I have to confess, unless it’s a movie soundtrack with a hefty blend of songs that fit nicely in the mix of the film, I rarely pay much attention to the music featured in movies. If it’s a movie score, forget about it. I appreciate how a score can bring emotional stock to a film and understand that modern day scoring is the closest thing that we may have in terms of classical composition, but it’s not anything that I feel the need to examine further.
There are a few exceptions to this, but I’d be hard pressed to name a soundtrack that spoke to me on any real meaningful level.
Or so I thought.
I sat down with Nick Cave and Warren Ellis‘ White Lunar recently, a double disc collection of the pair’s soundtrack work prepared for something uneventful. I will confess to not bothering to read the press material or familiarizing myself with the movies that this collection is gleaned from.
Within a few moments, however, I recognized something. A piece from the cd stood out and my attention turned to answer the question “Where have I heard this from?”
The answer was Andrew Dominik‘s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and the song that prompted my attention was “What Must Be Done,” a two-minute piece with little more than a repeated piano phrase. Surely, this was not the kind of thing that would leave such a lasting impression on its own, so it should only demonstrate the power that music has—even the most simplistic of compositions—when properly placed with just the right moving image.
The Jesse James material is housed with The Proposition and the forthcoming film The Road on disc one. With the selections from the film to Cormac McCarthy‘s novel The Road, White Lunar begins its travails into ambient territory. Prior to this, the first disc sticks to mostly Cave performing a plaintive piano with Ellis providing effortless violin work.
It’s with disc two that the material evolves more in to the “film score” realm, an eerie combination of Angelo Badalamenti atmospherics with Ellis’ previous work with the Dirty Three. It culminates with “Sorya Market,” a piece from the The Girls of Phnom Penh. For three minutes, the song continues White Lunar‘s beautiful restraint. Then, after ten minutes of silence, the song erupts into atonal shrieks, hyper-bowed violins, and industrial noises. It’s unsettling—that’s the intent, obviously, and it serves as a wake up to remind the listener of the dangerous territory that both of these men originate from.
White Lunar won’t capture the imagination of new fans or encourage novices to pursue more notable moments of Cave’s illustrious career. What it does is find two talented men inspired by the imagination of their celluloid counterparts and using—quite effectively—their musical abilities to create memorable moments that stay with you after the credits roll.
MP3: Nick Cave and Warren Ellis – “Black Silk (Suture)” (courtesy of their site)