Peter Golub is a composer whose made a name for himself by doing lower profile films. He’s not exactly a household name, but he’s been composing films since the late 90’s. Highlights include The Laramie Project, American Gun, Frozen River and probably the more known The Great Debaters directed by Denzel Washington. For that score he co-composed with the great James Newton Howard.
Countdown To Zero is a documentary about the nuclear arms race and pretty much looking at how at any moment our entire existence could be ended by the amount of nuclear weapons currently existing in the world. Looking at that subject from a storytelling aspect I can only imagine how difficult it could be to score something like this. I’ve talked briefly with another composer about composing documentaries and he pretty much told me he approached it just like it was a fictional film. He had main characters with goals and he treated it as such. However I feel a documentary of this kind of subject isn’t really aimed at telling a story, but more or less shining a light on information.
So, I guess with that in mind the score for Countdown To Zero is as expected. The melodies are subtle and they carry the tone of the film effectively. They don’t overpower and they don’t stand out for a good reason. Documentary scoring isn’t really a place for a composer to go nuts with lush and grand orchestrations. The score is an electronic based weaving of simple melodies that function as underscore. With that being said there isn’t that much emotion that is evoked from this score, and I truly believe the subject matter doesn’t lend itself to it. While it’s obvious Golub is scoring information and not emotion I do kind of wish the tracks had some emotional structure to them.
Through the listening experience you feel a bit distanced from the score. I think the most emotion gets evoked through the last 2 tracks. So, in the end the experience for me doesn’t truly make me feel like I experienced anything at all. The last track is definitely the highlight because I actually felt something while listening to it. I just feel the entire score overall is more informational than emotional and in the end that just doesn’t resonate with me as an audience. It never tells you how to feel, but I just don’t think it has its feet placed firmly enough on the ground.