The Nine

Music Composed By: Steven Emerson

Distributed by: Ever Studio

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                The documentary, The Nine, focuses on the community living on Modesto, Californiaís South Ninth Street.  The Great Central Valley in Modesto is the setting for such notable works as The Grapes of Wrath and Migrant Mother, but South Ninth Street is now a sort of no manís land where hustle and survival by any means necessary is the rule.  Itís an elegy to people like Kiki who live in The Nine, eking out an existence while hoping for so much more.

                The musical score of The Nine was created by musician, filmmaker, poet and composer Steven Emerson.  Teaching himself acoustic guitar at the age of twelve, Emerson later took up electric guitar, but switched to drums by high school.  He began performing with the Paisley Underground rock band, True West, in the 1980s, touring in the states and internationally, eventually opening for REMís Fables of the Reconstruction tour.  When the band folded, Emerson moved to New York City, performing in open-mic sessions in Greenwich Village.  Six years in New York yielded songwriting award nominations and a feature film named Second Person, written and directed by Emerson.  In 1994, Emerson moved to Berkeley and released his first solo album.  He currently experiments with sound at Ever Studio, his Berkeley Hills recording studio.

                According to the composer, ďThroughout the process of writing the score I came back to these questions: What can the music provide that nothing else can? What can it express that isn't being expressed?  There's a numbness to some of the characters - they'd been in a bad way for so long they were almost mute. I imagined them wanting to scream, howl, wail - let out some deep, visceral cry of desperation. I tried to create that using feedback, dissonance, distortion, to give voice to the pain they had endured for so long.Ē  The resulting score is mainly made up of electric guitars and synths.  Acoustic tracks are upbeat, possibly emulating Kikiís optimism.  Tracks like Submerged contain muted electric flute-like sounds.  My favorite track is Mystery in Modesto which contains rocking guitars and percussion.

                The Nine Soundtrack made for quite an interesting listen.  Without knowing what the movie was about, or even that it was a documentary, the music offered up the idea that a poignant message was being related in this film.  I am interested to see how the music plays with the visuals of the documentary.  That I want to see this documentary since listening to the soundtrack is a testimony to the composerís effectiveness.  Bravo!


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