Rurouni Kenshin (Sato, 2012)

Rurouni Kenshin Kyoto Inferno The Legend Ends

     The 2012 film "Rurouni Kenshin" (Japanese: るろうに剣心) is a live-action adaptation of a popular Japanese manga and anime series (also known as "Samurai X" in some markets), centering on a wandering former assassin in the late 19th Century during Japan's change-over from an insular society to a Western-influenced one.  After vowing to never kill again, he begins using a "reverse blade sword", in which the knife edge is the dull side.  Kenshin finds friendship in a small village, but when a local drug lord threatens his new friends, he is forced to confront the drug lord and his army in his lair.  After the drug lord has been dispatched, Kenshin is confronted by a survivor of the previous war and again almost forced to kill again.

     The film's composer, Naoki Sato (佐藤 直紀), is best-known for his anime soundtracks, but in more recent years he has done a few live-action features (many of which were adapted from manga or anime series).  His style is fairly eclectic, but often uses electric guitar or electronics with his orchestral elements.  In Rurouni Kenshin, many cues notably feature solo instrumental improvisations on violin, oud (lute), bansuri (wood flute) and shenai (ethnic double reed).  The violin especially has a virtuosic "gypsy-like" flavor, which nicely matches the concept of the wandering swordsman.  Besides the ethnic soloists, the other main elements are tribal drums, ambient electronics and electric guitar, sometimes supported by strings and brass.
  • Violin: Keisuke Ohta
  • Electric Guitar: Hidetoshi Suzuki
  • Oud: Yuji Tsunemi (常味裕司)
  • Bansuri: Taro Terahara (寺原太郎)
     Thematically, solo instruments are often used to represent characters or scenarios (gypsy violin appears during lethal swordplay moments, oud with Jin-e's attacks, electric guitar with other battle scenes, drums for raising a battle's intensity).  Melodically, main themes include the Kenshin theme (Main Title), and a more poignant "No Killing" theme often on strings and horns.

Trk Dur Title Film Sequence, Music features
1 3:48 The Battle of Gyoan
0:00: Soldiers fight with rifles, cannons and swords in a blue-filtered forest battle.  Saito Hajime searches for the Hitokiri Battosai (Kenshin). 
Violin, bansuri, shehnai over ambient textures/low fast pulses, ambient swells.
2:01: Kenshin fights many warriors.
Aggressive drums/percussion.
2:50: The warriors all lie dead.  Saito finally reaches Kenshin.
Violin over ambient textures resumes.
2 3:58 (Rise of Jin-e)/
Towards a New Era
(Main Title)
生生流転 ~新時代へ~
0:00: When Saito confronts the Battousai, Kenshin sticks his sword in the ground and shambles off.  Many half-buried bodies lie on the ground.  One survivor, Jin-e, rises.  .
Bansuri over soft ambient textures.
1:29: Jin-e grabs Kensin's abandoned sword and hears screaming voices.  He realizes who it belonged to.
Wailing solo voice with delay enters ambient texture (now with low bass pulses).
2:01: Main titles.  Kenshin rides a small boat.  A government official tells an assembled squad that the new government must survive.
Drum accent into fateful Kenshin theme with strings/drums/voice/male choir/synth pulses, joined by brass swells, ending in low synth.
(Entire track also used when Jin-e impales himself at the end of the final fight, followed by Kenshin carrying Kaoru away and a final conversation with Saito).
3 2:49 (Kanryu's Theme)
観柳帝国 ~我執の猛~
0:00: After having many workers killed at his estate, Kanryu lets Megumi live.  One  worker escapes out the window  (also, Kanryu feeds his slave army in front of Saito, then at the restaurant when he offers Kenshin money to work for him, when he receives his gatling gun, etc.).
Wry Kanryu theme with strings/percussion/harpsichord/brass in a waltz rhythm, developed in various interludes.
4 3:02 (Confrontation)
0:00: Megumi asks the police for help.  Jin-e (pretending to be the lethal Battousai) attacks the police force and decimates them.  Megumi attempts to flee.  Jin-e uses his hypnotic stare to mesmerize a policeman.  He finds Megumi has escaped out a back window (also for when Kenshin confronts Jin-e in the forest, who has captured Kaoru).
High tones/low synth pulses, joined by ambient textures, brass gliss into oud/distant male choir chant/low synth pulses.
5 1:52 Encounter 1
邂逅 (壱)
0:00: Kaoru encounters Jin-e and tries to fight him.  She is disarmed and about to be killed, but Kenshin appears and knocks her out of the way.
Ambient noise/choral textures joined by string noises (oud), slams/drum accents/low synth pulses, ending in rising gliss accent.
(followed by 12)
6 2:44 (Path of Karma)
0:00: During a rainstorm, Saito identifies Kenshin and takes him out of prison to see his old commander, Yamagata.
Bansuri over ambient throbbing textures.
7 3:03 (Kenshin Fights Henchmen at Kaoru's Dojo)
人斬り抜刀斎 ~殺人剣~
0:00: Kenshin confronts Kanryu's gang of hooligans who disrupt Kaoru's dojo.
Violin over ambient textures.
0:51: Fighting begins and Kenshin dispatches the gang using only his hands.
Drums enter with harpsichord tremolo, intercut with bansuri and violin ornaments.
1:37: Fighting continues inside the dojo.  The gang eventually realize they are fighting the real Battousai.
Drums developed with syncopated ethnic string figures, violin over ambient textures/pulses.
8 2:40 Reverse Blade Sword
0:00: Saito mocks Kenshin's reverse-blade sword.  He attacks Kenshin to draw out the "old Battousai", but Kenshin maintains that he will not use his sword to kill.  Yamagata calls off the fight (also used when Megumi cures the sick people of the rat poison, and also a variation at the end of Kenshin's fight with the blonde fighter).
Bells/synth string layers, joined by bansuri, building texture based on string ostinati with bansuri ornaments, ending in climactic accent with ambient ornaments.
9 1:49 Rurouni
0:00: Kaoru gives Kenshin a red outfit.  Kenshin feels optimistic (also at the end when Kaoru looks for Kenshin and finds him with a basket of food.  She welcomes him home).
Peaceful ambient string-synth/guitar feedback textures based on No Killing theme, sustained melodic texture.
10 1:53 (Kenshin vs Sano)
0:00: Outside the market, Sanosuke (Sano) chases Kenshin in order to impress Kanryu.  Kenshin eventually convinces Sano that Kanryu is not worth working for.
Shamisen/ethnic percussion/bansuri action rhythm with bass pulses, becoming hesitant strings.
11 6:50 No Killing 1
不殺 (壱)
0:00: When seeing a woman mourn over of Jin-e's victims, Kenshin has a flashback to when he was assigned to assassinate a man for the greater good.  In the flashback, he kills a group of men in a dark alleyway.
Violin over ambient textures.
1:58: One man refuses to die and manages to cut Kenshin's cheek (also when Kenshin cuts Jin-e's head near the end of the final fight).
Soft, poignant strings over low ambient hum.
3:35: Kenshin delivers the killing blow and then staggers away, shaken.
Violin over ambient textures.
4:34: The next day the dead are gathered in the rain.  Kenshin sees a woman mourn the final warrior.  Kenshin questions his orders.  In the present, Kenshin stands with his eyes closed in a bamboo forest (also at the end of the final fight: Kenshin breaks Jin-e's elbow, Kaoru stops Kenshin from killing Jin-e).
Soft rising string figures, No Killing falling theme on strings.
12 4:31 Keraku's Dream
0:00: Kenshin notices Kaoru's dojo.  She tells him that she must fight Jin-e in order to defend the reputation of her father's style.  Kenshin tells her not to risk her life needlessly.
Electric guitar feedback swells in a melody over low ambient texture, joined by slow falling/rising string synth figures, additional guitar feedback layers enter, developed with more strings.
13 5:03 Hiten
0:00: Kenshin and Sano fight Kanryu's army at the gate.  As they approach Kanryu's house, Kanryu throws money out the window to egg his men on.
Vocal wails with delay over bass pulses, joined by ambient textures, leading to Kenshin theme on strings/drums/vocals/electric guitar, electric guitar solo layers over drum/synth rhythm, string theme re-enters.
2:36: Inside, Kanryu wonders why Kenshin fights.  He decides to make preparations.
Bansuri over synth bass pulses.
3:28: The fight outside continues.  Kenshin and Sano break into the house.
Kenshin theme resumes, joined by noble string counter-figure, ending in low bass hum.
14 4:23 1st
0:00: Kenshin fights Kanryu's blonde, masked, armed henchman in a room of traps while Sano fights a Buddhist thug in a kitchen.
Electric guitar/drum rhythm with electric organ arpeggios/vocal wails, developed on string figure/rhythm, accents, vocal figures, etc.
2:16: (alt mix) Sano and the Buddhist fighter have a snack break.
Electric guitar solos in layers over rock rhythm.
3:30: Kenshin and the blonde fighter continue fighting with blades.
Electric organ arpeggios/vocal wails return, ending in accents.
15 0:49 2nd
0:00: Kenshin and Sano dodge Kanryu's gatling gun fire.  Kanryu is beaten with the help of Saito.
Fast action rhythm with strings/low brass/drums, building with vocals into electric guitar layers.
16 2:11 Encounter 2
邂逅 (弐)
0:00: (alternate mix with oud solo) After Jin-e puts a breath-paralyzing spell on Kaoru, Kenshin fights harder.
Oud over ambient/choral textures, joined by slams and bass synth pulse, drums, rising texture.
17 4:18 Critical
0:00: (partially used) Fighting becomes more intense.
Bansuri (delayed), then violin over ambient howling textures, joined by bass synth pulses and isolated ambient swelling accents.
18 4:04 No Killing 2
不殺 (弐)
0:00: Kenshin confronts Megumi after she heals the sick people and she has a flashback to when she worked for Kanryu. 
Thoughtful strings/brass figures.
1:08: Kenshin thinks about Megumi's story, and decides that he must confront Kanryu.  Sano joins him.  They discover that Megumi has left a note.  Megumi approaches and enters Kanryu's estate.  Kenshin tells Kaoru and Yahiko to wait at home.
Soft rising string figures, No Killing falling theme on strings/synth with rising counter figure, developed on brass/strings, ending in held synth.

Alien 3 (Goldenthal, 1992)

     The third entry in the Alien franchise was scored by relative newcomer Elliot Goldenthal.  Goldenthal's style is known for its contemporary classical complexity - ie, he's not afraid to get weird.  Like some other composers (such as Jerry Goldsmith and Leonard Rosenman), Goldenthal uses many avant-garde compositional and instrumental techniques to get some unusual textures.  Many of Goldenthal's scores of course have their basis in "traditional" film music, but Alien 3, being a sci-fi horror feature, is steeped in atonality and murky textures, with some truly disturbing cues.  In this score there are no real character themes featured, but instead Goldenthal uses specific textures as a device to give the score its inner consistency.  Some of these textures include:

  • Brass and string polyphonic fanfares: ex. "The First Attack" (3:06)
  • String tremoli/clusters/glissandi: practically any random needle-drop.
  • Low ambient/impact textures and electronics: ex. "Candles in the Wind"
  • Boy vocal soloist and male overtone vocal: "Agnus Dei", "Lento"
  • Bowed metal: ex. "Wreckage and Rape" (1:31)

Trk Dur Title Cue Title/Film Sequence/Music Elements
1 4:29 Agnus Dei Main Title: Opening credits over starfield, intercut with short sequences: Ripley in hypersleep and the ship exterior.  A facehugger approaches Ripley's cryotube.  Acid drips on the floor when it attaches to her.  An alarm sounds and the ship ejects Ripley into an emergency compartment which breaks loose from the ship.  The escape pod fragment lands on a prison refinery planet's ocean.
Low ambient percussive/electronic textures with soft held string clusters and boy vocal soloist, drum accents, metallic sounds, swelling string/brass figures, moaning/creaking textures joined by additional vocal layers, drum accent into windy texture, hints of microtonal clarinet, brass swells, swirling strings, drums and fanfares, ending in boy solo vocal.
2 4:42 Bait and Chase It's Started: The alien chases one of the inmates (alien POV).  The alien is blocked by various closing doors and then baited again, as the inmates lure it towards the molten lead flooding chamber.  Dillon goes off to see the inmates' progress while various inmates are killed.
Accents into tremolo strings, drum fills, brass slams, high string clusters and glissandi/bass clarinet ornaments/brushes/electronics, metallic percussion/brass swells, low ambient textures into layers of brass tremoli/drums, low impacts, drum roll/tremolo figures, antiphonal brass wails, brushes and electronics, metallic accents into bass clarinet ostinato layers/held strings, metallic rhythm, string cluster swell, high string clusters/accents.
3 3:09 The Beast Within It Won't Kill Me: Ripley tells Dillon that she has an alien "queen" inside her.  She asks him to kill her and turns around to face away from him.  Tension builds but Dillon changes his mind at the last minute, and he tells Ripley that he needs her to help him kill the alien.
Low moaning trombone/bass clarinet/ambient textures, joined by suspense violins/gong, distant, building brass, rising strings/brass, subdued high string cluster, falling figures, sinister muted brass, low string drone. 
4 5:49 Lento 0:00: Unused
Boy vocal soloist over somber strings, joined by resigned low synth/piano/cor anglais/strings/oboe.
1:48: The Cremation: The prisoners gather inside a hellish blast furnace.  The prison administrator reads a prayer (camera pans across solemn faces).  Elsewhere, the dog seems uncomfortable and acts strangely.  Dillon says a prayer as well and Ripley weeps.  An alien xenomorph erupts from the dog.  Ripley sees her newly-shorn head in the mirror.
Ominous brass fanfares with timpani accents and swirling string arpeggios, sad figures with low male overtone vocal/violins becoming more poignant/mystical, soaring strings/howling elements, wailing boy voices, sinister brass accents/male overtone moan/string cluster glissandi.
5 3:21 Candles in the Wind Candles in the Wind: Some candles are being blown out as a few inmates explore a deserted complex.  One prisoner suddenly comes face to face with the alien, which immediately attacks.  2 inmates make a run for it but suddenly run into a dead body.  One inmate is attacked and killed, and the other runs off.
Ambient scraping textures, distant low impacts, low brass tremolo figure/tremolo low strings, bursts of string clusters, whipping sounds/col legno strings/tremolo figures in brass and strings, brass glissandi, howling textures/muted trombone accents, string clusters into sinister brass danger fanfare with drums.
6 2:44 Wreckage and Rape 0:00: Droid: Ripley salvages Bishop's head from a giant junk pile. 
Low string and clarinet tremolo figure joined by slower violin figures, building to brass climax with bass clarinet ornaments.
1:03: Rape: Ripley is confronted by a few prisoners who attack her and attempt to rape her.  She is rescued by Dillon.
High held violins with distant impact noises/pizzicato bass, bowed cymbals, drum/electric guitar groove with murky howling vocals and electronic rhythms ending in drum/guitar accents.
7 4:20 The First Attack 0:00: Main Title Cont'd: (partially used): Ripley's unconscious body is rescued from the escape pod wreckage.  The dog barks at an alien facehugger inside the wreckage
Rising wind figures/piano/high string cluster/harp, piano cluster, tremolo accents, low wind ostinato figure with brass/tam tam swells, piano ornaments, string clusters.
2:11: Clemens Dies (Pt 1): Clemens injects Ripley with a tranquilizer but is suddenly grabbed by the alien and killed.  The alien sniffs at a cowering Ripley, but decides to leave her unharmed.
High clusters/tremolo building with flutes/brass into brass glissando accent, sinister low flutter-tongue brass/drum slam accents, low electronic swells/bowed metals, string clusters.
3:06: First Attack: Inside an air shaft, a cleaning prisoner notices organic gunk on the floor (xenomorph skin).  The alien attacks him.  He falls into a fan and is killed.
Layers of irregular short low brass figures in dialogue with brass swells and electronic episodes, building to climax with clashing accents.
8 3:41 Lullaby Elegy 0:00: The Dog: The dog's owner notices that the dog's face has been marked.
Low bowed swells, joined by ambient textures.
0:27: Morgue: Ripley inspects Newt's corpse.  She closes Newt's eyes and then does a surface exam.  Ripley insists on an autopsy.
Rising bass figures, ominous brass/tam tam swells/violin swells, muted brass layers joined by piano ostinato and poignant piano and strings, low dissonant strings/high violin.
2:36: Autopsy (Pt 1): Clemens begins the autopsy.
High muted violin and low gong swells, distant impact textures.
9 2:19 Death Dance More Bait And Chase: The alien kills again.  Ripley tries to grab the alien and drag it out of a compartment.  She and Dillon eventually lure it to the lead flooding chamber.
String tremolo and brass fanfares, low strings/writhing muted brass figures, isolated percussion bursts, tremolo figures, drum rhythm/string cluster, string tremoli/xylophone, joined by brass tremoli/accents, gong and processed brass accents, rhythmic drum layers/string tremoli.
10 2:04 Visit to the Wreckage I'm Not One For Begging: Ripley tells the inmates the Company will not save them at the expense of the alien.  They discuss drowning it in hot lead.  Dillon gives a pep talk.
Slow trumpet figure joined by low brass with intermittent percussion accents, low brass counter melody enters, building, determined strings/brass/percussion, percussion solo.
11 2:21 Explosion and Aftermath 0:00: The Explosion (Pt 2): An inmate drops a flare into explosives and a massive fireball results.  Men rush around on fire.  Dillon eventually hits the sprinklers and the flames die out.
Accent, held texture, brass accents/glissandi with swirling tremolo strings, joined by timpani rolls, high percussion, ending in brass accent.
1:14: The Aftermath: The inmates survey the steamy aftermath of the accident and gather the dead.
Poignant, slow falling strings, building in layers, high string cluster.
12 3:08 The Dragon 0:00: Bishop Turned On: Ripley activates Bishop.  Bishop tells Ripley that an alien was on the ship, and that the Company wants it.  He asks to be disconnected and Ripley complies.
Bowed metal ambient texture, metallic sounds, subdued suspense strings/winds in dissonant layers with low swells, sul ponticello strings, muted brass.
1:54: That's His Boot: At the 1st victim's death scene, Clemens notices an acid burn.  At her escape pod's wreckage, Ripley sneaks around looking through technical gear and is surprised by Clemens.
Low and high string textures, wailing tones and distant ambient elements, low isolated wind accents, harp, high strings, building to brass accent.
13 3:42 The Entrapment 0:00: The Survivor is a Woman: The prisoners are informed that the survivor is a woman.  The prison administrators discuss what to do.
Low string harmonics/held strings, ominous muted brass figures, joined by high and low winds, strings, forlorn trumpet figure, low strings.
1:50: End Credits (edit).
String tremoli building in layers, joined by falling muted brass, trumpets, strings/drums. 
2:35: Hello I Must Be Going (Pt 2): Ripley hits the sprinkler, suddenly cooling down the lead-hot alien, and it explodes.  Ripley swings to safety.
Falling string figures in repeating layers, developing in various harmonies.
14 4:14 Adagio You Can Still Have a Life: The "Bishop" scientist offers to help Ripley get the queen embryo out of her.  Ripley refuses and the team attacks the inmate survivors.  Ripley dives off the platform into the blast furnace as the queen erupts from her chest.  
Poignant high winds/strings with distant low impact sounds, poignant/fateful strings/synth joined by noble brass and falling string layers, brass and timpani flourish, resigned clarinet/strings, poignant falling strings, building textures into a noble brass elegy, with brass/tam tam accents, strings, triumphant brass/drums fanfare with falling strings.
3:17: The sun rises and the colony is closed.  In the escape pod wreckage, Ripley's cryotube broadcasts her final sign off from the Nostromo.
Mysterious strings/winds, lonely trumpet figure, searching strings.

Elliot Goldenthal Homepage
Elliot Goldenthal Wiki Entry

Unbreakable (Howard, 2000)

    James Newton Howard has scored many (if not all) of M. Night Shyamalan's features, and "Unbreakable" is no exception.  This film is an unusual blend of superhero origin story and domestic mystery thriller, and so Howard's score is, in turn, really quite different from any superhero score preceding it.  Instead of brass and percussion being the main action elements, here moody piano and strings take center-stage, as well as an important but understated (and hypnotic) electronic groove with new-age synth textures.  Brass becomes more prominent at the climax of the film, but for most of the film it is limited to a lone trumpet playing the distant "hero theme".

     Much of the melodic texture is based on soft arpeggio/ostinato figures which are developed in different ways, with vary gradual changes in dynamics.  The main themes are also often combined or otherwise related to one another, and this skillfully creates a consistent soundworld for the film.
  • Vision theme: Fateful 8-note melody in 2 4-note phrases, sometimes with an answering 2-note rising horn-synth motif, and sometimes followed by a more peaceful 6-note "B theme".
  • Hero theme: Begins with a 6-note opening fanfare (in 2 3-note phrases), and then sometimes ending with a more resolute end figure.
  • Glass theme: 4-note rising ostinato motif, falling on the 4th note.
  • Elijah theme: 10-note theme in a winding melody.
  • Water theme: Piano figure somewhat derived from the Vision theme.

Film Sequence, Music Elements
1 5:57 Visions 0:00: Elijah tells David to go to a public place to try out his superpowers.  David goes to a train station and begins getting flashes of crime from people who he brushes against (Vision theme in soft strings/piano and distant answering synth horns, electronic percussion enters with impact textures, rising high textures).
2:04: David begins deciding on an appropriate vision to further investigate (rising harmonies, held high suspense textures, Vision theme in a heavy/dark variation). 
3:11: In one vision, the orange man breaks into a family's home and takes them prisoner (piano ornament into held suspense strings, string glissandi/bass pulses/piano accents, swell).  In the terminal, David sees the orange man and follows him outside into the rainy night (Vision theme building in string layers, Vision B theme in a plaintive string figure, piano accent, soft violin figures with piano/string suspense swells).  He follows him up stairs and to a darkened house (Hero motif in distant trumpet/timpani).
2 4:09 Reflection
Of Elijah
0:00: In 1974, Elijah talks to his mother about his fears of breaking his bones (Glass motif ostinato/falling Vision theme fragment in strings, poignant strings/piano, soft piano ostinato/strings with hints of Hero and Vision themes).
2:04: His mother tells him that he has a gift, but it's outside across the street (worried low strings).  He gets the gift box and finds a comic book inside.  His mother promises him more comics if he goes outside (Elijah theme in soft strings/harp, piano, joined by soft strings).
3 3:43 Weightlifting 0:00: David finds out that he can lift more weights than ever before.  His son helps him test himself several times, each time increasing the weight (Hero theme in strings, developed in searching variations, joined by distant trumpet, developed in ostinato fragments with piano, celeste and trumpet elements, low suspense strings, playful piano/pizz strings enter, Hero theme developed on celli/pizz bass, piano/string tremoli, distant trumpet fanfare).
4 2:02 Hieroglyphics 0:00: Elijah tells David that he has been looking out for a real life incident reflecting a comic story, and describes his affliction.  He explains that he has been looking for his opposite, an indestructible man.  David is skeptical (falling-rising motif in curious harp/piano arpeggios with strings, joined by Hero theme in strings, piano/celeste arpeggios dialogue with Hero theme).
5 2:27 Falling Down 0:00: At the stadium, Elijah follows someone which David has mysteriously been able to identify as an armed danger (Glass theme in violins, bass).  He crosses a busy traffic lane (descending fragments in strings/harp/cello).
1:17: Elijah is confronted with descending subway stairs and falls down when he hurries down them (low piano accent, suspense strings/poignant celli, poignant Elijah theme in piano over held strings).  Before passing out he notices that David's "super" instincts were correct (string/brass swell).
6 3:23 Unbreakable 0:00: (Partial) In 1961 inside a department store backroom, Elijah is born with broken bones (winding piano ostinato/soft strings, cello figure).  Main title, opening credits (Vision theme in piano/strings over low held texture with answering synth-horns, joined by electronic percussion/impact textures, ending in rising harmony swell).  In the modern day, David rides a train and looks out the window (Vision theme in solo piano).
7 2:26 Goodnight 0:00: Unused, possibly when David returns home after freeing the family from the orange man (Hero theme in violins, developed on strings, joined by piano, trumpet, harp arpeggios/poignant cello/strings, soft piano/strings cadences with low string end figure).
8 3:46 The Wreck 0:00: David visits the stored wreckage of the train (Vision theme variations in strings, Vision theme joined by piano accents, Vision B theme in violins).
0:57: In flashback, David wakes up from a car crash (harp accent into distant trumpet, worried strings).  He uses superhuman strength to extract Audrey from the wreck (building bass pulses and strings, building with subtle choir towards full Hero theme in celli, brass/timpani).  Someone arrives and asks him if he is injured.  David hesitates to answer (Hero theme in subdued strings, distant trumpet, unsure falling strings).
9 1:32 Second Date 0:00: David tries to reunite with his estranged wife Audrey on a dinner date and explains that something feels "not right".  Audrey tells him that she never would have wanted his car accident to happen (thoughtful strings, piano, cello, poignant strings, full Hero theme in piano).
10 1:23 School Nurse 0:00: The school nurse remembers when David was injured as a child (Water theme in piano/soft strings).  She tells him that he seemingly died in a pool drowning, but was revived after 5 minutes (thoughtful/mysterious strings joined by falling piano/harp arpeggio).
11 1:55 Blindsided 0:00: (unused) Inside a darkened house, David frees some captive family members and sneaks upstairs to look for the orange man (ominous piano ostinati/low string figures, Hero motif, harp ostinato joins).
0:46: David is pushed over a railing and lands on a vinyl-covered pool (slams, brass accents/tremolo strings/distant trumpet).  The vinyl sinks and David is trapped (low piano accents, Water theme in hesitant high piano over Vision theme fragment in strings/trumpet, string accents/tremolo swell).  
12 2:30 The Orange Man 0:00: A pole is lowered and he grabs it.  He rises out of the pool (full Hero theme in horns, strings, brass).
0:42: David sneaks up on the orange man and grabs him (suspense strings/piano/low strings, timpani).  The orange man tries to throw David against the wall but eventually ends up unconscious (noble variation of Vision theme in strings supported by brass, strings and timpani).  David frees the mother (soft piano figures/strings).
13 2:36 Carrying Audrey 0:00: (unused, soft string figures derived from Hero theme, piano/celli, strings)
0:52: After returning home from saving the captive family, David carries Audrey up the stairs (Hero theme in piano, strings).  He puts her in bed and he embraces her (soft strings/piano, Hero theme variation developed in piano, carried into distant trumpet).
14 7:41 Mr. Glass - End Title 0:00: (Alternate) Elijah offers his hand to David (Glass theme in low strings, developed in falling strings/harp).  David shakes Elijah's hand and realizes that Elijah was behind all of the mass accidents (suspense strings, piano).  Elijah explains that he almost gave up hope looking for his opposite (poignant strings/harp variation of Vision theme, Vision theme in strings joined by piano).

(Alternate) End notes, credits:
3:00: Elijah theme in piano over subtle percussion/cello, Vision theme (with answering synth-horn motif) and electronic percussion.
4:16: Rising harmonies into tense strings, ominous Vision theme in strings, Vision B theme, joined by brass, poignant string layers
6:14: Hero theme in strings, joined by brass/timpani, Hero theme in soft strings joined by distant trumpet.

There Will Be Blood (Greenwood, 2007)

     In 2007, Jonny Greenwood (from the alternative rock band Radiohead) composed original music for Paul Thomas Anderson's oil prospecting epic "There Will Be Blood".  Because the score is largely dominated by strings, it presents a very stark and brutal atmosphere (an effect brilliantly exploited by Bernard Herrmann in "Psycho").  However, it also allows for some extremely tender and poignant moments.  The opening sequences are dominated by the cue "Henry Plainview", which is actually an adaptation of Greenwood's classical concert work "Popcorn Superhet Receiver" from 2005.  In this cue, clusters of strings converge on unison pitches to modulate the intensity of the drama.  This motif reoccurs at several points in the film, usually when the protagonist is "possessed" by his ambitions.

     The CD album of the soundtrack is a nice assembly of pieces, though it is slightly out of film sequence and features many alternate versions of the cues actually heard in the film.  Not included are Johannes Brahms' Violin Concerto in D Major (Movement III) (used in the End Credit) and Arvo Pärt's "Fratres For Cello And Piano" (used for a couple scenes after HW loses his hearing from the well accident).  Greenwood's first orchestral works, "smear" (from 2004, employing "beating" ondes martinots) and "Convergence" (an adaptation of a percussion cue from Greenwood's previous soundtrack "Bodywork") are also used in a couple of places in the film to great effect.

     For the most part, Greenwood wrote music that was inspired by the film's scenery and story (as opposed to specific characters) and director Paul Thomas Anderson used Greenwood's music where it seemed appropriate (a technique similar to one used by Sergio Leone when placing Ennio Morricone's score cues).  One motif which stands out is the "Prospector motif", a 3-note descending figure which appears a few times, often over a hypnotic (obsessive?) rhythm.  The score is written in a very "classical" style, in that the development of figures follows techniques often found in early 20th century classical works such as in the string quartets of Béla Bartók or Sergei Shostakovich.  The more dissonant string cluster textures are also similar to some of Krzysztof Penderecki's work, notably "Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima".

Trk Dur Title Film Sequence
1 3:56 Open Spaces 0:00: Daniel gives Paul Sunday some money in exchange for information about oil on his Paul's family ranch.  Paul leaves (short 2-note rising cello figure echoed in held, swaying violins, joined by mysterious winding ornamental string/ondes martinot phrases).
2:26: Daniel arrives at the Sunday farm under pretense of quail hunting with his son HW (modulation upwards and development of string/ondes martinot phrases).
2 2:42 Future Markets 0:00: After a little bit of hand-holding with Eli Sunday, Daniel begins buying up the land around the Sunday ranch.  He calls his team to start an operation (scherzo-like texture based on bursts of descending, accented, staccato 4-note cello/bass motifs, becoming tremolo phrases with pizzicato accents). 
0:48: A competitor arrives but Daniel tells him he's too late (tremoli and pizz strings are joined by climbing/falling violin figures and pizzicato phrases). 
1:35: Daniel's team begins surveying the land.  HW becomes friends with Mary, one of the Sunday girls.  HW tells his father that Mary's father beats her if she doesn't pray (somber held strings, becoming rustic).
3 4:35 Prospectors Arrive 0:00: (Alternate mix) Daniel's men arrive on train, as Daniel addresses the townspeople in a meeting hall.  Tents are set up and a drill tower is built.  Daniel talks to the townspeople about the future of their children and his support for education and grain.  Eli asks about support for his church (2-beat rising piano chord rhythm with fateful, 3-note falling ondes martinot motif ("Prospector motif"), modulating, joined by cello and developing into a hypnotic triplet rhythm).
2:41: Later, Daniel observes Eli proselytizing to his workers at the base of the tower (piano resumes 2-beat rhythm with searching, staccato piano chords above, and violin/cello join Prospector motif, staccato piano becomes a brief counter rhythm).
4 2:42 Eat Him By His Own Light (Alternate) A variation of this cue with elements of the Prospector motif (Prospectors Arrive) is used when Eli proselytizes to Daniel's workers at the base of the drill tower
0:00: Searching, fugue-like texture on violin/cello/piano.
0:57: Violin/cello dialogue on long lines over bursts of piano accents, eventually building and featuring primarily the piano accents.
5 4:15 Henry Plainview 0:00: Logos, Title, fade in to mountainous wilderness, then Daniel Plainview digging in a deep hold.  After using dynamite, he finds signs of oil in the ground and injured, climbs out of the hole.  Scene cuts to metal lab certifying Daniel's name on a certificate (Scorification Assay) (distant string cluster coalesces into a loud unison tone, disperses and reforms several times to varying degrees in varying dynamics).
1:38: Years later, a well-digging operation is underway.  Daniel's coworker holds an infant HW.  A drill bit falls into the well (held bass tones enter under falling string cluster glissandi, modulation into a held harmony with more tonal elements but still with ornamental glissandi).
(Also: Daniel is digs a hole for Henry's corpse.  He looks at his half-brother's diary.)
(adapted from Greenwood's "Popcorn Superhet Receiver Part 1" for string orchestra (2005))
6 2:06 There Will
Be Blood
0:00: Daniel watches the tower burn as HW and Eli look on from a distance (string cluster swells into accents).
0:49: The tower collapses and Daniel rejoices at his wealth.  He acknowledges that his son is not OK, but continues staring at the fire plume (swirling dissonant strings eventually leading to a unison tone, low string tremoli into accents, pizzicato accents, string tremoli, held string cluster).
(Combined with "Convergence" from Greenwood's 2003 "Bodysong" score)
7 3:07 Oil 0:00: Daniel makes an alcoholic milkshake and forces HW to drink it.  He puts HW to bed (slow viola accent rhythm joined by rising/falling violin figures/cello on 3-note descending Prospectors motif). 
1:23: Outside, he interrogates his (false) half-brother Henry about what he wants (violin arpeggios lead into slow figures).
8 1:52 Proven Lands Daniel puts down a survey stakes around the Bandy land with Henry's help.  His work takes him to within sight of the ocean (dense, even col legno rhythm with playful pizzicato cello/bass figures, joined by a few staccato bowed accents, ending in syncopated pizz/col legno accents).
(adapted from "Popcorn Superhet Receiver Part 2B")
9 2:31 HW /
Hope Of New Fields
(Unused, HW returns?, Poignant string quartet figures, leading to higher register rustic textures, sometimes with dissonant cadences)
10 2:22 Stranded
The Line
(Alternate) An adult HW visits his father (slow rhythmic figures in string harmonics, leading to poignant string quartet figures in dialogue).
11 2:57 Prospectors Quartet 0:00: Eli leaves the town to build his own mission.  Daniel watches him go (somber, low string accent rhythm with Prospector motif, developed into poignant texture).
1:16: HW learns how to sign and eventually develops a relationship with Mary Sunday.  Years later, they marry (low rhythm becomes somewhat dance-like, Prospector motif developed, rhythm becomes somber again, ending in soft cadence).

Violin Concerto in D (3rd m.)
(Brahms, 1878)
End Credit.

smear Daniel is informed that a man has been killed in an accident at the well.  Also when Daniel realizes Henry is not really his half-brother at the beach.  He gets him drunk and then pulls a gun on him (held, dissonant, beating ondes martinots and strings, from Greenwood's 2004 concert work, smear).

(Pärt, 1977-92)
A doctor examines a struggling HW.  Daniel continues working the well, but HW's condition doesn't improve.  He considers sending HW away.  Eli approaches Daniel about some money debts.  Daniel pummels Eli into the mud (rapid staccato cello ostinati with pedal tone, punctuated by piano chord accents, from Arvo Pärt's "Fratres").

Convergence Daniel tries to comfort HW after the tower accident causes him to become deaf, but leaves to take care of the fire.  The fire is put out with dynamite (building asynchronous rhythms in various percussion textures joined by dissonant string accents from the track "There Will Be Blood", originally from the 2003 "Bodysong" soundtrack cue Convergence).

Jonny Greenwood Wiki Entry
Score Wiki
Nonesuch Web Listing
Review/Analysis at MovieMusikUK
Popcorn Superhet Receiver on Slate

Jacob's Ladder (Jarre, 1990)

     On of the most eerie and haunting films of the early 1990's was Adrian Lyne's "Jacob's Ladder", scored by Maurice Jarre.  The basic premise is that a Vietnam vet, now living back in the States, sees "demons" among the New York populace.  He also has nightmarish flashbacks to different points in his life.  In the end (spoiler alert) it turns out that Jacob has been dying from a wound suffered in Vietnam during a friendly fire incident, and the entire film is basically a metaphysical vision about his struggle to stay alive and refrain from ascending "the Ladder" to the afterlife.

     Maurice Jarre is probably most famous for "Lawrence of Arabia", but in this film he creates an entirely different score.  Using primarily shakuhachi, double violin, hand percussion, European women's choir, piano and synthesizer electronics, Jarre creates a dream-like, electro-acoustic soundworld which perfectly suits the film's concept of "Earthly purgatory".  There are 2 male and 1 female vocal soloists as well, who provide an added layer of "dream voices".

     One of they key ideas in the film is that one who is afraid to die perceives "demons", but once acceptance is reached, the demons become angels.  The various vocals and choirs seem to musically realize these opposing elements.  The haunting main theme on piano has a beautifully melody, and possibly represents memories of "good times" in the past.  Ethnic "jungle" percussion is often used with Jacob's brief flashes of "real" consciousness as he is being airlifted in Vietnam. The shakuhachi and Indian double violin (usually electronically processed) may represent the pull of "life", since when Jacob begins to accept his impending death, these elements tend to drift away.  In the final scene where Jacob reunites with his deceased son, the synthetic textures give way to orchestral elements, in order to provide a sense of "rightness", and the two ascend up "Jacob's Ladder".
  • Piano: Gloria Cheng
  • Shakuhachi: Kazu Matsui
  • Vocals: Jubilant Sykes, Kari Windingstad 
  • Vocals (male chant), Double Violin: L. Shankar
  • Female Choir: Kitka Eastern European Women's Choir
  • Electronics: Judd Miller, Michael Boddicker, Michael Fisher, Nyle Steiner, Ralph Grierson, Rick Marvin

     The soundtrack is an edited collage of sound materials and sequences Jarre used in the film, including much material that was unused.  Below I noted places where a scene used a particular texture, but in general this soundtrack really stands on its own without the need for any kind of film narrative.  In other words, one could easily appreciate this album as a "dark ambient" record on its own.

Trk Dur Title Music sequence
1 4:18 Jacob's Ladder 0:00: Opening credits, helicopter flies over the Vietnamese jungle intercut with tired-looking soldiers: Soft, haunting piano theme, joined by strings (synth).
1:12: Chaotic battle ensues as soldiers have mysterious seizures: Ominous synth chords, subterranean male vocal moan, shakuhachi/drums, despondent violin/synth figures.
2:55: Jacob creeps through the forest and is suddenly stabbed with a bayonet.  Scene cuts to Jacob on a subway.  Jacob crosses the tracks and narrowly gets hit by a subway train: Suspense texture with metallic impact sounds, hissing/sirens, metallic scrape into shakuhachi, held strings/falling angelic female vocal.
2 7:43 High Fever 0:00: Jezzie and her friends put Jacob into ice water to try to bring down his fever and Jacob screams: Suspense texture with impact sounds/high whines/col legno strings/creaking/impacts/etc.
1:05: Snare accents with women's choir/low piano chords/strings/rhythmic impact accents.
1:51: Jacob kisses Sarah goodnight, and then sees images of the Vietnam sky as he is transported.  He wakes up in a tub with the doctor looking over him, Vietnam flashback continues as Jacob is taken up into a helicopter: Distant female siren calls, shakuhachi/hand percussion, women's choir chant, shakuhachi.
3:06: Male chant with shakuhachi/synth/siren vocal/women's choir/double violin elements.
4:29: Chiropractor theme: Relaxed guitar ornaments/mysterious synth textures.
5:33: Windy synth textures with shakuhachi/high harmonics/buzzing.
6:51: People leave Paul's funeral: Haunting piano theme.
3 8:20 Descent Into Inferno 0:00: Jacob is wheeled through the halls of a bizarre, nightmarish insane asylum: Rhythmic tapping/suspense textures joined by low male vocal moans/howling shakuhachi, double violin/women's choir/metal percussion/synth ostinato, high tremolo figures become chaotic piano/synth figures.
1:34: Sarah and his 2 of his boys visit Jacob in the hospital.  He insists that he is not dead (also: Jacob talks to a picture of his deceased son Gabe and cries.  Jezzie comforts him): Resigned descending piano/soft synth.
2:25: End credits: Humming synth textures/women's choir, siren calls, shakuhachi/double violin figures.
4:04: Jacob sees flashing images of his deceased son Gabe and demons: Metallic buzzing/low string synth/women's choir in slow harmony.
5:09: Jacob looks through a box of keepsakes and thinks about Vietnam: Shakuhachi/synth string textures, joined by add'l wood flutes, male chant and double violin.
6:46: Shakuhachi/synth winds, ambient textures.
7:27: Ominous, breathy atmospheric textures, women's choir wailing with piano chord accents, ambient textures. 
4 7:18 Sarah 0:00: Low atmospheric textures, low moaning/shakuhachi textures, joined by male chant.
1:13: Jacob wakes up from his fever and talks to Jezzie: Soft string textures joined by haunting piano theme/choir/synth textures.
2:39: Dark ambient textures with creaking/scraping/various vocal soloists and choir elements/string harmonics/shakuhachi, male chant and women's choir with double violin figures/harmonics.
4:53: In a cab, Jacob remembers getting stabbed with the bayonet in the jungle.  He is greeted by a doorman and enters his old home.  He finds his old apartment with no one home: Resigned descending piano/string synth texture.
6:38: Ambient breathing/tinkling/women's choir and low male vocal moan.
5 7:14 The Ladder 0:00: In a bar, Jacob and Paul talk about the demons they've been seeing: Low ambient textures/distant female siren calls/low male choir, joined by string tremoli, ethnic percussion rhythm/male chant.
1:11: Double violin/held textures, breathy ambient texture with male chant.
2:48: Jacob's chiropractor encourages Jacob to start walking.  Jacob takes a few steps and smiles: Relaxed guitar ornaments/wind synth textures (processed shakuhachi and double violin).
3:57: Low ambient textures/distant siren wails/buzzing, women's choir wail/synth, double violin figures/low ambient textures.
5:22: Jacob finds Gabe on the staircase of their old home.  Gabe tells Jacob that it's OK and suggests they go up.  They climb the stairs together into the light.  Jacob's body lies dead in a Vietnam hospital: Very low ambient textures/isolated distant siren wails, haunting piano theme/strings, flute, string arpeggios, building layers of horns, strings, female choir.
6 3:06 Sonny Boy
(Al Jolson)
End credit.

Maurice Jarre Wiki Entry
Jacob's Ladder reviews on Amazon
Kitka Eastern European Women's Choir
Kazu Matsui

Gods of Egypt (Beltrami, 2016)

     Alex Proyas' film "Gods of Egypt" was scored by Marco Beltrami, who had also scored his previous films "Knowing" and "I, Robot".  Frankly, the film's characters didn't do much for me, but the music has some themes which tend to grow on you after a few listens.  It's score takes its cue (no pun intended) from classic desert adventures of the past (such as "Lawrence of Arabia", "Raiders of the Lost Ark", "Khartoum", etc...) and features an "Egypt theme" which has an appropriately exotic flavor, as well as an innocent love theme for the two human protagonists, Bek and Zaya.  Mostly orchestral in the "grand tradition", it does get bolstered pretty often by the modern trappings of pounding ethnic drums, overtone vocal choirs and some subtle electronics.  The main themes heard on the soundtrack are as follows:
  • Egypt Theme: Rising 2-note opening motif, then rising-falling-rising figure (ex. Gods of Egypt Prologue, 0:45)
  • Bek and Zaya's Theme: Begins with a 4-note motif, rising and then falling on the 4th note, and develops from there (ex. Bek and Zaya, 0:00)
  • Horus Fanfare: 4-note fanfares (rising twice, sometimes a 3rd time), usually on trumpet or other brass with variations (ex. Set vs Horus, 0:42)
  • Set's Motif: sometimes just a held texture, sometimes as a 4-note descending figure (and variations), in low textures often using overtone male choir (ex. All Quiet On Set, 0:00)
  • Hathor's Theme: 7-8 note melodic variations in rhythmic theme, often a 2-3-2 (-1) note figure (ex. Hathor's Bedroom, 0:00)

Trk Dur Title Film Sequence
1 2:38 Gods Of Egypt Prologue Logos, titles, history of the gods in animated metallic relief, pan over Egypt into marketplace (Egypt theme).  In the marketplace, Bek steals a dress.
2 0:44 Bek And Zaya Zaya tries out the dress Bek has stolen for her.  They embrace (Bek And Zaya's Theme).
3 0:28 Market Chase Bek runs away from a shopkeeper.
4 2:24 Coronation Crowds gather for Horus' coronation.  Hathor, Nephthys, Thoth and Osiris arrive, as well as Bek and Zaya (Egypt theme).  Osiris appears.
5 0:41 All Quiet On Set (unused) Set appears and kills Osiris (Set motif on low overtone vocals).
6 3:39 Set Vs. Horus Horus confronts Set (tense Horus fanfare).  They assume their god-forms (Horus fanfare developed).  Horus is eventually when blinded by Set's mirrors.  Set takes Horus' eyes (Set overtone choir).
7 3:40 Hathor's Bedroom 0:00: Set visits Hathor in her bedroom (Hathor's theme on duduk).
1:56: (partially used) Urshu arrives and presents the magnificent monument to Ra outside the window.
8 4:06 Bek Steals
The Eye
0:00: At night, Bek sneaks his way into Urshu's vault through a treasure cart.
0:58: Inside, he navigates past 3 trap-laden bridges.  He gets one of Horus' eyes and escapes a scorpion pit.  
9 2:59 Shot Through The Heart 0:00: Back at Zaya's, he is confronted by Urshu. 
1:03: He uses the Eye of Horus to enable an escape (Egypt theme).  They steal a chariot but Zaya is hit by Urshu's arrow (Bek and Zaya's theme on choir, strings).  Bek enters Osiris' tomb to find Horus.
10 1:23 Underdog In the tomb, Anubis appears and takes Zaya to the underworld path (Bek And Zaya's Theme in strings).
11 1:39 Red Army Horus and Bek leave the tomb.  Set addresses his troops (low overtone male choir Set motif) and then they begin marching out.
12 2:59 Wings And
A Prayer
0:00: Horus and Bek reach the top of a mountain (extended Horus fanfare development on horns, celli, etc.).  Horus prays to Ra and he is transformed into his god-form (Horus fanfare).
1:45: They fly to Ra's sun barge (Horus fanfare).
13 1:28 Osiris' Garden Horus and Bek stop and talk in Osiris' Temple, a deserted but sunny sand mausoleum (Egypt theme).
14 3:10 Snakes On A Plain Horus and Bek are chased by giant sand cobras (action rhythms based on Egypt theme fragment with a little Horus).  Horus eventually lures one of them over a cliff.
15 3:26 Toth's Library 0:00: Horus, Hathor and Bek arrive at Toth's library, filled with his duplicates.
1:56: Toth gives a speech.  Horus challenges Toth, but Bek convinces him to help.  They leave the library (Horus fanfare).
3:03: The quartet walk through the desert (Egypt theme).
16 2:27 Straight Out
Of Egypt
Unused, possibly alternate version of Main Title (Horus fanfare, Egypt theme).
17 2:28 Channeling Zaya Hathor lets Bek speak to Zaya in a sandcloud vision and gives her hope (Egypt theme variation on duduk, Bek and Zaya theme on cello).  Anubis ends their communication and urges her forward on the path to the Afterlife (Bek and Zaya theme in a brief wail).
18 2:27 Return Of
The Mistress Of The West
0:00: Hathor calls up Anubis and offers her bracelet to help Bek visit Zaya in the Underworld (Bek and Zaya theme in flutes, violins).
1:08: She says farewell to Horus and is taken away by the demons (Hathor's theme variations).  Bek takes the bracelet (Horus fanfare variation).
19 3:41 Chaos 0:00: In the underworld, Anubis senses the chaos that Set has unleashed and sends Bek back to Horus ask for his help (fateful Bek and Zaya's theme).
1:34: Horus is sent a flying chariot by Nephthys (Horus fanfare).  Set returns to Egypt and lures Apophis the giant worm to Earth so that it can drink the Nile and destroy the Afterlife (Set motif in low overtone male choir, Egypt theme).
3:09: Horus, Bek and Ursha sneak into Set's monument to Ra (Horus fanfare on low brass).
20 3:28 Set Confronts Ra Set confronts Ra on his sun barge and expresses his displeasure.  He eventually knocks Ra off the ship and takes his spear.
21 3:05 Elevator Music On the rising elevator, Ursha brags about the monument.  Horus jumps off and begins climbing from the outer wall (Horus fanfares begin and continue in various forms).  Ursha taunts Bek.  They fight.
22 4:11 Obelisk Fight,
Pt. 1
Horus fights Set at the top of Ra's monument (Set descending motif begins).  Bek kills Ursha and ascends on a rope.  He saves Horus from a tight spot (Horus fanfares begin) and obtains Horus' other eye from Set.  They both fall but Horus transforms and saves them both with his wings (Horus fanfare into soaring Egypt theme).
23 3:30 Obelisk Fight,
Pt. 2
Horus and Ra fight in their god-forms (Horus fanfares, Set motifs).  Horus removes Set's wings and he falls.  Horus lands and kills him, with the monument collapsing around them.
24 5:38 God Of The Impossible 0:00: Bek dies (Bek and Zaya theme in violin, developed on winds).  Horus takes him to the Tomb.  Ra appears and offers a reward.
1:51: Bek and Zaya return to life.  Horus coronation resumes with everyone restored (Bek and Zaya theme into Horus fanfares, Egypt theme in violins developed with Horus motifs).  Horus leaves to go rescue Hathor (Egypt theme).
4:13: (Alternate) End credits (Egypt theme developed on brass, strings).
25 4:36 Bek And Zaya's Theme End credit 3.
26 3:35 Hathor's Theme End credit 2.

Marco Beltrami Page
Marco Beltrami Wiki Entry
Review/Analysis at Moviemusicuk