1917 / COMPOSER: THOMAS NEWMAN / LABEL: MUSIC ON VINYL / RELEASE DATE: MARCH 13TH
In the liner notes for Thomas Newman's score for his film 1917, director Sam Mendes writes, “This score for 1917 is wonderful. The fruits, I suppose, of 21 years of collaboration.” It's a simple statement, but an apt one, considering that beginning with 1999's American Beauty, composer Newman has worked with director Mendes on seven films. It's been a fruitful collaboration, with Newman receiving numerous Oscar nominations – although no wins, as of yet – along with BAFTA and Grammy victories for these compositions.
The score to1917 was itself nominated for an Oscar, although it lost to Hildur Guðnadóttir's work on Joker. It's a shame that Newman hasn't yet been rewarded by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and also that 2019 was such a strong year for his competitors because 1917 is a glorious, fantastic score because the film requires the composer to walk a fine line between meditative contemplation and energetic action.
The score isn't quite presented in chronological order, instead ordered as a collection which more readily complements the flow of an album. This means that the score's absolute highlight, “The Night Window” – which scores the scene in which Schofield finds himself gazing across a devastated town as fires and explosions light everything in the stark outlines of a Man Ray photograph, crossed with the horror of discovering Albrecht Dürer – comes at the beginning of the second side of the first LP, even before the likes of “Tripwire,” which happens far earlier in the film. There's nothing wrong with that piece coming so soon, however, as it's beautifully dreamy, in stark contrast to the horror the solider experiences.
That statement, actually, can be said to be the whole of Newman's score for 1917. The entirety of this music focuses on the beauty of what's going on. With the rare exceptions of the opening pieces “1917” and “Up the Down Trench,” as well as “Sixteen Hundred Men” – all of which soundtrack the film's more emphatically action-oriented scenes – the music never attempts to Mickey Mouse Mendes' film. 1917's score tries to find the hidden truth of every scene, rather than simply relaying back to the viewer what's onscreen.
The At the Movies / Music on Vinyl double vinyl LP release is absolutely fantastic. Pressed on translucent green vinyl, in a limited edition of 2000 copies, it looks and sounds quite vibrant, reproducing the low and high notes perfectly, while also finding a middle balance which doesn't feel muddled. The gatefold sleeve features the scene wherein Schofield comes across another soldier in a stand of trees, singing “Wayfaring Stranger” in a haunting voice, and there are more images from the film in the liner notes, as well. It's really quite gorgeous.
Sadly, the score doesn't feature that song, as performed by actor and singer Jos Slovick, although the singer did manage to release it as a three-song single on Spotify a couple of weeks ago. Its inclusion would have really tied the album together, but one can understand that it might've distracted from Newman's score.