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Linda Cajigas
Jacobs School of Music

Alain Barker
Jacobs School of Music

John Vickers
IU Cinema

Last modified: Friday, January 20, 2012

IU Cinema to host world premiere of silent film score written, conducted by Jacobs School of Music students

Jan. 20, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Spend any time listening to Indiana University Jacobs School of Music sophomore Ari Fisher and orchestral conducting student Nicholas Hersh talk, and it'll soon become clear they've practically memorized the 1922 silent film version of "David Copperfield."

Ari Fisher and Nick Hersh

Jacobs School of Music student Nicholas Hersh, left, will conduct a 17-member student orchestra during the world premiere of a score for the 1922 silent film version of "David Copperfield," written by IU sophomore Ari Fisher, right.

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While neither are film scholars, their expertise stems from their connection to "The David Copperfield Project," a collaboration between IU Cinema and the Jacobs School of Music honoring Charles Dickens' 200th birthday.

IU Cinema commissioned Fisher to score the 75-minute film, a musical undertaking that will make its world premiere at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4, at the cinema. Hersh, a graduate student, will conduct a 17-member student orchestra at the premiere.

"It's a dream come true to see this come to life. I can't word it any other way," Fisher said, likening the difficult yet fulfilling process of crafting the score to creating an auditory red carpet to draw viewers into the onscreen story. "It was a really rewarding experience, and I'm so grateful to have had this opportunity."

IU Cinema director Jon Vickers said "The David Copperfield Project" highlights the creative assets available within the university community.

"This is an opportunity to tap into the great resources available on campus, and highlight some of the talent in the Jacobs School of Music," he said. "Our goal is to commission a score each year, host a world premiere, tour the program and find a way to publish the finished project."

David Copperfield

1922 silent film "David Copperfield"

Print-Quality Photo

Vickers said he is promoting the project to fellow cinema programmers around the country, many of whom have expressed interest in screening the film with its newly commissioned score. A tour schedule will be announced at a later date, and Vickers said he's nursing the ultimate hope of it being presented abroad in October.

This isn't the first time IU Cinema and the Jacobs School collaborated on such a project. In 2011, the cinema sold out two screenings at its first world premiere of a newly arranged salon score for the complete 1927 silent film "Metropolis."

"While this is the second major collaboration between the IU Cinema and the Jacobs School of Music, it is the first of a number of projects envisioning student composers writing for film for presentation at IU Cinema," said Jacobs School of Music composition department chair David Dzubay, who also sat on the jury that selected Fisher's score from more than a dozen other applicants. "The composition department is thrilled about the possibilities for the future and grateful to Jon Vickers for his support of the creation and presentation of new work at the cinema."

Hersh, who also conducted the salon orchestra at the "Metropolis" premiere, said a silent film's score is especially important.

"There's so much you see on screen but don't actually understand due to the lack of audible dialogue. That's why the music is there, to tell the story in between," Hersh said. He called Fisher's score "very playable," allowing him to focus on the "rewarding work" of drawing a lush sound from the musicians.

"Ari's score was probably the richest score of all the submissions," Vickers said. "It had the feel of a Hollywood film score, profound and full. He has created wonderful motifs that follow characters and, overall, is just really well done; audiences will love it."

About the "Charles Dickens Turns 200" film series
"David Copperfield" will screen at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4, at IU Cinema. An encore presentation will screen at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 5. Tickets are $10 and can be obtained at the IU Auditorium Box Office, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or online at

The 35mm print for the screening is being provided courtesy of the Library of Congress. The rare Nordisk version of the film, directed by A.W. Sandberg, tells Dickens' haunting semi-autobiographical tale of a boy sent away by his stepfather after his mother's death, yet who triumphs over adversity.

Other films in the "Charles Dickens Turns 200" series include Charlie Chaplin's "The Kid" (1921); "Oliver Twist" (1922); "A Tale of Two Cities" (1917); and "Orphans of the Storm" (1922). These films feature live piano accompaniment and are free to attend but require tickets, which can be obtained through the IU Auditorium Box Office.

For more information about the film series, visit

About IU Cinema
Indiana University Cinema is a world-class facility and program dedicated to the scholarly study and highest standards of exhibition of film in its traditional and modern forms. For more information on the facility or programs, visit or call 812-856-2503. Click here for a fall program book.