Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sounds Like...

One of the good things about Scorsese's "Shutter Island", is that its wonderful soundtrack brings a lot of exceptional composers and exceptional music to the wider public. Take the Mahler Quartet used in the film. Di Caprio's character identifies it immediately as if it were one of the standard classics. It's not. All the Mahler I knew was his symphonies and songs (and a couple of piano pieces). When I heard the piece used in the film I thought there was a big black hole in my musical education. I have a limited knowledge of classical, but I did think I knew my Mahler. Then I went looking for it. Not many recordings out there. The Penguin Guide doesn't even mention it. Not much on it at all really. Yet it is a wonderful piece, and the snippet used in the movie is pretty much all there is to it. It is less a piano quartet than a single 11 minute movement. For bringing that alone to my attention I am grateful.
Then there's the Max Richter piece, "On the Nature of Daylight". This probably signals the heart of the movie. Its poignant gentleness highlights the heavy-handedness of the rest of the movie, great music aside. Sad to say, I was not familiar with Richter's work though I remembered the piece from "Stranger than Fiction" (the best thing about an otherwise weak movie). Tracked him down a little now. A sadder, more sentimental version of Gavin Bryars with a good dollop of Nyman thrown in, he's well worth checking out.
Robbie Robertson, of The Band fame, is credited with bringing all this music together (quite literally in the case of the final track, mixing Richter's music with a Dinah Washington song). Hats off to you, Robbie.
As an aside, one of the composers featured, Morton Feldman, is the thread behind an exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art at the moment. The catalogue proclaims proudly that this is the first exhibition ever devoted to Feldman. Well, he was a composer, you know. He may well have hung round with a lot of artists, and dedicated music to them, but personally I think it's stretching things to devote an art exhibition to a composer. What we get are works by his friends, oriental rugs that inspired him and the copies of the scores to his music. Still it's nice to see the few Rothko's, the Guston's (one reminded me of an impressionist painting without the subject), De Kooning, etc.. And if you look at that Pollack really closely you'll see a mosquito caught in the paint, still perfect after over 60 years.

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