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ScoreKeeper Loves Up Bruno Coulais’ CORALINE Score!!

Greetings! ScoreKeeper here scribbling quill to paper as I set to verse my everlasting affection toward a newly acquired love… “Coraline, Coraline How do I love thee? Let me count the ways… One. Bruno Coulais – “ OK. Let me stop right here. There exists an extensive catalog of reasons why I adore CORALINE (2009), but I’m too eager to focus attention to where my passion runs deepest…music! I’ve been an ardent admirer of Bruno Coulais’ film music for about thirteen years. It all started with the discovery of a relatively obscure French film by Agnés Merlet called LE FILS DU REQUIN or SON OF THE SHARK (1993). I was so smitten by the film with its intoxicating music that I wrote a brief analytical paper on it in college. In it, I discussed Coulais’ approach in establishing structured facets within the narrative using a prescribed palette of simplified musical material as opposed to a more linear approach reliant upon the development of leitmotifs. The shape resembled more a cut diamond rather than the traditional up-and-down “roller-coaster” form of linear storytelling.
Through the years, my admiration for Coulais’ music blossomed. His comprehensible melodies, unpretentious harmonies, proclivity for harnessing the human voice as a primary instrument, and skill at expressing the complex layers of a child’s persona, all made him one of my favorite composers not currently working in America. The bulk of his work has been heard almost exclusively in foreign films, most of them originating in France. Some of his other films have included MICROCOSMOS: LE PEUPLE DE L’HERBE or MICROCOSMOS (1996), LE PEUPLE MIGRATEUR, or THE WINGED MIGRATION (2001) and LE CHORISTES or THE CHORUS (2004). For over a decade, I have harbored hopes he would seize the brass ring with a highly profiled American film tailor suited to his talents. Enter CORALINE (2009); Henry Selick’s latest stop-motion animated feature film based on the book by Neil Gaiman. Earlier this week I had the privilege of viewing it with Selick himself in the audience. My anticipation was founded as my captivation hurtled me through an obscenely imaginative world where the artistry of storytelling and the craft of animation traveled well beyond my expectations. An integral creative force behind the film, Bruno Coulais’ music was the consummate aural companion to Gaiman and Selick’s visual style. It helped mold and shape Coraline’s opposing worlds by contrasting light and dark textures and then juxtaposing the two before smashing them together for the climactic ending. He was proficient in capturing the thrill of youthful discovery, naivety, and curiosity through music utilizing traditional acoustical elements, a smattering of electronic textures, and a reliance upon the ubiquitous human voice as a signature instrument. Keeping within the traditional characteristics of Coulais’ other scores, the music is relatively diminutive in nature imparting a nonconformist impression on the film. Each scene in which a new set of eccentric characters are introduced to Coraline, in both her current and other worlds, are scored in unique ways with their own distinct melodies, harmonies, textures, and instrumentation. This result is the creation of small vignettes within the context of a larger narrative. (This is representative of the “facet” approach to scoring I wrote about in my SON OF THE SHARK analysis.) Careful not to completely dissect the film, these musical vignettes fit together like a grand puzzle until the boundaries distinguishing them are blurred as the film progresses. Even the supplementary musical contributions by alternative rockers They Might Be Giants added a seamless smear of color and humor which complimented Coulais’ score. I have to admit I went into the movie with high expectations of the score. Having appreciated much of what Coulais had done in the past I saw no reason to shelter doubt. As high as my expectations might have been however, it was still a surprise to discover how much I enjoyed Coulais’ score and how significant it was in amplifying the cinematic experience for me. After the screening I had the distinct pleasure of chatting with the director, Henry Selick. He revealed to me that there are plans to have Coulais record a composer’s commentary for the DVD release. The universe is not overrun with great composer commentaries so this is most assuredly welcome news. Selick also noted that a CD release of Bruno’s score with approximately thirty cues is imminent. There are a host of reasons to go see CORALINE. The music is one small, yet significant, slice of the entire experience. While Bruno Coulais is one of many hundreds of creative geniuses who toiled to bring CORALINE to life, it is his music that will most connect you most to her. Whether you’re fans of the book, of stop-motion animation, of Henry Selick, Neil Gaiman, or Bruno Coulais, you are truly awaiting something remarkable.


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