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Intrada: Distant Thunder [1988] - Maurice Jarre

Music Composed by MAURICE JARRE
INTRADA Special Collection Vol. 271
Maurice Jarre's score for the 1988 Paramount film Distant Thunder was deep in his “synth period,” scoring a run of Peter Weir films (Witness, The Mosquito Coast) and others with all-synth or mostly electronic ensembles. “David Lean … always insisted that the music should really creep into the scene, and that the audience should not be consciously aware of the real entrance or exit of the music,” Jarre told Film Score Monthly in 1993. “Sometimes it is easier to do this with electronics, because they allow you more control over dynamics than an orchestra. … Electronics can creep in from absolutely no sound at all.” Directors like Weir liked the extra control synth scores gave them, and Jarre himself had been experimenting with electronic music and musique concrète since the 1950s.

Jarre enlisted his usual band of synth players—including Michael Boddicker, Ian Underwood, Ralph Grierson and Nyle Steiner—all among the elite instrumentalists in their field at the time. Jarre always recorded his tight little group as an ensemble, and they would play whole sections together, recording directly into a mixing board. In the score’s “Main Title,” Distant Thunder opens with eerily descending diminished chords (voiced by a choral effect) over a low sustained drone, with a lone trumpet voice referencing the film’s military undercurrent. The motif is punctuated with a tumbling percussive figuration that becomes a recurring ingredient in the score.  For this premiere release Intrada presents the score in stereo from the original session tapes stored at Paramount.

In Distant Thunder, the theater of operations is the unforgiving marshes of Vietnam and, subsequently, inside the troubled mind of Mark Lambert (John Lithgow), a “bush vet” living in the forests of the Olympic Peninsula ten years after the war. Lambert suffers psychologically the horrors he witnessed there and long ago abandoned his wife and son, Jack (Ralph Macchio), to retreat from society. After watching one of his comrades commit suicide, Lambert timidly reenters civilization—meeting the compassionate Char (Kerrie Keane), who gives him a job and encourages him to reconnect with Jack. Driven back into the forest by Char’s overprotective boyfriend, Moss (Jamey Sheridan), Lambert is pursued by his resolute son.

For track listing and sound samples, please visit:
Jeremy [HWR:OLM]

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