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Posted October 1, 2010
Hats off to Naxos for making available Virgil Thomson’s soundtracks to the New Deal documentaries The Plow that Broke the Plains and The River, which respectively explored the Dust Bowl era and flood control of the Mississippi River. Thomson’s quintessentially American music — bold, brash and emotionally direct — provided the perfect accompaniment to these groundbreaking, socially orientated films. The composer applied his kaleidoscopic musical palette to both projects, mixing folk, country, jazz and classical forms to create sound pictures keenly attuned to the onscreen action. He also made witty and ironic use of homespun instruments such as banjo, guitar and harmonium. The result was music of deceptive simplicity that nevertheless communicates with great power and clarity without overpowering the visuals. In their vivid and unpretentious evocation of American spirit and rhythms, Thomson’s soundtracks provided a refreshing alternative to the lushly orchestrated scores that dominated Hollywood in the thirties and forties.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.