Monkey Town Presents: Silent Films + Unique Instruments Festival

  • Location:
    New York

Jay Wasco
Phantom of the Opera (1925)

7:30 and 10:00

One of the best-known of all silent era films, The Phantom of the Opera has a reputation as one of the quintessential horror films. Makeup innovator and character actor Lon Chaney climbs above the campy direction to deliver an indelible master performance that sustains the film to this day.

For this unique screening, Chaney is joined in a dramatic duet by composer and multi-instrumentalist Jay Wasco. A true one-man-orchestra, Jay will be performing (simultaneously) on his original instruments "The Swiss Army Bass","The Egotar" and "The Fractal Harp".

Jay on playing the Swiss Army Bass:

"It's a bass guitar with a midi keyboard mounted on it…This instrument has a weight equivalent to that of a small motorcycle, and as you might imagine, requires years of time and patience to "master". The challenge of playing an instrument like this is obvious. What isn't is its use as a compositional and improvisational tool as a means to create big balls of music, unrestricted by predetermined chord changes or rhythmic elements… in real time. The coordination between the two elements - bass & keyboard outweigh the physical technical limitations one might expect."

On developing the Egotar:

"I set out to figure out how to play pedal steel guitar with one hand while playing bass with the other…I figured that this could done fairly simply by mounting a slide on a carriage over the strings and reversing the action of the whole instrument. This would allow me to rest my palm on the carriage and fret and pick with the use of just one hand. The original rig was really clunky but I did manage to toss it on the back of a cart and go play in the subway…I did the best for the Brooklyn-bound passengers at the Lafayette/Broadway stop. It's a relatively quiet station with low central ceilings (cozy almost). I would sit and play this improvisational, heroin-ated, down-home country, Indian, Chinese sounding shit. I tried to keep it as relaxing as possible for the crowd heading home in the late evening and I guess they appreciated it because I always went home with a lot more money than I left with. It was cool getting getting paid to learn how to play this thing…only in New York."

And on inventing the Fractal Harp:

"This is the best idea I've ever had - other than marrying my wife - sure beats drinking pine cleaner."

for more information, music and video, visit

Curated by Sam Zimmerman