4 / 5 Stars
Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of Headspace is its maturity in using restraint where other composers would let their music erupt and explode. There is a dominant voice or style to the score, which could be described as a marriage of minimal orchestral colors and electronic shimmerings; but Ryan Shore also uses jazz, plainchant, chamber music, and a Classical piece by Bach to extend the arms of that style while never plucking them away from the main stylistic body. It is a quiet and prime work that is best listened to in the dark, with headphones on.
The story concerns itself with a New Yorker whose intellect grows at an alarming rate. As his faculties expand, his dreams become wilder and more vivid, while he begins encountering demons, both real and imagined, fragmented echoes of his troubled history. "Headspace" dives head first into the main theme, introduced and frequently reprised by the piano. It is hesitant at first before fully ascertaining itself, a memorable melody that is classical in structure but creepy in tone. A light drum machine kicks in, while the violins and the piano form a duet in stating the main theme once more. Throughout the cues, a shifting combination of piano, string ensemble, and occasional woodwinds and brass merges with and is complemented by an array of high-pitched, celestial electronics, some akin to glass harmonicas, which gives the score a pervasive feeling of dreaminess and disconnect. A crescendoing brass motif, similar in technique to Don Davis\' material from The Matrix, serves as a secondary theme, while a tragic theme for strings anchors the emotional weight of the film and is given closure in "Alex\'s Resolution".
The dynamics of each cue are carefully plotted and the composer rarely allows the music to become overbearing and loud, preferring to work underneath the canvas and to creep up the mental sleeve. His experiments into other musical genres are all successful and never really detract from the portentous nature of his off-center style. "Phrenology" brings in a soothing and organic string quartet that performs a melody which ends in the way the main theme begins, thus bridging the gap and remaining connected to the rest of the score. "Christi Spiritu" is an even better stylistic extrapolation: it is a beautiful, aching, and bare piece of plainchant that carries a sense of foreboding. The improvisational jazz of "Lady in Waiting" is the most striking departure from the Headspace sound. It breaks free of the restraints of the score, but the acoustics of the room serve to remind us that nothing in this film is purely reassuring and safe. A rock organ finds its way into "Chess" and, when the drum machine and strings join it, it constitutes what is arguably the most upbeat of all the Headspace cues.
Shore\'s score is given an addendum, a superbly warm rendition of Bach\'s Ave Maria which allows the slight Classical nods of the score to flourish and gives the soundtrack a final air of refinement and diversity. Headspace may not be as scary and experimental as The Roost, another MovieScore Media release, but it demonstrates maturity and restraint in its use of style and instrumentation while, at the same time, exploring a palette of complementary genres, such as jazz and plainchant. It will be interesting to see what Ryan Shore can accomplish given a bigger canvas.
N.B.: As an aside, yes, I am aware that Ryan is Howard Shore\'s nephew. However, the more people associate the two, the longer Ryan will have to remain in his uncle\'s shadow and Headspace proves that he deserves a spotlight all his own.
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