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by Natasha Theobald

This week we're listening to Clint Eastwood's dramatic score for "Mystic River" and remembering an old favorite, "Good Will Hunting," which features the late Elliott Smith. Next time I think I will do comedy to help the winter depressives and myself buoy our spirits for the holiday seasons ahead. But, for today, it is about drama and loss.

According to Bruce Ricker, a music consultant for "Mystic River," Clint Eastwood returned to Boston, the location where the film was shot, after editing was complete. He was thinking about the music which might best illuminate the drama and the darker elements of the story. He preferred the effect of a classical rendering, utilizing the skills of a full orchestra. It seemed appropriate, then, to return to Boston. Eastwood's score was performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and recorded in famous Symphony Hall. The talents of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and Brad Hatfield on piano completed the bulk of the project.

The overall effect is rich, sonorous, evocative, and dramatic. The full orchestra creates sounds from the low rumblings of dark days and feelings to the sweeping movement of events marked by conflict and emotion. Within the notes lies a bottomless well of torment and raw, tortured memory, the depths of which envelop the listener in the ominous cold of knowing and longing, of loss and languishment. Needless to say, this isn't something you pop into the car CD player and tap your toe with on the way to work in the morning. Listening requires some attention, and hearing requires some thought. It is, however, worth the journey and effort.

In addition, the piano songs are absolutely lovely, some brief respite from the overwhelming power wrought by the full orchestra and solemn, almost hymn-like voices. No less evocative, they also harbor the beauty of a complexity that is not at all self-conscious. Entitled as meditations, they do seem to be reflective, though less disturbed than the orchestra songs. I would gladly purchase a whole CD with more of the same.

There are a couple of jazz tunes tacked on to the end, written by Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens. The switch is a bit of a shock to the system, but the songs are very enjoyable, rousing a more positive frame of mind to balance the earlier drama, perhaps. The first tune, "Cosmo," was especially invigorating after the more somber tracks. It was a good move to include these songs, too, because I played them for someone who knows jazz who expressed an interest in hearing more.

Probably like most people, I was not aware of Elliott Smith until "Good Will Hunting." I believe it is his sound, along with the Danny Elfman score pieces, that people most closely associate with the film. I remember liking the soundtrack when I bought it, but I thought some of the included songs tended to overpower the quiet intensity of Smith's selections, which almost require a change in volume to hear them well. So, I bought "either/or" to rehear those songs mixed with other offerings. I was drawn to Smith's subtlety, his emotion and honesty, his powerful lyrics mixed with soft melody, his tenderness and openess and vulnerability. I rooted for him to win the Academy Award for his work, champion of the underdogs, speaker of truth. And I'm sad that his voice is now lost to the world. Still, we have what he has left behind, the words and music of an artist who seemed never to be inauthentic and never to treasure anything beyond the art.

As I mentioned, the "Good Will Hunting" sound is equally owed to the music produced for the film by Danny Elfman. The main title theme was omnipresent that year, as the film was promoted and singled out for recognition. The almost airy, drifting tones of wings which carry possibility and the undertones of something less certain or clear intermingle to represent the confusion and complexity of genius and its reluctant agent. "Weepy Donuts," the second, has a similar sound with a more hopeful, better resolved emotionality. It looks ahead to something better, something more, a future left open to discover.

A lot of the rest of the music sounds like something you might hear sitting in the dentist's chair, when he or she finally turns the drill off. As such, it tends to unsettle me a little, making me nauseous by that very nature. "As the Rain" is pretty good, I guess, with some interesting horns and Jeb Loy Nichols' unique voice. "Fisherman's Blues" has an interesting Irish sound, which makes sense with the film. "Why Do I Lie?" offers a female voice and, again, fits with the events of the film.

"Baker Street" is from 1978, and you can tell. "Somebody's Baby" also has the sound of a time before this one. The Dandy Warhols are on board with "Boys Better," the most vaguely rocking song on the disc. And, of course, Al Green asks that age old question that seems to have no real answer, "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart." My question: where's "Afternoon Delight?"

This closes my dreary, rainy day in the middle of nowhere. If you need some sort of catharsis or you crave some all-encompassing drama, there are some good discs you can check out. If you need a pick-me-up, though, steer clear. This isn't the time of year to wallow unless you have to.

"Mystic River"
1. Mystic River Main Title
2. Abduction
3. Communion/Katie's Absence
4. Jimmy's Anguish
5. Meditation #1 - Piano
6. Orchestral Variation #1 of the Music from Mystic River
7. Escape from the Wolves
8. The Morgue
9. Brendan's Love of Katie
10. Meditation #2- Piano
11. Dave's Past
12. The Confrontation
13. The Resolution
14. A Full Heart
15. Meditation #3- Piano
16. Orchestral Variation #2 of the Music from Mystic River
17. Theme from Mystic River
18. Cosmo/Kyle Eastwood
19. Black Emerald Blues/Kyle Eastwood

"Good Will Hunting"
1. Between the Bars (Orchestral) - Elliott Smith
2. As the Rain - Jeb Loy Nichols
3. Angeles - Elliott Smith
4. No Name #3 - Elliott Smith
5. Fisherman's Blues - The Waterboys
6. Why Do I Lie? - Luscious Jackson
7. Will Hunting (Main Titles)
8. Between the Bars - Elliott Smith
9. Say Yes - Elliott Smith
10. Baker Street - Gerry Rafferty
11. Somebody's Baby - Andru Donalds
12. Boys Better - The Dandy Warhols
13. How Can You Mend a Broken Heart - Al Green
14. Miss Misery - Elliott Smith
15. Weepy Donuts

link directly to this feature at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=837
originally posted: 11/02/03 11:42:11
last updated: 05/05/05 17:30:26
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