By Andrew Wick
John Williams’ first score of the century (according to mathematicians) has arrived. I have eagerly anticipated this arrival since I first heard John Williams was attached. My wait has paid off. A.I. is a musical masterpiece. The music is so emotional that it is almost overwhelming to listen to. The score is separated into two different styles. The first is minimalistic and experimental, quite unlike anything the Maestro has written before. The second is pure emotion and thematic, familiar yet still ground breaking writing. It has been a day now since I picked up the CD and it has not left my player since. I just cannot get tired of this music.
Track 1: The Mecha World ***** (5 out of 5)
A somewhat odd title for what appears on screen.This track underscores David and Gigolo Joe’s departure from Rouge City and the journey to Manhattan. Most of the track is based upon a single motif that builds and descends upon itself. The music is pure excitement and grandeur. When I first listened to it I just wanted it to keep building and building forever. The best of the minimalist tracks.
Track 2: Abandoned in the Woods **** (4 out of 5)
This next track underscores Monica’s abandonment of David in (you guess it) the woods. The heart breaking scene utilizes a rising and falling string section not unlike that used in Bernard Herrmann’s Vertigo. The music climaxes with a very disjointed and unsettling banging of the Piano. Very heartbreaking within the film.
Track 3: Replicas *** (3 out of 5)
This track may be one of many homages to other Kubrick films. The overall sound is similar to the music used to represent the Monolith in 2001 by Ligeti. It does not copy in any way mind you but merely has the same tone. This track underscores David’s discovery of the lab he was built in. In one of my favorite parts of the score an all male choir suddenly builds into an awesome climax as the camera zooms in on David (this music was also used in one of the trailers). The very end of the track has David jumping off the building. The music almost wants to break out into something from Close Encounters but doesn’t. I only give it 3 stars because it is mostly ambience.
Track 4: Hide and Seek **** (4 out of 5)
This is a really fun track. It is the music where David annoys and pesters his mother to be. It’s similar to something that might be in Hook (once again, only in tone not in substance). I instantly fell in love with it in the theaters.
Track 5: For Always
To be honest, I have not listened to this track. I always skip it and its counterpart at the end. While I appreciate Mr. Williams’ ability to compose for different mediums, it is not for me.
Track 6: Cybertronics *** (3 out of 5)
This section underscores the music when Monica and henry visit Martin in the cryofreezer (whatever you call it). This music is completely cold and devoid. It is very reminiscent of the Gayane Suite used in 2001. Again, I only give it 3 stars because it is mostly ambience.
Track 7: The Moon Rising **** (4 out of 5)
Probably the most controversial piece in the movie is contained within. For the chase scene before the Flesh Fair, Steven Spielberg requested the use of Techno styled music from John Williams. Mr. Williams delivers in something he’s never done before. The track starts with music from the trailer as the moon-balloon rises. About one minute in, the music shifts to a synth drum beat accompanied by an eastern flavored voice. The music soon fades out and the orchestra returns to deliver another stunning performance. When I saw the film in theaters I almost thought the techno part was source music. I think it detracts from the action on-screen and it breaks the rhythm of the orchestra. It just doesn’t fit with the visuals. A group of tron-like bikers are hunting down the main characters. The scene didn’t deserve a beat in my opinion. I don’t think this was really the Maestro’s fault though, this was what was requested.
Track 8: Stored Memories and Monica’s Theme **** (4 out of 5)
This music accompanies the scene where the advanced A.I.’s uncover David and when he finally finds the Blue Fairy. The first part is cold ambience but it soon breaks out into what is the very sentimental and emotional part of the score. The delicate piano solos and such just tug at the heart.
Track 9: Where Dreams are Born (End Credits) ***** (5 out of 5)
Wow! The end credits are so beautiful they demand to be listened to forever. A female solo sings wordlessly to Monica’s theme. The soloist, Barbara Bonney is amazing. I would put this up with the Hymn to the Fallen from Saving Private Ryan
Track 10: Rouge City **** (4 out of 5)
This track is a bit of an enigma for me. It seems like it is just parts of the first two tracks edited together. We get the same music from “Abandoned in the Woods” including the piano crashing at the end to begin with. I’m not completely sure this was ever in the film at this part of the movie. After that, the music shifts to the motif of the first track as our characters drive into a tunnel shaped like a woman’s head.
Track 11: The Search for the Blue Fairy ***** (5 out of 5)
This music accompanies David’s journey underwater. The beginning of the track gives us ambience with an occasional organ playing. This almost jests at the underwater carnival setting. The music turns beautiful on us as David sees the Blue Fairy. We get another solo from Barbara Bonney that appears in the trailer as well. Perfect music. It grows almost sad as the camera pulls back from the crashed Ferris wheel.
Track 12: The Reunion ***** (5 out of 5)
The climax of the movie as David finally finds his mother. The music is happy and sad at the same time. Instead of the brassy endings of Close Encounters andE.T. we get a delicate end to a wonderful movie. This track is similar in style to Track 8. It almost pains me to listen to it, it’s so sad. A brilliant end, one I will listen to for the rest of my life. It is interesting to note that Spielberg pulled an “E.T.” with the music. He asked Williams to conduct the music without a projector and Spielberg edited the movie to the music. You’ve got to love a working relationship like that.
Track 13: For Always
See track 5
I would rank this music in my top five scores of all time. I give it overall a perfect 5 out of 5. I’ve never have music connect with me so emotionally before. It’s unlike anything the Maestro has done before. I hope John Williams continues to write like this and continue to experiment. Even if he doesn’t, I’ll be listening. Thank you Mr.Williams.
Andrew “Wickenstein” Wick
By Brad Zint
It’s that time of the year again. No it’s not Christmas, New Year’s or Halloween. It’s better than that. This is the time where another Williams score is released, and the John Williams fan world are asking themselves the same, age-old questions. Ringing through our minds are the inquiries asked countless times, yet with each asking we seem to inevitably receive the same answers. Has he done it again? Will it be as good as the last ones? Has he gone beyond all expectations once more? The answers are yes, yes and yes.
When I heard that the AI movie score wasn’t supposed to attract attention to itself, I immediately conceived the idea that Williams would write a more background chord-type music that would play a supporting role to the vivid visual images and effects portrayed on screen. I was not entirely wrong, for most of the music is background for Spielberg’s directing genius. However, when the dialogue stops and the scene becomes serene, Williams’ score takes a predominant role with its gentle piano further adding a mysterioso effect. Such scenes in the movie were truly the only times I noticed the score. To me, this event of “not noticing” the musical score is truly an enigma, for half of my attention span focuses on the music within the films I watch. So in this respect, Williams has succeeded in providing a truly “don’t-pay-attention-to-little-ol’me” score. Yet the strange fact of the matter is that parts of this score are excellent even without the movie accompanying it. It’s almost as strange as AI itself…
I’m sure everyone has heard by now that the AI score seems to have parts of it which reflect previous works by Philip Glass and even Aaron Copland. To tell the truth, I’ve heard very little of Glass and only know Copland’s more western pieces, so I can’t be a great judge of the similarity ratio involved. However, I believe that we have to take in regard all the aspects of the music. Sad, triumphant, scary, and heroic themes of music are distinct from one another and have a certain method of reaching the listener. These methods have been imprinted in our minds. Mysterious music is associated to be slow, echoic, eerie, and reserved. Egyptian or Russian kinds of music are generally comprised of minor chords. We know marches to be brass-dominated with high-pitch woodwinds. It would be wrong of a composer to stray from those associations that listeners have adapted towards themes and in doing so might not fully achieve the necessary effect. So when looking at it this way, Williams has done exactly the effect desired and truly nothing wrong. He “read our minds” and imprinted the rhythmic, tonal and thematic patterns that correlate with AI, and perhaps in this case they were similar to the same patterns as Glass and Copland.
From a less sophisticated theory, there is so much music in the world today that the same notes are bound to appear twice anyway, especially in music which replicates the same emotions. I believe that we must look beyond what we feel to be similar and look onward to what is different. The brilliant aspect of Williams is his manipulation of orchestra. Perhaps he wrote some comparable notes to Glass and Copland, but chances are low that they both used the same instrumental feel to convey them. Look beyond the melody which may appear parallel and look to the background. This is where the originality lies. Different use of instruments, theme and variation, musical performance; these are the aspects which are original in Williams’ work. If we merely look at melodies and just disregard accompaniment, we are truly listening to something superficial. To see music superficially is truly corrupt, and the genius of music is how genuinely different it can get. Williams knows this, and AI is no exception to his rich musical “database-of-a-mind.”
The first 7 tracks, with the exception of track 5, are mostly the backdrop music often unnoticeable in the film. To me these tracks don’t serve as well without the exploits of David, Gigolo Joe and loveable Teddy. However, tracks 8 through 12 are my favorites because they are excellent stand-alone pieces with rich chords, instrumentations, and melodies. For most people it may take more than one sit-down listening to appreciate the rather complex melody lines. Williams uses the talented voice of Lara Fabian, and in some respects the vocal sound itself sounds similar to Horner’s Titanic vocals. But what made these vocal lines stronger in my opinion than Titanic’s is how they were not ruined by hard synthesizer editing/accompaniment. The voice sounds pure as opposed to the more electronic wishy-washy sound of the latter. Additionally, to my content they were not incredibly repetitive like how I found Titanic to be, and they were as usual well-accompanied with Williams’ orchestral writing talent.
The repeating two-note piano is of particular notice in the score. It truly sets the mood and mysterious pace. Simple, elegant and above all mystifying, Williams use of piano makes the score fantastic to listen to.
There are a few flaws in the score, however. on a very un-Williams-like level, in Track 8 on Monica’s Theme there is a very beautiful cue of a cello soloist, light strings and piano and it is unfortunately quite un-developed. I say this because all Williams melodies are incredibly well-developed in their theme and variation and instrumentation, but this rare instance surprised me. The rich cello plays the theme only for a short while and then the music moves on. But perhaps Williams had no choice. Maybe as the film’s plot pushed forward, its music did too. In any case, I would have wished to see more on that wonderful cello line.
The only other flaw I can think of is the title songs on tracks 5 and 13. The singing talent is there, the accompaniment is there, but something lacks. I do not believe that Williams’ greatest talents lay in songwriting, and this is shown in these songs. The AI melody does not fully correlate well with the lyrics, and the lyrics do not flow well with the melody. A truly bad combination. It’s amazing to see how those two opposites somehow managed to play together as well as they did. Don’t get me wrong: I do like those tracks (the duet one better though). I would’ve liked to see Williams work with Leslie Briscusse on this one, but I guess it could not work out
John Williams fans and enthusiasts: Buy this soundtrack if you haven’t already. I don’t think it will disappoint. Even for students like me, this score is a good one to have along as study music!
— Brad Zint
By Roald van der Laan
Looking back on my theories concerning the A.I. score (I posted this months ago), I can definitely say I wasn’t very far from the actual manifestation of the score.
One of my predictions was that Williams would write the score, classicly derived (Kuberisch, so to speak) and that the score would consist of cues that could have been written before the film. Like Kubrick used various existing pieces occasionally to underscore his films, the cues from A.I. all are quite different and tell their own story.
This is what makes A.I. such a great score. There isn’t really much consistency. The techno from “The Moon Rising”, the Morricone-like “Monica’s Theme”, the Katchaturian-like “Cybertronics”, the Philip Glass-inspired “Mecha World”, etc. But in the end, it forms a unified whole nonetheless.
I like the idea that each track on the CD is so different. It reminds me of the original E.T.-album. on that record, each track presented its own soundscape, its own themes. A.I. is just the same. What craftsmanship!
And the techno elements are great IMHO! Williams really gets it right! My only complaint is that it’s too short! This is coming from a guy who listens to Nine Inch Nails, Faithless, Korn or Massive Attack. Williams does more than just an average job. If he could write such a score for Minority Report I will be the first to buy it!
Williams, almost 70 years old and presenting some of the most energetic dance beats ever composed by a film composer! He needs to be credited for that, not critisized! We have heard his Star Wars, his Schindler’s List. Let him expand his musical horizons. If we don’t embrace that, then who will?
A.I. is deep, complex and profound. It’s an incredibly rich score. You can almost feel all the energy John Williams has put into it. Most of the music works on aClose Encounters Of The Third Kind-level. Will it be a classic score? Time will tell I guess. It certainly has potential.
By Justin Myers
01 – The Mecha World (6:25) – Starts off with a less than memorable fanfare that slowly bleeds into a very jumpy, catchy, industrial feeling tune…with trumpets accenting very nice percussion…
02 – Abandoned in the Woods (3:06) – As some have said about this cue… it’s heartbreaking. A mix between the ochestral style of E.T. and the melodic desperation of Angela’s Ashes or Seven Years in Tibet. Sweeping and powerful, it conveys emotions of sadness and terror very effectively.
03 – Replicas (5:58) – Moody underscore… melds into an airy sort of uncomfortableness… that soon adds some non-melodic vocals, think “Hatching Baby Raptor”… very similar in effect.
04 – Hide and Seek (3:08) – A piano led quirky melody… very playful with some use of electronics for a bell like sound. This distinctive melody is used throughout the score.
05 – For Always (4:42) – Vocal Solo by Lara Fabian – A much better version without Josh Groban of Monica’s theme, but still no where near as effective as the instrumental versions of this beautiful theme.
06 – Cybertronics (3:31) – More underscore… effective for the film but does not provide a great listening experience. Very calming and relaxing… like Saving Private Ryan.
07 – The Moon Rising (4:26) – Our first and only action cue. Pure williams, very enjoyable. Starts off with wonderful chase music and then turns into a very odd mix of electronics and female vocalization. I find it to be very interesting, and ultimately… an effective part of the score.
08 – Stored Memories/Monica’s Theme * (10:57) – Vocals similar to “replicas”. Monica’s theme enters WONDERFULLY on the cello for only a few moments and then returns to it’s comforable position on the piano. Much of this track is reminiscent of the quieter moments of Jurassic Park.
09 – Where Dreams are Born (Monica’s Theme) (4:23) – Beautiful vocal concert style rendition of Monica’s Theme backed by piano… wonderful track.
10 – Rouge City (4:56) – A mesh of “Abandoned in the woods” and “The Mecha World”. Seems like a wasted track, but still enjoyable.
11 – The Search for the Blue Fairy (6:11) – A highlight of not just this CD, but of John Williams’ career. Restrained underscore delves deep under the water with added creepy carny flutes to recreate Coney Island. Out through the mirky water (spoiler – highlight ro read) emerges a lovely gorgeous Blue Fairy, and with that one of the most lovely moments of John Williams’ scoring career. The music takes on an Epic feel and for awhile you feel like you are listening to the music to a fairy tale… not just a movie. Simply put, this vocal piece is haunting, beautiful, and amazingly moving… a very special treat.
12 – The Reunion (7:46) – A great track, probably the best representation of Monica’s theme on the whole album….simply played on the piano. A great way to end a wonderful musical adventure.
13. For Always (Duet Version) (4:42) – Performed by Lara Fabian & Josh Groban – A horrible version of “Monica’s Theme”, I will probably always skip this… I find it unbearable… I am very happy it is the last track.
Music on the Album – ***** / *****
Album Production – ***1/2 / *****. A good deal of music but way too much “For Always” and a great deal of music is missing. I think WB is hoping that we will buy the DVD release to get the extra music… very manipulative of them.
Overall, a beautiful CD. John Willams has done it again… just like always… for always… forever.
— Justin Myers
The AI score is positively, absolutely, magnificently superb!!!! I mean, it’s certainly not Williams’s best score, but it is his best score yet. It’s a little better than The Patriot, definitely better than Angela’s Ashes (the theme to Angela’s was the only thing I really liked in it), but it won’t triumph over Episode I.
Anyway, the cues on the soundtrack are wonderful. ‘The Mecha World’ is pretty good, but I wouldn’t say it’s the best or great opening soundtrack cue (better thanEmpire of the Sun opener, but not as good as Seven Years in Tibet), mostly resembling the Towering Inferno Main Title.
But ‘Abandoned in the Woods’ is so beautiful. So sad and dramatic. I felt like crying. It reminded me of some of the beginning music of Amistad. But the crying came later. ‘Replicas’ is also a fav on the soundtrack, because it seems so resemblant of the 2001 theme. It’s also so uncontemporary yet so modern: it seemed like it was old classical meets today. The playful ‘Hide and Seek’ is also quite superb.
But ‘For Always’, god, it has got to be the best song pop type song I’ve heard since….I don’t know, but it’s certainly great! That theme just sticks to me.
Cybertronics is probably the low point for me in the score. It isn’t bad, just sort of average Williams (kind of like Stepmom, or Rosewood).
‘The Moon Rising’ is very fast paced, and I love it. Other people’s remarks on the action music and how they say it wasn’t good… well, I’d have to say you’re dead wrong. The pounding beats and horns are teriffic, and very haunting. ‘Stored Memories/Monica’s Theme’ is one of those Williams end credits that seems very reflective and soothing. The first five minutes are quite interesting, and I don’t know exactly what they were meant for.
‘Where Dreams Are Born (Monica’s Theme)’ is, in my opinion, a better rendition of Monica’s theme than from the end credits. ‘Rouge City’ is the most haunting and daunting of them all. It’s so… I can’t describe the feeling, but it really got to me.
My favorite track is ‘The Search for the Blue Fairy’, and I was immediately reminded of the music I had heard in the first trailer, that soprano voice singing while a voice talked about David having to find his place with humans and machines. So inspiring, and this is what made me cry.
‘The Reunion’ is a nice version of Monica’s theme, yet I wasn’t quite as happy with it as I thought I would be.
Now, the duet version of ‘For Always’ could definitely have done without Josh Groban. The switch off of verses just wasn’t working for me until the very end, which was totally reminiscent. It ended the soundtrack wonderfully.
Now all I have to do is see the movie and find out what I’ve missed. But I guarantee those who have not yet bought this soundtrack, you’re gonna be in for one chilling yet soothing yet totally great experience.