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Soundtrack review: Septembers of Shiraz (Mark Isham – 2016

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Septembers of Shiraz (Mark Isham – 2016


“Septembers of Shiraz” is a 2015 American drama film directed by Wayne Blair and written by Hanna Weg. It is based on Dalia Sofer’s 2007 novel “The Septembers of Shiraz”. The film stars Adrien Brody, Salma Hayek, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Anthony Azizi, Bashar Rahal and Alon Aboutboul.  Prior to the Iranian revolution it was a place where people of all religions were allowed to flourish. This is the story of a prosperous Jewish family who abandon everything before they are consumed by the passions of revolutionaries. The score was written by Mark Isham. I like to see him active like this in 2016.
Mark Isham’s style is one of most familiar to me. He is not a composer to excite passions with his music; rather he renders his message through low key and meaningful compositions. Every now and then he bursts into action like he does in “Under arrest” and these moments are very noticeable. I notice right away the cello motifs from this score because that special, deep and intimate sound always gets to me. I find the irony of a cue like “A normal day” heartbreaking because if a normal day feels as painful as this then life is really not good. “Now it is our turn” continues the mournful tone and I like how suddenly the flute brings a ray of light and hope. This is the subtle twist of a great composer.
Most of the score stays in a dark and threatening limbo. Mark Isham does a great job of relaying the thick tension of that period to us without necessarily exploring deeper the feelings or the characters. The score paints a generally bleak atmosphere and the only moments when I can truly connect with it are the string solos. I feel a cue like “Remembering Shiraz” through my bones. It’s an isolated moment though as “Septembers of Shiraz” is mostly a dark thriller score you’ve heard before in the past four or five years.
The more I listen to the score the more I get the feeling that it’s the kind of composition that works much better in context. The standalone listen is not very rewarding because the music spends time investigating or running from something I can’t see. I need to feel the empty spaces myself and this hinders a bit the enjoyment factor.
I think Mark Isham fans will like this one because they will recognize a lot of familiar elements in the music.

Cue rating: 75 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 5 / 64
Album excellence: 8%
A Normal Day
Now It Is Our Turn
Remembering Shiraz

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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