x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Norwegian Wood soundtrack suggests Jonny Greenwood is reaching 'serious' composer status

Radiohead's Greenwood offers up inventive scores.

Jonny Greenwood
Norwegian Wood
(Nonesuch)
****

It's nice work if you can get it, film scoring, and Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood could end up being the John Barry of his generation. Greenwood's music for Paul Thomas Anderson's 2007 oil-baron drama There Will Be Blood was Bafta-nominated, and now comes his score for Norwegian Wood, auteur Anh Hung Tran's take on the superb Haruki Murakami's novel about three Tokyo students whose romantic entanglement is set against political unrest in late 1960s Japan. Tran's brief reportedly involved freeze-framing scenes and asking Greenwood to write music according to the actors' expressions. The tense, minimalist score that resulted is largely for strings played by the BBC Concert Orchestra and the Emperor Quartet, but Greenwood also drafted in revered Krautrock act Can. The three psychedelic songs the veteran band contributes provide useful contrast to Greenwood's shorter, more austere instrumentals. While the fine opening theme for strings Slide One could conceivably owe something of it's weight and poignancy to Henryk Góreki's Third Symphony, Greenwood turns to his first instrument for two bijou guitar pieces. Prosaically translating from the Japanese as Guitar 12 and Guitar 8, both are wonderfully haunting. I have yet to see the film, and of course the true test of any soundtrack is how well it complements the visuals. Heard independently, however, Greenwood's latest is a gem that reflects his growing confidence as a "serious" composer.