By Karol Krok
This article was originally posted on The Assembly Cut blog:
The Wachowskis are known for their striking use of music in their famous trilogy. The siblings made a brave choice of hiring composer Don Davis to craft a truly brave post-modern orchestral score when they started putting together the original 1999 film. The fusion of sound, music and image was absolutely impeccable in The Matrix – both original score and pre-existing tracks did wonders for this s-f actioner.
The same approach was taken with both the sequels. And while there is a lot to be admired about the scores to both Reloaded and Revolutions (and The Animatrix), there is a sense some of this unique symbiosis was simply not quite as strong (probably due to more conventional storytelling). In any case, The Matrix Reloaded is mostly remembered for its action sequences. During the production several approaches were considered while scoring the film, especially during the infamous Burly Brawl and Chateau fight sequences. Composer Don Davis created an original orchestral score for both of fight scenes but they were either unused or drastically altered.
The Chateau fight originally was scored with a bold, almost adventurous action music (amusingly titled Chateau Swashbuckling). It certainly alluded to a Golden Era of Hollywood and its classic films (and swordfights). But, if you listen carefully, it is still very much based around the familiar The Matrix motifs.:
Don Davis mentioned that Chateau Swashbuckling was never intended to be in the film and he just composed it “in case”. To be quite honest, while undoubtedly witty and exciting piece of music, it doesn’t really fit with the generally serious and earnest tone of this franchise. It then comes as no surprise the decision was made to go with something very different.
One of the most famous pieces of music used in the original 1999 film was Clubbed to Death. It was created in 1996 by Rob Dougan. It wasn’t all that famous to begin with but The Matrix made it popular, even though the film uses only a tiny snippet of it. In any case, the musician was hired to create a cue for the Chateau fight sequence. It’s based on the very same motif that opened the Clubbed to Death “woman in red dress” scene, although arranged more conventionally for big brassy orchestra and electronics:
The situation was slightly different in case of Burly Brawl. Davis composed a ballsy postmodern piece for this sequence, in which in the images of multiple Agent Smith are mirrored by constantly replicating brass figures. Quite a bold move for a blockbuster film like this and probably a main reason why filmmakers never went with it:
This time, however, not all was lost. The Wachowskis hired Ben Watkins of Juno Reactor to spice up the mix and provide some electronica pieces. The musician was asked to use Davis’ existing piece and fuse it with his own analogue synthesisers. The two artists worked on the sequence together and created an exciting mainstream crossover of two musical worlds:
One more thing: The Matrix famously ends with a Rage Against Machine track Wake Up:
But that scene also had an orchestral piece to go with it. Similarly to Cheatau sequence, it was never really supposed to be used but there were some copyright issue related to Rage Against the Machine music and The Wachowskis didn’t know whether their track could be licensed. That’s why Don Davis composed an soaring orchestral climax:
While this brief passage is not used as intended, it does appear at the very end of end credits roll. The composer later re-used this material for the grand finale of The Matrix Revolutions and also re-inserted it into the film for The Matrix Live concerts (where it feels more appropriate).
Note: Both alternate and film versions of The Matrix Reloaded pieces can be heard on the expanded soundtrack album released by La-La Land Records in 2013 (The Matrix Revolutions is also available). The Matrix finale is available on thescore album from Varese Sarabande.
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