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Interview: Dianna Dilworth, Director of 'Mellodrama', a Must-See Film for Music Geeks

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When the Chamberlin keyboard made its debut more than 50 years ago, Harry Chamberlin intended for it to revolutionize home entertainment. Little did he know that his invention would change the landscape of rock 'n' roll forever. By incorporating eight-second sound clips into an electro-mechanical keyboard, he essentially created the first music sampler.

The instrument was soon followed by the Mellotron, which emerged after one of Chamberlin's employees stole two units and created a new version of the instrument in England. Over the last half-century, these keyboards have made appearances on everything from the Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever" to Kanye West's "Gold Digger."

Documentary filmmaker Dianna Dilworth has captured the excitement and the drama of these temperamental instruments in her film Mellodrama. Through old movie clips and new interviews with musicians such as Brian Wilson, Mike Pinder and Jon Brion, it's easy to see why the Chamberlin and Mellotron have gained a cult following. LAist caught up with Dilworth last week to learn more about this fascinating film, which will make its Los Angeles debut this Saturday night at the Cinefamily on Fairfax.

LAist: What is it about these two instruments that inspires such devotion, and catches people off guard when they first hear it?

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Dianna Dilworth: The Mellotron was supposed to replicate an orchestra, but it never quite achieved that. Instead, it created this very haunting, cool, creepy music—it sounds like the ghost of an orchestra.