Film scores

Soundtrack review: Killing season (Christopher Young, 2013)

killing season front

I happened to watch “Killing season” a few days before the score arrived. I saw that the reviews were very bad but this was a movie starring only Robert De Niro and John Travolta hunting each other in the wilderness and no matter how many bad movies each of them have been making lately they’ve earned countless second chances from me. So yes a movie with just the two of them is still a feast to watch, regardless of the script. I paid attention to the music; it was easy, given the setting and pace of the movie, and in context I discovered the Christopher Young that made a permanent home in my favorites list with “The shipping news”. But this album won’t be anything like that one. “Killing season” is a special kind of project and might be the realization of every composer’s dream: the presentation of his creation free from the constraints of movies and scenes. Christopher Young said he “realized and obsession” with this release: he reimagined and rerecorded the score as a concert suite as opposed to a series of shorter cues. He felt this served better the themes of two men in the remote wilderness, of haunted pasts and redemption. I was intrigued by this. I was never big on the debate “film version vs album version” but since I am enjoying a lot of film music out of context, to be able to hear something especially made for this kind of a listening experience is just a great gift from a composer and I thank Christopher Young even before diving into this score. Ironically I usually write reviews without seeing the movies, and it so happens that precisely this composition which was written for the guys who don’t see the movie finds me prepared.

So the question rises… am I reviewing just a classical concert suite now? What’s left of the connection with the movie? The cello, of course. This is what haunted me while I was watching the movie, the soulful cello dancing with the country fiddle to paint the remote Appalachian setting to those who haven’t seen the movie. I try to forget what I saw on screen and just close my eyes. It’s quite fitting that Christopher Young was the one to give his score such a treatment, because this is one of the composers who know best how to create complex scenery with his music. His music is often more about the general ambient and feel than about specific characters or situations. And here I am, enjoying a lonely and majestic “Part one” which makes me feel as if I was alone in a remote location with nothing but time to reflect. As the music advances I realize that Young decided to expose the inner demons and tribulations of the characters, the ghosts that haunt them and, especially, Robert de Niro’s isolation rather than the violence that makes for the surface of the film. This is no longer THAT story. This is a long and reflective musical suite for someone who retreats somewhere, alone, with a heavy and remorseful heart. I can’t imagine this piece making anyone think of family or friends. The music looks inwards and tries to make sense of what’s there. The music is quiet and beautiful. Christopher Young has written many amazing scores but the way this treatment sounds, it’s almost as if he opens up a new dimension. The music is alive and it slowly washes away my images or feelings about the movie, as if they had been painted in the palest of colors. The strings just keep building an imaginary outdoor prison around me. I feel the rain rustling the leaves, I feel the mud under my boots and my heart is slowly relaxing and letting go of all the baggage. Ben Solee is the soloist for this part and I will surely remember his name.

“Part 2” is the action suite. For me it doesn’t have the magic and mystery of “Part 1” but that’s the beauty of it. The way this release is constructed, everyone can just choose what he or she wants to hear most. A purely melancholic and reflective suite or one that feels more alive, more alert, still dominated by the cello. But no matter which suite I listen to I get the feeling of being there for the recording sessions. The music is stripped of exaggerated edits or cuts and it’s presented in a form that makes sense. I can feel the concert hall experience. Lisbeth Scott’s haunting voice adds a little more to the listening experience and I am always happy to hear her add an extra layer of emotion to a score.

“Killing season” is a very successful experience and I can only hope it’s the beginning of a trend. Christopher Young presented to us the composition free of the shackles of the movie and moved into classical music territory. This is a special release and it would be a shame to miss it.

Cue rating: 100 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 44 / 44

Album excellence: 100%

Highlights:

Part 1

Interlude

Part 2

Part 3

 

 

 

 

About the author

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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