Music Webmaster Len Mullenger



Clint MANSELL Pi  Music from the motion Picture SILVA SCREEN FILMCD 312


Crotchet (UK)


Featuring segments of the original score from pi by Clint Mansell and music fromComposers and Artists: Clint Mansell, Massive Attack, Aphex Twin, David Holmes, Orbital, Autechre, Roni Size, Banco de Gaia, Gus Gus, Psilonaut, Spacetime Continuum

As easy as Pi? No, not quite!

Pi is the sixteenth letter of the Greek alphabet, it is also the symbol that represents the world's oldest mathematical mystery; the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter.

Now pi is a movie.

Since 1794, people have been searching for a pattern in the endless string of numbers associated with the value of pi. To date it has been calculated to over 51 billion digits and the current world record for reciting the value of pi from memory was made in 1995, when a Japanese man recited 42,000 digits in nine hours. Thankfully this accurate, though somewhat uninteresting recitation was not included on the soundtrack of the movie!

Pi, the film from Artisan Entertainments, is centred around Max Cohen, a mathematical theorist obsessed with the value of Pi. Max's computer, Euclid, pays a pivotal role in the search for the seemingly irresolvable answer. The numerical connection of Pi between spirituality, the whirling of galaxies, the stock market, our DNA and all things chaotic are mixed in this taught 16mm black and white film. This search for the infinite is psychodrama at its most claustrophobic.

The soundtrack of the movie is the latest incarnation of the electronica genre of popular music. Its roots can been witnessed in the evolution of electronic music from the avant garde of Kraftwerk and Africa Bambataa through to the more dance oriented manifestations like Acid House, Ambient, Dub and Jungle.

Original music for the movie was composed by Clint Mansell who was the front-man for the popular british band "Pop Will Eat Itself", playing guitar and keyboard from 1986-1996. Originally from Stourbridge, UK, he went to America in 1996, where he met and collaborated with Darren Aronofsky (writer and director of pi) on the soundscape for the film.

"The powerful visual effect of the film challenged me to create music equally as poignant and inspiring," Mansell says of his work.

The movie CD has an engaging format with tracks generally finishing with spoken dialogue of an apocalyptic and quasi-philosophical nature. For example "one- mathematics is the language of nature", "so what about the stock market", "evidence - the rise and fall of the Nile". These links add context to the music and are quaint in a way, but became a little irritating on repeated listening.

Mansell's eponymous opening track starts a sonic landscape of rhythmic complexity that develops with a phased, synthesised motif drawing in the listener. Just as you are expecting the motif to develop further, the drum part enters in a laid back way, pausing for breath then returning with a hard driving intensity. Pauses in the arrangement and surprising use of deep resonant bass patches keep the palette of sound exciting and interesting.

The spoken link to track two, "Petrol" by Orbital drops in to a gong sounding bright against a tense introduction with a distinct metallic tonality across the piece, the drum parts again coming in with a hard compressed urgency. The use of "riffs" (repetitive note patterns across two bars or four bars) begins an ambience that manifests itself across the CD with the use of a spanish or moorish scale towards the end the track adding drama and "eastern-ness". The very musical use of a sound that can only be described as someone running their fingers across an over-inflated metal balloon really catches the attention!.

"Kalpol Intro" by Autechre leads in with a descending bass riff covered by a soft string patch gliding across warm tones, percussion is less obtrusive with closed cymbal-like sounds and industrial steam patterns interwoven in slight variations that keep the attention focussed.

"Bucephalous Bouncing Ball" by Aphex Twin conjures the alliteration of the title and is unusual with the complexity of the percussion bringing bouncy stuff to the mind'e eye. "Watching Windows" by Roni Size has a tense intro and utilises a zither sound to great dramatic effect. The vocal is highly processed adding to the ethereal but slightly menacing mood of the track. The vocal melody incorporates indian scales and leads into a trancing two bar bass riff that is underscored by high complexity drum parts. A chromatic descending semiquaver run (a bit like a plucked mandolin) appears to counter the end phrasing of the vocal lines at times.

"Angel" by Massive Attack starts with a simple drum riff and convincing "electric bass played with a plectrum" lines. Vocals and modulated guitar chords enter and the track builds with a slow crescendo where the drums become more defined and the guitar more prominent. The continuos build is excellently executed and the sonic layering and imaginative use of percussion is well defined. Next is "We got the gun" by Clint Mansell which utilises almost "moog" synth sounds, oscillated across a powerful percussion track. A harsher track this one with gritty lyrics and a powerful riff structure, effective but painful in parts.

"No man's Land" by David Holmes is a heart-beat percussion with a riff that wouldn't be out of place in a spaghetti western, attractively countered by smooth string layers and washes of sound building slowly. "Anthem" by Gus Gus starts with delayed piano then moves rapidly into an almost Jarre-like arpeggiation building slowly with percussion emphasising mainly off-beats. The layering and crescendo are once again well executed. The next track "Drippy" by Banco de Gaia is alliterative and is an electronic potrayal of dripping things in tight synchopation, once more the crescendo to a dance drum beat. Some complex riffing here with a four beat riff across an eight beat riff that wouldn't be out of place as Tutankhumen's favourite tune. At 4:23 into the track the best bass line on the cd starts and should have all our heads nodding away like "flat eric" in the "sta-prest" advert, truly inspired. More eastern style vocal runs the track to a quieter ending on cello and bass synth with simpler percussion and distant vocals.

"Third from the Sun" by Psilonaut is more simplistic and repetitive with noises off across a basic synth bass and percussion. A slow builder again but more of respite from the intellectual challenge of the previous track. "A low Frequency Inversion Field" by Spacetime Continuum is more spiky and busy with spoken words across layered synth sounds, it lost its way a little and didn't have the same tighter feel that the previous pieces have. It felt improvised and unsure. The last track,another eponymous Mansell piece of "pi", is a reprise of the first tracks riff structure and driving percussion and rounds off the cd with a hanging synth note and a final touch of the introductory riff.

This CD grows on you and after repeated listening I would highly recommend it both as an adjunct to the movie and as a quality collection of electronic music in it's own right. If you have never had the courage to listen to what the tranced out teenager listens to then dare to listen to this.


Warwick Mason


Warwick Mason

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