Insomnia (Soundtrack) by David Julyan



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Insomnia (Soundtrack) by David Julyan

"Sleeper Hit"
Review by
Matt Peterson


Insomnia by David Julyan


Insomnia (Soundtrack) by David Julyan

Category  |   Score

Originality 9
Music Selection 8
Composition 8
CD Length 8
Track Order 8
Performance 8
Final Score 8/10






David Julyan


Quick Quotes

Why the soundtrack is good is also why it is not necessarily a great CD to listen to.  It is rich, dark, and atmospheric, and most importantly, it is very specific to the film, so unless you are really into this type of music (i.e. Ingram Marshall) or you love the film, it may not be for you as a purchase." ***.5

Glenn McClanan - SountrackNet Reviews




Music composed and produced by David Julyan
Executive Producer: Robert Townsen
Synthesizers & Programming: David Julyan
Orchestrated by Martyn Harry
Conducted by Nick Ingman
Orchestra Leader: Gavyn Wright
Music Editor: Alex Gibson
Released by Varese Sarabande – May 14th, 2002

A new composer/director team seems to be emerging. Coming off such projects as Following and the independent hit Memento, director Christopher Nolan and composer David Julyan have produced some first rate material, both musically, and in the realm of cinema. Nolan’s newest, high-profile project, Insomnia, brings this talented director out from the independent shadows, and into the limelight of major studio pictures. Insomnia, a remake of a Norwegian film by the same name, is an excellent psychological thriller/noir. Al Pacino stars as Will Dormer (a take on the Spanish word dormir, which means “to sleep”), a hardened Los Angeles cop who is called to remote Nightmute, Alaska to capture a serial killer, dodge an internal affairs investigation, and deal with his own personal ghosts. The film also stars Hilary Swank and Robin Williams, who takes an interesting turn, playing the killer with a unique blend of coldness and humanism. It is an engaging film that showcases some of the very best talent in Hollywood. Acting, editing, cinematography, sound design, writing, and of course music, come together to create one of this year’s strongest films.

David Julyan, coming off the success of his score to Memento, is quickly becoming a household name in the film score community. His style is distinct, and I for one am very taken by it. Julyan blends electronic textures with flowing string passages, which usually follow a similar chord progression, creating an immersive sound that is unique and original. His themes are never overly complex, and frequently, his harmony teeters on the edge of dissonance. His visceral sound is very atmospheric, and exemplifies the capabilities of minimalist underscore. This style, if used properly, can be every bit as effective and enjoyable as a score that revels in orchestral complexity. Insomnia is a pure example of these attributes. There is something about its sound that I find captivating and compelling. It’s difficult to put into words. In reference to other work, Insomnia blends the visceral/dissonant moments of Bernard Herrmann, the flowing beauty of The Thin Red Line, with other driving motifs to create a unique, original sound. I must warn you that not everyone will enjoy this style. It is somewhat of an acquired taste, and may create a less than fulfilling listen for some, due to its somewhat simple and repetitive nature.

Varese Sarabande presents what appears to be the film’s entire score -- nearly 60 minutes. Fortunately, this album is not plagued with the “inspired by” songs that were peppered throughout the Memento album. This is pure, unaltered Julyan. The score has a flowing quality, making distinctions between some tracks difficult. Its somewhat repetitive nature, and the fact that some tracks are not very well developed, dissuades me from giving the score higher marks. Despite these points, there is enough varied, strong, and original material here to keep the listening experience interesting.

Highlights are plentiful. The moody “Opening Titles/Blood Drips,” immediately brings forth the haunting, engrossing strings, and their major/minor chord progressions. Interspersed are pulsing bass strings, and interesting electronic percussion. Next, “The Glacier” presents the score’s majestic theme, denoting the natural wonder of the film’s setting. After a piano interlude, strings swell, gentle harps flirt in the background, and dissonant electronics foreshadow the darkness yet to come. Just hearing this music conjures up images of untouched wilderness. In the film, this music enhances impressively composed shots of a seaplane flying toward Nightmute. The string motif heard is used throughout the score. “Fog” is a track of effective, dissonant suspense music, which breaks into sections of unique, aggressive electronic percussion. It literally is fog in musical form, feeling thick and foreboding. In “Call to Haps Widow,” the score takes an emotional turn--only strings are heard for the majority of the track, producing the semi-dissonant harmonies we are by now accustomed to hearing. This style has a tendency to get under the listener’s skin; Its simplicity and unique combination of instruments sticks with you. “Walter’s Lake House” and “Kay’s Bag” features an interesting, driving motif that combines various string elements, until all instruments but the bass section cut off, allowing the deep, organic sounds of the low strings to fill the musical space with an interesting staccato tune--an engaging cue. “Walter’s Lake House” also features some angry electronic elements, combined with strings, creating a dissonant, unsettling cue that, despite its underdeveloped portions, remains effective. The score comes to a thematic and musical climax with “Let Me Sleep” and “Closing Titles,” where the motifs and themes heard previously come together. “Let Me Sleep” matures into a triumphant, yet tragic restatement of previous passages, while “Closing Titles” is essentially a suite for the film, giving us film score fans a nice warm feeling as we revel in an effective arrangement of the musical motifs, themes, and choices that have come before. Sometimes, this type of piece can grow tiresome after listening to previous tracks, but not in the case of Insomnia.

Once again, I must reiterate my warning: Many of you may not enjoy this score. Its style is unique, and not characteristic of the majority of film music heard today. It is a simple, dissonant, yet mildly thematic work that revels in its unique sound. Its blending of rich strings, peculiar harmonies, and unique electronics creates an original and engaging listen. In its simplicity, great emotional feeling and tension are emoted--to a degree I did not expect. It is an engrossing work that sticks with you, and improves with each listen. However, due to its somewhat repetitive nature and lack of development in some tracks, I cannot give it an outstanding rating. Insomnia is a work that is well tailored for the film it accompanies, and fortunately, holds up in album form. Some may find listening to it as a cure to insomnia, while others may remain wide awake in admiration.

Track Listing and Ratings


Title Time


1 Opening Titles/Blood Drips 2:47  ****
2 The Glacier  3:02  ****
3 Kay's Theme 3:41  ***
4 Kay's Bag 2:15  ****
5 Fog 5:12  ****
6 Will Hides the Gun 2:11  ***
7 Call to Hap's Widow 3:43  ****
8 Crimescene 2:23  ***
9 The Dead Dog 3:30  ***
10 Walter's Phone Call 3:22  ****
11 Kay's Funeral 1:19  ****
12 Walter's Apartment 3:36  ****
13 Ellie's Theme 1:50  ***
14 Will Confronts Walter 2:42  ***
15 Will's Confession 2:33  ****
16 Walter's Lake House 5:47  ***
17 "Let Me Sleep" 2:42  ****
18 Closing Titles 4:05  *****

Total Running Time


Insomnia (Soundtrack) by David Julyan

*The Experience-O-Meter displays the track to track listening experience of this soundtrack based on the 5-Star rating given to each track.  It provides a visual depiction of the ebbs and flows of the CD's presentation of the soundtrack.


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