Classical Music At Centerstage In Hollywood
New film Tár’s, featuring Cate Blanchett, music soundtrack is composed by Hildur Guðnadóttir.
The three-and-a-half-minute work titled “Mortar” is just one of the great deal of music composer and cellist Hildur Guðnadóttir has written for the film Tár. The work is an unsettling, minimalist piece performed by the composer with the London Contemporary Orchestra.
Much like her solo recordings, Guðnadóttir’s soundtrack work until now—most notably for the HBO series Chernobyl and Todd Phillips’ Joker —has been defined by its dark atmospherics and glowering strings.
Guðnadóttir wanted the music to sound – in her own words “otherworldly… this kind of invisible thing that seeps into your unconscious.” Mirroring Lydia Tar’s disintegrating world is represented by the video’s distorted images.
The film is filled with music, but it’s mostly heard in orchestra rehearsals, as Tár prepares the Berlin Philharmonic for what is meant to be a historic recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 5.
Guðnadóttir’s scoring supplies the undertone of dread that runs beneath director Todd Field’s ominous tableaux—some 40 minutes’ worth of sound, she says, much of it all but imperceptible.
“This is a film about people who make classical music, and it was important to Hildur we not, as they say, put a hat on a hat. The score itself, woven throughout the picture, has nothing to do with concert music. Her goal was simply to put the viewer inside Lydia Tár’s head space without getting caught pointing at something,” said Hildur Guðnadóttir.
“There is a lot of music in the film that’s working on a very delicate, subconscious level, and if you took it out, it would be a completely different animal,” she added.
According to Field, conversations with the composer essentially began long before the start of shooting. This collaboration only means that they will be “tempo-mapping” the entire script. Played in rehearsal and on set, through earpieces worn by the actors, these cues—including a 120 BPM theme to accompany a walking scene—were meant to help guide the characters’ inner rhythms.
The abovementioned work – rather than a traditional soundtrack – is part of a concept album that features music from and inspired by the movie, including new tracks by the film’s composer Hildur Guðnadóttir (Joker, Chernobyl, Sicario: Day of the Soldado, Women Talking), as well as extracts from major works by Elgar and Mahler.
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Although some of the music (notably excerpts from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony and the Elgar Cello Concerto) is heard in the film, substantial portions are not, including “For Petra” (an eight-minute piece, something Blanchett’s character is writing, a little at a time, in the film) and the three-movement, 15-minute “Tár” suite for string quartet.
Released by classical music label Deutsche Grammaphon, the album complements the film by presenting completed, real-life versions of the music on which the fictional protagonist is working,
The movie is set in the international world of classical music and centers on high-power composer and conductor Lydia Tár. The drama, which premiered at this year’s Venice Film Festival, was released by Focus Features.
Tár is written and directed by Field and stars Cate Blanchett, Noémie Merlant, Nina Hoss, Sophie Kauer, Allan Corduner, Julian Glover and Mark Strong.
Listen to the concept album on YouTube music here.