Canadian composer Mychael Danna (sometimes credited as "Michael") is the older brother of Jeff Danna who is also an accomplished film composer. "The Ice Storm" is an impressive movie, where the two generations of neighbours and friends seeks new stimuli to provide relief from their own dysfunctional families before events climax during an ice storm. Mychael Danna provides a variety of soundscapes as a backdrop to this story, including a wooden flute type sound suggesting perhaps the location and a back to nature freedom. A Gamelan band augmented with other brittle sounds are used in a number of places which eventually accompany the ice storm but also seem to predict it earlier in the movie, in the same way that director Ang Lee introduces early references to weather and ice. This music brings out the beauty of the storm with windchime effects in the trees, but also hints at its dangerous aspects as though its beauty is an allure to draw you in - perhaps a metaphor for the film itself.
In general one would describe the music of Mychael Danna as subtle or unobtrusive, which is exactly what many directors are looking for from a composer - a creator of something generally non-thematic which sits in the background lending ambience to the proceedings, and briefly rising up when the action requires some support only to retire once more into the background. In "Ride with the Devil" the music initially starts off with a certain Southern vibe (guitar, banjo, solo violin and strings) placing the situation in time and place and lending a certain lawlessness to events. The music rises in power when large scale action unfolds becoming more of a traditional orchestral score, then quietly allowing some character development to take place ending with a gentler more romantic mood as things return to something approaching normality.
Mychael Danna also seems to have an interesting and unusual involvement scoring Indian films with "Kama Sutra, A Tale of Love", "Moonsoon Wedding" and now "Water". For these scores Danna has employed a number of traditional Indian instruments and methods, often aiming for a modern fusion sound. He is one of very few Western composers to work in this way.
Note that the soundtrack CD for "The Ice Storm" only contains a couple of tracks by Mychael Danna (the rest of the CD being a collection of songs), and is available at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. The "Kama Sutra" soundtrack has much more of Danna's music and can be found at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. "8MM" is also available at these links Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. Mychael Danna's recent score for "The Time Traveller's Wife" integrates little snatches of sound design into some of the tracks. This and his clever instrumental scoring gives a certain enigmatic and unsettling quality which is ideal for the story. Check out the album at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.
Mychael Danna's familiarity with Indian music and instruments made him an ideal choice to score the visually stunning "Life of Pi" for director Ang Lee. His music has already received lots of favourable comments, and the score has now won both a Golden Globe and an Oscar. The soundtrack is available at these links from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.
Here are some CD covers signed by Mychael Danna, including some covers also signed by his brother Jeff Danna. Our thanks to Petr Kocanda for permission to use his collection of autographed CDs. Click the thumbnail below to see the image full size in a separate window.