Back in the late '60s, Andy Warhol would frequently ask artists like the Velvet Underground to perform live as he projected his films. The practice nearly died with the artist, but it's being resurrected in Pittsburgh this week.
Musicians will perform live scores Friday for 15 Warhol films that experts are calling “unseen.”
“Warhol shot a lot of film and he probably looked at it, put it away,” said Geralyn Huxley, curator of film and video for the Andy Warhol Museum. “Certainly they were never publicly screened that we know of.”
Even when Warhol did show his films in the 1960s they were usually projected in small art houses with mostly invited guests.
The effort is not unique in the 21st century. In 2008, the Warhol Museum partnered with the husband and wife music duo, Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips to present a show titled, “13 Most Beautiful, Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests.” The Warhol Museum’s Curator of Performing Arts, Ben Harrison, spearheaded the project, eventually touring nearly constantly for much of the last six years.
When the Museum decided to further the concept last year, Harrison reached out to Dean Wareham again, but this time to be music director of the new project. Wareham tapped four other musicians; Eleanor Friedberger formerly of the brother-sister duo The Fiery Furnaces, Bradford Cox of the groups Atlas Sound and Deerhunter, Tom Verlaine from the New York post-punk group Television, and Martin Rev from the early electronic band Suicide.
“I like the idea very much it, interested me for sure,” Rev said. “I expect it will be even more interesting once we start doing it.”
Each musician was asked to score three of the 15 films chosen for the project. Each artist has taken a different approach to the work. Friedberger will be one of two acts with a full band on stage.
“I’m not an improvisational soloist," Friedberger said. "I knew who else had been asked and I thought, ‘Well, how can I stand out a little bit from these guys,’ and I thought just doing some straight forward rock and roll songs would be the way to go.”
The musicians have been in rehearsal this week, and Harrison believes projects like these reflect the mission of the museum to inspire audiences and create an understanding of Warhol’s life and work.
“It allows us to re-imagine and re-contextualize Warhol’s work in ways that resonate in contemporary culture,” Harrison said.
“Exposed: Music for Unseen Warhol Films” premieres Friday at the Carnegie Music Hall of Oakland. From here it moves on to Los Angeles and New York City.