Tag Archives: Schubert

Aspects of cinematic love (and their soundtrack)

There are of course countless films that deal with love, romantic or otherwise. Some, however, have managed to capture this so popular and overused of themes in a completely new light, utilizing both image and sound in an original and captivating way.

Here are some of my favorites:

I. Silent love: Kubrick meets Schubert

Never has the art of seduction been so skillfully delivered on the big screen as in this scene from Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece Barry Lyndon. Shot by using actual candlelight, not a single word is exchanged between the two lovers throughout the whole scene – some meaningful looks are enough for the romance to be born. And no other music could fit the sequence more perfectly than Schubert’s sublime piano trio with its haunting theme.

Film: Barry Lyndon (1975), directed by Stanley Kubrick
Music: Franz Schubert, Piano Trio in E-Flat, Op. 100 – II. Andante con moto

II. Wise love: The rabbi meets the airplane

There are many brilliant moments to be found in the Coen brothers film A Serious Man, however the scene where Danny meets senior rabbi Marshak is by far my favorite. It has suspense, philosophical and religious undertones, pop culture references, subtle irony as well as that unmistakable, dark Coen humor. When 60s hippie idealism meets disillusioned religious skepticism, you better find somebody to love!

Film: A Serious Man (2009), directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
Music: Jefferson Airplane, Somebody to Love

III. Religious love: St. Paul meets Beethoven

I kept the best for last. Anyone who has watched Sono’s 4-hour long epic Love Exposure knows that this is no ordinary film. And this scene is perhaps the best proof: Two Japanese youngsters on a remote shore grappling with each other, releasing their sexual frustration while arguing about metaphysics. A truly explosive mix of religious fervour, existential agony and adolescent tension building up to a dramatic climax masterfully synced to Beethoven’s awe-inspiring music.

Film: Love Exposure (Ai no mukidashi, 2008), directed by Sion Sono
Music: Ludwig van Beethoven,  Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92 – II. Allegretto

Philip Glass and Schubert’s glasses

Born on January 31 (the same day as Franz Schubert), Philip Glass is regarded as one of the most influential composers to emerge during the twentieth century. Although he evolved stylistically in his later works, the American composer has been mostly associated with minimal music, a style that has its origins in the underground scene and alternative spaces of San Francisco and New York of the early 1960s.

My first encounter with Glass’s music was back in the 1990s, through a compilation CD that contained key works by contemporary composers. The piece was the 1st movement of his Violin Concerto No.1, which still ranks among my favorite pieces of modern music – or any music for that matter, as I consider it a masterpiece by any standards.

Many years later, I had the chance to see Philip Glass performing with his ensemble at the Muziektheater in Amsterdam. It was one of the lengthiest and most demanding music performances I have ever attended: a total duration of 5 hours over which Glass’s large-scale work Music in Twelve Parts was executed in its entirety (a rare event).

It is true that the repetitive structure and recurring musical elements in Glass’s works and minimal music in general can be somewhat off-putting without the listener’s engagement and active participation. On the other hand, I find this style of music relatively easy to follow (at least when compared with most of atonal music) and highly rewarding for a set of persistent and appreciative ears. Glass, after all, describes himself as a “classicist”. He was trained in harmony as well as counterpoint and, under the guidance of French composer and conductor Nadia Boulanger, he has studied the compositions of J.S. Bach, W.A. Mozart and, well, Franz Schubert…

Schubert - Glass.png

Interestingly, the relationship between the latter and Philip Glass extends far beyond a shared birthday. Glass’s fondness for Schubert’s music can be traced throughout his oeuvre, most notably in his writing for piano. According to Dutch pianist and composer Jeroen Van Veen, an example of this can be found in Glass’s Mad Rush, which alludes to the opening piano part of Schubert’s beautiful Lied Du bist die Ruh.

Glass’s appreciation and respect for the Viennese master with the iconic glasses of steel frame and spherical lenses appears, then, to be well-grounded. In all likelihood, Schubert too would approve of Glass’s creative approach in using relatively simple forms to produce works of high dynamics and powerful emotion. Not to mention his soft spot for round glasses. It’s all in the name, it seems…