Aaron Martin’s score for Test Subjects, a short film by Alex Lockwood, is a constrained work which manages to say all that needs to be said without sacrificing anything. The documentary concentrates on three aspiring research scientists, Frances, Emily, and Amy, as they try to come to terms with the problematic ethical issues and emotional costs associated with animal testing.
Although their work is designed to better human health and advance medicine, experimentation on other living creatures has never sat right in the gut, and the music reflects this, because the strings quiver with an unsure hand. The American composer’s score is respectful, the strings ancient, and there’s a noticeable sense of struggle within the tightened notes; queasy decisions must be made. The strings barely move, as if contained within cages, but they still have life.
Martin’s compositions are on the verge of being scientific in their levels of deep concentration and careful methodology. This is a study, the goal to create a better future even if it causes present suffering to all involved. Like anything, there are arguments for and against, and Martin’s music reflects on these issues. It’s a challenging subject, but it also collects and brings to light the other side of the coin.