From the moment I heard about this film I knew I had to write the music for it. Without ever knowing it, I had been waiting a very long time for someone to tell this story. The story that I think about every day of my life, the story I struggle with understanding every day of my life, the story I never hear others tell.
The intimate lens of MEMORIES OF A PENITENT HEART refracts on a wider cultural context but looks particularly close to how families treat their LGBT members in a Latin American cultural and religious context. It’s the often secret but sometimes overt story of many people I love and many people I’ve never met.
Inspired by the archival nature of Cecilia’s film, I started digging through the sounds of the decaying 8mm home movies she discovered in her mother’s attic. Sampling from these films I created a library of sounds that resonated with me, repurposing them in the score and giving new life to forgotten sounds. During this process I also recorded eerie, visceral and noisy layers of violins using my out-of-tune-in-need-of-repair violin not worrying about the quality of the recording but focusing instead on creating interesting textures that evoked a particular atmosphere.
The rawness of these strange and ghostly lofi recordings connected with Cecilia. I felt that there was something appealing about confronting this sonic material in a similar way that the film approaches its narrative: with open vulnerability, direct intimacy and raw emotion. This meant lots of experimentation with sounds, at times unpleasant, that slowly grew on me as I kept working with them. Cecilia and I agreed strongly about having strings be in the foreground of the score and this led me to explore the many possibilities of the cello by working closely with my friend cellist Evelyn Farny Wadkins who recorded multiple layers of this incredibly versatile instrument some of which I later processed and some of which stayed intact. The score highlights these multitrack cello recordings by juxtaposing them with to my unrefined violin layers and it also incorporates electronically processed acoustic found sounds, some originating from the same source of the film’s archival material.
It’s my desire that the score for this powerful documentary gives a stronger voice to the muted whispers that have been waiting forever to be heard and that it supports the film’s essence of love and compassion. I’m so honored I got to create the soundtrack for the untold story of so many people I love. These images, these words and these sounds are for them.
- ANGÉLICA NEGRÓN