Friday, September 2, 2011

The Best Soundtrack of 2011

I know I've missed the boat by five years on this one, but this is such a fantastic album, I want people to know how much I enjoy it. The score for 'The Banquet' is simply stunning. Tan Dun's score is transportive, an avant-garde hybrid of classical and traditional styles driven by explosive rhythms and vivid melodies.

Loosely based on Shakespeare's Hamlet, 'The Banquet' is full of epic and evocative motifs that present themselves, then emerge and re-create themselves across the score while occasionally fusing with other themes - like all excellent soundtracks should. The whole score floats together with impeccable confluence, each piece leading onto the next movement so seamlessly it's like listening to one complete soundscape.

The main theme of The Banquet is the magnificent 'Only for Love', a tune that opens the soundtrack as a ballad (sung by Jane Zhang) with a beautiful melody that layers, starting with a choir, then adding the piano, vocals and an orchestra. The melody is simple, but extremely effective and memorable, effortlessly transitioning and weaving between the score on differing instruments to create various moods - its most impressive incarnations is the closing the album, with a climax of instruments, it concludes with a whirlwind of exhilarating beauty. 'Longing in Silence' is the second principal melody, first presented by the piano and orchestra ('Waiting') as an entrancing, low-key and mellow piece, and is later presented as two vocal pieces which are beautiful pieces that include impressive vocals from both Zhou Xun and Teng Ko Erh while utilising a minimalist style of traditional Chinese instrumentation.

The score is also full of miniature motifs, including the 'Punished Souls' theme which is a foreboding, but oddly romantic tune with sporadic percussion, fluttering strings and the imperialist humming of the choir. 'Desire' sounds like a commercial jingle written to advertise diamonds, and a variation on the percussive sequences are featured without distraction on 'Play Within the Play'.  'In The Bamboo Forest', the principal battle theme, is a tour-de-force, with Manchurian pianist Lang Lang banging the fuck out of the keys with such impeccable precision and animation that it's almost as if you're sitting in the concert hall to listen to him. 'Sword Dance' is a fantastic reprise that captures the vivacious nature of the original piece but also incorporates the 'Only for Love' theme, and results one of the album's many highlights.

This is hands down my favourite album of 2011. There's nothing to fault here in Tan Dun's score for 'The Banquet'. It runs the gamut of theatrical emotion, producing beautiful, fierce, and emotive tunes, presented by a luscious orchestra, the striking percussion ensemble, and accompanied by impressive soloists. Totally recommended for the soundtrack, orchestral, or oriental enthusiast.

I just wish I could have afforded to buy the original Japanese edition with this resplendent cover...
I have no idea why this is $50, and all other editions are $20ish.


  1. I've only been watching and listening to good things this week, it seems.

  2. A beautifully flowing review of the Banquet Sam. You have inspired me to try and listen to the music. Are you able to purchase a poster of the film from Amazon?

  3. Thank you, mysterious friend. I can't find a poster of Zhang Ziyi in red haha. I'm a big fan of my cover though!