Musings About Music In Film

Berberian Sound Studio

By Nick Spacek berberian

Much like the film which it soundtracks, Broadcast's score for Berberian Sound Studio is an opaque, if not outright mysterious piece of work. In the same way that the film is an homage to the giallo picture, while at the same time an analysis thereof, much is the same for the score. Here, the duo of Broadcast work in a minimalist version of something like Ennio Morricone's music for L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo.

The most notable aspect is that the score, as released, exists more as a series of cues than any sort of coherent set of pieces. Only two works – 'Teresa, Lark of Ascension' and 'Our Darkest Sabbath' are any longer than a minute and a half, and along with 'The Equestrian Vortex' – the theme to the film-within-the-film – make up the only tracks to work as actual pieces of music. Everything else Broadcast has done for Berberian Sound Studio is ever-so-brief, and taken track-by-track, it seems to be a series of quick filler pieces.

And that's a really fantastic reason to never listen to this track-by-track. Treat Berberian Sound Studio as two epic pieces, each to an LP side. For the most part, each snippet crossfades into the next, or is joined by sound effects and film dialogue, the point where it's less film score and more of a performance piece.

While I know that dialogue interspersed into a film score is anathema to purists, it works so well here that would positively be a crime to have it left out. It's more often ambient sound than proper dialogue, anyhow. You have Jean-Michel Van Schouwberg performing as a goblin, like an outtake from a Screaming Jay Hawkins session, screaming actresses, whispered prayers, and it all bridges the musical passages beautifully.

Essentially, what you have here is something akin to what the picture itself does. While director Peter Strickland created a picture where the film being worked on “is out of view, and you only see the mechanics behind it,” the score is like the film with all of the visuals and dialogue removed, so all that remains is a sense of dread and unease, drenched in a strange beauty.

There are always many things to recommend a vinyl release over its digital counterpart, but this release in particular rises above the crowded field. The jacket and inner sleeve bring to mind a battered box of tape from a recording studio, stained and mended. The inner sleeve, in particular, with its hand-written annotations regarded certain scenes from The Equestrian Vortex, as well as the logos of the Berberian Studio di Post-Produzione additionally helps make this seem like more of an artifact than simple LP.

Berbarian Sound Studio is out now from Warp Records