Popcorn Superhet Receiver: An Orchestral Work by Jonny Greenwood

Jonny Greenwood: Popcorn Superhet Receiver

Jonny Greenwood: Popcorn Superhet Receiver

There may be no more rare product in today’s Hollywood film-making than a distinctive and original film score. Most soundtracks rely so heavily on a few computer-processed musical devices, fabricated swells of strings and cymbals, that when a composer adopts a more personal language the effect is revelatory: an entire dimension of the film experience is liberated from cliché.

So it is in Paul Thomas Anderson’s movie There Will Be Blood, which has an unearthly, beautiful score by the young English composer Jonny Greenwood. The early scenes show, in painstaking detail, a maverick oilman assembling a network of wells at the turn of the last century. Moviegoers who find themselves falling into a claustrophobic trance during these sequences may be inclined to credit the director, who has forged some indelible images. With that being said, the music does fifty per cent of the work; the opening sequences are almost entirely wordless, framed by music that is both dense and dissonant.

The music, at once terrifying, enrapturing, alien and intimate, comes from a Greenwood piece called Popcorn Superhet Receiver, and although it wasn’t composed for the film, it supplies a precise metaphor for the central character. The coalescence of a wide range of notes into a monomaniacal unison may tell us most of what we need to know about the crushed soul of the future tycoon Daniel Plainview. It’s hard to think of a recent Hollywood production in which music plays such an active role. Unfortunately, Greenwood’s work was judged ineligible for an Academy Award nomination, because the soundtrack contained too much pre-existing music.

There Will Be Blood: Prospector’s Quartet, Jonny Greenwood

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One Response to “Popcorn Superhet Receiver: An Orchestral Work by Jonny Greenwood”

  1. Richie O'Gorman Says:

    Thanks, Jonny Greenwood did do the music for ‘There Will Be Blood’
    but I don’t think this piece is it. He refers to it in this interview.


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