I don’t normally pick up soundtracks, mostly because I don’t assign them the same value as my other records. I find it a lot harder to invest the time or develop an emotional connection with a soundtrack, especially when the tracklist exists as fragments or snippets of a movie. I find that with most soundtracks they just don’t work as well without the visual accompaniment. Maybe I haven’t been listening to the right soundtracks, or maybe I’m simply not able to appreciate their appeal. As such, I only own two soundtracks on vinyl, those for Netflix hit show Stranger Things and the soundtrack to Damien Chazelle’s breakout masterpiece Whiplash.
Released: 2014 Label: Varese Sarabande
Variant: ?? Purchased from: Amazon
When I think about my favorite films, I think about Whiplash being up there, and its soundtrack is up there as well when I think about my favorite scores. The movie tells the story of promising jazz drummer Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) and depicts his rise through the ranks of a contemporary jazz school under the forceful instruction of Terrence Fletcher (J.K Simmons). The story is a rollercoaster of conflict between these two characters, mainly due to the way Fletcher manipulates and harasses Neaman. It’s a gripping narrative, and it makes for an incredibly tense movie. Those who’ve seen the film will likely attest to this. Those who haven’t seen the film… they should see it. It’s an edge of your seat movie, the tension manufactured by stellar performances, stellar dialogue, a stellar script, and a stellar soundtrack. The music, which is almost exclusively jazz complements the visuals especially well. During scenes which possess almost an interrogative quality, the soundtrack slowly builds, the tension of the moment bubbling through the soundtrack and threatening to boil over. During ambient downtime, the soundtrack cruises, softly contemplative as Neiman reflects and internally rebels. It’s a masterful accompaniment.
The soundtrack contains twenty-four tracks separated into three categories: original jazz pieces written for Whiplash; original underscore parts written for the film, and classic jazz standards. Moments of dialogue are littered throughout, but for the most part the record is purely instrumental, offering a fine selection of jazz songs. It’s a record I use a lot when I’m studying; it puts me in a suitable frame of mind to create and revise. Maybe it’s because I think of Neiman’s struggles, or when listening, I find myself inspired by Chazelle’s stunning brainchild. Often, I simply listen to it for pleasure, because there are great tracks on here – Intoit and Too Hip To Retire for example. Anyone who has seen the film will hear Caravan and immediately be reminded of the climactic scene, which is by far the best scene I’ve ever seen in a movie revolving around music. The ride which is Whiplash culminates in a masterclass of cinematography, acting, sound design and direction, a sprawling fifteen-minute epic which floors me every time I revisit the film (which is regularly). That scene would not be what it is without Caravan, and the film would end on a far lesser note in its absence,
Whiplash is a movie for those who love jazz, and its soundtrack certainly takes the genre beyond the realms of elevator music. The score is one which lives and breathes authentic jazz, far more than a coffee shop soundtrack. It’s curated by those who know the genre and know it well and, as such, it’s a remarkable collection.