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INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE – Daniel Hart

January 17, 2023 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Anne Rice’s 1976 novel Interview With the Vampire, while not originally a success, has since become regarded as a modern classic of Gothic horror literature, which revitalized the vampire genre after decades where the public perception of them was either a grotesque monster (á la Nosferatu), or a debonair blood-sucking aristocrat (á la Christopher Lee’s Dracula). Rice re-imagined vampires with more depth and emotional complexity, and created a global society for them to inhabit, running parallel to that of the humans on which they prey. The film spawned multiple sequel novels in the ‘Vampire Chronicles’ series, as well as an excellent movie adaptation in 1994 starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, which remains one of my favorite horror movies of all time. Now, the story is being re-told again as a TV series on the AMC network created by Rolin Jones, starring Jacob Anderson as Louis, Sam Reid as Lestat, Eric Bogosian as the interviewer Daniel Molloy, Bailey Bass as the child vampire Claudia, and Assad Zaman as the ancient leader of the Parisian coven, Armand.

The 1994 movie version of Interview With the Vampire boasted a gargantuan, Oscar-nominated score by the brilliant Elliot Goldenthal, and in my brain that music is indelibly linked with the story of Louis and Lestat, so when I learned that Daniel Hart was scoring the TV series, I initially had doubts as to whether anything he wrote could come anywhere close to equaling that all-time great horror score. However, I should also have realized that Hart has the ability to surprise me – just as he has already done several times with his work, especially on Pete’s Dragon and The Green Knight, both of which I love. As such, and against all expectations, his Interview With the Vampire is outstanding, one of the best television scores in 2022.

Interestingly, unlike some of his earlier work, Hart doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel here. Just like Goldenthal’s score, Hart’s take on these immortal beings is rich and lush and classical, alluding to the aristocratic nature and sophisticated tastes of the vampire Lestat with music that is awash in swooning violins, elegant pianos, and boldly romantic orchestral gestures. Almost the whole score is a celebration of this classical opulence but, also like Goldenthal, Hart doesn’t shy away from the darker and more brutal side of Louis and Lestat’s story, and occasionally engages in some harsh and challenging dissonance. Hart’s action and horror music isn’t as huge and intense as Goldenthal’s was – what could be? – but it nevertheless impresses with its depiction of carnage and murder.

The opening “Overture” introduces the score’s two main themes. The first, which is the very first thing heard at the beginning of the cue, is a massive array of operatic, surging strings backed by explosions of brass. The second, which enters the cue at the 55 second mark, is a more romantic fluttering string idea that, as the score develops, comes to represent the core nature of Louis’s life, and his search for meaning and happiness amid all the darkness that surrounds him. Between them is a luscious piece of dense and rapturous orchestral scoring that has an unexpected sense of playful lyricism that captures the setting in 1920s New Orleans.

Several performances of these two main themes receives excellent statements later in the score. “Vien A Moi” is a tremendous piece full of flashing, excitable string figures – molto agitato – which are steeped in the score’s powerful Gothic atmosphere, and are later joined by a subtle piano element that appears to be a variation on the first theme. “The Drum Was My Heart” reprises the first theme again in imposing fashion, and then the stunningly beautiful “In Throes of Increasing Wonder” reprises the second theme and pitches it as a gorgeous, rapturous romance for the lushest strings and pianos imaginable. Golden Age romance fans, and fans of Alfred Newman and Miklós Rózsa especially, will be overjoyed. Those tremolos!

The music for “Claudia,” the little girl turned into a vampire to be a companion for Louis, whose mind ages into that of a woman though her body does not, has a beautiful but tragic piece for piano and strings that laments for her fate, but slowly becomes an ecstatic variation on the second theme. “The Fantasy of Happiness” opens with bars of music box delicacy, pretty and graceful, but gradually becomes larger in scope, picking up much more vivid orchestrations – including some especially flamboyant string writing – before concluding with highly classical passages referencing the first theme. Perhaps the highlight cue of the score is “Vicious,” which is a staggering piece full of overpowering lyricism and deeply meaningful emotions. In context it plays against type – it actually accompanies a violent confrontation between Lestat and Louis – but Hart scores the scene with the heartbreaking intensity of two passionate lovers irrevocably ending their relationship; when the massive statement of the second theme comes in during the cue’s finale, the music just soars.

Other cues of note include “The World is a Savage Garden,” which is slower and moodier and seems to speak to the sense of melancholy and world-weariness felt by Louis, before everything is turned upside down and he is turned into a vampire by Lestat. “Permanent Exile” is one of the score’s main horror and suspense pieces, and it’s just brilliant – a mammoth and violent collection of huge violin and piano clusters, augmented by screeching strings, guttural brasses that pass meaty triplets around between themselves, and a choir which enhances the cue’s sense of increasing desperation and intensity. These are some of the biggest sonic forces I have yet heard Hart employ, in any of his work to date, and it’s massively impressive.

“My Very Nature That of the Devil” is a magnificent and expressive duet for solo violin and piano, accentuated by some slightly tortured-sounding harmonics that subtly but cleverly alter the emotional context of the piece. “Charlie,” which is so named for man with whom Claudia falls in love, is awash in gorgeous tragedy. “Are We the Sum of Our Worst Moments” begins playfully, a sparkling piece for pianos and celesta backed by light strings and pretty woodwinds, which is appealing in a romantic comedy sort of way, although it does become more serious as it develops into its lovely finale.

The finale of the album begins with “Hey Sis You Don’t Need Me,” which has an unexpected hint of classic Americana western music in its piano rhythms, and then continues through “To Beat Lestat You Have to Become Lestat,” which highlights a deconstructed version of the main theme in its tense, edgy piano chords, and features one of the score’s few uses of synthetic enhancements, which gives the conclusion of the piece a different tone.

“Laudanum and Arsenic” underscores the series’s conclusive final scene where Louis and Claudia drug Lestat and attempt to kill him so they can escape from his dangerous influence; it is built around a bank of slurred, portentous string chords backed with insistent timpani hits, and eventually explodes into a swell of grand guignol grandeur and melodrama, as Lestat discovers their betrayal, and rails against his fate. The final cue, “For a Young Violinist,” is a simple tune performed on a broken-sounding music box, and offers a downbeat end to this part of the story.

Also worth noting is “Come to Me,” an original song performed in character by Sam Reid as Lestat with a vocal timbre that can only be described as ‘velvety,’ and which has a style intentionally reminiscent of those seductive 1950s crooners.

Daniel Hart is turning into a fascinating composer. In the years since he made his mainstream film music debut with Ain’t Them Bodies Saints in 2013 he has turned in superb scores for a supernatural horror film (A Ghost Story), a children’s adventure (Pete’s Dragon), a contemporary western (The Old Man and the Gun), and a medieval fantasy (The Green Knight), and has offered a new spin on all of these different genres that is fresh and invigorating. Now he has done the same with the Gothic horror romance of this classic vampire story, and proved – as if more proof were needed – that he has the talent to wield enormous orchestral forces and write staggeringly beautiful thematic content. Interview With the Vampire comes highly, highly recommended.

Buy the Interview With the Vampire soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Overture (1:23)
  • Interview with the Orchestra (0:27)
  • The World is a Savage Garden (1:33)
  • Vien A Moi (4:35)
  • Permanent Exile (3:15)
  • The Drum Was My Heart (2:40)
  • In Throes of Increasing Wonder (2:12)
  • The Sun Gives Life to Everything But Us (1:32)
  • My Very Nature That of the Devil (2:14)
  • Claudia (2:07)
  • Charlie (3:18)
  • The Fantasy of Happiness (4:05)
  • Vicious (5:40)
  • Are We the Sum of Our Worst Moments (5:26)
  • Come to Me (performed by Sam Reid) (2:37)
  • Hey Sis You Don’t Need Me (2:06)
  • To Beat Lestat You Have to Become Lestat (3:16)
  • Laudanum and Arsenic (3:09)
  • For a Young Violinist (2:22)

Running Time: 53 minutes 57 seconds

Milan Records (2022)

Music composed by Daniel Hart. Conducted by Bernhard Melbye Voss. Orchestrations by Daniel Hart. Featured musical soloist Damir Orascanin. Additional music by Shruti Kumar and Bobak Lotfipour. Recorded and mixed by Bernd Mazagg and Danny Reisch. Edited by Mark Jan Wlodarkiewicz. Album produced by Daniel Hart.

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