LALO SCHIFRIN – “THX 1138″ soundtrack (1971)
Three weeks ago, ampoule I posted Walter Murch’s epic sound design tracks for the dystopian George Lucas sci-fi masterpiece “THX 1138″, advice starring Robert Duvall. That download was missing the actual music score for the film, although Murch’s brilliant work on that film has a musicality all its own.
Just found the Schifrin score a few days ago, and while it’s brilliant (and a must-have, if you loved the Murch tracks), a puzzling thing about it is that in addition to the evocative and haunting music from the film, also included are four or five other Schifrin tracks in a late ’60s light jazzy vein, which presumably were written for the film and summarily rejected by Lucas (for good reason, since their inclusion in the film would’ve been a terrible decision. Filmtracks.com sez:
Schifrin had been known mostly at the time (and still is) for his well received jazz scores, but the late 1960′s and early 1970′s had become a time of musical experimentation for the composer. In fact, in the early 1970′s movement of Silver Age avant garde tendencies in soundtracks, he had been labeled as one of those “weird” composers who could provide any kind of bizarre music that a film may require. Lucas was looking for exactly that “weird” variety of score, combining a distinctive collection of sound effects with an organic and electronic underscore of minimalistic and alienating personality. Schifrin also had the capability to write material that was affectionately known as “be happy” music, which would be necessary to accentuate the confusing difference between reality and government-sponsored, religious mind control. In the end, Schifrin produced a highly effective futuristic sound for the film.
Utilizing in parts an orchestral string section, a few woodwinds, harp, vibraphone, and several percussive elements, Schifrin produced the bulk of the score’s horrific atmosphere with primitive synthesizers. Occasional vocal integration addresses the religious aspect of the oppression. The concept of alienation is well served by the droning, themeless performances of the ensemble in off-kilter, slightly dissonant constructs. The fascist government is scored with liturgical, baroque music, sometimes breaking out into Gregorian chants when big brother is striking fear into the titular THX drone. A love theme, very lightly performed by three instruments (highlighted by alto flute), laments the doomed love between THX and LUH. Finally, the avant garde elements of the score provide the true, worldly fascinating music for the timeless environment, incorporating rhythms and percussion instruments from Africa and East Asia into strangely uncomfortable situations. The unpleasant result is highly effective, but yields an understandably emotionally disturbing score both in and out of context.
Schifrin’s work was finally pressed onto album by Film Score Monthly in the sixth year of their Silver Age Classics series. The presentation contains absolutely everything you would and wouldn’t hear in the film, pulled from strong master tapes and including several source cues and other material that did not make Lucas’ final cut. The “Be Happy Again” jingle (definitely a piece to use for kicks and giggles at your workplace) offers a frightening contrast to the terrifying sound effects of the prison torture sequence, which also serves in contrast to the use of J.S. Bach’s harmonic “St. Matthew Passion” over the end titles.
“THX 1138″ remains one of my favorite sci-fi films, as well as one of favorites from the ’70s in general. Hope you dig this!