Alex Lockwood’s documentary “The End of Medicine” is about the next pandemic, already brewing beneath the radar, ready to transfer from animals to humans. Even those immune to horror films may be terrified when they learn what happens when livestock are subjected to inhumane conditions. While many may be unfamiliar with the terms “zoonotic diseases and antimicrobial resistance,” there’s no time like the present to start.
Lockwood didn’t need to look far for a scoring artist, having worked with Aaron Martin before on “Test Subjects.” This time, Martin was part of the initial directorial process, the two operating in tandem. The artist’s combination of cello, bowed banjo and bass is perfectly suited to the subject matter, moving fluidly between melancholy and foreboding. The staccato strikes on “A Threat Emerges” are a clear sonic signal that something is amiss. One intuits that someone sounding is an alarm, but that no one is listening: a common theme in horror movies from “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” to “Jaws,” but here, all too immediate and real.
One of the challenges of film scores as albums is that many pieces are often written as incidental music. Martin faces down this challenge by making even the short pieces distinctive. “Acting as a Crucible” is primarily percussion, something one does not expect from the artist. “Unearthing” is plucked. Three of the score’s most powerful pieces ~ “The Feeling That Nothing Was Ever Going to Change,” “In Everyone We Overlook” and “We Go Upstream” ~ make an impact in two minutes and change, beginning humbly and rising at the center like mini-symphonies. While such tracks might have been expanded, they are as essential to the album as the five longest.
Given space, Martin expands this developmental theme on “Carrying Redemption,” whose title and timbre indicate it bears the weight of hope. The enhanced instrumentation arrives almost exactly at the halfway point, indicating that there is still a crack through which light may enter. Whether one enters the subject matter through the music or the film, the result is the same: an increased awareness that may yet lead to the action that will save our species. (Richard Allen)