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The Final Member (Rob Simonsen)

April 27, 2014

Cover_finalmemberTHE FINAL MEMBER

Rob Simonsen, 2014, MovieScore Media
15 tracks, 32:45

A quirky documentary about a penis museum; you wouldn’t really expect a soundtrack release, would you? But guess what… here it is, and it’s a solid effort!
Review by Pete Simons

WINNER “Best Documentary Score”, 2014 Synchrotones’ Soundtrack Awards.

What is it?

“The Final Member” is a taboo-breaking documentary by Jonah Bekhor and Zach Math about the world’s only museum devoted to male genitalia. Founded and curated by Sigurður Hjartarson and located in Husavik, the Icelandic Phallological Museum houses four decades worth of mammalian members, from a petite field mouse to the colossal sperm whale, and everything in between. But Siggi’s collection lacks the holy grail of phallic phantasmagoria: a human specimen. Siggi’s world changes dramatically when he receives generous offers from an elderly Icelandic Casanova and an eccentric American… The quirky original score comes courtesy of Rob Simenson (“500 Days of Summer”, “The Spectacular Now”, various Apple commercials notably the one with the orchestra).

What does it sound like?

Rhythmically plucked strings and a staccato flute, almost sounding like bird call (and turning out to be the main theme), are the key ingredients for opening track “The Final Member”. The cue does grow, as strings and brass come in. It’s quirky and upbeat, but ever so slightly psychotic. It sets the tone for what’s to come. “Iceland and the Museum” opens with mysterious synth pads, but soon continues with the plucked sounds. Bells join in this time. The main theme returns. It’s an odd, but fun little melody. At it’s core it’s like an 11-note theme. The first two notes are repeated three times; the remaining five loop round (three up, two down). Staccato strings and tuba join in later.

“Arason the Pioneer” combines rolling drums and staccato strings with something of an anthem for horn; whilst “The Icelandic Society of Phallalogy” combines pizzicato strings with frantic harp play. The second half is dominated by cello and piano. It’s a very classical sounding track. “Facing the Obstacles” sees the main theme performed on marimba, accompanied by plucked bass and woodwinds.

Things seem to get a little more serious with “Shrinkage”. Oscillating strings play over an arpeggio for harp; later woodwinds come in with a simple rising theme. “Legal Length” is brief cue for harp only; whilst “Cliff’s Edge” is a melancholy sounding track for piano (with a beautiful dampened sound). Plucked strings, staccato strings, bells and flute return in the quirky “Plan B”. Things get even quirkier in “Pall’s Waltz” for strings, with accents by piano.

“Tom’s Confession” is a surprisingly poignant cue for cello accompanied by breathy synth pads. “Turned to Dust” opens with an arpeggio for harp; a little later strings and woodwinds join in. As throughout most of the score, there are simple patterns at work here. The harp’s arpeggio consists of four rising notes. The strings and cello repeat one- and two-note patterns. In this cue particularly it is reminiscent of Clint Mansell’s work.

“The Journey to Acuary” is another beautiful, somewhat melancholy cue for basses and piano. An arpeggio for soft synth sounds a bit like an ambulance, but it works beautifully. The reverb and ever-so-slight detuning of the synth create a mesmerising and desolate atmosphere. “It’s the Little Things” is a delicate cue for plucked violin, harp, soft flute, even softer bowed strings and a few occasional notes on the piano. Again it revolves around simple patterns; and it’s absolutely fascinating. I’m vaguely reminded of Cliff Martinez’s score for “King of the Hill”, which was a weird but insanely fun score (and which also relied heavily on rhythmic patterns). The album closes with “Complete”, a satisfying finale for strings and piano, accompanied by plenty of plucked sounds.

Is it any good?

Let’s be honest, you don’t really know what to expect when reading the synopsis for this documentary; so should I call this a pleasant surprise? Rob Simonsen’s score for “The Final Member” is a little bit quirky and totally mesmerising. One of this year’s greatest little pleasures. Some of the score’s simplicity echoes Clint Mansell, but for the most part it reminds me of Rolfe Kent’s whimsical style. It’s the kind of score you could easily return to, time and time again; and at just over half an hour in length it’s easy enough to do so. No pun intended, but… I wish it was longer.

Rating [4/5]


1. The Final Member 2:23
2. Iceland and the Museum 2:48
3. Arason the Pioneer 1:44
4. The Icelandic Society of Phallology 1:28
5. Facing the Obstacles 2:44
6. Shrinkage 1:53
7. Legal Length 1:07
8. Cliff’s Edge 1:42
9. Plan B 1:06
10. Pall’s Waltz 1:55
11. Tom’s Confession 2:11
12. Turned to Dust 1:44
13. The Journey to Acuary 3:40
14. It’s the Little Things 3:38
15. Complete 2:36

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