Notes on the Music

About a year ago, I starting mulling over an idea that would rattle my usual travels in music. Angling to create this documentary that coincides with the 500th anniversary of the biggest religious and social movement in world history, it started making sense to curve the project into contemporary relevance, and focus on the document that triggered the Protest-ant Reformation, asking which creative genres might resonate today. Martin Luther’s confrontational 95 Theses, to me, began resembling stream-of-consciousness hip hop; and when casting about for what seemed like an impossible match, the endlessly vibrant community of Sonic Circuits produced a name: Black Saturn (in particular, they were sound artists Amber Leigh Dunleavy and Chris Videll to whom I’m indebted). His music combines an authenticity to the origins of hip hop (as best as I can understand), with experimental noise art, into an extremely unusual fusion. Adding to that, you hear in his vocals a haunting blend of wrathful didactic, and cosmic perspective, like he’s watching everything spin around the sun & saying WTF. It took some time shaping the work, but each burst arrived intuitively and quickly, always with surprises. He came up with a name I hadn’t ever known (but should’ve), Anfechtung, that Luther used mystically to cite the unceasing wrestle between wrath and faith. In the sound textures, one might hear a divination of yet-unheard timbres becoming of angelic horns announcing the end of time (reminding me of Olivier Messiaen’s inspirations in my prior film Quartet for the End of Time), and the gates of Heaven/Hell slamming shut. Ultimately, Black Saturn has created a sort of two-movement symphony that begins with ten minutes of hip hop, then takes a radical shift into six minutes evoking the apocalyptic fright that most folks forget dominated the minds of everyone in Luther’s day, Marty especially. And now, we live in a time of such renewed vulnerability, that no matter our religious or secular identity, apocalypse seems like it could knock hard on our doors any minute. Anfechtung was intended as the music score to this film, and however that goes, this music by itself is likely the purest and most provocative thing to have evolved from the project — and it got me to the 500th anniversary date with total satisfaction. Much gratitude to Black Saturn for his creative genius.