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Storyboarding Noir


Storyboarding Noir gives an inside view of Ran’s Blake’s unique use of storyboarding, a film-making technique, which lies at the heart of his extraordinary music-making. The result of many hours spent watching and re-watching favorite films with his co-author Gard Hartmann, the book brings together Ran’s reminiscences,  specific commentary on 12 classic noirs,  recommendations for future viewing, and several brief demonstration recordings, accessible on his website, based on the films discussed.  These range from Fritz Lang’s 1922 silent epic, Dr. Mabuse, to later masterpieces (Taxi Driver, The Pawnbroker, Claude Chabrol’s Le Boucher), and in between, classics from noir’s Golden Age—including Laura, Night of the Hunter, Pickup on South Street, and the film that launched him as an 11-year old on a lifelong love affair with the movies, The Spiral Staircase.

For musicians, Storyboarding Noir demonstrates a method for creating original and distinctive work. For moviegoers, it offers a new perspective on the rich and varied history of film noir. And for those who’ve followed Ran Blake’s remarkable career, it provides a glimpse into the mind of this indispensable artist. Woven throughout is a discussion of the creative process that is relevant to artistic endeavors in general.


I’ve been storyboarding all my life, without knowing the term until I read Truffaut’s book on Hitchcock. Growing up, we had three pianos in the house. I was rather good, not great. Scales not too bad, never did too many arpeggios, can’t stand them. Sight reading hopeless. My teacher would play a little bit. I could retain some by ear. But left alone I improvised dreams, ghosts. Images would come to my mind, and I’d make up a story or something in response to what I was seeing. 


I’m not good at drawing, so I don’t make cartoons like Hitchcock, but I often make some kind of a messy sketch as a film director would. Perhaps I’ll put a musical theme next to a picture for clarity. Of course, when I’m playing, I forget about Ran Blake in Brookline. Something suddenly hits you and you just go with it. When that happens, I feel almost in a trance. I’m actually seeing images of what I’m playing. The other night I was doing some free stuff, and suddenly I found myself taking a walk in a street near Place Monge with an old friend of mine, Jean-Jacques Pussiau who ran Owl Records, and we were walking down these little side streets. Then something happened and I stopped.


Storyboarding Noir can be ordered here for $30.00. It is also available on Amazon.

Storyboarding Noir

Shimmering Shadows:
The Music and Life
of Ran Blake


Coming soon!

Fifteen years in the making, the definitive Ran Blake biography is finally here! Taking its departure point from hundreds of hours of interviews between Blake and his one-time student, Leo McFadden, Shimmering Shadows paints a detailed portrait of this iconoclast pianist, composer, and pedagogue. Author Janet McFadden weaves the conversations into a coherent narrative that is supplemented by meticulous research, drawing upon a vast array of primary sources. Included also are a selection of rare photographs, dating back to Blake's early childhood, which have been beautifully restored for this publication. The book is complimented by seven appendices, including a comprehensive discography. One hundred pages of endnotes and an index follow, making the volume an excellent resource for future researchers in the field. 632 pages. 

Shimmering Shadows
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