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Spectrum (Frederik Wiedmann)

July 19, 2015

Cover_SpectrumSPECTRUM

Frederik Wiedmann, 2015, Frederik Wiedmann
9 tracks, 23:27

Composer Frederik Wiedmann is privately releasing his lovely score for “Spectrum”, with all proceeds going to Autism Women’s Network. It’s a short, but exquisite little score worth seeking out.

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

“Spectrum” combines live action and animation to explore the inner sensory experience of autism. While autism is largely regarded as a social disorder, “Spectrum” reveals the underlying sensory differences that create an autistic perspective. Sensory issues create a world where vision, sound, touch and smell can be intense. The story is a series of character driven portraits beginning with Temple Grandin, the most well-known autistic adult in the world. Other characters include poet Tito Mukhopadhyay, artist Judy Endow, martial artist Nick Walker, and a group of young, energetic children. Rather than fearing autism, “Spectrum” seeks to understand it.

What does it sound like?

“Freddie’s score of “Spectrum” invites a fresh understanding of autism,” said producers Jones and Yontz. “The main theme suggests an unexpected but optimistic journey. As we meet the subjects of the film, the music fosters an atmosphere of compassion. Keep listening, and the score builds to something more meditative, circling the ideas of sensory perception, suggesting the intelligence and complexity of our autistic characters. Freddie completes the score with a dramatic call to action to see autism differently. The beauty of the score commands our attention, and these voices deserve to be heard.”

The album opens with “Sensory Differences” and very quickly Thomas Newman comes to mind. Soft strings and synth pads accompany gentle piano, guitar and a strangely unidentifiable stringed instrument. It’s an atmospheric cue more than a melodic one. This style continues in “Spectrum” where echoing piano (and other twinkly sounds) seem to represent the complexities of the autism spectrum. A playful theme, made up from 3-note building blocks, emerges on the strings.

Strumming and fluttering guitar sounds add a sense of wonder to “Touch”. There is a lot going on, but all of it is very gentle. It’s exciting but never overpowering. Twinkly sounds continue into “Moving In Space”, this time accompanied by a lovely theme for strings (starting off in the cellos). Echoing guitars and soft strings form the basis for “Flying”, an understated but suitable floaty cue.

“Our characters in this documentary all describe their senses, things they feel and hear everyday, things no one else around them can experience the same way,” Wiedmann explained. “Jill and Brent created some stunning animation to visualize those experiences, and I had the daunting task to do the same with the score.”

The gently oscillating piano backed by soft strings in “The Painter” may remind listeners of James Horner, until quirky plucked strings take over. Horner-like fluttering piano opens “The Poet”, and Wiedmann adds a beautiful cello solo. After a minute or so a more strident piano melody takes centre-stage, with the cello rejoining a few moments later.

A variation on the “Spectrum” theme appears in “Dancing With Movement” which is arguably the album’s most propulsive cue with staccato strings and percussion setting the pace – until the half-way mark anyway. After that, it returns to Thomas Newman territory with its lush strings and twinkly accompaniment. “Thrive” closes the album in a slightly understated manner, but there is a real sense of achievement and hope throughout the cue.

“In most cases I felt a sense of beauty and magic in the stories told by our people in focus,” described Wiedmann. “I wanted to compliment those sensations with my score, I want the audience to feel that autism is another way to look at the world, a different perspective, sometimes it is beautiful and inspiring (like for our Painter and Poet), sometimes it is overwhelming and terrifying. The music had to follow these emotions, beat by beat. When you listen to this album, I hope you get to feel a hint of the beauty, the magic, fear and joy”

Is it any good?

Frederik Wiedmann’s “Spectrum” is a lovely little score. At a mere 23 minutes ‘long’ I am simply left wanting more. Stylistically it owes a lot to Thomas Newman and a little to James Horner. Whilst multiple themes are present, one of which receives a rather lush treatment, it’s still much more an atmospheric work (in a manner usually associated with the aforementioned two composers). It’s a rich and colourful score, but it is never overpowering – it remains very light. The album was orchestrated by Hyesu Yang and mastered by Damon Tedesco. And there is something ‘explorative’ about the music, emphasising Nick Walker’s words: “autism is not a way of being broken. I have unique way of seeing things. I have a unique set of perceptions.”

Rating [3.5/5]

Tracklisting

01. Sensory Differences (1.17)
02. Spectrum (2.12)
03. Touch (2.46)
04. Moving in Space (1.57)
05. Flying (2.08)
06. The Painter (3.46)
07. The Poet (4.09)
08. Dancing with Movement (2.54)
09. Thrive (2.18)

Availability

The “Spectrum” soundtrack will be available digitally on July 7, 2015, with all proceeds going to Autism Women’s Network.

The film is now viewable at https://vimeo.com/ondemand/spectrumthefilm.

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