Radiohead guitarist/keyboardist Jonny Greenwood’s soundtrack for There Will Be Blood was obviously influenced by avant-garde composer Krzysztof Penderecki (born 1933). TWBB was denied an Oscar Best Original Score nomination because Greenwood recycled bits of his Popcorn Superhet Receiver in the score; now fans can hear the latter in its original form, juxtaposed with Penderecki’s most influential work, “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima” (1960), and his “Polymorphia” (1961) (which has soundtrack history as well, having been used in The Exorcist, The Shining, and Fearless), plus Greenwood’s 48 Responses to Polymorphia. All four are for string orchestra.
Penderecki’s tight dissonances (tone clusters) and microtonal slides (glissandi), and the extended techniques used by the string players to create harsh sounds, were shocking at the time, and probably still are to most listeners. This is the only available recording of the composer conducting “Polymorphia,” and even fans who have his classic 1975 EMI recording of “Threnody” should hear this new rendition in digital sound with its increased clarity, though the original’s greater breadth and weight have more impact. Greenwood’s pieces (conducted by Marek Mos) use Penderecki’s techniques, but in his own way; their touch more Romanticism and melody make them more than mere imitation.