The Conversation (Original Soundtrack Recording)
Words cannot describe how good this is early 1970s minimal score is. And what a theme. First time on vinyl. Wow. Please note, this is vinyl only – no downloads available.
LAST ONE AVAILABLE
This is the first time the complete score to The Conversation has been released on vinyl. The film itself was
originally released in 1974 and a 7” demo of the theme was sent out as promotional material by Paramount
(PAA-0305), but a USA stock edition was never issued. In Japan the same music was also issued on a 7” at
about the same time (JET-2273), with a picture sleeve, but until now nothing else has ever been pressed on
Jonny Trunk’s little obsession with this music began after I’d caught the film, late night, sometime in the mid
1990s. Musically it’s an exceptional example of the “new minimalism” in film music of the period, marking a
departure (for some) from big scores to smaller, more economic ensemble sounds.
The film was written, produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola and is still a thrilling journey into
sound, mind and murder. Heavily influenced by Antonioni’s Blow-Up (and not, as some thought, by
Watergate), Coppola wanted to fuse the concept of Blow-Up with “the world of audio surveillance”. The story
centres around Harry Caul (Gene Hackman), a mac-wearing professional wire-tapper and clandestine
bugger who gets unusually consumed by a conversation he’s been paid to record. Caul is a loner, an
obsessive-compulsive character with numerous neuroses that play out brilliantly throughout the film. And as
he slowly pieces together the conversation fragments and forms his own story around it, his world falls apart.
Sonically this movie – all about sound – is groundbreaking in many ways, with actual “sound design” provided
by the legendary Walter Murch – the man who actually invented the term in the first place.
For the music, Coppola wisely chose a young David Shire, his brother in law. Shire’s deceptively simple
piano theme (composed because of no budget for big orchestra) is one of tragic beauty, brilliantly capturing
Caul’s loneliness, his slightly disturbed nature and this trip into darkness. The melody has both sweet and
sour tones, feeling a little like a slow ragtime, which both develops and retreats throughout the film; there are
even trips into avant-garde territory with electro-acoustic flourishes and concrète. The solo, agitated figure of
Caul, wearing his distinctive transparent mac, is made all the more raw and poignant by the score – the
sparse and curiously emotional compositions are unlike any others I can think of from the period.
The soundtrack for The Conversation proved to be a major break for Shire, his career really taking off from
this musical point. His next score was to be the underground classic Taking Of Pelham 123, followed up later
ironically by All The Presidents Men – a thriller about the Watergate scandal.
The Conversation went on to win several awards and nominations, and has become a classic of the “New
Hollywood” movement. Hopefully now this music may become part of the renewed interest in old film
- A01Theme From The Conversation3:33
- A02The End Of The Day1:37
- A03No More Questions / Phoning The Director2:18
- A04Blues For Harry (Combo)2:39
- A05To The Office / The Elevator2:40
- A06Whatever Was Arranged2:09
- A07The Confessional2:21
- B01Amy's Theme2:51
- B02Dream Sequence2:35
- B03Plumbing Problem2:54
- B04Harry Carried2:47
- B05The Girl In The Limo2:25
- B06Finale And End Credits3:54
- B07Theme From 'The Conversation' (Ensemble)2:31