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Jerry Goldsmith's collaborations with director Paul Verhoeven have historically inspired his most mature and masterful work of the 1990's. However, whereas the composer's recent output typically utilized a more rounded sound palette with catchier melodies and less dissonance than material from earlier in his career, Verhoeven's latest production, Hollow Man, inspired Goldsmith at long last to venture again into stark dissonance to underscore this horrific action spectacle.

Hollow Man can be characterized as an orchestral suite in two movements: the first six cues focus around variations of an ingenious mixed-meter ostinato that finds unbelievably versatile uses throughout the movement. Once the album reaches "Broken Window", however, Goldsmith unleashes a Stravinskyesque assault upon the orchestra with timbres and harmonic devices that haven't been used since Poltergeist. This second movement is quite literally nonstop action music of Goldsmith's most exciting brand, maintaining the sheer tempo and exhilaration of Total Recall while inserting a startling amount of complexity. Of course, this is destined to enrage newer fans of the composer, drawn by such scores as Rudy and First Knight, but collectors longing for the days of Alien and Twilight Zone: The Movie will be absolutely elated to hear the Maestro return to the complex sound world of Berg and Stravinsky. Binding the music together is perhaps the score's most commercial aspect: the main theme. Introduced in the opening track, this mysterious, ominous melody voiced on bright synthesizers takes up where Basic Instinct and The Haunting left off with a lush, yet frigid sensibility that adds another degree of sophistication to the proceedings. Goldsmith wisely abstains from overusing the theme, only employing it at brief moments of suspense in the first movement and as a magnificent addition to the action music in the second.

Varese Sarabande's generous 51 minute release allows the score to unfold artfully as a complete musical work, while remaining concise and economical as a listening experience. Reportedly, Goldsmith utilized the DSD sound quality format for the disc, which samples the performance at something like 2.5 million times per second, but my guess is that it would take a multi-thousand-dollar sound system to hear much of a difference. In short, Goldsmith's first opus of the new millenium is my favorite score of the year, and those longing for a return to the Maestro's phenomenal serial, dissonant style should purchase it immediately.

Track by Track Analysis:

1. The Hollow Man (3:02)
Hollow Man's first movement begins with ominous synthesizers voicing the main theme - a descending, intricate melody that finds an intriguing concert arrangement in the main titles, soon moving to lush yet hostile strings with a humongous chordal bridge. The track's finale, however, suddenly delves into crushing, horrific orchestral dissonance.

2. Isabelle Comes Back (6:04)
This lengthy track introduces the main foundation of the score's first movement - a mischievous mixed-meter ostinato voiced mainly on octatonic pizzicatto strings and harp. Its most ingenious aspect is its melodic simplicity and rhythmic complexity - Goldsmith goes on to craft some of the score's largest moments from this almost minimalistic figure. Its motivic counterpoint is a bright synthesizer line that lilts back and forth rapidly against the ostinato. This cue bases itself completely around these elements, along with glimpses of the main theme, in an exciting anticipatory piece that continually builds in orchestration and dynamics throughout the running time, eventually employing the full string section and horn fanfares.

3. Linda & Sebastian (2:57)
The score's most tender track, this unfortunately begins quite badly with hints of the main theme in cheesy cluster chords on a cheesier synthetic piano. Luckily, it grows into an extremely moving string-based love theme, again based around the main theme. Goldsmith effortlessly intertwines the sumptuous music with the minimalist ostinato as well as a more ominous statement of the theme in the second half of the track.

4. This Is Science (6:17)
Undoubtedly the centerpiece of the first movement, this begins optimistically with a further development of the mixed-meter ostinato, synthesizer motif, and horn fanfares from "Isabelle Comes Back." However, Goldsmith soon mauls the triumph mercilessly and transforms these elements into an uncompromisingly tragic action cue with atonal moans from muted horns and absolutely despairing strings that sound almost Mahlerian in their maliciousness and anguish. The more buoyant tone returns briefly towards the end of the cue, but Goldsmith makes it quite clear that a turning point has been reached in the score's composition.

5. Not Right (2:42)
A more dangerous, uneasy feeling permeates this cue's introduction, again based upon the ostinato (it's amazing at the sheer depth of emotion able to be conveyed through this simplicity). Goldsmith goes on to expand upon the malevolent action music of "This Is Science," introducing one of the second movement's most distinctive timbres - low, pounding tones on the piano that correspond unbelievably with the mixed-meter ostinato.

6. What Went Wrong? (1:44)
The final ray of hope in the score makes itself known in the finale of the first movement, which slows the shimmering synthesizer portion of the thematic material and places over it a sly, voluptuous reminiscence of the main theme. An air of finality echoes throughout the last cadence in the pizzicatto string bass.

7. Broken Window (3:01)
At this point in the score, Goldsmith completely changes tone colors, disposing of the triumphant ostinato completely and settling into the low end of the orchestra's range, demonstrated in this cue by uncertain low string dissonance and a minor-third piano motif that echoes vaguely of the ostinato, yet abandons it for a more wicked purpose. The composer continues to utilize the main theme, however, now as a suspense device.

8. False Image (1:58)
Easily the most exciting action cue of the score, this serves as a diabolic piano concerto the likes of which haven't been heard since "Coma," or even "No Escape" from Planet of the Apes. The evil minor-third motif, a device most memorably employed in the finale of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, serves as the foundation for the cue's second half, which again resurrects the ominous main theme.

9. Hi Boss (2:49)
A suspenseful passage scored exclusively for synthesizers opens this cue, although it soon continues to develop the material from "False Image" with the rapid piano line and new, excruciatingly modernistic brass fanfares that utilize bitonality to its fullest. Echoes of the main theme end the track on synthesizers.

10. Find Him (4:38)
Timpani pounds out the exciting minor-third motif as this cue's introduction, although the music soon tranforms into a malicious version of the ostinato from the first movement, with the synthesizer transposed several octaves into the very depths of its tone color. Goldsmith again develops the exciting atonal action material from earlier in the movement, bound together most notably by the minor-third motif and several exciting homages to The Rite of Spring.

11. Bloody Floor (9:57)
The central factor of Hollow Man's second movement, this unbelievably lengthy and developed action cue expands upon everything from the suspense music of "Broken Window" to the usual minor-third motif and Stravinsky nods. Additionally, this introduces several completely unique ideas, including grinding low string dissonance and dozens of new bitonal and dissonant brass fanfares. To tie the score together, Goldsmith literally binds almost every single one of these elements together in one passage, including a return of the ostinato and fanfares from "This Is Science", now transformed into devilish tritones and chromatic dissonances. Finally, all of this culminates in the last minutes into a humongous orchestral extravaganza that serves as the epitome of everything Goldsmith meant to achieve with the score.

12. The Elevator (3:01)
A new tone permeates this action cue, again using low synthesizer hints of the main ostinato and a large piano motif. The scope becomes almost operatic with several crushing chromatic passages worthy of Richard Wagner. Finally, everything collapses into a final action passage, with several new orchestral motivs augmented savagely by the nasal tones of the serpent (used in Alien) and a horrific new synthesized sound that imitates ferociously a shriek of terror.

13. The Big Climb (3:06)
Elements of the previous track's paganistic orchestral action music continue in this climactic cue with the screaming synth and tritone fanfares. Finally, however, subtle hints of the main theme overtake the chaos, and the score's integral ostinato theme finally converges into a gargantuan victory fanfare.

With Hollow Man, Jerry Goldsmith returns at long last to the world of modernism with a blistering, uncompromising work that will thrill collectors of his '60s-80s output.  Rudy fans - stay away.

Hollow Man: The Final Score
Music Rating 10/10
Packaging/Liner Notes N/A
Sound Quality 9/10
Length 10/10
Orchestral Performance 8/10

Hollow Man is Copyright 2000 by Varese Sarabande.  Review Copyright 2000 by Andrew Drannon.  All Rights Reserved.