John Zorn

FilmWorks XI - 2002, Vol. 1: Secret Lives

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Simply put, this volume of John Zorn's ongoing series of recordings documenting his soundtrack work is stunning. Lyrical, haunting, and exquisitely composed, this score for Aviva Slesin's documentary Secret Lives: Hidden Children and their Rescuers During WWII is a perfectly designed score, one that can stand on its own as music, but never intrudes upon the film it was written for. To realize this, Zorn went to his most instinctive and steady group of musicians, the Masada String Trio -- Mark Feldman, violin; Erik Freidlander, cello; Greg Cohen, bass. These musicians treat the score -- composed of equal parts folk music, themes from Yiddish rabbinical traditions, and the cross-cultural entwining of Europe's own traditions outside the Jewish world, with subtlety and sensitivity. There is a depth of quietude at work in this score, one that gives the pervasive sense that it does not wish to be discovered in its totality, just as these children and their rescuers did not wish to be discovered, yet always feared they would be. The tension it reflects on the screen is one of multiple dimensions and conflicted feelings. That a score can reflect a film's intentions so directly and remain its own entity is a testament to the strength of its composer, that a score can, outside the context of the film it was composed for, reflect a kind of nearly mythical beauty is an achievement that is virtually indescribable in its triumph.

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