John Zorn

FilmWorks XVIII: The Treatment

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The 18th volume in John Zorn's Film Works series is on the surface an unlikely one. Zorn was asked to write the score for Oren Rudavsky's The Treatment -- a romantic comedy! According to his liner notes, Zorn initially refused, but at the director's request consented to see the film before giving him a final answer. Zorn was intrigued by the dark undertone in the film, and its rather twisted plot. When Rudavsky suggested tango music as a starting point, Zorn bit. Zorn's appreciation for the music of Astor Piazzolla, Miguel de Caro, Osvaldo Pugliese, and others is well known. When considering material, he didn't set out to write actual tango music, but music informed by the tango. He needed to form an ensemble for the kind of music he envisioned and built it around violinist Mark Feldman, who is versed not only in classical, jazz, and improvisational music, but also tango and Gypsy music. The other members of this fine quartet include Kenny Wollesen on vibraphone (!), accordionist Rob Burger, and bassist Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz. Marc Ribot also guests in a couple of spots. Musically, this is some of the "lightest" music Zorn has ever written, but also some of the saddest and most deeply emotionally moving as well. Beauty is everywhere; it drips from the score in all its cues. The playing of Feldman on "Why Me?" is intense, dark, swirling. The ensemble covers him in his flights of virtuosity --Wollesen's twinning his vibraphone with Feldman's violin lines in the choruses is breathtaking. Blumenkranz's bass playing may keep things rhythmically grounded, but one listen to the aforementioned track, "Freud's Rondo," or "Rush Hour" is evidence that he's both pushing and pulling the ensemble. The playing between Burger and Feldman on the last of these is utterly astonishing. This plays, as have all of Zorn's scores of late, like a piece, a gorgeous piece of divinely inspired tight writing that brings not only the Argentinean tango to mind, but also klezmer, Yiddish folk music, and even cantorial music. There is a bit of Radical Jewish Culture in everything Zorn writes, and this set is a furthering of his own vision. Suffice it to say, and even though he doesn't let on in the liner notes, his scoring of The Treatment may have even surprised the composer himself.

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