By Chris Barrett
Film music is often meaningful to a limited audience, though perhaps less so these days than before the advent of soundtrack compilations of broad-spectrum passé rock songs. Even if the next Preisner or Rota or Raben is out there somewhere, is there a director who wants or needs them? It’s rare that we even have cause to think about television music. Film is ephemeral. It’s sometimes hard to say if TV was ever here at all.
David Byrne composed the incidental music for the second season of HBO’s Big Love. The commission is not a wild stretch. Byrne began flirting with instrumental music almost as soon as Talking Heads disbanded, and several of his onstage personae have made obvious his fascination with things evangelical.
Your humble correspondent has never seen Big Love. But Byrne’s music is precious and lovely—essentially nostalgic short chamber pieces for strings and brass. There are themes to build tension. There are themes that, penned for other networks, might be easily connected with tragedy or passion or romance. But HBO loves its irony, so who knows what people saw while they heard this music? The music is not overtly hymnodic, especially compared to the titles. (Byrne loves his irony, too.) “The Breastplate of Righteousness” has a tasty little synthetic samba rhythm track that could have come right off your grandmother’s basement Wurlitzer.
Recommended. But, as mentioned, probably not for everybody.