There’s always a problem when dealing with mixed media. When combined, everything usually makes sense. When, however, the individual media components are viewed separately the Gestalt principal of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts is usually proven true. This is the case with the music for the film, Barcelona In 48 Hours.
The movie in question is a short film by photographer Anja Hitzenberger. It is described on its website as, "an impressionistic portrait of a contemporary dance artist (David Zambrano) and a meditation on movement of the body, through dancing and traveling.... (it) is a film in photographs: its visual material comes almost entirely from black-and-white stills." The concept was to take hundreds and hundreds of still photographs and edit them, through film, "to create a story and dream-like movement, so the viewer almost forgets the film is made from still images."
Multi-instrumentalist/composer Edward Ratliff, who scored and plays on the soundtrack, has performed at jazz festivals throughout the world and is a respected composer of music for dance. He is a logical choice to write music for a presentation such as this, and his music for this project has all the properties of great film music. It’s descriptive, ambient, moody, lively dark at times, but most of all, evocative. It’s almost impossible to listen to this music and not sense there is another media involved in the overall presentation. When, however, the music is set on its own, it is, at times, difficult to listen to. This is because of the diverse changes that occur between the different selections and because none of the different musical concepts elaborated on is ever really developed. As musical impressions within film this is okay, but as a musical experience in-and-of-itself very few composers have the skill necessary to be successful at both at the same time.
Some of the wildly different paths crossed on the 11 tracks include Jewish Klezmer inspired music on Barcelona [band version], a modern hip-hop techno/programmed groove on BCN, a children’s song performed on solo celeste during Glass, some quasi-aleatoric music on Horsey, European free-jazz style playing in Barcelona [dreaming] and Slavic/Gypsy folkish music on Estacio De Franca, as just a few examples. Even though there is a main melody which reoccurs on many of the tracks, each of the tracks is so wildly different the linking of these various styles through an idée fixe doesn’t necessary mean the intended cohesiveness works.
On the other hand, the playing on this disc is excellent. Ratliff is a well accomplished musician no matter what instrument he’s handling. He performs on cornet, trombone, accordion, celeste and Fender Rhodes electric piano, and always brilliantly. As a composer he is able to fashion an exceedingly great number of singular sounds through the different instrumental combinations employed. His deft handling of line, balance and color is exceptional. It’s obvious all of the band members truly understand the musical conception of each piece and really commit themselves to its fullest performance. There is no doubt you’ll be hearing a lot more from Ratliff, in many media, in the future.