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Studying the classics

Eye on the Oscars: Music Preview

Aside from his “day job” as guitarist and electronic instrument maven for Radiohead, Jonny Greenwood has been carving out a credible parallel career as a composer of classical compositions and film scores, winning increasing respect from tastemakers in both fields.

Earlier this year, Greenwood — who declined to be interviewed as he is busy recording the next Radiohead album — released a Nonesuch album in which he “answers” a pair of works by his idol, the revered Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki, with two of his own: “Popcorn Superhet Receiver” (excerpts of which were used effectively in his score for the film “There Will Be Blood”) and “48 Responses to Polymorphia.” And in September, Nonesuch released Greenwood’s score for Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master.”

In previous films, Greenwood’s primary interest was in writing for strings — he studied viola in his youth — yet “The Master,” inspired by the story of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, finds him expanding his palette to include cues for multiple clarinets or flutes, and greater involvement for the winds in the London Contemporary Orchestra. Greenwood’s passion for Penderecki’s creepy, sliding strings continues to serve him in the selections performed by the Aukso Chamber Orchestra, and he uses a neo-classical writing style at other times.

Vintage recordings of Ella Fitzgerald’s “Get Thee Behind Me Satan,” Helen Forrest’s “Changing Partners,” and the Jo Stafford/Paul Weston transformation of a Chopin etude into “No Other Love,” along with Madisen Beaty singing “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” in the film, offset Greenwood’s tense, unsettling cues with a cozy sweetness that reflects the pop music of the postwar era in which the pic is set.

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