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Mr. Turner by Gary Yershon (Review)

posted Dec 30, 2014, 3:38 PM by Kaya Savas

Gary Yershon joins writer/director Mike Leigh for their fourth collaboration together. Mr. Turner is a biopic examining the life of painter J.M.W. Turner. It’s an examination of the world through the eyes of a revolutionary artist, which poses an interesting sonic canvas for Yershon. The music here is accompanying a visual artist and his interactions in the world around him. While very simple in its approach, the score does a great job of crafting a poignant portrait of the man even if its simplistic approach leaves much to be desired in terms of emotional depth.

Mr. Turner’s score could be described more as a performance piece than a narrative story. When I closed my eyes I could see the music moving in strokes. It felt very appropriate that you could feel the music moving almost like a paint brush. The musical structure reminds me very much of painting, and I could almost see this music accompanying a visual movement performance such as a dance. In that sense, it lacks narrative form and unfortunately no real emotional depth. You will get a sense of progression, but a very limited one. The score is very short at just under 30-minutes, and due to it working in short bursts it has limited range. The score was so short in fact that the album contains music from an unrelated short film Mike Leigh directed that Yershon also composed. A Running Jump’s score is a nice addition here, and personally something I found more interesting due to its textures and style. Yershon’s score to Mr. Turner functions more as a musical touch-up instead of a full-on narrative. The music’s nature to evoke movement in the listener’s mind is a very interesting thing, but it never does anything to really stand out.

Mr. Turner is a fine score for what it is, it won’t wow you or change your life. However, its approach and simple structure is worth exploring. There is life in this score, and it comes out in strokes of motion as dictated by simple strings. Never does it feel like a period piece score or a biopic score, and for that it’s noteworthy. The score simply exists, but since it feels like a floating creation it lacks a narrative flow and is light on emotional depth.