Carnival of Sorrows
When I received an email by beginning composer Hans Michael Anselmo Hess, asking me if I was willing to write a review of his latest project Carnival of Sorrows, I felt very honoured. I was also surprised when I asked to get a signed physical copy of it, that he immediately agreed. Very generous of him.
I must admit I never heard of him, neither of his musical career so far, so I looked it up a bit. I found a rather interesting short auto-biography on Mr. Hessís own website, which I will put here if I may.
ďI became a musician because I have always loved the magical power of communication that music is capable of. But it was the communication between music and moving image that added for me a very special excitement and power.
When I first heard the soundtracks of composers such as James Horner, James Howard, David Arnold, Jerry Goldsmith, Thomas Newman, Inon Zur, Jesper Kyd, Ennio Morricone, Alan Silvestri and Hans Zimmer I knew that music composition for films, TV multiple media was the medium I wanted to use to communicate.
I love creating a music narrative that blends beautifully not only with the images, but that can also communicate something about characters, about the story, about a culture, or about the world, real or fantasised.
My latest projects include short film Once An Old Lady Sat On My Chest (2017), and feature films Carnival of Sorrows (2018) and Clownface (2018).
Apart from my activity in the industry I also work as senior lecturer in film music composition at Leeds College of Music.Ē
The movie itself won 2 prestigious Los Angeles Film awards in 2018 for best thriller and best score.
Iím not familiar with this movie and I have to say itís quite difficult to write about it without having seen the images that were meant to be accompanying the music. Itís obvious weíre talking about some kind of horror thriller with probably here and there a few comedy elements. Thereís a short description of the movieís story in the cdís booklet:
When Gabriel Cushing gets a call from an old friend of his fatherís, Dr. Albert Parker, he and his student Melanie head off to investigate. But when they arrive, Dr. Parker is missing and something is preying on the unsuspecting town.
Jenny Marwick is struggling to get by after the loss of her mother. Itís hard enough coping with college and losing touch with her friends but now sheís hearing creepy Music and having unsettling dreams.
As they delve deeper they reveal the Carnivalís disturbing past and frightening portnents of its future. With each step they fall further into a World inhabited by demonic clowns, freakish living dolls and other twisted creatures. And Gabriel learns, the hardest demons to face are your own.
The whole score sounds creepy, eerie, and at times even funny. It opens with the track ĎThe Carnival is in Towní. The track introduces us to the main theme, starting with a musicbox melody in ĺ waltz mode, reprised later in a more bombastic arrangement with accordion, harpsichord, organ and orchestra.
The following track ĎJennyís Tormentí starts the same way with that music box but a bit shorter, although staying in that waltz form but with percussions and big pounding orchestra making a kind of a big, frightening Ďgrotesqueí waltz.
Iím definitely not going to describe the whole album, because this would get way to boring for you readers and because it would take forever, since there are 43 tracks.
The overall soundscape reminds me a tiny bit of Elfmanís Batman (in the carnivalesque parts), with some echoes of Zimmerís Davy Jones theme from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Manís Chest. It has a strong main theme, brought in a lot of different variations. There are a bunch of other themes as well, like the one we can hear in track 9 ĎTenebris Auditorumí. Itís a very obscure sounding straight forward march-like track. This theme also returns more than once and in different styles, as all themes does on this score.
This score has potential. It has a very strong thematical approach, which we donít hear that much anymore and I think itís a regrettable fact. Personally, I love a thematical approach and canít shout it out enough to encourage composers (and directors/producers) to work that way and I think most film music fans feels the same way.
So far, I have been only positive about this score. Isnít there any bad thing about it? Yes, ofcourse but only 2: I find it deplorable that the composer didnít (or didnít get the opportunity to) use a real orchestra and thatís a bit of a missed chance. Even with only a few real instruments, like for example a real piano, some real percussion, a small amount of real strings, etcÖ would have make it more enjoyable to listen to. The thing is: it sounds a bit too artificial and you canít look away from it. Every single note comes out of the synthesizers of Mr. Hess and thatís too perceptible.
Second tiny point of negativity is the total length of this album: 79min! Itís quite a job to keep hooked while listening. Maybe it could have been shortened a tiny bit and the listening experience would have been more satisfying. I feel that the first of both negative things of this album is the reason because there is a second one. The lack of real instruments makes listening the whole score in a row very difficult.
Nevertheless, a great attempt from the composer to keep the listener interested. I said it before, there are a lot of different themes and in very different variations. There are not 2 tracks sounding the same. Hans Michael Anselmo Hess put a lot of effort in his work to sound not boring at all. We get tension, action, mystery, drama, fun, fear, love, etcÖ Enough to keep interested.
I can only hope we hear more of him in the future and who knows, with a real symphonic orchestra some day near?