I Can Hear Music

For someone who studied music and plays music, I have a difficult time knowing what music to use with these moving images I capture. So much so that in my first film I didn’t use music at all, but used a multi-layered sound design instead. With Tango Octogenario, I knew I had to use tango music and I listened to a lot of it, but none of it really worked for me. Then on February 4, 2002 I was listening to Irene Trudel’s show on the great WFMU and she played “La Camorra 1” composed and performed by Astor Piazzolla. I knew immediately this was the music for the film; it was a lightening bolt moment. (I am eternally grateful to WFMU and give every year to their fundraising drive, which is going on now through 3/13/11. Consider supporting them.)

Photo by Peter LaMastro.

“La Camorra 1” is a tango, but Piazzolla composed it for the concert hall, not the dance hall. (Piazzolla famously resented people dancing to his music.) “La Camorra 1” perfectly captured the arc of the story and the dance: it began angrily, it mellowed, it became somber, and then ended joyously—all in about three minutes.

When I played it for the stars of the film, Alex and Jean Turney, they told me it was impossible to dance to. But I was convinced they could, but more importantly, the choreographer, Nancy Turano, convinced them they could. The three of them put the dance together. Alex and Jean grew to love “La Camorra 1.” Though I’m proud of Tango, I can no longer watch it, for various reasons. But I never tire of hearing it.

I mention this because the other day I was listening to the great KALX and heard a piece of music that struck me with that same lightening bolt. There’s a long way to go before I start making decisions about music, but I’m very excited now to have discovered … well, I can’t say. But I will say this, why it took me so long to recognize the obvious is beyond me. And I will also say this, the day before hearing said piece, I came across this quote on the Arhoolie website: Psalm 150:4 “praise Him with stringed instruments.”

It looks like I will be eternally grateful, and pledging my support, to two radio stations now.