"Music is presented at such an incredibly high level, it is simply great..."
Short films are one of the essential branches of modern filmmaking.
This discipline is not very appreciated in our country, despite the
fact that there are many festivals presenting short films. Music in
such films is an exceptionally interesting issue, because composing
soundtracks to short films is the way many professional composers
began their career. Such short forms are an ideal field for
experimenting and training and, on the other hand, are a springboard
for larger productions. Unfortunately it is common that soundtracks
from short films are rarely published on discs. The only way to listen
to them is by watching the film itself. The problem is present in our
country as well, where many good short films with wonderful music are
made, yet I have never came across a disc containing music from a
Recently I had a chance to find out what the music from short films
are really like. This opportunity was given to me by George Shaw, who
gave me his disc entitled "The LochNess Monster & Other Short Films".
This publication contains music of this composer, composed for four
short films, that he was working on: "The LochNess Monster", "The
Taking", "Spew" and "Under Pressure". Each of them is in a different
genre, so we have here fantasy, thriller, horror and comedy. George
Shaw was recently awarded with a gold medal at the Park City Film
Music Festival, for the music to the first three mentioned films.
After listening to the record, I was surprised by their quality. Of
course I knew that soundtracks from short films are not very different
from those originating from "large" films. I did not expect it to be
composed with such engagement and momentum. In other words, George's
music is presented at such an incredibly high level, it is simply
great. The majority of the tracks are short compositions, but the
juxtaposition of musical themes from four different film genres shows
the true skills of their composer.
Cues from the film "The LochNess Monster" appear on the disc first.
As the title may suggest, it is a fantasy film about the famous Loch
Ness monster. George Shaw composed a very nice theme performed on a
pennywhistle, which gives it some local character to match the film's
Scottish location on the shores of the LochNess lake. The few
compositions from the film that appear here are generally based on the
same main theme. Clear and balanced orchestrations give the music a
fantastic atmosphere. More exposed wind sections with English Horn
solos give it warmth and calmness. There is also no lack of more
dynamic and whimsical versions of the main theme, as in "Running From
Bullies". It is difficult to imagine more pertinent music for this
type of film. We have a strong but simple theme, good orchestrations
and an omnipresent romantic and magical atmosphere, which we would
gladly listen to longer.
The ninth track on the disc sets a completely different atmosphere. I
immediately associated it with the main theme from "Basic Instinct"
composed by Jerry Goldsmith. Slow and gloomy string parts create a
background for the lone oboe theme. Association with Goldsmith's music
is instant, however it doesn't mean that it is wrong. This and some of
the following compositions come from the film "Under Pressure". It's a
thriller, so utilizing music similar to "Basic Instinct" is not
surprising. Also the remaining compositions refer to that theme,
creating a gloomy atmosphere full of anxiety. Once again we are
impressed by George's orchestration talent, which means there is
nothing useless in his music. Every tune and each sound has its
Music from another film that George Shaw composed music to, begins
with the track "Spirits Arrive". It is the soundtrack for a horror
film entitled "The Taking". The atmosphere here is similar to this in
"Under Pressure", however it is more dynamic and more musical chaos
appears. As a result we encounter here orchestral explosions and some
atonal music, so typical for horror scores. Strings playing in high
registers are also present, giving one the creeps. Among all of this
emerges one very strong lullaby theme, which stands in contrast with
the rest. It is performed by a female vocal while some anxious
harmonies and other sounds run in the background. This female voice
reappears at the end, introducing a sense of magic and ease.
Compositions from the film "Spew" appear on the disc last. It is a
quirky documentary, which is evident from tracks like "Arriving at the
Camp" or "Debate Institute". "Debate Institute" especially is a bit
rakish, pompous but also very melodic and contributes a very positive
vibe. It is a very pleasant change after the gloomy and dark
compositions from the two previous films. George often uses marimba,
flutes, strings, guitar and various percussion. In terms of its tone
it is the most contemporary score on the disc. In "Waiting for
Judgment" we hear a slower and dramatic melody, and the atmosphere
transitions to a touching composition "Saying Goodbye".
Publishing film soundtracks is an enterprise that only a few composers
in our country can undertake. Publishing music from short movies is
virtually impossible. Discs like "The LochNess Monster & Other Short
Films" by George Shaw show us how much we lose. It is truly very
interesting and presents how universal a composer George is. All his
compositions, from horror, through fantasy to comedy maintain a high
level of quality and listening to them is such a pleasure. As it was
after listening to "Purity" I am sure that George Shaw is a composer
who is going to be heard from more, providing he will continue to
create with such engagement and grace. Simply – I recommend it.