glass notes
Pick of the Week: No Reservations

Glass collaborator Hicks on the set of No Reservations

Toward the end of the very frantic period of film scoring that Philip Glass did in the last decade (everthing from the Truman Show, The Hours, Notes on a Scandal to lesser films like Neverwas, Secret Window, to Taking Lives) he hooked up with director Scott Hicks who was coincidentally directing a feature length documentary on the composer. 

No Reservations is supposed to be a romantic comedy: The cold-hearted self-sufficient successful New York chef has her life turned upside down by the death of her sister. She, Catherine Zeta-Jones, has to take in her sister's young child, played by Abigail Breslin.  The romantic part comes in when to help her with this burden the owner of the restaurant hires another chef to help with the work load. The hired help is Aaron Eckhart who predictably falls in love with the cold-hearted ego driven NYC chef, after a few bumps in the road, a nuclear family is created.

Musically this was a challenge (especially in light of my last post) as Philip Glass is not known for his prowess as a film composer of gushy romantic comedies.  With that said, maybe 8 years ago before the movie career got kicked into full gear I recall during a Q & A someone asked him the question of whether he would ever do a "rom-com" and he said "I'd love to! I'd have no idea what I'm doing and that's the best situation for a composer to be creative."

Flash forward to No Reservations. In the end, most of the score Glass composed was thrown out.  Much of it was replaced with songs ("Nessun Dorma" and the like as Eckhart's character is a big opera fan), and the score which the producers deemed non-functioning, was replaced by a couple cues written by Conrad Pope and some underscore from the film "Life as a House" by Mark Isham. Glass remained the composer of record, but only two short pieces of his made it to the commercial soundtrack: "Kate & Zoe Watch Video" and "Zoe Goes to the Restaurant," both sad intospective pieces. 

In reality, Glass wrote over 25 cues and 30 minutes of score including one central idea which reccurs several times.  I love this main idea. It's simple, playful, and I think really captures the essence of Zeta-Jones' characters attempts at incorporating this little girl into her life.  The music frequently plays during the good times as the two scuttle around New York going to produce markets in autumn.  Alas, this music only shows up for about 10 seconds in the finished film.  Not even Glass' cameo, sitting at a table at the cafe run by the three main characters, was enough to save most of the music.

I make no argument that this is ground breaking music or that should be considered one of Glass' greatest achievements. I hold this up to the light as an example of the composer gaining flexibility in musical story telling, something I think he had to grow into.  For the composer of Satyagraha, this type of thing is a stretch.  But it's also funny and interesting. So here are two versions of the happy-autumn in New York City music from No Reservations:

No Reservations


3 thoughts on “Pick of the Week: No Reservations”

  1. Oh wow, I remember the first cue! It played on the official website for the movie and I remember hearing it, liking it and wondering out loud, if Glass was the composer. I not so secretly hoped he was. Glad to hear it was confirmed.
    Then it ended up not being heard but I’m glad to be able to hear it again. Thanks, Richard!
    I agree that this is good romcom music and, in fact, could easily imagine someone like James Newton Howard composing it. Glass has another untapped talent!
    What I like the most is that it really does sound like Mrs. Zeta Jones’ character in the film.
    I am also reminded of a question I’ve had for a while about another mysterious cue from a film that Glass composed for that I would love to find out some information about.
    A few years ago, you’ve posted a link to the first teaser trailer for the then-upcoming “Animals In Love”.
    There was really beautiful tune that played over that original teaser, a tune that was neither on the soundtrack nor in the later traielers. The teaser is nowhere to be found anymore, but that song stayed in my memory. The most distinguishing feature I remember was that it has sort of chirping birdlike sounds in it.
    At the time I am sure it was Glass. I know it’s a long shot but any chance you know anything I about the tune I am describing, Richard.

  2. It’s really good. Too bad there is no way we can get it. OMM should definitely release a compilation with film recordings like this one. There is also The baroness and the pig and A brief histoty of time to name a few.

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