Regarding Susan Sontag

Music Composed By: Laura Karpman and Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum

Distributed by: Lakeshore Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                The documentary, Regarding Susan Sontag, explores the life of one of the most important literary, political and feminist icons of the 20th century.  The film contains archival materials, accounts from friends, family and colleagues, as well as her own words read by actress Patricia Clarkson.  Premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2014, the film's broadcast premiere on HBO took place in December 2014. 

                The musical score of Regarding Susan Sontag was created by the composing team of Laura Karpman and Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum.  Composing music at the early age of seven, it was a foregone conclusion that Laura Karpman would find a career in music.  Receiving a Master's and Doctoral degree from Julliard, she composed concert music by day while performing jazz and scat singing in clubs at night.  Karpman has scored music for numerous television and film projects, including Odyssey 5, Taken, Doing Time on Maple Drive, Dash and Lilly, A Woman of Independent Means and more.  She is a founder and president of the Alliance for Women Composers.  Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum also received a Master's at Julliard and has gone on to create concert music as well as film scores for such projects as Remember Me, Powerless, Money for Nothing, The Shattering and Temporary Obsession.   

                As I listened to the Regarding Susan Sontag Soundtrack, I felt a frown forming.  This score was all over the place.  There are some tracks of decent jazz, but then there are tracks that I really have no words to describe, so I will leave it to the composers to explain: "In composing the music of Regarding Susan Sontag, we built three distinct conceptual spectrums out of which we wrote music.  The first spectrum polarizes the mind and ideas on one side and the body and corporeal experience on the other. The music of ideas is insistent, percolating, filled with energetic bursts and echoes. The music of the body is lusty, sensual, jazzy and sexy.  The second spectrum explores pain, with war on one end and illness on the other. This music is more experimental, bending time and pitch, and unearthing an undulating suffering and sorrow. It is external, looking at the world in global combat, and very private, as Sontag endures cancer and scrutinizes the difficulty of being a patient.  The third spectrum is focused on family, examining Sontag’s personal narrative as a child and an adult on one side, and her relationship with loneliness on the other.  The instrumentation builds on these dualities, featuring two quartets - a modified string quartet (two violins, baritone violin and cello), and a saxophone quartet, plus double bass, piano, guitar and percussion."

                Whatever it was they set out to achieve, the composing duo lost me fairly early during the 24-track, hour long album.  I just couldn't get into the score which I felt had no real flow to it and for that reason, I really can't recommend the Regarding Susan Sontag Soundtrack either as a stand alone album or an accompaniment to the film. 


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