I am so torn about the score for There Will be Blood. Half the time I was ticked off because once again, a film composer (Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead in this case,) rips the stylings of some of the world’s greatest 20th century composers, and once again, everyone thinks that this particular film composer came up with these revolutionary sounds. Reading the iTunes comments, you'd think that 1930-1970 never happened in composition. It really sounds nitpicky, maybe a little snobbish, but just think of it this way... Let's say, you love the Beatles, and suddenly, a composer comes along and mimics the Beatles and everyone thinks the mimicker is sooooo original. "Oh my gosh, did you hear the Roaches??? What and amazing song! Who would have thunk to write an album based on some guy named Sgt. Paprika's Lonely Hearts Club??? Just so original."
ON THE OTHERHAND, the actual scoring of the film was breathtaking. It is one of the most effective and heart-pounding scores ever written. I couldn't help but love every blasted moment of that wonderful mimicry/original music. It was like hearing an amazing cover band. (I can't believe I just said that about Jonny Greenwood.) The mimicry was somtimes so good and so severe, I had a hard time discerning whether the music was straight-up Messiaen, Bartok or original music. (Which is a real accomplishment.) For instance, "Proven Lands" was FILLED with Bartok's orchestrations and harmonic language. (Harsh plucking of the strings, slapping the strings with the violin bow, all under a pizzicato-plucked string- melody utilizing the octatonic scale. See: Anything Bartok wrote.) Also, the opening glissandos in the strings... STRAIGHT OUT of Penderecki's Threnody for Victims of Hiroshima. And I mean STRAIGHT. I actually turned to Amber and said: "Hey, that's Penderecki!... wait, no, it's not. No, maybe... no... wait... huh?"
A part of me wonders why the Director didn't use the original guys instead of hiring someone and paying them a gillion bucks to mimic music that already has a zillion good recordings ready to paste. After all, Stanley Kubrick was famous for cutting his films around the score. Bartok's Music for Strings Percussion and Celeste is mesmerizing in the Shining. I think Bartok would have LOVED Kubrick's treatment.
So, while it really ticks me off that Greenwood mimicked the compositional stylings of Penderecki, Ligeti, Bartok, and Messiaen, I LOVED his placement of the actual music itself. No doubt about it, it was some of the best mimicry I've ever heard.
Lastly, I don't mind some mimicry in film scoring. However, I still want to hear an individual voice. John Williams does this. So did the late Goldstein. Greenwood... not so much. But still good! See how I'm torn here folks?
In the end, I believe this is why Greenwood didn't get the nod for the Academy. And because the score was declared ineligible for an Academy Award nomination under a rule that prohibited "scores diluted by the use of tracked themes or other pre-existing music."
Believe it or not, originality is something they look for. Which is a bizzare thing to say about someone in Radiohead. Radiohead is one of the few bands to make a dent in the high-falluten "art-world," mostly because they are cutting edge. Here, Greenwood is 40 years behind the times, and more striking- stylistically unoriginal. At the same time, if he would add a bit to it, maybe a change in orchestration, he would fit right in with the post-modern school of composition.
Also, really cool placement of the Brahms Violin concerto, except for on HORRIBLE cut that neutered the ending of the last movement to one of my favorite works for the violin and orchestra. This is where the director could have added 15 seconds of shooting, or credits and saved the score from such hackery.
(After I wrote the above, I read that Greenwood loves the Messiaen's Turangalila Symphony, a MASSIVE an obscure work of Messiaen. I also read that he obsessed over Messiaen in his teens. I will admit to a healthy obsession to Oliver Messiaen myself. Specifically, the Turangalila Symphony. I will also admit, it is hard to listen to Messiaen and not imitate him. I've had a healthy dose of Messiaen-imitation accusatons as well, by composers who knew Messiaen. Yikes. Talk about squirming.)
Btw, Messiaen is a nightmarish name to spell, for a man with dyslexia, during his doctoral comp's.