March 2002 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Thomas NEWMAN
In the Bedroom  
  OST
  VARÈSE SARABANDE VSD-6319   [30:40]

In the Bedroom

Just as director Todd Field says in his sleeve notes, Thomas Newman has become one of the most sought after composers working in film today. His distinctive style, his emotional depth and his understanding of the power of music within film have elevated him to the very forefront of his field. And even if his work on this Oscar nominated drama is not his very best it still has enough inherent quality to make it worthwhile.

After a very brief piano piece on ‘Houses’, a characteristically quirky theme is encountered on ‘The Cannery (Main Title)’, all grating strings and jagged rhythm. Unusually, apart from a reprise on ‘In the Bedroom (End Title)’, this motif does not appear again (at least on the CD) and there is very little thematic work, the bulk of the music made up of short understated cues like ‘VFW’ and ‘Blocks’. As far as real drama goes, ‘Last Call’ is the most sustained example (recalled also on ‘North on 73’) and these tracks are somewhat reminiscent of earlier work such as The Green Mile. Without question, the most distinctive element of the soundtrack are the three pieces performed by the Newark Balkan Chorus, ‘Zeni Me, Mamo’, ‘Oj Savice’ and ‘Dobro Dosle’ and these vocal cues add a folksy, archaic feel that gives the score an extra dimension.

If I said that this is typical Thomas Newman that’s not meant to be a criticism. As with all the very best composers, he has developed his own unique ‘sound’. This particular work though lacks the more expansive nature of his best material. While not big on melody or action, it’s more of a mood piece and is one of those scores that you just know will work very well in the film itself. In terms of a listening experience it really depends on your own sensibilities. The music has an accumulative effect rather than individual tracks standing out, but overall I can’t help feeling that this is a soundtrack that may be too subtle to make much of an impact.

Mark Hockley

***

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