Ominous, mysterious and rather melancholic – those are just a few choice words to describe West Dylan Thordson’s somewhat unusual score to Glass.
The score for Glass is something of a mixed bag. On the one hand, there are some truly great and quite enjoyable cues in here, being similar in style and tone to the sweeping musical statements of Blade Runner 2049 in places. On the other though, there is also quite a bit of “nothing” music – i.e. somewhat generic sounding strings-based horror elements,some dull sounding action score and a fair amount of seemingly random musical notes just dotted around – all of which detract from the enjoyability of this score. On the whole, I rather enjoyed it, but there are only one or two pieces of music here that I am ever going to revisit, in all honesty.
Now, I must admit – I have never seen Unbreakable. Or Split, for that matter. They’ve been sat in my pile of “Need To Watch” movies for years now, and one of these days I’ll finally get around to them. I have however previously looked into the score for Unbreakable, having heard good things and also being something of an enthusiast for James Newton Howard’s compositions. I’ve now heard Unbreakable enough to recognise the main theme when I hear it, which is why I was particularly pleased when the opening notes of it began playing during the second track of Glass‘s score. It’s great to see musical continuity here, as that’s something of a rarity in film music these days.
So with the introduction wrapped, let’s start the track-by-track. The score opens with Physicks (I’m going to go ahead and assume that’s a deliberate spelling mistake, because if it isn’t then that hurts me deeply) and rapid percussion begins pretty much right off the bat, followed quickly by some very creepy-sounding strings that instantly set a rather horror-based tone for the score. It’s a very atmospheric piece of music, and props must be given to composer West Dylan Thordson here for rather expertly getting across the style and mood of the score here in a very short amount of time (given the track’s just over a minute runtime).
Brick Factory is up next, and it’s here that we get that more-than-welcome reintroduction to James Newton Howard’s theme from Unbreakable. Rather ominous-sounding percussion and strings open the track (continuing the horror-like tone introduced in Physicks) and after a few seconds a clock then begins ticking (yeah, really) which is then followed up closely by the repeating and slightly melancholic opening notes of the Unbreakable theme. The motif gets a few seconds on its own before its then joined by the random-note-horror elements established previously, and we then get a musical “battle” of sorts between the two jarringly different musical ideas. I wouldn’t exactly call this track an enjoyable listen (it’s likely one of those pieces of music that works well in the film but not so much as a standalone listening experience) but it’s worth it just to hear that theme again.
It’s at this point on the album where things get switched up a little tone-wise. In Cycles, the horror elements simply vanish, and are replaced by a series of sweeping Blade Runner-esque musical notes that set a pensive, dramatic and at the same time rather peaceful new tone. The track has a pretty extensive five minute runtime, but you hardly notice it as you are swept up by these literal waves of musical serenity – listening to this track, I felt like I was staring at a beautiful sunset. It is a slightly jarring change of pace for the score, but at the same time a very welcome one, as Cycles is easily the most enjoyable of the tracks so far.
The ticking clock returns in Escape, along with the more frightening and eerie side of the score. Percussion and strings take up much of the musical forefront here, and these combined with the ticking make for a very unusual but rather innovative piece of action music. The Unbreakable theme then makes a return in David & Elijah, with the mysterious-sounding opening notes shifting the score’s tone once more from horror to solemnity. I have to say, this constant back-and-forth between the two very different musical styles is a tad discordant, and I do feel it harms the overall listening experience of the album. Like – just pick a tone and stick with it, please.
Thankfully, the pensive and far more enjoyable serene side of the score then comes back in Belief, a rather melancholic strings-based piece that essentially acts as a bit of a teaser for the standout cue of the album, playing the first few rather peaceful and sweeping minutes of that track before then drawing to a close. A subsequent track entitled Checkmate then continues in a similar vein, this time picking up at about four minutes into what will be the standout cue and giving listeners another rather short but very enjoyable dramatic teaser for that piece of music.
Said cue then finally arrives; Origin Story is by far the standout cue of the score for Glass, being essentially a ten minute long suite of the more peaceful and serenity-based tonal elements of the album. The track begins with some slow, sweeping and pretty breathtaking musical notes, with backing strings slowly beginning to appear as time goes on. The serenity then dives into a bit of mystery at about the five minute mark, as the tone shifts into slightly darker and more eerie territory with rapid and dramatic strings taking the musical forefront. This then continues for a few more minutes before the music fades away for a somewhat peaceful finale to the album.
Overall, West Dylan Thordson’s score to Glass is a bit so-so. There are some highly enjoyable musical moments in here, particularly the ones that centre around the pensive and rather melancholic Blade Runner-esque tone, but these are sadly a bit few and far between. The score also rather jarringly switches between this and the more horror-based tone quite often (literally track-by-track in some cases) which I find severely detracts from the overall listening experience. Origin Story is a track I’m definitely going to add to my regular playlist, but otherwise there isn’t much of consequence here.
A good job, Mr Thordson, but sadly not a great one.
Standout Cue: 17. Origin Story