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Filmmaker Jim Jarmusch Brings His Movie Music Home to Northeast Ohio

Jim Jarmusch & SQÜRL [photo:Ryan Muir]

Beginning with Screamin' Jay Hawkins belting out 'I Put a Spell on You' in 1984's Stranger Than Paradise, Cuyahoga Falls native Jim Jarmusch made it clear that music wasn't going to be just part of his films. 

It's at the very center of the stories he tells on screen.  Which is easy to understand given Jarmusch's passion for music.

"I really don't like to use music to tell the audience what they should feel, which a lot of filmmakers use for that purpose.  I really don't like that kind of manipulation.  I prefer to weave it into the film somehow and have it almost be like another character," Jarmusch said.

While making his 2009 film,  The Limits of Control, Jarmusch couldn't find the proper music for a scene where a character went to the same museum every day but only looked at one painting. The way he solved the problem, with producer Carter Logan, led to the band SQÜRL that Jarmusch brings to the Cleveland Museum of Art.

"My colleague and editor Jay Rabinowitz, who's also been a music editor with me for years, said, 'Why don't you guys make some of the music?'  So we did.  We tried it and it turned out really well," Jarmusch said.

SQÜRL went on to make EP's and then score Jarmusch's acclaimed vampire film from 2013,  Only Lovers Left Alive, with dark electric guitars and drums.  Most recently the band scored Jarmusch's award-winning film from 2016,  Paterson.

"But that's an electronic score without guitars and drums basically," Jarmusch said.

For Jarmusch making music allows him to satisfy another part of his creativity. 

"I love making movies but for me it's often a two year period to make a film.  It's very immediate and it's very reactive and interactive," Jarmusch said.

Jim Jarmusch and his band SQÜRL perform at the Cleveland Museum of Art Wednesday at 7:30pm.

This week's performance features Sqürl accompanying four silent films by Dada and Surrealist artist Man Ray. 

Jarmusch said that while much of the performance will be improvised it won't be totally free form. 

"We do have a map, we do rehearse.  We have a kind of guide but it's never the same.  Even the rehearsals are really a lot of fun because you're never quite sure how he might react to something I play or vice versa.  Wow it's really so much fun," he said.

Dave DeOreo is coordinating producer for Ideastream Public Media’s arts and culture team.