July 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Children of a Lesser God
GNP Crescendo GNPD-8007 [33:27]
[This album is an existing release; the original recording was released in 1986]
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Two films I can see over and over are The Accidental Tourist and Children of a Lesser God both starring William Hurt (what has become of his fine talent of late?). Both films had hauntingly beautiful yet melancholy scores that added immeasurably to the dramatic and emotional impact of the films: the former by John Williams and this music by Michael Convertino. Convertino creates a bitter-sweet, gentle, slow moving score, written mainly for high strings but including synth material sensitively mixed within the texture (an object lesson in the technique).

Children of a Lesser God, based on the acclaimed stage play by Mark Medoff, was released by Paramount in 1986. William Hurt won an Oscar nomination for his warm portrayal of James the teacher of the deaf in an isolted specialist school. Other Oscar nominations went to the film itself as best picture, Mark Medoff for his screenplay and Piper Laurie for her role as the mother of the deaf Sarah played by the stunningly beautiful Marlee Maplin who won the Best Actress Oscar for her remarkable performance. Although it can be said the film did not have the bite of the stage play, the central romance between the teacher and the irascible, disillusioned and bitter Sarah, the college's former pupil, now the janitor, is most sensitively handled.

The Main Title music introduces the haunting bitter-sweet theme for the romance between James and Sarah. It speaks eloquently of their tenderness yet trepidation and hesitation and much about the vulnerability of Sarah. This lovely tune fully flowers in End Title after the estranged lovers have come back together to find a mutual and satisfying method of communicating and expressing their love. There is something of a pastoral nature too in the Main Title, expressive of the cool northern watery beauty of the New Brunswick setting with its soft golden light. For much of the album the music moves slowly, ebbing and flowing, moving in slow but complex cross-currents, high strings cascading, glistening, with pointillistic piano and synth notes and anchored by long held lower string chords. The music cleverly points up not only the setting, but the plight, the isolation of the young people under James supervision, locked within themselves and within their deafness. 'Sarah Sleeping' introduces muted and distant voices and whistling to subtly suggest her disorientation. Just two trumpet chords in something of a Last Post mode, indicating James's sorrow and despair sound out from the pervading string texture in 'Searching for Sarah' and cool piano ripples cross 'Love on the Couch' suggest a tentative reaching out for tenderness.

In contrast to all the slow moving material there is 'Boomerang' a more energetic and gaudy pop tune organised for the students by James to encourage them to speak; and the second movement of Bach's Double Concerto for two violins which James plays in the privacy of his rooms.

This is quiet music beautifully crafted that grows on you. Away from the film, it can be enjoyed as a calming, soothing soundstream.


Ian Lace

GNP Crescendo's web site is:- www.gnpcrescendo.com


Ian Lace

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