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March 14, 2011

Jonny Greenwood, Norwegian Wood Soundtrack

Jonny Greenwood, Norwegian Wood Soundtrack Last December, novelist Haruki Murakami's dramatic work about a couple's grieving for a lost friend and their sentimental connection to a folksy Beatles ballad was brought to the big screen as Norwegian Wood, directed by Anh Hung Tran. Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood scored the picture, and the music, released last week, is pure Greenwood in its emotional content, yet it represents a distinct departure from his previous score work. Greenwood's adventurous electronic score for Bodysong (2003) and his mesmerizing breakthrough work for There Will Be Blood (2007) each make use of classical elements here and there, but on Norwegian Wood he goes much further: The score album's first track, "Mou Sukoshi Jibun no Koto, Kichinto Shitaino," sounds like the opening of an epic symphony (hint hint, Jonny), and other pieces throughout take advantage of more conventional orchestral arrangements than he has employed in the past (though tracks like "Naoko ga Shinda" sound anything but conventional). He also puts his love for the guitar on display with simple, somber, retro-gleaming tracks like "Toki no Senrei wo Uketeinai mono wo Yomuna" and "Iiko Dakara Damatette" (both of which sound like they could have been recorded in the mid- to late-'60s). Taken as a whole, this soundtrack is a thoroughly heavy and intense listen, lightened only slightly by a few eerie gems from premiere krautrock band Can. But there's beauty in the heaviness, and there are currently few musicians working today who can pull this off the way Greenwood does.

If you like Greenwood's score to Norwegian Wood, check out these other beautiful-yet-bleak works: Nick Cave & Warren Ellis, The Road (2009); Michael Nyman, Drowning by Numbers (1991); Alexander Balanescu, Il Partigiano Johnny (2000). 

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