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Comments about the soundtrack for House of Flying Daggers (Shigeru Umebayashi)

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• Posted by: Yves Val Schott   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Monday, December 27, 2010, at 8:55 p.m.
• IP Address: cpc12-gate5-0-0-cust51.gate.cable.virginmedia.com

I think this review does not reflect properly. Above all: Film Music has to serve and reflect the movie (picture and story). In the simplest case that's the reason why the Theme song sung by Kathleen Battle is appearing only at the end credits because she sings in English, which would not fit into the movie unless it would have been synchronised into English.

Though it is a fictional piece, strictly spoken, like nearly any movie on this blue ball as clearly emphasised on each end credit to avoid under any circumstances a lawsuit, music in movies reflects time, locations and society i.e. historical epochs, regions and the way people lived in order to make the picture believable. Of course the music is not exactly as they performed it at 859 A.D. but i is believable enough. Is there really a need for a strong bass or the sense of gravity in a picture where one protagonist is been carried through life like wind in the air or flowers sway lightly in the field? Why should every movie must have a deep bass sound or a sense of gravity? Naturally, depending on the speaker system to listen, there are a lot deep 'bassy' sounds and FX sounds actually existing. How wonderful deep are the drum frequencies at the echo game, which in itself is very rhythmical.

And why would this movie need a lot of depth in its music anyway? This is an East Asian movie with an East Asian story many hundreds of years ago. Why shall we judge the music by our Western standards of listening? Shouldn't we rather jump into the music as is, from the other perspective to discover the beauty? Why must everything be judged by our Western measures? How boring!
The beauty and the whole charm of this movie comes from exactly not having the Western resemblance and so it stays true to its own story. Mr Shigeru Umebayashi does not ignore any technique of putting depth into the scoring and why should he do so? There is just no need for depths at all time. It is nevertheless a love story, despite the tragic ending, which very real in this world (maybe not to the extent of death so much but nevertheless there are only few people who have not suffered from love, am I tragically right?) It is about creating a mood, supporting the picture and story and not about pomp orchestrations' arrangements. For the composer and the moviemaker it is enough to show that, what you as a critic, define as depth, at the end of the movie. This then, even amplifies the 'depth' at the end, when there was a void before. And that's perfectly all right as an artistically decision. Does every composer and orchestrator have to use every possible existing technique and then the same one in every picture? And more so regardless what the message of the movie is?
I personally think, that depth can be produced very well with less instruments or in this movie for example the depth is produced very cleverly with its percussive sounds, that partly rhythmically melt into FX sounds or FX sounds that guide into a choir at one point in the movie.

Why must be there an 'overarching narrative' (I assume musically meant) and should it be a must, that every movie have this, otherwise one is not a good composer? The producers and directors give guidelines in their spotting sessions to the film composers and orchestrators where and possibly how the music has to go into. The composer obliges. Not creating an 'overarching narrative' does not diminish the artistic aspect of the movie itself and the carrying of the story. It is also not a movie from a Western point of view. This picture works in different (location) scenes in the literally sense of the word and that's what the music reflects and should reflect. Perfect!

Why should a movie hint or even give away within the music, the major plot line? Here in this picture it is, that the two protagonists (Jin and Leo) are both in love with Xiao Mei, which becomes understood later as the story evolves. Why letting the love theme song (Lovers, the instrumental version) appear earlier in the movie than it is necessary for the story? There is no need to tie any of the three characters to this love theme, until love and jealousy becomes apparent. There is no need in this movie for the love theme to pull the story together when the love of the three protagonists become the plot.

A critic should not consist of what MAY alienate the viewers, especially when it is from the wrong point of view and the assumption of the cause is wrong in the first place. Overall I find the review going in the wrong direction to elevate it to our Western standards ignoring the Eastern way of perception.

Yves Val Schott
His Sound
Producer Composer Mix






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