"Part of the soundtrack composer’s craft is to heighten the cinematic
experience without distracting from the images. But one could hardly say that Howard Shore
was set much of a challenge here when it came to avoiding an intrusion on the visuals.
Tchaikovsky’s cannons would be hard pressed to distract attention from Tarsem’s
Shore’s score is eerie, exotic, and sometimes genuinely menacing. It’s
apposite stuff for Tarsem’s stylised art-horror indulgence, but not exactly an easy
listen. And it probably isn’t meant to be.
Tarsem’s extravagance isn’t everybody’s chalice of chills, so it’s
hardly likely to be graced with a broadly accessible soundtrack. In many ways this is one
of those scores that continually tantalizes without ever truly satisfying. Like James
Newton Howard’s Unbreakable score, it is comprised largely of incidental ambience
that struggles to stand alone.
Nevertheless, there is curiosity value galore in the contributions by The Master
Musicians Of Jajouka, an elite, spiritualist caste of the Rif Mountains of Morocco, whose
heritage dates back 1200 years and whose ancestors were court musicians for Moroccan
They were brought to Howard Shore’s attention by free-form jazz giant Ornette
Coleman who had recorded with them previously. Playing such instruments as the monochord,
nay flute and sarangi, these Moroccan maestros add busy rhythms and exotic intervals of
reedy and twangy tones to Shore’s dark atmospherics.
Paul Clarvis, credited as 'percussion specialist', hits an array of unspecified koto
and conga-like drums to thundering effect. When his rumbling crescendo is blended with
bursts of brass cacophonies the soundtrack belatedly and all too briefly takes on a
compelling guise that it could have done with from start to finish.
For the main it sounds like an extended accompaniment desperately searching for some
pictures (to accompany) – preferably of the macabre and gruesome kind. Got an
Hieronymous Bosch picture book handy?
The sinister edge is sharpened when cascades of screeching strings assault the ears
with a salvo of discordant passages that are somewhat like a cross between the tuning-up
of a drunk orchestra and a Jurassic aviary of enraged Pterodactyls.
Undoubtedly an interesting soundtrack. But I’d have to rate it more esoteric than
Publication date: December 7, 2000