Before Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon There Was Red Heroine. Those words flash across the screen to introduce the Devil Music Ensembles trailer for the silent 1929 kung fu film, accompanied by a taste of the original score the band has created for the movie. A lively drumbeat complements clips of Red Heroines action: a running army of soldiers, a flying heroine, the mystical White Monkey, and Teeth, a drooling guard with a wicked overbite. The film, which depicts the rise of a young female warrior who exacts vengeance on the army that kidnapped her and killed her grandmother, is a rare glimpse of the martial-arts craze of 1920s Shanghai. Most films of the genre were destroyed during the Communist revolution.
Tonight, watch a screening while the Devil Music Ensemble provides live accompaniment in Muenzinger Auditorium as part of the University of Colorado at Boulders International Film Series. One of few American groups composing and performing scores to silent films, the Boston ensemble has been touring the country performing its Red Heroine score for the movie, playing everywhere from rural barns to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. For this tour, Brendon Wood is on electric guitar, lap steel and synthesizer; Jonah Rapino is on electric violin, lap steel, vibraphone, synthesizer and erhu (a two-string Chinese violin); and Tim Nylander plays drums and a variety of Chinese percussion instruments. The score combines traditional Chinese classical and folk music with a style borrowed from kung fu movie soundtracks.