Category: Blogcast

Roulette Artistic Director Receives Champion of New Music Award

Jim Staley – Roulette Artistic Director

Brooklyn, NYRoulette Intermedium founder and Artistic Director James S. Staley has been announced as a recipient of the American Composers Forum 2018 Champion of New Music Award. Established in 2005, the Champion of New Music Award recognizes and honors individuals and ensembles that have made a significant and sustained contribution over time to the work and livelihoods of contemporary composers. Staley’s career as a presenter and supporter of pioneering artists spans several decades.

In 1978 Staley co-founded Roulette Intermedium, the now-iconic experimental performing arts venue. Roulette began as a collective of composers, musicians, and dancers doing projects in Chicago, Minneapolis, and New York City. It soon found a home in a Tribeca loft, where it operated for years and where Staley still lives, and quickly gained a reputation for presenting tomorrow’s most acclaimed avant garde artists. Julius Eastman, Arthur Russell, and John Zorn were among the many artists who premiered early work at Roulette in the 1980s. In 2011, Staley moved Roulette to a 400-seat state-of-the art theater in Downtown Brooklyn and expanded the concert series to include more dance and new media offerings. Roulette now presents more than 120 experimental performances each year and continues to support the work of artists, particularly composers, who boldly challenge disciplinary boundaries and create compelling art. In 2018 alone, Roulette will award $87,000 to eleven extraordinary musical artists of promise for the creation of new and adventurous work.

In addition to his work at Roulette, Staley is an accomplished trombonist and improvising musician. He has released numerous albums, played on many records, and is a member of the Tone Road Ramblers, a new music ensemble formed in 1981. Long-time collaborators include Sam Bennett, Bill Frisell, Fred Frith, Shelley Hirsch, Wayne Horvitz, Ikue Mori, Zeena Parkins, Elliott Sharp, Davey Williams, John Zorn and choreographers Pooh Kaye, Debra Loewen, and Sally Silvers.

The American Composers Forum will present Staley with the Champion of New Music Award at an event at Roulette on September 25, 2018. His fellow 2018 awardees are pianist, writer, and producer Sarah Cahill and flutist, composer, and educator Nicole Mitchell.


**Photo credit: Doron Sadja

[DANCEROULETTE] Kyle Marshall Choreography: Colored

What: An interactive dance piece celebrating the twisted beauty of blackness.
When: Tuesday, April 10, 2018, 8pm
Where: Roulette, 509 Atlantic Ave Brooklyn, 2/3/4/5/A/C/G/D/M/N/R/B/Q trains & the LIRR
Cost: $15 Online, $20 Doors
Info: / (917) 267-0368

Brooklyn, NY Colored presents three black dancers whose movements contend with tokenism, appropriation, stereotype, and representation while demonstrating the inherent struggle in abstracting the black dancing form. The piece features original music by Matt Clegg and Pastor T. L. Barrett and will involve some audience participation.

Kyle Marshall Choreography (KMC) is a dance company that sees the moving body as a celebration of a beautiful form, a container of history, and an igniter of social disruption.

Kyle Marshall is a dancer and dance maker working in New York City and New Jersey. Marshall currently dances with doug elkins choreography etc. and is an apprentice for the Trisha Brown Dance Company. In the past, he has worked with Tiffany Mills Company, Ryan McNamara, Heidi Latsky, and was a founding member of 10 Hairy Legs. He organized Kyle Marshall Choreography in 2014 to help support his dance-making. Marshall’s work has been performed at venues including Jacob’s Pillow Inside/Out, DanceNow Joe’s Pub, NJPAC, NYC Summerstage, Montclair Dance Festival, Movement Research at Judson Church, Wassaic Arts Project, Triskelion Arts, and Dixon Place. He has also received residencies from the DanceNow at Silo, Jamaica Performing Arts Center, CoLab Arts and was the 2016 Dance on the Lawn Montclair Dance Festival Emerging Commissioned Choreographer. In 2017, Marshall was awarded the New Jersey Artist Fellowship in Choreography. Marshall graduated Magna Cum Laude from Rutgers University with a BFA in Dance.

Kyle Marshall choreographer
Oluwadamilare “Dare” Ayroinde
Kyle Marshall
Myssi Robinson

Pastor T. L. Barrett

William Hooker: The Great Migration

What: Through music, narrative, and dance, William Hooker tells the story of African-American migration from 1935 to 1950.
When: Thursday, April 5, 2018, 8pm
Where: Roulette, 509 Atlantic Ave Brooklyn, 2/3/4/5/A/C/G/D/M/N/R/B/Q trains & the LIRR
Cost: $20 Online, $25 Doors
Info: / (917) 267-0368

Brooklyn, NYAvant-garde percussionist William Hooker offers a multi-disciplinary contemplation and exploration of African-American migration from the American South to points north during the years 1935–1950. The Great Migration features music (with veteran performers like William Parker and David Soldier), dance, video, and narratives from 97-year-old Alton Brooks and Nannie Lampkin, who experienced this historical period firsthand.

A body of uninterrupted work beginning in the mid-seventies defines William Hooker as one of the most important composers and players in jazz. As bandleader, Hooker has fielded ensembles in an incredibly diverse array of configurations. Each collaboration has brought a serious investigation of his compositional agenda and the science of the modern drum kit. As a player, Hooker has long been known for the persuasive power of his relationship with his instrument. His work is frequently grounded in a narrative context. Whether set against a silent film or anchored by a poetic theme, Hooker brings dramatic tension and human warmth to avant-garde jazz. His ability to find fertile ground for moving music in a variety of settings that obliterate genre distinctions offers a much-needed statement of social optimism in the the arts.

William Hooker – Percussion
Ras Moshe – Reeds, Flute
Eriq Robinson – Electronics, Images
Mark Hennen – Piano
Goussy Celestin – Narrator, DanceWilliam Parker – Bass
David Soldier – Violin, Banjo
Ava Mendoza – Guitar
Alton Brooks & Nannie Lampkin – Primary Narratives

Mario Diaz de Leon and TAK Ensemble: Sanctuary Release

What: Mario Diaz de Leon and TAK Ensemble celebrate the release of Sanctuary, Diaz de Leon’s first album-length classical work.
When: Tuesday, April 3, 2018, 8pm
Where: Roulette, 509 Atlantic Ave Brooklyn, 2/3/4/5/A/C/G/D/M/N/R/B/Q trains & the LIRR
Cost: $20 Online, $25 Doors
Info: / (917) 267-0368

Brooklyn, NY —  NYC-based composer and performer Mario Diaz de Leon presents work from his first album-length classical work, Sanctuary, which was released by Denovali in the fall of 2017. It was written in collaboration with TAK Ensemble, a brilliant quintet devoted to energetic and virtuosic performances of contemporary music, who will appear with him at Roulette in an expanded lineup featuring marimba, synthesizer, soprano voice, flute, violin, and bass clarinet. Combining stark rhythms with ecstatic gestures, Diaz de Leon’s new work embraces elements of post-minimalism to dramatic and expansive effect. Bassoonist Rebekah Heller will open the evening with the NYC premiere of Labrys, a tour de force of virtuosic and luminous sonic alchemy, and the latest addition to Diaz de Leon’s acclaimed set of works for live soloist and electronics.

Mario Diaz de Leon is a composer, performer, and educator, whose work encompasses modern classical music, experimental electronic music, extreme metal, and improvised music. His debut album, Enter Houses Of was released in 2009 on John Zorn’s Tzadik label and praised by the New York Times for its “hallucinatory intensity.” His second album, The Soul is the Arena, was named a notable recording of 2015 by New Yorker Magazine. He has worked with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Talea, Mivos Quartet, and TILT Brass.  

TAK is a quintet dedicated promoting ambitious programming and fostering engagement within the contemporary music community and the artistic community at large. Their debut album Ecstatic Music: TAK plays Taylor Brook was released to critical acclaim by New Focus Recordings in 2016.

Bassoonist Rebekah Heller is a dynamic solo and collaborative chamber artist committed to expanding the modern repertoire for the bassoon. Her debut solo album, 100 names, was called “pensive and potent” by The New York Times, and her newly-released second album, METAFAGOTE, is receiving wide acclaim. She is the recently-appointed co-artistic director of the renowned International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE).

Mario Diaz de Leon composer, lighting design

TAK Ensemble
Charlotte Mundy  soprano
Laura Cocks flute
Marina Kifferstein violin
Carlos Cordiero clarinet and bass clarinet
Ellery Trafford marimba and percussion
Tristan McKay synthesizer and Ciat-Lonbarde tetrazzi

María Grand: Revés/Rêves: Dreams of a Departed Maestra // Magdalena Album Release Show

What: María Grand premieres a multi-media work honoring dancer Noemí Lapzeson & celebrates the release of a new DiaTribe album.
When: Tuesday, May 1, 2018. 8pm.
Where: Roulette, 509 Atlantic Ave Brooklyn, 2/3/4/5/A/C/G/D/M/N/R/B/Q trains & the LIRR
Cost:  $20 Door, $15 Online
Info: / (917) 267-0368

Brooklyn, NY – For her Roulette-commissioned piece, saxophonist, vocalist, and composer María Grand offers an exploration of sound and movement in a tribute to her childhood dance teacher, Noemí Lapzeson. Inspired by Lapzeon’s split screen dances, Revés/Rêves: Dreams of a Departed Maestra presents movement as an instrument and uses the placement of musicians on stage to create intentional spaces of sonic expression. The second part of the evening will celebrate the release of Magdalena, a new album by Grand’s band DiaTribe. Magdalena explores modern familial relationships through the lens of Egyptian and early Christian myths, connecting them to the pioneering work of family therapist Virginia Satir.

María Grand was born in Switzerland in 1992, to a Swiss mother and an Argentinian father. Since her move to New York in 2011, she has become an important member of the city’s creative music scene, performing extensively in projects with musicians such as Vijay Iyer, Craig Taborn, Jen Shyu, Steve Lehman, Aaron Parks, Marcus Gilmore, Jonathan Finlayson, Miles Okazaki, etc. Her debut EP “TetraWind” was picked as “one of the 2017’s best debuts” by the NYC Jazz Record. María is a recipient of the 2017 Jazz Gallery Residency Commission and the 2018 Roulette Jerome Foundation Commission.


Revés/Rêves: Dreams of a Departed 

  • María Grand, tenor saxophone and vocals
  • Ganavya Doraiswamy, vocals
  • Joel Ross, vibraphone
  • Rajna Swaminathan, mridangam

Maestra Magdalena Album Release Show

  • María Grand, tenor saxophone and vocals
  • David Bryant, piano
  • Rashaan Carter, bass
  • Jeremy Dutton, drums


Spring 2018 Season (April 3–June 24)

Tues, April 3 Mario Diaz de Leon and TAK Ensemble: Sanctuary Album Release
Thurs, April 5 William Hooker: The Great Migration
Tues, April 10 [DANCEROULETTE] Kyle Marshall Choreography: Colored
Mon, April 16 Yuko Fujiyama Ensemble
Thurs, April 19 ECCE / Court Circuit: French/American Music in DialogueSun, April 22 Kit Fitzgerald and Peter Gordon: Into the Hot, Out of the Cool

Tues, May 1 [COMMISSION] María Grand: Dreams of a Departed Maestra
Wed, May 2 Jason Treuting
Thurs, May 3 Interpretations: Thomas Buckner: Works by Malcolm Goldstein, Jacques Bekaert, Bun Ching Lam
Tues, May 8 [COMMISSION] Cecilia Lopez: Machinic Fantasies
Wed, May 9 [COMMISSION] Che Chen w/ Talice Lee and Patrick Holmes
Sun, May 13 [RESIDENCY] Ka Baird: centers: 4 channels
Mon, May 21 Phew: Voice Hardcore // Laura Ortman
Wed, May 23 Vision Festival: Celebrating Dave Burrell
Thurs, May 24 Vision Festival: Mary Halvorson // Whit Dickey // Women with an Axe to Grind // SPACE
Fri, May 25 Vision Festival: Irreversible Entanglements // Nasheet Waits Equality // Matthew Shipp Acoustic Ensemble
Sat, May 26 Vision Festival: Fay Victor // Afro-Algonquin // Patricia Spears Jones // Ambrose Akinmusire // AfroHORN
Sun, May 27 Vision Festival: Frode Gjerstad // Cleaver, Lopez, Potter, Virelles // Arthur Jafa // By Any Means // Craig Harris
Mon, May 28 Vision Festival: Jaimie Branch // Cooper-Moore / /New World Pygmies // Oliver Lake Big Band
Tues, May 29 Anaïs Maviel: DIáSPORA / Cross Times
Wed, May 30 thingNY and Varispeed: Musical Voices Around A Table
Thurs, May 31 [RESIDENCY] Gabrielle Herbst: Vulnerability

Sun, June 3 Clara Latham: Bertha the Mom
Mon, June 4 Face the Music and Luna Composition Lab
Tues, June 5 Resist x Improvise: An Evening for Roscoe Mitchell
Thurs, June 6 Gemma Peacocke: Erasure
Wed, June 13 [DANCEROULETTE] Susan Rethorst: Stealing from Myself
Thurs, June 14 [DANCEROULETTE] Susan Rethorst: Stealing from Myself
Fri, June 15 [DANCEROULETTE] Susan Rethorst: Stealing from Myself
Sun, June 17 [RESIDENCY] Amirtha Kidambi: Lines of Light
Mon, June 18 Samuel Blaser Trio: Taktlos
Tues, June 19 [RESIDENCY] G Lucas Crane: Time Boiler
Thurs, June 21 [VAN LIER FELLOW] Brandon Lopez: Lamentations + Bennett/Foster/Wooley/Lopez
Sun, June 24 [COMMISSION] Jonathan Finlayson

String Orchestra of Brooklyn: String Theories III: Meditations: Music by Pauline Oliveros, John Cage, Tony Conrad, and Zach Layton

What: Meditative works for strings using drones and improvisation woven together into an evening-length sound installation.
When: Friday, March 30, 2018, 8pm
Where: Roulette, 509 Atlantic Ave Brooklyn, 2/3/4/5/A/C/G/D/M/N/R/B/Q trains & the LIRR
Cost: $20 Online $25 Doors
Info: // (917) 267-0368

Brooklyn, NY —  The final evening of the String Orchestra of Brooklyn‘s String Theories Festival features meditative works for string orchestra using drones, masses of sound, improvisation, and time-based structures woven together into an evening-length sound installation.

Founded in 2007, the String Orchestra of Brooklyn has become an integral part of New York City’s vibrant and diverse musical landscape, bringing together creative instrumentalists, composers, and like-minded organizations and ensembles to collaborate on adventurous musical projects and present them to the public at an affordable price.

Tony Conrad – Empire *
Pauline Oliveros – Tuning Meditations and 70 Chords for Terry
John Cage – Twenty Three
Zach Layton – Stridulations *

* String Orchestra of Brooklyn commission

String Orchestra of Brooklyn: String Theories II: The Rhythm Method: Siren Songs

What: Stylistically diverse, subversive music by three members of The Rhythm Method alongside American composer Lewis Nielson.
When: Thursday, March 29, 2018, 8pm
Where: Roulette, 509 Atlantic Ave Brooklyn, 2/3/4/5/A/C/G/D/M/N/R/B/Q trains & the LIRR
Cost: $20 Online $25 Doors
Info: // (917) 267-0368

Brooklyn, NY — Inspired by the feminist writings of Margaret Atwood and the protest song as artistic genre, the second night of the String Orchestra of Brooklyn’s String Theories celebrates stylistically diverse, subversive music by three members of The Rhythm Method alongside American composer Lewis Nielson‘s powerful work Le journal du corps. From the anti-capitalist sentiment prevalent in Nielson’s work, to the post-cabaret songs of Meaghan Burke, the intricate graphic scores and suffragette-inspired work of Leah Asher, and a reflection on immigration from Marina Kifferstein, this program covers a wide range of musical material while maintaining a steady hand on the pulse of contemporary issues and aesthetics. With improvisation, vocalization, theatre, and a virtuosic spectrum of extended techniques, the performer/composers of The Rhythm Method defy expectations of genre and preconceptions of what a string quartet ‘can’ or ‘should’ do.

Praised for their “uncompromising and unreserved…  intense, and sensuously gestural” performances (Examiner), The Rhythm Method strives to reimagine the string quartet in a contemporary context. Since their founding in 2014, the group has given soulful, spirited performances in New York, Vienna, Paris, and Lucerne, and tackled works ranging from classics by Ligeti and Webern to newer works/premieres by Tonia Ko, Dai Fujikura, Andrew Norman, John Zorn, and other living composers, including members of the ensemble. Through a mixture of thoughtful programming, captivating performances, and collaborations with sound artists, visual artists, and songwriters as well as composers, they present concert experiences that engage and challenge their audiences. The Rhythm Method recently completed their inaugural Austrian tour, featuring world premieres of new works by sound artists Bernd Klug and Andreas Trobollowitsch, a collaboration with the singer-songwriter collective Loose Lips Sink Ships, and premieres of works by all members of the ensemble. This season marks the kickoff of the quartet’s Hidden Mothers Project, a research-performance-recording initiative highlighting works by historical women composers. It will also bring the first installment of Broad Statements, a celebration of music-making by women in a wide array of artistic styles. This year, The Rhythm Method will also be releasing records of music by two of its members, Leah Asher and Meaghan Burke, as well as Dai Fujikura’s “Silence Seeking Solace.”

Mixology Festival 2018: In Conversation with Wally De Backer (Gotye)

Taking place February 13-16, Mixology Festival 2018: Circuit Breakers presents four evenings and seven musical artists and ensembles who bend, blend, and extend electronic instruments and tools toward new realms of creative communication. Surreal songs, ritual roustings, radiophonic phenomena, and a multimedia mélange will incite, inspire, and inhabit. Active for over 25 years, Roulette’s Mixology Festival celebrates new and unusual uses of technology in music and the media arts. Primarily a snapshot of current activity, Mixology strives to reflect both the history and trends of innovation that impact the Zeitgeist.

Roulette: Please describe the Ondioline Orchestra, and how you came to take on this challenge?

Wally De Backer (Gotye): The Ondioline Orchestra is an ensemble dedicated to reviving and extending the legacy of Frenchman Georges Jenny’s pioneering electronic musical instrument, the Ondioline. The instrument dates back to the 1940s but offers expressive and timbral possibilities that I think are still unsurpassed in many ways. I love the late Jean-Jacques Perrey’s playing of the Ondioline dearly (the love of his music led me to meet the man over the last few years of his life), and I thought it was a shame that the instrument has been almost completely forgotten after he explored it virtuosically in the ’50s and ’60s, so the Ondioline Orchestra was put together to showcase a number of fully restored Ondiolines as well as Perrey’s wonderful music. I’m honoured to play with five incredible New York musicians, from a dynamite rhythm section comprising alumni of one of my favourite bands, Zammuto, as well as renowned theremin and synthesizer maestros Rob Schwimmer and Joe McGinty.

Wally DeBacker + Ondioline Orchestra / Photo: Anna Webber

Roulette: The history of the instrument and its makers and users is fascinating. Tell us about your research and who helped you along the way.

Gotye: Meeting Jean-Jacques Perrey was a dream come true for me, being such a big fan of his recordings for many years. Getting to know him personally over a number of visits to his home in Switzerland led to me becoming an archivist of his music, photos, and scores. This led to the release of an archival compilation of his early, rare and unreleased works with the Ondioline on a label I set up called Forgotten Futures. The record is called Jean-Jacques Perrey et son Ondioline and it features some sublime pieces I thought deserved to be heard not just by Perrey’s existing fans but by a wider listenership, so delicious are the melodies, and deft the timbral experiments he recorded with his Ondioline over the years.

I’ve received a lot of assistance with my research from Jean-Jacques’ daughter Patricia, as well as the daughters of Georges Jenny. They’ve been incredibly generous with their time and energy.

It would be impossible for me to have learned how to play the Ondioline, or for the Ondioline Orchestra to play at all actually, if it weren’t for the technician Stephen Masucci who has spent countless hours restoring the Ondiolines I’ve collected, often transforming them from rusty relics into beautiful musical instruments with full “original” functionality. The dedication he has made to reviving this very misunderstood and difficult-to-fix instrument inspires me greatly.

I’ve also been blessed to meet an incredible designer named Mike Buffington, who has deftly and painstakingly recreated the first ever English versions of a number of historical Ondioline documents that were originally published by Georges Jenny in French in the ’40s and ’50s.

So it’s truly a team effort to bring this instrument and a lot of lost work around it back to some attention.

Roulette: You have said the Ondioline is a uniquely expressive electronic instrument. How is that?

Gotye: The Ondioline has a wonderful confluence of mechanical mechanisms to allow the musician to play very expressively. The left hand or right knee control a lever that allows the player to shape the overall envelope of the sound. This alone allows you to whisper gently in higher frequencies, or to overdrive the instrument’s great-sounding tube amplifier to bring forth great fat bass tones.

The keyboard can be moved from side to get a manual vibrato that is remarkably musical. I’ve played other electronic instruments that offer vibrato on their keyboard, from Yamaha’s ’70s monster organ-synths, to more contemporary expressive controllers like the Roli Seaboard, and they can be very good if you develop a high level of technique on them, but there’s something about the fine vibrato that’s achievable with wood and copper of the Ondioline’s keyboard that I find really magical, a true joy to play!

Finally, I just love the sound of the Ondioline. The little switches it offers on its front can be combined together, or switched on and off while playing with your other hand, to make an astonishing array of timbres, very changeable and just very pleasing to the ear.

Wally DeBacker + Ondioline Orchestra / Photo: Anna Webber

Roulette: Who would you ideally like to collaborate with and why?

Gotye: I look forward to continuing to collaborate with people I already work with, as I feel there’s still so much more to explore. Whether that’s musicians in the Ondioline Orchestra, or my brothers in The Basics (though it might be a while for us to make new things since my current projects in New York require so much time and energy). I would love to work with the incredible thereminist Carolina Eyck sometime. We’ve done a little recording together, but I’m excited to see if maybe someday we could work on something original with theremin and Ondioline together- I think they would be interestingly complementary instruments.

Roulette: What artists inspire you, living or dead, in any medium?

Gotye: Balint Zsako, living. Also, I prefer to be living in order to be inspired by him and his work, which inspires me in every medium he addresses.

Roulette: What is it about Roulette that makes you want to show your work here?

Gotye: I loved Suzanne Ciani’s show that I attended there and I’ve always thought the programming is diverse and adventurous. I think the space has a great feel, and I’m excited to play in-the-round in the middle of the beautiful wood floor. I think it will make for a wonderful intimate setting for this music. Also, I live just up the street, so I can ride my Ondioline straight down the hill.

Mysterious Fragments: A Conversation With Gary Lucas

Mysterious Fragments: A Conversation With Gary Lucas
by Kurt Gottschalk

Gary Lucas has more than a few of notches in his guitar strap. He was a member of Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band. His long list of collaborators includes Leonard Bernstein, John Cale, David Johansen, Joan Osbourne, Lou Reed, Peter Stampfel and the late and much celebrated Jeff Buckley. He has made new guitar arrangements of compositions by Dvorak, Wagner and Henry Mancini, as well as Albert Ayler’s free jazz, Kraftwerk’s proto-synth pop and Chinese pop songs from the 1930s.

But asked what among his many efforts is his favorite kind of project to take on, he offers a simple answer: playing his own music to accompany old movies.

“It’s one of my favorite things to do in music,” he said in the matter-of-fact-if-slightly-amused way he has of saying most everything.

Lucas has performed his scores live for 15 films, most of them feature length. Last winter at Roulette, he played along with Too Much Johnson, a recently discovered Orson Welles silent slapstick comedy. On Friday, February 2, he returns to Roulette’s stage to present and perform alongside five short features by the film and television director Curtis Harrington.

“It was on my list of to-do projects, in part because I think this guy needs to be better known,” Lucas said.

Like Lucas, Harrington (who died in 2007 at the age of 80) had a career that crossed many streams. He started making movies as a teenager and worked as a film critic in the 1940s, then later as a cinematographer for the pioneering underground director Kenneth Anger, all the while making his own experimental films. In the ’60s and ’70s, he turned to horror and cast Dennis Hopper, Debbie Reynolds, Gloria Swanson and Shelley Winters in his features. In the ’70s and ’80s, he directed episodes of Baretta, Charlie’s Angels, Dynasty and Wonder Woman for network television.

“Harrington had quite a long and really productive career,” Lucas said. “He’s a good example of someone who transferred unto somewhat mainstream studio fare and still kept artistic integrity.”

When Lucas talks about what attracts him to the work of Harrington or other artists,  he could just as easily be talking about himself.

“I love stuff that crosses boundaries and eludes categories,” he said. “I love art where you, the viewer, has to do some work, where it isn’t all cut-and-dried and laid out for you.”

Hovering between genres and expectations is Lucas’ comfort zone. 

“I don’t like to put labels on people,” he added, shedding new light on an evocative album title by his old boss. “I come from the Beefheart school. You know, Lick My Decals Off, Baby, get rid of the labels.“

Lucas’ love of film runs deep. As a youth, he set up a makeshift cinema in his parents’ basement and screened horror films for neighborhood kids, charging a nickel a piece for entry. It was around that time that he first heard of Harrington.

“I first encountered his name in Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, which was the bible to me growing up,” he said. That’s where I first came across The Golem.”

That 1920 film, properly Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam (or The Golem: How He Came Into the World) was Lucas’ first scoring project and close to 30 years later might still be his best known work for film. It’s a dream-like silent horror film about a man-made monster based on an old Jewish folktale. With the Harrington shorts, Lucas will return to his love of the surreal and the macabre.

“They’re not horror films,” he explained. “They’re mysterious fragments. They have more to do with poetry, Borges and Edgar Allen Poe. I find them really hypnotic. It’s like entering into a series of dreams.”

The selection of films will touch on Poe, in fact, with Harrington’s 1942 short Fall of the House of Usher, in which the director also stars. Also on the program are A Fragment of Seeking (1946), a retelling of the Greek myth of Narcissus considered an early foray in the New Queer Cinema movement; 1948’s Picnic, which turns a dark lens on middle-class American life; the industrial landscape of On the Edge (1949), in which Harrington cast his parents for the lead roles; and The Assignation (1953), Harrington’s first color film, which follows a masked figure through the winding paths of Venice and was long thought to be lost.

Lucas watches the films along with the audience, facing the screen as he plays. He generally uses acoustic and electric guitars for his scores and employs electronic effects to build sometimes dense, atmospheric passages. The concerts generally involve a fair bit of introduction as well, with Lucas as part storyteller, part film professor. The scores themselves are largely improvised with cues and themes worked out in advance.

“The way I approach my scores is a combination of composed cues and improv,” he explained. “I get very familiar with the films. I see them numerous times and I sit there and tinker. Hopefully it’s seamless so that the whole thing fits like a glove. For these films, there’s so much beauty up on the screen, it’s just a joy for me to sort of glide into it.”

Asked if there are other films he’d like to score, Lucas replied enthusiastically.

“I haven’t begun to fight,” he said. “I’m ready to move on to the next one. There are a few in my mind that I’m mulling over but I have to keep it close to my vest. I don’t want to jinx it.” 

Like his scoring of films, Lucas has a long history with Roulette.

“One of my last shows as a duo with Jeff [Buckley] was at Roulette in April of ’92,” he said. “There’s clips of us performing “Grace” and a Van Morrison song up on YouTube. We had a great show as I recall. I was always happy to invite Jeff on my gigs.”

And before that, he remembers playing shows at Roulette’s original location on West Broadway in Tribeca.

“I always loved it,” he said. “I felt free to play whatever I wanted to play because I knew I’d get an audience of good listeners.”