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".
|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))
|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")
Hope Of New Fields
|(Unused, HW returns?, Poignant string quartet figures, leading to higher register rustic textures, sometimes with dissonant cadences)|
|(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.)
|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).|
|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
Nonesuch Web Listing
Review/Analysis at MovieMusikUK
Popcorn Superhet Receiver on Slate