Thomas Newman

Meet Joe Black [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]

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As modern soundtrack scores go, the quality can be hit or miss, but Thomas Newman's work is almost always something to get excited about, as evidenced in the Oscar-nominated The Shawshank Redemption, Road to Perdition, and the title theme for Six Feet Under. His score for Meet Joe Black contains the seeds of beauty that would fully flower on his score for American Beauty, the next film he scored and a high point of his career. "Whisper of a Thrill," the soaring romantic theme, is a perfect distillation of the film's emotional plot, its yearning melody shadowing Joe Black's (Brad Pitt) love for the beautiful Susan (played by Claire Forlani) and its ultimate futility. As romantic themes go, Newman's ranks as a recent classic that captures both the initial rush of love and also the devastating crush of its leaving. Newman skillfully weaves this theme into the rest of the score, and its sweeping sentimentality is flexible enough to be incorporated into other melodic themes, such as the denouement of "Someone Else." For the most part, gentle strings and woodwinds dominate, with gentle piano work reserved for special, heart-tugging moments. But the score is also quite playful, as on "Peanut Butter Man," where a flute meanders over bouncing strings, and also in the quick, percussive staccato of the middle-eight. This is an excellent score, an achievement from any composer, and something that ranks up near the top of Thomas Newman's work.

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