The temptation must have loomed large to simply license the Jaws
music: dee-da-dee-da . . . just when you thought it was safe to
go back in for a loan . . .
Or perhaps a compilation from the more insightful pop satirists:
Pink Floydís Money Money Money; Dire Straitsís Money
For Nothing . . .
Instead, they gambled on an original, full orchestral score in
the classic tradition. And composer Alan John has delivered a
classic in every sense of the word. One to drive a mercantile
mogul mad. There are simply no sell outs what so ever. No cheap,
contrived hooks to be re-interpreted by a pop starlet over the
closing credits and cash in on the charts; no programmed
electronica to cover up lulls of inspiration; no bombastic surges
of melodrama loosely tied by ambient meanderings; but rather a
very traditionally crafted score, driven by impressionistic piano
and sublimely arranged strings, that is potent, complex and
engaging from first cue to last. Johnís has put in the work,
and reaped the dividends. For all of us.
His score is fashioned on the age-old resource of finely tuned
dissonance, with measured resolutions. So as to keep us
enthralled, and our imaginations ticking. There is enough
familiarity for easy listening, and enough originality for
Every phrase is rounded in delicate nuance and orchestral timbres
selectively deployed for more than just cosmetic decoration. The
tenderly edgy piano harmonies and refined drama of the
strings establish the underlying, unsettling milieu;
and then brass, timpani and choral character are added as the
score develops. The emotions are acute but abstract. The suspense
and haunting shadows could just as easily belong to Hitchcock
thriller; or a teetering on an abyss, into a cesspool of
If one of the scoreís strengths is its fluidity, this fails
to suffer with two middle cues that branch off into lounge jazz
and mambo. Pickup Bar proves that you donít
have to play a swing rhythm to swing. On a solid foundation of a
staccato bass ostinato, the scoreís ubiquitous piano frolics
into jazzier terrain accompanied by a delicious saxophone. Sweet,
reedy and romantic.
Itís scores like this that explode the theory that there are
only two types of good soundtracks. The blockbuster, hook,
melodic lines and everything but the kitchen sink-ers; and
ambient soundscapes whose claims to fame lie in a failure to
clash with the visuals.
Here, Johnís takes inspiration from the drama of the screen,
and transmutes it to music. It is a marvellous soundtrack; not
merely aural wallpaper decorating the cinematography, but a
splendid enjoyment in its own right. Invest in it.
Published September 13, 2001