The producers of Salam have informed me that it premiered at the Raw Science Film festival in Santa Barbara where it won Best Documentary. It's also played at the Mumbai FF and at the Asian FF at Charlotte and recently screened at Oxford University and where Nobel Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai was in attendance. The film also received a very nice endorsement from Oscar winner, Mahershala Ali. John McDowell, the composer of the film's score has shared some interesting notes regarding his process for creating the film's music;
In the case of SALAM, I first wanted to know what music Salam experienced in his life. An obvious area to explore was Pakistani folk and classical music but I was also interested if there was any music associated with his Ahmadi faith. I wondered if Ahmadis used music possibly similar to Sufi music, but found that there is no music associated with Ahmadis, only the sung recitation of the Quran. The two main locations are Pakistan and England and I explored both Pakistani and Western classical music elements. As a man of both worlds, Salam apparently loved all kinds of music (including Strauss). Some films have long shots without dialogue but in the case of SALAM there was quite bit of dialogue and information to support. This is a challenge since the music should indeed support and not add to the already complexity information.
Beyond the basic look at the character and location, the primary exploration I made was to try to get a layman’s understanding of SALAM’S work in field theory that eventually led to the Higgs Boson phenomenon. After doing some initial research, I soon discovered that a scientist involved with Higgs Boson actually derived a musical tone row for the research data. While I immediately questioned why it was in a C major tonal scale as opposed to microtones, it was unlike any other tone row I had experienced. Once I started to experiment with the tone row, I found that it presented some new harmonic and melodic possibilities .
The tone row appears in different permutations throughout the film score but predominantly is played by violins. In practical application on the score, the tone row creates a mix of tonic and dominant harmony at the same time if the notes overlap. Given that the main feature of western music is the existence of harmony and Pakistani classical music is based on melody, I found that this tone row presented something unique: sounds that were not based on traditional western harmony or Pakistani raga melodies but could still exist and interwoven with these two musical styles.
A small clip of John's excellent music from this film (with my cello prominently featured) can be found here
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