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October 26th, 2011 AARON MESH | Headout
 

Deadly Synths

John Carpenter’s music is in the key of Terror.

headout_tonymorgan_3751MUSIC OF THE MACABRE - ILLUSTRATION: Tony Morgan
It emerges out of the night, throbbing, relentless, implacable. It cannot be reasoned with. It cannot be silenced. It is coming from inside your brain. It is the music of John Carpenter. 

The director composed the music for most of his horror and sci-fi movies, including Halloween, Christine, Escape From New York and They Live. Each score is in the same insistent tempo, and in the key of E. For one night, anyway, Carpenter’s compositions are finally getting the respect afforded to minimalist composers like Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Local musician, author and composer Willy Greer has arranged nine Carpenter soundtracks as In E, a 45-minute suite for five musicians. (The title is an homage to Terry Riley’s 1964 randomized musical piece In C.) Greer will perform it with his ensemble the Magic Pumpkin at Tonic Lounge on Friday night.

Carpenter wrote music that feels like a stabbing. “It’s not necessarily a pleasant experience for everybody,” Greer says. “There are certainly people who have adverse reactions to such highly repetitive music. I guess that’s kind of what I like about it: You very rarely get a neutral reaction.”

Greer first responded to Carpenter’s motifs when, as an 8-year-old learning to play drums, he saw Halloween for the first time and forever associated Michael Myers’ menacing trudge across suburban streets with a racing keyboard. After writing his own soundtracks for chillers like 2007’s Cthulhu, Greer recognizes Carpenter’s music as achieving the escalating purity of Glass’s Einstein on the Beach—or “Rowdy” Roddy Piper’s prolonged bum fight in They Live. 

“It’s a very simple idea that is milked for a good 10 minutes,” Greer says of that famed alleyway ass-kicking. “And that’s an argument you could also make about the composers of the ’70s: They might have been working within very repetitive structures, but there’s nothing minimal about the way they arrange the instrumentation and the harmonies.”

In E will be performed with very few instruments: guitar, drums and several keyboards, including at least one synth.

“We’re trying to keep it as synthy as humanly possible,” Greer said.



Headout Picks

THURSDAY OCT. 27

[BOOKS, MOVIES] SUSAN ORLEAN
Her fleet new canine biography, Rin Tin Tin, considers the dog that was briefly voted Best Actor at the first Oscars. Orlean returns to Portland to read from her book and screen what she says is Rin Tin Tin’s best film, Clash of the Wolves. Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy Blvd., 281-4215. 7 pm. $15.

FRIDAY OCT. 28

[AVANT NOISE] CHILDREN’S GAMES
The latest and most ambitious venture by musique concrète composer Seth Nehil is a spooky video piece, shot by Dicky Dahl, accompanied by live music. The pieces of the work Nehil has posted to his blog are promising: filthy play in the woods, a white-walled classroom with a blackboard covered in mysterious scrawl, fire and distant howling and scratching. The Mouth, Inside Zoomtopia, 810 SE Belmont St., 320-7512. 8 pm Fridays-Sundays. Closes Nov. 6. $15, $10 students.

[MOVIES] THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE II
We’re not really recommending this, but for those of you who didn’t think the first Tom Six ass-to-mouth movie went far enough, here’s an even longer bug. Cinema 21, 616 NW 21st Ave., 223-4515. 10:45 pm. $6-$9.

SUNDAY OCT. 30

[MUSIC] RESONANCE ENSEMBLE
If giggling 8-year-olds in Spider Man costumes soliciting sweetened candy don’t quite summon that deep cultural catharsis, this rare and splendid program should. Two poem settings by Samuel Barber, a pair of Brahms choral songs and excerpts from Maurice Duruflé’s 1947 Requiem bookend the centerpiece: Hugo Distler’s singular, seldom-performed 1934 concoction of early music- and free-jazz-influenced settings of Baroque mystical poetry, “Dance of Death,” inspired by the famous mural on the wall of Distler’s hometown church. Agnes Flanagan Chapel at Lewis & Clark College, 0615 SW Palatine Hill Road, 427-8701, resonancechoral.org. 8 pm. $11-$22.

MONDAY OCT. 31

[TOUR] LONE FIR CEMETERY’S TOUR OF UNTIMELY DEPARTURES
Portland’s oldest cemetery, Lone Fir, is filled with the remains of guys with names like Socrates Hotchkiss Tryon Sr. and people who died grisly deaths involving syphilis, logging, or barfights related to poker games or winning the affections of women named Mildred. Lone Fir Cemetery, entrance on Southeast 26th Avenue off Stark, 224-9200, 6 pm. $10 for adults, $15 for families of four with two children.
 
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