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The Matrix
Album Cover Art
1999 Varèse
2008 Varèse
Album 2 Cover Art
Composed, Orchestrated, Conducted, and Produced by:

Soprano Vocals Performed by:
Thed Lebow
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Varèse Sarabande
(May 4th, 1999)

Varèse Sarabande
(September 15th, 2008)
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The 1999 album is a regular U.S. release. A song album for the film had been released two months earlier. The 2008 "Deluxe Edition" is an entry in Varèse Sarabande's Club series, with 3,000 copies pressed and sold only through soundtrack specialty outlets at an initial price of $20.
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   Availability | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... on the 1999 commercial album only if you want a sneak peak at Don Davis' often difficult, postmodern score (and on the limited 2008 product only if you consider yourself an established fan of the franchise's music).

Avoid it... if you demand the greater role of thematic harmony that develops in the two sequel scores by Davis, both featuring a more interesting blend of challenging dissonance and quasi-religious harmony.
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WRITTEN 6/17/99, REVISED 1/18/09
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1999 Album

The Matrix: (Don Davis) Very rarely does a truly visionary concept come out of Hollywood, especially in science fiction and fantasy genres that include thousands of entries over many decades. The existential issues raised by Andy and Larry Wachowski in 1999's The Matrix proposed the idea that everything man knows in terms of "reality" is a computer simulation controlled by machines in a real world of the future, a world in which humans' bodies are harvested for energy while their brains are fed the illusion of a world contemporary to viewing audiences. Those who have escaped the machines and their endless levels of competing programming hide deep under the surface of the planet, plugging into the virtual world when necessary to cause trouble and save people who didn't know they needed salvation. The primary target for both humans and machines is the character of Neo (Keanu Reeves), who is the Jesus Christ figure of this disjointed world and who can both save humanity and bring balance to the machine world. The film's March release revealed relatively low initial expectations from Warner Brothers, though an explosive return at the box office eventually opened the door for two successful sequels, both released (awkwardly) in 2003. The production elements of The Matrix are stunning, especially in the art direction and Wachowski Brothers' unique techniques of shooting and editing fight sequences. The dimensions of time and space are distorted in the film's pivotal moments, yielding a marvelous spectacle of sight to coincide with the story's already unconventional propositions. The Wachowski Brothers realized immediately that the film would require an unusual combination of music, especially when pertaining to the score. While the trilogy adopted more of a romantic sense of fantasy in its sequels, The Matrix presented an odd blend of horror and coolness in between its frantic chase sequences. The real world veterans played by Carrie-Ann Moss and Laurence Fishburne exuded professional and cool personas that necessitated an equally rocking personality in the music, and for these concepts, the Wachowskis relied on hard rock songs. This is especially evident as Neo adopts the same persona in the last flying sequence of the film.

With the hip, mainstream elements of The Matrix addressed by Marilyn Manson and others, the Wachowski Brothers turned to their collaborator for the quirky Bound, Don Davis, to provide the unusual sounds necessary for the darker concepts. The directors specifically requested music that was different, and whether you label it postmodern or avant garde, Don Davis' result certainly succeeds. It was a project that Davis referred to as a dream assignment, for it allowed him, as he stated, to rely more heavily on the "postmodern works that are being done now on the concert stage." Davis has always enjoyed writing original concert pieces in his career, because it allows for a level of freedom and exploration that films don't often permit. He commented that The Matrix, despite being a good candidate for a different sound, would not have worked with a score heavily laden with synthesizers, and he justified this by claiming that electronic scores had become something of the norm by the late 1990's. Instead, when Davis arrived at a particular scene in the film, he tackled it by writing music in exactly the opposite mould of what initial reactions might dictate. Perhaps this is most evident in the cue "The Power Plant," in which Davis arrives at the score's most monumental crescendo of harmonic resonance for full ensemble and (ironically Mormon) choir, albeit briefly, for the moment when the lead character discovers the horrors of the real world for the first time. Another example exists in the cue "Welcome to the Real World," which is treated to a melancholy boy soprano solo despite the fact that man, Neo, is now surrounded by a group of real and genuinely caring people for the first time. Davis' work for the film is better recognized, however, for its harsh dissonance and startling brass tones in atonal bursts of energy that are indeed quite harrowing to hear. Even when the score isn't as truly unlistenable as the terrifying mangle of sound in "Unable to Speak," Davis inserts unease into every cue. As a horror experience, The Matrix is one of the more engaging on album, though this fact remains interesting in that such material really doesn't define the music as heard in the film. For this score, there is significant difference between the two.

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Average: 2.9 Stars
***** 5,104 5 Stars
**** 1,704 4 Stars
*** 4,103 3 Stars
** 5,128 2 Stars
* 4,332 1 Stars
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Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
1999 Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 30:11
• 1. Main Title/Trinity Infinity (3:53)
• 2. Unable to Speak (1:13)
• 3. The Power Plant (2:40)
• 4. Welcome to the Real World (2:25)
• 5. The Hotel Ambush (5:22)
• 6. Exit Mr. Hat (1:20)
• 7. A Virus (1:32)
• 8. Bullet-time (1:09)
• 9. Ontological Shock (3:31)
• 10. Anything is Possible (6:48)
2008 Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 77:54

Notes Icon
The 1999 album was advertised by Varèse Sarabande as featuring 24-bit digital sound. The insert for that product, however, offers no extra information about the film or score. The 2008 Varèse Club album contains lengthy notation about both the film and score, though it concentrates heavily on Davis' career rather than the construction of the music. The packaging creatively uses a green spine accent rather than the maroon usually seen on Varèse's products, an obvious nod to the color of the code in the film.
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The reviews and other textual content contained on the 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 Matrix are Copyright © 1999, Varèse Sarabande, Varèse Sarabande and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 6/17/99 and last updated 1/18/09.
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