Soundtrack Genius: Clint Mansell & John Murphy

September 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

John Williams is a household name, and for good reason. His brilliant work on Star Wars, Indiana Jones, E.T., Schindler’s List, et al. is instantly recognised by the world (arguably more so than the work of Mozart or Bach).  More recently, Hans Zimmer has gained similar worldwide recognition for his work on all three of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, most notably The Dark Knight (2008), as well as on the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

My favourite pieces of music, however, soundtrack or otherwise, are by two composers, the names of whom are still widely unknown – Clint Mansell and John Murphy.  You may not have heard of them, but you will recognise their work when you hear it – Lux Aeterna and Adagio in D Minor, respectively.  Both of these beautiful compositions have moved beyond their original movie soundtracks to be used in numerous adverts, film trailers and TV programmes.

The haunting Lux Aeterna features in Mansell’s soundtrack for Darren Aronofsky’s (much underrated) Requiem for a Dream (2000). I’m no expert in music but the shifting strings, played by the amazing Kronos Quartet, are perfect for Aronofsky’s film.  They expertly echo the swift cuts and hip-hop montages; the changing situations of the movie’s protagonists.  Just hearing Mansell’s piece immediately conjures the sadness and desperacy associated with addiction, life, death, depression – that feeling of life slipping away.  Amongst the melancholy is an element of calm submission.

It takes a lot to make me cry, but every time I listen to Murphy’s Adagio in D Minor tears begin to form.  Something that affecting has to be pretty special.  Written for Danny Boyle’s (also deeply underrated) Sunshine (2007), Murphy’s music is as poignant as John WIlliams’ Skywalker Theme from Star Wars (1977) and as majestic as the infamous use of Strauss’ Blue Danube Waltz in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).

Murphy has been a frequent collaborator with Danny Boyle and another of his outstanding compositions, In the House – In a Heartbeat appears on the soundtrack of 28 Days Later (2002).  Similarly, Mansell often works with Darren Aronofsky and their more recent association, on Black Swan (2010), is also another exemplary work, which cleverly makes use of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.  Mansell also recently worked on the brilliant soundtrack to Park Chan-wook’s Stoker (2013).

Although the names Clint Mansell and John Murphy may not be altogether familiar, their genius will be forever remembered in the music of Lux Aeterna and Adagio in D Minor.


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