There’s nothing like a bit of friendly competition is there? Especially when those competing are some of the most prolific and multi-talented musicians on the planet.
Radiohead are famed for their ability to constantly change the style and approach of their music. They are one of those band’s whose longevity is the product of continual metamorphosis. Having released some of the most innovative, refreshing and vital albums of the last 30 years, the members of Radiohead have always seemed, for want of a better word, a little dissatisfied; hungry to explore new musical territories and to challenge themselves.
It’s that hunger that led both Jonny Greenwood and Thom Yorke to side-step into composing for the screen. In retrospect, Greenwood’s career as a film composer seems entirely logical. He always appeared to be the most analytical and technically aware member of the group, delving into the minutest details of Radiohead’s music and expanding it in a nuanced and subtle way. He is also classically trained and a confident sight-reader, so it was no surprise when he ended up as the go-to composer for director Paul Thomas Anderson, for whose films Greenwood has created an array of lush, eerie and frequently octatonic scores.
Yorke, on the other hand, comes from a different musical background. His strengths lie in his songcraft and his vocal performance. So it’s no wonder he felt a little intimidated by Greenwood when he too decided to begin composing music for films. Yorke’s first score for a feature-length picture was for Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Suspiria. The film may have been panned, but the score is some of Yorke’s finest work to date.
In a recent interview, Yorke opened up about feeling overshadowed by the compositional talents of his friend and bandmate, Jonny Greenwood. In response to a question regarding why he’d never attempted a film score before, Yorke said: “If I was honest with myself, I was a little bit jealous but felt that I couldn’t [do it] so I never tried.”
“Jonny’s just so far ahead – he understands orchestration works, he can read music, he’s studied it all. I mean, he sits there studying scores. For Paul Thomas Anderson’s last film, he went away and read all the scores from the period of the composers of the time. That is not gonna happen with me cos I can’t read music,” Yorke continued.
Yorke went on to add: “So he’s out there off on his travels and he knows what he’s doing, whereas I’m totally scratching the surface, purely amateur. It stayed like that for a while and then I suddenly found myself committing to do a horror film and then thinking, ‘Well, it’s a horror film, I can just make loads of weird noises. It’ll be fun.’ There was way more to it than that and it was more melodic than that and more adventurous, and I was having to write choral pieces just using my own voice and many, many different things. So I’m a sucker.”
Yorke’s score, however, demonstrates that he has just as much to offer as Jonny Greenwood. Although their approaches to scoring for the film are entirely different, they each have their place. Thom Yorke’s score was largely song-based and includes an array of mesmerising tracks such as ‘Unmade’ and ‘Suspirium’.
You can take a listen to one of those tracks below: