Home > Reviews > THE SOUND OF VIOLET – Conrad Pope

THE SOUND OF VIOLET – Conrad Pope

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Sound of Violet is a new indie romantic comedy/drama, starring Cason Thomas, Cora Cleary, Kaelon Christopher, Jan d’Arcy, and Malcolm J. West. The film is about a young autistic man named Shawn who meets and falls in love with Violet, the girl of his dreams – except that, because of his mental illness, he doesn’t pick up on the ‘clues’ that she is actually a prostitute looking for a ticket out of her trapped life. The film was written and directed by Allen Wolf, based on his own award-winning novel, and is his sophomore directorial effort following his mainstream debut film In My Sleep in 2010.

The score for The Sound of Violet is by the great Conrad Pope – who also scored In My Sleep – and who over the course of the past twenty years or so has established himself as possibly the most in-demand and highly respected orchestrator in Hollywood. Pope’s list of projects includes multiple films with John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Howard Shore, Alexandre Desplat, and dozens of others, Harry Potters and Star Wars, Hobbits and Lords of the Rings. So outstanding and influential is Pope’s work as an orchestrator and conductor for others that you tend to forget just what a superb composer he is in his own right, but he really is – you only need to listen to his early 1990s genre efforts like Ghost Ship or Project Metalbeast, or the sweeping romantic ecstasy of Pavilion of Women from 2001, to understand. However, as he has been working with so many other composers lately, he hasn’t had time to work on his own stuff for years – which means that The Sound of Violet is his first solo score since the art documentary Tim’s Vermeer in 2013.

Thankfully, The Sound of Violet is one of his best. As is always the case with Pope, the music is orchestral, tuneful, beautifully arranged, and emotional, although this score occasionally has a little bit more of a contemporary edge than you might expect considering his heritage. Most of the score is charming and free flowing, featuring lots of lush piano lines, plucked strings, and gently romantic harps. The score’s recurring main theme is introduced in the opening cue “Every Date is New,” and is a lovely, graceful piece redolent of young and (mostly) innocent romance that will appeal to fans of John Williams’s light drama scores like The Accidental Tourist, Stanley & Iris, Sabrina, and Stepmom.

The opening few cues of of the album continue in this vein; sometimes the score adopts a sort of light jazz vibe, akin to something that John Williams might have written in the 1960s during his more sentimental moments, and is very charming. The title track “The Sound of Violet” and the lush “Clothes Make the Man” are especially lovely in this regard. But the score changes in the aftermath of “Beneath the Surface,” a pivotal moment in the film in which the protagonist Shawn begins to discover and understand the realities of Violet’s life as a prostitute.

Hereafter the music becomes more dramatic, with more emphasis on tremolo string textures and insistent, nervous-sounding marimbas. Occasionally the score even veers off into Herrmannesque light horror territory, and here Pope employs a range of dramatic instrumental colors that make the music continually interesting – shrill pianos in “Violet’s Secrets,” bitter romantic strings in “Violet’s Story” which simply drip with Vertigo-esque melodrama, moody clarinets in “Entrapment,” solemn brass in “Escape Attempt,” threatening percussion in “The Truth About Violet,” and so on. Some of this music is very reminiscent to the music Pope wrote for In My Sleep, and other scores like 2011’s The Presence; it’s dramatically resonant, psychologically meaningful, and musically compelling in how it shows the darker side of Shawn and Violet’s relationship.

“Breaking Free” feels like a dramatic turning point, searing and emotional and with a touch of James Horner in the string phrasing, and thereafter the music returns to the idyllic romantic sounds heard in the score’s first third, as Shawn and Violet leave her old life behind and begin to help each other grow. “True Love” returns to the main theme with a welcome sense of warmth and relief. The unashamedly sentimental “Grandma’s Theme” is exceptionally beautiful. “Proposal” is probably the most conventionally passionate rendition of the main theme in the entire score, a complete knockout, with a sweeping surge at the 1:15 mark that takes your breath away. The lovely “New Beginning” just sparkles with joy and optimism, “United” is a tender arrangement of ‘Amazing Grace,’ and the superb “End Credits” leave you with a wholly positive feeling.

Sincere, un-ironic romance scores are not common anymore – they are often done with a nod and a wink to the audience, a tongue in the cheek – but The Sound of Violet isn’t like that. This is straightforward, unashamedly sincere romantic dramatic music of the kind you just don’t hear enough of these days, and I for one am delighted that we are still getting scores like this once in a while. Anyone who enjoys John Williams’s intimate romance scores will find The Sound of Violet to be of a similar quality – and the fact that it also gave Conrad Pope a rare opportunity to put himself in the spotlight is just the icing on the cake.

Buy the Sound of Violet soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Every Date Is New (3:32)
  • They Meet (3:45)
  • The Sound of Violet (1:49)
  • Clothes Make the Man (1:42)
  • Getting to Know You (3:08)
  • Beneath the Surface (2:23)
  • Violet’s Secrets (2:50)
  • No Way Out (2:21)
  • Violet’s Story (3:33)
  • Entrapment (2:26)
  • Escape Attempt (2:54)
  • The Truth About Violet (2:08)
  • Breaking Free (2:57)
  • True Love (2:50)
  • Grandma’s Theme (3:48)
  • Proposal (3:08)
  • New Beginning (3:56)
  • United (1:07)
  • End Credits (3:46)
  • You Could Be Anywhere (written by Brandon Heath, Andrew Belle, and Jon Guerra, performed by Brandon Heath) (3:55)

Running Time: 58 minutes 03 seconds

Morning Star Music (2021)

Music composed and conducted by Conrad Pope. Orchestrations by Conrad Pope. Recorded and mixed by Michael Stern. Edited by Jay Duerr. Album produced by Conrad Pope.

  1. Richard May
    April 15, 2022 at 8:55 am

    I don’t mean to nit-pick but autism is a disorder not an illness:
    https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/autism/what-is-autism/

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