25 CDs of Filmworks ... how to know one's way about it ?
As there is a different style, genre and instrumentation for each soundtrack, it is quite normal that the listener immediately likes some of them and has difficulties with others.
So here are some tips, based on your preferences and lnterests ?
If you like the Masada-projects already :
On Filmworks III, there are no Masada-tunes, but it is here that John, Dave, Joey and Greg play for the first time together ! John Zorn's liner notes : " Thieves Quartet was created in the mold of a modern film noir, and it seemed a perfect opportunity to put a band together for a jazz score in the tradition of Miles Davis' soundtrack "Escalator to the Scaffold". Little did I know that this band was to go on to become one of the most exciting musical groupings I've ever had the privelege of being associated with : MASADA." Thieves Quartet is on Filmworks III.
In the Filmworks series, the amazing Masada String Trio is featured in Volume VIII : The port of Last Resort, for a documentary examaning the experiences of Jewish refugees in Shanghai. To give it an Asian flavour, Zorn added a virtuoso pipa-player and on some tracks piano and guitar as well. John Zorn's liner notes : " ... four compositions wer drawn from the over 200 tunes that comprise the Masada Book, chosen here to portray the ray of moods and emotions felt by the ex-patriots in their safe but unfamiliar haven so far from home. Unapproprate for the original Masada quartet, these pieces have never been hear before and receive delicate and passionate performances of 5 of my very favorite musicians.
Volume IX : Trembling before G-d
, for a documentary about gay and lesbian Orthodox Jews trying to reconcile their sexuality with their faith. Jim Speed's Clarinet and Jamie Saft's organ sounds mark this soundtrack as solemn and somber. The film producers contacted Zorn aft
er hearing his Bar Kokhba project and were keen on including some existing Masada material. Though Zorn wanted to compose an entirely new score, they insisted on keeping one track from Masada : "Idalah-Abal," played on the soundtrack gorgeously by Jamie Saft on organ and Chris Speed on clarinet. Also, the Masada tune "Mahshav" is performed on solo-piano by Anthony Coleman.
Volume XI : Secret Lives
, for a documentary about hidden children and their rescuers under the nazi-terror. The Masada String sounds more like a chamber-orchestra here because the music is more composed and layered than in their other releases. This soundtrack also feautres a girl's vocals on a few tracks, which suits the theme very well. The Director Aviva Slesin in the liner notes : " we had imagined a lot of piano for this soundtrack, thinking of all the lost children and the piano lessons they would never have. But John didn't take the intellectual approach. He heard strings in his mind's ear; they were warmer than percussion and had a yearning quality that felt right to him.". Zorn : "This is an extremely satisfying score, with some beautiful new Masada tunes (Hatzalah, Ba'adinot, Kavanah, Motzee) and moments of mystery (Drama)."
Volume XIV : Hiding and Seeking, for a documentary about an Orthodox Jewish father attempting to alert his sons of the dangers of creating barriers between themselves and those outside their faith. It features Marc Ribot, this time on classical instead of electric guitar. The lush sounds of vibraphone and Cyro Baptista's percussion with the addition of hand-percussion, make it a very accessible and almost easy-listening soundtrack. Zorn's liner notes speak of "light and breezy themes evoking Jewish luck, Jewish pride, Jewish loss and the Jewish lot.".
Volume XV : Protocols of Zion
, for a documentary about the resurgence of antisemitism in the US in the wake of 9/11. This is a dark soundtrack. A striking theme finds its way through the soundtrack in different instrumentations, of which the additon of the Ud gives it a special Middle-Eastern flavour.
The score is largely percussion-driven, with Cyro Baptista and Shanir Blumenkranz working perfectly together. Zorn decided last-minute to play keyboard himself. JZ : " The final choice to perform at the piano myself was not made until the day of recording - it felt just right - and was the decision most responsible for getting this score its special flavour. My piano playing on these pieces gives a fragile and unsettling feeling to the music, which in retrospect seems totally perfect for the subject at hand".
Volume XX : Sholem Aleichem, for a documentary on the Jewish writer Sholem Aleichem. This is an intersting score : it has as base group the Masada String Trio with the addition of harp and accordion, by the amazing Zorn regulars Carol Emanuel and Rob Burger. From the Zorn liner notes : "The Director's hope was for the music to somehow reflect the darker qualities of Aleichem's work, and with this I concurred. In a way Sholem was a bridge from the Old World tot he New, and it seemed important the music somehow reflect that. The score came together quite beautifully - inspired by the subject matter, the charts deepened and contain some complex rhytmic moments of polymeter, polyrhythms and hemiola that became particularly challenging to perform.".
To be continued with more tips ...