The Matrix (Soundtrack) by Don Davis



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The Matrix by Don Davis

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The Matrix

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The Matrix (Soundtrack) by Don Davis

The Matrix
Don Davis
Varese Sarabande Records (1999)

Rating: 7/10

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Listen to this soundclip of The MatrixMain Title/ Trinity Infinity (347 kb)

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“There is a feeling, a mystery of 'what the heck is goin' on here?" that permeates almost the entirety of the score.  A very specific musical personality was established in Don Davis' work for THE MATRIX, one that would go on to help separate the eventual franchise for any other.”

A Sound is Born
Review by Christopher Coleman

Composed, Orchestrated, Conducted, and Produced by Don Davis
Co-Produced by Robert Townson
Released by Varese Sarabande on May 4, 1999

Hollywood itself had no idea that it needed a wake up call.  Towards the end of the 20th century writer/directors, Andy and Larry Wachowski, decided to issue one anyway.  In an industry that had fallen prey to uninspired laziness, the two, relative-unknowns would shake up popular culture as well as the industry with their release of THE MATRIX.

The film was a multilayered, visual feast that combined great western philosophical premises with eastern religion with cinematic styles also from both occidental and oriental realms.  The end result was a movie like no other.  While the essence of the one layer of the tale can be summed up in saying it is about a war between man and machine, where machines have enslaved the human race, and mankind is fighting for its freedom again, there is much more to uncover details and motivations of this film.  Helping to give further shape to this film, which would become a mega-franchise, was it's genre fusing music.

For THE MATRIX a film which could have been scored completely with live orchestra, synthetic orchestra, or with a number of source cues, an interesting blend was achieved.  While Jason Bentley, with input from Don Davis and the Wachowski Brothers, chose modern source cues from the realm of electronic music, Don Davis composed an organic, orchestral score, employing techniques rarely used in feature film score composition.

Right from the onset of the film, and subsequent score release by Varese Sarabande, Davis sets the tone for the orchestral portion of the film's music.  "Main Title/Trinity Infinity" (1) delivers an "otherworldly" introduction into THE MATRIX.  We quickly hear that Davis means to keep us on edge.  With minimalist precision we are brought into the Wachowski's world with one of the score's main elements: brass seemingly reflecting off of one another.  This technique is employed in THE MATRIX and its following sequels whenever something beyond the rules of the "real world" take place - a musical reminder of the environment.  Soon the track builds into a pensive bit of strings, prepared piano, and claps of percussion.  As the character, Trinity, fights to make her escape, the score continues to methodically press forward until we are treated to another full orchestral burst. 

Don Davis rivals the work of Eliot Goldenthal or John Frizzell as he moves into the unconformtable realms of the atonal for tracks like "Unable to Speak" (2) and "Power Plant" (3).  In the film, the audience is given a bit of an emotional break as Neo is newly freed from the Matrix.  "Welcome to the Real World" (4) is a soft cue with light strings and later solo soprano vocal.

The latter half of the soundtrack returns to the rich style introduced in track 1, as Don Davis makes thorough use of the "reflective" brass and strings, climactic anvil strikes, bellowing, deep moans also from the brass section and subtlties from the prepared piano.  All of the above help drive the story to its climactic moments.  Davis delivers a rhythmic introduction to another full-tilt action piece in "The Hotel Ambush" (5).  As the crew of The Nebuchadnezzar make there way back to their "secret" entrance into the The Matrix, the Lafayette Hotel, they discover that a trap has been set by the agents and police.  As a result the conga and string intro is interrupted by Davis' string shrills and brass which are finally lead back to the machine-like music previously used for Neo's construct-training. We hear one of the first performance of what could be called Morpheus' theme, as Neo and Trinity finally rescue him from the government building at the onset of "Ontological Shock" (9).  This same theme is repeated in THE MATRIX RELOADED as Morpheus addresses the people of Zion.  At the conclusion of the same track we also clearly hear the Neo/Trinity love theme introduced - a theme which will become much more pronounced in THE MATRIX RELOADED AND REVOLUTIONS. 

Composer Don Davis' work for THE MATRIX is one of the most well-integrated works in recent memory.  There is a feeling, a mystery of 'what the heck is goin' on here?" that permeates almost the entirety of the score.  A very specific musical personality was established in Don Davis' work for THE MATRIX, one that would go on to help separate the eventual franchise for any other. Still, while a detailed work, the score only represents one-half the entire musical texture of the film.  The other half is comprised of the carefully selected source cues which comprise Maverick Records release THE MATRIX: MUSIC FROM THE MOTION PICTURE.  It's sad that this release is only 30 minutes but evenso, it is well worth the price of admission.   THE MATRIX  is not the type of score that some will find a delightful listen a part from the film itself; however, those who love the films and those can appreciate the detailed complexity of Davis work will find this soundtrack an ongoing treat.

Rating: 7/10


"Fans who love Goldenthal-like strings and unapologetic orchestral action (for a change) would find this a refreshing and energizing addition to this year's collection." ***

Helen Sans - Cinemusic Reviews
The Matrix

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Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Main Title/ Trinity Infinity 3:53  ****
2 Unable to Speak 2:26  ***
3 The Power Plant 2:40  ****
4 Welcome to the Real World 2:25  ****
5 The Hotel Ambush 5:22  ***
6 Exit Mr. Hat 1:20  ****
7 A Virus 1:32  ***
8 Bullet-Time 1:09  ***
9 Ontological Shock 3:31  ****
10 Anything is Possible 6:48  ***

Total Running Time





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