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SAMSARA: SOUNDTRACK

“Just as the potter’s wheel, once set into motion, still turns for a long time and then turns only very slowly and stops, so did the wheel of the ascetic, the wheel of thinking, the wheel of discrimination still revolve for a long time in Siddhartha’s soul….”
(Hermann Hesse, SIDDHARTHA)

Review by Brad Green:
A root note followed by a falling third; then in the next bar a new chordwith a similar pattern, but the third ascending. Such is the simple motif that flows through this score like the rippling motion of a river. Sometimes the foundation note at the start of the bar is articulated by the guitar (or perhaps guitar-like Eastern instrument) on which the pattern is played, and sometimes it is just suggested by the underlying strings. But this elementary melody is the basis for a score that seduces us not with hooks and harmonic invention, but with elemental texture.

The epigraph from Siddhartha above is a metaphor within a metaphor. Concentric circles if you like. It is from the chapter Sansara (a variation of “samsara”): the Hindu and Buddhist precept of the cycle of birth, suffering, death and transmigration; and also ignorance, desire and action. Samsara is the world of physical space, time and causation; of “maya” (the illusory aspect of so-called “reality”), in contrast to the state of Nirvana, where suffering and the cycle cease. At this point in Hesse’s fable, Siddhartha has already experienced the life of the ascetic, of the sensualist and the fortune seeker; but his early spiritual quest succumbed slowly when he turned to earthly materialism. Just as the potter’s wheel “once set in motion” only gradually succumbs to inertia. 

Here too we have a story that contrasts the life of devotion and life devoted to worldly pursuits. Cyril Morin’s score is interpolated with the sounds of the film, the sounds of the Himalayas and of Nature itself. Cues are preluded by a whinnying horse, or birdcalls and running water, which merge into the current of the strings. These become ever more dense and layered; accretions of panpipe, duduk and various Oriental instrumentation developing the texture. It is of course a meditative soundtrack, including some captivating chanting; and also a solo voice performance/composition credited to a certain Dadon, who despite the track being titled Bumblebee delivers anything but a pondering drone. His voice is high and undulating, like the swooping circles of a mountain eagle. 

Between the contemplative atmospherics, drama is hinted at with percussion. Mainly Oriental drums playing strong, traditional rhythms, although the cue Time To Choose begins with a pop beat, similar to John Farnham’s Age of Reason, before segueing to the big Eastern drums.

The dynamic control and smooth motion of the strings are vital to the success of the score, as are the judicious use of the more expressive pipes and voices. Instead of becoming mired down in its own lushness, the soundscape vibrates like fragile light shimmering in a Himalayan mist. Then the basic motif returns, an earthy foundation to the ambience; and a reflection of the cycles of a single life that are contained within the cycle of Life itself. 

Published March 27, 2003


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REVIEWS

TITLE: SAMSARA
ID: 28947 41502
Universal
SCORE: Cyril Morin
ADDITIONAL MUSIC: Dadon
TRACKS: 23







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