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Excellent supernatural drama music puts more famous composers to shame
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album cover copyright (c) 2006 Universal Pictures International; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
OK, so it stars Demi Moore, but you probably shouldn't let that put you off - Half Light has attracted some generally positive notices, being about a novelist who moves from the hustle and bustle of London to the remote Scottish coast following the freak death of her son. Up there, things aren't exactly as they seem (I know a few Scots, so am not as surprised by this as Demi Moore's character evidently was) and spooky things start happening.
Australian composer Brett Rosenberg was handed the musical assignment (though I can't imagine the interview was too tough, given that the film was directed by his brother) and surely exceeded anyone's wildest expectations over what the music could be - somewhat surprisingly for a film of this scale, it's played by a full orchestra, and the composer (in collaboration with orchestrator Nicholas Dodd) gets full value from the London players.
Emphasising in equal measure the ice cold beauty of the landscape and the psychological horror of the story, Rosenberg excels at both. The main theme is big and beautiful, but not really what I might call expansive - it's revealed early, in the main title, but the string section is arranged very much like Christopher Young might, with a shimering, slightly restrained quality being perfect for the music. The theme is heard in many guises later in the score - the solo piano of "The Cottage" being a highlight - and there is a wealth of melodic material besides, including the splendid "Rachel's Theme", a piece for solo violin played by John Bradbury. Occasionally Rosenberg does let the orchestra swell - since he doesn't overdo it, it has quite an effect, such as the marvelous "Lighthouse Vista".
The more supernatural parts of the film are scored with appropriately-"spooky" music frequently dominated by piano solos and sometimes distant wailing vocals, such as in the opening half of "Dreams and Drowning". The second half of the same cue showcases the score's other main aspect, the hard-as-nails writing for the more overt thriller moments, which again faintly recall Young, his horror scores this time, though that's only a slight similarity, this music is resolutely individual. "Haunted" is one of the score's standouts, with piano and flute playing nicely off each other, with a gradually-swelling string section underneath, to create genuine tension and anxiety. Perhaps the best piece of all is "The Houdini" - shimmering strings and harp open things up before a plaintive, almost Herrmannesque horn passage ushers in some brilliant drama music.
Half Light is great music, proof that if you look hard enough there is some fresh and exciting music being written out there outstide of the Hollywood mainstream. It's been released by Mikael Carlsson's fledgling Moviescore Media label, and in common with the label's other releases, is only available from iTunes - it really is well worth a purchase for anyone who likes Christopher Young's horror/thriller scores, or perhaps James Newton Howard's music for M. Night Shyamalan - but those comparisons are provided as a frame of reference only - this is fresh and exciting music.