De tuin der Afwezigen

Paul M. van Brugge

" The score is best described as organized aesthetic music. "

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

Paul M. van Brugge is an outstanding Dutch composer, actively writing for art a variety of art forms, from films, theatre, dance to concertantes, excelling in all these different terrains. He began composing music to El amor es una mujer gorda by Alejandro Igresti, an Argentinian filmmaker, who migrated to the Netherlands, and they worked together on numerous of other films, just as he would form a long partnership as composer with the Dutch director Ramón Gieling, whose everlasting connection to Spain, led to a score to films and documentaries such us De tuin der afwezigen (Garden of Remembrance).

The documentary portrays Pilar Marjon, who lost her son during the terrorists attacks on the 11th of March 2004 in Madrid. Politicians quickly blamed ETA, which was the starting point of an inconsiderate political game, forcing Marjon to become a spokesman for all victims and their relatives, and oppose the politicians.

The composer based his score on the script, resulting in a composition called ´Sketches of Pain´, for piano and cello. Director Ramón Gieling took the recording with him to Spain, using the music during principal photography.

The documentary begins with providing context to the subject, with archival footage, intercut with performances by cello player Roeland Duijn and pianist Rië Tanaka. Then it cuts to footage of Paul M. van Brugge and the two musicians, in which he explains the idea and context behind the score he has written. In the progression of the documentary, numerous of short shots of both of them performing their instrument, intercut with other footage.

It is never unveiled how, where and to whom the director played the music during the shooting. By the looks of it, the music was likely introduced to interviewed people, which can be seen by the way these people look up, which suggests they concentrate on music in a manner anyone would. The irony is that Sketches of Pain is not really the type of music that people in general are likely to connect to.

The score is best described as organized aesthetic music, featuring a great deal if short musical phrases and accents for piano and cello instruments. It is largely disconcerting, distressing, but minimal, dissonant and conceptual in nature, with minimal harmonically moving moments by the cello. Both in construction and overall sound, it was likely conceived as autonomous contemporary music. Van Brugge’ music to other documentaries often tap into a similar musical idiom. I do find it musically appealing and am also strongly drawn toward the conceptional idea of the music and how the variety of short musical phrases aesthetically mingle with the images.

While the vast majority of his scoring career is truly impressive, especially the last two decades, this is a slightly less interesting body of work.

(written 23-04-2021)
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- (music as heard in the movie 2006)