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The ‘Black Swan’ Score by Clint Mansell

The tale of two swans—driven and talented, seeking and chasing perfection whilst ignoring physical limits and psychological limitation—converges within a feeling: who will be better? Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan is an adaptation of Swan Lake, portraying two characters, Natalie Portman’s Nina and Mila Kunis’ Lily, whose bizarre friendship and intense rivalry revolve around the classic ballet, using it as the backdrop for the psychological torment present in competition, jealousy and envy. In a challenge to play both the innocent and beautiful White Swan and the devilish and seductive Black Swan, performing the deception and deceit of Prince Siegfried, Nina readily captures the essence of the White Swan while Lily is depicted within the Black Swan. The movie is driven by these two dichotomous characters perverted and competitive relationship; Nina’s naïve innocence and ‘nice girl’ façade is juxtaposed against Lily’s subversive and dark demeanour to create Aronofsky’s vision of a women being haunted by her double.

Clint Mansell

The score is a complement to this relationship; one shrouded in technique and tradition mixed with ominous tones and darkness of suspicion. It samples some of Tchaikovsky’s original compositions, drawing on them for the major inspiration, and for obvious dance sequences, but unfolds them with different complexity and fullness. Being categorized as a psychological thriller, the score is heavy in repetitive violin sound that can add suspense and a slight paranoia to each track, especially ‘Power Seduction Cries’. Each track evokes so much emotion—tension, fear, arrogance—that it is practically dripping with the sweat of the audience’s anticipation for climax and desire for resolution. Subtracting the film’s intent, the score, standalone, is beautiful. It is breathtaking—not far from the reaction to the original’s compositions. This turn in high profile films (re: The Social Network) relying strictly on instrumental music to convey a message and layer complexity into the film is refreshing and inspired. Instead of music forcing themes and emotions lyrically, the added subjectiveness of instrumental scores allows films to explore themselves through numerous mediums both explicit and implicit. With this musical veil of obscurity, Black Swan layers itself with a haunting paranoia and frightening suspense caked on the minds of the audience.

Review by Kaitlin McNabb

  1. A  Swan Song for Nina   listen
  2. Perfection   listen
  3. A Swan is Born  listen
  4. It’s My Time   listen
  5. Stumbled Beginnings   listen
  6. Night of Terror   listen
  7. Opposites Attract   listen
  8. The Double   listen
  9. Power Seduction Cries  listen
  10. Cruel Mistress   listen
  11. Lose Yourself   listen
  12. A New Swan Queen   listen
  13. A Room of Her Own   listen
  14. The New Season   listen
  15. Mother Me    listen
  16. Nina’s Dream   listen

SoundWorks Collection – The Sound of “Black Swan” from Michael Coleman on Vimeo.