Clint Mansell on growing up through film music

Posted by · 9:37 am · July 17th, 2009

Clint MansellIt’s no secret around these parts that I’m a pretty committed disciple of composer Clint Mansell.  I was absolutely beside myself — livid — when his work on Darren Aronofsky’s “The Fountain,” potentially the best score of the decade, was unceremoniously snubbed by the Academy two years ago.  So it was delightful to read through this Pete Paphides piece in The Times of London, an interview with Mansell charting his course from pop rock star to serious film music collaborator as he prepares to take to the stage at London’s Union Chapel Monday with his Los Angeles string ensemble, Sonus Quartet.  The group will be playing selections from Mansell’s film score catalog.

Much of the article (which has sporadic, fleeting quotes, a style that drives me mad) details Mansell’s collaboration with Aronofsky.  The two met in New York over a decade ago when Aronofsky was fresh out of film school looking to produce his black-and-white mind-bender “Pi.”  But there is also finally comes around to Mansell’s collaboration with filmmaker Duncan Jones on “Moon,” which eschewed the composers typical stylistic particulars in favor of a more traditional approach (that is no less atmospheric and of a piece with the film’s expert craftsmanship).

Here’s a taste:

Now, at 46, Mansell says he couldn’t write a pop song if he tried. The only thing left, perhaps, is a desire to convince the wider world that he can deliver exceptional work in a film that doesn’t bear Aronofsky’s imprint. This month, when the wider world gets to see Duncan Jones’s Moon, any lingering doubts should be kicked into touch. By sidelining almost all electronic embellishments for some of his most traditional-sounding arrangements to date, Mansell brings out the human frailty in Jones’s sinister space-age parable. “All my favourite themes were in there,” Mansell says. “Isolation, melancholy, nostalgia. Plenty to get stuck into.”

The same themes also loomed large in the Oscar-nominated The Wrestler, Mansell’s most recent score for Aronofsky. At the end of that film we see Mickey Rourke returning to the nostalgia entertainment circuit, realising that whatever else happens in life, his old fans will always love him. Could that have been an option for Mansell? “Well, Pop Will Eat Itself did do some shows about four years ago,” he says. “It was knackering. After we did our last show I could barely walk for the next three months. I took that as a sign.”

Read the rest here.  And here is a You Tube clip the Kronos Quartet (a different Mansell group) performing “Death is the Road to Awe” from the “Fountain” score in Madrid.  When they break it down at the end, the sound distorts considerably, but it’s worth a look/listen.  I’d love to see these guys perform live:

→ 14 Comments Tags: , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

14 responses so far

  • 1 7-17-2009 at 11:28 am

    Sound Designer Dan said...

    Aw damn, it cuts off before they play that part that explodes out of nowhere. I agree with you on one point Kris, it’s one of the best and most underrated scores of the decade but I think Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ work on the Assassination of Jesse James score takes the cake as best of the decade yet.

  • 2 7-17-2009 at 11:37 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Probably a close second for me.

  • 3 7-17-2009 at 2:48 pm

    carrie said...

    i LOVE his music.It’s so intense.
    he’s the one musician i BUY every score, i even have the Doom movie score.
    Funny to see an ex-electro-punk friend with Trent Reznor so different now.

  • 4 7-17-2009 at 3:28 pm

    Mr.F said...

    I love his music too. His scores for “The Fountain” and “Requiem for a Dream” are in my top 10 scores of the decade, and had no interest in “Moon” until I heard he composed the music.

    Last night I was listening to “The Fountain” after I saw HP6 and thought that his style would fit “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows” quite well.

  • 5 7-17-2009 at 4:01 pm

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    So I suppose no one ever heard his amazingly entertaining score for Sahara then? It’s quite amazing.

  • 6 7-19-2009 at 12:37 am

    Dan said...

    The fountain score was very nice, but good lord you’re obsessed with that thing. Ah, fanboys…

  • 7 7-19-2009 at 1:41 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Am I the only one irritated by the rampant misapplication of the word “fanboy” on the internet?

  • 8 7-20-2009 at 4:15 am

    Dan said...

    Guy, I take the term ‘fanboy’ to mean “a male who is highly devoted and biased in opinion towards a single subject or hobby within a given field” (wiki). Thus, I think my application is mostly proper. Kris’ appreciation, shall we say, of a few particular films and/or topics, such as Batman and Clint Mansell, is so strong that his opinions on these matters cannot necessarily be trusted. To seriously call Mansell’s The Fountain score the best of the decade suggests not only a lack of perspective but also very biased judgment. Is that score really better than Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings score, which is perhaps one of the best specimens of the film music genre ever created? If Kris had said Mansell’s Requiem score in this context, then maybe we’d be getting somewhere.

    However, what I REALLY meant in imply with the term ‘fanboy’ is that Kris’s taste in films is only slightly more sophisticated than that of any given AICN fanboy (or SuperHeroHype fanboy, etc). He might actually appreciate good cinema from time to time, but we all know where his heart truly lies. Kris would just as soon watch The Incredible Hulk as “8 1/2.” What’s worse, he’ll then go as far as to write that something like The Incredible Hulk is a genuinely good (honestly, see his review)!

    I’ll admit that my use of ‘fanboy’ was a bit loose, but everyone knew what I meant.

  • 9 7-20-2009 at 4:22 am

    Dan said...

    In retrospect, I’ve probably been too harsh on Kris….I mean, I love the site!

  • 10 7-20-2009 at 6:58 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Uh, I’ll let Kris respond to all that.

    But I will throw in that I think “The Fountain” has a far superior score to “The Lord of the Rings,” and I’m not a particular fan of the film.

  • 11 7-20-2009 at 7:08 am

    Dan said...

    “Far superior”??! I don’t even see how it’s possible to come to that conclusion. It doesn’t make any sense. The “Lord of the Rings” score is up there with the scores to “Star Wars” and “The Godfather.” The score to “The Fountain” was unusually good, particularly given the horrid state of film scores these days (thank you RC), but I don’t think you’ll be seeing too many books and extended releases that score. “LOTR” was a landmark score; “The Fountain” was worthy of an Oscar nomination.

    Honestly, I just don’t understand how you can say that, Guy. The quality of the LOTR score is virtually unprecedented, particularly the “Fellowship” score and the second half of “ROTK.”

  • 12 7-20-2009 at 7:42 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Oh Dan, we could go back and forth all day. It’s an opinion. It’s not meant to “make sense” to you, just as your statement that Shore’s score is “virtually unprecedented” makes little sense to me.


  • 13 7-20-2009 at 8:46 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    “Kris’ appreciation, shall we say, of a few particular films and/or topics, such as Batman and Clint Mansell, is so strong that his opinions on these matters cannot necessarily be trusted.”

    Jumping in late here, it seems, but this statement is, you’ll forgive me, patently silly.

    If my opinion on Batman isn’t to be trusted merely because I consider myself to be such a devotee of the character, why, then, may I ask, is my three-and-a-half star review of the film one of the few level-headed assessments of the pic among a slew of gleeful, bliss-infused assessments in other quarters, Dan?

    It’s one thing to take note of the fact that a person has favorites. It’s entirely ridiculous (and borderline offensive) to expect opinions on those subjects to be insincere.

  • 14 7-20-2009 at 8:54 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    And Dan, regarding film scores of the decade, less is more for me in this instance, so yes, I think the “Fountain” score is the best of the decade. And – shock and awe – the LOTR stuff might be a close second. But your apparent idea that there are absolutes with this stuff makes this discussion pointless.

    Happy to see you know “where my heart truly lies,” though. Your rant about fanboyism is mean-spirited and quite silly. And I don’t know too many intelligent folks who’d leap to the conclusion that I’d sooner watch The Incredible Hulk than a masterpiece of the cinema such as 8 1/2, but, again, happy to see you think you know oh so much about me.

    If you’d like to start talking in something other than sweeping generalizations and hyperbolic assessments, you know where to find me.