University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Ensemble Reanimates Silent Films with Live Accompaniment

Maya DerenRelâche, Philadelphia’s internationally renowned new music ensemble, returns for an encore year as ensemble-in-residence at the Penn Museum, 3260 South Street on the University of Pennsylvania campus. The new three-concert series, “Music for the Mystery of Silents,” features live accompaniment to silent films presented in the Museum’s recently renovated Widener Hall. The series kicks off Sunday, November 16 at 3:00 pm, with Maya Deren: New Music and her Surreal Silent Films, with live music by Teiji Ito, Kyle Gann, Leslie Burrs, and Chuck Holdeman. The series continues with performances in January and May 2015.

Relâche concert tickets are just $15 ($10 for Museum members), in advance or at the door, while supplies last.  A ticket may be used to enter and explore the Museum’s international galleries after 2:00 pm on the day of the concert. November 16 tickets may be purchased at the Penn Museum calendar online (

Maya Deren: New Music and her Surreal Silent Films begins the “Music for the Mystery of Silents” series November 16 with three short films by the Russian born filmmaker. The first female avant-garde filmmaker, Deren made a career in New York and elsewhere in the 1940s and 50s. She earned a place in the history of the genre for her technical tricks as well as her unusual visions, and she starred in her films, too—a charismatic woman in every sense. For her Meshes of the Afternoon, Relâche performs their own arrangement of a score composed by Deren's husband Teiji Ito in 1959. The Deren film At Land, always shown in silence in the past, will have an original score by Relâche member Chuck Holdeman. For Deren's The Very Eye of Night with fancifully film-processed choreography by Anthony Tudor, Relâche has chosen the Venus music composed for the ensemble by Kyle Gann, one piece from Gann's very large cycle The Planets, which comprises an entire CD recorded by Relâche.

To round out the program, Relâche performs Voyeuristic Absurdities (from Mingus to Diallo), commissioned from Philadelphia composer and jazz flutist Leslie Burrs in 2001, a work included on the group's CD 8 Point Turn.

“Music for the Mystery of Silents” continues with programs Sunday afternoons, January 25 and May 3. In January Mummies Outside the Box features a brand new score by Mike Stambaugh for "Eyes of the Mummy." In May Les Mystères Français features the 1912 silent mystery "Roches de Kador" with a score commissioned from French composer Regis Huby.

About RelâcheRelache Ensemble

Relâche is a new music ensemble that for over thirty years has maintained an international reputation as a leader in commissioning and performing the innovative music of our time. Relâche has a unique sound—flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, viola, piano, bass and percussion, and performs works that are neither classical, nor popular, but somewhere in between—a melding of Western classical traditions with jazz, rock, electronica, world music, and more.

On November 16 the group's instrumental roster is complemented by New York keyboardist Jim Ridl. The other players are Michele Kelly, flute; Lloyd Shorter, oboe and English horn; Bob Butryn, clarinet; Chuck Holdeman, bassoon; Amy Leonard, viola; Douglas Mapp, bass; and Chris Hanning, percussion.

Among the oldest continuously operating, non-profit organizations and chamber ensembles dedicated to contemporary music in the United States, Relâche has consistently offered world-class performances and presentations of music by leading American and international composers and artists. To date, Relâche has performed more than 600 concerts in the Greater Philadelphia area, around the country and the globe, including residency, festival, and touring appearances in South America, Japan, and Eastern and Western Europe. The Ensemble boasts a touring-ready repertoire of over 50 pieces and a repertory library of over 400 works. Relâche commissions include works by Robert Ashley, Kitty Brazelton, John Cage, Uri Caine, Fred Frith, Kyle Gann, Philip Glass, Fred Ho, Michael Nyman, Pauline Oliveros, Bobby Previte, George Russell, Somei Satoh, and Lois V Vierk. Relâche has released seven CDs to date, from Relâche on Edge (1991), to Comix Trips (2014).

Contact Relâche via emailing Chuck Holdeman, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or calling (215) 574-8248. 

About the Penn Museum

The Penn Museum (the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) is dedicated to the study and understanding of human history and diversity. Founded in 1887, the Museum has sent more than 300 archaeological and anthropological expeditions to all the inhabited continents of the world. With an active exhibition schedule and educational programming for children and adults, the Museum offers the public an opportunity to share in the ongoing discovery of humankind's collective heritage.

The Penn Museum is located at 3260 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104 (on Penn's campus, across from Franklin Field). Public transportation to the Museum is available via SEPTA's Regional Rail Line at University City Station; the Market-Frankford Subway Line at 34th Street Station; trolley routes 11, 13, 34, and 36; and bus routes 21, 30, 40, and 42. Museum hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, with extended hours the first Wednesday of each month (to 8:00 pm). Closed Mondays and holidays. Guests with day-of Relâche tickets may explore the Museum between 2:00 pm and performance time at 3:00 pm. Regular Museum admission donation is $15 for adults; $13 for senior citizens (65 and above); free for U.S. Military; $10 for children and full-time students with ID; free to Members, PennCard holders, and children 5 and younger. Hot and cold meals and light refreshments are offered to visitors with or without Museum admission in The Pepper Mill Café; the Museum Shop offers a wide selection of gifts, books, games, clothing and jewelry. The Penn Museum can be found on the web at For general information call 215.898.4000. 

Photos, top to bottom: Still from the experimental 1943 short film Meshes of the Afternoon by Maya Deren. The still shows Deren looking out of a window. By Maya Deren (1917–1961) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.The Relâche New Music Ensemble (Photo: Christine Hanning).


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