By Karol Krok
Title: Far from the Madding Crowd
Composer: Craig Armstrong
The Film: Based on the fourth novel from Thomas Hardy, this film is one of several adaptation of this popular literary work. It stars Carey Mulligan , Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge and Juno Temple and is directed by one of Dogma 95 founders Thomas Vinterberg (who also made the superb The Hunt a few years ago). Given early critical response, the end result is solid and worth a watch.
The Score: Craig Armstrong created a gentle quasi-period piece for this film that feels both old and modern at the same time. The extensive violin solos and small ensemble create a soothing backdrop for this tale.
Distinguishing Features: The music from Armstrong is very reminiscent of James Newton Howard’s The Village. The influences can be heard right from the start (‘Opening’): mechanical violin performances and accompanying piano unmistakably point towards that direction while also tipping hat to Danny Elfman’s Black Beauty and its melancholic rustic enchantment. The main theme is introduced in this piece and later on receives lovely statements led mostly by harp (‘Hollow in the Ferns’). By the time we reach ‘Oak Leaves’, it becomes weightier and more mature and is resolved in ‘End Credits’. There are also other hints of Elfman to be found in ‘The Great Misunderstanding’ where composer’s trademark rhythmic strings make an appearance. Some shades of James Horner can also be heard in yet another theme heard in ‘Corn Exchange’ and ‘Spring Sheep Dip’. In ‘Boldwood Variation’, Craig composes a lovely elegiac for strings section. Alongside the score you, there are also several source pieces. Some of them are church hymns (‘Jerusalem the Golden’ and ‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel’) piece for chorus and organ. ‘Dribbles and Brandy’ ‘Jenny Lind Polka’ and ‘Swiss Boy’ brings in some lighter touches with folk dance music (led by fiddle and accordion). The album is closed by a lovely rendition of ‘Let No Man Steal Your Thyme Come’ folk song and a concert arrangement of love theme.
Final Thoughts: Regardless of its inspirations and/or references, this rustic sound is extremely relaxing and pleasant. It might, or might not, not be bothersome, depending on where you stand. But one cannot deny how pleasant this album is. As such, it deserves a heartfelt recommendation.
Far from the Madding Crowd is out now from Sony Masterworks