By Karol KrokDavid Shire’s highly cerebral approach to film music that is prevalent through most of his work for various genres. While obviously able construct accessible melodies (Return to Oz, anyone?), he would never take quite as simple route. There’s always another layer to the writing: that can mean complex harmonic language, orchestrations or clever musical connection. Whatever it might be at any given moment, the composer always seems to give any story some emotional and intellectual density. If you want a recent example of this, you don’t need to look any further than his sparse contributions to David Fincher’s Zodiac from 2007. Now that was a masterclass in non-intrusive but highly intelligent scoring.
Old Boyfriends is not, of course, in the same genre at all but the score displays a similar kind of attention to detail and emotional nuance. On the surface romantic and lovely but never simple or straightforward. No surprise here, given that the plot itself involves a depressed female psychiatrist travelling across country and re-evaluating her past relationships with several men. It might not be an excellent film but serves as a perfect vehicle for Shire’s talents. And the fact itself that main character was played by his (former) wife would certainly add to that, even if only accidentally.
What’s interesting, the main melody is quite lovely but there’s always a sense of uneasiness to it. David Shire doesn’t seem to believe in love with no pain and this wonderful contradiction is perfectly realised in his impressive music. This idea is introduced in a highly energetic way with ‘Main Title’. It’s quite an unexpected way to start off a film like this – it feels very urban and exciting. The idea is given quite a workout throughout this albums’ short running time.
Towards the end, this main theme literally takes over the album. ‘To the Arbor’ offers bassoon solo that is soon joined by flute. The theme is taken over by solo viola in ‘Love Scene: Dianne & Wayne (Theme From Old Boyfriends)’. In this track, it reaches its fully realised form. ‘Jeff Returns-Finale’ brings it back in uncertain, anxious statements. Soon, however, full orchestra (led by trumpet) takes over and brings things to a much brighter, almost joyous, resolution.
Along the way, David Shire explores some different textures as well. ‘The Return-The Bathtub-Housecleaning’ starts off with unexpectedly tense tones and orchestral stabs that brings horror genre to mind. It’s a very sudden change of tone after more than 20 minutes of soothing love music. On the other side of musical pond, ‘Love Scene: Dianne & Eric’ starts off with an elegant piano solo, which soon joined by rock percussion with an entire orchestra providing gentle backing. ‘To Luddington’ brings John Williams to mind in its noble brass arrangements of main theme, after which another secondary idea takes centre stage. The opening of ‘Luddington Walk’ continues on with that melody.
David Shire waited an entire 35 years for this soundtrack album. Originally, it was supposed to come out along with the film itself in 1979 but, for whatever reason, that LP never materialised. Thankfully, ever wonderful people over at Intrada unearthed the masters and released it just this year. The 31 minute disc is equally pleasant as it is fulfilling. Some of the great, previously unheard, gems are being resurrected lately and Old Boyfriends score is definitely one of them. The fans of the composer should be particularly pleased with those.
Old Boyfriends is out now from Intrada