A SINGLE MAN – Abel Korzeniowski
Original Review by Jonathan Broxton
A Single Man is based on the novel of the same name by Christopher Isherwood, and marks the directorial debut of writer/director and former fashion designer Tom Ford. Set in Los Angeles in 1962, at the height of the Cuban missile crisis, it tells the story of a British college professor George (Colin Firth) who, following the death of his long-time homosexual partner, struggles to find meaning in his life. The film is already a critical success, with Colin Firth tipped to receive his first Academy Award nomination for his performance, and has also seen recognition for the score by 37-year-old Polish composer Abel Korzeniowski, who received a Golden Globe nomination for his work.
Korzeniowski’s score is best described as a combination of the string-based classicism of Michael Nyman and the minimalism of Philip Glass, albeit with much more beautiful themes and a warmer, more inviting tone than either men usually produce. By far the most notable piece is the lush and opulent second cue, “Drowning”, which opens with a mesmerizing harp glissando, before launching into a glorious waltz theme, full of rich harmonies, dancing violins, and velvety cello chords that are simply magnificent. Later, cues such as the graceful “The Stillness of Mind”, “Snow”, “Daydreams”, the joyous “Swimming”, the unbearably poignant “And Just Like That”, the expressive “Sunset”, and the stark, rhythmic “Clock Tick” feature some truly wonderful string writing, often prominently featuring gorgeous cellos, and are based around repeated motivic cells of recurring material, over which the main solo instrumental melody is laid.
It’s an enticing, thoroughly engrossing sound, which is technically minimalist, but reaches far beyond the staid sterility that some minimalist pieces can have. Other cues, notably “Becoming George”, “Mescaline” and “Going Somewhere”, replace the strings with a lilting piano line to equally positive effect, although more often than not the piano is not meant to be romantic, but to be somewhat more introspective. In addition to Korzeniowski’s score, the album also features three cues from Japanese composer Shigeru Umebayashi, best known to audiences in the west for his score to House of Flying Daggers in 2004. Umebayashi’s main contributions are beautiful “George’s Waltz” cues, delicate pieces full of weeping violins and a stately, refined air. His other major contribution, the cue “Carlos”, is no less beautiful, and features another sumptuous cello performance that simply shines.
The album is rounded out by several source music cuts from artists as varied as Etta James, Booker T. & The MG’s and even an opera track from Catalani’s La Wally performed by Miriam Gauci, all of which are fine, but this is all about the score. With this score, and the animated sci-fi film Battle for Terra earlier in the year, Abel Korzeniowski has announced himself to the film music world in the loudest possible voice, and I can’t wait to hear what he does next.
Buy the A Single Man soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store
- Stillness of the Mind (3:54)
- Drowning (1:48)
- Snow (1:15)
- Becoming George (3:51)
- George’s Waltz I (written by Shigeru Umebayashi) (1:40)
- Daydreams (2:16)
- Mescaline (3:10)
- Going Somewhere (1:59)
- A Variation on Scotty Tails Madeline (written by Shigeru Umebayashi) (1:52),
- Carlos (written by Shigeru Umebayashi) (1:01)
- La Wally (performed by Miriam Gauci) (3:29)
- Stormy Weather (performed by Etta James) (3:10)
- Green Onions (performed by Booker T. & The MG’s) (2:54)
- Blue Moon (performed by Jo Stafford) (4:39)
- Swimming (1:39)
- And Just Like That (4:53)
- George’s Waltz II (written by Shigeru Umebayashi) (3:18)
- Sunset (2:59)
- Clock Tick (2:07)
Running Time: 51 minutes 54 seconds
Relativity Media 700203 (2009)