Score Reviews‎ > ‎

Of Mind And Music by Carlos José Alvarez (Review)

posted May 26, 2016, 4:24 PM by Kaya Savas

Of Mind And Music is a moving story about a neuroscientist helping an old street singer with Alzheimer’s, and the score is by Carlos José Alvarez in what might be his strongest effort yet. The subtle and poignant score is the emotional current here and it truly opens up the characters for the audience to connect and emotionally invest in the story.

We all know the power of music on our minds, even if we aren’t musicians. There’s a powerful video you can find on YouTube of an old man with dementia who immediately springs to life when they place headphones on him and play music from his youth (watch it here). That is essentially the center of the story here, where we examine a character’s connection to her past and her culture through music. And for all we know, that YouTube video could have inspired this film.

The score functions as our window into Una Vida, our central character. While we do have a few jazz songs that act as the outward facing music, it’s the score that truly brings everything together. I found the music had just the right tone of showing glimpses of life that were once bright, but are now faded. The French flavors in the music bring the heart of New Orleans into the score, but it never overpowers the narrative to take away from the characters. Alvarez definitely has his own voice as a musical storyteller, but in many ways the score reminded of some poignant Carter Burwell in places and I mean that in the best way possible. I think In Bruges popped into my head mainly because both that score and this one were able to handle a somber tone with a hint of tragedy while still showing light at the end of the tunnel. There is never full pessimism, there is optimism and that’s why the score resonates so well by the time we finish the journey.

Carlos José Alvarez displays a poignant nuanced approach with this score. He manages to find a way to examine hopelessness in a character’s tragic situation while still maintaining optimism to give us this emotional build. French flavors enhance the setting of the narrative in New Orleans, and some jazz songs compliment the whole experience. Of Mind And Music is great character scoring from a composer who deserves your attention.