Paul Thomas Anderson fans are well accustomed to how instrumental Jonnny Greenwood’s music is to the auteur’s body of work. Whether it’s the foreboding strings in “There Will Be Blood” or the discordant percussion in “The Master,” Greenwood’s original scores expertly capture Anderson’s tones. This fact is especially true in “Phantom Thread,” which marks the fourth collaboration between Anderson and Greenwood.
Variety reports that Greenwood’s score has been included in 90 minutes of the 130-minute drama, which means you’ll be hearing the score in nearly 70% of the movie. Greenwood’s music has always been important to Anderson’s films, but it’s dominant in “Phantom Thread” in a way it never has been. In some ways it acts as a Greek chorus of sorts, changing and perverting its central melody as the relationship between the two central characters takes an unusual evolution.
“We talked a lot about ‘50s music, what was popularly heard then as well as what was being written and recorded,” Greenwood told Variety about coming up with the sore with Anderson. “Nelson Riddle and Glenn Gould’s Bach recordings were the main references. I was interested in the kind of jazz records that toyed with incorporating big string sections, Ben Webster made some good ones, and focus on what the strings were doing rather than the jazz musicians themselves.”
Greenwood figures that the movie’s central character, Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), would’ve been a fan of baroque music, so he made sure to channel that sound when writing the theme music for him. The musician says he used piano as a common ground between the romantic music and the more formal music required to channel the “more buttoned-up themes that suited Reynolds.”
“[The romantic movements] couldn’t cross into pastiche, or be in any way ironic. It took a long time to figure out how to do that,” Greenwood admitted.
The musician conducted the score at his London studio with conductor Robert Ziegler and a 60-string ensemble, the most he’s ever used in his career. When Ziegler found out just how much of the score appears in the finished cut, he told Greenwood, “That’s not a soundtrack, that’s a musical!”
Greenwood says he’s “lucky” to be able to work on films like this where he can develop the score over such a long period of time. “Phantom Thread” opens in theaters Christmas day.