Home > Reviews > VOICE FROM THE STONE – Michael Wandmacher

VOICE FROM THE STONE – Michael Wandmacher

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Voice from the Stone is a supernatural thriller adapted from the novel La Voce Della Piera by Silvio Raffo, directed by Eric Howell. The film stars Emilia Clarke – Daenerys Targaryan from Game of Thrones – as Vera, a nurse in Tuscany in the 1950s who is hired by the recently widowed Klaus (Marton Csokas) to help his young son, Jakob (Edward George Dring), who has been mute and withdrawn since the death of his mother. However, as Vera comes to learn more about the boy and his father, and their relationship with the deceased wife/mother, she begins to discover ghostly goings on within the wall of Klaus’s imposing castle home, some of which begin to affect her on a deeply personal level. The film is a beautifully shot, handsomely mounted production that makes wonderful use of the evocative Italian locations, and features an impressively restrained and attractive score by composer Michael Wandmacher.

That this score is by Michael Wandmacher may come as a surprise to many, considering that all his high profile feature films to date have been action thrillers and horror movies – The Killing Floor, My Bloody Valentine, Piranha 3D, The Last Exorcism Part II, and last year’s Underworld: Blood Wars among them. Titles like that don’t really give a composer much scope to write music of elegance and classical beauty, but Voice from the Stone certainly does, and judging by the music on display, Wandmacher has clearly been hiding an impressive other side to his musical personality, buried underneath years of blood, guts, and pickaxe-led carnage.

I want to compare the sound of Voice from the Stone to something that Ennio Morricone might have written for something like this – lots of solo instruments that have a troubled beauty and a slight sense of uneasiness peeking through a sheen of romance – but I think that even Wandmacher would baulk at such a hyperbolic comment and, truthfully, it’s not *that* good. However, I feel confident enough to say that this is the type of score someone like Pino Donaggio or Stelvio Cipriani may have come up with to underscore the gothic grandeur of the location and the sense of mystery inherent in the story, and that the quality of Wandmacher’s composition is certainly their equal.

Instrumentally, Voice from the Stone score is written for a small chamber orchestra with emphasis on solo cello, woodwinds, harp, and especially piano, the latter instrument being an especially important characterization for the dead mother, who in life was a world-renowned concert pianist. Juxtaposing this is some slightly more modern ambient music for the more ghostly goings-on, which were created using a palette of unusual percussion instruments including bowls, bells, bowed pianos, and a tiny baroque organ called a toccata, and which were heavily manipulated in post-production.

The score’s thematic presence is somewhat muted and the themes themselves are somewhat elusive, so instead Wandmacher’s music tends to concentrate on the various instrumental textures, which often combine in beautiful ways. The cello writing, for me, is the heart of the score, and Wandmacher’s settings of the instrument often convey a profound sadness; the music is undeniably attractive, but it betrays a sense of melancholy that permeates much of the score. Cues like “Whisper,” “I Did This for Her,” “Carving,” and especially “The Pose” feature the instrument at its most lush and beguiling, and in each of these pieces Wandmacher surrounds the lead line with exquisite harmonies that dance between strings, woods, and piano. Elsewhere, Wandmacher’s classical solo piano takes prominence in several cues, notably the delicate and intimate “Ninna Nanna” and the more playful “Shift,” which dances with a graceful and enchanting lightness.

As I mentioned, Wandmacher’s more dissonant and ambient pieces tend to illustrate the supernatural side of the story, and with them he allows the score to maintain a sense of eerie unease, that nagging notion that something is not quite right with this place or these circumstances. This feeling is present right from the opening cue, “La Rocciosa,” which presents a series of slightly off-kilter chord progressions that create a sense of disquiet, and continues through tracks like “The Anteroom, “Resonance,” “I Will Always Be Your Mother,” the twisted-sounding “What I Ask,” the gauzily nostalgic and dream-like “Picnic,” and “Another Will Come,” which has an overpowering feeling of regret.

There are brief moments of action and understated horror too, especially cues like “The Tower,” which uses the piano and strings in more insistent, forceful ways; “Voice,” which features harp textures, insect-like string sustains, and brooding piano chords that clearly herald something dreadful; and the exciting “Run,” which pits a throbbing string ostinato against elegant, swooping violin and cello lines. The sinister trio comprising “We Must Help Her,” “I Must Leave,” and “Fever” give the score’s final third a sense of menace, and it comes to a head in “Collapse,” which appears to take its title literally with broken-sounding orchestral lines that descend into chaotic dissonances. We’re not talking about the viciousness of something like My Bloody Valentine here, but the intent is clear and the sound – when juxtaposed against the gentle grace of the rest of the score – is certainly effective.

However, for me, the score’s most effective moments are the ones where Wandmacher drops all of the mysterious undertones and presents his music in straightforward romantic fashion. Despite its title and slightly creepy opening, the lovely “Mausoleum” gradually opens up into a soft, beguiling woodwind melody which has more than a hint of Christopher Young to it. Similar cues such as “Give Me Your Hands,” the gorgeous “Emerge” with its fluttering woodwind textures and enticing string lines, and the aforementioned “The Pose” build upon this style, before climaxing in “Forbidden,” during which the cello writing slowly grows to a crescendo, passionate and sweeping. “The Garden” affords the score a warm resolution, thematically strong and compositionally elegant, but again tinged with more than a hint of sadness.

Unfortunately not included on the album is “Speak To Me,” the beautiful end title song that Wandmacher co-wrote with Amy Lee of the Gothic rock band Evanescence, and which is performed by Lee. It’s a haunting, quite mournful song, which is mostly stripped of the overpowering Evanescence rock arrangements, and instead concentrates on Lee’s expressive, lyrical voice. I highly recommend you download it as an addendum/bonus track to the score.

The only real criticism I can offer of Voice from the Stone is the fact that, as I mentioned, the thematic presence is not as strong as it perhaps could have been. There’s no single piece of music that gives the listener a eureka moment – ‘aha! That’s the main theme!’ – and those who require that sort of thematic prominence may find that parts of the score drag a little, meandering from cue to cue without anything tangible to connect them. But still, even with that caveat in mind, there is still a large amount of very impressive music contained within this score, and some of the instrumental combinations and textures are really quite superbly beautiful. It’s easy to over-praise a score when a composer known for one particular type of music does something completely different and exceeds expectations while doing so, but I genuinely don’t think I’m doing that here. Voice from the Stone is, by some significant margin, the best score of Michael Wandmacher’s career to date, and I hope he has the opportunity to use this voice much more frequently in future.

Buy the Voice from the Stone soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • La Rocciosa (1:13)
  • Ninna Nanna (0:56)
  • The Anteroom (2:12)
  • Resonance (1:22)
  • Malvina (1:48)
  • The Tower (2:34)
  • Mausoleum (2:31)
  • Whisper (1:29)
  • I Did This for Her (2:41)
  • Shift (1:30)
  • Give Me Your Hands (1:14)
  • I Will Always Be Your Mother (1:27)
  • Carving (1:50)
  • Emerge (1:34)
  • What I Ask (2:10)
  • The Dress (1:37)
  • The Pose (3:43)
  • Voice (2:52)
  • You’re Hurting Him (1:05)
  • Picnic (1:06)
  • Forbidden (2:50)
  • Pietra (1:03)
  • We Must Help Her (2:40)
  • Run (2:18)
  • I Must Leave (1:37)
  • Collapse (2:05)
  • Fever (1:30)
  • Another Will Come (1:59)
  • The Garden (1:33)

Running Time: 54 minutes 42 seconds

Michael Wandmacher (2017)

Music composed by Michael Wandmacher. Conducted by Susie Benchasil Seiter. Orchestrations by Susie Benchasil Seiter. Recorded and mixed by Gustavo Borner. Edited by Christopher Foster. Album produced by Michael Wandmacher.

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