"O" (Soundtrack) by Jeff Danna



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"O" (Soundtrack) by Jeff Danna

"O, You are Well Tuned Now!"
Review by Christopher Coleman


"O" (Soundtrack) by Jeff Danna


"O" (Soundtrack) by Jeff Danna

Category  |   Score

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



Real Audio Clips


Track 2 - Hawk

Track 13 - Sleep




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Jeff Danna


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Composed and Produced by Jeff Danna
Orchestrations by Andrew Lockington
Shira Kammen (Vielle), Margaret Tindemans (Bass-Viol),
Brice Martin (Flutes), Ethan James (Hurdy Gurdy), Glen Holmen (Upright Bass),
Harper Tasche (Harp), Russ Miller (Drums, Percussions),
Dan Greco (Dulcimer. vibes), Jeff Danna (Keyboards, Lap steel)
Released by Varese Sarabande Records, September 2001

"O, you are well tuned now!  But I'll set down the pegs that make this music,
as honest as I am. " Othello (2.1.199)

Director Tim Blake Nelson's "re-imagining" (seems to be the popular way to put it these days) of Shakespeare's Othello, entitled "O," goes far beyond some of the "Shakesploitation" in recent years.  While Kenneth Brannagh's Othello is one of the best retellings of Shakespeare in the last ten years, the same cannot be said for a number of other remakes.  Enter Tim Blake Nelson's 2001 film which earned him the Best Director Award at the Seattle Film Festival.  Nelson's story of Odin, Hugo, and Desi is firmly based on Shakespeare's' Othello, Iago, and Desdemona but is packaged in a contemporary setting as like Romeo + Juliet.  A modernized-Othello could easily fall into the ranks of the blasphemous, but through Blake's attention to detail and deep, emotional score, O manages to powerfully communicate the same important themes as the original.

"Contemporizing" popular stories like these just ooze with the marketing possibilities, especially when it comes to the soundtrack.  A tale revolving around envy, love, hate, and treachery taking place in a high-school setting? In the true-style of Igao/Hugo, a marketer could have a field day manipulating their target audience into gobbling up a soundtrack filled with music by any number of MTV-artists.   It is almost a given these days that a film's soundtrack needs to be packed with today's top gangsta-rap artists and so on.  Indeed, a fairly-well marketed "Music Inspired by O" is starting to sell, but, thankfully, the official soundtrack, released by Varese Sarabande features the menacing score composed by Jeff Danna instead.

Jeff Danna (not to be confused with Mychael Danna), provides a rich, descriptive score that is definitely worthy of a Shakespearean tragedy.  Danna's score for O begins just after an engaging, tone-setting-performance of Ave Maria (1) from Giuseppe Verdi's Othello.  The vocal performance of Renata Scotto is deceptively beautiful, not quite preparing the listener for the tragic music that awaits.  

Hawk (2) brings the listener directly into the mournful, intensity of the film.  It establishes the score's main theme and features the use instruments from the Middle Ages such as the Hurdy-Gurdy (Viella a Roué or wheel-fiddle) and Viola da Gamba.  The introduction of the exotic instruments is what sets this score a part.   Danna's work here has an rare, mystical quality that only a handful of scores, in recent memory, have been able to capture.  O can be added to the short list of Christopher Young's The Gift and Alejandro Amenábar's The Others.  The tempo and tone of the score rarely changes, aside from rising levels of intensity as the plot progresses.  Like the character, Hugo and his inspiration, Iago, the tempo remains methodically dark in purpose throughout most of this score.

Shakespeare being brought to each succeeding generation is a good, even necessary, thing.  "Re-imaginings" such as "O" do just that even without employing the distinctive Shakespearean English.  Best of all, by foregoing the contemporary-pop-route, the creators of such films further expose successive generations to the potency of well-crafted, orchestral film music.  For this Blake should be commended, as should Danna for delivering the goods.  Director Ridley Scott commented that elements of Hans Zimmer's Gladiator sounded like "a thousand years of bloodline."  Even though, O is a contemporary film about teenage-love, hate, and betrayal, such a statement could be made about Jeff Danna's well-tuned score. 

Track Listing and Ratings


Title Time


1 Ave Maria - Othello by Verdi 3:55  ****
2 Hawk 4:56  ****
3 Victory and Defeat 1:21  ***
4 The Scarf 1:34  ****
5 Spinning a Web 2:46  ****
6 Confrontation 1:02  ****
7 Odin's Vigil 2:25  ***
8 A Devilish Plan 3:09  ***
9 Hawks vs. Bulldogs 3:44  ***
10 Murderous Intentions 1:48  ***
11 Odin's Rage 2:08  ***
12 Highwaymen 3:05  ***
13 Sleep 4:53  ****
14 My Life is Over 1:59  ****
15 To Take Flight 3:59  ***

Total Running Time


"O" (Soundtrack) by Jeff Danna

*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.


Referenced Reviews
The GiftGladiator  |  The Others



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