In 2008, the Andy Warhol Museum commissioned the First Couple of Dream Pop, Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips, to write an original score for a collection of Warhol’s infamous screen tests. Warhol made 500 of them between 1964 and 1966, capturing Factory personalities in hypnotizing 16mm slow-motion close-ups: From Salvador Dalí to Edie Sedgwick to Susan Sontag, they fidget, frown, twitch, and grin—revealing, as Sarah Boxer wrote in the New York Times, profound truths about “the mechanics of discomposure and charisma.” (Or that they are better-looking up close than you and everyone you know.) The originals were silent, finding a kind of music in unbroken gazes and facial tics, so imposing a score onto Warhol’s work could be daunting for any artist. But Dean & Britta (formerly of the hazy pop band Luna) nailed it: Their soundtrack drips with hallucinatory, ’60s-inspired cool. Last year they released the material as The 13 Most Beautiful…Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests, and tonight they premiere it locally in conjunction with the Smithsonian’s Warhol on the Mall festivities. The duo’s ethereal tunes augment these slow-motion reveries: Dennis Hopper grins, Nico gazes dreamily about the frame, Lou Reed takes the coolest sip of Coke ever captured on film. Will the Warhol Museum further examine the machinations of fame by commissioning Loutallica to soundtrack the next 13 screen tests? In our dreams.
Dean & Britta perform at 4 p.m. at the National Gallery of Art East Building Auditorium. Free. (202) 737-4215.