REVIEW: Wordless Music Orchestra, Lost Bayou Ramblers Make Magic with 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' Score at Symphony Space

By Jaime Prisco on Feb 04, 2015 02:12 PM EST

The connection between music and the movies has been, for as long as film has been around, synchronous. Miraculous heights in filmmaking have been reached by scores that transcend the viewing experience. Not just watching, but being sucked into the story--the sounds of strings and banjos swirling in an effervescent cloud that floats through us. Beasts of the Southern Wild is that kind of film. Whether it is vivacious cajun music or a melancholic string melody, the score takes you on a journey through an unbelievable world, just out of reach from your own imagination.

On Jan. 23, Symphony Space showed director Benh Zeitlin’s critically acclaimed, Oscar-nominated film Beasts of the Southern Wild, along with live accompaniment by the Wordless Music Orchestra and the Lost Bayou Ramblers (under Ryan McAdams). Zeitlin, who co-composed the score with Dan Romer, is in a short-line of directors who score their own films, impressive all the more for a newcomer. His score only becomes more enticing when heard live, especially care of the Ramblers.

The orchestra takes you on an adventure through the deep south, where Hushpuppy and her father, Wink, live. The two wade through a mythical flooded town in New Orleans named the Bathtub, waiting on an inevitable storm that will sink their beloved home.

As the movie begins, the orchestra starts with the soft sounds of the violin and then explodes like a fire cracker, every note capturing the spirit that is the young protagonist, Hushpuppy. While amazing cinematography displays the raw energy that emanates from the Bathtub during the celebration scene, the live music brings that same lively feeling to theater. The room comes alive with a feeling of dauntlessness.

Zieitlin was smart, knowing that no movie about New Orleans could be made without a Cajun band. The Lost Bayou Ramblers add the pinch of spice to the orchestra that makes you feel like you’re on the banks of the Bayou, sucking down some crawfish.

Throughout the film, the score seems to trail Hushpuppy’s every movement, each feeling that is hidden coming alive through the melody. The despair and destruction after the storm hits her town, the happiness and harmony when finding her friends and the solemn solidarity that comes when losing a loved one. The Wordless Music Orchestra does an amazing job of transferring those feelings to a room full of people, each one engrossed in the apparent seamlessness between the orchestra and the film.

This two-day event was a rare catch, with only one other performance ever being shown in New York. (The two performances in Symphony Space were the only that featured The Lost Bayou Ramblers.) A shame considering the acclaim that the film received, especially its lead, a then 6-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis, who stunned the world with her moving performance as Hushpuppy. Her superb acting helped her to become the youngest person ever to be nominated for an Academy Award. It’s easy to see why. The young actress oozes a confidence and vulnerability that most full-grown entertainers would kill for.

Back to the relationship between music and movies, for one final thought. It’s events like this one at Symphony Space wherein you realize that there is no line between the two. That they’re in a constant ebb and flow, a concurrent mixture of senses that leave you to wonder why every film can’t be shown accompanied by a live band.

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TagsEXCLUSIVE, Beast of the Southern Wild, Wordless Music Orchestra, Lost Bayou Ramblers, Symphony Space

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