and lot no. 99 Apple Street.
Wish you joy.

Uncle Mike


This short note, thrust into Buster Keaton's hands immediately following his wedding at the start of the 1920 comedy ONE WEEK, sets up all of the action which follows.  Buster needs seven days to build his new house, aided only by the tools he has on hand and the help of an unsympathetic handyman (who was, incidentally, turned down for marriage by the woman who is now Keaton's wife).  This potential powder keg of problems blows up – gradually – in surprising and wonderful ways.


Part of what makes ONE WEEK, or any Keaton film, so entertaining is Keaton's comedic style: it's full–blown slapstick stunt comedy, and Keaton does all the stunts himself.  He really falls from a second-story perch, really stands still while the side of a house falls down around him: there is no computer animation, no stunt doubles.  And, no matter what happens, Keaton neither weeps, laughs or smiles.  He reacts to all which comes his way, good or ill, with the same stoic face: for this reason, he was nicknamed "the great stoneface" in the 1920's.


My purpose in composing this full orchestral film score is to help ONE WEEK tell its story by blending the music as seamlessly as possible with the film.  Mine is an entirely new score, carefully designed to track the action of each scene (with one exception: there is a short quotation of the early 20th-century song "A Perfect Day," by Carrie Jacobs-Bond, because the film shows an image of the sheet music on the piano in the new Keaton home).  Sometimes, events on screen are exactly matched by the orchestra; sometimes, the music flows in support of the general mood of the scene.  The style of the music is mostly bright and light, in keeping with the film's happy (though sometimes slightly sour!) nature.  There is a powerful thunderstorm just past the midpoint of the film, however, which provides for stylistic contrast.  And ONE WEEK contains one of the best surprise endings in all film.


--Andrew Earle Simpson

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