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  • Magic was kindled by Richter & Mazagg in "Ad Astra" score

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    I've watched the 2019 sci-fi film "Ad Astra" several times now - mainly because it's different in a way that I love. In some ways it sort of reminds me of the USSR 1972 sci-fi film "Solaris". That difference is, both Ad Astra and Solaris invite contemplation, in distinct contrast to the usual mainstream offerings that carry the implicit instructions:–

    "Buckle up! You're just here for the ride we've laid on for you - we'll be telling you what to think and feel".

    Well some movie fans want and expect this highly proactive kind of 'parental security'; but others, not so much.

    Ad Astra has received very mixed reviews, mostly markedly polarised between very much in favour and very much against. I'd say most of the negative reviews (in IMDb) express - in various indirect ways - disappointment at not being taken over for an exciting and gripping ride as usual. It seems to me many people actively dislike films that invite quiet, calm, inward contemplation. Now don't get me wrong: I can really love and enjoy a good brain-out sci-fi blockbuster as much as anyone else. But I happen to love the contemplative stuff also.

    I knew Ad Astra's score was written by Max Richter and recorded at Synchron Stage Vienna by Bernd Mazagg; but was soon pretty much over paying attention to that. What I later came to notice was the orchestra's extraordinarily beautiful, gentle, magical sound and musical effect; it's haunting and almost hypnotic; its sound level in the film is unusually low; the reverb seems to be cut back to a sparse minimum yet not completely dry - which I credit to the unique possibilities offered by Synchron Stage acoustics, of which Bernd is no doubt well aware.

    Max is known for his minimalist, haunting pieces, though that's by no means his only style. For this James Gray film, Max took it to another level.

    What I'm trying to say here is that together, Max Richter and Bernd Mazagg (and probably the film's sound mixer also) masterfully produced a uniquely exquisite and magical film score that not only enhances but also well and truly fits the film, hand-in-glove. Neither the film nor its score are intrusive, shouty or in your face, in stark contrast to many if not most of today's mainstream film productions; so I have to ask, sadly: is this the main and simple reason why they haven't received the credit and plaudits they truly deserve?

    If you're a pro media composer equipped with Synchron libraries, give this film a listen. See if it inspires you to think, feel, compose and mix differently on some occasions - yet of course somehow without incurring the substantial critical reactions against Ad Astra.

  • BenB Ben moved this topic from Orchestration & Composition on