Music » Music Lead

The O'Riley Factor

How a Cleveland pianist made a Hollywood icon ornery



Acouple of weeks ago, old-Hollywood actress Kim Novak crawled out from wherever she's been the past 25 years and back in the news by claiming she was physically assaulted by the award-hogging black-and-white silent movie The Artist. "I want to report a rape," she wrote in a full-page ad she took out in one of those trade papers nobody under the age of 70 reads. "I feel as if my body — or, at least my body of work — has been violated by the movie." Turns out she's pissed that The Artist may have borrowed elements from composer Bernard Hermann's excellent score for Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, the only movie Novak starred in that most people have seen.

You can thank Cleveland pianist, NPR host, and Radiohead fan Christopher O'Riley for Novak's rant. O'Riley and cellist Matt Haimovitz (who has adapted Led Zeppelin on his instrument) pay tribute to that very same Hermann score on their most recent album, Shuffle.Play.Listen. Novak dropped O'Riley a note, telling him she loved his arrangement. He in turn told her that he thought she was the direct inspiration for the super-romantic music. "I probably put that idea into her head," he says sheepishly.

Hermann's Vertigo music is the centerpiece of Shuffle.Play.Listen's first disc, which also includes classical pieces by Stravinsky and Janácek. The second disc is filled with piano-and-cello covers of the sort of thing O'Riley has become famous for, like Arcade Fire and Radiohead. "It's nice having someone like Matt, who's very willing to try new things," he says. "He was familiar with some of the songs, but not in the crazy way I am. He doesn't have 200 versions of [Radiohead's] 'Pyramid Song' on his iPod like I do."

A native of Chicago, O'Riley moved to Cleveland seven years ago to be with his girlfriend. Since 2000, he has hosted NPR's popular classical music program From the Top, which spotlights up-and-coming musicians. He's closing in on his 250th episode of the show and working on arranging more music — classical and indie — for piano. "The thing that appeals to me is the harmonies and textures," he says. "If there's a simple texture, it's very hard for me to get excited about making an arrangement."

TANKS FOR NOTHING: We'd love to give you more insight on why noise-rockers Scarcity of Tanks released not one but two new albums this week, but frontman Matthew Wascovich decided he didn't want Scene writing about his band. That change of tune came after he asked to see the story that would be written about him prior to press time — a no-no among those of us who still cling to 19th-century journalistic principles. We can tell you that the last SOT record, 2011's Sensation Grade, was one of the best local releases of the year. We can also tell you that the 19 songs on the new albums, Vulgar Defender and Fear Is Not Conscience, could have fit on a single CD, but, for reasons Wascovich no longer wants to share, he put them on two separate albums, like Use Your Illusion or those Bright Eyes records nobody listens to. Are they any good? You'll have to ask Wascovich about that.

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