Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Go into Bright, Find the Light

When Lieven Bertels, atistic coordinator of the Holland Festival in Amsterdam approached me last January here in NYC and commissioned a new live score from me for the Netherlands Film Museum's beautifully restored new 35mm print of Abel Gance's silent anti-war masterpiece "J'Accuse" (1919, I jumped at the chance..

To be composed in collaboration with the young Dutch-Iranian composer Reza Namavar and the Ensemble Cameleon, a modern Amsterdam-based new music aggregation led by Wilmar Devisser and boasting the talents of such neo-classical stars as violinist/violist Emi Ohi Resnick, his offer to work on this film score to a monumental albeit little-seen film seemed a marvelous challenge which I rose to meet eagerly...

Now I had known Lieven since he had booked me with "The Golem" in a venue in Belgium back in the early 90's...and I'd heard of this infamous film by the legendary (but still relatively obscure to the general public) and still controversial French director Gance, whose lengthy restored "Napoleon" had played at Radio City Music Hall in the mid-80's under the auspices of Francis Ford Coppolla, with a symphonic score by his father Carmine...in fact I recall the young cinefantastiqueophiliac Joe Dante (when but a fan, pre-"Gremlins") list "J'Accuse" in his account of the hundred scariest horror films of all time in an article entitled "Dante's Inferno", which ran in the pages of my favorite horror film magazine of the 60's, "Famous Monsters of Filmland", issue #18 to be precise...and there he described the penultimate sequence of "J'Accuse", when the dead from World War I obey on command the voice of another living-dead soldier to rise up and walk the earth once more ("Levez-vous!" Levez-vous!"), their maimed wretched bandaged legions rising up off the blood-soaked earth to stalk and shuffle right off the battlefield in a ghoulish phalanx of zombielike reanimated corpses, to evetually march beneath l'Arc du Triomph--in an unsettling fantastic precursor to actual newsreel footage of the Nazis doing the same some 20-odd years later--and on into the French countryside, returning to the homes of their loved ones to glare balefully at them through cottage windows, to check on whether their surviving family members have been ethical and honorable spouses and family members in their death-absence...an absolutely chilling and horrific sequence, albeit from a film I'd never seen till very recently, only had heard described (like my first close encounter with "The Golem", which I also first read about and seen stills from in the ages of FM--my appetite ha been whetted)...

"J'Accuse" premiere, Holland Festival 2009, 6/24/09

click to enlarge | photos by Bram Belloni

The film, though running close to 3 hours, was just as intense and worthy of attention as I'd heard upon finally viewing it on DVD...and over the last few months I began working on the score intensively, in tandem with Reza and Wilmar, who became constant telephone companions as we correlated scenes together and argued over who would score which sequence, here was a lot of give and take here to be sure...lovely Japanese-Jewish Emi Ohi Resnick was in town in April for a concert with a Dutch string quartet she plays in and it gave me the opportunity to go into the studio and put down violin parts over the title sequence music which I had composed on my 1946 Gibson J-45, you can hear my title music demo recorded by my guy Jason Candler (and also some of Reza's music for the Ensemble Cameleon...and more from me) here in a sequence of music from the film which previewed in the pages of the Dutch national newspaper De Volkskrant last week in the run-up to the actual "J'Accuse" premiere held on Tuesday and Wednesday nights June 23rd and 24th in the Rabozaal of the Staddschouwburg in Amsterdam...

Joris, Wilmar, Sonja, Gary, Emi, Floris, Andrew, Reza and Bart at the "J'Accuse" premiere, Holland Festival 2009, Staddschouwburg Amsterdam, 6/24/09

At Cafe Stanislavsky before "J'Accuse" at the Holland Festival, Amsterdam, 6/24/09
Gary & the Ensemble Camelon w/ collaborator Reza Namavar
l to r: Floris Mijnders (cello), Reza, moi, Andre Heuvelman (trumpet), Joris Ven Rijn (violin), Emi Ohi Resnick (violin, viola), Wilmar Devisser (bass), Sonja Van Beek (violin), Bart De Vrees (perc)

click to enlarge

Suffice to say, it was a stone gas and an honour for me to work on the score with such talented and sympathetic folks at the EC and Reza, we really bonded almost instantly from the time I arrived there for rehearsals (the first one--an 8 hour balabusta--landed smack dab on my birthday, June 20th!!) with the guys and gals (Wilmar on bass conducted the Ensemble, whose members comprise Emi, lovely Sonja Van Beek on violin, Joris Ven Rijn violin, Bart De Vrees percussion, Andrew Heuvelman trumpet, and Floris Mijnders cello)...I took a break in the middle of this rehearsal to race off to De Bijenkorf Deprtment Store in the Daam Square of downtown Amsterdam to play a medley of my music for the film on electric guitar in a relatively hothouse-like show window devoted to events occurring during the Festival (which had a spectacular variety to it over several weeks--including a concers by Antony of Antony and The Johnsons with the Metropole Orchestra, a fim/text/theater multi-media piece entitled The Antonioni Project based on work by the celebrated Italian director, a new version of the opera "Carmen", and much more), Paul B and Esther and their daughter Bibiche were on hand to catch this and Paul snapped a few shots during my performance...

Appearance at De Bijenkorf in Amsterdam, June 2009

click to enlarge | photo by Esther B

At the B-hive (De Bienkorf, Amsterdam) with my driver/roadie Chris Sommers from the Holland Festival, June 2009

Outside the Staddschouwburg in the newly opened Rabozaal after 'J'Accuse' rehearsal, Amsterdam, June 2009

Sonja Van Beek of the Cameleon Ensemble and Gary at 'J'Accuse' rehearsal, June 2009

Gary and Reza Namavar in "J'Accuse" rehearsals, June 2009

Gary and co-founder and conductor of the Cameleon Ensemble Wilmar Devisser discuss the finer points of their "J'Accuse" score monster, June 2009

click to enlarge | photos by Paul B

Anyway the premiere was a total dream, the audience (sold-out both nights in a venue that held 500 capacity) sat spellbound througout the 3 hours in total silent concentration on the film and our music, you couldnt hear the proverbial pin drop--and then rose spontaneously both nights to give us a standing ovation!! What a thrill it was indeed...and I can't wait to play the work again with my fellow collaborators, our interaction on sections of the film were truly magical, and I am haunted by the spectral images of "J'Accuse" now till the rest of my days, they are burned in my consciousness forever along with the music we created for it...thanks so much again to Pierre Audi, Artistic Director of the Holland Festival, and of course to Lieven Bertils and Sigi Geisler and Dejoere Dejong and all the other talented and sympathetic people who were involved in this undertaking.--THANK YOU for believing in the dream...

Gary Lucas, June 2009

click to enlarge | photos by Bram Belloni

and then it was goodbye Amsterdam, hello Malaga!!

Wonderful town, my first time there, a tropical paradise in fact nestled on the Costa Brava in southern Spain, home to my friend, journalist, suthor and agent Hector Marquez and his lovely wife Eliezer (an excellent photographer, in the tradition of Dare Wright)...

Hector having hooked up my show at the Valladolid Film Festival last fall outdid himself with the preparations for this gig, and really laid on the charm--4 nights in a lovely beachside hotel overlooking the ocean nd lavish feasts at his favorite restaurants on the beach, in typical southern style beginning post 11pm round midnight...succulent feasts of fried fish, calamares, calamaritos...mmmmmmmmmmmm (and I never was much of a fish eater truth to tell...until Now...couldn't resist gobbling breaded sardines and white fish roasted on spits over an open fire)...and really enjoyed conversing with Hector's charming friends...including Isaki Lacuesta and his wife Isa Campos, Isaki has made a superb documentary about the legendary Gypsy singer El CamarĂ³n de la Isla entitled "La Leyenda del Tiempo (The Legend of Time)", in which a Japanese woman visits the singer's birthplace yearning to discover the secret of his style...I was first turned onto "The Shrimp"'s fantastic music by my friend the great Dutch painter Joep Ver back in the early 90's, and have been an enormous fan of his music ever since...

Before closing the Malaga Film Fest with "The Golem", Malaga Spain 6/26/09

photo by Hector Marquez | click to enlarge

Another oceanside feast brought forth the company of Hector's friends the celebrated Spanish novelist Jose Antonio Garriga, and his lovely wife, Blanca Machuca, a professor of scenography (theatrical design)...they were both en route to Venezuela to attend a conference on the work of one of my favorite writers, Roberto Bolano organized by Bolano's widow...such charming conversationalists all, I found their company remarkably invigorating...

and as for the gig??

YEAHHHHHH....(I miss Malaga!!)

I closed the Malaga Film Festival with "The Golem" to a resounding ovation from the audience...such warm and friendly folks in Malaga, such erudite questions and observations on the music and the film at the evening's end...it was a wonderful climax to my 10 day trip to Europe, made even more piquant by the visit to Malaga of my friends the amazing and lovely vocalist Marina Conti from Rome, and the fantastic producer/recording engineer Harold Burgon and his lovely wife Kate, who came to Malaga from Harold's recording studio down the road apiece in Granada for the show, we all went out to a Turkish fast food restaurant off the beach at 1am afterwards (well that was the only restaurant that remained open at that hour!) and had a fun old time of it reminiscing (Harold engineered my earliest records with Rolo McGinty of The Woodentops, including "Skin the Rabbit" and "Astronomy Domine" back in the mid 80's, and recently remixed "Coming Clean" for me) and scheming for the future...

Back home in NYC now for less than a day...relaxing with Caroline and Lulu (hah!!)...

Tonight I'm off to fly to Sao Paulo Brazil, to close the 1st International Fantasy Film Festival of Sao Paulo-SP Terror with "The Golem"...

I also am recording a solo performance for the Brazilian Pop Load website and their radio show Poploaded while there...

and then it's off to Bogota Colombia next week, for a mystery recording date and a performance with...


wouldn't you like to know???

Keep watching this space :-)




Anonymous montreal florist said...

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10/14/2009 10:48 AM  

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