Album: A Beautiful Mind: Original Motion Picture Score

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A Beautiful Mind: Original Motion Picture Score

Artist: James Horner
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Label: Decca U.S.

This Ron Howard film parlays the troubled story of Nobel laureate John Forbes Nash Jr., a gifted Princeton mathematics professor tormented for decades by paranoid schizophrenia, into something considerably richer than typical Hollywood triumph-against-all-odds fare. Howard has teamed here again with frequent collaborator James Horner, and it’s the composer who deftly shades the film’s difficult emotional landscape and helps impart a compelling humanity. Horner’s first task is not inconsiderable: musically portraying the arcane realm of mathematical theorems that…

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This Ron Howard film parlays the troubled story of Nobel laureate John Forbes Nash Jr., a gifted Princeton mathematics professor tormented for decades by paranoid schizophrenia, into something considerably richer than typical Hollywood triumph-against-all-odds fare. Howard has teamed here again with frequent collaborator James Horner, and it’s the composer who deftly shades the film’s difficult emotional landscape and helps impart a compelling humanity. Horner’s first task is not inconsiderable: musically portraying the arcane realm of mathematical theorems that are the story’s backdrop. In doing so, the composer leans heavily on modern minimalist technique, bright flourishes that recur briefly throughout an orchestral score that increasingly reflects Nash’s bleak inner landscape in its quietly somber and brooding tones. And while Horner has frequently been accused of excessively repeating himself in his scores, the neo-minimalist gambit employed on this reflectively pastoral, postmodernist soundscape neatly nips such criticism in the bud. Nash’s triumph is ultimately an intensely personal one, well reflected in Welsh soprano Charlotte Church’s lilting performance of the Horner/Will Jennings ballad “All Love Can Be.” This enhanced CD also features notes by the director and composer, as well as exclusive photos and the film’s trailer. —Jerry McCulley

With Oscar-nominated A Beautiful Mind immediately following Iris (2002), James Horner has captured the tiny market in true-life stories of exceptionally talented individuals with mental health problems. As such, the two scores cannot help but be closely compared, with some of the lyrical English folk-flavoured melodic material from Iris being reworked here. This is, though, a colder score, with recurring, pulsating phrases for the precise world of mathematics seemingly drawing inspiration from the minimalism of Philip Glass, combined with wordless voice paralleling John Williams’ approach to A.I. (2001). The voice is provided by soprano Charlotte Church, and her contributions to several cues have considerable beauty. She also performs the song “All Love Can Be” with real eloquence. Horner’s songs have in the past blighted the end of films such as Titanic (1997) but this is not only better music, but also far better performed. That said, certain passages, notably “Saying Goodbye to Those You Love” recycle material from Titanic, including the ballad “My Heart Will Go On”. The result is attractive and in places moving, though soundtrack collectors will certainly complain of a lack of originality and if choosing between Horner’s two recent scores will be better served by Iris, whatever the Academy may think. —Gary S Dalkin

Related Works

Book:A Beautiful Mind: The Life of Mathematical Genius and Nobel Laureate John Nash

A Beautiful Mind: The Life of Mathematical Genius and Nobel Laureate John Nash

Sylvia Nasar

How could you, a mathematician, believe that extraterrestrials were sending you messages?” the visitor from Harvard asked the West Virginian with the movie-star looks and Olympian manner.

“Because the ideas I had about supernatural beings came to me the same way my mathematical ideas did,” came the answer. “So I took them seriously.”

Thus begins the true story of John Nash, the mathematical genius who was a legend by age thirty when he slipped into madness, and who—thanks to the selflessness of a beautiful woman and the loyalty of the mathematics community—emerged after decades of ghostlike existence to win a Nobel Prize and world acclaim. The inspiration for a major motion picture, Sylvia Nasar’s award-winning biography is a drama about the mystery of the human mind, triumph over incredible adversity, and the healing power of love.

Film:A Beautiful Mind

A Beautiful Mind

Ron Howard

A Beautiful Mind manages to twist enough pathos out of John Nash's incredible life story to redeem an at-times goofy portrayal of schizophrenia. Russell Crowe tackles the role with characteristic fervor, playing the Nobel prize-winning mathematician from his days at Princeton, where he developed a groundbreaking economic theory, to his meteoric rise to the cover of Forbes magazine and an MIT professorship, and on through to his eventual dismissal due to schizophrenic delusions. Of course, it is the delusions that fascinate director Ron Howard and,…

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