Lists

5 Film Scores That Changed My Life, by Shane Harrington (Cinemartyr)

Photo courtesy of The Chain PR

Cinemartyr is the brainchild of Irish composer Shane Harrington. Based in New York, Harrington has kept a prolific pace in the last few years, releasing 4 eclectic albums since 2012, featuring such musical flavors as folk, experimental rock, noise, and ambient along the way.

Joining Harrington in the current lineup of Cinemartyr are musicians Amber Moon Voltson (vocals, guitars), Aaron CT (bass), and David Goldman (drums). The quartet can be heard on Cinemartyr's new album, Death of the First Person, a record that finds Harrington mining from the soundtrack-based end of his influences:

Seriously, if you love moody soundtrack scores, this new Cinemartyr record should appeal. With that in mind, No Echo asked Harrington to break down a list of some of the film scores that changed his life.

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From Shane Harrington:

One of the best things about film score music is how it can act as a great reprieve from every other type of music we listen to. Whether you are on tour and you just can’t sit through yet another deep-cut grindcore album or you simply spend most of your time making aggressive, energetic music and just need a break, film scores offer a great pit stop. By its nature, music for cinema often has to be atmospheric or somewhat ethereal but this doesn’t mean it can’t be intense, vital or immensely fulfilling. 

My brain does not seem to care for classical music in general, but a symphony piece composed for a dark, gritty movie? Suddenly I’m there. So I guess by that token, movie scores and soundtracks can act as a great stepping stone towards a deeper understanding of music in general. Cinemartyr used to be called OST, which stands for "Original Soundtrack" and the following works have been massively inspiring for me in how I create both music and music videos.

Sicario (2015) and Mandy (2018)
Jóhann Jóhannsson

This Icelandic composer died in Berlin in 2018, at the age of 48. Toxicology reports indicated that a lethal combination of cocaine and flu medication was the cause of his death. For the short amount of time he was here though, man, did he leave an immutable dent on the movie world. Arrival, Sicario, Mandy, Blade Runner 2049, the list goes on. Sicario’s “The Beast Theme” is just one incredible example. So dark and so filled with intent and menace that it could be something off a Daughters album, were you to switch out the instruments.

But it’s the “Love Theme” from Mandy that I really have to talk about here. The movie itself didn’t totally blow me away to be honest — maybe I need to rewatch it. How-goddamn-ever, Jóhannsson’s “Love Theme” is one of the most singular greatest pieces of music I have ever heard. It’s useless trying to come up with words to describe the transcendent nature of this work; haunting, mournful, beautiful… see, they sound cliche and banal. But it really is all of those things.

Listening to it takes me to the edge of a forest at sun down. It etches the phrase “end of life credits” into my psyche. And it makes me feel that, assuming you're not stabbed to death or set on fire, but die as an old man in a bed, the loss of self might feel like something glorious. It’s sad to think about what Jóhannsson could have done in the future. All of the amazing pieces he would have made were he still here. 

The Fountain (2006)
Clint Mansell 

An epic story spanning three separate time periods complete with unique psychedelic imagery (derived from real world chemical reactions under a microscope), The Fountain has to be the most underrated of Darren Aronofsky’s films. I must have watched my DVD copy 20 times or more in the mid-'00s. Yeahm some of it is heavy handed and probably hasn’t aged gracefully by now but what the movie does right, damn it does so right. And one of those things is that soundtrack.

Clint Mansell, Aronofsky’s longtime collaborator and composer of the unforgettable "Lux Aeterna" from the Requiem for a Dream soudtrack, delivers a stab-to-the-heart collection of movements here. “Death is the Road to Awe” hit my 19-year-old self like a ton of bricks when I first heard it back in 2006. Somehow, Mansell (with the help of Kronos Quartet) manages to encapsulate the feeling of rising through the heavens, transcending, and going somewhere that you can’t ever come back from. You’re leaving home and rules and people and logic…

Did someone squirt DMT in my eyes? Also that Swans-esque explosion of strings and drums right at the end; it grasps something unspeakable but something, nonetheless, that we all know.

Lost In Translation (2003)
Kevin Shields and Brian Reitzell 

Lost In Translation is probably my favorite film of all time. The atmosphere of this movie is very special to me. Having grown up in a very rough part of my hometown of Limerick, Ireland and dealing with perma-anxiety for as long as I can remember, this film clicked something in my brain and somehow gave me an injection of pure hope. The film is quiet and nuanced and subtly funny.

The story of two fish-out-of-water characters in a foreign land is simple and sweet. And I needed that badly with all the destruction that was going on in my life. I needed to see these creative adults rendered at various stages of their lives, coping with existence without totally imploding or doing something dramatic. And the soundtrack does that too. It speaks to a life of normalcy and smaller moments.

Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine and minimalist composer Brian Reitzel collaborate on here to make some stunning, contemplative and Tokyo-sounding songs. These works took me out of my city. A city that was just after experiencing record murder statistics at the time. Music is often transportive and when it is transportive at the right time, you feel you owe it your lifelong loyalty. The CD copy I had of this is my most-listened to physical CD of all time.

Mysterious Skin (2004)
Harold Budd and Robin Guthrie 

Director Gregg Araki is the godfather of queer, punk-rock, underground cinema. His movies like Doom Generation and Nowhere blew me the fuck away as a kid. Seriously, if you have never heard of him, go watch either of the aforementioned pieces and you’ll see why. But I think Mysterious Skin is arguably his greatest achievement. It stars a pre-mega-fame Joseph Gordon-Levitt and pre-Vox Lux Brady Corbet as two victims of child abuse who both have dealt with their painful memories in radically different ways.

The musical collaboration of avante-garde musician Harold Budd and Cocteau Twins guitarist Robin Guthrie soundtracks that disconnect with a surprisingly dreamy and implacebly nostalgic tone throughout. As a teenager I had to have the CD specially ordered by my local music store back in Ireland. I waited months and when it finally arrived from the far off land of America, I listened to it on repeat that entire day. Like most of the stuff in this list, this music offers a reprieve or a break from everything. It’s like a big pause button, or well it certainly was that to me, a freaked out, worrisome kid tryna figure things out back then.

These tracks take you on a journey of abandoned, late-evening parks in summer, dark city streets in the a.m., and pristine white skies in winter and it serves to frame the tragedies of life with some sense of hope and redemption.

The Revenant (2015)
Ryuichi Sakamoto 

Probably the most prolific artist on here, Sakamoto lists 92 composer credits on his IMDB and that doesn’t include his solo or producer work, not to mention his contributions to the Yellow Magic Orchestra project. The Revenant is not for everyone. Some say it fails to meet its ambitions. Some say it’s just violent for violence sake. Some say it’s too ...Leonardo DiCaprio-y. But for those of us out there who like it, we really, really like it.

Alejandro González Iñárritu is one of the greatest living directors and I think history will be kind to the cinematic achievement he accomplished here with this almost impossible-to-shoot film. Loss, struggle and survival are at the heart of this film and I don’t know how he did it, but Sakamoto somehow took those three themes, observed the vastness of the imagery on-screen and created this utterly transcendent piece of music.

Nature is this brooding, towering thing in The Revenant and man is so tiny. I had witnessed this fact in real life before, but I had never actually heard it. When I did, in the cinema in 2015, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I leaned over to my friend and quietly said “Holy shit." The image of the wounded Hugh Glass set against the immensity of nature. It just pointed to something that I am struggling to render accurately here in words. That long road ahead of each of us in our lives. Visuals can communicate that. So can music. And when the marriage of the two is harmonious, it can be mind-blowing, even life changing.

Live music can do the same thing, it too is a visual medium — watching the band rock out, learning about who they are by their movements, choice of clothing and what they say. The borderlines between live music performance to theatre, theatre to cinema, they aren’t so cut and clean and the good stuff in one inspires more good in the other. 

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Death of the First Person is available now at this link.

Cinemartyr on social media: Facebook | Instagram | Bandcamp

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