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TITUS: SOUNDTRACK

Big band swing on the soundtrack to Shakespeare's bloody Roman tragedy? What in the name of anachronism is going on? To explain, we need a little context.

It is Shakespeare’s Macbeth who describes life as "… a tale/Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury". But it was the young Shakespeare’s very first play, Titus Andronicus, that presented this "idiotic tale" in all its gory glory. And Julie Taymor’s current cinematic adaptation is uncompromising in its evocation of life’s sound and fury: fusing ancient and hyper-modern icons of chaos and brutality as symbols of violence across the ages. Composer Elliot Goldenthal, Taymor’s husband, exploits a riotous blend of disparate styles to create a score that marries perfectly with this vision. The result ranks amongst the most adventurous film music I’ve heard.

Certainly there are many of the epic elements we expect: bombastic choral chanting in the realm of Orff’s Carmine Burana, dissonant and rhythmically effervescent strings for tension and action, grandiose orchestrations for that obligatory triumphal feel. All well crafted without being startling.

The jolts come with the sudden segues into the aforementioned brassy swing cues, inventive saxophone duets, edgy electric guitars and industrial electronic experimentation; not to mention occasional forays into freestyle jazz and bebop, and even a polka with a twist of polyrhythmic mayhem (at the tail end of the macabrely titled Pickled Heads). The striking contrasts and bizarre juxtapositions resonate – as do Taymor’s screenplay and imagery – with the dark, ironic humour embedded in the original play.

Just about the only thing missing is restraint. Just as well. If you’re going for unshackled eclecticism you may as well go the whole kinetic kaleidoscope. Of course, it could have ended up a messy tragedy of Shakespearean proportions, but Goldenthal overlays his inventive brilliance with an instinct for perfectly timing his mercurial tangents.

You can hardly relax to this soundtrack but you sure can revel in its diversity. It’s the ultimate roller-coaster ride for the ears.

Published: October 5, 2000

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SOUNDTRACK CLIPS:
Victorius Titus
Swing Rave

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ELLIOT GOLDENTHAL

TITLE: Titus saved in CD revs

ID: SK 89171
Sony Classical

COMPOSER: Elliot Goldenthal

PRODUCER: Teese Gohl, Elliot Goldenthal

ELECTRONIC MUSIC PRODUCER: Richard Martinez

TRACKS: 22

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