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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

CD REVIEW - World Trade Center

World Trade Center
Music by Craig Armstrong
Sony Classical 82876-88957-2 (U.S.)
18 Tracks 57:36 mins

Scot Craig Armstrong was perhaps a somewhat surprising choice for Oliver Stone's new movie, which tells the personal stories of two officers caught up in the horror of the 9/11 tragedy and stars Nicolas cage and Michael Pena. One would have expected maybe John Williams, who has worked with the director before. He would surely have written some powerful, patriotic anthems. But this was obviously not the approach Stone sought, and Armstrong is pretty expert at providing low key yet effective scoring for movies with a tragic bent.
What he has provided then is a score that mostly remains reverent and respectful, has emotion, though never goes over-the-top. I'm sure this approach works well enough in the film, which regrettably I haven't had the opportunity to see yet; it just makes for a somewhat one-paced soundtrack album which, as a result, comes off as way too long to really hold the interest. I may of course feel differently having seen the film.
At the heart of the score are Armstrong's "Cello Theme" and "Piano Theme," which he weaves in and out of the more telling moments. But both are given concert treatments at the start of the disc, which is a throwback to the old days when a soundtrack album's tracks had a beginning and an end. Both are suitably heartfelt, the former featuring soloist Alison Lawrence, the latter featuring the composer himself. There is also a "Choral Piece" further on, which is a moving choral/orchestral combo piece. Whilst the odd track does achieve some momentum, much of the score is ethereal or spiritual, with sampled voices and strings, though there are some more intimate, tender family moments here and there, and of course its share of tragedy. The showcase score track is the lengthy "John Rescued/Resolution," which is the nearest thing you'll hear to triumphant music on this disc, but this soon turns more spiritual with solo soprano Catherine O'Halloran's subtle contributions. Another outing for spiritual strings in "Elegy" follows this, before the composer plays us out with "Ethereal Piano Coda," which does manage to achieve some warmth.
I'm pretty sure Stone's film will turn out to be a fitting tribute to all those brave souls who perished in the events of that dreadful day, and that Armstrong's score will probably feature around Oscars time.


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