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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Monday June 15, 2020 

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Review by Brad Green:
A humble ensemble can surpass a fully-fledged orchestra in three ways: intimacy, textural detail and sensitivity. With this score for string quartet, piano and percussion, composer Dale Cornelius has achieved the hat-trick.

The contrasts and complements he has forged both within the string quartet and between the strings and the percussive elements create a fascinating structure that is almost architectural in design. We are drawn in to the inner sanctuary of each instrument: we hear their individual timbres, their individual voices, yet we immediately detect the passageways that link one to the other and combine into a pleasing whole.

The resultant music evokes piquant sentiments. Sometimes the strings seem pensive, sometimes desperately lachrymose and sometimes serene. There is even one cue where they escape into the ebullience of a jig. Set against alternately sweet and sharp modulations of piano and rhythm, the overall impression is a controlled flux of colours. The music makes us feel all the more deeply for its ambiguities, and triggers a series of emotional responses far above the mire of sentimentality.

Magical realism is touted as the mood of the movie, and this suggests a tinge of the exotic usually a Latin American flavour; but in this case a tremulous violin vibrato adds a fresh nuance, an oriental leaning, to some of the central motifs.

There is an extraordinary gentle energy to the flow of the soundtrack. The percussive elements are never heavy handed, and often beautifully augmented by pizzicato from the string section. The piano plays a flexible role, managing to adhere to its percussion designation, as well as stretching out in elegant arpeggios and providing chordal foundations.

While thematic development continues throughout the score, Cornelius also utilises little oscillations, to-and-fro seesaws of chords or melody, to evoke a certain whimsy and again enhance the pseudo-magical quality.

Every cue is arranged with an exquisite delicacy. The warmth of long cello notes softens the edges of crisp, bright piano patterns, and there is an inexorable accumulation of feelings that becomes more and more touching as the score develops. For any listener willing to be carried on a complex emotional journey, this soundtrack is utterly beguiling.

Published October 10, 2002

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TITLE: Till Human Voices Wake Us
ID: 20015
SCORE: Dale Cornelius

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