Into a shattering mind goes composer Keegan DeWitt with his scary-beautiful score for “Queen of Earth.” Writer/director Alex Ross Perry keys into Polanski, Bergman and early Altman territory as he drives two girlfriends on edge, Elisabeth Moss and Katherine Waterston, insane. (Stream the Soundcloud exclusive soundtrack below.)
DeWitt, who supplied the kinky jazz score for Perry’s previous “Listen Up Philip,” bravely follows his director’s lead into dark places. Tonally, he too tapped into Polanski’s paranoid thriller “The Tenant.” “That movie is terrifying because of how methodically and persistently and slowly it unravels,” the composer said. He also, like Perry, takes his cues from Altman’s ’70s psychodramas “Images” and “3 Women.”
Already a dark horse contender for his original song in Sundance premiere “I’ll See You in My Dreams” (which was the first screener sent to Oscar voters this year), DeWitt stretched himself creatively on “Queen of Earth,” using dreary, echoed-out clarinets, and cool older sample pianos. It’s a swirl of dissonance and madness.
“There’s a 1928 Steinway piano in there, climbing French horns,” he said. “A lot of it is trying to make it feel like you’re taking something and playing it in reverse or that something is slowly dissolving.”
DeWitt makes you feel almost as crazy as Moss’ character, an artist battered by the one-two punch of her father’s death, and a breakup. “The stuff that she’s been able to keep together or keep in some sort of composure is just slowly falling out of her fingertips.”
A fan of the eerie rhythms of Antonioni and Godard, the indie composer uses the Wrenchenspiel, an instrument made of tuned metal wrenches that are hit with different mallets to produce a destabilized xylophone effect. “I don’t know if I would have been able to create as crazy and unbridled of a score without ‘Listen Up Philip.'” That score went down smooth with a martini and ample doses of ennui; but “Queen of Earth” is best served with a good old-fashioned nervous breakdown.
Stream “Queen of Earth” and DeWitt’s original song “I’ll See You in My Dreams” below.