Hildur Gudnadottir – Congratulations

Awards left to right:

Society of Composers and Lyricists/Bafta/Critics Choice/Emmy/Golden Globe/Oscar

Her surname may be unpronounceable to many but the award-winning success of her terrific score for Joker cannot be ignored. You either hate and dismiss it or like me, think it is one of the best ever and embrace it. It would seem that there is no middle ground with this one and thankfully it also seems the cheers outnumbered the boos.

Joker is a soundtrack for the age, and at last, firmly signals that a score does not have to be symphonic or melodic. Above all else what it does have to be/do is fit the film like a glove. I am not saying that the film itself would not have received the plaudits it has if Icelandic composer Hildur Gudnadottir had not done the score, Joaquin Phoenix alone would have elevated this film as would the inclusive direction of Todd Phillips. The score was another character playing a vital and unforgettable role namely the echo of all that was happening inside Joker’s fractured mind.

I saw the film in a packed cinema, at the end we all slowly shuffled out and not one single person said a word for quite a while. It had high impact and for me, being a soundtrack enthusiast for many years, her closing music stayed in my head for some time. Imagine watching the film without Gudnadottir’s participation, it would be difficult to imagine such is the symbiotic nature of her composition.

Over the past few weeks, I have read many comments about ‘why is she winning awards for her work – for Joker and her superb score for the TV series Chernobyl. It has been uncomfortable to read at times. I am sure some of it is down to the usual age-old question- ‘is this music or just noise’? ‘Well it’s much more than noise, it’s a state of mind and that’s exactly what this film was all about. The tortured and twisted mind of a comic book character who is reacting to the evils of a society in a world we are all aware of. Serious stuff that needed a serious slug of music to enhance Joker’s breakdown [or transference].

Another reason I write is to applaud the sheer number of Awards Gudnadottir has garnered, not just the ones I have mentioned but numerous others, plus we cannot ignore the history that’s been made. She is the first woman to win in the best original score category since the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences combined all of the score categories into one in 2000.

And she is one of only seven women to be nominated in any score composition category, only three have won. Previously, Marilyn Bergman won an Oscar for composing for “Yentl” alongside Michel Legrand and Alan Bergman, Rachel Portman won for “Emma” and Anne Dudley won for “The Full Monty.”

After thanking her family and collaborators, Hildur ended her Oscar acceptance speech by saying “To the girls, to the women, to the mothers, to the daughters who hear the music bubbling within: please, speak up. We need to hear your voices.”






03 Oct 2013, Vienna, Austria --- epa03893900 US composer, conductor and orchestrator of orchestral and film music, James Horner poses during an interview with the Austria Press Agency (APA) in Vienna, Austria, 03 October 2013. Horner will receive the 'Max Steiner Film Music Achievement Award' donated by the city of Vienna on 04 October. EPA/GEORG HOCHMUTH --- Image by © GEORG HOCHMUTH/epa/Corbis

When I heard about his tragic death my mouth just dropped open and I froze. I was like a statue just standing there trying to re-adjust my mind to believe it was the truth. And until today that’s pretty much how I have been hence why I have not yet posted. I’ve been reading all the Facebook and other online tributes, and there are so many of them. Even though I am a film music reviewer this is not going to be a re-appraisal of his superb body of work. It’s going to be about the way his music makes me feel because at the end of the day that’s what soundtracks scores are all about.

My great love of soundtracks was sealed many years ago when I became obsessive about the late John Barry. His music did the same as Horner’s, it reached right down to my soul. Barry may have been my most favourite composer but Horner was always there, side by side and it’s no wonder that I grew up with both of them. Their music makes me stop whatever I am doing and I just listen, it stills me. It’s what I call ‘important music’, you cannot ignore it or what it is making you feel. In slow pieces Horners music is very still, you feel as if he has not only written each note but that he has lived that note, lived the emotion it conjures and it conjures the feelings so instantly. He is the composer that I put ‘repeat’ on certain tracks more than anyone else.

How did he do it, not once but all the time? And it’s always so subtle, a chord change can bring you to tears. A measured stream of piano notes can just cut you to the quick. It’s not only his talent, it’s his gift which he shared with us all. Horner spoke gently and he has a gentle, light touch on his music. Goose bumps and closed eyes always occur when those shifts of music go right through me almost as if I am trying to get closer to it. God, I am going miss the excitement of a new Horner score.

He was only 61 years old and my heart goes out to his family. What music we will never hear I wonder? I am sure he had projects going on in the background, it’s all lost now except for our own personal collections which will always be there. And which I am going to reach into right now.

Favourite cue: The Drive Home from Field of Dreams[1989]

Favourite score: Sneakers [1992]

imagesI’ll miss you.