"Altered States (1980)"
Music By John Corigliano
La-La Land Records
8 Tracks/Disc Time: 40:23
In the early 1980's British Director Ken Russell explored the unconvensional world of Oscar Winner Paddy Chayefsky's novel, "Altered States", In the late 1960's graduate student Eddie Jessup (William Hurt, "The Big Chill) known for being unconventional, brilliant and slightly mad, conducts experiments with an isolation chamber, using himself as the subject. His experiences in the chamber cause him to hallucinate, much of the imagery being religious-based despite he not being a religious man. Seven years later, he is a respected full professor in the Harvard Medical School. Believing he has lost his edge and has fallen into an unwanted state of respectability, Eddie decides to resume his work with sensory deprivation this time using hallucinogens, specifically untested ones used in mystical Mexican rituals, to enhance the experience of being in the isolation tank. After initial tests, he claims he entered an alternate physical and mental state and soon his fears start to manifest themselves in which Eddie cannot know what is reality or not.
Just as bizzare (and that's obviously the right word for this film) as the film is, even more bizzare was the rather interesting choice of classical composer John Corigliano to provide the film's musical score. Corigliano was a very accomplished and respected composer in New York who be the large influence of Oscar Winning Composer Elliot Goldenthal and would eventually win the Oscar in 1999 for the seminal drama, "The Red Violin", writing a classical based score featuring the acclaimed violinist Joshua Bell as the principal soloist. In between the time of "Altered States" and "The Red Violin", he composed the score to the lambasted Al Pacino 1985 drama, "Revolution", which was completely restored in 2009 and writing a memorable score featuring classical flutist, James Galway, which was finally released by Varese Sarabande. Corigliano would get one more assignment which is was the American remake of "Edge Of Darkness" starring Oscar Winner Mel Gibson, writing an effective and moving work that was eventually replaced once
The score to "Altered States" is not that hard to describe, but the question is would you want to listen to it. It is a very avant garde and classically textured score that is very harsh, abrasive and very aggressive in every fascet. It's a modernistic and very dark with lots of brooding brass and hammering percussion that just leaves you worn out in all of your senses pretty much like William Hurt is in the film and that was Corigliano's intention. These tracks play in lengthy and developed suites ("Main Titles And First Hellucination", "Second Hallucination", "First Transformation", "Second Transformation", The Labatory Experiment" and "The Final Transformation") that just feels like an exercise of exceptional instrumentation and where the soloists in the orchestra that are very accomplished and passionate creating complex clusters of melodies. The lone and amazing piece in my view that is totally accessible to this unique score is the "Love Theme", which is romantic and sweeping and moments like this in the score are really are almost non-existant.
La-La Land's reissue of the long out of print and spectacular sounding RCA Records album is a nice release to see reissued and pretty much for those fans who have really wanted the score after so long and in particular to see the influence on such a composer as Elliot Goldenthal and a few other composers. I can't really recommend this one because to me, it is a score that is very effective for the film that it was written for more so than as a pure listening experience unless you are true classical fan of this type of music. It definitely is an acquired taste that is for sure. Thumbs down for me.
The album is available to order from La-La Land Records @ http://lalalandrecords.com/Site/AlteredStates.html