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The Giver (Marco Beltrami)

August 17, 2014

cover_thegiverTHE GIVER

Marco Beltrami, 2014, Sony Music
20 tracks, 49:08

Though famous for his horror-scores Marco Beltrami has been known to write some wonderful dramatic music. “The Giver” falls into that latter category.

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

In a seemingly perfect community, without war, pain, suffering, differences or choice – and memory – a young boy is chosen to learn from an elderly man about the true pain and pleasure of the “real” world. Directed by Phillip Noyce (“The Bone Collector”, “Patriot Games”) the film stars Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep and Brenton Thwaites. The film is based on the 1993 book, of the same name, by Lois Lowry. Having a habit of working with Hollywood’s finest composers, Noyce chose Marco Beltrami for this latest flick. Whilst particularly known for his horror-scores, Beltrami has written a fair share of wonderful dramatic scores, such as “Soul Surfer” and “I am Dina”. His latest score certainly falls into this category and could easily become a fan-favorite.

What does it sound like?

A zither-like sound, tremolo strings and soft choir define the opening of the album. As the strings slowly swell, a main theme becomes apparent – it’s made up from a series of three descending notes. As it climaxes, a string arpeggio takes over and the cue starts to build again. It’s a very classy track; the mood of which reminds me a little of John Williams’ “A.I.”.

This theme recurs several times throughout the score, for example in “Jonas Gets The Gig” (accompanied by see-sawing string ostinati); in “First Memory” (twinkly guitar and piano, before lush strings take over); in “Tray Ride” (very fragile on high strings, before working towards an epic crescendo); in “Jonas Runs Away” (with trombones and muted horns giving it a suspenseful edge). “What is Love” offers a unique theme on piano. It’s around eleven notes long (depending on variations) and has a slight classical feel about it.

Beltrami utilises string arpeggios (or ostinati, if you so prefer) throughout the score. He does this in a Philip Glass-like manner (just listen to the opening of “Arriving at the Giver’s”) and it helps create a sense of wonder whilst nicely driving the score forward. When combined with subtle electronic percussion (and ooh-ing choir), as in “Happiness & Pain”, it has an air of Craig Armstrong about it (or maybe even Fernando Velazquez). And whilst we’re comparing… the subtle synths evoke memories of Mark Isham’s “Crash”. This is not to say that “The Giver” is derivative in any way. I’m merely trying to describe the sound and style.

The aforementioned “Happiness & Pain” also marks a dramatic shift in the score (the title itself suggests it). Slowly Beltrami starts to work more overtly dramatic elements into this score. The “Pain” part of the cue features some powerful percussion. More drums and dense dramatic writing can be heard in “War”, “Accelerated Training” (expect this cue to feature in every trailer for the next few years), “Escape from the Nursery” (firmly in Beltrami’s familiar action territory), and “Rosebud” (which builds up a great positive energy, but stops shy of big climax). “Desert Ride”, “Capturing Jones” and “The Mountain and Despair” form a suspenseful finale to this score.

The album closes with the film’s “End Credits”. Choir and solo cello take the lead, before strings take over. Before long the choir reclaims the melody, this time accompanied by piano. The melody is given back to the strings. Horn joins in; choir joins in; and the piano finishes it off. What a superb cue!

Is it any good?

It’s fantastic! In a recent interview (with IndieWire) Beltrami muses on his fellowship with Jerry Goldsmith. He mentions that what he picked up from the late maestro is how to write economically. How to achieve what you want in the simplest way possible. It’s a statement that rings true particularly for “The Giver”. There is nothing overly complicated about this score, yet it is incredibly emotive. The subtle orchestrations and beautiful performance make this score both a mesmerising listen and a must-have!

Rating [4/5]

Tracklisting

1. Main Titles (3.07)
2. Jonas Gets The Gig (1.33)
3. Color (2.05)
4. Arriving at the Giver’s (1.48)
5. First Memory (1.30)
6. Gabriel Arrives (0.58)
7. Do You See It (0.56)
8. Tray Ride (2.30)
9. Happiness & Pain (2.56)
10. What Is Love? (2.21)
11. War (3.20)
12. The Kiss (2.27)
13. Jonas Runs Away (2.51)
14. Accelerated Training (2.39)
15. Escape From The Nursery (2.10)
16. Desert Ride (2.18)
17. Capturing Jonas (3.32)
18. The Mountain and Despair (1.46)
19. Rosebud (4.32)
20. End Credits (3.49)

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