The sound of silents

Babylon cinema, Berlin: live organ accompaniment to silent movies

Berlin's Babylon cinema first opened in 1929, and still retains much of its period glamour. Known today for sharp, art-house inflected programming, it's long been a destination for the city's discerning cinephiles.

The real star of the show, though, is the Babylon's miraculously preserved cinema organ (no smirking, please).

'Stummfilme' or silent movies at the Babylon cinema, Berlin

Berlin's only surviving such instrument, and the largest in Germany, the Philips-Kino-Orgel was built to provide a thrilling musical accompaniment to silent movies, complete with sound effects including beating drums, car horns and ringing telephones.

And with credentials such as 100 stops and 913 pipes, even non-experts can work out that this is a rather special music-making machine.

It was restored, along with the rest of the cinema, as far back as 2001, but its subsequent use has been a patchy affair.

Now, however, the Babylon seems to have found a full-time organist (less easy then it may sound, given the instrument's complexity and the need to improvise entirely for a movie's duration) and promises a frequent programme of silent movie classics with 'soundtracks' provided the old-fashioned way.

At time of writing, many of these performances are FREE, so check the website for further details. Advance booking highly recommended.


See also:
A hidden 1920s cinema
Casablanca at midnight
A street art diary
Through a window to a secret cinema

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Babylon cinema: Rosa-Luxemburg-Stra├če 30, 10178 Berlin

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