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Welcome to the The Dig It Post by Grammy© Award winner Tom Efinger.

Effective Subtlety

The stunning Conrad Pope soundtrack for Director Tom Provost's horror film The Presence was released this month to coincide with the Lions Gate DVD release of the film in the US. Conrad Pope, like Hugo Friedhofer, is highly sought after as an orchestrator. He has orchestrated scores such as Sea Biscuit, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and The Rocketeer just to name a few. His IMDB listing is at 100 and growing. In The Presence the digital recording is remarkably clear with crisp highs and firm bass. Instruments such as the bassoon for instance are extremely well recorded. There is no distortion at any point throught the score. Put simply The Presence soundtrack demands to be experienced both during the film—and long after the credits roll up the screen.

“The Main Title” begins with a long low register chord; the bassoon offers a melody still backed by the ominous chord. The track ends with harps, flutes, and a sense of urgency. The end has a similar style to Signs. “First Night” offers the piano playing a quiet melancholy opening of simple chords. A clarinet offers a brief motif followed by flutes which is the introduction to a lush romantic section. The bassoon offers a short motif, one which we will hear again and the track ends with the eerie flutes like the main title.

“The Outhouse” is a good example of how to create a scary underscore without having to resort to shrieking or slashing violins and loud distorted brass. It begins with a disturbing statement from the flutes, dissonant strings plucking, and that ever present bassoon motif. “Mr. Browman Arrives" features the flutes with violins plucking to enhance the track. “Outhouse at Night” starts off very quietly with harp and minor chords from the strings. Enter the flutes and a hornlike sounding fanfare from the bassoon. Suddenly there is a Dies Irae like motif from the orchestra with brass and an eerie statement from the violins. It ends on a very quiet note. “A Proposal shows the romantic side of Pope although the urgency of the flutes makes it presence felt. The strings and harp dominate this track until the bassoon offers the motif.

“Whispers” is remaniscent of Ygor playing the flute in The Ghost of Frankenstein. It certainly adds to the eerie score. “Up the Stairs” is the bassoon offering more Edgar Allan Poe material with low minor chords from the strings and ominous notes from the harp. “Epiphany” is a dirge like cue with a long sad melody from the strings. “Confrontation” is one of the only tracks that offer a bit of loudness. The timpani plays a role and there is a bit of shrieking violins. Tension notes end the scary track from the strings. “Revelation” is a quiet somber beginning with a repeat of the tension motif from confrontation. The spiritual music returns conveying hope and love. “Journey Back/End Credits” is an ending on a quiet note. There is still the air of mystery with the plucked strings, Sign like flutes and tension with long low register chords. There is no happy upbeat ending.

This is without question the horror soundtrack release of the year. Indeed, it shows us how effective subtlety can be.—By Thomas Kiefner of Film Music: The Neglected Art

By Thane Boulton at 9:04AM on October 13, 2011
posted by

I quite agree with Mr. Kiefner here in this essay, “Up the Stairs” is the bassoon offering more Edgar Allan Poe material with low minor chords from the strings and ominous notes from the harp.

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