The Reader soundtrackThough young composer Nico Muhly has only one major film to his credit (the rather poorly recieved The Omen knockoff Joshua), he received a Masters in Music from Julliard and worked extensively with Philip Glass, which partly explains why director Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours) would put his trust in a fairly new-to-the-scene twenty-something composer from Vermont. I say partly, because credentials alone don’t build trust. I’m willing to bet that what most pushed Daldry to put his faith in Muhly is his clear talent for emotionally deep composition, something undeniably important to a film with as much emotional depth as The Reader, a film nominated for four Golden Globes, with a win by Kate Winslett for Best Supporting Actress in a drama.

And Muhly delivers the goods. With a score consisting of roughly 50 minutes of stripped-down, “less is more”  music, Muhly has created the kind of score that expresses passion and emotion with a relatively gentle and gentle delivery. The majority of the album seems to consist of a few strings and a piano. The back-to-back tracks “Go Back To Your Friends” (one of the longest of the album) and “Not What I Expected” (one of the shortest of the album) provide some of the most expressive bits of the album, pushing the strings into faster and more emotional rhythms, though most of the album is more subdued and contemplative. Muhly doesn’t seem to be one for excess, choosing instead to use a light collection of music to express heavy dramatic scenes. It’s an impressive juxtaposition and works remarkably here.

This isn’t necessarily an album for the casual listener, though there’s hardly a track on here that’s hard on the ears. It may be a bit subdued to warrant frequent listens, but like most dramatic movies themselves, this score is beautiful one time through. Those who connect with the material the most will find themselves coming back again and again to explore what Muhly has created, and though IMDB doesn’t report him with any projects lined up going forward, I’d say it’s very likely that we’ll hear from him again, if not in a film score, in the release of a third musical album (his first two being Speaks Volumes and Mothertongue).

Zach’s Rating: A-
Perfect For: A stripped-down, though moving, selection of music
Stay Away if: You’re looking for a more powerful orchestral sound
To purchase the score for The Reader, visit Amazon

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