Silent film/live guitars

(L-R) Gyan Riley, Steve Kimock and Alex de Grassi, from

For some while now the Bioscope has been championing the guitar as accompaniment for silent film, with such notable figures as Bill Frisell and Gary Lucas having taken up the challenge. So it is pleasing to see that this year’s New York Guitar Festival includes a strand entitled Silent Film/Live Guitars. The Festival is halfway through, but the first of the combination of silent films with guitar music is on 21 January, with two further concerts on 28 January and 4 February. Here are extracts from the festival schedule:

21 JAN Thu
Charlie Chaplin’s One A.M. and Easy Street + Buster Keaton’s Cops
featuring music by Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and Steve Kimock

Bon Iver is the nom-de-guerre of musician Justin Vernon. His album For Emma, Forever Ago was a critical and commercial hit, making him one of the most talked-about indie artists of 2008. For his scores to One A.M. & Easy Street, he’s joined by Chris Rosenau, of Collection of Colonies of Bees, whom Justin calls his “guitar mentor.” Steve Kimock is best known as co-founder and guitarist for the San Francisco band Zero. He’s recorded and performed with Bruce Hornsby and members of the Grateful Dead—Jerry Garcia once hailed him as his favorite guitarist. He performs music for Buster Keaton’s Cops.

28 JAN Thu
Charlie Chaplin’s Shoulder Arms and The Fall of the House of Usher (directed by James Sibley Watson and Melville Webber
featuring music by Alex de Grassi + James Blackshaw

One of the top fingerstyle, steel-string guitarists, Grammy nominee Alex de Grassi is renowned for his impeccable technique and compelling compositions. He’s explored a variety of world music influences and drawn acclaim for his 14 recordings on Windham Hill and other labels. He presents his original score for Chaplin’s 1918 masterpiece Shoulder Arms. James Blackshaw is a London-based prodigy who’s released seven albums of mesmerizing 12-string compositions. His style is often described as “American primitive” and incorporates elements of Indian raga, improvisation, and psychedelia.

04 FEB Thu
Charlie Chaplin’s Pay Day & The Idle Class plus short animations from Harry Smith’s Early Abstractions
featuring music by Chicha Libre + Gyan Riley

The Peruvian-influenced psychedelic pop of Chicha Libre mixes Colombian cumbia, dreamy surf guitar, and Andean melodies. They present their scores to Chaplin’s Pay Day (1922) and The Idle Class (1921). Gyan Riley is an equally strong presence in the worlds of classical guitar and contemporary music. He’s performed throughout Europe and the U.S., both as a soloist and in ensembles with Zakir Hussain, the San Francisco Symphony, the Falla Guitar Trio, and his father, the composer/pianist/vocalist Terry Riley.

The concerts take place 8pm at the Merkin Concert Hall, Goodman House, 129 W. 67th Street, New York. The first is sold out.