Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Soundtrack Suggestion: Notes On A Scandal - Philip Glass

Notes On A Scandal
Composed by Philip Glass

I must confess I am a huge fan of Dame Judi Dench and of the actress Cate Blanchett, so when I first heard about this movie coming out I was determined to catch it.  Unfortunately, things being the way they are in the Philippines, I didn't see it in the big screen.  Instead, I caught the movie when it finally was available on DVD.    For those unaware of what the film is about, Notes On A Scandal is a thriller concerning an art teacher played by Blanchett who gets involved with one of her underage students, and how the veteran teacher played by Dame Dench uses this to her advantage in gaining her friendship.  The movie is haunting and disturbing in many levels, with both roles excellently played by the two powerhouse actresses.    You can check the soundtrack here.

The movie soundtrack has 20 tracks in the album, with Philip Glass using an emotive mix of strings and horns with such minimalistic mastery.  A large majority of the album is calm and almost soft, but therein lies the reason this soundtrack has won an Oscar for its composer; the soundtrack expertly thrusts upon its listener the mood befitting a growing psychological tension.

The tracks such as First Day of School (track 01) and Invitation (track 03) have an almost repetitive build-up that disarmingly sounds calm and normal, until you realize the darker tones that linger close to the edge.  Then you have tracks like The Harts (track 04) which remind you of the underlying danger that exists.  Or tracks like The Promise (track 10) which seem more sad and haunting, but progressively become more foreboding.    

Admittedly, one perspective some listeners will have is that many of the tracks sound very similar to each other.  Others might realize these tracks are nicely woven in approach to be a subtle theme that shifts to enhance a scene.

Admittedly, the whole soundtrack is more towards psychological fear and drama than action and magic, so some game masters might not realize the versatility this soundtrack can offer.  I have, in the past, literally just left the soundtrack running in repeat and it worked for an entire game given how the tracks can add just touches of mood without being distracting or overbearing.

Notes On A Scandal track suggestions:
WTF moment: Sheba and Steven (track 09), Sheba's Longing (track 12), It's Your Choice (track 17)
Tense/mystery moment: The Harts (track 04), Discovery (track 05), Stalking (track 07), Someone in your Garden (track 13)
Combat music: Confession (track 06), Someone has Died (track 15)
Hopeful moment:  The History (track 02), Invitation (track 03), Courage (track 08),  A Life Lived Together (track 14), Barbara's Choice (track 18), I Knew Her (track 20)
Drama/sad moment:  First Day of School (track 01), The Promise (track 10), Good Girl (track 11), Betrayal (track 16), Going Home (track 19)

Best Used In: Psychological thrillers, of course.   Games with a seductive bent.  Games that explore darkness and danger that actually stalks its victims where they feel safest.   While the soundtrack works very well for a modern urban setting, the soundtrack can actually work well for games set in a medieval setting if it is used to be a thematic song for a specific group or secret society.    I've used this soundtrack for games such as Changeling the Lost, Changeling the Dreaming, Vampire the Dark Ages, Adventure! and Houses of the Blooded.

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