Adrian Corker’s soundtrack to The Have-Nots alternately thrashes around in fury and weeps openly, its palms clasping the face in near-silence. Based on the award-winning novel by Katharina Hacker (‘Die Habenichtse’) and directed by Germany’s Florian Hoffmeister, The Have-Nots premiered at the Munich Film Festival earlier in the year. The score itself is largely restless, as is the subject matter. The white sheets of innocence have been kicked out of a slender bed by a soul in the throes of insomnia, and the bed itself has been lined by a delicate and yet durable string section – a quartet – which, when placed together on a series of wooden slats, supports the music. Enduring the cruelty of insomnia, the waking nightmare of a post-9/11 world squeezes around the tender meat of the conscious mind, constricting it in the same way that a python slowly suffocates its prey. There’s still a lot of movement within the confined space, but it isn’t a smooth movement; it’s struggling. Its heart is still beating but it’s being suffocated, its pulse slowly fading away.
The score’s theme is one of a hopeless and yet inevitable decay. You cannot outrun it. Cold ridges of bone act like overarching gateways from which there is no escape. The ensemble plays within the decaying, locked grooves of their own recordings, and acetate causes the music to physically, emotionally and sonically erode. The solemn piano segments seem to leave this decaying, burning world for good, but it’s still a part of it, and its tears are a part of the musical dissolution, the unravelling of it all. With its heart-aching ‘narratives of loss and disaffection in a post 9/11 world’, the music splutters out the pollutants that at first disrupt and then disunite, tearing communities and nations apart. But we all bleed the same.
At Christmas, it’s worth remembering that Jesus was a refugee who fled violence in the Middle East. Nothing much has changed there. Things are not likely to improve with an imminent presidency, and the music, at times, becomes a poisonous thing, mirroring the ugly rhetoric of the 2016 American presidential campaign, but in reality it reflects nothing but its own distorted image. Adrian Corker’s score, consisting of violin, viola da gamba, cello and double bass, is sometimes sonorous, dreaming of a place afar that’s soft, a kind kingdom, but there are multiple occasions where the strings become acidic things. Sometimes you can hear it eating away, its dull, demented harmony not only buzzing but positively screaming at the injustices, the greed, the corruption and the pointless slaughter in a changed world; the strings are barely hanging onto an indifferent planet whose oceans are formed of blood.
At times, the music is like a raging fighter jet taking to the skies, its roaring afterburners leaving nothing behind but fumes from the exhaust. The music is, on the surface, confused with itself and its place in the world. This is a world of cyber warfare, of twenty-four seven monitoring, email-scanning and widespread phone tapping (which can either be thought of as a necessary intelligence-gatherer, or, like an eavesdropping neighbour, as a disturbing invasion of privacy).
The strings are, of course, a crucial part of the performance. They’re actors themselves, playing out a series of final scenes on a stage that has fallen apart, its sets now grimly perverse, insane imaginings, and, like the orchestra on the sinking Titanic, they have a certain, grim knowledge that their fate will soon be sealed with an icy, passionless kiss. It speaks of international disaffection and existential threats, of urban alienation and festering ideas that are birthed from neglect and anger, those emotions giving rise to evil acts. The sheer shock of 9/11 is still reverberating around the globe; not all is well, and it won’t be for a long time. A thrumming drone quivers sickly underneath, bringing you closer to a period of icy, nauseous uncertainty, understanding this to be the modern dark age.