A few years back, the Andy Warhol Museum commissioned indie rock supercouple Dean and Britta to compose an album’s worth of recordings to play under Warhol’s famous screen tests. The 50th performance of the show coincided with CMJ, and for me it was the highlight of the festival.
If you haven’t seen Warhol’s screen tests, they’re a series of black and white videos that the pop artist shot obsessively for three years, capturing just about every “interesting” person who came through his studio doors. He’d stick his subject in front of a camera and leave him to fidget, stare or do whatever else one does when alone with a recording device (become the next Justin Bieber?). They videos are normally silent, so Dean and Britta’s accompaniment was less an intrusion than a way to hone in on and enhance each character’s mood.
In a Q&A after the show, Dean and Britta explained that with hundreds of tests to choose from they wanted to compose for people who were part of Warhol’s daily life — and not folks who merely stopped in at the Factory once or twice (this is why we don’t get any score for Bob Dylan’s test, grr). Among the 13 compositions are videos for Billy Name, Lou Reed, Edie Sedgwick, Paul America and Nico.
The songs are dense and beautiful, some have lyrics and some are purely instrumental. It was fascinating to see both product and inspiration at the same time. There was something so raw and almost intrusive about the experience, and I imagine that’s just how Andy Warhol would have wanted it.