Rodney Graham Rodney Graham

Rodney Graham

9 March - 7 April 2001
Softcore - More Solo Guitar Music for the Sex Scene, Zabriskie Point

Zabriskie Point (1970) the film that intended to deconstruct the American consumer society and the student movement, was, by all accounts, the bomb that almost sunk Michelangelo Antonioni's film career, but the pop music soundtrack became famous and the film contained, in the climactic scene with the exploding desert house, the blueprint for subsequent MTV-style music videos - which may or may not be a good thing.

But the film had something positively constructive about it, enabling Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead to buy his house in San Francisco - courtesy of the notoriously difficult but temporarily deep-pocketed auteur, who invited "Captain Trips" to fly down to L.A. to improvise some guitar work for the film's so-called Desert Love Scene. Garcia "noodled" on the guitar for several hours while repeatedly viewing a looped version of footage in which members of the Open Theatre simulated sex acts in a manner mild by modern cinematic standards.

Pink Floyd were asked to submit musical proposals for the scene, as was the great American fingerstyle guitarist John Fahey, who was brought to Cinecitta to record other, ultimately unused, tracks (and who, by his own account, stood up for America, entered into fisticuffs with, and eventually "decked" the communistic director of Blow Up).

Some of my own guitar improvisations, performed on acoustic and (sometimes treated) electric guitar, late submissions within this venerable tradition of failure, were done a la Garcia, while viewing a looped version of the orgy scene. These improvisations were collected on the ten inch vinyl release "Getting it Together in the Country" published in 2000 by The Kunstverein Munich, the Kunstverein Munster and Octagon Books, Köln.

Tonight I will be performing, or noodling to be more exact, on solo (sometimes prepared) guitar, improvising repetitive patterns and ambient drones for a duration of 108 minutes (the entire length of the Antonioni film) while again treating the looped seven minute sex scene as my "score". The film is projected reversed from left to right, in order that, sitting behind the screen, I will be able to view it in its original form.

To "noodle" in the musical vernacular is to play the guitar somewhat aimlessly; the term is often used in a derogatory sense implying masturbatory self-absorption. It is my intention to noodle in D minor using an open tuning (DADFAD) associated with the legendary Mississippi blues singer Skip James whose "rediscovery" in the 1960's is associated with John Fahey.

Softcore was recorded live on March 8, 2001 at Galerie Micheline Szwajcer. The images projected during the performance consisted of a 7 minute sequence from the Desert Scene edited into a 108 minute loop, the exact duration of Antonioni's film. The music recorded during the performance was remastered in a studio and released with the images on a DVD. The edition of the DVD is limited to 3 copies and 1 AP.