Release date: December 6th 2011
Running time: 36:08 minutes
Composer: Alexandre Desplat
Alexandre Desplat is a composer who’s worked on soundtracks for films such as Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Parts I and II (2010-2011), The Tree Of Life and Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close (2012). Having been familiar with these, I knew I would enjoy his score for this film, directed by George Clooney.
I feel as though I relate to Desplat in both the way he composes his music and his influences – being a great admirer of John Williams as he is. I love that he can gel contemporary sounds and styles with 21st century flair. As much as I adore modern classical music, and to a certain degree electronic and experimental works, I believe the key to a successful score is the ability to create a musical cavalcade that explores every emotion and feeling of both the composer and the screenplay for which it’s written. For me, this score is the perfect example.
Although influenced by Williams, Desplat is most aware that a composer must find their inner self to create a style that’s their own. Using a combination of orchestral instrumentation, based heavily around strings and brass throughout, the style is defined through the use of repeated motifs and melodies, combined with more contemporary instrumentation such as electric guitar and picked bass. The combination works perfectly.
The music here instantly portrays a feeling of importance. The feeling at times is almost regal, and the effective use of the brass instruments combined with the sweeping layered string chords are the icing on the cake of grandness.
A track that instantly caught my attention was Molly’s Solitude, a combination of sweeping string harmonies, subtle ad-lib piano motifs and acoustic guitar against a repetitive electric bass line. Just as I was starting to tire of the repetitiveness, the sudden crescendo of low strings instantly had me hooked again. I could sense every last emotion, every intended feeling.
It was as if I was listening to the track somewhere different to my studio – I could focus on nothing but the music.
One of the most stunning tracks for me is Behind The Flag. It’s a combination of majestic brass melodies, exceptional harmonies and beautiful playing techniques. It’s one of the most powerful pieces of the score, yet it’s short in length at only 1:47, features a repetitive melody and is dynamically very soft. It makes me feel proud, and seems to have an ‘English’ feel about it.
I was also drawn to The Candidate, which again starts with a sumptuous brass and string combination, building into a sandwich of driving percussion, muted brass melodies, thick strings and guitar – a perfect example of the balance between traditional and modern.
Many of the melodies use a repetitive theme; a usual downside for me, yet Desplat manages to sidetrack the listener from the repetitiveness through his gradual layering and building of instruments and little add-lib motifs which appear throughout the tracks.
Dynamically, much of the soundtrack is fairly quiet, yet the choice of instrumentation and playing techniques used on individual tracks add depth to the compositions, proving that they don’t necessarily need to have major dynamic variations to make them appealing. This is one of the differentiating factors I came to realise between the works of Desplat and the works of John Williams.
I love the use of brass within composition, and often feel as though this orchestral section is not given its chance to shine as much as it should in many soundtracks. The Ides Of March is different, however, maybe due to the fact that Desplat was raised around Jazz music and learned the cornet at a young age.
This score is no Mr. Magorium – it presents itself as much more mature, more formal. For me that is the beauty of Desplat’s work. A great composer shows great variety, influential flair and no fear to let himself get lost in the world of composition. I cannot fault it.
He’s fast becoming one of my favourite composers, and this is another soundtrack to add to my top shelf, right alongside my Williams and Elfman collections.
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.