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DETERRENCE – Larry Groupé

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Despite being better known as a regular collaborator on John Ottman’s scores (he conducted and/or orchestrated Apt Pupil, The Cable Guy, Incognito, Snow White: A Tale Of Terror and The Usual Suspects), Larry Groupé is also a composer in his own right, and of considerable talent. Through his website, Larry is making several of his recent scores available for on-line purchase by collectors, one of the few composers who actively promote their own work in this way.

Deterrence, a political thriller starring Timothy Hutton and directed by Rod Lurie, is one of these new scores, and is certainly one which deserves to be heard by a wider audience. The budget on Deterrence was so tight that the production could not afford to hire a “proper orchestra” but, despite being arranged and performed solely by Groupé himself completely on sophisticated synthesisers, Deterrence has the superficial appearance of an orchestral action epic, bristling with tense, exciting action cues and lots of smooth, intelligent dissonance.

The centrepieces of the score are two performances of ‘The Dark March’, a driving, superbly malevolent piece built around a formidable five-note trumpet fanfare with martial snare drums and whooping brasses that head ever-onward at full tilt in a style not too dissimilar to John Williams and his marches from The Empire Strikes Back and Nixon. Other cues of note include the heroic, somewhat uptempo reworking of the march in ‘Enter Mr. President’; the bold, staccato synth string lines in ‘Mr. Prime Minister’; the glassy, mysterious synth pianos of ‘Contemplation’ and ‘Gambling vs. Certainty’; the ethereal synth choir in ‘Pilots of Fate’ and ‘Deterrence’; the soft, melodious ‘Garden of Eden’ and ‘End Titles’; and the carefully “plucked” synth strings which act as a kind of leitmotif for the character Omari in several of the cues which bear his name.

One of the reasons I like Deterrence so much, apart from the generally high quality of the music, is the fact that it’s a synth score which tries its hardest not to sound like a synth score. Groupé has gone out of his way to make his electronics sound as authentically acoustic as possible, and this extra invested time and effort is certainly of benefit to the overall quality of the score. Admittedly, some of the ideas tried by Groupé in Deterrence to tend to suffer from a little underdevelopment, but one cannot voice valid criticisms that are based solely on a lack of money, as the thematic content is as complex and well-defined as in any other modern action score. Nevertheless, I would LOVE to hear this re-recorded with a proper orchestra at some point in the future.

Until that time comes, listeners will just have to be satisfied with hearing it in its present form. In the liner notes, director Rod Lurie muses that “Larry Groupé will soon enough officially enter the pantheon of the finest composers in the world”, and contends that “an Oscar or two lies somewhere in his future”. Judging by his work on Deterrence, I would be inclined to agree.

Rating: ***½

Track Listing:

  • Main Title (The Dark March) (3:05)
  • Enter Mr. President (1:13)
  • Report In (2:47)
  • Decision 1(1:27)
  • Mr. Prime Minister (1:15)
  • Contemplation (1:15)
  • The Speech (2:03)
  • We Attack (0:48)
  • Gambling Vs. Certainty (1:17)
  • The Omari Phone Call (2:51)
  • Phone With Bean (1:35)
  • Omari’s Scheme (1:58)
  • The Garden of Eden (2:13)
  • Omari’s Threat (1:28)
  • Target’s Chosen (1:11)
  • Omari’s Last Stand (2:22)
  • The Shooting (1:41)
  • First Strike (1:39)
  • Pilots Of Fate (1:13)
  • Deterrence (3:04)
  • Lay Down The King (2:51 )
  • The Dark March (Reprised) (3:30)
  • End Titles (4:09)

Running Time: 47 minutes 04 seconds

Groupé Records (1998/2000)

Music composed, arranged, performed and produced by Larry Groupé.

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