Seeing 36-year old British composer Steven Price nominated for an Academy Award came as a bit of a shock. With only seven works to his composing credit, he seemed to still be in the “bubbling under” phase of his career. However, having cut his teeth as music editor for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “Batman Begins” gave him some early clout.
Price’s score for “Gravity” is musical while not exactly progressing as “music.” It’s an angular concoction of effects, loops, and semi-melodic dissonance that expresses the tension within the characters’ minds more than it creates an atmosphere. He is very careful about not adding weight where there really isn’t any. There are also moments where the score sounds like the heavens are singing in response to the beauty and solitude of space, which interplays with the electro-tension of Stone’s increasingly dire situation.
It’s reminiscent of early Tangerine Dream, where musicality erupts from a sort of electronic primeval ooze. His music is essentially another element in the weightless vacuum and shifts along with the tension, rather than leading it, and only becomes an active participant through volume…which can also be felt inside Dr. Ryan Stone’s head.
It is not an easy score to listen to, because it toys with your equilibrium just as much as the film itself. It plays more like a decompression chamber than a traditional tuneful score, that increases and releases tension in time with the on-screen action. It is more a test of patience than it is an enjoyable listening experience.
The question must be asked, however, if Price will be stigmatized as “a sci-fi guy,” since he has now scored three in a row (alongside “The World’s End” and “Attack the Block”). But perhaps that has already begun working in his favor, since he is on tap to compose the next chapter in the ever-expanding “Avengers” universe – “Ant-Man!”
BUT CAN HE WIN? – Possibly. Everyone loves an underdog, and Price definitely fits the bill. Once in a while, the Academy also likes to go against convention (probably in hopes of derailing the stigma that they are merely a bunch of backwards-looking old men). However, since “Gravity” has culled ten nominations, a Best Original Score trophy may be lost in the space.
Do you think Steven Price will win?