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House of Sand and Fog

Colosseum (4005939653224)
Varèse Sarabande (0030206653229)
Movie | Released: 2003 | Format: CD, Download

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# Track   Duration
1.An Older Life1:54
2.The Waves Of The Caspian Sea4:00
3.Old Photos, New Memories3:23
4."This is no longer your house"3:34
5.Two People3:49
6.Kathy's Night2:18
7.Parallel Lives, Parallel Loves5:22
8.Behrani's Thoughts – Long Ago4:49
10.The Dreams Of Kings6:58
11.The Shooting, A Payment For Our Sins15:18
12."We have travelled so far, it is time to return to our path."9:05
13.A Return To The Caspian, And To The Iran Of Old6:37
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House of Sand and Fog - 06/10 - Review of Andreas Lindahl, submitted at
James Horner was certainly busy towards the end of 2003, with scores for no less than four films - The Missing, Radio, Beyond Borders. And House of Sand and Fog, which, despite the fact that it really isn't Horner's best effort of 2003, recently gave the composer his eighth Academy Award nomination. It will probably have a hard time competing with the other nominated scores, however, since it's a very dark, atmospheric, serious and rather low keyed score - not the kind of score that usually wins the trophy.

House of Sand and Fog is the most serious of Horner's four 2003 scores. Unlike The Missing it isn't performed by a larger than life orchestra. Unlike Radio it doesn't have lush strings and sentimental woodwinds. And unlike Beyond Borders it misses voices and beautiful, hummable themes. Instead, House of Sand and Fog relies a lot on texture and restrained underscore. It's performed by an orchestra consisting of strings, woodwinds, percussion and keyboards. No brass at all, which certainly is rare when it comes to Horner.

The music is mostly performed by slow strings and piano and it's a rather depressing score, with long chords and chord progressions. House of Sand and Fog is dominated by typical underscore music and this is not a score that will overwhelm you with large, dramatic writing. And it actually takes a while to really get and understand the music. But don't give up, because this is a really nice score at times, even if there's plenty of rather dull moments as well. The piano parts are, as always in Horner's music, a highlight. Track three, "Old Photos, New Memories", features some wandering and dreamy piano solos, performed by Randy Kerber. It's reminiscent of the restrained piano solos in Class Action and To Gillian On Her 37th Birthday. Really nice.

Unlike many of Horner's score, House of Sand and Fog doesn't come with a nice, bittersweet theme. Which is a pity, of course. But the small number of themes used works pretty well. Especially when performed by the piano.

A recent trend in Horner's scores is the use of synths and keyboards. Beyond Borders used plenty of synths, for example. And House of Sand and Fog is no different. Horner uses keyboards and synths to create a subtle backdrop to the orchestral elements and it works pretty well, although he has a tendency to use the same sounds all the time. But overall, he mixes the sounds of the orchestra with those of his synths better than, say, Jerry Goldsmith...
House of Sand and Fog - 05/10 - Review of Tom Daish, submitted at
House of Sand and Fog stars Ben Kingsley as an Iranian immigrant who spends his savings on a house for his daughter, but there is some dispute between former owners and things start to spiral out of control... blah, blah. If that doesn't sound too thrilling on paper, then the film has garnered plenty of excellent reviews, largely because of the excellent cast and as a great character study of people put into a situation that is nobody's fault, yet almost impossible to resolve happily. It is quite a surprise for Varese to be releasing a James Horner score and I half suspected that the company's rather more limited resources might reign in the composer's typically generous albums a little, but at a shade under 70 minutes, this would appear not to be the case. However, yet again, someone really ought to be a little more ruthless when preparing Horner's albums.

The opening track is not especially promising, a wash of synths that don't really go anywhere, but The Waves of the Caspian Sea is an early highlight with a cliché, but effective musical portrayal of the sea in a typically Debussian fashion. As always, Horner's atmospheric and dramatic compass seems spot on, with a melancholy mood that pervades every cue. The piano is often highlighted, or functions alone as in Two People, which has a marvellous duality about it as the harmonies shift from major to minor, which draws the listener in, while keeping things perpetually unsettled. Break-In reprises the surging strings of The Waves of the Caspian Sea, turning them into a more suspenseful motif with a little percussion.

To paraphrase a comment regarding Wagner's operas, House of Sand and Fog has good moments but boring quarter hours. This is especially noticeably in The Shooting, A Payment for Our Sins which only engages sporadically, the rest is rather more filler. What is presumably a small hint at the origins of Kingsley's onscreen family, a little quasi-ethnic percussion underpins a couple of cues, notably Behrani's Thoughts and, more intensely, in 'This is no longer your house.' House of Sand and Fog is almost drama without music. You can feel the tension and pain of the film throughout every minute of the score, but that doesn't necessarily make it good music and certainly doesn't make it enjoyable. Hard going at times and with plenty of longeurs, but not bad for all that.
Oscars: Best Original Score (Nominee)

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