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District 9 by Clinton Shorter

District 9

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 District 9 (Soundtrack) by Clinton Shorter
District 9 (Poster and Memorabilia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

District 9 (Soundtrack) by Clinton Shorter

District 9
Composed by Clinton Shorter
Sony Pictures Ent. (2009)

Rating: 6/10

Buy District 9:  Prince Caspian (soundtrack) by Clinton Shorter from Amazon.com Buy The Time Traveler's Wife (Soundtrack) by Mychael Danna from iTunes

 

 

“Those who loved the film may find CLINTON SHORTER's score a pleasing reminder of the unique movie-going experience of DISTRICT 9...at least until such time that it's available on DVD or Blu Ray.”

Grounded Exoticism
Review by Christopher Coleman

Composer Clinton Shorter

"There's a lot of technology in the film, and we really wanted that to be represented in the score too. So it's a hybrid score for sure, of orchestra and synths, which is right up my alley."

Clinton Shorter


Read the full interview with Clinton Shorter

Director Neill Blomkamp's DISTRICT 9 is a triumph in many ways. While I don't believe it to be as revolutionary as a STAR WARS or THE MATRIX were, there's hardly an argument to be heard against it's the film's many successes. One of the biggest, or at least most talked about, successes is that of the box office. Boasting an ROI that rarely a feature film ever sees, DISTRICT 9 was decidedly profitable after only its first weekend - raking in some $37 million at a production cost of $30 million. The reason for such success can be credited, to varying degrees, to the savvy viral marketing, the overwhelmingly positive critical buzz, and the name of "Peter Jackson" hovering over the film's title. However, we know that the best marketing, star power, and even critical praise doesn't ensure a film's financial success. Instead, Neill Blomkamp's crafty little film has won fans over because it is simply a well made movie...on almost every level.  DISTRICT 9 is throw-back to the lost art of making the audience, not merely watch, but experience the story. And in the case of DISTRICT 9, it is a story that we can hardly predict or anticipate. We don't know the actors. We don't know the story and the sensation that so many are raving about is nothing more than "freshness," "newness," or this thing called "originality." Blomkamp so very slyly mixes reality with fantasy and sucks us all right in. Now, with a movie constructed in such a unique way, swinging from gritty documentary, to sci-fi/action, and back again, the demand upon the film's original score would also be a truly unique challenge for the composer. Just as Blomkamp, after the termination of his Halo-movie project, returned to this original premise found in his short, ALIVE IN JOBURG, he returned to a previous collaborator and friend, composer CLINTON SHORTER.

CLINTON SHORTER's score is a peculiar thing. Some are underwhelmed with this score as stand-alone experience, while those who've seen the movie say that they didn't notice any score at all. Ah. The Golden Goal of the Composer achieved. The music becomes an indistinguishable part of the whole. What Shorter faced was the difficult task of keeping us locked into the matter-of-factness of the film, while also giving the audience room to experience and enjoy the telling. His score must journey back to the Johannesburg, South Africa of the 1980s, and bring us face to face with racism and the fears that fuel it. Certainly, this is fertile ground for documentary film-making. Now, apartheid has been well chronicled in film over the last 30 years, but the racism we see in DISTRICT 9 is not a black/white issue, but a human/non-human one. Conscious of it or not, audiences are affected by the film's score, but what happens when the film, itself, defies convention?  This late Summer entry does just that and what CLINTON SHORTER has to accomplish is no small feat.

CLINTON SHORTER, really writes two scores at once: one for a documentary and one for a sci-fi/action film. Cleverly, he layers the one atop the other, making the overall experience cohesive. The film's documentary elements demanded something ethereal, brooding just below the surface of things, augmenting the unfolding story point for point. In such moments it keeps us serious and in tune with the information being disseminated...and slowly draws us in. When the action sequences finally kick into gear in the film's third act, we have already been covertly transitioned from documentary to action-film and Shorter's music plays an important role in this. The shift in the story does demands an equal shift in the tone of the score. The tempo quickens. Percussions become even more numerous and aggressive. Layered in amongst these spotlight elements, Shorter brings in the vocals and string motifs that were established in the first half of the film.

DISTRICT 9's musical identity is captured succinctly in track 1, "District 9," where ambient synths are layered with African vocals.  This sets the serious, documentary tone. The solo vocalist appropriately sings of "the mysteries of life" via lyrics which combine two indigenous African languages: Fulani and Malinke.  The effect is grounded exoticism. The second half of the track plays as counterpoint to the first, where pensive, layered strings low brass melody, deep percussion accents, and militaristic drums build to a forceful climax. The denouement of the piece, at last, provides us with a bit of emotional heart as the string section plays through a poignant progression. Whether he includes electronic elements, moments of dissonance, or middle eastern flavors, the backbone of the score remains the ideas introduced in the opening track. The end result is an original that works perfectly in the film. At the same time, DISTRICT 9 may not be the first score you reach for when in the mood an action or sci-fi score. The blessing the score was within the film slightly curses it's playability outside of that context. My in-film rating here would comfortably be a 7 or 8, but taking stand-alone-listenability into account (as we always do), my rating must be lowered a bit. The fandom over this film has been furious, yet I'm not sure if this fandomium reaches down to owning the music as so often happens with hit films.  Those who loved the film may find CLINTON SHORTER's score a pleasing reminder of the unique movie-going experience of DISTRICT 9...at least until such time that it's available on DVD or Blu Ray.
 

Rating: 6/10

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Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 District 9 1:14  ****
2 I Want That Arm 2:13  ***
3 She Calls 1:35  ***
4 Exosuit 3:15  ***
5 Harvesting Material 1:46  ***
6 Heading Home 1:14  ***
7 A Lot of Secrets 2:27  ***
8 Back to D9 1:45  ***
9 Wilkus is Still Running 2:57  ***
10 Get Him Talking 2:05  ***
11 Prawnkus 4:00  ***
  Total Running Time (approx) 30 minutes  


 

 

 
   

 

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