Music Review: Minari (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Minari (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) by Emile Mosseri
Upon initial viewing of Minari, I quickly noticed the atmospheric sound that has become somewhat characteristic of A24 Films (Lady Bird, The Farewell). However, there was something more musically implicit that was taking place beyond the foreground screen and speakers. In moments, the sounds swept and rose to express an impressive range, while also being emotionally evocative. Behind all this is multi-instrumentalist Emile Mosseri, who had his breakthrough with scoring 2019's The Last Black Man in San Francisco. His appealing songs, composed upon piano, are embellished with a 40-piece string orchestra outsourced from Macedonia and rounded off by wordless vocals.

The soundtrack encapsulates and conveys the shifting vicissitudes of the Korean immigrant Yi family in their attempt to establish a family farm in Arkansas during the pre-Farm Aid eighties. “Garden of Eden” has almost an exotica quality and is presented with a lushness that belies the quotidian and incessant demands of tending to the earth. Sung in Korean by lead actress Han Ye Ri, “Rain Song” is an invocation to mother nature to summon her life-giving rains. These spacious songs offer bucolic hope, while confronting the deeply entrenched economic patterns and a hardscrabble land with a sense of determination. As heard on the film's trailer, the stirring “Birdslingers” enters with a bold marching cadence and wordless vocals which effectively conveys the dramatic elements of the film with verve before yielding to an extended piano outro. This most inherently grounded piece also presents Mosseri’s most memorable melody of the soundtrack. “The Wind Song” is sung in Korean by the aforementioned Han Ye Ri and unfolds in wide-open naturalistic fashion, while being carried along by a detuned 1943 Gibson L-2 acoustic and wavering theremin-like gusts generated by a 1984 Korg Monopoly synthesizer. The soundtrack succeeds at expressing the fuzzy, jumbled and blurred-around-the-edges impressionistic nature of childhood memories along with the shifting concepts of settlement & transience and embracing the foreign and the familiar. At times, Mosseri’s otherworldly score transcends its liminal space & time to connect the temporal and repetitive with the elusive eternal. Overall, this recording elevates and establishes Mosseri as one of the most adept and striking film composers currently working in the field. - Ted (Downtown)