Waiting for Superman Composed by Christophe Beck
Lakeshore Records (2010)
Soundclips below from AmazonMP3
SUPERMAN is music that almost certainly works better in context than
out. Unless you are fond of those albums like Thomas Newman’s
“American Beauty” and the Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke score for
“The Insider”, then keep waiting. ”
Beck goes minimal for “Waiting”
Review by Steve Townsley
A score for a documentary is a very tricky thing. Documentaries are
certainly subject-driven and intended to illuminate and educate the
viewer. I have read, in the past, that “purist” afficianados of the
Classical music genre often decry film music as being “too manipulative”,
though this strikes me as something of a quandary, as I find music
intentionally evocative. Taking an auditory medium and aligning it with a
visual medium steps too far beyond the acceptable for some, however.
Film music intends to make the view feel something, if only
subconsciously, about the subject being viewed. But in a documentary,
which strives to tell a story, albeit a non-fiction one, is music still
manipulative, or does it fill some other void?
CHRISTOPHE BECK’s WAITING FOR SUPERMAN made me ponder exactly what purpose
the music fills in a documentary, and whether that it is intended to stand
alone, as music. Even as a film music listener, myself, I know that seems
to smack of heresy. But I’ve heard a few documentary scores before, from
the haunting (Phillip Glass’ “Fog of War”) to the epic (Howard Shore’s
“Looking for Richard”). Beck’s “Waiting” tends to lean more towards the
Phillip Glass end of the spectrum, being sparse, gently repetitive, and at
no point overwhelmingly emotive. Good thing/bad thing? Depends on what you
want out of music, film music in particular.
Cues like “Teacher of the Year”, “KIPP”, and “Aftermath” are a bit
melancholy if you’re actively listening to them out of context, and they
have a quiet appeal. The shortest cues, Track 6 (“3 2 1 Tenure”) at :41
seconds, Track 10 (“Rheebellion”) at :56 are not so much musical
statements, but rather more than the musical equivalent of punctuation.
Many of the short cues stick to a pattern and then reverb into oblivion,
which does provide a way to transition out of the established “mood”. The
effect doesn’t make for good stand-alone music, but in the album, the
subliminal-silence-before-the-next track does propel the album along.
The score’s real high-water marks are in the 18th and 19th tracks, “Roll
Out” and “The Lottery”, appropriate close to the close of the album. These
4+ minute cues actually let Beck do a bit of musical “exploration”,
weaving in and out of tense guitar rhythms and plaintive piano chords.
These aren’t powerhouse cues, but they were never meant to be.
The album’s penultimate closer is something like a theme for Hope in
“Aftermath”, which is the light at the end of a very ponderous,
minimalistic score, before the final eponymous WAITING FOR SUPERMAN, a
restatement of the opening track “Juice, Shoes, Backpack”. The music has
completed the cyclical journey that the documentary upon which the
documentary has taken the viewer, leaving us on the same musical doorstep
where we were started.
WAITING FOR SUPERMAN is music that almost certainly works better in
context than out. Unless you are fond of those albums like Thomas Newman’s
“American Beauty” and the Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke score for “The
Insider”, then keep waiting.