Review Summary: Clint Mansell brings in the Kronos Quartet and makes music beautiful and acceptable enough to go along with a movie of the same quality.
When creating the musical equivalent to a full length film, there are many approaches the creators can take. They can go with the briefly heard and mostly just created for something to cash in on, maybe with some film quotes just for kicks. This approach is one of those frowned on, it shows the director and people in charge of the film just don't really care and are only after money. This is not the case for the Requiem for a Dream
soundtrack, where Clint Mansell returns to score his second Darren Aronofsky, whose work on his 1999 film, Pi, earned him the right to do it again. On his second time in the studio he brought along a little help, namely the Kronos Quartet.
The soundtrack is labeled by three different distinctive sections, Summer, Fall, and Winter. The reason to do this is not only to section off each part and to make it not seem like such an elongated work; but it is to go along with the movie which itself is presented in those three seasons. With the album neatly and logically sectioned and broken up, the three different parts are ready to play and sound as one, but what of the ringleader in this circus?
Clint Mansell himself is no stranger to the music business and shows no signs of wet feet on this work. Being a former member of Pop Will Eat Itself
and scoring for the film Knockaround Guys
gives him experience in the fields of rock music and film accompaniment. His main attribute that is noticeable on this album are some of the more filler sounding and short electronic songs on it. While they appear during the movie for abbreviated sessions, they still bring up memories that are made by the action happening on the screen which is enhanced by the electronic interludes.
Just as the composer of the pieces is, the band themselves are very experienced. Formed originally in 1974 by violinist David Harrington, the group consists of cellist Jennifer Culp, violist Hank Dutt, and another violinist by the name of John Sherba. Using this groups longevity and knowledge to his arsenal, Mansell is ready to create the perfect concomitant to the film.
Being that a track by track would be too overbearing and detracting to the point, and that a general feel overview would leave out important details and movements, I will review this in the way that seems best.
The work begins with Summer Overture
which as on most film scores is the main theme of the movie that gets repeated during the rest of the soundtrack is appropriate places but in different ways. Ability to be catchy is a quality that goes along with the repetition of the opening theme and both of these are intact in this number. Mansell does a good job of mixing his electronic slow gloaming beats with the violins of the band.
On a trail of four tracks: Coney Island Dreaming
, Chocolate Charms
, and The Ghosts of Things to Come
, all of them are under 1:35 in length but all work well together in flowing with some of the edited scenes that fly by but give a lot of detail to what happens on the screen. Such are these songs, beginning with Clint's ambient electronic hums and distant piano keys and lasting until the next song where hums turn into party based drum beats and more of a serious quick feel. The happy state lasts through the quartet, differentiating it from the rest by being short and like minded songs.
Harrington and the rest of the Kronos Quartet break back into the mix with the track, Ghosts
which has a real slow low sounding vibe and doesn't bring in Mansell for electronic help. It becomes very passionate sounding with the violin overlaps on the low undertones and notes. Definitely one of the highlights of the Summer section and of the whole album, the lapping violin and its serious texture dies down near the end which is met with ambiance.
As the season itself is, Summer is a more peaceful and joyful part of the soundtrack than the rest. Beginning with main theme playing violins, having ambiance and ending with a song that seems right for a conga line (as such as the part is acted out in the movie, well the first time), Summer is the rise, before the decline...and before the...
Fall begins just as summer did, with the first tune being titled Cleaning Apartment
. This track is basically the main theme being playing over violins and setting up the rest of the piece to be played. The difference with this version is that it is more stripped down than its Summer Overture
counterpart. Transition seasons includes the idea of pulling songs over from the first and changing them to a mood fitting of a darker time. Ghosts - Falling
does this by replicating the beginning of its previous incarnation but throwing in the sharp stings and drama of the violins which signify a significant event happening, while the sound remains nice and easy to listen to.
A theme that begins in this season are songs that not only relate to key events, but key characters. These characters in particular are put on display during the tracks: Arnold
, Marion Barfs
and Sarah Goldfrarb Has Left the Building
. While these tracks may also go with a main scene or part, it is the characters that either change (and thus become main characters) or incur an event that leads to later change. Major parts of the score and movie are played out in these songs, weather it be introducing a new electronic atmosphere, bringing in a new instrument to play a melody, or to uncover the mask of one major player and see him/her for who they really are. Mansell succeeds in making these transformations and revelations easy to listen to, paralleled by how Aronofsky makes it so hard to watch, aren't they a great duo!?
As the end of the Fall comes, Bugs Got A Devilish Grin Conga
comes on and is basically the best titled piece in the score. The song is identical to the earlier Bialy & Lox Conga
in the sense that they are danceable and conga songs. All of this is right and well until you see the movie and realize what a totally different purpose the music serves (if you're at all interested). Fall over and out, hence begins the final cold struggle of...
So cold and so chilling it is, Winter begins with the Winter Overture
which is a quick 19 second electronic and violin section, breaking the habit of lengthier introductions and making in and out like a quicker intro. At this point the sound switches from a Mansell run operation to more letting the Quartet run its business, upping the drama that these late finishes need. All orchestrated parts begin with the new sounding Southern Hospitality
. These parts of classical surroundings keep beating with the powerful The Beginning of the End
, Lux Aeterna
, and Meltdown
. While they are the minority of the tracks that consist of the winter section; they are the majority of the time spent on it. Also, the strings set the mood of the listener and accent the season by giving a chilling and cold feeling.
All of this is, not to discount the electronic Mansell parts though. His presence is apparent and alive in tunes: Fear
, Ghosts of a Future Lost
, and the final Winter and final Requiem track, Coney Island Low
. Overall the Winter section makes the album come full circle, from a Coney Island High, to its lowest parts. The electronic sections balance out the Quartet's parts and do a good job in helping them sum up the rest of the piece.
Requiem for a Dream
is an intriguing listen. It has ambiance, adrenaline, and feeling which can keep people entertained for the 48:07 that it takes up. This soundtrack is highly recommended if you've seen the film, but even if you haven't seen it there are surely parts that you will enjoy even as simply background music. This is what makes the score so successful and credits Mansell and the Quartet so fully.