Release date (US): January 5th, 2012
Running time: 42:16 minutes
Composer: Ilan Eshkeri
I was excited to hear Ilan Eshkeri’s original score to the film adaptation of William Shakespeare’s tragedy Coriolanus – after having heard his work on Stardust (2007), Hannibal Rising (2007) and Kick-Ass (2010).
Born in London, England, Eshkeri learned to play the violin and guitar from early on. He studied music at Leeds University and also played as part of a rock band. From that alone, I knew Coriolanus would be a combination of traditional meets modern – my favourite kind of soundtrack.
The film is shot in Serbia and set in the modern day. Starring Ralph Fiennes, who also makes his directorial debut with this film, and Gerard Butler, it is a dark offering and a modern telling of the classic tragedy.
Eshkeri already had connections with the producers of the film, as well as a liking for Shakespeare and literature, therefore it seemed only fitting that he composed the soundtrack for such an epic film adaptation.
Heavily themed with a military style throughout, the score uses lots of percussion and driving rhythm and very little use of melodic instrumentation. It comes across as more of an experimental soundscape than previous works, and contains little melody – yet still creates a feeling of suspense.
It’s minimal, yet the intention was not to make this a melodic score. I can imagine, as a classical musician myself, the challenge this created for him – when trained in such a classical way, it’s often difficult to open yourself up to such a different approach, however he seems to have excelled at the challenge.
The choice of instrumentation with regards to the percussion is experimental – the rhythm and timbre of this instrumentation is the theme throughout. The structure and layering of instruments create a complete contrast compared to orchestrated scores such as Stardust; it’s a far cry from such memorable melodic material, yet the short orchestrated patterns still define this as an work of Eshkeri.
Speaking about the score, Eshkeri comments how it was built up note by note, layering instruments and multi-tracking sounds to create the desired result. Unusually for him, this score features sections performed by himself, creating an immense contrast by playing the stringed instruments either extremely lightly and quietly, or harsh and often rudely, and this adds to the aggressive feel of the instrumentation throughout the score.
One of my personal favourites, although extremely short in length at just over a minute long, is Meneneus. I love the use of tremolo strings, played quietly under the harsh and driving percussion rhythms and syncopated outbursts of cymbals and electronic sound.
Another personal favourite is the closing track, Coriolanus, which greatly portrays the use of extreme dynamic variation and syncopation. The outbursts of rhythmic material in this piece act as the equivalent of the usual melodic motifs, and this is extremely effective towards creating what I would class as an ‘out of the box’ kind of score. The soft pianissimo use of long, sustained trumpet along with the varying playing techniques used with the strings offer the perfect compliment to the harsh sounds of the percussion.
I did like this score, but compared to his other works, it didn’t quite capture me in the same way. This isn’t to say that it’s not good – it’s definitely a personal triumph for Eshkeri having overcome the challenge of composing without the use of his usual melodic orchestration and going even further than my – and most possibly his own – expectations.
There are a few tracks that break up the percussive material to add contrast and variation, however at times the score does seem extremely repetitive. A second disc is included which combines the score with key points of dialogue, however I believe the score works much better without this. It by no means compares to the dramatic crescendos and emotional content of Stardust, yet I enjoyed listening to it and would recommend it.
Phil is a 27-year-old classically trained musician from Sheffield with qualifications in Popular Music, Classical Music and a BA (Hons) in Creative Music Technology and Sound Recording. He likes nothing better than locking himself in the studio and composing music of all genres.
Phil became interested in composing after learning how to play the Cello and Clarinet at a young age, and has never looked back since. His favourite composer is Danny Elfman, whose unconventional harmonies and rhythms in scores such as Edward Scissorhands still manage to bring a tear or two to his eye.
You can find him on Twitter @PhilBlanckley.