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About the Music

In Nomine Matris Music Score

Nana, that’s how lullabies are commonly called in Spanish language. In flamenco, it’s a quiet place for womanhood. The chant, the melody, the instrument recall all shades of walking, the rhythmic rocking of the cradle, the passion, the work, the love—all indisputable flamenco content. Bob Aves puts all these elements together and amalgamated them with distinctive Filipino undertones serving a heightened drama and poetic sense.

In Nomine Matris is a film set in Manila. It is about a dancer who wanted to be the principal dancer of a Flamenco dance company based in Manila that is about to embark on an international tour. A series of events, however, threw a wrench on her quest and must now face the question of what matters most in her life.

Flamenco is a form of music, song, and dance from Spain where it traces its origin in the Andalucian region in the southern part of the country. Flamenco has a certain soul, commonly referred to as duende, replete with intensity that is almost fiery in nature.  Flamenco music uses three basic counts: binary, ternary and, unique to flamenco, twelve-beat cycle.

Bob Aves

Bob Aves [photo by D. Buenaventura]

The drama unfolds in a flamenco beat, music is essential to the underlying structure of the film that is set in the Philippines. Though the Philippines was under the Spanish rule, flamenco never became part of the popular taste.  The Spanish influence is undeniable—it is in the food, the dance, the music, the language, in general sensibilities of Filipinos—yet flamenco, in its pure form, remains a foreign element. How does one present something foreign yet in many ways familiar to Filipinos? Faced with this predicament, Bob Aves, the musical scorer of the film, tackled the project to be a presentation of a “the fusion of traditional Philippine music and Flamenco music and bring it to a contemporary style.” Fusing different musical forms is not new to Aves.  In the 1990s, he embarked on a quest to rediscover Philippine indigenous music and re-conceived them with different instrumentation and rhythms. His experimentation became a distinctive element in his music, a unique blending that can only come from a deep understanding of the different forms and styles on their own.

In the film In Nomine Matris, the dance is not a simple case of showcasing the actors’ talent, nor is it indulgent. It becomes the rhythm by which the narrative is further told, music naturally become prominent.  Aves felt that it is “important to present Flamenco music from our Philippine perspective as our contribution to promote our traditional music in cinema. Since this fusion has never been done before, therefore leaving us with no reference at all, we have to develop the pieces from scratch. We also needed to present this fusion in a very contemporary style therefore incorporating electronic elements, while retaining the aggressiveness and passion that these dances required.”

The music is not used as a background, in which case it would serve to underline the atmosphere, accentuate grief, joy, or any other emotion. The music becomes a character in itself, a very important character. In Aves’s mind, “the music had to have such fluidity to flow in and out from dance to soundtrack mode … and even from dance music becoming the soundtrack and soundtrack becoming the dance music.”

Aves explains that the film has its particular challenges, primarily that it being a weaving of flamenco and a Filipino story, thus he “focused on the elements that were relevant to the Flamenco, like it’s specific steps and rhythmic counts and musical forms, while utilizing the traditional southern gong ensembles to play these rhythms. We also wanted to show the versatility of our gongs in adopting to new environments.” This accounts for the music not only being prominent but also recorded with great attention to detail. The music score contributes to the musical and visual quality and depth of the film. The music is not mere ornaments but rather closely connected with the plot. It functions as a narrative tool that is essential to the film. Some critical scenes were constructed in a highly effective cinematic terms that owes much to the music, an element that is normally considered least cinematic. The scenes would have not been half as effective.

The music in In Nomine Matris is a fine example of a cinematic technique through which complex ideas can be expressed entirely without words, a story is moved forward by aural intimacy. Usually cinematic film employs image rather than sound to achieve a narrative force, the application of music in In Nomine Matris makes it a remarkable cinematic feat.


BOB AVES [ photo by Lucky Booj ]

Roberto ‘Bob’ Aves is a composer, performing artist and a multi-award-winning arranger and producer. Born and raised in Bacolod, Negros Occidental, in central Philippines, he obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Composition (1979) from Berklee College of Music in Boston.

In the 1990s, Bob embarked on a quest of rediscovery of Philippine indigenous music, fusing traditional instruments, rhythms and chants, with contemporary music genres. This unique blend of musical style ultimately became the hallmark of Bob’s work, ranging from his musical collaborations with Grace Nono, his Philippine-jazz, music scores for documentaries and independent films and music for theater and dance.

Together, Bob Aves and Grace Nono co-established Tao Music in the 90s, an all-Filipino record label that specializes in the production and publication of traditional and contemporary culture-based titles of Philippine music. Their collaboration in the filed of performance have brought their brand of Filipino world music to international music festivals world wide (2011 Penang World Music Festival, Archa Theater, Prague / “Phil. Sacred Chants”, HK University / Prince Albert Fundraiser for the Filipino Child, Monaco / Festival Asia, Barcelona-Madrid, Spain / Asean-China Summit, Nanning, China/ World Exposition, Aichi, Nagoya, Japan / House of World Culture, Berlin, Germany / Singapore Arts Festival / WOMAD, Yokohama, Japan / Music Village Festival, UK)

Today, Bob Aves continues to push the boundaries of his unique musical style in the development of Philippine Jazz, a groundbreaking integration of the gong culture of the southern Philippines and contemporary jazz. His jazz group has performed in various jazz festivals such as the Phil. International Jazz festival, Penang Int. Jazz festival (Malaysia), Zhujiajiao Water Village Music festival (Shanghai, China),  Jarasum Jazz festival (Korea), National Museum of Singapore, among others.

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