Former lead singer and guitarist of Pop Will Eat Itself, Clint Mansell matures into a Golden Globe nominated composer, and a winner of numerous awards for best original score for a film. I have previously sang praises to Mansell's musical scores to Darren Aronofsky's Pi, Requiem for a Dream, and, of course, The Fountain. Being in love with Mansell's melancholic modern classical pieces, which are perfectly complemented by the performance of The Kronos Quartet, I decided to grab the soundtrack to Smokin' Aces - I have not seen the film, and instead listened to the album "as is" - as music. From the first track I am immensed in haunting images that glide with that uneasy feeling of something lurking in the shadows, until it all explodes with tension breaks of silence. In the soundtrack he effortlessly controls the mood, dynamics, and even the genre of individual pieces. The orchestral accompaniment works very well with an organic big beat and a funky rhythm. The scenes switch, and so does the music. Forty five minutes of music take you through mental images driven by emotion saturated sound. Mansell is clearly a craftsman of his trade, and Smokin' Aces may be his most cinematic composition to date.
Clint and I exchanged a few emails in which I asked him about film composition:
Do you feel that writing for film may be limiting to the composer's imagination?
One of the reasons I like writing for film is because it enflames my imagination not douses it! I find that writing for film gives my work context and focus which I must admit I struggled to find as a 'musician' writing purely for myself. I love the combination of music and image - this probably shows in the sort of films I generally write for....films with images and themes that provoke thought and give my music somewhere to soar.
So perhaps, in your case, you actually enjoy the constrains of a structure?
I've often noticed that the more options I have the less gets done! For instance,if I only have a guitar then I have to write music on the guitar... if I have every bit of software and equipment invented then come bedtime I'll have done nothing but mess around, having a good time but still far short of the shore!
What about live performances?
I am currently putting together a 'live' band for future performances of my film scores (and some other things...) and part of the challenge of doing this is trying to re-conceptualize the music in to a stand-alone format...certain pieces will always be married to their source images - Requiem/The Fountain in particular - but can I put them into a new environment and add something further to them....?
Will we ever see an album by Clint Mansell?
It's a good question - and I ask it myself A LOT! I am working on ideas for my own record for sometime in the future... I am due to write non-film material for Kronos Quartet.
Make sure to grab Smokin' Aces and especially The Fountain, as I consider it one of the most emotional soundtracks of the day.