Michael Nyman – The Arrival (OST Gattaca) [1997]

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“The Arrival”
Composed, Conducted, and Produced by Michael Nyman
“Twelve Fingered” Piano Solos by Ryan Dorin and Michael Lang

By contrast, the film’s distinct color filters, accentuating the cold ambience of the future, is one of the movie’s best attributes, and composer Michael Nyman’s score matches this chilling effect with precision. Nyman’s minimalistic classical style had hit Hollywood’s mainstream with The Piano and, in so doing, he managed to beat the similarly-writing Philip Glass to the scene by a few years. Both Glass and Nyman would receive career boosts in 1997, with Gattaca enjoying a Golden Globe nomination and Glass’ Kundun extending that success to an Oscar nomination. While there are indeed differences in the general style of the two composers, many traditional film music collectors may write them both off due to their tendency to avoid the usual techniques used by composers in Hollywood. Nyman’s work for Gattaca is typically flowing and free-floating, failing to adhere to sharp synchronization points and instead allowing an overarching mood to be created by the soft textures of his writing.

The end result of the score in the film of Gattaca itself is yet another production element that seems to yearn for warmth but ultimately chills the atmosphere with even greater consistency. Thus, the score may be mundane, but it’s effective. In its simplicity in construct and execution, it’s an unremarkable score throughout, lacking in memorable thematic development and heavily depending on an unenthusiastic string section for its volume. Rather than attempting to address the environment of a science fiction thriller (though a few dissonant passages exist during suspense on screen, and are particularly compelling and gripping in the “Upstairs” scene and its cue), Nyman seemingly opted to focus on the film’s examination of social mores. The music underscores the rigid, anticlimactic lifestyle of both society’s genetic powers and the ominous workplace of Gattaca. Nyman conjures four themes for the film, each provided in succession in the first four tracks on the Gattaca album. The most distinctive of these is the opening theme for “The Morrow,” which is reprised at the end of the album. Like all the themes, this idea builds slowly with string layers and barely-noticeable brass and woodwinds in a supporting, volume-producing role. Never do the themes match the emotional crescendo of the film’s storyline; in fact most of the thematic performances end abruptly at the conclusion of each cue (a Glass technique in Kundun as well). This lack of maturation in the thematic development is particularly disappointing as Hawke’s character reaches his ultimate goal and his rocket’s departure to space coincides the ultimate moments of Law’s crippled life. There is no musical victory here, not even in small doses, and this causes the film to downplay the achievements of the individual character and once again point its attention to the on-going problems of the futuristic society. Sometimes, the audience needs a cookie. The music for Gattaca doesn’t give one.

The lack of pointed synchronization with the action on the screen does hinder the work significantly, especially on album. The thematic performances and meandering filler in between are hardly distinguishable due to a total lack of emphasis in any of the sections. The string players seem like they were dazed when recording this work, and given that their performances are at the heart of the score’s personality, Gattaca on album could be an incredible bore for a listener not in tune with Nyman’s chosen style. There was potential for a suspenseful climax during each pan upwards of the camera to catch a glimpse of another rocket, or perhaps a continuation of the flighty rhythm of “Becoming Jerome” (the highlight of the entire score) every time Hawke’s inferior character made the transformation into Law’s superior one, or perhaps an instrumental accent whenever Thurman’s morbidly romantic glimpses flash momentarily across the screen. Instead, the score drones on from scene to scene, with little difference between shots of violence, sex, exuberance, or death. Aside from “Becoming Jerome,” the album’s highlight is ironically Ryan Dorin and Michael Lang’s piano performance of “Impromptu in G Major, Op.90, No.3,” by Franz Schubert, heard as source music in the track “Impromptu for 12 Fingers” (which is heard during a memorable scene in the film). Otherwise, the Gattaca score is dreary musical accompaniment for a dreary film. You can’t really fault Nyman for tackling the film from the perspective of its role as a “social awareness documentary,” but the concept is so interesting, creative, and applicable that you yearn for music that will reach out and challenge your beliefs in genetics while better accentuating the inherent suspense in the film’s plot. Film score collectors purchasing this score without any context or knowledge of the film will be disappointed.

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28 Responses

  1. Joe Simpson says:

    this song is dope for my soul, i feel only freedom

  2. rloul1 says:

    Whoa I've never heard this altered version before. It's even more beautiful!!! ?

  3. Igor Dodt says:

    This just broke my brain, omg….

  4. Master Orion says:

    геніальна композиція!

  5. This is a truly gorgeous track…

  6. An Bui says:

    if you like this, also check out Ryuchi Sakamoto, start with "Forbidden Colours", especially the instrumental version of it from the OSt for "Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence", found on his "1996" CD. Another artist is Sylvain Chauveau, start with "Within this Orderly Life".

  7. Jose Adolfo says:

    the best i heard projekerde

  8. I'm Simply In Love………So, So, Very Beautiful!!!!

  9. Noar Hwt says:

    Excelente película, me encanta esta película, me la he visto varías veces, hoy cumplo 20 veces que la veo. Me inspira a seguir mis sueños, sí él pudo, yo también podré.

  10. Uma Truman looks more like Sylvia from The Truman Show

  11. ali600n says:

    "You wanna know how I did it? This is how I did it, Anton. I never saved anything for the swim back!""

  12. ProjektErde says:

    One of the most beautiful melodies in the world at all.

  13. Along with Vide Cor Muem my Favorites in Soundtrack music  really gets your heart pumping

  14. Daytime Sky says:

    Ryan Dorin, the creator of the Ratboy Genius composed some of this music? Wow.

  15. Mikey Wilson says:

    I guess everyone watches this in biology… Anyway this was a great film with an amazing soundtrack

  16. It was the strangest thing…every now and again, for the last two years, I would hum this few bars of a song in my head…and for the life of me, I didn't know what it was. It felt so familiar, I knew I couldn't have made it up. It had to have come from somewhere.

    I searched and searched, but I couldn't find it. How do you search a few chords runnings though your head?

    It was from a movie. One that I had seen 10 years ago.

    That I fell in love to.

    And had forgotten.

  17. Alejandra says:

    Our good friend amazon 🙂

  18. Alejandro sp says:

    The top of Michael Nyman and great movie……. Beautiful !!! thanks for sharing

  19. zycane says:

    it echoes the most important thing in all humans, the dream and the will to go there. When one has only one choice, win or die, will always beat the one who has other choices.

    The swim was the most beautiful and yet simple expression of that form and more.

    Beautiful and timeless music.

  20. Diego Barla says:

    My gosh!!! Thanks for this list! You made my day 😛

  21. xander k says:

    dark city for sure, i thought contact was maybe the best sci fi of the 90s though

  22. Magnolia296 says:

    Very beautiful, original & so overlooked film with great acting & story.
    Gattaca is one of the most underrated Sci-Fi films of the 90's ( next to Strange Days, Virtuosity, The Lawnmower Man, Mimic, RoboCop 2, The Time Shifters, Body Snatchers, Virus, Fortress, No Escape, Timecop, The Thirteenth Floor, Alien 3, Screamers, Judge Dredd, The Arrival, Space Truckers, Cube, The Relic, Dark City, Deep Rising, Sphere, Soldier, Futuresport, Alien Intruder, Barb Wire, Crossworlds and eXistenZ)

  23. vumagal96 says:

    I'm tear bending over here, I love this movie and the ST is superb!

  24. I was in high school when I first heard this song and it has carried with me over the years, and (I'm sure) through the decades. It's a song of struggle beyond the barriers we see before us, persistence in the face of insuperable barriers, the diamond of a dream, a goal that lies within our hearts with an outlining of hope, hoping to achieve the seemingly impossible.

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