The blood of a poet

This 55 minute, solo electric guitar score accompanies the brilliant 1932 masterpiece by Jean Cocteau. Originally commissioned by the Ithaca Fantastik Film Festival, Anna has performed this score across the U.K and will continue to tour it throughout 2018-2019.

The fall of the house of usher

This avant-garde operatic-rock score accompanies the 1928 Jean Epstein take on the dark Edgar Allen Poe story. Originally commissioned by the Ithaca Fantastik Film Festival with improvisational interludes by Ithaca-based TZAR, this piece is currently being arranged as a multi-media theater production to debut on March 30-31 at the Cherry Artspace in Ithaca, NY. 

Live at the Cherry Artspace: House of Usher, March 30-31 2018

A multi-media theater production combining film, theater, opera, and improvisation by Anna Coogan and TZAR.

Aelita, Queen of Mars (with TZAR)

Commissioned by the Cornell Cinema in and performed in March 2016, this incredible early-Soviet film (which includes a Communist uprising on Mars) is historically fascinating, and was both an incredible challenge and a joy to score.

 

About the scores

After more than a decade touring as an award-winning Americana songwriter, Anna Coogan found a fresh voice scoring (nearly) one-hundred-year old silent films. A trained opera singer who also studied evolutionary biology and worked as a fisheries biologist, Anna uses ambient guitar and soaring vocals to create unique and timeless pieces. Solo and together with Ithaca-based Tzar, Anna has scored The Fall of the House of Usher (1928), Aelita, Queen of Mars (1929), and The Blood of a Poet (1932). She has also provided a score for the multi-media theater project "Tess of the Storm Country" and is currently working on a new score to accompany episodes of Beatrix Fairfax (1916), a serial filmed in Ithaca, NY. Anna has performed her scores across the US, UK and Europe.

Interested in a performance or original score?

Anna is available for scoring original films,multi-media events, and silent films. If you are interested in a new or existing score for your event, please contact booking@annacoogan.com

film score press

The North Wales Pioneer (UK)

The prolific US indie songstress is following up her visit to the Old Colwyn venue last October – when she showcased her fuzzy, electric wah-wah operatic rock of her new album, The Lonely Cry Of Space & Time – with a brilliant new soundtrack for the 1932 avant garde Jean Cocteau film, The Blood of a Poet, performed live.

The Ithaca Journal

By Jim Catalano

Just back from a successful European tour, local singer-songwriter Anna Coogan will debut her latest project at the Ithaca Fantastik Film Festival at 6 p.m. Friday at Cinemapolis. She’s created a 50-minute solo guitar piece for the 1932 French film “The Blood of a Poet,” which is “terrifying and exciting and I can’t wait to share,” she said.

This is Coogan’s third live soundtrack since 2015 — she did live scores for “Aelita, Queen of Mars” and “Fall of the House of Usher” in collaboration with Brian Wilson and Michael Stark. But this time she’s going it alone.

“It’s so different,” she said, noting that she opted to forgo drawing on her opera background that she utilized in the previous projects. “I decided pretty early on to do a guitar piece. Which for me is the utmost challenge because while it is becoming my primary instrument, it didn’t start as my primary instrument.

“I wouldn’t say it got easier, but I put parameters on it that made it more challenging: It’s just me and the guitar, with no vocals.

“It’s more on the ambient side. The film itself is very avant garde and for me the best way to enjoy it is to not try to make heads or tails of it, and just let it wash over you. Plotwise, there isn’t much of one — it’s more of a meditation. So I have some ambient stuff in there, trying to use a lot of sound effects. I’m always inspired by Bill Frisell and Marc Ribot and Mary Halverson — I watched a lot of their stuff, but I don’t have that jazz background, so it’s more by ear for me at this point.”

She added: “For me it’s been getting comfortable with the concept of this being a guitar piece. I’m well aware that the world is filled with amazing guitar players, and a lot of this project is the mental letting go of what other people can do with it and saying ‘This is what I can do with it.’”

For more information about the Ithaca Fantastik Film Festival, which continues through Sunday, including a full schedule of films and events, visit ithacafilmfestival.com.

Secret Meeting (UK)

Anne Coogan is an American singer-songwriter with several studio albums under her belt. Here though, she is performing a soundtrack she composed for Jean Cocteau’s 1930 debut film, Le sang d’un Poete (The Blood of a Poet). Armed with a Fender Stratocaster, a pair of Fender amps, a tambourine and an array of guitar effects pedals, she provided the atmosphere for this avant-garde masterpiece. With a powerful sense of dread, soaring yet jarring melodies and hints of French nursery rhyme Frere Jacques, Coogan was able to create an emotional backbone to Cocteau’s stunning black and white visuals. It was a truly captivating experience.

WSKG Radio

Live disucssion on https://wskg.org/tag/anna-coogan/

WHCU RADIO

Live discussion on http://whcuradio.com/morning-newswatch/anna-coogan-the-house-of-usher/

The Ithaca Journal (Jim Catalano)

This weekend at the Cherry Artspace, Anna Coogan and TZAR will join forces once again to perform “House of Usher,” a live film score set to the 1928 Jean Epstein silent film "La Chute de la Maison Usher,” which was based on Edgar Allen Poe’s classic story “The Fall of the House of Usher.”

Coogan and TZAR — Michael Stark and Brian “Willie B” Wilson — first teamed up for a one-off performance of “Usher” at the 2015 Ithaca Fantastik Film Festival. But this performance will be much different, with a new set, staging and production concepts from director Samuel Buggeln, the Cherry’s artistic director.

“Right after we did the Fantastik Film Fest, I got hooked up with Sam, who was conceptualizing the Cherry and starting to do productions in other locations,” Coogan said in a recent interview. “He had all these big ideas, and I was like, ‘Well that’s great, but show me the space.’ And I’ll be damned — he built a beautiful space and now they’re running tons of productions and shows.”

One new element for this production is that an actor, Dave Williams, now will read the title cards as they appear on the screen, as well as creating some Foley (sound) effects throughout the performance. Coogan also originally wrote some opera songs in English, French and Italian, and now she’ll sing them all in English. And there’s also a lighting design, and a scrim in front of the musicians.

“The lighting is timed to different scenes, which allows us to come up or down depending on if the focus is on the band or the film,” Coogan said. “All of that is stuff that Sam thought up to take it to the next level beyond just a film score.”

Singer/songwriter Anna Coogan is excited to revisit “House of Usher,” which will be different from a previous staging in 2015. (Photo: File)

Most of the music is the same, except for some timing changes, with Stark’s vintage analogue organ the main voice in many spots.

“It’s so perfect for the era and genre of the film, so letting him lead with this instrument is really important,” Coogan said. “Plus, a good portion of the score is improvisation led by TZAR, and I’m very excited to see how that turns out each night. We’ve never done a film score more than once, and now we’re doing two in a row, which is exciting.”

She noted that it was interesting to return to the film after 21/2 years, because a couple of the songs — “Wedding Vow” and “If You Were The Sun” — had gone on to become part of Coogan’s most recent album, “The Lonely Cry of Space and Time,” and the ensuing live set with Willie B.

“They were rearranged for that, and now we have to go back to the original arrangements for the score,” Coogan said. “Other pieces I had integrated into the set, and now we’re pulling them back out from the context of this rock duo and more into this into epic cinematic thing. I’ve had to spend quite a bit of time relearning what was written before. But I really like this piece — all of the improv, as well as the stuff that I wrote.”

Working on a film that was created 90 years ago brings up some surprising emotional resonance.

“Sam and I are calling this project ‘a collaboration with the dead’ — all of these actors are long gone, yet there they are right on the screen and you’re in there right behind them,” Coogan said. “It creates this really mesmerizing interaction between the past and the present. And this version with Sam at the Cherry really highlights that.”

The Ithaca Times

Local Legend Brings Her Multi-Media Spectacle Out Again

A man travels across the U.S. to visit a friend, after receiving a distressing letter from him detailing a self-diagnosed disease. Upon arrival, the threads of the story begin to unravel, revealing themes of mental illness and suspense — before the supernatural begins to set in.

The Fall of the House of Usher, one of the many pieces written by American author Edgar Allan Poe, sets the stage for the 1928 French silent film, La Chute de la maison Usher. Combining elements from this story and other Poe pieces — such as The Oval Portrait — the film paints a backdrop for a live score, using song to intensify the theme of the movie.

And The Cherry Artspace brings La Chute de la maison Usher to Ithaca, with live score by Ithaca artists Anna Coogan and two-piece band Czar.

House of Usher, a multimedia performance, will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday March 30–31 at The Cherry Artspace. The show merges film, music and a theatrical stage set together in order to bring the French classic to life. The music featured in the show combines percussion, synthesizers, operatic vocals and more to bring this film into the 21st century while still maintaining artistic vibes from the 1920s.

Coogan wrote the score for the film back in 2015, performing it live for the first time during the Ithaca Fantastik Film Festival. While the piece worked as a straight live score, Coogan said she looked to do more with the piece, combining more theatrical elements with the film and music. But in 2015, there wasn’t a venue in Ithaca that would be able to host a multimedia show — until The Cherry was built. 

“I was like, ‘Show me a theater, and then we’ll talk,’ and sure enough, they did,” Coogan said. “[The Cherry’s team] built a theater, so I’ve been working with [Artistic Director] Sam Buggeln these last couple of months on preparing this piece. The music is more or less the same from 2015; there’s all sorts of other elements, including foley, which is sort of radio sound effects.”

And then the show quickly came together, in as quickly as a matter of a couple of weeks, Coogan said. She said she visited The Cherry to check on the set, and one day the stage would be built and the next the modular stage pieces would be ready for production. Then comes the full-band rehearsal — something taking place the week of the show — before the two-day production Friday and Saturday. 

Coogan describes La Chute de la maison Usher as a “whirlwind of a bunch of different Edgar Allan Poe pieces,” something she didn’t catch on her first view of the film. Being aware that the movie combines stories outside of The Fall of the House of Usher, her, Czar and the rest of the creative team reference other Poe stories throughout the production.

Along with the Poe pieces, Coogan draws upon her history as a musician in this show as well: trained as a vocalist and opera singer, Coogan adds strong operatic vocals to the score. While opera hasn’t been something she’s worked with in a while, Coogan said she enjoyed getting reacquainted with the artform — adding to the spooky tone of the film.

The score itself, while using old sounds like opera vocals, is primarily a modern take. Coogan and Czar use synthesizers, electric guitar, foley sounds and other modern instruments to craft a score that would not be possible to hear in 1928. She said this allows the film to enter the minds and eyes of the modern audience: adapting the art for the viewers of today.

“I think the combination of electric guitars, synthesizers and vocals is too cool to walk away from,” Coogan said. “Bringing your take on an old film is really important. It’s really interesting for modern audiences.” •

THTERRORTIME.COM


Premises: A classic and timeless retelling of the Edgar Allen Poe story of loss, pain and more in the House of Usher.Hats off to Barbier and the IIFFF crew for having this gem of performance flood the Cinemapolis with timeless storytelling on a bed of music. The entire 62 minute performance showcased great musical talent and emotion as the trio of Anna Coogan and Tzar blew away the crowd with this original score and angelic vocals by Coogan.Hats off to the fans who came out and packed the theater to experience this timeless story of macabre love and the music that brought it to life.