There's a particular scene in the movie "Crash" that literally left me breathless when I first saw it. On this soundtrack, it is the scene that goes with track 10, called "A Really Good Cloak." Those who have seen the film probably already know which scene I'm talking about. In listening to Mark Isham's score by itself, months after haveing seen the film, I ran across that track again and found that it had the same effect on me. Just listening to the music, I became short of breath, I got chills down my spine, and at one particular point, I felt the sting of tears first welling in my eyes, then spilling down my cheeks. I was seeing that scene from the film again, as clearly as if I were watching it all over, and feeling the same thing as before. All because I was listening to this beautiful, haunting music.
After I gathered myself a little, I tried to imagine that same scene with different music, or even with no music at all. While I'm sure it would have still been a powerful moment in the film, I don't think it could have ever been so affecting, so purely poignant, as it was with that particular piece. Clearly, Isham crafted that piece meticulously for that scene, with just the right mix of wonder, awe, and beauty to bring the viewer (and listener) right to the point where I was. Quite frankly, anyone that can listen to that piece and not have it affect them at all...well, they're made of sterner stuff than I.
The thing is, the whole CD is sort of like that. The music is excellent on its own. It is ethereally beautiful in a way that we rarely hear anymore. Vocals float up out of sweeping electronic harmonies, singing words I don't comprehend but can nevertheless feel and glean meaning from. Strange, slow rhythms counterpoint with dark ambience to create rich and complex moods. Truly, just in terms of composition, this is heady stuff.
But when it comes down to it, this is still music composed for a film, and in this case, it is the music that made the film such a good one. The same film with different music simply would not have been as powerful or as affecting as it was with Isham's score. The music is married to the film and to the story it tells, and like any good marriage it manages to elevate the film to something higher than it might otherwise have been.
What Mark Isham did with the music for "Crash" is nothing short of remarkable. He has created music which can evoke moods and feelings all on its own, but once brought together with the visual medium of film, it suddenly takes on more depth and meaning, while adding depth and meaning to the film as well.
The music was made because of the movie... but in the end, it was the music the made the movie as good as it is.