A History of Violence

New Line Records (794043905124)
Silva Screen Records (738572119423)
Movie | Released: 2005 | Film release: 2005 | Format: CD, Download

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# Track   Duration
10.The Staircase2:44
11.The Road3:06
12.Nice Gate3:15
13.The Return4:39
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A History of Violence - 06/10 - Review of Andreas Lindahl, submitted at
Howard Shore's collaboration with director David Cronenberg has often resulted in some of the more interesting and creatively diverse music produced within the boundaries of Hollywood, with notable scores for films like The Fly, Naked Lunch, Dead Ringers and Crash. Shore's unusual approaches for Cronenberg's films may not always be that engaging or easy to embrace as standalone listening experiences, but they are, more or less, always perfect fits for the films they are written for, creating aural landscapes that really add to the total experience of the films. Or, to be blunt, Shore's music is often as weird and unusual as the films themselves.

His score for Cronenberg's A History of Violence features some of the most approachable music the composer has written for a Cronenberg film to date. Starring Viggo Mortensen as Tom Stall, a family man who kills two men, with unexpected brutality, during an attempted robbery at Tom's diner, the film deals with the duality of man. Shore writes in the liner notes that "the composition and its counterpoint were constructed to reflect Tom's dual nature", and musically illustrates this duality with a dialogue between French horn and alto flutes. This idea permeates large portions of the score and the horns and flutes are usually trusted with performances of the films main theme. The theme's toned down fanfare sounding building blocks, consisting of ascending notes, gives the theme a certain noble quality and actually brings back memories of Shore's Gondor music from The Lord of the Rings.

Opening with some dissonance in "Motel", the score soon settles down, taking on a more relaxing approach, with soft strings, horns and flutes. However, "Hero" introduces the listener to some tension, which reaches its climax in "Run", with the kind of staccato strings, brass and percussion which dominated large parts of Shore's music for The Aviator, one time even borrowing a couple of bars from that score. Darkness and tensions dominate the following cues, with appearances by low, dissonant, brass

Usually very dense and serious the suspense parts share a very rythmic quality and its steady pace and brooding strings has a tendency to get a little tiresome at times. There's some dissonance but it never gets overbearing. At the same time, the thematic material, apart from the main theme, isn't that interesting - the music often just lingers on, dominated by instruments belonging in the lower register of the orchestra - but the appearances of the score's main themes are always welcome breaths of fresh air. And when it comes down to it, A History of Violence is a well constructed and crafted score, albeit with a little too much brooding underscore to really make a strong, lasting impression.
A History of Violence - 07/10 - Review of Tom Daish, submitted at
It seems rather inevitable that Howard Shore's most well known collaborative partner will, from now on, forever be Peter Jackson. Even if Jackson decided not to hire the composer again (a turn of events that looks unlikely), the Lord of the Rings trilogy will be the Shore benchmark and all of his albums will be labelled as 'from the Oscar winning composer of...' It is therefore timely that we find Shore re-teaming with his first and longest running directorial partner, David Cronenberg. According to the director's thoughtful note, this marks their 11th time of working together and, perhaps presciently for all those fans who have only started to acquaint themselves with Shore's work since his epic trilogy, A History of Violence is one of Cronenberg's most 'normal' films and, similarly, there is nothing too unpalatable in Shore's score.

Unlike, say, Danny Elfman, I can't say I'd ever noticed too many obvious trademarks in Shore's music, but this and his work for Jackson, have started to bring his mannerisms into focus. The way he voices his orchestration, the emphasis on low end sonority and dissonance caused by subtle shifts rather than melodramatic clashes. Two major motifs dominate the score, both rather fragmentary, but one ascending and one descending. Rather unfortunately, the ascending vaguely brings to mind Lord of the Rings and the descending Zimmer's Thin Red Line. However, both ideas are rather brief so it's hard to pin it down to much beyond style for the former and coincidence for the latter. In any event, a larger proportion of the album is less obviously melodic and rather more concerned with ratcheting up the tension.

A History of Violence's nearest bedfellow in the Shore filmography is Silence of the Lambs, both sharing a deep sense of unease, even if the suspense here isn't chilling in quite the same way. As with Silence of the Lambs, the score is rather hard work, with little let up from the dense orchestration and gloom. Make no mistake, this is a finely wrought work with plenty to comment it, but the tone isn't hugely appealing and the occasional flickers of light (such as in Tom or Ending) are short lived and still cut with a dash of melancholy. Not one of the composer's most memorable or striking efforts, but expertly crafted with atmosphere to spare.

Other releases of A History of Violence (2005):

History of Violence, A (2017)

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