Saturday, October 9, 2021

Music to Twitch By

 I don't pay much attention to original film music, and I admit I may be missing some quality listening. Some scores catch my attention, though, especially when the music is better than the movie. David Cronenberg's 1991 film adaptation of Burrough's novel Naked Lunch was a dreary and humorless indulgence that failed to "get" any of the hilarious horror and delirium the book so readily conveyed. The Ornette Coleman-Howard Shore collaboration on the soundtrack, though, is rather magnificent in the way it combines orchestral tone-poetics with Coleman's outer-rim saxophone improvs. Therein lies the true heart of Burrough's world, the struggle for control as the material world dissolves.

Worth mentioning is a dizzying soundtrack from Shirley Clark's 1961 film about a room full of junkies in a dirty, cramped flat waiting for their drug dealer to show up, The Connection. The soundtrack by Freddie Redd is fragmented bop that agitates and exhilarates and turns up the volume as these fellows in dire need of a fix sift their lives and lies in a string of sketchy monologues. Bear in mind what William Burroughs had to say about these situations when one is Waiting for the Man: "The Man is always late..."

It's easy to think that Zappa once assumed that he could make movies the way he made music. If that's the case, then he succeeded with his feature 200 MOTELS, which was an inert, shrill, abrasive, incoherent hodgepodge of musical and visual styles that were meant, I suppose, to mock every nit-witted conceit of American culture within earshot. Zappa never impressed me as a trenchant satirist-- his jibes are less potent than those of George Carlin or even Mad Magazine--but I always found much to admire in his music, his compositional chops. However, the music here is merely a mess, as irredeemably ugly as the movie they accompanied.

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