SOUND SCREENINGS: Cineaesthetics and movie
buzzes, jennifer_hudson.jpgthe highs and lows of the film art, are
in the air. In the city limits, the SBIFF has seized our attention
and tempted us away from home and workplace, while the general
media headspace has us presumably hovering in the suspenseful zone
between the Golden Globes and the Oscars. We’re inclined to
contemplate recent film kultcha, and for the purposes of this
column, its too often underrated musical component

According to this columnist, the finest sound out of the
Hollywood movie machine last year was the ripe,
soul-meets-genuine-theater sound pouring out of
Jennifer Dreamgirls Hudson’s mouth
. Elsewhere, it was
good news/bad news, and largely mediocre news—since Hollywood
actually has a controlling, love-hate relationship with music,
fearing that interesting music will detract from more important
elements in film (i.e. highly paid faces).

Generic Hollywood scoring, a sure way to sully otherwise good
films, left its sonic stains on films like The Pursuit of
and The Good Shepherd. Meanwhile, the great
santo_man.jpgPolish composer Krzysztof
’s muscular music was heard in at least two films, to
great effect—Children of Men and David Lynch’s psycho-fun
Inland Empire. Gustavo Santaolalla’s
score for Alejandro
González Iñárritu’s
Babel was a beaut, too, exotic and
reflective of the film’s themes. Santaolalla is shaping up as a
promising fresh voice in film, having soared on Inarritu’s earlier
films Amores Perros and 21 Grams, and providing
rustic atmospherics for Brokeback Mountain.

And the Academy Award nominees for best musical score are…
Santaolalla for Babel, Thomas Newman for The Good
(Newman also shined on Little Children,
mirroring his suburban angst job on American Beauty);
Javier Navarrete for his terse-cum-fantastical orchestral score for
Pan’s Labyrinth; Philip Glass for Notes on a Scandal
(Glass may be at his best as a film composer); and Alexandre Desplat—another
exciting and smart new voice—for The Queen.

Speaking of Santaolalla, he is the star of the annual SBIFF
composer’s panel, “Scoring the Film,” Saturday at 2 p.m. at the
Lobero. Also in the panel’s mix, so far, are Mark Isham
(Bobby) and Mychael Danna, of Little Miss
fame, along with The Nativity Story (the
loveably profane and the sacred). These panels are always enticing
and instructive, not only for curiosity-seekers and aspirants in
the field, but those of us who still believe that much of what
makes film such a grand, complex medium is the manipulating of many
senses at once, and music may be the most subversively powerful
dimension of all. Some of us stay to the very end of a film’s end
credits just to see what we’ve heard.

FRINGE PRODUCT: For anyone interested in
thinking person’s meditative music, check out the eerily lovely
recording of John Cage’s
harp and vocal piece Postcards from Heaven, just released
on the ArpaViva label. Victoria
does the harp honors, oscillating from between a solo
setting to rippling overdubs of 20 harps. Pamela Z, who dazzled a
Center Stage crowd last year, supplies sustained and delayed sung
tones, in what is a strangely cool and cooling listening
experience. The “heaven” connection, with visions of spaced
harpists playing without a coffee break for eternity, is half
tongue-in-cheek. But only half.

TO-DOINGS: jake_shimabukuro_1-thumb.jpgAs if the film festival wasn’t enough of
a lure to get out of the house, the week’s musical menu is also
inviting. On Wednesday, Our Man Glen Phillips,
fresh off a European hiatus, visits the inviting ambience of the
Lobero Theatre, joined by old
pals Sarah and Sean
(from Nickel Creek), and another
Phillips, being notable Angeleno songman
…unfortunately, on the same night, the
“Dieselbilly” Telecaster master Bill
—ex of Command Cody—shows up at SOhO on the same night.
Also at SOhO, on Saturday, the lyrical-minded ukulele virtuoso
(yes, that’s right) Jake
returns to the scene of a packed, wowed

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