Thursday, February 25, 2010

Shutter Island's Classical Score

In my last post, "Dead music, dead issue," I said that I didn't accept the notion that atonal, dodecaphonic and other forms of "modern" music are alien to contemporary audiences -- they've been used in movies since the 1940's.

And now there's "Shutter Island." As Tim Smith pointed out his Baltimore Sun article, the movie's soundtrack CD is chock-full of contemporary classical music.

"And I'm talking seriously contemporary, as in fabulously atmospheric pieces by John Cage (including "Music for Marcel Duchamp"), Morton Feldman (the otherworldly "Rothko Chapel 2"), Krzysztof Penderecki, Alfred Schnittke, Gyorgy Ligeti, Lou Harrison (a movement from the haunting Suite for Symphonic Strings), John Adams (the eerie, riveting "Christian Zeal and Activity"), and Giacinto Scelsi. For good measure, a youthful work by Gustav Mahler, his darkly lyrical Piano Quartet, is in the mix, too."
According to BoxOfficeMojo, the movie ranked #1 on its opening weekend, so all of that crazy classical music isn't scaring away too many people (I think the scaring happens once they're inside the theater).

Sure, no one's flocking to the film because of the music, either.

But that's not the point. Clearly, the filmmakers chose these works because they expressed the right emotions for the scenes they support.

Will it lead to this music being played more? Possibly. Look what happened when the 1967 film "Elvira Madigan" used the slow movement from Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K. 467 --still, today is known as the "Elvira Madigan" concerto.

According to ticket sales figures, over seven million movie-goers have been exposed to Morton Feldman and lived to tell the tale. As opposed to how many in the concert hall?

- Ralph

BTW - It's really difficult to tell what's on the soundtrack album by any of the online listings. They follow the standard format for pop music, so it's title/artist -- no composers. "Symphony No. 3 - Passacaglia" by itself is not very helpful at all.


  1. Anonymous1:08 PM

    There needs to be some sheet music for the quartet for strings and piano in A minor! It is unlike any classical music..completely unique

  2. Anonymous2:12 PM

    I did some checking. I'm still looking around for this myself. The Mahler Quartet referenced was not published until the late 1970s! It's easy to believe that everything we need should be available at the press of a button via the internet, but 'tis not alway so.

  3. Anonymous2:33 PM

    I did manage to find a score. It isn't cheap though.

    This is not an endorsement or spam. I believe this is a link to the music in question, and I am not affiliated with the publisher, and I receive no financial benefit whatsoever from posting this.