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A Single Shot by Atli Örvarsson

A Single Shot

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A Single Shot (Soundtrack) by Atli Örvarsson










A Single Shot (Soundtrack) by Atli Örvarsson

A Single Shot
Composed by Atli Örvarsson
MovieScore Media (2013)

Rating: 3/10

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“...if the rating seems harsh, then it is only a reflection of what harsh music this truly is.”

Atonal for Your Sins
Review by Edmund Meinerts


A dark psychological thriller, A SINGLE SHOT sees Sam Rockwell playing John Moon, a down-on-his-luck hunter who accidentally shoots and kills a girl, finds a large sum of money on her person and ends up on the run from criminals who are after that money. The music for this difficult story is provided by Icelandic composer and Remote Control “graduate” ATLI ÖRVARSSON. Ordinarily, the combination of thriller and RC composer tends to result in largely electronic (and, frankly, largely awful) scores of drones and drum loops; his concurrent score to EVIDENCE is exactly such an effort. For A SINGLE SHOT however, at the urging of director David Rosenthal, the composer was led down an entirely different and even more challenging path.

ÖRVARSSON likens his time working on A SINGLE SHOT to a master’s course in modern classical music, citing ARVO PÄRT, GYÖRGI LIGETI and JOHN TAVENER as some of the composers whose music he researched. Make no mistake about it, this is extremely difficult music to stomach on an album which is completely devoid of warmth. Essentially, the curiously structured MovieScore Media/Kronos album can be divided into two portions: the stark, lonely “thematic” material in the first three and final cues, and the outright atonal suspense contained in the three lengthy “John Moon Variations” (4-6) in the middle.

The score’s only recurring motif, an elusive three-note descending affair, is immediately introduced on a sparse solo piano in “A Single Shot” (1) before transitioning to a cold solo violin over uneasy, pitch-wavering strings in “Opening” (2) and “Remembering” (3). Similar performances in the first half of “Finale” (7) then yield to an adagio of sorts in the second half that is essentially the only hint of traditional tonality in the entire score. And even here, the strings have a strained, whining aspect that prohibits any sort of comfort. On any other score, this would be the most alienating material. Here, it’s the most listener-friendly.

As for the “John Moon Variations” (4-6), only listeners accustomed to the bleak world of modern classical music are likely to glean any enjoyment from them. The first two and first half of the third movement contain little more than an endless array of string textures that slide up and down the scale with no regard for pitch whatsoever. Occasionally, such as the outset of “Late Night Call” (5), there will be a passage of that rapid plucking effect that always seems to call to mind the multiple scurrying legs of spiders or insects. The second half of “Showdown” (6) contains the score’s only outburst of outright terror as the strings erupt into a chaotic mass of skittering and slashing.

Scores such as these are always difficult to judge and review. On the one hand, it is certainly an achievement on a technical level and shows a side to ÖRVARSSON’s talents that few probably suspect even exists. It is easy to imagine this music fulfilling its role of shortening the fingernails of those watching the film, too. But on album, it is simply far too inaccessible to endorse in any way; listening to the entire score on end is an utterly depressing experience, and if the rating seems harsh, then it is only a reflection of what harsh music this truly is.


Rating: 3/10


Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 A Single Shot 1:06  **
2 Opening 3:10  **
3 Remembering 4:14  **
4 The John Moon Variations Movement 1: The Shot 6:53  **
5 The John Moon Variations Movement 2: Late Night Call 8:25  **
6 The John Moon Variations Movement 3: Showdown 9:41  **
7 Finale 8:12  ***
  Total Running Time (approx) 42 minutes  


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