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Fri, Jun 02


Epsilon Spires

THE DOCKS OF NEW YORK w/ Music by Donald Sosin & Joanna Seaton

Joanna Seaton and Donald Sosin perform their piano & vocal score commissioned by Criterion for Josef von Sternberg's THE DOCKS OF NEW YORK (1928), a haunting and wistful hymn to the forgotten men and women of the working class looking for their own slice of happiness in dark, foreboding places.

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THE DOCKS OF NEW YORK w/ Music by Donald Sosin & Joanna Seaton
THE DOCKS OF NEW YORK w/ Music by Donald Sosin & Joanna Seaton

Time & Location

Jun 02, 2023, 8:30 PM – 10:00 PM

Epsilon Spires, 190 Main St, Brattleboro, VT 05301, USA

About the event

“Miles of docks wait day and night for strange cargo – and stranger men”

Josef von Sternberg's The Docks of New York (1928, 75 minutes) is an elegant and haunting love story about battered souls at the bottom of the barrel. Experience this gorgeous cinematic spectacle with a live soundtrack on piano by one of today’s leading silent film composers, Donald Sosin joined by vocalist, Joanna Seaton!

Roughneck stoker Bill Roberts (George Bancroft) gets into all sorts of trouble during a brief shore leave when he falls hard for Mae (Betty Compson), a wise and weary dance-hall girl, in Josef von Sternberg’s evocative portrait of working-class waterfront folk. Fog-enshrouded cinematography by Harold Rosson (The Wizard of Oz), expressionist set design by Hans Dreier (Sunset Boulevard), and sensual performances by Bancroft and Compson make this one of the legendary director’s finest works, and one of the most exquisitely crafted films of the era. Sternberg utilises the milieu of the fog waterfront in New York City to study his characters, illuminating different aspects of humanity. Through their petty hopes, dreams and rivalries, Sternberg channels human flaws and desires such as greed, lust, love and recklessness, as well as the idealism and heroism of a humanity manifesting itself inside a dark, gritty world of flophouses, gin-mills, back-alleys and docks.

"As beautiful as anything in cinema are the shots conveying the raw power of the stokers feeding the ship’s boilers; the fluid grace of the camera gliding through a tavern full of raucous drunks; the luminosity of von Sternberg’s fallen angels, Betty Compson and Olga Baclanova, electrifying this dank demimonde with their louche eroticism; the thrill of a subjective point-of-view shot suddenly stained by tears; the many swift and lyrical dissolves, all suggesting an ineffable melancholy for time’s fleeting and fragile nature." 

-Eddie Muller, The San Francisco Silent Film Festival

"A tale of love, heartbreak, hope and squalor, The Docks of New York is partially based on John Monk Saunders’ story “The Dock Walloper”. Harold Rosson’s elegant cinematography, seamlessly passing from scene to scene, and Sternberg’s aesthetic delight in light and shadow, create a visually breathtaking spectacle. The ships, “Tarrying in an endless journey from port to port” as an opening titlecard states, feel almost existential. The stoker’s work is a Sisyphusian task that is never complete and suggests no possibility of advancement. His work leads him from one sordid event to the next. Such may be the reality of life for many seamen, which, in a sense, is what this film is really about.  In a sense, Bill, the stoker only gets a reprieve from this shoveling when he is brawling or drinking, a state that is equally true of his co-workers. The dockworker’s meaningless labour to achieve simple subsistence is, in a way, a comment on the nature of all labour." -Senses of Cinema

Donald Sosin is one of the foremost silent film composers in the world, with 49 years of performing at major film festivals and archives, from MoMA, Lincoln Center, BAM, Telluride, San Francisco and Seattle to Pordenone, Bologna, Berlin, Vienna, Ljubljana, Rijeka, Moscow, Odessa, Bangkok, and Shanghai. He has played at Harvard, Yale, Emory, U. Chicago, U. Michigan, U. Kentucky, U. Wisconsin, Berkeley, Brown, Dartmouth, Oberlin, Swarthmore, Columbia, and other campuses, and lectured on silent film music at the Aspen Institute of Humanistic Studies and the University of Michigan. Sosin has previously performed a live soundtrack for City Without Jews with violinist Alica Svigals at Epsilon spires. 

A native of Rye, NY, he studied piano from the age of four and composition in Munich, Ann Arbor and Manhattan. Donald has played in Broadway pits and regional theaters, and has conducted dozens of musicals. Mr. Sosin’s scores accompany silent films on over 60 DVDs on the Criterion Collection, Milestone, Kino, Flicker Alley and several European labels, and on Turner Classic Movies. Selected videography: Nosferatu, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Spies, A Story of Floating Weeds, The Ancient Law, Pioneers of African-American Cinema, Women Film Pioneers, Upstream, King of Kings, Filibus, and dozens of shorts by Chaplin, Keaton, Arbuckle, Lloyd, Sennett, Bowers, Linder, Normand. Donald and his family live in northwest Connecticut. He is currently touring with violinist Alicia Svigals, performing their collaborative scores for The Ancient Law and City Without Jews. Donald and his wife, singer/percussionist Joanna Seaton, often perform together, and lead workshops in silent film music for high school and college students. They have written and recorded songs for many silent films as well as special material for the Chicago Symphony Chorus and other choral groups.



    Admission for one to DOCKS OF NEW YORK w/ Live Piano Score performed by Donald Sosin. Popcorn & Refreshments will be provided. Please choose your seating with respect for others and let us know if you require special arrangements. $2 from every ticket goes directly towards the historic preservation of the venue. Thank you for your support! Enjoy the program!

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  • Sliding-Scale Ticket

    General Admission Tickets for this event are $20. Thanks to a generous grant from the Adelard A. and Valeda Lea Roy Foundation, subsidized tickets are available for those who self-identify as experiencing financial hardship. In order to make this program accessible for all, we are offering tickets by sliding scale. Taking equity and inclusion into account, please pay what you can to help support the artists and venue.

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  • Give Support For Future Events

    I would like to add a donation to my ticket to express my support and appreciation of the adventurous and intellectually-engaging programs at Epsilon Spires. Thank you & keep up the good work!

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