Soundtracks are a lot more than movie music...
...or so I'm ready to argue as a 30 year devotee of this sorely under appreciated genre. So, in an effort to do my part, each week
I'll be making recommendations of soundtracks current and vintage, make a fuss over long awaited soundtrack scores finally getting
a well deserved release, and in general, make some noise about this often overlooked category. Beyond my long experience as a
listener and as a pianist and songwriter, both of which I've put to use in writing a quarterly soundtrack column for the Chicago
Tribune, I can only offer my recommendations. You'll discern my taste soon enough and upfront I'd like to make it clear that I'll
focus most heavily on SCORE soundtracks. In the end, all criticism is subjective but if I can point a listener toward a little heard
soundtrack or strongly advise you to either ORDER IMMEDIATELY or SKIP ALTOGETHER, all the better.
Ballets Russes co-music composer David
Conte (pictured) and his collaborator,
Todd Boekelheide have written one of
2005's most beautiful and least known
Electric Edwardians co-music composers
(and twins), Klive and Nigel Humberstone
otherwise known as In the Nursery have
written 31 miniature movie scores with
their score for the little seen documentary
Last Friday the Chicago Tribune published my latest, quarterly soundtrack roundup.
Here's how the article, which focuses on recent score soundtracks, concluded:
"The best for last: two little-known documentaries with gorgeous scores. Ballets
Russes, the nostalgic reverie about the legendary ballet company receives an
exquisite score from Todd Boekelheide and David Conte. Released on tiny
soundtrack label Intrada Records, it's a cross between Brian Easdale's classic music
for The Red Shoes and Carter Burwell's score for The Celluloid Closet and is one of the
To that I should like to add a few more specifics. The film, a documentary that
focuses on what has been considered the greatest ballet company ever, is
appropriately, dripping with sentimentality and tenderness. This is extremely fragile,
delicate music that works well in the context of the film next to the gorgeous
classical melodies of the ballet clips presented throughout but more importantly, is a
wonderful listening experience away from the documentary.
With an emphasis on strings, somber woodwinds, and classically inspired piano
parts, this exceedingly rich score is lush in all the positive ways that adjective can be
As I wrote above, there are strong hints of Easdale's fantastic Red Shoes score (it is
shameful that the film has never received a proper soundtrack release) and more
than a bit of Burwell's The Celluloid Closet. The latter score has not been released
(nor has kd lang's equally beautiful version of "Secret Love" that plays over the end
credits). It is the wistfulness, the deep sense of reverie that connects the Ballet
Russes score (and not just the ballet theme) with these two other superior scores.
Highly recommended -- and the film, when it arrives on DVD, is also worth checking
About the Electric Edwardians score I wrote this in my article for the Tribune:
"Just as striking, Electric Edwardians is a compilation of recently discovered
Edwardian-era films of everyday Englanders at work and at play. The BBC
commissioned the avant-garde musical duo In the Nursery to score the brief films
and the resulting 31 tracks display a profusion of emotion while the whole fairly drips
with an aching nostalgia."
A few additional notes:
I'd not heard of Klive and Nigel Humberstone, the twin brothers that make up In the
Nursery before seeing the film. I was immediately very taken with the music and
found them on the web immediately (link to that to the left). The soundtrack wasn't
available at the time but once it was released and I got a hold of it (as an import) I
immediately was plunged back into the fascinating film via the extremely varied
cues (31 in all).
The film (click HERE to read my original review) is made up of the aforementioned
Edwardian-era Englanders mugging for the camera, riding on brand new public
transportation, entering or leaving dismal factory jobs, rooting at sporting events, or
just frolicking in public gatherings at the beach, etc. Presented with the task of
creating dozens of different emotional scenarios (some less than a minute long), In
the Nursery rises to the task.
Not surprisingly, the score utilizes a myriad of different musical colors with a tinkling
piano taking the lead on most of the tracks. Playful flutes and percussive effects
contrast with sullen bassoon's and other period sounding instruments. I suspect
that much of the score was created on synthesizers but it certainly doesn't sound like
it -- none of those fake brass horns are detectable here.
Another ingenuous effect is the addition of sound effects here and there throughout
the score. Though there is a modern sensibility to the music and arrangements the
whole beautifully evokes the Edwardian period. In short, another soundtrack must
Don't forget to check out previous soundtrack recommendations by visiting the
Next Week: A classic score makes its CD Debut at long last