Hear Jonny Greenwood’s early sketches for ‘Phantom Thread’

Hear Jonny Greenwood's early sketches for 'Phantom Thread'

Jonny Greenwood’s score for Phantom Thread is a thing of eye-watering beauty. With dashes of Messiaen, Debussy and Ravel, it’s the kind of work many veteran film composers can only dream of crafting. How strange, then, that it was made by someone with no formal training.

Greenwood’s success as a composer is proof that the world of orchestral music need not be one defined by scholarly elitism. All that is required is the desire to learn on the job, the patience to hone one’s craft, and a willingness to spend one’s days in relative isolation. Although Greenwood has admitted to going a little stir-crazy at times, his work shows just how far a little commitment and determination can go. Here, you can listen to some early piano sketches of what became Greenwood’s score for Phantom Thread.

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread focuses on the life of renowned dressmaker and pedantic breakfast diner Reynolds Woodcock. He and his sister Cyril sit at the very center of high society in 1950s London, where they dress royalty, movie stars and socialists from their fashion house. Where dressmaking is eternal, women are transient. Reynolds rarely keeps hold of a girl for long and spurns companionship frequently. All that changes when he meets Alma, a young woman determined to keep their relationship afloat, even if it means employing some dirty tricks.

Discussing the early inspirations behind his score, Greenwood told Variety that he and Anderson “talked a lot about ’50s music, what was popularly heard then as well as what was being written and recorded. Nelson Riddle and Glenn Gould’s Bach recordings were the main references. I was interested in the kind of jazz records that toyed with incorporating big string sections, Ben Webster made some good ones, and focus on what the strings were doing rather than the jazz musicians themselves.”

Greenwood went on to explain that, if Woodcock was to listen to anything, it would probably be “slightly obsessive, minimal baroque music.” The ornate decorations of the baroque composers also found their way into Greenwood’s score. The end result is a soundtrack which blends the orchestral color of Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe, the romance of the jazz age and the octatonic chime of Messiaen’s ‘Preludes’. It is utterly beautiful and quite haunting.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.