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Soundtrack Review

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Original Motion Picture Soundtrack


Composer: Gregory Tripi
Label: Back Lot Music
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 24 May 2019

Back Lot Music release the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to Ma, the new thriller from Universal Pictures, directed by Tate Taylor with music by award-winning composer Gregory Tripi. Sue Ann, a loner who keeps to herself in her quiet Ohio town, helps Maggie, a teenager new to town, to buy some booze for her and her friends. Sue Ann offers the kids the chance to avoid drinking and driving by hanging out in the basement of her home. But there are some house rules: One of the kids has to stay sober. Don’t curse. Never go upstairs. And call her "Ma". But as Ma’s hospitality starts to curdle into obsession, what began as a teenage dream turns into a terrorizing nightmare, and Ma’s place goes from the best place in town to the worst place on earth...

While I didn't enjoy this score as a standalone project - to be fair the music was never designed to be listened to without the onscreen visuals - I was totally onboard with composer Gregory Tripi's vision. He designed the music to evolve and change with the main character, Sue Ann, as her character becomes increasingly unhinged and dangerous.

The score is primarily electronic throughout, except for one key scene in which Tripi used a bassoon. "I played bassoon when I was growing up and had a strange urge out of nowhere to buy one last year," says the composer. "So, I went on Craigslist and found one. It’d been about 20 years since I’ve picked it up, but muscle memory came back fast, so I recorded a bunch of long, textured notes with it. They’re featured in the score quite a bit."

For Ma’s main theme, Tripi employed two versions to represent Sue Ann’s past and her present. "We have the younger version of Sue Ann during flashbacks in school," he says. "This was a more innocent time. To express that, I used a big metal drum called a Halo that plays melodies, which I had a number of thematic notes on. I did them again with piano. Later, I created Ma’s metamorphosis into a very troubled woman. That theme was always going to be a much more kinky, disturbing, well-paced melody.

"There were a lot of glassy instruments in the score, as well as a number of analogue synthesizers, a metal Halo drum and a few things that contrasted: a live cello, a voice in a few cues, then basically tearing it all apart at the end," he says. "I also used pitched wine glasses, ones that when you rub them make long glassy tones. It’s a good organic vibe to have without feeling too recognizable. I also bought a ukulele in Hawaii that’s made from a used Japanese Bento box. You’d never recognize it as such because it sounds so big and textured."

And so it's such a shame that outside of the movie that the score doesn't make for a very interesting listen. Yes, it's original and technically interesting, but it just sounds a little too avant-garde when played in isolation.

This is one score that's best heard, where it was intended to work its magic, in the movie.


Darren Rea

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