CD Review: The Twilight Saga: New Moon

Since I’m not a teenage girl or a middle-aged woman, I don’t really get the appeal of Stephenie Meyer’s phenomenally popular Twilight series of vampire tales. (Yes, I realize how sexist that sounds, but from what I keep reading, that is apparently the target market for the books.)

When I finally saw the first film a few months ago, it wasn’t nearly as awful as I expected, mainly due to the chemistry between Robert Patinson as Edward and Kristen Stewart as Bella. One major disappointment, however, was Carter Burwell’s score. So even though I doubt I’ll spend $12.50 to see THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON in the theater, I was excited to hear what Alexandre Desplat would do with the sequel.

Desplat previously worked with director Chris Weitz on 2007’s THE GOLDEN COMPASS. Many fans of Desplat’s earlier work were disappointed by the composer’s entry into big-budget Hollywood fantasy. And I expect fans of his trademark delicate orchestrations won’t find much to enjoy in this score either. But if you give it a chance, there is much to admire.

First and foremost, there’s that ravishing main theme. Set against a bed of churning sixteenth notes in the lower strings and a sighing 3-note countermelody, Desplat lays a haunting theme of simple 4-note motifs moving sequentially in the piano. When the strings take over at the key modulation, you can feel your blood churning as a new moon rises.

Twilight New Moon soundtrack
“New Moon”
“Dreamcatcher”

Desplat utilizes an electric cello subtly in tracks like “Werewolves” and he channels his inner Zimmer in action cues like “Blood Sample” and “Wolves v. Vampire.” And what would a Desplat score be without a waltz? “Volturi Waltz,” voiced by the trumpet and strings, is not the tinkly, classical piano-driven waltz of earlier scores, carrying instead menace and danger, appropriate for a coven of vampires.

“Memories of Edward” introduces a melancholy 5-note motif and there is real emotion in passionate cues like “Romeo & Juliet,” “Edward Leaves,” and “Almost a Kiss.” “Dreamcatcher” tenderly introduces the love theme that will later soar in “Marry Me, Bella.” But the score waxes and wanes according to that stunning main theme.

Fans of the score can’t complain about not getting their money’s worth, as Desplat’s music nearly fills up the entire CD running time. And, as to be expected, the London Symphony Orchestra performs the score beautifully. Though Desplat credits the electric cello and guitar soloists in the CD booklet, where’s the love for the piano soloist? There is also a lovely dedication in memory of Desplat’s mentor, Maurice Jarre.

Desplat wrote a score that I imagine many readers of the books may hear subconsciously in their heads–Gothic horror with pounding percussion and col legno strings fighting against the soaring romantic strings, all of which has been filtered, at least in this case, through Desplat’s French sensibilities. If you listen to the score on headphones, fans of the composer will recognize rhythms and subtle orchestrations (especially the flute, celeste, and the aforementioned piano) that definitely mark this as his work.

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON may not be the “great” score that I keep hoping to hear from Desplat, but it is a worthy addition to his ever-growing canon that grows richer with repeated listens. And if it turns on a few Twilight fans to the world of film music, then all the better. Either way, this is one score that is anything but bloodless.

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