Scent Of A Woman Soundtrack, Thomas Newman

Posted by AJ Harbison at 1:00 am

I watched the movie Scent of a Woman for the first time two weeks ago. It stars Al Pacino and has a soundtrack by Thomas Newman, who has 78 movies to his credit as a composer according to IMDB.com, including Fried Green Tomatoes, The Shawshank Redemption, American Beauty, The Green Mile, Finding Nemo and the upcoming WALL•E–not a list to sneeze at, by any means. (What the heck is that phrase supposed to mean, anyway?) IMDB also notes, in the “Trivia” section on Newman, that he has scored at least one Oscar-nominated movie every year since 1994, which is rather impressive in itself. He showcases his obviously prodigious talent in the score to Scent Of A Woman; it was very well-written, with distinctive and memorable themes that had original thoughts to offer. My favorite of the themes, which appears first on the soundtrack in the second track, “A Tour Of Pleasures,” is a soft, chordal piano theme. It reminded me when I first heard it in the movie of the chordal movement of Arvo Pärt’s Fratres–a similar progression of faintly-related major chords. When I listened to it again on Amazon.com’s listening samples for the soundtrack, it also reminded me of some chordal passages of Morten Lauridsen’s Mid-Winter Songs (probably because I listened to Mid-Winter Songs the night before watching the movie). Good stuff. I also enjoyed the tango in the dance scene, which was not composed by Newman but was also good. As I discovered when I wrote a tango for a piano suite I was composing, the primary distinctive of a tango is the following rhythm (often with similar pitches to these):

Obviously this was used throughout the tango itself. But the tango became an important plot point in the movie, such as in this exchange, where Charlie repeats a line the Colonel had spoken to him earlier:

Lt. Col. Frank Slade [Al Pacino]: Oh, where do I go from here, Charlie?
Charlie Simms: If you’re tangled up, just tango on.
Lt. Col. Frank Slade: You askin’ me to dance, Charlie?

The tango symbolizes enjoying life, dancing it up, moving on–which Al Pacino’s character decides to do at the end of the movie. And in the closing music, in fact in the last 10 seconds of the film, the tango rhythm appears once in the orchestration, very soft and subtle. An excellent musical/psychological association by Newman, expertly applied. All in all a terrific score to a terrific movie.



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    River of Worship on 05.31.2008

    JEff <><

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    Ryan Fleming on 06.18.2008

    The tango section of this post reminded me of “Cell Block Tango” from the movie Chicago. It starts out with percussion sounds to the rhythm you posted. It is classic and made a great effect. That is probably my favorite song in the movie.


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