Posted by: Robin | March 12, 2008

The Heavens in B-flat and “August Rush”

A couple years ago, in a book club discussion on Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys, someone shared a great article in the New York Times about a black hole that sings B-flat fifty-seven octaves below middle C. That began a conversation about the music that ripples through all the universe. The stars really sing, and a biochemist said she had discovered that molecules she was investigating emited specific tonal frequencies. It fascinated me, and I began to listen. Yesterday I saw the movie August Rush. I loved it. It is touted as a modern fairy tale and sentimental. It is both, but what proved magical for me, was the star of the film: the music.

The gist of the story is about a musical prodigy who is given up at birth without his star-crossed, musician parents’ knowledge or consent. Innately the child hears music in everything around him and believes it will lead him back to “the ones who gave him the music.” Wherever else the filmakers may have fallen short they masterfully revealed the music all around us: in a field of grain set adance by the bassoon sounds of the wind, the glistening chiming of the moon, the percussion of a basketball’s bounce, the snare drum rat-a-tat of a jumping rope, and even the full orchestral music of traffic and milling humanity on New York’s streets (which is more often irritating cacophony to most of us). The essential question of the movie is where would the music lead us if we had ears to hear.

The human performances vary in effectiveness. Kerri Russell is alternately heartbreaking and magical as the young woman who grieves her “dead” child only to learn from her father on his deathbed eleven years later that her son lived. Freddie Highmore is a gifted young actor, and few actors of any age can inhabit an aching stillness or wistfulness with greater authenticity, but this is a demanding role. He cannot sustain its demands evenly. Jonathan Rhys Myers has a similar difficulty. Nobody does intensity and the full spectrum of rawness better, and his musical performances were very good. The rest was hit or miss, but that may have been the script and director’s fault. I was honestly too willing to suspend my disbelief for the sake of the music to be distracted by the shortcomings for more than a few seconds at a time. (An side: Alex O’Loughlin did a memorable job as Myers older brother & he is an Australian presently playing an American detective-vampire in this season’s new series Moonlight.  See earlier post “An Incidental Rant”)

So if you get a chance see August Rush. Suspend your disbelief, and listen. But if not, just listen. The highest, the deepest and the simple everyday things are singing to us.


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