Film Music Review
The Sammy awards







GRACE (2009)


Music composed, conducted, and orchestrated by Austin Wintory.

28 Tracks (Playing Time = 64:11)



Album produced by Austin Wintory. “ Grace’s Lullaby” with lyrics by Lisbeth Scott. Vocals by Lisbeth Scott. On-set sound effects recorded by Dan Canfield and Austin Wintory. Clarinet ensemble recorded by Lewis Jones at Abbey Road, Studio 2. CD Art direction by Jake Hamilton.

Composer Promo (released on BSX Records 8865)

Rating: ***


Austin Wintory’s beautiful score for CAPTAIN ABU RAED (2007) was one of that film’s many treasures. That score won him the Hollywood Music Award for “Best New Film Composer” coming after some twenty previous feature films. [Editor's note: Austin Wintory also received a Sammy Award for Best Overlooked New Score of the Year as well as Best of the Month.]

He has also provided music for video games where he garnered additional accolades. His schedule looks to be picking up over the next year and the present score comes from a 2009 Sundance entry.

Paul Solet’s little horror film, GRACE, is an odd take on the devil child film. The story revolved around a mother whose unborn child “dies” but who decides to carry the baby to term only to discover upon its delivery that it has miraculously returned to life—albeit with a very particular appetite. After its appearance at Sundance, GRACE headed off to the film festival circuit showing up on DVD last fall. Wintory’s score presentation is divided into an “original score” section and a “script section.” The latter is a twenty-minute pre-score that was composed to be used as playback during shooting.

As with his score for CAPTAIN ABU RAED, he has managed to enlist the vocal work of Lisbeth Scott appearing briefly as a recessed haunting lullaby in the musical texture (actual lyrics appear in “Breast Feeding” though rather amorphously). An unaccompanied version appears in the “End Titles” performed by Jordan Ladd before the haunting violin idea appears to bring the score proper to a close. Intriguing sound effects are also an important part of this score. Wintory has incorporated baby cries, horse flies, and other sound effects to use as musical instruments in his often chilling musical designs here. Signs of his lyrical ability appear, such as a soulful violin solo (“The Hospital”), though much of the score is more experimental. “ Dr. Sohn” is a cue that begins to display the use of the clarinet ensemble playing in their darkest registers (even for bass and contrabass clarinets) and creating an effect like didgeridoo-erhu.

The “script score” lends a hint at the direction the music would take later with some pitched material always being overshadowed by the more unusual ambient design material. There is no note to share just what if anything here was used in the final score itself. It is interesting all the same to have this available. The birth sequences tend to feel like updated OMEN music with more percussion and clarinet work. It does not make it any less creepy and must certainly have created the proper on-set mood!

GRACE may not be as easy a listen, but it definitely displays a fine command of sound design integration with acoustic instrumental writing. The very experimental use of electronics and these sounds is fascinating and outright frightening at times. An interesting note: there is a dedication to Jerry Goldsmith in the booklet cover.

GRACE is another reminder to keep Wintory in our sights as a composer worth watching. As it stands, GRACE is recommendable to the curious and those interested especially in approaches of found sounds and electronics.


-- reviewed by Steven A. Kennedy , 5 April 2010

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