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Rear Window (David Shire)

September 13, 2014

rearwindowREAR WINDOW

David Shire, 2014, MovieScore Media
19 tracks, 53.42

As part of their “Discovery Collection” MovieScore Media has released David Shire’s score for the 1998 television drama “Rear Window”.

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

Directed by Jeff Bleckner and designed as an acting vehicle for the then recently paralysed Christopher Reeve, this production kept the basic premise of the original Hitchcock movie — wheelchair-bound Jason Kemp (Reeve) suspects that his neighbor Julian Thorpe (Ritchie Coster) murdered his wife, but nobody believes him. With the help of his beautiful blonde aide Claudia Henderson (Darryl Hannah), Jason gathers enough evidence to convince the police, but the killer is on to his schemes and confronts the paralyzed man in his own home…

What does it sound like?

The score was performed by 26 live musicians alongside various synthesized instruments. Christopher Reeve himself played a pivotal role in raising enough money to hire these musicians. The live instruments are mostly woodwinds and strings that add a welcome warmth and depth to the score; whilst piano, percussion, trumpet and other incidental instruments are synthesised.

The album opens with ominous-sounding metallic hits. They return several times throughout the score as they represent the murdering neighbour (who’s a sculptor). The “Main Title” continues with a fluid theme (initially for oboe and clarinet, later for strings) that is characterised by its prominent use of counterpoint writing. It’s a lovely melody, slightly Horner-esque, but oddly doesn’t appear to be reprised anywhere else (certainly not in a recognisable form).

Jason’s main theme is first introduced in “Windows 98” (and is varied upon in the subsequent “Windows” tracks, as well as others). It’s inspired by Baroque fugues with the counterpoint writing representing the character’s attempts at rebuilding his nervous system. It’s a ballad-like melody that also reveals Shire’s jazz-roots. Those influences are also prominent in cues likes “The Cop and the Crate” (featuring bass, guitar and snappy percussion) and “Claudia Visits Thorpe”. There is a notable theme for “The Other Woman” that slithers up and a down the musical scales, whilst strings waver anxiously.

“Pop-Out!” uses low rumbling piano, pounding percussion and screeching strings to build tension. This cue and “A Visit from Thorpe: Part 2” are the score’s two most straightforward action cues (though by today’s standards, the percussion in the latter cue sounds almost comical). Like the film it’s based on, this tv drama relies on suspense rather than action. And there is plenty of baroque-esque dramatic writing, for strings, that reminds me of Herrmann.

Despite two clearly noticeable errors in “Windows 98” (1.22) and “Windows II” (1.42), the recording and mixing are fine; and MovieScore Media’s release has a nice and clear sound to it.

Is it any good?

It’s noteworthy how leitmotivic this score is. There is barely a moment when David Shire doesn’t utilise one of his score’s themes and motifs. As a result it’s a very accessible score. Whilst the composer uses tension-building techniques, it never really gets all that scary. That’s not a bad thing; it means it’s a very listenable album despite its suspenseful subject matter. The score does sound dated; mostly deliberate but partially not so. The electronic percussion and piano sound cheap compared to the warmth that the strings and woodwinds bring to this score. The EWI in “The Other Woman” may deliberately sound like a fake saxophone, it still comes across as a budget restraint rather than an artistic choice. Having said that, hiring live woodwinds and strings was definitely a master-stroke as they give (most of) the score a classy and timeless feel. Though composed in 1998, it’s written in a slightly old-fashioned way (particularly the ballad-like main theme), evoking a sense of the 70s or 80s more so than 90s. And that, I think, is quite appropriate.

Rating [3/5]


01. Main Title (4:14)
02. Pop-Out! (2:10)
03. Windows 98 (2:28)
04. Windows II (2:21)
05. Night Awakening (2:18)
06. Windows III (3:35)
07. Windows IV (3:56)
08. Hot Flashes (2:32)
09. The Cop and the Crate (2:33)
10. The Other Woman (2:15)
11. Claudia Visits Thorpe (4:06)
12. Act In (2:50)
13. You’ve Got Mail (3:16)
14. Preparation (2:10)
15. Agon (2:15)
16. A Visit from Thorpe: Part 1 (5:05)
17. A Visit from Thorpe: Part 2 (1:32)
18. The Unveiling (2:43)
19. Rear Window (1:28)


Visit MovieScore Media‘s website.


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