The Thing/Morricone and Howarth

October 19, 2011

Stravinsky and his music have been studied by many modern composers. His music had so much to do with rhythm that there are some who feel his Rite of Spring was the work of the 20th century. Morricone created one of the more unusual scores for the 1982 film directed by John Carpenter and starring Kurt Russell. His score is all about rhythm. While a remake of the original film made fifty years ago both are based on the short story “Who Goes There” written in 1938 by John Campbell. The 1951 film was directed by Howard Hawks with a film score from Dimitri Tiomkin. The writer received $500 for the use of his story.

Alan Howarth who has worked with John Carpenter on other material did this re-recording of the original Morricone score with assistance from Larry Hopkins. It is all programmed electronic material.

The Thing-Main Title (1:45) begins the soundtrack with a long extended chord very low register which is followed by a second and a third. It offers a three note motif.

Main Theme-Desolation (4:29) is what people remember as far as the music is concerned from the film. The track begins with rhythm only and the theme introduced is two notes with harmony while the relentless percussion continues.

Humanity 2 (2:42) continues with the two note theme without rhythm along with a variation in the harmony.

Despair (4:46) Tremolo strings begin the track and set the table for another simple four note theme. This is like previous tracks repeating over and over until the strings offer a melody again of loneliness and isolation.

Humanity (6:51) offers another variation of the main theme this time a bassoon answering woodwinds as well as harp, violin, and bass, the brass playing the two note material.

Shape (3:18) Bass line complements distant horns in a new melody. Quite dissonant in sound as the horns blare its climax turns into piano.

Burn It (2:22) the use of different frequency sound waves is the major offering of the track.

Solitude (5:32) is a new theme that the strings play is quite complex. Horns and piano complete the atonal exercise.

Fuchs (2:26) is a long series of organ chords with harmony. Builds to a loud climax and then quiets down.

Mac’s Shack (2:54) offers a long extended organ note with an atonal background.

Wait (6:21) begins with a brass fanfare which leads the listener to a high pitched theme from the violins, a mourning melody of sadness, tension, and fear.

Sterilization (3:43) is a simple melody with a pulsating rhythm to it. The theme is complemented by another organ harmony.

Eternity (5:26) starts with tinkling percussion that leads to an atonal section with harmony and counterpoint. This track sounds too electronic for my taste.

Contamination (1:01) offers string plucking in a very Stravinsky like fashion. All about tempo.

Bestiality (2:55) A bit more complex is the theme offered on the cello repeated with strings and finally horns.

Main Theme-End Credits (4:34) the unrelenting theme is repeated over and over with never ending rhythm from the percussion.

This is not a score for everyone. However fans of the film will definitely want to have this in their collection. The underscore material is mostly atonal and the concept was to convey a sense of isolation which it certainly succeeded in doing. The re-recording sounds fine with the exception of the Eternity track which I found too synthesizer sounding. You can hear a difference between the original recording and this one but I found both of them are good recordings. Besides the price of a used copy of the Varese release is way too expensive. The main theme is strong and one you’ll not forget. Fans of the film and Morricone will certainly welcome the re-recording of this classic material. I would explore the sound clips from BSX and have a careful listen before making a purchase. It is available as a download with a limited edition CD of 1500 units on October 5th. The total time for the score is 60:15.

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One Response to “The Thing/Morricone and Howarth”

  1. Alan Rogers Says:

    An unusual format for this review Tom, with the track by track comments. From what I have heard of this this re-recording is an excellent achievement. To have Carpenter’s cues is a definite bonus.


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