Conducting Boijmans

Paul M. van Brugge

 
" Conducting Boijmans┬┤ music is playful, stimulating, diverse, imaginative and even at times touching. "

Written by Joep de Bruijn - Review of the music as heard in the movie


Conducting Boijmans is a Dutch 2015 documentary directed by Sonia Herman Dolz. Paul M. van Brugge has scored a series of documentaries by Dolz, both living and working Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Three works, Conducting Booijmans, Blanco: The Hidden Language of the Soul (2009) and The Master and His Pupil (2003) focus on the subject of Rotterdam art, each from a different point of view. Blanco follows the art of dance, featuring Conny Janssen, a phenomenon in the field. I have no knowledge of dance, nor do I find it interesting, but the documentary did spark my interest. The score by the composer is aesthetically brilliant and the conceptual nature of the overall score does aid in an attempt to understand, and even appreciate the process behind creating a dance. The Master and His Pupil focuses on the masterful Russian conductor Valery Gergiev and his work as principal conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic orchestra, from 1995 until 2008. The man’s by far the most passionate conductor ever caught on film. Every second you see him interacting with a pupil is fascinating. As expected the documentary features, classical music, but van Brugge’ additional score is stunning.

Conducting Boijmans portrays Sjarel Ex, director (since 2004) of museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam. It's a documentary about a passionate person and explores his love for art and gives an insight in what he does on a regular basis.

Paul M. van Brugge’ score is a true delight. In trying to describe his score and why it works so wonderful, it's best to refer to something the director of the museum explains; he talks about how he developed his imaginative and dreamlike look on how to see and perceive art, acquiring a sense to see a work from a different point of view, peeling of layer after layer. This is really the key anecdote which is strongly reflected throughout the score.

In general, he does approach documentaries different from films; he uses less melodic lines and themes, and focuses on an aesthetical and metrically planned sound, which makes these scores different and usually more challenging. However, even since his musical language evolved into more minimal music, these two approaches can coexist in some of his works.

Conducting Boijmans´ music is playful, stimulating, diverse, imaginative and even at times touching. The score’s musical palette consists of a wide array of instruments and musical techniques, including plucked strings, drums, vibraphone, a jazz combo, minimal textures, sparse piano, playful woodwinds, low-key electronic ambience, the works.... It's music that is constantly evolving, even though some things do return frequently, it never repeats itself, constantly providing a great diversity in sound, tone, and rhythm that really forms a creative and evocative musical guide to that feel of how to look at art. But everything is constructed with a great artistic sense of detail, every change in construction, which can be a brief musical accent, or intertwined colors and expressive sounds in a new formation, feel metrically planned. Some of its minimal textures simulate the artistic imaginative, while at others there’s an almost fairy tale like feel, which as the museum directors, explains takes him back to his childhood. It never really tries to evoke a dramatic emotion, but towards the end, the sparse, textural piano addresses this slightly.

It may sound as a cliché, but the entire score hits all the right buttons and offers such a deeply meaningful context to the documentary. This a wonderful example of what attracts me so much to the majority of the music by Paul M. van Brugge. He´s one of the few composers I know with such long-lasting, almost uninterrupted string of greatly written scores, particularly in the last two decades, coinciding with his evolving musical language. Being familiar with the vast majority of his career, being able to ascertain his value as a composer compared to many others, has led me to believe he truly is one of the best composers. To strengthen my appraisal for his music in general and this particular score, I would like to use the word intelligent in relation to his output, which is a term I do not feel is ever appropriate in relation to any composer and their music, possibly even offensive, but I am willing to make this one exception.

The composer’ scores are poorly presented in terms of releases. In fact, he doesn't like them much, which is regretful. There’s one official CD release and a small series of promo scores, manufactured by film distributors.


(written 23-04-2021)
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- (music as heard in the movie 2015)