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The Conversation
(1974)
Album Cover Art
Composed and Performed by:
David Shire

Produced by:
Douglass Fake
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LABEL & RELEASE DATE
Intrada Records
(July, 2001)
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ALBUM AVAILABILITY
Limited release available only through soundtrack specialty outlets. Unlike other entries in this Intrada series of collectibles, this album did not sell out in the first few years after its release. It was still available for its original price as of 2008.
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   Availability | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... only if you have an appreciation for this very fine film, because the score can really only be enjoyed by listeners who can place its unconventional minimalism in context.

Avoid it... if you expect the extensive solo piano work by David Shire for this score to maintain a consistent tone, due mostly to the insertion of early synthetic distortion as specific accompaniment to the story.
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EDITORIAL REVIEW
FILMTRACKS TRAFFIC RANK: #671
WRITTEN 7/27/01, REVISED 10/18/08
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Shire
Shire
The Conversation: (David Shire) "He'd kill us if he had the chance." This line, the most memorable from one of the very best films of the early 1970's, highlights the Francis Ford Coppola thriller starring Gene Hackman and a young Harrison Ford. The Conversation is a film for which sound editing was paramount, because the plot of Coppola's story revolves around a private investigator (Hackman) whose life is completely consumed by the controlled environment of his eavesdropping technologies. The story and its characters are gut-wrenching in their sorrow, malice, and determination, and the film has a whopper of twist at the end that left audiences feeling as though they'd been had. Technologically, the elements of sound are the most complex feature of the film, with much of its overall production period spent in the post-shooting process of using the newest electronics to manipulate the sounds which Hackman's character is heard recording on his equipment. Composer David Shire, a brother-in-law of Coppola, was approached to score the film at a time in his career when he was looking for a big break. When first learning of the opportunity to score The Conversation, Shire was sure that the Coppola film would afford him a big budget with which to write for a large orchestra, and his career would subsequently take off. When he instead discovered that Coppola wanted the entire score to be performed by one instrument, Shire was shocked. Little did he know, however, that The Conversation was indeed destined be the career breakthrough he was looking for after all. The score is studied even today as an example of minimalistic scoring at its very finest. The purpose of the score was simply to extend the persona of Hackman's character, Harry Caul, and it succeeds very well at this task.



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VIEWER RATINGS
239 TOTAL VOTES
Average: 3.13 Stars
***** 46 5 Stars
**** 53 4 Stars
*** 61 3 Stars
** 45 2 Stars
* 34 1 Stars
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Track Listings Icon
TRACK LISTINGS AND AUDIO
Audio Samples   ▼
Total Time: 37:22
• 1. Theme from The Conversation (3:30)
• 2. The End of the Day (1:36)
• 3. No More Questions/Phoning the Director (2:16)
• 4. Blues for Harry (Combo) (2:38)
• 5. To the Office/The Elevator (2:37)
• 6. Whatever Was Arranged (2:06)
• 7. The Confessional (2:18)
• 8. Amy's Theme (2:48)
• 9. Dream Sequence (2:32)
• 10. Plumbing Problem (2:51)
• 11. Harry Carried (2:44)
• 12. The Girl in the Limo (2:23)
• 13. Finale and End Credits (3:52)
• 14. Theme from The Conversation (Ensemble) (2:27)

Notes Icon
NOTES AND QUOTES
The insert contains extensive notes from the director, editor, and composer. An excerpt from Francis Ford Coppola's note is as follows:

    "The Conversation falls in the category of a 'personal film'. This was the holy grail for film students, the notion that one could write and ultimately make a personal film rather than a Hollywood or industry film. Even then, over 25 years ago, the distinction was clear: A personal film could be about something that meant something to you; that did not depend on big stars and tremendous action sequences, but was more introspective, more evocative; it was about things you had feelings for. The Conversation was a script I worked on for several years. I wanted to make it my first for American Zoetrope, our new independent film company.

    Ironically but not surprisingly, it took The Godfather to get The Conversation made. The Conversation was only made at all as an inducement to make a 2nd Godfather film. The script was really inspired by Michangelo Antonioni's Blow Up, conceived as a thriller to have some small commercial appeal, but designed to explore an inner, lonely part of myself. For all these reasons, I stressed to David Shire that I did not want a large orchestral ensemble, but something simple, haunting and lonely as I imagined Harry Caul was himself.

    David, of course, had the equipment to write and orchestrate a film score as good and big as any composer, so I worked with him almost as an actor, to move him to try something daringly simple, that did not show off all his great talents and abilities. Eventually I thought that a single voice would be the most appropriate solution for what I had in mind‹a single piano, recorded with the greatest simplicity; something that had a slight jazz figure to it, as Harry was a frustrated jazz 'wanna-be' ‹but to avoid the obvious, like using a sax or trumpet.

    Of course David couldn't believe that this wasn't just a first step and that later we'd surely orchestrate it, bring in strings, show off a little. But the first sketches David played were so effective, capturing the mood of the story so well, that I resisted further decoration. I think of David Shire's score for The Conversation as one of the most effective, most successful film scores that I've had."
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The reviews and other textual content contained on the filmtracks.com site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from The Conversation are Copyright © 2001, Intrada Records and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 7/27/01 and last updated 10/18/08.
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