The film release has been delayed to June 18, but we already have an exquisite sneak peak in the music of Nainita Desai. The Reason I Jump is an elegant study of autism, based on Naoki Higashida’s striking autobiography, written when he was only 13. By the looks and sounds, we’re already expecting accolades and awards to follow Sundance’s early acclaim.
A combination of electronic and orchestral elements creates an atmosphere in which anything can happen: synesthesia, time distortion, creative perception. No matter what the timbre, there’s always a pulse; Desai incorporates tempo in order to reflect the film’s title and the impulses of the protagonists. Occasional voices serve an additional percussive role.
In the film, the first single, “Beauty Is In the Detail,” scores the paintings of the non-verbal Amrit, exposing the fact that many people on the autism spectrum perceive detail before form. The video follows suit: sometimes abstract, sometimes specific. Lighthouse and moon twinkle like matching metaphors; a fern becomes a forest. Which is more important: the light dancing on the water, or the water itself? Daniel Pioro’s violin winks at the audience; there are miracles going on that not everyone can see.
In “Floating Into Focus,” Desai makes the associations even more fitting, “building a symphony out of found sound,” including spliced effects from the film itself. Again, the video imitates the theme, as the full picture is obscured in the early frames, allowing the eye to concentrate on vibration and frill as the track embraces onomatopoeia. When clarity enters the frame at 2:13, one is unsure how to receive it; the more impressionistic images now seem more appealing.
Between these on the album lies “I, Too, Exist,” whose early notes fall like raindrops and whose cello represents yet another sonic approach. Desai gives each person a distinct theme, honoring the full autism spectrum with a declaration that resists any effort to stereotype. “Memories and Images” has a clucking, toy-like timbre, as if plastic tops are being dropped on the floor. And then, in the center of the album, the most striking piece, as the title track coalesces from those familiar Japanese voices to actual lyrics: “somewhere in time, sometimes we find someone is kind.” The choir echoes for a bit, then returns to its former template, exposes the fact that they have been listening all along: another imitation of the interactions too often hidden in mixed company.
By “The Sensory World,” the listener is entranced. By understanding the reason the author jumps, the composer is able to expand Higashida’s world from prose to tone. The score has been credited for increasing the effectiveness of the film, but by conjuring its own images, it’s also strong enough to stand on its own. Despite the time of year, we’re already confident enough to call it one of the year’s best soundtracks. (Richard Allen)