The Icon of Post-Everything Music: JCU Welcomes Guitarist Mike Cooper

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Mike Cooper

Mike Cooper

On Tuesday, October 24, 2017, the JCU Department of Communications welcomed guitarist, improviser, and sound artist Mike Cooper. Cooper performed a soundtrack to the 1935 silent film Legong: Dance of the Virgins.

The film, directed by Henri De La Falaise, is the last silent film ever produced by a Hollywood Studio, and one of the last to be filmed with the famous two-strip Technicolor process (the same process used, for instance, in the color scenes of the 1925 Phantom of the Opera). Legong takes the title from a form of Balinese dance of the same name. Shot entirely in Bali with non-professional actors, the film follows Poutou, a young woman who falls in love with musician Nyong. However, he becomes interested in Poutou’s sister, Saplak and tragedy follows.

Mike Cooper provided a live sonorization for the film via his 1930s metal-bodied National Tri-Plate resonator guitar which he played as a lap steel along with various objects scraping the strings, thumb piano, portable fan, small gongs, electronic effects, samples and processed field recordings from Bali, Thailand, and Sarawak.

Born in 1942 in Reading, Berkshire, UK, Cooper started playing guitar at 16, after leaving school. Shortly thereafter, in 1961, he started playing the harmonica as well as singing. In 1962, Cooper founded his first band, The Blues Committee. In 1968 he was signed by Pye Records, under whose label he released in 1969 his first album, “Oh Really!?” Since then, he has released 16 albums in multiple genres, ranging from folk/blues, to radical improvisation,  pop-rock, jazz, Hawaiian, and electronic music as well as many more self-released works on a variety of supports and collaborations. Mike is even more active as an improviser, collaborating with many different types of performers. An eclectic artist, Cooper is also a videographer, journalist, and music historian.

JCU Communications Professor Peter Sarram, who introduced the event, said, “Mike Cooper has been called the “icon of post-everything music”. Few working artists today in fact can be said to have the eclecticism and breadth that Cooper has and the relevance and respect across a variety of scenes and practices. What he did with the Legong performance is a clear testament to that.”