Hello all. Today we’re taking a peek at the soundtrack for the movie “On the Waterfront.” This film is on the docket as this week’s random selection for the IMDB Top 250 Quest.
And guess who composed the soundtrack? Leonard Bernstein! That shocked me when I found out, though it shouldn’t have, I suppose. Bernstein, for those who don’t know, is one of only a few “classical” composers we typically bother to recognize from the 1950s. This period of time is pock-marked by experimentation gone awry, and so musical history from the time can be very polarizing (John Cage is a famous example of this, if you’ve heard of him).
Unfortunately, the film does not seem to have a neat and tidy OST, as it were. There is a symphonic suite that Bernstein wrote, but I don’t think this will do too much to convey moods of different scenes. Without knowing the movie or the story, I don’t think there’s much we can do with the soundtrack.
With that said, here’s a taste that can be found on Youtube:
As you can tell, it sounds very Leonard Bernstein as we might understand him from West Side Story. It definitely has a bombastic air about it, like something we would expect out of any film from that era. I like this symphonic style of music, of course, but I like the more subtle directions that are taken today. For me, classical music in these types of films feels hobbling, like we have a composer adhering to archaic media instead of moving forward. Despite that, it feels archaic to me because I am young. In the 1950s, this likely would have felt perfectly appropriate. It does nothing for me like the soundtrack to “There Will Be Blood” did. It’s difficult for those classical traditions to evoke cinematic atmospheres. They just don’t gel so well for me. I’d be happy to be taught a lesson about this, though!
All in all, the music sounds cool. It doesn’t surprise me, after hearing it, that Leonard Bernstein was the composer. It does not psyche me up or make me more curious about the movie, so I’m walking in with tepid impressions except for the 100% critical reception.