Based on the book by physicist Paolo Giordano, the film “La Solitudine dei Numeri Primi” directed by Saverio Costanzo in 2010, tells the story of Mattia (who is a mathematical prodigy) and Alice, whose tale of traumatised childhood and teenage isolation, forms the basis of the title of the film, they are like “twin primes”, feeling alone, but close to each other, detached by an even number, their lives run in parallel, but never intersect. In the book, Giordano himself explains, “Prime numbers are divisible only by one and themselves. They stand in their place defiantly in the infinite series of natural numbers, squashed in between two others, but a step further on than the rest…”. Titled “Music from the Film and Inspired by the Book”, Mike Patton has perfectly captured the feeling of isolation and introspection that informs the storyline.
Each diminutive piece carefully shifts along creating tension and enigma and appears very far removed from Patton’s other projects which can be characterised by multi layers of sound texture and unexpected transitions in mood. At times the soundtrack could almost be regarded as one that is associated with a horror film, and indeed there are scenes in the film that employ nightmarish, hallucinatory imagery. Ethereal layers of keyboard, gentle childlike vocal harmonies and intricate piano lines bring to mind many fine examples of the horror movie soundtrack armoury.
A common phrasing runs through many of the pieces to remind the listener of the nature of the whole, and, as a nod to Patton’s exotic writing style, a few of the these are enhanced with left field electronic effects. Mathematical track titles such as “Radius of Convergence”, “Method of Infinite Descent”, “Quadratix” and “Supersingular Primes” go some way to further enhance the feeling of disquiet and apprehension that the album overall achieves.
The mathematical allegory is supported throughout, as the tracks are numbered on the album as prime numbers in acknowledgement to the theme. The physical packaging of the album, with its’ intricate leaf locking fold out design, is very much in keeping with the tantalizing and complex quality of the music inside. In terms of cohesiveness, the album succeeds in that it provokes a curiosity to explore what manner of film would have this as a soundtrack. And as an addition to Patton’s already prolific and schizophrenic back catalogue, this “sonic departure” will not disappoint those willing to engage.