January 29, 2007

CD Review: Notes on a Scandal - Music by Philip Glass

Notes on a Scandal is the tale of obsessive relations, secrets, and revelations. It is a film that is dark, peppered with biting comic touches, and wades into the treacherous waters of damaged psyches. Philip Glass has composed the accompanying music which serves to underscore the slippery slope that the primary characters go down.

I had the score prior to seeing the film, and even then I marveled at the beautiful simplicity. It is sophisticated and haunting in the way the themes come together. I had no idea how they fit into the film, yet the composition works even without the images to accompany it inside of my head. To me, that is the sign of a truly great score. If the music alone is enough to transport you to another place, and works beautifully within the confines of the film, it is a work that will last.

As I watched Notes on a Scandal, I noted how well the various movements fit in. Philip Glass has said that he composed from the point of view of Judi Dench's Barbara Covett, without wanting the music to take you inside her mind. Rather, the decision was made to use the music to foreshadow the duplicitous nature of the Barbara character. A decision that pays off beautifully as the composition gives rise to the deviousness inside Barbara's mind.

The tone of Glass' score melds perfectly with the images that are created in Richard Eyre's film, as they compliment each other so well. The sparseness of the strings, the recurring harmonies, and the tension they build perfectly underline the increasing revelation of Barbara's true nature as the film progresses.

The stringed sounds work their way around the shadows of a decaying mind. There is a dark creepiness woven through the the gorgeous strings. There is a very distinct aura of menace as Glass' music focuses on Barabara and her ulterior motives are revealed.

Bottomline. Intense music for an intense film. This is what it sounds like when the right visual and sonic notes work together. From the opening foreboding sounds of "First Day of School" to the lighter strains of "The Harts" to the ominous tones of "Discovery" all the way through to final notes of "I Knew Her," this is a gorgeous score that has palpable tension, whether you have scene the film or not. Although, I have to recommend the film.

Highly Recommended.


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