Promotional Release (JWSCD001)
Release Date: 2004
|1.||"The Shoelace (Excerpt)" - Charles Bukowski||0:32|
|2.||Main Title - Piano Sonata No. 8 Op. 13: Adagio Cantabile (Excerpt)||2:57|
|5.||Back In L.A.||0:36|
|7.||Lots Of Trouble||1:27|
|9.||"Mean To Me" - Fred Ahlert & Roy Turk||1:13|
|10.||Cheating Death/A Rough Trip||0:26|
|11.||Stream Of Poetry||1:19|
|12.||Discipline (Adagio Cantabile - Excerpt)||0:53|
|14.||Civil Servant: The Post Office||0:19|
|17.||Piano Solo #1||1:10|
|18.||Battle Of The Sexes||0:40|
|19.||The Stink Of L.A.||0:56|
|21.||More Book Covers||0:29|
|22.||Piano Solo #2||0:58|
|25.||Move To San Pedro||0:36|
|27.||"Consummation Of Grief" - Charles Bukowski||1:03|
|28.||End Credits Piano Sonata No. 8 Op 13: Adagio Cantabile||5:25|
|Total Album Time:||28:23|
|by Andrew Granade
August 20, 2004
Charles Bukowski had a hard life, and turned his pain and struggles into captivating prose and poetry that went against modernist sensibilities to speak directly to the emotions. He was a hard man, but the authenticity of his writing has made him one of the most widely-read of recent poets. That a film would be made of his life is not that surprising, considering that his Barfly was made into a movie with Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway. What is surprising, and quite welcome, is that Bukowski: Born Into This is so graceful and human in the way it deals with its subject and so true in its dealings with art and the human condition.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said unreservedly of James Wesley Stemple's score. What makes the situation frustrating are the flashes of inspiration that are peppered throughout, the moments of great writing that never completely come together. Stemple is a fine composer with an impressively eclectic resume. He obviously picks projects based on his passion for the subjects and with Bukowski, his devotion fills every note. However throughout the score I felt as though he was keeping something back and wondered where he would have gone if he had given the music free reign.
In its composition, Bukowski strikes a balance worthy of its eminent subject. Stemple seems to have wanted to combine the raw earthiness of the poet's language with the classical structure of his writing. To accomplish this, the score alternates between punched-up jazzy cues that would be perfectly in place in any 1950s film noir to represent Bukowski's hard edge and hard living, and classically-oriented cues that use short repeating motives in chamber orchestrations to stand in for the power of Bukowski's writing. To further underscore this dichotomy, the disc opens and closes with a recording of the poet reading excerpts of his own work. It is a poignant, powerful, and useful anchoring device in a documentary score and prepares the listener for what is to come.
The opening reading of "The Shoelace" is immediately followed by a strangely truncated version of the Adagio cantabile from Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13, the "Pathétique" sonata. Stemple's use of this famous movement points to the score's major weakness. The movement appears three times throughout the score: in the second cue, where it is cut down from its usual five and a half minute length to less than three minutes; in the 12th cue, "Discipline (Adagio Cantabile - Excerpt)," where the supporting chords are altered through the addition of staccato markings, creating a minute-long almost swinging version; and the final cue, where it is presented in its original form. Shortening a perfectly structured composition to fit time constraints never serves the music or the movie it serves. Instead both are shortchanged as audiences feel the imbalance, even if they cannot articulate it. Most of the cues on this score suffer from a lack of development and motion, and when a full, cohesive cue is present, it serves the same purpose as the final presentation of the Beethoven excerpt - it highlights what the other cues are missing.
Despite these drawbacks, the score does succeed in two areas. First, it effectively sets the film's mood, highlighting particularly emotional scenes to great effect. Just listen to Diane Schuur singing "Mean to Me" once and you will instantly feel as though you are in a seedy bar on the side of a back-roads highway. Second, Stemple ably achieves the balance he sought between classical sound and earthy texture. His instrumentation is some of the best and most inventive I have heard all year, particularly in cues like "Battle of the Sexes." But even with these successes, on the whole I wanted a little bit more, a little more development, a little more bite in keeping with Bukowski's notable acridity. It made me want to hear more from James Wesley Stemple to see what else he has up his sleeve. If this recording is any indication, I'll find passionate commitment, fresh ideas, and hopefully nothing held back.
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