Friday, October 30, 2015

Timothy Nelson - Music for the Brothers Quay Documentary - "Through the Weeping Glass: On the Consolations of Life Everlasting (Limbos & Afterbreezes in the Mütter Museum)" - Mütter Muszea, Atelier Koninck & Pro Bono Films 2012

Twin brothers Stephen and Timothy Quay have been ('two') of my favorite filmmakers/artists/directors for many years now. I am a huge fan of surrealist stop-motion animation and puppetry, especially from Eastern Europe-the Czechs in particular have always had a special preoccupation with surrealism, and many of the best surrealist and experimental filmmakers have come from the Bohemian land of King Rudolf II. The Brothers Quay have always collaborated with the most interesting one-of-a-kind composers, the best example being Leszek Jankowski whom the Quays had a long creative partnership with. Jankowski composed music for most of their short films and a couple full length features as well. The music for their fascinating documentary-short (31 min) was written by Timothy Nelson, a composer, sound designer, and multi-instrumentalist whose music powerfully adds to the film's visual strength. I knew nothing about him prior to the film. The music is oft abstract,  gloomy, other-worldy, beautiful, and in general hard to pigeonhole. It works wonderfully within the fascinating, macabre setting of the Mütter Museum.

Dvd cover of the Quay's film. 

Timothy Nelson's soundtrack is included on the dvd as mp3s so I finally plopped them on my HD.

"Through the Weeping Glass: On the Consolations of Life Everlasting (Limbos & Afterbreezes in the Mütter Museum)" is specifically a documentary on the collections of books, instruments, and medical anomalies at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. It’s a ghoulish, educational and intriguing collection.  This short film, commissioned by the College, is the first made by the internationally recognized and brilliant Quay Brothers here in the United States. The coupling of the Quay Brothers' vision with the collections of the Mütter Museum and the College's Historical Medical Library has produced a riveting experience of contemplative set pieces in which the Quays find poetry in the ill-fated, true-life stories of the "ossified man" Harry Eastlack, and famed Siamese twins Chang and Eng Bunker among many others. The resonant voice-over is performed superbly by Derek Jacobi. 

Composer Timothy Nelson

The "Viennese eye phantom"

Above is the skeleton of Harry Eastlack, a young man who died from the rare disease Fibrodysplasia Ossificants Progressiva, where cartilage in the bones ossifies, causing a "second skeleton" to grow.

Scene which explores a rare, very old anatomical "pop up" book

Skull from the Hyrtl collection

The actual plaster cast made shortly after the death of the Bunker Brothers
Part of the Viennese anatomist Joseph Hyrtl skull collection
The Brothers Quay during filming at the Mütter

Rather creepy device known as the perforator. This was used to save the mother's life in 'emergencies' by taking another

This is actually a tumor

And no this post has nothing to do with it being Halloween here in the States tomorrow! To be serious, I am fascinated with all kinds of dark subjects, and medical anomalies are extraordinarily interesting. One cannot begin to fathom however these kind of existences. The museum has 1000s of examples of all kind, including the strangest objects ever swallowed, and a (human) colon in a display case that's about 3 feet long. The Quays tell the stories of those unspeakably afflicted with great dignity.

The composer's own site says that "Nelson's film music has been compared to that of Zdeněk Liška, Alan Splet, Ennio Morricone, Krzysztof Komeda and Toru Takemitsu. I urge all of you to be adventurous and check it out (and the documentary as well!). I think anyone missing more traditional, or lyrical music here will well enjoy the brief last track, "Orchids"..

Enjoy ye adventurers


DarkS said...

I have been wanting to see this badly, I actually missed the installment at the mutter, as well as the Quays retrospective last year at MoMa in NY. Thanks for the rare tunes!

Tzadik said...

Hi there DarkS, thank you for commenting. I too missed the retrospective at the MoMa in NYC, and in my case I had NO excuse for missing it; it ran for a good amount of time. I regret this more than I can say.
I have never been to the Mütter Musuem before but it's a must-visit spot for me, so some day.....

Happy you like the music. There are a few (brief) sections where the visuals would help, such as a 10 second spot where the actual sounds of drawers opening and closing can be heard (it's the cases kept in drawers from "the collection of swallowed objects").


Anonymous said...

Most unusual post for the music blog! :) You are a connoisseur of the macabre, aren't you? LOL


Tzadik said...

Piterets, there is no end to my gloominess. I think I am actually the reincarnation of John Dowland ;-)

Did you give the music a try btw?


Anonymous said...

Interesting music, thanks!

Vanusian said...

thank you for your shares, love the blog, it has introduced me to some fantastic modern music and composers. am keen to give this one a spin especially