Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, Oscar-nominated for ‘The Power of the Dog’ soundtrack, new master of film music


Radiohead fans have known for a long time: behind the long lock of hair that eats up Jonny Greenwood’s face, lurks a genius. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Oxford group’s guitarist and keyboardist also turns out to be a great composer of film music.

His talent in this field prevailed decisively last year among the general public, signing the musician two great soundtracks in quick succession, starting with the power of the dog by Jane Campion for which he was nominated for an Oscar, with the film alone racking up 12 nominations. He also composed the, in all respects remarkable, series spencer about Lady Di by Pablo Larraín, with Kristen Stewart in the title role.

As if that were not enough, last year Jonny Greenwood also signed the theme of licorice pizza by Paul Thomas Anderson, who was the first to ask him for the soundtrack of There will be blood premiered in 2007. Since then, the American director has contracted his services for all his feature films, Teacher (2012), inherent vice (2014) and ghost thread (2017, with which the musician has already won several awards.

While Radiohead have been on hiatus since touring the album A poop in the shape of a moonl (2016) and that a new project with Thom Yorke (another genius) is emerging in the coming weeks under the name of The Smile, Jonny Greenwood, 50, deserves to win a trophy on Sunday, March 27 at the ceremony of the Oscar.

An admirer of Olivier Messiaen, Jonny Greenwood is known for being one of the few who introduced the complexity and sonorities of intellectual music to rock, especially with the octatonic scale.

Devoting himself to film music gave this multi-instrumentalist the opportunity to exercise his compositional art beyond rock while further exploring his interest in classical and avant-garde music, inspired by another of his role models, Krzysztof Penderecki, whom he cites from accept computer (1997). A figure of contemporary music, the Polish composer Penderecki, who died in 2020, has despite himself become a master of film music, his abstract compositions being especially popular, freed from all rules, to underline anguish and instill discomfort in horror movies, such as The Exorcist and Shiny.

I have always found acoustic instruments, and especially orchestral instruments, to be capable of far greater variety, weirdness, and complexity than any of the software I’ve used before.“, Jonny Greenwood explained to American public radio last year.. “And I think maybe that’s why, to me, the music of people like Penderecki and Ligeti still sounds very strange and contemporary, it still sounds like the music of the future to me. While many electronic things made in the 60’s and 70’s today sound of their day.

Like those of their models, the soundtracks of Jonny Greenwood’s films do not observe “without rules” and they are timeless. Far from pop, they are demanding, rather dark, sometimes romantic, sometimes difficult or scratchy. Tailor-made lace dominated by string instruments.

He who plays the cello without being a virtuoso has said it many times in interviews: nothing excites him more about Radiohead than the “rope days“, the recording sessions with the string instruments”.The variety and color that a single musician can offer with a stringed instrument is impressive.“, he said last year on NPR. “And the combination of a complete set and all the directions it can take is really exciting.“.

Being able to work for and with great orchestras is one of the reasons that pushed Jonny Greenwood to compose for the 7th art. But he’s not the only one. Another is the fact of being in contact with a director or a director”for months“, and “enthusiastically exchange ideas about various instruments and different styles of music“, trusted in December at New Yorker. Because the Radiohead mainstay is lucky enough to have been called ever since the development of the movies, even before filming. A privilege that allows him to experience against the current in all directions, without restrictions, a freedom that he compares to that of finding himself “.in a candy store“.

for the series spencer, Jonny Greenwood has composed a stunning soundtrack, which can be heard without the images. He approaches both baroque music and the most jazzy shores, when he doesn’t weave them together in the most wonderful way. Never lacking in ideas, he thus amused himself by starting certain pieces with a baroque orchestra, whose musicians he replaced one by one by jazz musicians, as in the magnificent Arrival and new currency (below).

As a master of happy imperfections, Jonny Greenwood also plays, like with Radiohead, trying to approach a style in a non-conformist way, for example 80’s bands like Wham. prized by Princess Diana, performed in the Baroque style. It never or rarely works, he admits, but the process of getting there always offers something deeply personal. His music can even become the driving force behind certain scenes, like the New Year’s dinner in this series.

For the power of the dog by Jane Campion, her compositions underline the film’s strangeness and lines of tension delicately, and in a daring way. In this film, we remember a key scene: the one in which Rose (Kristen Dunst) plays the piano downstairs, while her brother-in-law Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) answers note for note on the banjo upstairs. torment her. While Jane Campion had suggested “an instantly recognizable but not very good piece of music“, it’s Jonny, he’s proud of it, who found the”terribleRadetzky March by Richard Strauss.

Being therefore the banjo with the piano a key instrument in history, Jonny Greenwood tried to compose for a string quartet and a banjo. It didn’t work. “But that led me to play the cello like a banjo, (…) to play the banjo rhythm on the cello when playing“, he explains (as in 25 years below). “The result offers some confusion: it’s a sound you recognize, but it’s not a style you’re familiar with.”analyze in a conversation with Jane Campion on video for Netflix. The out of tune piano is a symbol of Rose and her social unrest, then her confused mind. The piano ends up playing”inhumanGreenwood points out in the same interview.

The pandemic hasn’t made it any easier for him either, he says. As the presence of musicians in the studio was very limited, he spent entire days recording the cello parts himself, to give the illusion of an orchestra of a hundred musicians. Always willing to take risks, he also recorded a trumpet duet in an Oxford church, “with the intention that the reverberation of the church is the third instrumentThe horn, a symbol of masculinity that gives depth to cowboy Phil’s scenes of large spaces and intimacy, and whose unexpected contribution has fooled Jane Campion.

Radiohead’s principal investigator, Jonny Greenwood has always cultivated a singular style. He now nurtures the 7th art with his findings, with incredible grace. His 2021 double hit could, should, establish him as the new weather wizard in movies.


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