Type to search

Soundtrack review: Of mind and music (Carlos Jose Alvarez – 2016)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Of mind and music (Carlos Jose Alvarez – 2016)


“Of mind and music” is a story about a beautiful street musician suffering from memory loss and a disheartened neuroscientist intent on helping her. Renowned Neuroscientist Dr. Alvaro Cruz (Joaquim De Almeida) returns home from a lecture in Paris, heartbroken and disillusioned. In his absence, his mother has succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease. Nothing that his research or science could do could stop this from happening. As he decides to take some time off work and reconnect with the love of music that he shared with his mother finding solace in the music that permeates New Orleans’ French Quarter, he hears the mesmerizing voice of Una Vida (Aunjanue Ellis) for the first time. After repeat visits to hear her sing, he realizes that she is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and that her unconventional “family” cannot cope with her declining health. Cruz puzzles his wife by seeking out Una Vida’s long lost son in hopes of finally giving her resolution to the grief, loss and longing that has overshadowed her difficult but also beautiful life. Carlos Jose Alvarez wrote the score.

I am not the biggest fan of jazz; I mean I don’t listen to jazz often. I do react to beautiful and emotional music though and the title theme of “Of mind and music” drops a stone in my heart and makes me feel intense longing and pain. I hear this cue and think of the loss of something irreplaceable. The instruments are sad and lonely and each of them, the strings, the accordion or the piano tell their own story of loss. The theme evokes silence and I imagine a succession of images ad memories playing without any of the characters speaking. This score has me from hello…

Since this story is about two broken souls that find a connection there’s no need for busy orchestrations or loud pieces of music. The composer chose to use few instruments and make the flute and the piano the main messengers of his feelings. Sure the accordion and the harmonica make me think of a hot city by the sea but the main emotions come from the way the piano and the flute play with each other, as if the flute was the beautiful lost singer and the piano was the mournful doctor who tries to help her. They are different but they understand each other.

When times get dramatic like in “Washington Park incident”, Carlos Jose Alvarez uses tormented and uncomfortable strings to make us feel the pain. Those are the only moments when the music has a different pace. Other times the wailing trumpet evokes more feelings of nostalgia.

The score burns slowly as if each step was difficult to take but there’s still a purpose moving the music and, I imagine, the characters, no matter how hard it is. This very slow pace is what makes “Of mind and music” even more special. The music is soulful and moody and makes me think of a rainy day that comes after a few more rainy days, when nobody is left on the streets and all someone can do is be quiet and reflect. “Of mind and music” is a beautiful and poignant score which left a mark inside me.

Cue rating: 90 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 26 / 45

Album excellence: 58%


Of Mind And Music

Dreams And Grieving

Brighter Days Ahead

Washington Park Incident

Satchel Mouth

Cornstalk Inn

Searching For Una Vida

Back To Jessica’s

Because I Can


Will The Circle Be Unbroken

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

  • 1

You Might also Like

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.