1 November 2016

THE SOLITUDE OF PRIME NUMBERS | 5 Years



On this day in 2011 Mike Patton released his third motion picture soundtrack. 

The Solitude of Prime Numbers is the soundtrack for the film of the same name by Saverio Costanzo. It contains all the music used in the film, and more that was rejected by the director. It also contains music inspired directly by Patton's reading of the book in the original Italian and English translations.

Reviews

Pop Matters | 14.11.2011 | Brice Ezell

Having gone through the basic, surface-scratching math that the United States federal government suggests, I, like many, am familiar with the concept of prime numbers in the most simplistic fashion: prime numbers can only be divided by one and themselves. As the number line increases, the prime numbers become further and further spaced apart, which is why twin primes, or prime numbers separated only by a single number in between them, are so interesting. Beyond its mathematical implications, one could read into the twin primes a grander metaphor for a friendship, which is what Italian author Paolo Giordano did in his 2008 novel The Solitude of Prime Numbers. Giordano, a physicist, took an abstract concept of mathematical theory and turned it into a relatable, highly personal novel. In 2010, a film was made of the book, and famed polymath Mike Patton (whose last solo studio recording was an album of covers of ‘50s Italian pop) was called to do the soundtrack. No stranger to eclectic music, Patton has crafted a highly unique musical accompaniment that takes its concept so far that even the numbering of the songs mirrors the prime numbers on a number line.

Having neither seen the film from which this soundtrack derives from nor read the book from which the film took its inspiration, it’s difficult for me to gauge how The Solitude of Prime Numbers the album matches up to the themes of either one. On the basis of the concept of twin primes, however, it’s quite clear that this album has it down-pat. The album’s sixteen tracks are numbered in accordance with prime numbers; some are twin primes, others are not (the tracks are numbered 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37, 41, 43, 47, and 53). However, upon inserting the CD into an MP3-recognizing software like iTunes, 53 tracks show up. In between the album’s actual tracks, there are four-second tracks that take up the non-prime number spaces. Sometimes these tracks are silent; other times, the tracks will carry over the last note or so of the previous song, providing continuity in between the often spacious gaps in between the prime numbers. Though there are 53 tracks, the album as a whole runs just over half an hour. As a sequencing technique, it’s quite brilliant; it for the most part adds instead of subtracts from the thematic exploration of twin primes. Some concept records can become too wrapped up in the concept to be enjoyable; here, the record is all the much better for it.

This does mean, however, that the album is best enjoyed as a whole listening experience instead of digesting each track piece by piece. This is a nice trend away from the general cultural shift toward emphasizing single songs at the expense of the art of the album, but, at the same time, some of these tracks do stand out on their own. The highlight of the album is “Radius of Convergence” (many of the song’s titles reference other mathematical ideas), which begins with a low drone that eventually bursts into a neo-horror freak-out, driven by a shrill violin section atop an eerie synth. The horror element is successfully done also on “Abscissa,” which recalls Wojciech Kilar’s score for Francis Ford Coppola’s adaption of Dracula. With just one repeated trill on the piano, the song manages to be quite unsettling.

This mood of horror is but one of many on the album: a jaunty, carnie-like mood that Patton so excels at is evident on “Identity Matrix”. “The Snow Angel” features a nostalgically beautiful piano melody, and the slightly creepy but still happy “Twin Primes” opens the album. Until the album’s final moments, the music progresses increasingly into darker and more terrifying territory. The characters in the film must progress through an emotionally volatile journey.


Many will be put off by the album’s unique but nonetheless peculiar sequencing. In truth, the album’s organization is an integral part of the experience; though the four second tracks in between the songs may seem like filler, they play a crucial role in the musical flow of the record. This sequencing does, to a degree, make the album feel like one continual piece instead of an album comprised of several unique tracks, which is a tension that the album never seems to resolve. Either way, The Solitude of Prime Numbers is one of the most unique conceptual soundtracks to come around in awhile, and in its short running time manages to span a wide range of musical emotion. The fact that one can experience the emotive beauty of the record without having seen the film or read the book makes the soundtrack all the much the better. The best soundtracks stand as works of art independent of their source, and this one certainly does that in spades.

Interviews

Record Collector | November 2011 | Joel McIver

Faith No More frontman adds another notch to the bedpost.

The relatively obscure 2010 film The Solitude Of Prime Numbers came and went without many people noticing, but its soundtrack is worth the attention of anyone interested in dark, orchestral music with sinister atmospherics. Mike Patton, whose sporadic day job as the singer in Faith No More permits this kind of non-commercial experimentation in his off time, has created a taut, if slightly inaccessible set of songs devoted to - and titled after - prime numbers. Piano, synth washes, strings and ambience are the main flavours, and the emotions are noirish in tone - practically the opposite of the eccentric alt.rock that Patton delivered with FNM in that band's original and current line-ups. The fact that the music doesn't give like anything you've heard recently is typical of its composer whose many albums with a variety of collaborators 
demonstrate his chameleon nature. In this case,the scope of the music is relatively narrow; long-time followers may wish to look elsewhere for Patton's most ambitious work. The album is, however, a slick, threatening suite that stands on its own merits.  

Q+A Mike Patton  

Did this project go according to plan?

It went really smoothly, as a matter of fact. It helped a lot that I had the director on my side, because when you write a soundtrack you have tons of opinions coming at you, and the more those opinions are aligned with yours, the easier the process is. Basically, my job was to translate the emotions that the director wanted the visuals to invoke into music. It was a lot of fun.

The song themes are based on prime numbers, and the actual track numbers reflect their subject. How did that come about?

It was a real challenge, actually. You'd think that in this day and age they'd have figured out a way of making a CD start with track 67 for example, but they haven't. I wanted to start with a particular number, so I used individual tracks of two seconds of silence to make that happen. I had to do a lot of testing and a lot of homework. A CD can only go as far as 98 tracks, or something like that. It was weird, because the CD worked fine in my car but not on my stereo at home. You send it off to the plant and you just hope they don't fuck it up.

You've recorded dozens of albums. How do you manage your workload?

It feels natural to me to have parallel projects running at once. I can go off and do a tour or I can stay in the studio and do some recording, or I can be at home and write. It gives me a feeling of security that way. I'll never do an autobiography because, in a sense, all these records are my autobiography.


More Interviews

MovieWeb | 03.11.2011 | Alan Orange

EXCLUSIVE: Mike Patton Talks ‘The Solitude of Prime Numbers’
The world-renowned vocalist and musician scores director Saverio Cotanzo's latest horror drama, and offers an update on his own ever-growing slate of projects.

The Quietus | 16.11.2011 | Jeremy Allen

A Quietus Interview : "Fuck This Interview!" Mike Patton Speaks His Mind
Gaddafi, Jean-Claude Vannier, Metallica and Lou Reed. Mike Patton will talk about anything. Just don't ask him to pimp his latest project, says Jeremy Allen.

Verbicide | 31.10.2011 | Peter Terebesi

Fresh off a tour in support of his 2010 orchestral release Mondo Cane, Mike Patton found himself Stateside with some time to promote his upcoming album, Music From The Film and Inspired by the Book The Solitude of Prime Numbers (La Solitudine Dei Numeri Primi). It’s a film score, and unlike anything we’ve heard from Patton to date.

Artwork

Designed by long time Patton collaborator Martin Kvamme the cover is one of the most adventurous and unique for any CD. 

The artist spoke exclusively to us last year about the design.

This album cover has to be the single most exciting album cover of all time! To wrap the CD up in synthetic leaf is genius. Plus the attention to detail is sublime, not only to look at but also to touch. How did this concept come about?

Thanks! We had different ideas on foliage, nature and leaves in general. Then we made it as minimalistic as we could: Just a rose leaf and the rose on the disc itself. It gave (at least for me) a new dimension to the idea, since the film, in short, is a love story about two people that are different (on many levels, also in the hierarchy of society), but still attached to the same 'stem'.

Your professional partnership with Mike Patton over the years has blossomed and you have created some amazing work. What is about working with Patton that you think brings out your best?

Thanks. Yes I think we work together really well. It usually starts with him giving me some thoughts and ideas based on the musical concept, then I try to challenge him with a packaging concept. When we have the packaging idea, the design work starts. Some releases suit as a digipak, some as a regular jewel case.....or just a folded leaf! We both like to go crazy on tactile printing, die-cutting and embossing, but print-madness usually stops due to cost. We have we have some really crazy ideas in the drawer, that turned out too expensive.





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