The Knick

Musical Score By: Cliff Martinez

Distributed by: Milan Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                Set in 1900 New York City, the Cinemax original series The Knick stars Clive Owen as Dr. John Thackery, recently appointed head of the surgical staff of the Knickerbocker Hospital.  A highly innovative hospital, Dr. John Thackery leads his staff in making advances in an extremely limited and prohibitive field, all while battling his own demons - addictions to both cocaine and opium.  The series has been honored with a number of award nominations and wins and has been renewed for another season.

                The musical score of The Knick was created by former Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer and renowned composer Cliff Martinez.  After establishing his rock and roll career in the early 1980s, Martinez was tapped to begin a career in film composition in 1989, creating the score of the critically acclaimed film Sex, Lies and Video Tape.  Known for thinking out of the box and composing in a non-traditional style, Martinez has since created musical scores for such notable films as Wonderland, Wicker Park, Drive, Traffic, Solaris, The Lincoln Lawyer, The Company You Keep, Arbitrage, Spring Breakers and more.

                The Knick score is surprisingly completely electronic.  Cliff Martinez explains, "As usual, Steven [Soderbergh) and I rarely spoke and instead communicated via mental telepathy...In so many words he told me: ‘We're all going to recreate early 1900s New York as authentically as possible...except for you. I want the music to be modern and electronic.'"  The resulting score offers up a futuristic approach, a modern tech feel, in complete contrast with the series setting.  There is a sense of urgency created depending upon the pace of the music and an ominous feel expressed in tracks like Thus Speak Thack the Wise, perhaps directing us toward the doctors darker side and his demons. 

                Though the score of the series is in direct contrast with the scenery, it does make sense to me.  The medical field and the technology available in 1900 would be considered archaic by today's standards.  What the doctors of Knickerbocker Hospital are attempting to achieve is the modernization of medicine.  Rather than focusing on the music of the time period, Cliff Martinez instead focuses on that trend toward modernization, creating a score that takes us into the future...and, incidentally, makes for quite an interesting listen.  The Knick Soundtrack is a paradox well worth checking out.


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