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Mychael Danna’s ‘On the Basis of Sex’ Score Upends Musical Cliches

For the Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic “On the Basis of Sex,” Oscar winner Mychael Danna (“Life of Pi”) collaborated with director Mimi Leder on a musical concept “that would turn the music-scoring cliche on its head.”

The usual approach to music for government is “horns and snare drums,” Danna points out. “The fact is that the laws of America are built to change. The lightning bolt that hits Ruth in the film, and us as audiences, is that the world has already changed and the laws need to catch up. The score needed to reflect that.

“So we gave Ruth the snare drums and horns. Her theme is a kind of minimalistic march – an anthem to this gift of the Founding Fathers, this ability to change – that is exciting and stirring and has a direction and focus.”

As for “the men of the old world, not bad men, trying to do their best,” Danna says he “tried to imbue them with a kind of decadence, an overripe, end-of-an-era, tired and old-fashioned sound.” There’s also a prominent love theme for Ruth (Felicity Jones) and her husband Marty (Armie Hammer), “very warm and binding and solid and loving,” generally heard on piano.

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