23-F: LA PELÍCULA – Antonio Fernández

Original Review by Alan Rogers

On February 23, 1981, a group of around 200 (made up of soldiers and members of the paramilitary Civil Guards) stormed the lower house of the Spanish Parliament (the Congress of Deputies) with the goal of forcing the King of Spain to end of the country’s emerging democracy. Led by (Civil Guard) Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Tejero, the attempted coup d’état ultimately failed and after only 18 hours the hostage-takers surrendered and the 350 Member of Parliament hostages were released unharmed. Marking the 30th Anniversary of the attempted coup, 23-F: La Película marks Spanish film-maker Chema de la Peña of this watershed event in Spain’s history (commonly known as “23-F”). He uses a mix of documentary-style film-making and faithful reconstruction and attempts to give a balanced view of the various factions’ driving motivations.

Composing duties falls to first-time feature composer Antonio Fernández whose previous experience includes various advertising and theatre projects. Fernández states in interview that a major challenge for him was composing music for a historical event that has already been fixed in many peoples’ minds. Within the orchestral score he uses several leitmotifs to describe various aspects of the unfolding drama: the use of rhythm and percussion to highlight the military uprising, the coupling of strings and woodwinds for the physical threat, and a textural soundscape to underscore the motivation behind the coup. In line with the documentary style of the drama, the composer has concentrated on mood pieces rather than mimicking the action on screen. Low-register tremolo strings in tracks such as “Asalto Al Congreso” and “Milans” give a tension to the unfolding drama rather than spell out specific actions and electronic moanings and murmurings – heard most expressively in “Subconsciente” – add a threatening tone to the score, building on the tension established by the tremolo strings. “El Bando de Milans” brings these two aspects of the score together, adding a nervous and frenetic low woodwind line to produce a Desplatian cue that highlights the various score elements. Rhythmic percussion (e.g., “Periodistas” and “Juste”) adds an additional musical level and fleshes out the, to be honest, excessive use of tremolo strings. The composer’s focus on underscoring the mood rather than the drama is best exhibited in “El Mensaje del Rey” which, I assume, accompanies the pivotal television address given by King Juan Carlos I denouncing the coup. Here, Fernández chooses to score the scene with an electronic rhythm, repeating long string notes and a subtle fluttering low woodwind motif. It all sounds a bit of an anticlimax divorced from the film.

For many scores that focus on the mood of a film rather than the more action-oriented aspects, the music when heard away from the film can drag a bit. And this is the case with 23-F: La Película. In fact, the album’s artwork is the most striking aspect of the album, with the silhouette of the iconic image of the pose of Antonio Tejero (with gun in hand) as he stood before the Congress of Deputies – an image that is instantly recognisable to people of a certain age. All the various elements and leitmotifs that go to make up the score are repeated too many times on the album and there is too little variety to maintain interest throughout the entire 30-minutes playing time. This is by no means a “bad score”. The various motifs used do instil a sense of tension and foreboding and there’s a final track, “La Rendición” that scores the surrender of those attempting to overthrow the fledgling democracy that ably highlights that the end is a victory for no-one but is rather a “growing pain” that the country must endure. 23-F: La Película is a score that marks Antonio Fernández as a composer to watch out for the future and I look forward to him getting the opportunity to branch out into more dramatic films. 23-F: La Película is available both as a physical CD and as a digital download.

Rating: **

  1. La Transición (1:52)
  2. El Bando de Milans (2:57)
  3. Periodistas (1:21)
  4. Asalto Al Congreso (4:31)
  5. Ajuste de Cámaras (0:39)
  6. La Radio (1:06)
  7. Pardo Zancada (0:48)
  8. Juste (2:18)
  9. Detención de Carrés (0:37)
  10. Subconsciente (1:51)
  11. Milans (0:52)
  12. Llegada de Aramburu (2:09)
  13. Estado Mayor (1:42)
  14. El Mensaje del Rey (1:28)
  15. Corte de Luz (1:10)
  16. La Rendición (6:01)

Running Time: 31:28

Karonte (2011)

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