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Soundtrack review: The Knick (season 2) (Cliff Martinez – 2015)


Soundtrack review: The Knick (season 2) (Cliff Martinez – 2015)


“The Knick” is a special kind of medical drama which I didn’t get a chance to dive into yet. In New York City in 1900, the Knickerbocker Hospital operates with innovative surgeons, nurses and staff who have to overcome the limitations of the then-current medical understanding and practice, to prevent staggeringly high mortality rates. Dr. John Thackery (partially based on historical figure, William Stewart Halsted), the newly appointed leader of the surgery staff, battles his cocaine and opium addictions with his ambition for medical discovery and his reputation among his peers. Dr. Algernon Edwards, a Harvard-educated, European-trained black surgeon (probably based on the historical Daniel Hale Williams), must fight for respect within the all-white populated hospital, as well as the racially-charged city. While struggling to keep the lights on, the hospital attempts to attract a wealthy clientele, without sacrificing quality care. Cliff Martinez wrote the score and this is a review for the second season.

Having not seen the show yet I can’t comment on how the music fits in context. The opening is simple electronics, almost xylophone like. It makes me think of computer games. I enjoy “Dearest John” especially when the trademark string sounds of Cliff Martinez make an appearance. I enjoy this but it’s not easy to have an emotional connection with the music. I always need a special mood to enjoy his scores. I need depth to feel something and his music very often stays at the edge without jumping. I cling to “Speight lived here” because this is my point of entry. It gets atmospheric, my kind of atmospheric.

When the composer takes that extra step I am having the most fun. “Pig termomether” is the kind of piece I could listen to over and over again with the same enjoyment. It’s simple, it’s electronic and it’s fun. It reminds me of the style Daniel Pemberton used for the early “Steve Jobs” cues. This simple and spaced out sound that makes me think of a large white marble platform on which some marble balls bounce every now on then is comfortable to me. Other times there are different sounds reverberating in that atmosphere and each of them is equally interesting and intriguing. Cues like “I hear a crackle” or “Get well of jump off” are wonderful musical experiments and I am having a great time listening to them.

For the music of season 2 of “The knick” Cliff Martinez took his usual sound for a very fun makeover. Just listen to “So you want to cook me” and you will know what this score is about. I’ve enjoyed it a lot and I am very curious to see how these strange future sounds fit in the past setting of the TV show.

Cue rating: 82 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 16 / 45

Album excellence: 36%


It’s My Eye

Pig Thermometer

We’re Invisible

Get Well Or Jump Off

I Set Her Up Gluten Free Remix

Necrotic Bowel Resection


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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