Sunday, September 15, 2013


David Lynch is among the few directors to take a direct role in creating the soundscape of his movies. His name appears deep in the credits of many of his films as sound designer, which suggests he thinks the sounds an audience hears are at least as important as the images they see.

None of his audio work was on display during last night's screening of his movie FIRE WALK WITH ME at Conundrum Music Hall, though. Billed as "an experimental blend of icy electronica and darkly gothic rave-pop," the film was "re-soundtracked" by artists Ghost Cop and a place both wonderful and strange (the small caps are intentional, I presume.) Strip away the pretension and what you had were two people creating a new soundscape to replace the one used in the film. Gone were not only the film's music and sound effects, but the spoken dialogue, as well.

To preserve the film's story, the subtitles were left on for the duration of the film, but there were additional bits of dialogue and vocals added live by Ghost Cop. As the DJ kept an eye on the laptop streaming the film's surrogate soundtrack, GC read from THE SECRET DIARY OF LAURA PALMER and provided live vocals for many of the songs selected for last night's engagement. Her voice was so sharp and clear that some of those in the audience might not have been aware they were being performed live, under cover of the darkened venue.

The songs provided breaks from the often atonal noise of the "new" soundtrack, even if the selections were sometimes bizarre. "Wicked Game" was performed over top of the scene featuring the song's original performer, Chris Isaac, as was a re-mix of David Bowie's "Hallo Spaceboy" during his cameo. There were tracks from Screaming Jay Hawkins, The Postal Service's "Such Great Heights" and a pitch-shifted version of "As I Lay Me Down" by Sophie B. Hawkins that sounded like it was being performed through a Valium haze. Some of these selections were a little obvious, but they still managed to work within the context of the presentation. The score was haunting, beautiful, repetitive and occasionally obnoxious, which are also criticisms occasionally leveled at FIRE WALK WITH ME.

Was it fair to rip away the soundtrack to another artist's work without their consent? Probably not. I've also got my doubts about the legality of last night's presentation, which used a DVD of FIRE WALK WITH ME probably rescued from the $5 bin a Wal-Mart. Lynch's moribund attitude toward commentary tracks, deleted scenes and the other ephemera associated with post-theatrical releases makes me think he'd be unhappy with someone tinkering with his work ... especially in public.

Those are all valid concerns for the rights holders. As a fan, I saw last night's performance as a love letter to an under-appreciated movie. The Dionysian nature of the show makes it something to be enjoyed momentarily, creating the rare opportunity to experience a film from someone else's perspective.

I was especially interested to watch how the event tested the audience's patience. A few people left the venue, which could have been a rejection of the "re-soundtracking" concept, or just a negative reaction to the ass-punishing folding chairs provided to us. Most people stayed for the duration, though, even hesitating to leave after the musicians halted their performance mid-way though the credits. Ghost Cop and a place both wonderful and strange (yes, it feels ridiculous to refer to them that way) had nothing to say to the audience afterward. After watching the two-hour degradation of Laura Palmer, most of us wanted nothing more than a few moments of peace before heading out, so the silence wasn't unwelcome.

The duo next takes their FIRE WALK WITH ME experiment to Atlanta, Ga., appearing tonight at the Highland Inn Ballroom and Lounge.

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