Depot - Reflecting Boijmans

Paul M. van Brugge

" The score by Paul M. van Brugge is especially strong in a dreamy, reflective imagination of it all, coinciding with the mirrored fa├žade of the building, but also in its playfulness, subtle nuances and overall finesse. "

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

Depot - Reflecting Boijmans is a 2023 documentary directed by Sonia Herman Dolz. Regarded as an extension of Conducting Boijmans (2015), and in a sense Under Tomorrow's Sky (2021), the viewer follows the development of the shared dream of architect Winny Maas and director of the Boijmans museum Sjarel Ex (and as of October 2022 ex-director) to realise an art depot, conserving more than 150,000 artworks, in a building characterised by the stunning 1664 mirror panels; a daunting and inspiring mirrored façade.

For the music, Dolz once more allowed composer Paul M. van Brugge to write an original score. To learn more about the previous works, please read my reviews of both of them:

The score of the documentary, which is divided into sections, such as a prologue, introduces the musical outset, as the director of the museum arrives at Boijmans and talks about his favourite artworks. It displays an array of instruments, from a jazz trumpet (noirish, strongly present and muted), expressive, yet low-key warm strings, interesting understated whirling string accents, chimes, subtle bass plucking and piano. This outset is continued throughout the score, with many variations and minimal musical nuances, but also more expressive music, jazz compositions, and fine percussive devices.

After a prologue, the solo trumpet provides the introduction to the credits of the documentary, as spoken word by a male voice pronounces the makers of the documentary, personnel involved in the transit of artworks and even several painters of Boijmans' collection are mentioned and visually displayed. It is a whimsical composition with piano, strings, whistling, percussion and rhythmic jazz, ending with a choir. It is absolutely brilliant, but is not unique; Ennio Morricone did something similar to Pasolini' Uccellacci e Uccellini in 1966; they sang the credits. Still, there could be more examples of this practice, that I still have to discover, or that I simply forget overdue time.

It's unclear how this idea was developed for this documentary, but I suspect the use of the spoken word, originated from a film project (Bouwgrond/Construction Site) coinciding with the opening of the depot in 2021, in which music, spoken word, film and dance rejoiced. The same spoken word recurs, aligned with the composer's music, but every time only briefly.

Additionally, the solo trumpet is also interestingly deployed as a 'fanfare, introductory' musical tool later in the score, with new segments passing by. Once, the use of the echoing gong does something similar.

In a collage showing the construction site, intercut with meetings and sketches of the making, the architect expresses his influences, Thunderbirds and James Bond, and later on van Brugge uses a short quote of both themes. I have such a high esteem for Winy Maas' work, yet such remarks are blasé, and make these orchestral quotes feel, likely unintentionally, satirical.

The segment pertaining to the construction is a bit more conventional, with driving strings and also an interesting, 'alarming' use of percussion. That feeling of progression is found elsewhere in the score, with additionally curious woodwinds, but very solemn in expression. At times, the use of slight traces of disharmony in the string section, minimal use of piano and experimental brass and fluttering woodwinds, provide the score with an extra dimension, and are the most appealing ingredients throughout the score.

Yet, with everything as described, the nuances, the subtle, minimal and more openly expressive music veritably forms the heart of this body of work. A dream of two people, and in a sense of my own, as I continuously passed by the construction site, and continued to do so in awe since the completition of the new depot. It's one of those buildings that gives the city of Rotterdam, and for that matter, the Netherlands, something vigorous.

Aside from all this, given the optimistic intent of the documentary, many concerns are not addressed, but the preservation of these artworks in the deterring old depot, as I witnessed myself on numerous occasions, also mentioned by Sjarel Ex in the documentary, justified the new depot. In general, there is so much to tell and discuss regarding preservation. There's also footage of the old depot versus the new, displaying that sense of nostalgia, which is slightly displayed by the actual score.

The score by Paul M. van Brugge is especially strong in a dreamy, reflective imagination of it all, coinciding with the mirrored façade of the building, but also in its playfulness, subtle nuances and overall finesse.

The music remains unavailable.

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- (music as heard in the movie 2023)