Zbigniew Preisner

" it is a score that is above all extremely calm and pleasant "

Written by Joep de Bruijn - Review of the regular release

Aberdeen is a road movie directed by Hans Petter Molvaer, starring Stellan Skarsgård, Lena Headey and Charlotte Rampling. The film tells the story of a father and daughter who, through a request of the dying mother/ex-wife, enables them to reconnect on their journey to their dying beloved one in Aberdeen. The score was composed by Zbigniew Preisner, who also scored Molvaer's The Beautiful Country.

Road movies often follow a designated path, in which characters go through an (emotional) transition. Preisner underscores this journey with much restraint and some psychological elements, but it is a score that is above all extremely calm and pleasant. It has a moody, subdued tone, a warmth and, to a certain degree, a more compelling, psychological exposure. For this the composer uses regular soloists to play instruments like the piano, alto-saxophone, (bass) guitar, percussion, a vocal and subdued portions of keyboards.

The main theme is a clearly defined innocent and warm theme that underscores the memories of the house in Aberdeen, in which up to a point, the main characters lived in harmony. It's a tender melody for piano and guitar, occasionally interwoven with the voice of the Norwegian singer Stina Nordenstam. In the first cue Aberdeen - Beginning Of The Story, her singing is wordless, but in cue 11 (For You) and the inevitable Aberdeen - End Titles reprisal, she sings in actual English lyrics. Usually a composer writes variations on a theme (as in this case with wordless singing and instrumentals), only to reveal a version with actual lyrics at the very end. But in the case of Aberdeen, between wordless and a variety of instrumental versions – great examples are the hesitant 2.54 piano appearance in Crying For Help/ Humiliation and Aberdeen - Piano Version, reserved entirely for the great Leszek Możdżer), the understandable lyrics of For You come too early. I have seen the film and feel they are not right at this moment in the film. Yet, the innocent, childlike and nostalgic humming is a perfect fit to allude to the memories of the past, and even in English text such a sense is retained. Regardless, the theme helps in underscoring the restorement of a bond between father and daughter, ultimately with their mother as well.

Opposite the enchanting, evolving main theme, a secondary side has more to do with the psychological journey and the drama of the story. The composer underscores this with textural and subdued tones for the solo instruments, often carrying a feeling of movement and a very introspective, yet strong emotion. Mostly, the main theme and the textural nature of the score are strictly separated from each other, but the aforementioned Crying For Help/ Humiliation makes for a great fusion. Even at times when the smaller fragments and phrases of several instruments, augmented by brooding and sparkling keyboards, the overall mood is somewhere between pleasant and small-time dramatic.

In the textural cues, which at first do not seem to develop at all, Preisner combines elements that ultimately evolve, similarly to the main theme, into a satisfying conclusion. It starts with the driving notes for piano and textural guitar (Return To The Past), the alto saxophone introduced in Road), to the cue I am Not Your Father, in which these elements come to fuse. The setup of this last cue evolves into the relaxing and lengthy Wandering In Time And Space, combing almost all the textures and solo instruments heard throughout the score. With each of them taking turns, constantly which a sense of rhythm, a lovely variation of textures and fragments of melody, but also with a significantly more openly emotional and extended use of the alto saxophone than elsewhere in the score. The title of the cue is perhaps most befitting for the kind of atmosphere I usually experience throughout Preisner career.

In that sense, Preisner smartly scored this film using two separate elements to address the development of the characters and their (emotional) journey.

In most of the works of Preisner, the sound and tone is generally consistent and eminently beautiful. The Beautiful Country, his second collaboration with the director, knows as many differences (the use of an orchestra and the larger scoped theme), as there are similarities (especially in its textures) to Aberdeen.

Aberdeen is an engaging, subdued and warm score that embodies a great feeling of mixed feelings in a relaxing tone that is exemplary in the Preisner tradition.

1. Aberdeen - Beginning of the Story 2:54
2. Return to the Past 2:50
3. Road 4:15
4. On the Deck 2:14
5. Night Landscapes 0:58
6. Memories from Childhood 0:29
7. Lovers 2:15
8. Crying for Help/ Humiliation 4:05
9. Border 0:57
10. Aberdeen - (Piano Version) 2:03
11. For You 2:54
12. I Am Not Your Father 2:25
13. Visit in Hospital 1:16
14. Be Always Like That 1:32
15. Wandering in Time and Space 6:01
16. A Last Goodbye 1:06
17. End Titles 2:54

Total duration: 41:07

(written 14-01-2020)
(click to rate this score)  
(total of 2 votes - average 4/5)

Released by

Silva Screen (regular release 2000)
Soloists Leszek Mozdzer - piano Stefan Sendecki - electronic keyboards John Parricelli - guitar Andy Pask - bass guitar Wojciech Kowalewski - percussion Stina Nordenstam - voice Jerzy Glowczewski - Sax (Alto)