Music in 2046



hitherto the best performance of Zhang ZiYi


The contemporary approach to film music is very different from the classical score model. The most radical of the differences is that music is no longer used to achieve a structural unity. A contemporary OST is extremely diversified in terms of musical genres and the film shows no intention to unite them together. There is no longer a dominant musical idiom like the symphonic form where the confident host of romanticism is able to accommodate a certain amount of exotic instrumentations. Nevertheless what is marvelous is that somehow the audience does not feel the least disturbance accepting such a fragmented potpourri.

Take 2046 as an example. Basically music in this film is used in only two ways.

The first possibility is what I call the music nostalgia. This includes Nat King Cole’s Christmas Song, because the narrative needs some mood support, and NKC was popular in the 1960s. Such a double dimension is exactly the way NKC is used in Terence Davies’s The Long Day Closes. Invariably this brings in a sense of nostalgia because it refers not to a time of the year that recycles itself, but is irretrievably lost in time. The Connie Francis version of Siboney is under the same category. FYI, Connie Francis must be something then, because Edward Yang’s GuLingJie also mentions it.

Dear Martin’s Sway, however, is just illustrative, although it could have the same epoch marking function. This is a staple of contemporary pop score. The gist is that you need to pay attention to the lyric.

This kind of music can also be intertextual. When Perfidia comes up, one instantly recognizes it as coming from Days of being Wild.

The other category is I what I call music psychologia. This includes George Delerue piece, CastaDiva and Secret Garden. What this category differs from the first is that here the music is not diegetically justifiable in any way—it does not belong to that time. It is arbitrarily selected by the director, who believes it conveys an emotional charge that is appropriate to the scene. This is getting close to theme tune. In fact, CastaDiva is the theme tune of Faye Wang and Secret Garden is used to denote 2046, the place of eternal immobility. But while the knowledge of what CastaDiva is can help to appreciate its functioning here, the other two pieces can simply be listened to as it is—a really easy listening. In fact, the knowledge of their origin will spoil their effect in the scene.

I also put in this category film music from Fassbinder and Kielowski, although this normally calls for the label of intertextuality. As in above, such knowledge is not required—I doubt anyone can recognize it at all—and the text they refer to make little sense here.

There remains the original music composed by Shigeru Umebayashi. My subjective experience is that whether these are original or not matters little—it sounds just like Secret Garden or the Delerue piece, with a touch of grandiosity through percussion.


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