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,
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
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
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
"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
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.