Music from the Inside Out
             More than thirty years ago, stage director and choreographer Michael Bennett assembled
     a group of Broadway dancers – gypsies, in theater parlance – and held late-night, after work
     meetings at which he posed probing questions about dance, life, work and sex. These sessions
     were recorded and eventually formed the nucleus for the book of the landmark musical

             Whether by happenstance or direct inspiration, award-winning documentarian Daniel Anker
     has done something similar with classical musicians. With the cooperation of the more than one
     hundred members of The Philadelphia Orchestra, Anker posed what appeared on the surface to be
     a facile question – “What is music?” – with intriguing results. The responses vary from personal
     and specific to general, with the overall consensus rivaling that of the Supreme Court Justice who
     remarked about pornography, “I don’t know how to define it, but I know it when I see it.”
             As with
A CHORUS LINE, different individual stories emerge, some more compelling than
     others. Among them are those of concertmaster David Kim, who ties his drive for a solo career to
     his mother’s dreams and how her death caused him to reevaluate his own desires, violist Judy Geist
     who describes the roles colors play in her life in both her music and her painting, and trombonist
     Nitzan Haroz who always found himself drawn to salsa music and eventually joined a local salsa
     band. One of the more interesting stories is the collaboration between Israeli-born cellist Udi
     Bar-David and  Palestinian musician Simon Shaheen. The pair wisely eschew any discussion of
     politics and instead concentrate solely on making music.

             A film of this sort could easily have devolved into a talking heads documentary, but Anker
     wisely avoids this. Sure, there are the occasional shots of a person speaking, but they are
     judiciously used and intercut with other sequences. And then, there’s also the glorious music played
     by one of the world’s most prestigious orchestras.

             MUSIC FROM THE INSIDE OUT may not answer the question posed at the start;
     some of the responses range from “music is an illusion” and that different people “feel” the same
     music in different ways. Still, it’s clear that the individuals involved care deeply about how each
     performance is unique and how they all struggle to work together to produce what they refer to
     as a “sculpture of sound.” The film is a genuine delight and one worth checking out.

                       Rating:                                B+
                       MPAA Rating:                    NONE
                       Running time:                      90 mins.

                                       Viewed at the Loews Lincoln Square Theater
©  2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.