“Lovely music with an undercurrent of dread”: this was the brief given to Marcus Fischer when he was commissioned to create the score for the short film “Youth” by Brett Marty and Joshua Izenberg. The film in question tells a dark tale of growing old in an era of eternal youth, a science-fiction love story set in near-future San Francisco. Fischer set about composing music for bell-like chimes, synth, glockenspiel, guitar, echo, and reverb, bringing in frequent collaborator Ted Laderas (The Oo-Ray) on cello. The eleven tracks on “Film Variations” comprise the score plus additional material not included in the final version of the film.
Fragmented, disjointed melodies, accumulating then petering out, recall images in a dream or disintegrating memories. Each piece is a drifting structure that moves through a number of formations and intensities around a harmonic centre, breaking away from the traditional drone patterns of ambient music. Warm echo and reverb make the music sound shut in, contained within its own interior space; a quiet hiss adds a further layer of gauze to pieces such as ‘Variation Six’ and ‘Variation Seven’. I often find Laderas’ cello playing to be too swooningly romantic for my tastes, but here it’s deployed with restraint and subtlety — listen to the way it emerges with whispers from the deep rumbling chasm of ‘Variation Nine’, for example.
“Film Variations” is full of delicate and attractive music, almost drowsy in its quiet calm. At times everything is a little too pretty to seem real — a dangerous reverie, a retreat into a beautiful dream at one remove from the real world. This is perhaps connected to the absence from the album of field recordings, an element that elsewhere plays an important role in connecting Fischer’s music to the world. It’s hard to tell not having seen the film, but I suspect this sense of beautiful illusion is exactly what the filmmakers were looking for.
Image: still from the short film “Youth” by Brett Marty and Joshua Izenberg