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THE CASTLE – Edmund Choi

thecastleOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Initially, the music for the quirky Australian comedy The Castle consisted of a few original cues by composer Craig Harnath and a multitude of “library cues” picked arbitrarily to fill the gaps in the dialogue. It was released across most of the world in this original format but when the might Miramax corporation bought the film for distribution in the USA, the head honchos decided that a new musical approach was needed. Enter Edmund Choi, a young, talented 28 year old, whose remit was to take the orchestration of the original score, but write his own new themes to fit the bill. Choi, whose only previous scoring work was for Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyamalan’s earlier features Praying With Anger and Wide Awake, responded with a lovely, lush orchestral work which pegs him as a talent to watch.

The Castle is one of those offbeat little movies the Australians do so well – think Muriel’s Wedding, or Strictly Ballroom, of The Adventure of Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Directed by Rob Sitch and starring Michael Caton and Anne Tenney, it tells the peculiar but simple story of an average suburban family who embark upon an epic quest to the highest courts in the land in an effort to stop their house from being bought up property developers and sold to Melbourne Airport, the runway of which begins at the bottom of their garden, and who want to turn their living room into a new terminal.

I would imagine that, in being asked to adhere to the original orchestrations, Choi’s task was made a little easier, in that his options were already plotted out for him. These enforced limitations certainly didn’t conspire to stifle Choi’s creative juices because, for the most part, The Castle is a superb effort – especially considering his comparative youth and inexperience. From the first moments of the opening track, a melodic warmth and lightness of touch usually found in scores by John Williams and James Horner comes flowing from the speakers.

Listening to the sentimental lushness of the main theme in ‘This Is My Story’ and ‘Winning’, the attractive recapitulations in ‘Con’ and ‘Pets’, the mock-noble brass heroism of ‘Leaving Court’ and ‘High Court’, the Celtic hues of ‘Bonny Doon’, and the gently emotional ‘Losing’ and ‘Packin’ Up’, one could almost be forgiven for believing this score was written for a sweeping melodrama, or for a sepia-tinged love story, rather than a small-scale courtroom comedy. Having said that, Choi does address the movie’s contemporary nature with a few rocking synth tunes and urban grooves in ‘Vacation’, ‘Boating and Fishing’ and ‘The Gate’. He even found time to write a couple of lovely acoustic guitar solos, especially the oddly-named ‘Wayne’s Elephant’.

Unreleased as a commercial soundtrack, the only way to experience Choi’s lovely score is through this promotional release, prepared for the composer by the Supertracks music group. Numbers are limited, and the disc may be difficult to come by, but it is well worth going an extra mile for this composer’s debut work. Judging by his music for The Castle, Edmund Choi is a composer with a bright future, and providing he maintains the high standards he has set for himself, seems likely to gradually create an impressive body of work.

Rating: ****

Buy the Castle soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • This Is My Story (1:56)
  • Con (0:47)
  • Pets (2:19)
  • Jack (0:29)
  • Leaving Court (1:18)
  • Missing Wayne (0:26)
  • Vacation (0:56)
  • Bonny Doon (0:41)
  • Boating and Fishing (2:03)
  • Standin’ Up (0:42)
  • Wayne’s Elephant (0:34)
  • Lawyers (0:21)
  • The Gate – Version 2 (0:58)
  • The Dome Vibe – Version 1 (0:51)
  • The Dome Vibe – Version 2 (0:49)
  • Losing (2:05)
  • Packin’ Up (0:45)
  • High Court (0:54)
  • Dennis Assists (0:16)
  • The Competition (0:18)
  • Closing Remarks (1:18)
  • Winning (3:49)
  • The Gate (Synth Demo) (0:57)
  • Boating and Fishing (Synth Demo) (2:00)
  • High Court (Synth Demo) (0:52)
  • This Is My Story (Synth Demo) (1:52)

Running Time: 30 minutes 16 seconds

Supertracks EC-02 (1999)

Music composed and conducted by Edmund Choi. Performed by The New York FILMharmonic Orchestra. Orchestrations by Sonny Kompaneck. Featured musical soloists Rob Cohen, Robert Carlisle, John Moses, Lawrence Feldman, Dominic Derasse, Bud Burridge, Henry Schuman, Gerard Reuter, Adrian Cohen, Pat Perkinson and Pete Sweeney. Recorded and mixed by Lawrence Manchester. Edited by Shari Schwartz Johanson. Album produced by Edmund Choi.

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