Exploring Soundtracks: There Will Be Blood

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Today in Exploring Soundtracks, we’ll be continuing our walk through the films of Paul Thomas Anderson by looking at the music to his 2007 epic drama, “There Will Be Blood”.

For the past few months, we’ve been on a strong Scorsese kick. But we recently hit a snag as we wait for his upcoming film, “The Irishman”, which is set to release in theaters and on Netflix in the upcoming months. As we continue to wait, we’ve moved on to P.T. Anderson’s filmography, as his style and attention to music mirror Scorsese’s. So far, we’ve covered two of Anderson’s films: “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia”. Unlike these two, “There Will Be Blood” features a traditional score, rather than a collection of pop songs.

The score to “There Will Be Blood” was composed by Radiohead member and guitarist Johnny Greenwood. The score was nominated for a Grammy for Best Original Score Soundtrack Album for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media.

But before we get too far into the score itself, here’s a brief synopsis of “There Will Be Blood” for those who haven’t seen it, or just need a quick refresher.

Synopsis

Based on the novel, “Oil!” by Upton Sinclair, “There Will Be Blood” follows the story of Daniel Plainview, a ruthless miner turned oil prospector on a quest for wealth during Southern California’s oil boom of the late 19th century. He uses his adopted son HW to project a family-man persona as he cons landowners out of their valuable properties. But everything changes when preacher Eli Sunday begins to suspect Plainview’s motives, igniting a rivalry that spans years.

There Will Be Blood

From the very opening scene of “There Will Be Blood”, Johnny Greenwood’s orchestral score provides a creeping tension that foreshadows the violence to come. The opening scene’s grating strings combined with a mountainous landscape make you think you’re about to watch a horror movie. And in some ways, that’s true. Greenwood’s score creeps in slowly, with incessant whining strings that set your teeth on edge until they swell to near unbearable levels again.

It’s hard not to find a track in the “There Will Be Blood” soundtrack that doesn’t exude foreboding. Even one of the earlier tracks, “Open Spaces”, dances between pleasant, light harmonies and deep, somber tones. Others, like “Future Markets” amplify the tension and movement of the oil business as Plainview’s operation gets underway, and mark the moment when the plot is set in motion.

One of the most compelling of Greenwood’s songs in the film comes as the bonus track, “Convergence”, taken from his composition “Bodysong”. This track builds slowly with a smattering of syncopated percussion that soon builds to a raucous clatter. It sets the scene for the chaotic derrick fire, as well as the moment when Plainview’s son H.W. is struck deaf.

Final Thoughts

Johnny Greenwood’s hypnotic score does more than match the tone in “There Will Be Blood”. It amplifies it, makes it come through in every scene. But it also isn’t unrelenting, leaving plenty of room for silent dialogue. The score is used to enhance particular moments and scenes, and only appears when necessary. It stands out against the other soundtracks of P.T. Anderson’s films, and is all the more compelling because of it.

That about does it for our discussion of Johnny Greenwood’s “There Will Be Blood” soundtrack. We’ll be back next week to look at another one of the soundtracks from Paul Thomas Anderson’s filmography.

Track List

  1. “Open Spaces” – Johnny Greenwood
  2. “Future Markets” – Johnny Greenwood
  3. “Prospectors Arrive” – Johnny Greenwood
  4. “Eat Him By His Own Light” – Johnny Greenwood
  5. “Henry Plainview” – Johnny Greenwood
  6. “There Will Be Blood” – Johnny Greenwood
  7. “Oil” – Johnny Greenwood
  8. “Proven Lands” – Johnny Greenwood
  9. “HW / Hope of New Fields” – Johnny Greenwood
  10. “Stranded the Line” – Johnny Greenwood
  11. “Prospectors Quartet” – Johnny Greenwood
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