Track This: Claudio Simonetti's Phemomena Theme


This theme is a dream was my first thought when I started writing about the Phenomena theme because Goblin's style (Simonetti is the keyboardist and one of the primary composers) has become intricately connected to Dario Argento's mise-en-scene. This connection is especially concrete in Phenomena stemming from the film's narrative arc to how Argento utilizes music. In this case, the film does not use the complete Goblin score but instead opts for distracting metal songs by Iron Maiden and Motorhead, which I hated the first few times I watched it. They seem out of place, but on subsequent watchings, I started realizing that they add to the film's disorienting effect. In fact, there can never be enough Goblin/Claudio Simonetti tracks because they bolster the narrative so effectively. 

Simonetti's theme for Dario Argento's Phenomena includes everything great about Goblin's music. It starts with repeating keyboard patterns that sound like they could also fit a Halloween sequel before operatic singing expands the sonic palette as a cymbal clashes. The music builds to a crescendo with added synthesizers, and the vocals become more frenzied. He adds sound effects and more synthesizer as the track reaches its midway point, and synthesizer parts respond to each other in a cacophonous call and response. The latter part of the track includes synthesized guitar solos and drum parts that seem on the verge of breaking apart before the music coalesces, and the vocals reappear. The outro is more minimal as the various instruments and effects compete for space before reaching a resolution.

The theme, like most of Goblin's music, is a perfect match for Argento's filmmaking style capturing the schizophrenia of the narrative and the tight edits and narrative dead-ends. The shifts between Goblin's score to metal songs adds to the film's intensity and confusion. Jennifer Corvino (Jennifer Connelly) starts attending the Richard Wagner Academy for Girls in Switzerland. Once she meets her roommate, she starts sleepwalking and witnessing murders. These scenes are dreamlike, and it is hard to decipher where dreams and reality intersect, mainly because the theme generally accompanies Jennifer's dreams. The theme is the perfect accompaniment to this confusion. Jennifer discovers that she has psychic powers that help her communicate with insects and with Professor John McGregor (Donald Pleasance), an entomologist, and his pet chimpanzee, Inga, she starts searching for the killer. In one scene, the theme plays when Jennifer calls on insects to protect her because the girls at the school are mean to her. The theme nondiegetically calls attention to her powers, but it also wraps up to shift into the next scene where she is in a hospital bed. The theme makes the abrupt transitions smoother while increasing the uncertainty between the waking world and the dream world. At the film's conclusion, the theme works to reassure the viewer that the nightmare might actually be over as Jennifer and Inga hug and the credits roll. 

Track This is a recurring feature of Snobbin' that turns the music appreciation dial up and rips it off of your stereo. It introduces a new track, allows readers to rediscover an underappreciated one, and serves as a forum to discuss a song that falls into the ear candy category and should be listened to unabashedly for years to come.

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