Following an Oscar nomination in 2018 for his sumptuous score for the Paul Thomas Anderson film Phantom Thread, and the release of his soundtrack for Lynne Ramsey's neo-noir You Were Never Really Here that same year, Jonny Greenwood returned to theaters in November 2021 with a pair of high-caliber scores: Spencer and The Power of the Dog. Set on a Montana cattle ranch in 1925, Jane Campion's The Power of the Dog edges closer to a psychological suspense film than a historical drama, and Greenwood's anxious, austere score incorporates glimpses of traditional folk befitting its setting alongside Baroque, Romantic, and atonal inspirations. First track "25 Years" begins with an urgent, minimalist acoustic guitar pattern before introducing harmonics, tense melodic strings, and dissonance. In an attempt to avoid "sweeping strings" tropes to represent the film's panoramic landscapes, Greenwood wrote French horn pieces including a blustery second track, "Requiem for Phil," which only subtly employs atmospheric strings. The horns, which reappear on "The Ravine," were recorded in a large church to take advantage of its natural reverb. Greenwood challenges distinctions between classical violin and fiddle on occasion, and while diegetic banjo and piano performances by characters in the film are not represented here, the unsettling, partly manic score entry "Detuned Mechanical Piano" is. More-refined classical stylings surface on the piano-and-violin piece "West Alone," the string quartet "West," and the later-period, Impressionistic "Viola Quartet," but they constitute a minority (and the latter takes a decidedly dissonant turn). In keeping with the score's generally more chaotic bearing, the luxuriant "So Soft" and jittery "Best Friends" both opt for variations on tone clusters that, in keeping with the film's story, convey rich warmth and distress at once.
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