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Notebook Soundtrack Mix #13: The Sounds of 2020

The year in movie soundtracks.
Florence Scott - Anderton
The physical experience of the cinema in 2020 has been a fragmented stop and start scenario. Not being able to visit the cinema has been discouraging, but in putting this mix together I was reminded, pandemic aside, there have been new movies worth getting excited about and distinctive music and sounds to accompany them. Over the 1 hour, 39 minute run time this mix stops and starts in different mood zones, symmetrical to the year it represents. Between pieces of original score and soundtrack are voices and sounds, sometimes of hope, sometimes more sinister. Meandering in pace, this mix is a snapshot of feelings, as quickly as they come they move into different territory.
We open with extracts from Garrett Bradely’s Time, these echoes of childhood and family swirl forward years as if inside a sonic time capsule. We hear voices weave in and out, “lots of things changed since the beginning of this tape.” It feels poignant given the year we are wrapping up. Following on from this is a piece from Julia Holter’s score for Never Rarely Sometimes Always. Holter’s work confirms the joys of soundtrack collaboration, when interesting musicians give their hand to cinema, creating unique worlds distant from the classic milieu of film composition. There are plenty of these collaborations within the mix, such as Emile Mosseri’s score for Miranda July’s Kajillionare (Mosseri is also behind the score for the much anticipated Minari). Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross continue their alliance with David Fincher, this time for the new period piece Mank, which most will have watched through streaming devices, like many of the films included in this selection.
Ludovico Einaudi’s beautiful music is used to great effect on festival favorite Nomadland, sparing and melancholy. The use of conversational extracts in this mix weave together narratives disparate and provoking, as Einaudi’s music fades we are taken to the last day at Las Vegas dive bar, The Roaring 20s. We hear snippets of conversation from the sobering Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets, the Ross brothers brash but moving documentary. It shows us the bonds formed over years at this drinking establishment, to be possibly lost overnight. These feelings of the last day echo wider social feelings surrounding loss of community and gentrification.
Steve Mcqueen’s Small Axe series boasts a superb soundtrack filled with the real sounds from 1980s West London, Barry Biggs “Lonely Girl” is a favorite from the Lovers Rock episode. Bill Murray sings once more in a Sofia Coppola film, this time the Tokyo karaoke booth is replaced by a serene Mexican cabana. This performance for Coppola’s On The Rocks is a full circle moment for the duo, and possibly the best moment in a uncharastically flat picture. Other highlights include Owen Pallett’s score for Matt Wolf's biosphere quarantine documentary Spaceship Earth, extracts from Mati Diop’s tender short, In My Room, where she collaborates with the elusive talent Dean Blunt, of Babyfather fame. It would feel wrong to not mention the midway point from Portrait of a Lady on Fire, when a stunning female chorus breaks out over the bonfire. And lastly, William Tyler’s score for Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow. As we close the mix with Tyler’s piece, “The Separation,” I am reminded of what a singular voice Reichardt is and how she seeks out musicians to work with that feel more akin to kindred spirits than collaborators. The First Cow score is no different to the previous back catalogue of drifting, textural music and sound in Reichardt’s work: Tyler understands the nuance of American landscape and space, whilst being universal enough to touch us all.
  1. Excerpt - Time (2020) edit
  2. Julia Holter, Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020), “Finding Her”
  3. Excerpt - Siberia (2020) edit
  4. Ludovico Einaudi, Nomadland (2020), “Low Mist Var.1 (Day One)”
  5. Excerpt - Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets (2020)
  6. Emile Mosseri, Kajillionaire (2020), “Rile Me Up”
  7. Barry Biggs, Lovers Rock (2020), “Lonely Girl”
  8. Excerpt - Days (2020) edit
  9. Schrecken and Peter Kutin, The Trouble with Being Born (2020), “The Trouble With Returns”
  10. Benny Sky, Dick Johnson Is Dead (2020), “What's Your Poison” edit
  11. Excerpt - Dick Johnson Is Dead (2020) edit
  12. Except - Voices in the Wind (2020) edit
  13. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Mank (2020), “San Simeon Waltz”
  14. Excerpt - The Forty-Year-Old Version (2020)
  15. Excerpt - On the Rocks (2020) edit
  16. Excerpt - The Climb (2019)
  17. Gilbert Becaud, The Climb (2019), “Gracias a Dios”
  18. Excerpt, Rocks (2020)
  19. Isobel Waller- Bridge and David Schweitzer, Emma. (2020), “Emma Suite”
  20. Adam Janota Bzowski, Saint Maud (2019), “Saint Maud Main Theme”
  21.  John Carpenter, Bacurau (2019), “Night”
  22. Owen Pallett, Spaceship Earth (2020), “Heraclitus”
  23. Extract - In My Room (2020) edit
  24. Alberto Iglesius, The Human Voice (2020), “The Human Voice Suite” edit
  25. Extract - Nightwalk (2020) edit
  26. Extract - In My Room (2020) edit
  27. Extract - Cold Meridian (2020) edit
  28. Extract - Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)
  29. David Byrne, American Utopia (2020), “Here (Live)”
  30. Quinn Tsan, Saint Frances (2020), “Bridget’s Choice (feat. Elias MacRoberts)”
  31. William Tyler, First Cow (2019), “The Separation”
Part of our on-going series Notebook Soundtrack Mixes.

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Notebook is a daily, international film publication. Our mission is to guide film lovers searching, lost or adrift in an overwhelming sea of content. We offer text, images, sounds and video as critical maps, passways and illuminations to the worlds of contemporary and classic film. Notebook is a MUBI publication.

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