(NORTH ADAMS, Mass.) – Composer/guitarist Gary Lucas will perform his original score to “The Goddess” (1934), a touchstone of Chinese cinema directed by Wu Yonggang and starring incomparable Shanghai diva Ruan Lingyu, in Club B-10 at MASS MoCA on Saturday, October 11, 2014, at 8pm.
Lucas is one of the pioneers of the new wave of composers writing and performing new scores for old films. He is also an idiosyncratic guitarist who has developed his own, unique language on the instrument. “I’m into using guitar as a magic wand, a way to transport people into other worlds,” he says. “I look at the guitar as a little six-string orchestra. Through the combination of different chords and harmonies and fingerings and finger-picking and occasionally some electronic modification I’m able to conjure up the sound of electronic symphonies.” (Read more from this 2001 interview here.)
Lucas has also had a long and abiding interest in Chinese pop music, reflected in a wide range of projects and recordings. (Read a review of Lucas’s “Improve the Shining Hour: Rare Lumiere 1980-2000,” on Knitting Factory Records, here.)
Grammy Award-nominated singer and songwriter Lucas, known best for his innovative and masterful performances on electric guitar, is described by the New York Times as “the thinking man’s guitar hero.” Lucas draws heavily on blues music but blends other styles such as psychedelic rock, jazz, and Chinese pop to create his avant-garde sound.
Lucas regularly tours the world performing live scores to classic films, including Vampyr, the Spanish-language version of Dracula, and Frankenstein (1931), which he premieres this Halloween. Gary Lucas has previously graced MASS MoCA stages for two programs: He performed his first silent film score “The Golem” in 2000 (reviewed here), then returned for an ensemble of short silents he scored in a program titled “Sounds of the Surreal,” in 2002. His band Gods and Monsters included Matthew Sweet and Jeff Buckley before Buckley launched his solo career. Lucas wrote two songs, including the title track, for Buckley’s album “Grace.”
Lucas’s latest piece, “The Goddess,” was originally performed as part of the “Golden Age of Chinese Cinema” series at Fundación Botín in Spain in January of this year. The film was wildly popular in China when it was released in 1934 and is considered one of the best films of the “golden age” of Chinese cinema. The film stars Ruan Lingyu, in one of her final roles, as a single mother who must resort to prostitution in Shanghai in a desperate attempt to pay for her son’s education. Considered racy and bold for its time, “The Goddess “is dramatic and tragic, and Lucas’s live score adds superb period ambience and rich emotion to the silent classic.
Gary Lucas performs his live score to The Goddess on Saturday, October 11, at 8pm in Club B-10. Fresh salads, hearty sandwiches, and beefy burgers – as well as thematic dinner specials – are available from Lickety Split before and during the show. A full bar serves Berkshire Brewing Company beers and Berkshire Mountain Distillery spirits. Tickets are $10 for students, $12 advance, $18 day of, and $22 for preferred seating. Receive a 25% discount if you purchase tickets through September 3. Members receive a 10% discount.