A new deluxe Re-mastered-for-vinyl 180 Gram LP re-issue of the soundtrack to Ken Russel 1980’sci-fi extravaganza, Altered states, about a scientist conducting research in an isolation tank under the influence of psychoactive drugs, was just released by Waxwork Records.
The original RCA Red Seal labelled Oscar nominated score by former concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic, John Corigliano ( Christopher Keene is conducting) gets the Wax Work treatment under license by Sony Masterworks. The audio has been sourced from the original masters. The New mastering (by Thomas DiMuzio) with great sound is composer approved.
After a tiring day working on Altered States, in 1979, director Russell was out for an evening of Los Angeles Philharmonic performing when he came upon the music of Corigliano (his Clarinet Concerto) saying ( from the original CD release liner notes): ‘… a revelation (these) were sounds of magic and grandeur I had long since despaired of hearing from a modern musician. . . if only he would compose the music for Altered States…‘ . Russell and producer Daniel Melnick asked Corigliano ‘… to go even further and wilder, and do the wildest score you’ve ever done.’
The numerous hallucination sequences provided ground for the composer to let loose.
The distinguished Professor of Music at Lehman College, which has established a scholarship in his name, employed unorthodox techniques. To create the sound of ancient horns, the flute players blew directly into their instruments without the mouthpiece. To get pungi like sounds (the «snake charmer»’s instrument) players took the reed deeper into their mouths , interfering with the vibration of the double reed.
From the first hallucination cue (the pagan ritual with the Goat) we get bleating bassoons and oboes accompanied by various vibrant percussion, simian sounds and organ to symbolize the religious struggle and painful memories of the main character. The orchestral sound is augmented with sparse voices, electronics and with citations of the Christian hymn Rock of Ages .
The second hallucination (the Hinchi mushrooms trip) is led by Bassoons, oboes, trumpets and anvils with two sets of four timpani and a vigorous rhythmic section . Large parts of the music are like the Mumble of a bee swarm with Sudden burst of orchestral violence.
Not an easy listening, the Altered States OST is nonetheless a tense, wild and unique film music experience. An amazing score.