BLACK AND WHITE: SOUNDTRACK
Review by Brad Green:
It is hardly a slight on Cezary Skubiszewski to suggest that the highlight of this CD is the one track he didn’t compose. With last year’s re-issue of the Amadeus soundtrack, film music enthusiasts have been getting a pleasant earful of Mozart lately, and I can’t imagine anyone complaining about the incomparable Austrian upstart turning up again in the midst of this soundtrack. Too many notes? Never enough from a genius! You won’t find these La belle francoise piano variations on the Amadeus disc, but they’re as pretty as anything in the maestro’s catalogue of musical pulchritude. Florid and delicate, they add a complementary, melodic node to the centre of Skubiszewski’s score.
Aside from the Amadeus offering and a delightful but very short violin and piano cue near the end (Girl On The Beach) this is not a soundtrack of succinct, memorable motifs. It could broadly be described as “compellingly ambient” – and earns much kudos for providing evidence that such an expression isn’t an oxymoron. Unlike those ambient scores that simply meander through inoffensive and unremarkable soundscapes, Skubiszewski’s music creates real atmosphere and envelopes us in it. The mood is palpable, even a touch epic; but it is evoked subtly.
This is a soundtrack of dynamics and emotions. Energy sans melodrama. There are minimalist piano phrases, portentous strings and long sections of frenetic, layered percussion. The latter creating a sense of urgency, and at times uneasiness. This effect is reminiscent of Thomas Newman’s percussive motifs, especially in American Beauty.
The most distinctive element of Skubiszewski’s up-tempo passages is the use of acoustic guitar, most notably in the cue Young Rupert [Murdoch]. The more mature tycoon is renowned for his work-aholism, insomnia and general lack of either indolence or serenity. Here, a hyperactive farrago of guitar and percussion captures the spirit of a budding mogul – in the early stages of tackling the world head on. Like the rest of the score it does not seem judgmental. We get an objective impression of the vitality of Murdoch; what he’s like, not what we should think of him.
Nothing here is black and white; and that is the strength of the soundtrack. It develops with varying shades of brightness and fluctuating emotional intensity; rather than, like so many Hollywood scores, great dollops of triumph here and tragedy there. Thoroughly recommended for anyone searching for mood music that isn’t in the slightest soporific.
Published January 23, 2003