by Dan Goldwasser
Award-winning composer John Williams has had a rather fruitful year. He wrote his final Star Wars score. He scored a Steven Spielberg summer action movie (War of the Worlds). He scored a period drama (Memoirs of a Geisha). To finish off the year, he scored another Spielberg movie - this time, the dark dramatic thriller Munich. The film tells the story about the aftermath of the massacre of the Israeli Olympic team at 1972's Olympic Games.
Avner (Eric Bana) is a Mossad agent who is recruited to head up a secret-ops team that will travel around Europe, find eleven "marked targets", and take them out through various clandestine means. After Avner connects up with Louis, a Frenchman whose family has made a living by selling information, he starts dispatching of the targets, and Louis keeps providing names. However, things start to go south, as Avner begins to quesiton what he's doing, and wonder if the men he's killing are actually involved with Munich. When members of his own team become targets themselves, Avner feels he's gone too far, and tries to pull out before he and his family get hit.
Williams wrote about an hour of score for the film, which runs 160-minutes long. Much of the music only shows up during the flashbacks to Munich, as well as the emotional turmoil in between the assassinations. As with Memoirs of a Geisha, Williams hones his main themes down to solo instruments: Listbeth Scott on vocals, Steve Erdody on cello, Gloria Cheng on piano, John Ellis on oboe, Pedro Eustache on woodwind, and Adam del Monte on guitar. When not dealing with thematic material, the music is tense, dissonant at times, and even uses electronic loops to increate anxiety.
With a few standout themes played multiple times, by the time the album is finished you'll have such in-depth familiarity with them that you can't get them out of your head. After seeing the film, I believe that Williams' score to Munich ranks higher compared to Memoirs of a Geisha, and is a dark emotional contender for best score of the year. What follows here is a track-by-track description of the soundtrack album, coming out later this month from Decca Records. We hope you enjoy this exclusive "First Listen" of the soundtrack to Munich.
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1. Munich, 1972 (2:37)
As the main titles appear on screen, Lisbeth Scott's mournful vocals begin with the Munich Theme. It is hard to make out exactly what she is singing, but it sounds like Hebrew. Looped electronic pulses and dark piano slowly build with Eustache's ethnic flute slowly wailing. A dissonant swell of strings brings in fast piano, and the track ends in a crescendo.
2. The Attack at Olympic Village (3:00)
As the beginning of the Munich hostage situation is recreated, we hear low ominous string octaves play a sad and tense melody (which I call the Black September Theme) that has a Middle Eastern edge to it. Low harp plays as Eustache and his ethnic flute play against the strings.
3. Hatikvah (The Hope) (2:02)
A scene of the funeral of the dead Israeli athletes occurs on screen - with their names being read - is intercut with a secret meeting which names those that the Israeli government believes responsible. Williams provides a new arrangement of the Israeli National Anthem, which is lush and moving.
4. Remembering Munich (4:38)
Adding her voice to the events at Munich, Lisbeth Scott returns with a full emotional rendition of the Munich Theme, backed by soft strings. This track appears actually at the end of the film, and the emotional beats are timed with the images on screen, which are also juxtaposed with a sex scene.
5. Letter Bombs (2:48)
A tense piece of music, low pulsing against a high string line moves into a rhythmic ostinato and dissonant woodwind flutters. Then the brass comes in softly as the strings build up to a flurry of movement.
6. A Prayer for Peace (3:51)
This is the full orchestral version of Avner's Theme. It is lush and performed only by the strings.
7. Bearing the Burden (8:11)
As Avner starts to feel guilty, a slow dissonant cue starts up. Strings begin to overlap, as a slow pulse of chords start up. It swells and builds to an ominous rendition of Avner's Theme, played on clarinet. Low piano strings are plucked, giving the cue a very dark tone, and strings slowly come in before eventually fading out.
8. Avner and Daphna (4:02)
John Ellis performs an oboe solo version of the Munich Theme. Soon, full string octaves emerge, mirroring the theme. French horn joins in, and the oboe leads us out. This will make a great concert piece!
9. The Tarmac at Munich (3:59)
Low dissonant piano rumblings start off this latest flashback. Tremolo strings slowly rumble through, to add to the tension. The Black September Theme is back, performed as string octaves. The low rumbling goes away, and dissonant string chords lead us out of the track.
10. Avner's Theme (3:07)
Adam del Monte performs an exceptional rendition of Avner's Theme on solo guitar.
11. Stalking Carl (4:24)
Low timpani, harp, and rumbling piano start off this track. Slowly the strings come in, with a dissonant chord. This is a very soft cue, and the rumblings continue for a bit, before vanishing altogether and leaving us with some high ethereal synth tones, and some solo plucked notes that sound a bit synthesized. The track ends with another low swell of music.
12. Bonding (1:57)
This track starts out with another guitar version of Avner's Theme, but is then joined by Erdody's solo cello, and soon the soft string section. The strings then play their own version of the theme.
13. Encounter in London and Bomb Malfunctions (3:37)
Sampled loops open the track, and string swells pop in every so often, as low piano slowly builds the tension. Strings come in with the Black September theme. Quietly plucked cimbalom adds to the effect, and the track ends with a large string swell.
14. Discovering Hans (2:47)
Oboe once again plays a sad version of Avner's Theme, softly backed by the orchestra. After the first statement ends, the theme repeats, but with dissonant strings behind it. Atonal piano then takes over and ends the track.
15. The Raid in Tarifa (2:03)
More low rumbling in this track. As the pulsing slowly builds, there's an outburst by the orchestra, but for the most part, this track is all on low piano and synth loops with the occasional string pulse.
16. Thoughts of Home (4:03)
Now Erdody gets his chance to play a solo version of the Munich Theme, backed by the orchestra. Halfway through, those string octaves come back, mirroring the theme. As with track 8, the French horns take over, and finish as a duet with the cello.
17. Hiding the Family (1:25)
Yet another low track - tense pulsing loops and prepared piano are interrupted by a string swell.
18. End Credits (4:06)
This last track serves as a showcase of the various solos heard throughout the score. Erdody's cello introduces a string version of Avner's Theme. From there, it transitions to Chen's piano version of the same theme. The strings take over again, slightly stronger and more confident in their rendition. Piano returns, then after a strong cello stroke, a powerful statement of the theme is played, before returning us to the piano which ends the track.
Munich will be released on December 27, 2005 by Decca Records.
Special thanks to Beth Krakower and Jodie Thomas.