The Contender & deterrence
The Contender conducted by
the composer, deterrence performed, mixed and produced by the composer
Citadel STC 77132
[Total: 72:45; The Contender: 26:42;
Here is an unusual but very sensible arrangement: two new, related scores
on one CD. The Contender and deterrence are the first two
feature films by director Rod Lurie, both are political dramas revolving
around a different, fictional American president, and both are scored by
Larry Groupé. The Contender is a brand new acclaimed Dreamworks political
drama starring Joan Allen as the first female US president, supported by
Gary Oldman, Jeff Bridges and Christian Slater. deterrence (1999) is a low
budget thriller in which a president isolated by a snow storm must resolve
a terrorist crisis by phone.
There are 36 tracks on the album, the first 13 of which comprise the short
(26:42) score of The Contender. This is a generally under-stated
autumnal orchestral work, evoking a similar mood to Christopher Young's
Hurricane (1999) and the more melancholy aspects of John William's Nixon
(1995). In his somewhat overstated booklet notes Rod Lurie makes great claims
for the distinctiveness of each and every track, claims which are not born
out by the unity of the music. Much of the writing is string dominated, or
else sets plaintive piano against strings, the often sombre mood illuminated
by the brief beauty of the unaccredited wordless soprano on 'Prophecy Fulfilled'.
The tracks are short, two longer pieces 'The Real Story' and 'The Speech'
offering touches of the all-American bombast for which John Williams is regularly
castigated: this is a Dreamworks film, and Dreamworks is Steven Spielberg's
studio. 'End Title: Chapel of Democracy' is dignified and reserved, suggesting
that over all this will prove a distinguished and serious film. The sound
is harsh in places and suffers from occasional distortion. Nevertheless,
this is a polished and emotionally refined score, it will find a welcome
with those who appreciate traditional Americana.
Where The Contender is orchestral, the 46:03 minutes of
deterrence is electronic, performed, mixed and produced by the composer.
The sounds used are mainly orchestral and choral samples, making this score
sound rather like a demo, as if the budget had allowed these tracks would
have been remade with full orchestra and choir. As it is, this is functional,
effective, sometimes stirringly portentous suspense thriller music which
would be much more enjoyable as pure music had it been re-recorded with 'real'
instruments. There is one other serious drawback: an undeniable and very
marked similarity between the main title theme of deterrence and
the theme by Ron Goodwin for Where Eagles Dare (1968). The similarities,
in military snare rhythm bonded to rising brass combining into a mood of
building tension and expectation are so striking that I am astonished no
one noticed during the production process and proposed a rewrite. I would
not suggest any composer would be so unprincipled as to steal another composer's
melody, or that, if they did, they would be so stupid as to steal one of
the most famous war movie themes ever written. The problem is that once the
parallel is noticed, and it is hard not to notice, deterrence, becomes
immediately and unavoidably second-rate. The sound is suitably powerful and
confrontational, particularly in the percussion department.
Gary S. Dalkin
Editor's Note: I think perhaps that Gary is being over tactful
about Mr Lurie's lurid notes (?) - the like of which I have never encountered
before. But, coincidentally, another CD with the same music but different
packaging arrived and was reviewed by Mark Hockley.
Scores from Political Thriller-The
ZOMBIE SCREEN MUSIC PROMO
A brace of scores by Emmy awarding winning composer Larry Groupé from
films set in the arena of American politics.
The Contender (2000) opens with a restrained piano theme in 'The Statesman',
a quietly affective piece that sets an intriguing tone, although this is
somewhat undermined by the bigger, bolder theatrics of 'I Stand For' which
at times borders on the emotionally obvious and manipulative. Fortunately
though it never quite strays into the realm of cliché. The same can
also be said for 'Marching Orders', which employs jingoistic brass to convey
political gravity, but again just manages to avoid becoming overly pretentious.
The central theme, first heard in 'I Stand For' is reintroduced in various
subtle guises in pieces like 'The Speech' and 'Nobody's Business' and although
they continue to flirt with a kind of patriotic Americana, there is enough
inherent quality to retain interest and patience.
Many other cues are rather low-key, albeit effectively constructed such as
'Timmy Meets the President', 'The Portrait Room' and 'The Real Story'. More
interesting though are 'Prophecy Fulfilled' with a female voice making an
unexpected appearance and the brooding intelligence of 'Meet Mr. Makerowitz'.
At times slightly reminiscent of James Horner (and I'm in the pro Horner
camp myself!) or even John Williams, this soundtrack is very much in the
classic modern tradition of film music. I suppose if it could be criticised,
then slight over-familiarity might be one area of concern, but it all works
perfectly well so in this case I'm prepared to be tolerant. Groupé
is obviously an astute composer who displays a strong understanding of emotion
and drama and I just hope that in tandem with the film itself the music does
not become too overbearing.
Also of genuine interest is the score for Deterrence (1999) with a fascinating
'Main Title' that has a vivid militaristic flavour, reminding me of the kind
of sixties war film theme that someone like Ron Goodwin might have composed.
Even so, as it develops the music takes on a strangely elegant quality that
had me sitting up and really paying attention. However, the title track itself,
'Deterrence', is a very different affair with a choir and soprano voice filtering
through ominous brass and strings and this trend continues with 'The Garden
of Eden', a contemplative, subtle cue with a kind of death knell thrown in
for good measure! Predictably echoes and variations of the main theme can
be found in a whole range of tracks such as 'Omari Phone Call', 'Lay Down
the King', 'Enter Mr. President' and 'The Dark March', but it's a strong
enough piece to warrant that decision.
Many cues (there are thirty-six in all) are solid rather than memorable ('First
Strike', 'Addressing the Nation', 'Phone with Bean'), but they have an
accumulative effect, building suspense and tension, while something like
the more emotional, reflective 'I Hate War' adds weight to the proceedings.
Overall, a sound example of sustained suspense and intrigue with a sombre
overall tone, punctuated by some ballsy, brass-led aggressive war score.
Based on these two works I think Larry Croupé can confidently be signalled
as a worthwhile talent, certainly someone to keep an ear out for in the future.
Whether he will rise to the very top ranks remains to be seen, but I for
one will be watching and listening with interest.
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