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Soundtrack review: A ghost story (Daniel Hart – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: A ghost story (Daniel Hart – 2017)



“A Ghost Story” is a 2017 American supernatural drama film written and directed by David Lowery. It stars Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara, with supporting performances from Will Oldham, Sonia Acevedo, Rob Zabrecky and Liz Franke. In this singular exploration of legacy, love, loss, and the enormity of existence, a recently deceased, white-sheeted ghost returns to his suburban home to try to reconnect with his bereft wife. Daniel Hart wrote the score and I’m always in for a score from him.The score opens with a heartbreaker in “Whatever hour you woke”, a heavy cello based cue that weighs emotionally right from the start and sometimes pain like this can he scarier than any horror element. I am surprised by how poignant this first cue is because it puts pressure on the rest of the score to follow up. This is Daniel Hart though and the cue that follows, “Little notes” takes the string texture and makes it broader and more comfortable and as the violin wails and wails I get the feeling of something warming up, defrosting, being reborn. It’s a melody worthy of a chamber concert and it’s something quite rare in today’s film music. The strings create a spider web in which I voluntarily get tangled. With every note and second this cue charms me more and more and I recognise the subdued emotion, the restrained moment when you know you won a long and hopeless battle but are almost too afraid to accept it yet; it’s a restrained river of joy and the string motifs make up the door.

Then it gets scary; the composer keeps the depth of the music but turns off whatever light was still glimmering and it’s fascinating to hear how by using the same instruments and the same sounds he can change the mood like that. It’s never to late to hear new things and I think I am listening to a score from a genre I would call melodic horror which is very risky to try but in the same time rewarding for both composer and listener. “A ghost story” is all that plus a wonderful cello recital and I need to find out who the soloists were.

As the score goes deeper the composer exposes the warm emotional core of this album: “The secret in the wall” is a quiet and beautiful guitar based piece that has a feeling of catharsis; of course the cello, more subtle this time, joins in like a kindred spirit that comes to take your hand in silence. It’s a simple cue yet very telling.

As far as supernatural film scores go, this one might make you welcome the ghost, the spiritual presence as a friend and companion; the music is pleasant, melodic and comfortable and I get used to it and want to spend more time with it. The scares are subtly provided with just a change of the way the bow touches the string and the whole compositions feels organic and coherent. Another win for Daniel Hart.

Cue rating: 92 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 22 / 38

Album excellence: 56%

Whatever Hour You Woke
Little Notes
One Door Closes
Post Pie
Sciunt Se Esse Mortui
Safe Safe Safe

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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