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Living With Duchamp

Tomorrow (Friday), the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College will open an exhibit celebrating French conceptual artist Marcel Duchamp, the Dadaist/surrealist who, in 1919, drew a mustache on a print of the Mona Lisa and initialed it L.H.O.O.Q., which (in French) sounds like “she has a hot derriere.”

Duchamp worked in various mediums—painting, photography, mechanical drawing and installations—but he’s mostly known for his painting. His innovative works (like The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, two glass panels displaying iconic allusions to gender) have been described by art critic Clement Greenberg as setting precedents for the next 50 years of artwork.

There will be 10 original Duchamp works displayed in the museum, along with works by more than 40 other artists, all working in the Duchampian spirit. Among the artists featured are Conrad Bakker, Hans Peter Feldmann, Dan Fischer, and Josiah McElheny; their works date from the 1960s to the present and range from paintings and photography to installations and sculptures.

Living With Duchamp will be on display at the Tang (Skidmore College, 815 N. Broadway, Saratoga Springs) beginning tomorrow (Friday, June 27), and running through Sept. 28. An opening reception celebrating all the Tang’s summer exhibitions will be held today (Thursday, June 26) from 6 to 7:30 PM. For more information, call 580-8080 or visit www.skidmore.edu/tang.

Norah Jones, Gillian Welch

Norah Jones is the daughter of the best-known Indian musician in the world, Ravi Shankar. But don’t let your abiding dislike of the sitar discourage you from checking her out when she swings through Proctor’s on Monday.

Jones (pictured) has inherited daddy’s nimble fingers, but chooses to exercise them in a different idiom, on a different noisemaker. In fact, she was pursuing her degree in jazz piano before the lure of the big city dragged her from Texas to Greenwich Village, where she performed regularly with a funk-fusion outfit. Inspired, she began penning her own songs, and, on the strength of those torchy numbers, landed herself a deal with the prestigious Blue Note label—and, a little later, a Grammy Award or three.

Opener Gillian Welch comes from an impressive lineage as well, albeit metaphorical: She’s a neo-traditionalist country player in the style of the Carter Family and Ralph Stanley, with whom she played on the popular O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack.

Norah Jones and Gillian Welch will play Proctor’s Theatre (432 State St., Schenectady) on Monday (June 30). Tickets for the 8 PM show are $35-$50. For tickets or more information, call 346-6204.

The Alloy Orchestra, Speedy

To state the obvious, silent movies are silent: They have no dialogue, sound effects or music. They were never intended to be experienced that way, however. During their brief heyday at the beginning of the last century, silent movies were presented in tandem with live music. From neighborhood theaters to urban picture palaces, the musical accompaniment created by a single pianist or a full orchestra enhanced the onscreen action.

The Alloy Orchestra, one of the more celebrated ensembles currently providing music for silent films, will come to MASS MoCA Saturday night to accompany Harold Lloyd’s celebrated 1928 comedy Speedy.

Speedy features Lloyd (whose wildly popular persona was considered an archetype of the all-American go-getter) as a baseball-mad young man frantically trying to save the last horse-drawn trolley in New York.

“It’s our most intricate score,” says Ken Winokur, who plays clarinet and performs on junk percussion for Alloy. This, he explains, is because the fast-paced comedy is so intricately edited. Winokur says that as a result, their score is loaded with “aborted, reversed and turned-around” changes to match the action. In addition to the elaborate gags and the carefully crafted story (a Lloyd trademark), the film contains extensive footage of such lost landmarks as Coney Island’s legendary Luna Park.

Winokur is proud of this score: “It’s one of our best.”

The Boston-based trio, whose other members are Roger C. Miller on synthesizer and Terry Donahue on junk percussion, accordion, saw and banjo, have been accompanying silents since the early 1990s. Their distinctive, percussive sound is familiar from their numerous live performances. Alloy got their start when the manager of a local Boston repertory house wanted to run a print of Giorgio Morodor’s version of Metropolis, but without Morodor’s ’80s rock soundtrack. The trio put a score together in two weeks, and the positive reaction was immediate, Winokur remembers: “The audience sort of went nuts.”

Since this auspicious start, the Alloy Orchestra have been a regular presence at the Telluride Film Festival, and have performed at venues ranging from Lincoln Center to the Louvre. Their boosters include documentary filmmaker Errol Morris and critic Roger Ebert. They have recorded scores for numerous silent films on DVD, from Soviet classics to the comedies of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and Buster Keaton. This fall, Warner Home Video will release a Lon Chaney set that includes their score for the macabre drama The Unknown.

There have been a few naysayers among silent-film buffs who reject Alloy’s percussive approach. Winokur replies: “I kind of understand it, we’re a nontraditional group.” He also points out that this is a minority opinion, as Alloy’s performances continue to be very well-received.

Why silent film? “It’s an amazingly powerful medium,” Winokur explains. “We play the music we enjoy,” and they try to make the music fit harmoniously with the action. Silent film offers a chance, he says, to make music that is “vital, interesting and active.”

Speedy, with live music by the Alloy Orchestra, will be presented Saturday (June 28) at 8:30 PM at MASS MoCA (1040 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, Mass.). Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for kids. For more information, call (413) 662-2111.

—Shawn Stone


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