Even after winning a third straight "Best Eclectic Band" award in the RFT's music poll, Grandpa's Ghost continues to scout new territories. Their next performance involves extra musicians and highly regarded underground filmmaker James Fotopoulos, whose various works will be broadcast on five large screens and ten monitors scattered around the first floor of the A.D. Brown Building. Inspired by Fotopoulos' disparate images, the expanded Grandpa's Ghost will craft a live soundtrack for the multiple films, in hopes of creating something new and beautiful.
"We're going to start with a Bill Emerson composition, then segue into improv," explains Ben Hanna of Grandpa's Ghost. Aiding the Ghost trio (Hanna, Emerson and Jack Petracek) in this transition from composition to creation will be Tobi Parks, Eric Hall and Chris Dee. As far as a musical direction, Hanna states that "we have an idea in relation to the space and Jim's images," but no structure planned, other than a desire to "keep our performance extremely spatial and random, and keep coming at you from different angles."
While "spatial" and "random" are both fairly accurate descriptions for Grandpa's Ghost (the online All Music Guide, by way of example, recommends Richard Crenna's spoken-word album Clancy and Coonts, The Best of Agnostic Front and Richard Carlins' English Concertina as albums similar to the Ghost's 2000 release, Il Baccio), they don't quite describe the carefully measured work of James Fotopoulos. His short films (such as "Celestial Visions," "The Watchtower" and "Crescent Moon") feature densely layered, abstract textures flickering atop one another, accompanied by soundtracks of droning, mechanically generated tones; the effect is similar to being trapped under glass while a half dozen film projectors, each stuck on one shuddering frame, strobe their unblinking electric eyes across your face. But after ten minutes of claustrophobic cinema, phantom shapes coalesce in the depths of these competing layers, creating beautiful, coruscating patterns of light that shift and fade and reform with soothing regularity. And then there's the 30-plus minutes of hardcore sex that make up the final third of his full-length film, Hymn. Asked about the graphic, hypnogogic nature of Fotopoulos' oeuvre, Hanna concurs that it's not all beauty: "Jim's work is sometimes beautiful in a subtle, pretty way, but sometimes in a, uh, raw way. I told him, half the time I don't know what the fuck (your work) means, but I dig it."
The feeling is mutual, as Fotopoulos will be present for the performance, watching Grandpa's Ghost and Co. create something on top of his creations. While the details haven't been worked out yet, Hanna would like Fotopoulos to "film us (performing) live and then make a film about us; it'll be like a house of mirrors standing on top of each other." Ultimately, whether the evening is documented in any manner is less important than the performance itself. "Hopefully, whatever we do, our performance will warrant people coming out," Hanna confides.