Synecdoche New York

Composed By: Jon Brion

Distributed by: Lakeshore Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            The tragicomedy Synecdoche New York stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as theatrical director Caden Cotard.  Caden is preparing to produce a new version of Death of a Salesman when his life starts to fall apart.  He begins suffering from a number of physical ailments which brings on depression.  Wife Adele (Catherine Keener) has become fed up with her life and has decided to leave Caden to pursue a career in painting.  She heads off to Berlin, taking their daughter with her.  Caden’s therapist (Hope Davis) is more concerned with promoting her new book than counseling him.

            Things start to turn around for Caden when he receives a grant offering him unlimited wealth with which to pursue his artistic dreams.  Gathering an ensemble cast together in a Manhattan warehouse, Caden directs them to live out their constructed lives in a mockup of the city outside.  It is in this celebration of the mundane, Caden hopes to create a work of brutal honesty.  As Caden sinks deeper and deeper into his project, it takes on a mind of his own and he eventually loses himself within it, creating a new reality for himself and those around him.

            The soundtrack of Synecdoche New York is composed by American singer, songwriter, composer and musician Jon Brion who has received notoriety for composing soundtracks for movies such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Break-Up, Punch-Drunk Love and Magnolia.  Brion has also contributed musical score and has written songs for the film I Heart Huckabees.  On demand as a producer and studio musician, Brion has collaborated with well-known artists such as Kanye West, Dido, Macy Gray, The Crystal Method, Susanna Hoffs, Eels and more.  As a solo artist, Brion released his first album, Meaningless, in 2001.

            The soundtrack of Synecdoche New York begins with a rather upbeat and happy tone, but spirals into a world of chaos exhibited by the crazed calliope music featured in DMI Thing From When She Was The Kitchen .  It is toward the end of this second track that we begin to hear the theme for Caden’s character.  As the soundtrack progresses, the music takes on a sadder tone, perhaps demonstrating the main character’s decline physically and psychologically.  Track 13, OK, seems a little brighter in comparison to the tracks immediately before it, leaving the listener with a sense of happiness – an uplifting overtone.  However, the very next track, Can’t Return (Still Trying) returns the tone to a sense of sadness and regret, using slower beats and lower musical registers. 

            This soundtrack also features songs written by Jon Brion that can be found in the last three tracks of the album.  Little Person perfectly describes what it feels like to be an ordinary person in a city of giants: “I'm just a little person, / One person in a sea / Of many little people / Who are not aware of me.”  The song begins a tad bleak, but ends on a hopeful note.  I was surprised to discover the use of a Barbershop Quartet style in the last track Schenectady.  It ahs been a while since I heard Barbershop Quartet style singing and I rather enjoyed it.

            On a whole, the Synecdoche New York Soundtrack was somewhat enjoyable.  The music was well-composed, however depressing.  My favorite tunes were the upbeat tracks such as Forward Motion and OK.  I truly enjoyed the song, Little Person, but I wish I knew who the singer was – I could find no credit listing in the soundtrack liner notes.  Despite the uplifting moments throughout the soundtrack and the enjoyable song, this soundtrack was simply too depressing for me to actually consider purchasing for my music library.


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