January 2004 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Gary S. Dalkin
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Monster  
Music composed by BT (Brian Transeau)
  Oscar Promo (not commercially available) ;
Running time: 70.14

monster promo

This current release is an Oscar promo disc of the score for the acclaimed drama starring Charlize Theron as real life serial killer Aileen Wuornos. According to the promotional material (reproduced in full beneath this review) "The entire score was conceived and recorded completely in 5.1 surround sound. An extended 5.1 mix of the score featuring over two hours of original music, will be released on DVD in early 2004 by DTS Entertainment, and will include special audio and video enhancements not available anywhere else." Releasing soundtracks on 5.1 DVD audio discs sounds like a sensible direction for film music issues to take in the future, overcoming the 80 minute maximum running length problem of CDs, as well as allowing multi-channel recordings to be heard the way they were designed for the cinema. However, in this particular case one balks as to what might be included on a 120 minute plus version, as at 70 minutes the music long outstays its welcome.

Let's just to traditionally English, middle-aged and old fashioned for a moment, and point out that people who decide to be known purely by their initials are generally not taken seriously on this side of the Atlantic. And though it's a cultural thing, one is further not likely to be taken seriously for sharing those initials with one of the most disliked companies in the UK, the much reviled telecommunications giant BT (British Telecom); anyone in America fancy a film score by AT&T?

BT (the film composer) is short for Brian Transeau, who made his feature debut with Go (1999), and has since scored Under Suspicion (2000), Driven (2001) and The Fast and The Furious (2001), as well as providing additional music for Gone In 60 Seconds (2000). His work here is wearily monothematic, and while the melody is an affecting one everything here is protracted much too far.

"Ferris Wheel (Theme)" introduces the central melody which begins quietly, gradually building into an attractive melancholy soft rock anthem with piano, acoustic guitar, drums, bass, percussion and ambient electronics, before meandering on in a very low key way for a good three minutes past the climax to finally clock in at an excessive 11 minutes.

The press material says "his score for Monster blends roots Americana-like organic, melodic sensibilities and non-traditional acoustic instrumentation to garner a complex, powerful and darkly beautiful sequence of music." Which is to say a vielle à roué / Hurdy Gurdy sometimes takes the melody and the writing often resembles a modern left-field country rock band jamming in the studio on a promising new riff while waiting for the singer to turn-up. "Childhood Montage (Title Sequence)" does offer an eloquent lullaby like variation on the main theme, but it is a rare exception in an unexceptional score; the sort of work one finds attached to all too many low budget documentaries at the moment.

Essentially the album offers various incarnations of the Ferris Wheel theme, some more intense than others, sometimes with the lead being taken by fuzzy electric guitar. In-between there are assorted mood music segments which hold little compositional interest and hark back, if anywhere, to the ambient music developed by Brian Eno in the 1970's. Cut down to 10 minutes on a compilation album, there is at least an evocative theme here. At 70 minutes the material is stretched beyond reason. The threatened two hour plus version suggests massive self-indulgence and pretension.

Gary Dalkin

*(*) 11/2

Promotional Material

BT COMPOSES THE HAUNTING ORIGINAL SCORE FOR THE HIGHLY ANTICIPATED THRILLER MONSTER

Starring Charlize Theron and Christina Ricci,

Monster Opens in New York and Los Angeles in December

Los Angeles, CA (December 11, 2003)- BT has created a seductive and original score for director Patty Jenkin's debut feature film Monster. Thescore features performances by BT, Richard Fortus (guitar), SterlingCampbell and Bryan "Brain" Mantia (drums) and Ben Grossman on vielle à roué (aka Hurdy Gurdy), among others. Starring Charlize Theron and Christina Ricci, Monster is a shockingly moving film that burrows deep beneath the tabloid-sized headline stories on Aileen Wuornos (Theron), the drifter prostitute executed last year in Florida for murdering seven men. The film hits theaters in New York and Los Angeles this December and opens nationwide in January 2004. The film is being distributed throughout the US byNewmarket Films.

The score was recorded and mixed over a period of four months at BT's The Buddha Room, as well as several live record rooms to track additional drums, guitar and stand-up bass. Different to BT's past scores such as The Fast and the Furious, which amalgamated his 80 piece orchestral compositions with electronic music, his score for Monster blends roots Americana-like organic, melodic sensibilities and non-traditional acoustic instrumentation to garner a complex, powerful and darkly beautiful sequence of music. Throughout the recording and mixing process, BT worked daily with Jenkins and Theron to capture the story's yearning, passion, loss and tragedy. The entire score was conceived and recorded completely in 5.1 surround sound. An extended 5.1 mix of the score featuring over two hours of original music, will be released on DVD in early 2004 by DTS Entertainment, and will include special audio and video enhancements not available anywhere else.

Upon completing the score, BT said, "This was the most difficult film I've ever worked on because I cared so much about the subject matter. It was an incredible bonding experience between Patty, Charlize and me. I felt a tremendous responsibility to honor the story of Aileen Wuornos' greatly misunderstood life."

Monster was written and directed by first-timer Patty Jenkins and produced by Charlize Theron, Brad Wyman, Donald Kushner, Mark Damon and Sammy Lee. The film is based upon the true story of Aileen Wuornos, who was convicted of the murders of seven men in Florida, and was executed in 2002 after 12 years on death row. Jenkins unearths a love story in the midst of the horrors and pathologies of two misfits: Wuornos, a prostitute deemed by the media as the first "female serial-killer" - a monster - and Selby Ward (Ricci), who was sent by her parents to live with an aunt in Florida in order to "cure her homosexuality." The two meet and fall in love just as Wuornos was nearing suicidal despair. Selby becomes the first person in Wuornos' tragic existence to value her as a human being.

Initially known as the pioneer of trance music, BT has arrived as one of the most cutting-edge artist/producers and film composers for a plethora of musical styles. His impressive career began training classically at the age of 4 and carried on to later education from the Berklee College of Music and Washington Conservatory, where he studied composition, counterpoint, harmony/theory, advanced orchestration and conduction, amongst a variety of other subjects. BT has scored such blockbuster hits as The Fast and the Furious, Go and Driven, and is also recognized for producing notable artists such as Britney Spears, *NSYNC and Sonique, remixing the likes of Madonna, Lenny Kravitz, Korn, Seal and Sarah McLachlin, and his work with Sting and Peter Gabriel. Earlier this year, he released his fourth full-length release, Emotional Technology (Nettwerk America), featuring the hit single, "Simply Being Loved (Somnambulist)" ...a Top 40 radio smash.

Monster premiered last month in Los Angeles as a close to the AFI Film Festival, and was one of the most sought after tickets at the festival. The film opens in New York on December 24th and Los Angeles/San Francisco on December 26th. Monster will open nationwide in January 2004. Look out for BT on tour with his live band in 2004. Check www.btmusic.com for updates.

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