David Cronenberg’s 1991 film inspired by William S. Burroughs’s hallucinatory novel owes a lot of its surrealist mood to its famous score—a collaboration between Howard Shore and Ornette Coleman. In this screening and live performance, saxophonists Ravi Coltrane and Henry Threadgill summon Ornette’s spirit in otherworldly riffs and fevered tangents while Ensemble Signal evokes Shore’s shadowy orchestral textures.
Burroughs’s novel—an experimental, nonlinear set of vignettes about a junkie known sometimes as William Lee—was released in 1959, the same year as Coleman’s album The Shape of Jazz to Come, and the two artists both inhabited the same fringes. Listen closely to hear Coleman’s composition “Midnight Sunrise” from the album Dancing in Your Head. Burroughs was at the 1973 recording session.