Notes On A Scandal/Glass

February 23, 2007


Notes On A Scandal is the third Oscar nomination for Glass, the other two being The Hours and Kundun and is by far the furthest that he has been away from the minimalist style he is known for. The psychological thriller starring Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett is directed by Richard “Iris” Eyre. It has received quite the Oscar “buzz” as it has been nominated for best actress (Dench), best supporting actress (Blanchett), best adapted screenplay (Marber), as well as Glass. Starting off slowly at the box office it has quickly moved from the art houses to the multiplexes in a rather short period of time.To say that Philip Glass is not busy is an understatement! The 70 year old, yes seven zero, seems to be doing more not less these days having worked on (39) different film projects in the last five years and that doesn’t include any opera, chamber, or classical work or his touring with his ensemble. Just writing about what he has been involved in makes me tired! Philip, in addition, does his own orchestrations and his composing is done the old fashion way with a pencil and paper. He has no office.

“First Day of School” gives the feel of a Russian minor symphony complete with lower register strings followed by a haunting theme on the oboe (Barbara’s theme) with counterpoint from the flutes. While it is only approximately 3 minutes or so you definitely get the feeling of eeriness as the film begins to unfold and a complete departure from Philip’s usual style. This simple effective melody will be heard through the entire score like a leitmotif but Glass uses it more in harmonic way. In fact it is fun to listen for the motif in various forms in the 20 tracks. The last track “I Knew Her” also uses the same theme or chromatic harmony as the first cue. “It begins with Barbara and ends with Barbara”, according to Glass in the sparse liner notes. “Invitation” features frantic quick scales from the keyboard giving it very temporarily a Bach like sound until the single modern sounding horn offers a simple melody with the keyboard taking the background. This cue is as upbeat as Glass gets in this score as many of the remaining cues are in that somber tense mode with a somewhat return of Philip to his M.O. of repeating and repeating again and again and again.

Another unique entry is the use of some very loud percussion! Tracks such as “Betrayal” and “It’s Your Choice” could sound almost like something that Horner or Zimmer wrote not Glass. In fact there is quite a clanking in “Barbara’s House”. While this is truly an attempt at wanting to have a more modern sounding Hollywood style it is still Philip Glass but a very real effort to have altered his style.

Philip Glass is a composer that one must truly acquire a taste for and Notes On A Scandal might very well be the soundtrack for one to begin with. Unlike scores such as Roving Mars this one does have a small amount of melody to it making it more accessible to the listener to appreciate and understand. Having said that, this is not a soundtrack that the casual or entry level listener is going to have any interest in. Glass is Glass! He won’t ever be mistaken for John Williams, Franz Waxman or any of 100 other composers. Yet he is extremely talented and this music does fit the film like a glove. The more seasoned listener is going to find this Oscar nominated entry for 2007 an ear opener and perhaps the winner? Time will tell. This reviewer will be most interested to hear what Glass has come up with for Woody Allen’s latest film Cassandra’s Dream. Two 70+ year old grizzled veterans working together on a film has got to be intriguing. In the meantime please enjoy and give a chance to Notes On A Scandal.

Notes on a scandal


Philip Glass

(movie notes Part ii)


Having very recently had the opportunity to view the film the score in this case is an absolute essential addition to the film! This is a case where seeing the film is essential to understand why it was written the way it was, how it was placed in the film, and the overall texture of the music. This film was completely the opposite of a recent review of Conversation (s) With Other Women. In the case of that particular film the stand alone experience away from the film is far more enjoyable than listening to the placement of the material in the movie. While Conversations took a background seat, Scandal was front and center and a very important part of the film.

One of the very clever additions was the playing of the soundtrack before the commercials and previews started. Having listened to and already reviewed it was a unique experience, and of course as soon as the film started you got to hear a repeat performance! From the very beginning the use of the oboe as sort of a motif for Barbara the main character is quite prominent and extremely well done. While it is not a constant theme for Barbara the use of this instrument is and her presence is felt whenever it is played.

In the case of Notes On A Scandal this is one film that both are necessary to get the full enjoyment from both. Yes the subject matter of the movie is quite disturbing and requires a high level of maturity to appreciate the nuances the picture has to offer. This is overall a very dark disturbing picture and one leaves feeling sorry for Barbara and the overall incomplete dull life she lead. When I asked a fellow moviegoer what they thought in regards to who gave the better performance Dench or Mirren (both were nominated for Oscars) no clear answer was given to me. When asking about the film music (this person has little interest) the comment came back that it worked very well in the film. With that in mind listen to the soundtrack but by all means do yourself a favor and watch the film. You’ll have a much greater appreciation of the score.


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