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 2007âs Cthulhu, Greer recognizes Carpenterâs music as achieving the escalating purity of Glassâs Einstein on the Beachâor âRowdyâ Roddy Piperâs 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.
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