Music Post: The Tree of Life Score

5 Sep

Have any of you seen Terrence Malick’s latest film, The Tree of Life? I haven’t yet, but I’ve been intrigued since I first saw the trailer:

To me, it looks like some sort of very beautiful literary novel — the prose is gorgeous, but the story isn’t told in a traditional linear fashion, instead presenting fragments and vignettes of characters’ lives in an attempt to raise questions and prompt the audience to interpret what’s going on for themselves. The point, in other words, is nebulous, open to interpretation, and not as important as the presentation.

This kind of storytelling isn’t for everyone; in fact, I heard a segment on NPR in which movie theater managers talked about how many Tree of Life viewers had left their theaters halfway through to ask for refunds.

I haven’t seen the film yet, so I can’t pass judgment (although, personally, I think it looks fantastic), but the score, at least, is divine. Composed by Alexandre DesplatThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Girl With a Pearl Earring, The King’s SpeechThe Tree of Life embodies the same reflective, pristinely gorgeous feeling I get from the trailer. It’s the perfect background music for writing, reading, and thinking.

Check out these tracks:

“Childhood” – This halting, minimalistic track opens the album with heartbreaking tenderness.

“Circles” - This, the longest track, spins and spins and spins, tinged with a sense of discovery and cosmic industry. And TWINKLIES. Monsieur Desplat adores the celesta.

“River” – This might be my favorite track on the album. There’s something very poignant about rivers, always moving and never at rest, capable of giving life even as they destroy. This track aches with that dichotomy.

“Motherhood” – As far as I can tell from what I’ve read about the film, the dueling influences of mother and father (the mother as grace and the father as nature) play a huge part in shaping their son’s journey through and frustrations with life. It makes sense, then, that these two tracks, “Motherhood” and “Fatherhood,” represent a sort of musical duality. “Motherhood” dances, light on its toes and lovely, but with a tragedy to it, a sense of fleeting, almost as though the idea of grace is resigned to the fact that it will so often be dominated and stamped into inconsequentiality by the more concrete, more inexorable…

“Fatherhood” – …nature. “Fatherhood,” representing the father’s influence on the young boy protagonist, is also resigned, but with a heaviness rather than the lightness of “Motherhood.” There is an inexorable, trudging, almost elegiac quality to “Fatherhood,” perhaps representing the sense of responsibility the father in The Tree of Life feels to prepare his son for the harsh realities of living.


These are my five favorite tracks from the Tree of Life score, all of which is fantastic mood music, i.e., a nondescript musical palette perfect for creating/thinking to, something that doesn’t demand your full attention. In fact, a lot of Alexandre Desplat’s film music is like this. And it’s also very TWINKLY. I think we can all agree that TWINKLIES are always a good thing. Check out these samples from two of his other scores:

“The Angel” – from Lust, Caution – I really had no interest in seeing this film before stumbling upon the score. Wow. What a gorgeous theme, made even more interesting when you realize the film in question is an espionage thriller.

“Postcards” – from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - This is one of my favorite tracks from one of my favorite film scores of all time. This music MADE this film, in my opinion (along with the breathtaking cinematography). Lilting, romantic, and bittersweet.

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3 Responses to “Music Post: The Tree of Life Score”

  1. Ron September 5, 2011 at 2:07 pm #

    I wrote a post about the Tree of Life after I saw it: It’s just such an amazing film. One of those films that just had me thinking for days after I had seen it–and made me run out and purchase My Vlast. What a wonderful inspiring piece of music. I love it!

    • Claire September 6, 2011 at 9:23 am #

      Thanks for the feedback! I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it. Can’t wait to see it myself!

  2. Callene Rapp September 6, 2011 at 6:58 pm #

    I tripped over your blog last week. I’m a H.U.G.E movie soundtrack fan, and I’m thrilled to have found this if for no other reason than it’s brought me to a soundtrack I would never have discovered otherwise.

    That and that whole neurotic depiction of a writer wallowing in their own stank that even their unicorn patronus can’t get them out of…I did not know you accessed my webcam.


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