There have been many filmmakers that have written, produced, and directed movies and have also acted as the composer of the musical score too. There have also been filmmakers that have tracked their movies with music that is already known by various artists placed previously composed and at times established themes onto their production. Quentin Tarantino comes to mind in more recent times, for using music from other movies within his, in effect acting as a music supervisor. Stanley Kubrick with 2001 A SPACE ODDYSEY must be top of the list for utilizing already written pieces and using them effectively in his masterpiece. These talented individuals are few and far between, but I am pleased to announce that we have one amongst us right now who composes the music for his movies, so for me he is a step above the directors who track music onto their productions.
Thomas Clay is a composer, Director, film editor and writer. He has been working on this film project for some time and at last his efforts have come to fruition in the form of the feature film, FANNY LYE DELIVER’D, for which he has written the original score. I say original because it fits squarely into that category, the atmospheric and absorbing soundtrack has an affecting presence as soon as one begins to listen to it. I will say to those of you who maybe are a little cautious of director/composers, don’t worry, give this a chance, ok, it is on first listen somewhat difficult to grasp, but stay with it because once you begin to delve deeper and listen more intensely it is a soundtrack that I know you will adore. I began to listen and after the first three cues I got to thinking that the instrumentation sounds faithful for the period in which the movie is set, which is the mid-17th Century. But, the way in which the instruments are purveying the music initially seems somewhat strange, however it is a sound and an overall style of composition and performance of these compositions that soon begins to come together and make perfect musical sense to any listener. I say any listener, but I mean this listener.
The music is in a word superb, it is a score that I will say right here and now I would love to see become nominated and hopefully win the OSCAR, BAFTA and GOLDEN GLOBE for best original score, because it is spilling over with originality and brimming with an inventive and innovative style. Although this is a soundtrack fashioned and created in 2020, it has within it sounds, phrases, motifs and nuances that are straight out of the Jerry Goldsmith, John Barry and Ennio Morricone book of how to score a movie, and score a movie well. The music is polished and wonderfully melodic and contains a quality that I have to say I have not heard in a long while.
The opening cue OLD SOLDIERS evokes the style of Ennio Morricone, the composer utilising to great effect, choir and strings that act as support to a beautifully flawless trombone performance by Joergen Van Rijan, this is a simple and slightly understated opening which reminded me somewhat of the DESERT OF THE TARTARS, its trombone lead being unusual but also at the same time sounding perfect, the composer adding subtle use of percussion that has a martial style as the cue reaches its conclusion. DRESSING UP, (track number 2) is a lighter piece, which contains two delightful performances by Swedish lutenist Jakob Lindberg and British recorder player Piers Adams, who is also a member of the baroque group Red Priest.
These performances blend and compliment each other whilst being supported and given a tempo or beat using tambourine with a fleeting trumpet solo adding depth to the piece with subdued but brief employment of underlining strings. It is a tantalising and haunting composition, that has an air of joyfulness to it.
The score for me was a delight to listen to, we have here a new movie, set in the mid-17th Century, that boasts a score that is arguably one of the finest I have ever heard for an independent movie production. I say it is an original work because it is, but at the same time I hear influences from a number of composers, but this at the same time does not make it less than innovative or weaker in its inventiveness. Every composer in the world has been influenced by someone or something, even a half heard sound that trickles into the subconscious and lodges there can emerge years later, with film music it is what the composers does with it, as in how they present it, arrange it and more importantly how they place it. Thomas Clay has simply got it right on this score, he fashions pleasing and dramatic themes, melancholy interludes and tense driving pieces that all combine and interweave to create a score that is richly entertaining. Its style and sound are a combination of spaghetti western, romantic drama, thriller, Horror and adventure. It also features several soloists and a chorale group.
Which is why this score is such a wonderfully diverse and attractive work. Cornetto player Andrea Inghisciano collaborates with singers I Fagiolini on the cue, THE TRUTH (track number 8), strident strings and timpani introduce the piece, the timpani fading and the strings becoming more mysterious as the Cornetto solo commences, both strings and cornetto fusing and rising to create a haunting almost ghostly sound, voices are then introduced, which again create an air of mystery these are supported by a short tremolo effect on the strings that also underline the closure of the track. Andrea Inghisciano also collaborates with trombonist Joergen Van Rijen on track number 6, SECOND MORNING which is a subdued but beautiful composition, with trombone taking the lead enhanced by strings, the composer also bringing into the equation brass that builds with the strings to create a triumphant sounding crescendo of sorts that certainly hits the correct emotional spots.
APPROACH OF THE SHERIFF (track number 7) is I think one of the more robust and action led pieces on the soundtrack, oozing with an urgent and driving musical persona that is purveyed by brass and percussive elements and struck strings, that when combined create a striking and tense sound. The track THE TRUTH (Track number 8) also has to it an urgent style, which is performed by Andrea Inghisciano and I Fagiolini. There is such a wealth of variation within this score that it is difficult at times to comprehend that it is all from the same work.
Having seen the movie, I was impressed how the music heightened the tension and added a greater depth and atmosphere to the proceedings. Within the score there are references to the spaghetti western scores of the 1960’s, and this is a style that is also present within the movie, with close ups of eyes, faces etc, the way in which the film is scored in my opinion is also similar to that of many Italian made westerns, with the music becoming part of the action and the storyline, plus adding a near operatic feel to the proceedings. But what I was struck by more than anything was the way that the composer utilised real instruments and vocalists and fashioned themes and developed them throughout, underlining, punctuating, caressing and at times ingratiating the movie with these. The music is filled with a plethora of colours and textures, one moment being brooding and dark and then altering its stance and style to purvey a more romantic or melancholy mood. The film for me personally evoked memories of WITCHFINDER GENERAL and A FIELD IN ENGLAND.
The cinematography is stunning, with misty landscapes of the English countryside captured beautifully by Giorgos Arvanitis, who is known for his work on O VALTOS in the early 1970’s and other movies such as SUCH A LONG ABSENCE and more recently BLIND SUN in 2015. The cast too are impressive in their roles, Maine Peake and Charles Dance being the most striking.
The story opens in 1657, and the storyline focuses upon an isolated farm in the county of Shropshire. Where a family has made their home, Fanny (Maxine Peake) is the dutiful downtrodden wife who is married to an ex-Captain John (Charles Dance) who fought in the English Civil War against the King. They have a young son Arthur and as a family follow the strict lives of Puritans.
However, when a young couple played by Freddie Fox and Tanya Reynolds arrive and take shelter in the barn one day whilst the family are at worship, the Lye’s commitment to the Puritan faith and lifestyle is challenged and begins to falter because of the new and extreme ideas that are brought into their world by the two visitors. The couple are being pursued by a sadistic and unforgiving Sherriff and his odious henchman, who track them to the Lye’s family home. For a movie that takes place in one location and only having a handful of key characters the director gifts us a story that is intense and raw but at the same time thought provoking violent and intimate.
The ending is superbly done, but I will not spoil it for you, I urge you to seek this movie out, but more importantly for Movie Music International followers, please check out Thomas Clay’s richly vibrant and wonderfully inventive score. The end titles music is also something to savour and enjoy, MARCH TO JOY is a new take on ODE TO JOY but given a totally new rendition, Beethoven meets spaghetti western, now that has got you curious.