THESE AMAZING SHADOWS – Peter Golub


Original Review by Alan Rogers (First uploaded at maintitles.net)

Since 1989 the National Film Registry (a part of the United States National Film Preservation Board) has been choosing a number of films every year that it thinks are films of “cultural, historical and aesthetic significance” and making a list. These Amazing Shadows is a documentary film from 2011 that tells the story of the history of the National Film Registry. Directors Paul Mariano and Kurt Norton have turned to composer Peter Golub. As Golub says, many of the films featured in the film have themselves memorable, if not iconic scores of their own. The decision was taken not to use the original music from these films (a decision driven either by creative choices or financial necessities). Golub composes a score that makes passing references to these movies but also composing a score specific for These Amazing Shadows.

What Golub has done is to write a score in the true nature of the documentary film, namely, not to be too intrusive but to act as a canvas for the images to express themselves. It is in these intimate cues, composed to underscore the narrative of the documentary film, that I think Golub has the most success. The “Main Titles” has a wondrous feel to it, a feeling that a child might have experienced with their first sight of a movie. And as this first cue ends, we are treated to a much grander, soaring brass fanfare as we begin to appreciate the importance of movies (in all their forms). The next few tracks – “Protecting Our Films”, “Creating The National Registry” and “Preserving Our Cultural Heritage” – go on to summarise clearly and crisply the endeavour of the National Film Registry and it’s chosen task and also the importance of the role they have in preserving a national identity. “Final Montage: The Power of Movies” allows Golub to draw everything to a satisfying close: the innocent, wondrous feel to the music is back, perhaps re-emphasising how we can all still capture that feeling as a child when we shut ourselves off from the world for a few hours, in the darkness of the cinema, being once again amazed by the images on-screen. 

One nagging aspect to this score is that the cues that underscore and replace the iconic music of the featured film’s original music never reaches the heights of the originals. But that is not their job. Some cues are effective replacements – for example, “To Kill A Mockingbird Montage” has a beauty that makes this a highlight track. But tracks such as “2001 and Beyond”, “Into West Side Story” and particularly “Back To The Future Montage” are so reminiscent of the originals that I find myself just wanting to hear the originals.

The National Film Registry’s selections go beyond just the “narrative film”. Documentaries such as Harlan County, USA (1976) and even home footage such as the Zapruder film (1963) of the Kennedy Assassination and the Tacoma Narrows bridge collapse (1940) are on the list and Golub composes some excellent music for these documentary film segments: the mournful piano solo on “Harlan County Montage” and “Japanese Internment During WWII” highlights conveys succinctly the struggle and hardship of ordinary people. When Golub is freed from having to be suggestive of a film how music shines.

Peter Golub’s score is fairly short as represented by this release, running at only 30 minutes in length and many of the tracks are less than one minute long. This can lead to a rather disjointed listen in some places but the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra’s realisation of the score and the crisp recording lays out Golub’s varied, and ultimately, warm score to its best advantage. These Amazing Shadows is my first experience of Peter Golub’s music and after hearing this I will certainly be listening out for more of his music in the future. The score is available from Lakeshore Records as a digital download on iTunes.

Rating: ***½

  1. Main Titles (2:04)
  2. Projecting Our Films (1:45)
  3. Creating The National Film Registry (0:52)
  4. Preserving Our Cultural Heritage (1:38)
  5. Into West Side Story (0:32)
  6. To Kill A Mockingbird Montage (1:36)
  7. These Amazing Shadows (2:05)
  8. The Land of Nitrate (0:40)
  9. Dorothy Opens The Door To Oz (0:40)
  10. 2001 and Beyond (0:52)
  11. With Every Laugh, A Tear (1:09)
  12. Japanese Internment During WWII (2:59)
  13. The Kennedy Assassination (0:51)
  14. Gender Bias (0:33)
  15. Vision of Women Directors (1:13)
  16. Back To The Future Montage (0:59)
  17. Harlan County Montage (2:30)
  18. Race and Politics (0:40)
  19. The Danger of Cinema (0:43)
  20. Exiles (0:53)
  21. Race Issues (0:53)
  22. The Effect of War (0:56)
  23. Final Montage: The Power of Movies (4:08)

Running Time: 31:24

Lakeshore Records (2011)

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