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Soundtrack review: A single man (Abel Korzeniowski and Shigeru Umebayashi – 2009)

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Soundtrack review: A single man (Abel Korzeniowski and Shigeru Umebayashi – 2009)


“A single man” is a drama starring the exceptional Colin Firth as a depressed gay British professor. The movie takes place over the course of a single day and is very sad from beginning to end. This is how I met Abel Korzeniowski. This is the reason why I look forward to each of his scores. On this one he was helped with additional music by Shigeru Umebayashi, another composer whose work I am very fond of.

“Stillness of the mind” opens the scoring and it is one amazingly beautiful violin based cue. It will break your heart, but at least you know what to expect from this score. This melody is the driving force behind the composition; it’s the piece that defines “A single man”, and it is one of the most special themes you will ever hear.

The music is rich and dark as the bottom of the ocean. Strings dominate the score and rarely let any ray of light come in. Dark as this score feels to me, it’s never pathetic or even elegiac. It stands tall and accepts the grief and sadness, wearing them proudly. The cues are full of heart and none of them can be skipped or overlooked. The violin wants to tell you something and you will be inclined to listen. I kept getting the feeling of an ocean when listening to this score… maybe the instrumentation, maybe the way the cues were constructed, maybe the mystery hiding behind these notes.

“A single man” is the kind of score that you will not be able to forget. It is sensitive, warm, beautiful and touching. I am listening to a cue like “Swimming” and I am left dumbfounded by how amazing it is. It is a perfect cue; I keep listening to it and exploring it from all angles, unable to find a single flaw in this perfectly shaped diamond. I should call it the one action cue of the score, but the word loses its meaning when compared to the music.

“And just like that” you get the main theme of the movie in its purest violin form, and it is out of this world. I have rarely had a cue move me like this… it takes me over completely and leaves a huge void inside once it’s over. Please, listen to this cue. It is one of those perfect wonders that you feel lucky you have the privilege of listening to. Just be ready to feel something appear in the corner of your eyes as you listen to it… and just like that, your life will feel a little richer…
When Abel Korzeniowski wrote that piece of music, he must have been in a state of grace…

The epilogue, “Clock tick”, is a type of cue rarely heard outside Ennio Moriconne’s best scores.  The clock ticks in the background and the strings just cut relentlessly until suddenly everything ends.

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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