Music From & Inspired By the Film  (CD & DTS DVD)

Music composed by BT
Label: DTS Entertainment
DTS 92860
Year: 2004

Disc: 1 (DVD)
1. The Unbalanced Equation
2. Childhood Montage 
3. A Small Sacrifice 
4. Girls Kiss 
5. Virtue
6. The Bus Stop 
7. Dark Lines 
8. Turning Tricks 
9. First Kill 
10. Set And Setting
11. Job Hunt 
12. Contemplation
13. Bad Cop  
14. Highest Common Denominator
15. "Call Me Daddy" Killing
16. I Don't Like It Rough
17. Ferris Wheel
18. Trigger Finger
19. Ditch The Car
20. Madman Speech 
21. Cop Killing  
22. Bus Goodbye 
23. News On TV 
24. Courtroom 
Disc: 2 (CD)
1. Childhood Montage 
2. Girls Kiss 
3. The Bus Stop 
4. Turning Tricks 
5. First Kill 
6. Job Hunt 
7. Bad Cop 
8. "Call Me Daddy" Killing 
9. I Don't Like It Rough 
10. Ferris Wheel 
11. Ditch The Car 
12. Madman Speech 
13. Cop Killing 
14. News On TV 
15. Courtroom 

Total Time: 74:54 (CD)

Reviewed by
Jorge Saldanha


BT is a composer who, besides Monster, is mostly known by his score for The Fast and The Furious (2001): a trance music pioneer, whose career began with training in classical music and an education at the Berklee College of Music, which gave him the ability to direct eighty-piece orchestras for film projects. BT has also scored films such as Under Suspicion and Go and Driven. He is also recognized for producing artists such as NSYNC and Britney Spears, remixing Madonna, Lenny Kravitz, Korn and Seal, and working with Sting and Peter Gabriel. With a résumé like this, writer/director Patty Jenkins hired BT to create an innovative score for the movie that gave Charlize Theron her Best Actress Academy Award.

When debating Monster, people most often discuss Theron's impressive physical transformation into the serial killer Aileen Wuornos instead of acting, writing,  directing or scoring. It's to be regretted, because these are very important aspects of filmmaking. And about the music, as great Bernard Herrmann used to say, "The film needs the cement of music. I never saw a better film without it". It’s said that a good music score must be invisible, tapping into the viewer's subconscious without drawing attention to its presence. It may be true in some cases, but also there's the undeniable fact that an exceptional score noticeably heightens the viewer's involvement in the narrative. Try to figure Vertigo without Herrmann’s masterpiece score, or The Return of The King with no music at all - as result we would have two great movies weakened by the absence of magnificent music.

Anyway, this release of the Monster soundtrack is unique not only for the merits of the music itself, but also for the form it was conceived and performed. BT choose to conceptualize and record the score in 5.1 DTS Surround, utilizing the format to engulf the audience with the tones that he created to enhance the dark subject matter of the film. Atypical musical methods were used to complement the psyche of Aileen Wuornos. A particularly noteworthy creative decision is the inclusion of the 15th-century instrument called the Vielle à Roue, also known as the hurdy-gurdy. This exotic instrument, along with unique uses of piano, guitars, strings, and electronics programming, offered a purely distinct style to score.

The music has a lot to offer to the listener, from eerie portions that contain grating, high-pitched noises (like "The Unbalanced Equation"), to subtle layering and textures that BT builds upon one simple theme. The track "Bad Cop" starts quietly but with sinister undertones, and features piano, hurdy-gurdy, brushed guitar, baritone guitar, miscellaneous percussion, electronic sounds and processing, and also guitars played with a metal-flanged pick. It’s a fine example from the many experimental sounds devised for the soundtrack. The music gradually encircles the listener, channel by channel, growing darker and more ominous. Even without seeing the images does the listener get an overwhelming impression of the scene from the sense of dread expressed by the music.

"Bus Goodbye" is an ambient, spooky music which makes extensive and integrated use of the surround channels, a fine example from the avant-garde elements that were developed as the project was discussed between the director Jenkins, the composer and even with the star Theron. In the other hand "Childhood Montage", the lyrical title sequence track, is a more streamlined melody, but even in this theme the music (which reminds me the Tangerine Dream's style a little bit) transmits to the listener the sad sense of  Wuornos' fate. But there's some tender moments like "Ferris Wheel", the love theme, and Americana-inspired melodic sensibilities that blends with the non-traditional instrumentation.

This double disc package offers both a 74-minute stereo CD of original music extracted from the film's score, as well as a DVD with over two hours of original BT compositions plus numerous exclusive audio/video extras, everything presented in awesome DTS 5.1 surround sound. And If you think that listening to two hours worth of this music would quickly become monotonous, you will soon find that the soundtrack has a lot to be absorbed in several listenings. In the technical and sensorial aspect, the DTS soundtrack is excellent and quite involving. Instruments emanate from all directions, creating a wholly engaging sound field. Through the DVD disc animated menu you do have remote access to the 24 score cues and some interesting extras: text introduction (which is the same set of production notes found in the case insert), cast and crew biographies, original trailer, production notes and photo gallery.

The best special feature is a 15-minute interview with BT and Patty Jenkins: this feature, as well as all the remaining extras, is presented in anamorphic widescreen with the option of DTS 5.1 or PCM stereo sound. Both discuss their collaborative effort to create the music, and provide a worthwhile analysis of the score and how its themes tied into the film. The section Film Mixing Demo offers the viewer a chance to listen to three audio groups, called stems, from the film: "Dialogue", "Effects", and "Music". The viewer can isolate any one stem, or choose from a combination of the three and discover how important each stem is to the final mix. This provides a perfect example of how crucial  music is to the overall impact of a motion picture. The final special feature is titled Re-mix, an online challenge to re-mix BT's key score cues for one of the main themes in Monster. More information on this challenge can be found by inserting the DVD into a DVD-ROM drive, or by accessing a special website.

After having watched and listened to all this package content, I can only figure that this is the ideal way to release a film soundtrack: an extended version in its original 5.1 theatrical audio format, but also offering a second disc containing a 2-channel PCM mix, compatible with all standard CD players since not all music fans have 5.1 or DTS equipment. I only hope that BT: Music From & Inspired by the Film Monster will be the first of a series, and that someday this practice will  become the norm for all film soundtrack releases.