Carter Burwell

The Man Who Wasn't There [Original Score]

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Among their various cinematic talents, filmmakers Joel Coen and Ethan Coen have not generally included the construction of great soundtrack albums, usually depending on composer Carter Burwell to write appropriate genre music for their genre-exploding movies. But that all changed with O Brother, Where Art Thou?, which featured a collection of traditional country tunes, producing a soundtrack that was still at the top of the country charts by the time of the release of their next film, The Man Who Wasn't There. The Coens are not given to repeating themselves, at least as far as music is concerned, and this modern film noir, shot in black-and-white and starring Billy Bob Thornton, Frances McDormand, and James Gandolfini, is awash not in country music, but in familiar classical works, including some of Beethoven's more famous piano sonatas and the "Che soave zeffiretto" aria from Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro. The latter is presented in a 1968 recording by Edith Mathis and Gundula Janowitz with the Orchestra of the Deutschen Oper Berlin, conducted by Karl Bohm, while Beethoven's "Archduke" is a 1980 recording by the Beaux Arts Trio. The rest are new recordings, with Jonathan Feldman serving as piano soloist. There are seven music cues by Burwell, and they are typically serviceable. "I Met Doris Blind" is a lush, string-filled piece; "The Fight" is ominous; and "Nirlinger's Swing" is a big-band swing composition. But it is the classical music that dominates this collection.

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