There Will Be Blood: Jonny Greenwood

I had the privilege of seeing the film There Will Be Blood this weekend, in which the incredible score was as visible on the screen as the cinematography was melodic. It was adapted by writer/director/producer P.T. Anderson from the first bit of a Upton Sinclair novel, Oil! Online, for free, you can read Sinclair’s The Jungle for your fix of sausages and socialism.

While you read this post, open There Will Be Blood’s website so you can soak up the score, composed by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood and performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra. In addition to his Radiohead gig, where he writes some songs, Jonny has been the BBC’s resident composer since 2004. You can listen to his piece for the orchestra titled Popcorn Superhet Receiver (named for a shortwave radio to evoke the white noise of trying to dial in a signal), which is important because excerpts were revamped and included in the score. This pre-movie purpose is the reason the Academy found the score to be ineligible for an Oscar nomination.

Listen to the cut HW Hope of the New Fields on Jonny’s MySpace. But better yet, glimpse clips of the tracks Proven Lands and There Will Be Blood. Proven Lands is exceprted from Popcorn. It’s incredible. It drives the film; it provides the film’s crux; it encapsulates the film. The clip isn’t long enough to show how the percussion spirals apart, in a controlled but certain self-destruction, but you’ll know it when you hear it in the movie.

I left the theater with my brain pulsing the word megalomania, and I was pleased to find this impressive New Yorker article that mobilizes the word monomaniacal. It offers a technical and astute review of the score, including these intricate sentences that manage to address the historical, the personal, the visual, the logistical, the aural, the metaphorical, and the emotional aspects of the film: “…beyond the melodrama of Daniel Plainview’s external rise and internal collapse, [the film] shows a primeval American landscape on the brink of violent transformation. English composers from Elgar and Vaughan Williams onward have lingered lovingly over musical depictions of pastoral hills and fields, implicitly resisting the march of progress. Greenwood, too, writes the music of an injured Earth; if the smeared string glissandos on the soundtrack suggest liquid welling up from underground, the accompanying dissonances communicate a kind of interior, inanimate pain. The cellos cry out most wrenchingly when Plainview scratches his name on a claim, preparing to bleed the land.”

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