The music for the American remake of The Ring may eventually be regarded as a modest little masterpiece of horror music, and while some might balk at such a regard (particularly since the score is the work of multiple composers), the score maintains a tight unity due largely to its unusual reliance on minimalism, and some extraordinary sonic effects.
This commercially released compilation album kick-start's with the End Credits (re-Christened "The Well" on the CD) from The Ring, and introduces a full version of the score's waltz - a dark, chilling theme that melodically and rhythmically inspired the composers to write several memorable variations, and hone clever deconstructions.
The mid-section of "The Well" also recapitulates a brutal four-note exercise in spiraling rhythmic patterns: augmented by a warm performance by a driven chamber orchestra, rustic string solos, and a pulsing tempo, it's one of the score's standout sections (and one that needs to played very, very loud, for maximum enjoyment).
The cue ends with a sudden, grand swoop, and contains a an eerie echo effect: while one string section plucks a two-note couplet, another bows the same passage, and the two groups drift in and out of unison, selectively emphasizing certain beats, and evoking the sonics of an incessant dripping tap - perfectly enhancing the film's algae-smothered cinematography.
The richness of the small orchestra's performance is also present in the composers' use of segregated high, medium, and low-ranges. A beautiful example is "Before You Die You See the Ring," where the first third is restricted from using deep, brooding low-notes. When bowed strings play a series of couplets (echoing the ever-popular Dies Irae hymn), the close-miked vibrato resonates across the stereo image. Prefaced by sharp, rustic strings, the guttural chants evoke a vivid portrait of an omnipotent, malevolent force (which in the film, is the unhappy Samara (changed from Sada, as in the original Japanese version, Ringu).
The same cue later repeats the main theme, while thematic mobiles spin in and out of range; the orchestra instinctively pulls back to give a pulsing string rendition some wiggle room, and then other instruments offers a fresh thematic quotation - sometimes tragic, sometimes eerily soothing. Later in the score, some of these fragments are repeated: the pulsing strings morph into a rustic solo violin in "This Is Going To Hurt," and then begets a galloping motif, created by a rapid pairs of intersecting four and six-note bundles that converge in a wailing crescendo.
"Burning Tree" also makes use of drifting couplets, using piano keys and a gentle, ambient music box chime. The cue also contains another rich, elongated version of the score's waltz, and in the midsection contains a more driven tempo, before a finale evokes a sense of being swallowed by a sudden, nefarious wave.
"The Ferry" is another score highlight, as it contains a gypsy-style rendition of the Ring theme, and closes with a pounding rhythm; "I'll Follow Your Voice" underscores the end of Naomi Watts' foolish companion with grand wave-like movements and sound effects, and again mimics the complete smothering by a malevolent wave of evil.
It's the last orchestral cue on the album, while the second half is basically thematic chunks and a few motifs and effects spun into synth, techno, and heavy metal variations, attributed to the vapid and thoroughly un-engaging sequel to The Ring.
"She Never Sleeps" uses the repeated couplets, and adds techno-taps and a synthetic, pulsing bass, with brief string samples; "Let the Dead Get In" uses the theme's chord changes for a surprisingly gentle variation that's borderline pop-rock, with subtle techno enhancements, and a few orchestra samples overdubbed with keyboards.
"Seven Days," another up-tempo variation, is a bit silly for the use of retro-eighties sequencing, and vocal samples of a girl softly uttering the track's title - too tongue-in-cheek for what's basically a wan dance mix. A complete contrast is the longer "Television," which injects heavy metal guitar with the music box sample. It's a neat spin on the Ring theme, but one can't help wondering if the cue began as a jokey attempt to see if the minimalism of Glass could be fused with Led Zeppelin. (Answer: Yes.)
Collectors should take of what seems to be a promo CD of The Ring (about 25 mins.), which contains additional cues, and material contemporaneously tweaked on the commercial album: there's "Seven Days To Die" (1:57), extrapolated into the silly "Seven Days"; a brief snippet of thematic understatement called "Aiden" (:45); "Drawing/Investigation" (2:33), from which the spiraling, rustic strings spawned the heavy metal "Television"; the delicate "The Lighthouse" (2:32) and "Floating Minds" (with a tender violin and piano accompaniment, and running at a meaty 6:09); "Overboard," (:30), basically the percussive conclusion to the ferry sequence involving a spooked horse; "Under the Rug" (1:21); and the film's "End Credits" (the core 7:44 material, minus the epilogue, with female vocals).
The quality of the latter promo (or "promo") is variable, with "Floating Minds" low in volume and dynamic range, and the "End Credits" subliminally low. (For a more detailed take on the history of Ring music on CD, checkout an informative review at Filmtracks.com .) The up-tempo theme variations are jarring, but the album's design is oddly close to the musical samples from Kenji Kawai's original music on the commercial Ringu soundtrack album (reviewed HERE, by KQEK.com).
© 2006 Mark R. Hasan