Peter Gregson’s latest film score: Blackbird
The award-winning British composer and cellist Peter Gregson has written this subtle and moving soundtrack for Roger Michell’s film, Blackbird. Released today, the album mirrors the film’s interplay of complex emotions. Described by The New Yorker as “working at the forefront of the new music scene”, Peter Gregson employs clean lines, sparse textures and bold melodies in his Blackbird score, recorded with a fourteen-piece ensemble: “Less is more,” he observes, “especially in a film with a cast of only eight, which takes place in a house inside of one weekend. There are shifts in tone and emotion, and strong dramatic performances.”
“Roger’s film deals with what happens when a person who freely chooses to put an end to their suffering runs into the petty squabbles that exist in every family,” notes Gregson. “I set out to write a score that reflects the pain of everyone involved but without being sentimental. Bach, who lost so many of his children during their infancy, understood life’s fragility and knew how to find solace and comfort in music. I hope that Blackbird’s soundtrack complements the big emotions that run beneath its surface and eventually explode into full view.”
Hailed by Variety as a “class act”, Blackbird tells the story of a terminally ill woman’s plan to take her own life surrounded by and with the help of her loved ones. Their farewell weekend turns sour, however, as family members revisit and magnify old conflicts and fall out over her final wishes.
As he explained in an interview given at the premiere at the Toronto Film Festival last September, composers can become involved at different stages of the film-making process. In the case of Blackbird, shooting had finished and it was once editing was under way that a member of the crew began playing tracks from his critically acclaimed debut Deutsche Grammophon album, Recomposed by Peter Gregson: Bach – The Cello Suites, alongside the footage. This led to an invitation for him to score the film as a whole and so to his creation of a carefully nuanced soundtrack, into which some of the tracks from his Recomposed album are woven.
Blackbird boasts a glittering cast of fine ensemble actors. Academy Award winners Susan Sarandon and Kate Winslet respectively play the mother and the eldest of her two daughters. The line-up also includes Mia Wasikowska, Lindsay Duncan, Rainn Wilson and Sam Neill. The screenplay is based on that of the 2014 Danish film Silent Heart, which revealed the pathos and dramatic tension that arise when unresolved family resentments are confronted by the finality of assisted suicide.
Following its premiere last autumn, the Telegraph wrote that Blackbird “may be the most beautifully complete film you’ll see all year”. The Hollywood News, meanwhile, singled out the soundtrack for particular praise: “The music is noticeable but never intrusive and the score overall by Peter Gregson, is truly exceptional and one of the film’s strengths.”
The release of this soundtrack coincides with the film’s simultaneous arrival in cinemas.