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“The Trial of the Chicago 7” film score brings funk to the small screen

A large portion of film scores don’t get widespread attention in popular culture. “The Trial of the Chicago 7” is one film score that deserves all the attention is should get. 

The film score, written by Daniel Pemberton, accompanies the new film on Netflix of the same name directed by Aaron Sorkin. The soundtrack attempts to encapsulate the true story of the Chicago 7, a group of anti-Vietnam protesters who get charged with conspiracy for allegedly inspiring riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention. The soundtrack features a blend of orchestral and electronic timbres. 

The first thing to say about the soundtrack is that it perfectly captures the intense nature of being in a courtroom from all angles. Within the tracks, Pemberton has both intimate and intense writing. The intimate writing is reserved for the more intimate matters of legal process such as dark lit meetings in offices or for sequestering the jury. He uses the more intense sounds to showcase the more general scenes such as police rooms or the loud courtroom bravado employed by lawyers. Pemberton’s unique use of orchestral timbres combined with more commercial sounds such as a heavily miked-up drum set, or distortion guitar’s helps drive the action in the film. One moment in the track labeled “Take the Hill (Hear My Screams)” is particularly effective as it’s for the infamous riot scene and the heavy percussion and guitars drive home the angsty energy in a riot. 

The direction of the tracks across the album, much like a good film, is well constructed. The tracks, while not blending directly into one another, certainly have a natural progression of emotion. This is not even remotely Pemberton’s first film score. He has also scored such great films like “The Counselor” directed by Ridley Scott, “Steve Jobs” directed by Danny Boyle, “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” directed by Guy Ritchie, “Ocean’s 8” directed by Gary Ross, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” directed by Bob Persichetti, as well as recent releases like “Birds of Prey” directed by Cathy Yan, and “Enola Holmes” directed by Harry Bradbeer, another direct to Netflix film. 

The film, being a legal drama, incorporates the infamous use of the hi-hat on the drum set popularized by the theme to the TV show, “The People’s Court.” This prominent use of the hi-hat has been replicated in nearly every legal or procedural drama since and Pemberton was clearly influenced by it. Pemberton also uses other repeating motifs throughout the film score such as an extremely high harp note with high strings to denote resistance in thought from the lawyer’s perspective as well as creating an almost desolate feeling with the strings and piano only to drive home the emotional tension in the courtroom in the film. 

Ultimately, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” film score is another great reason to listen more intently the next time you pop in a movie or load up your Netflix queue. The film score is often the driving force of emotion in a film. “The Trial of the Chicago 7” film score receives a B-plus rating. 

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