Music in the movies: Jonny Greenwood

This week's music in the movies celebrates the genius of Mr Jonny Greenwood. Glen Chapman is your host...

With the recent news that Jonny Greenwood will be writing and composing the score for the forthcoming adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s novel, Norwegian Wood, I thought that I’d take a look at the Radiohead guitarist’s career and his involvement with the movies to date.

Norwegian Wood

Murakami’s novel, Norwegian Wood, was originally published in Japan in 1987 and was translated to English in 2000. It follows the recollections of protagonist Toru’s life in the 60s, which have been triggered by listening to the Beatles song.

The film is scheduled for release in Japan this December, but international release dates are unknown at this point.

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Greenwood’s score for the movie will be adapted from an orchestral piece he composed called Dogwood, which is set to be broadcast on BBC3 in the not too distant future.


Greenwood is the youngest member of Radiohead and left university early once the band signed their record deal with EMI and, despite being known as one of the best guitarists in the world as a result of his brilliant work throughout Radiohead’s long career, it’s rumoured that he was originally recruited to handle harmonica duties. Obviously, something that was short lived, as there isn’t exactly a great deal of harmonica used in their back catalogue, but he got to put his skills to use on Pavement’sfinal studio album, Terror Twilight.

Their debut album, Pablo Honey, is a hit and miss record that only provided a small glimpse at what the band would eventually become. There’s a clear evolution from album to album up to Kid-A, which saw the band go in an unexpected direction that would alienate a portion of their fan base, but win over new fans in the process.

Listening to the albums in chronological order shows that what’s to hear on Kid-A shouldn’t have been such a surprise, as a lot of the direction towards the experimental was heavily hinted at in OK Computer, their most critically acclaimed and commercially successful album up to that point and one of the most influential albums of the 90s.

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Kid-A and Amnesiac, the album that was released shortly after Kid-A and comprised of material from the Kid-A sessions, show the band at their most creative and, indeed, experimental.

The record that followed Kid-A and Amnesiac saw them straddle their old style with the more experimental nature, which they had come accustomed to. Hail To The Thief is a mixed affair by Radiohead’s lofty standards, but has moments of brilliance.

The last official album the band released saw them try a new tactic. For the release of In Rainbows the band offered the album up online for download and fans would pay what they wanted for the record. It’s an incredibly accessible album, in the best possible sense, and stands up with the best of their albums.

Known for his aggressive style with the guitar, Greenwood is often seen sporting a wrist support to counter the effects of RSI. His playing style creates a distinct sound that is instantly recognisable. Despite his status as a great guitarist, it’s Greenwood who plays many of the instruments that contribute towards Radiohead’s experimental sound. Adept at playing synths, keys and number of other instruments, Greenwood’s also a skilled user of the ondes Martenot, an instrument that dates back to 1928 and produces an eerie sound.

Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire

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In addition to being the lead guitarist for Radiohead, Greenwood had the honour of taking the same role for The Weird Sisters, the fictional band in Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire. Joined by fellow Radiohead member Phil Selway, Jarvis Cocker and Steve Mackey of Pulp, Jason Buckle of All Seeing I and Steve Claydon of Add N to X.

Jarvis Cocker wrote and composed the songs the band performed at the Yule Ball. The tracks are called Do The Hippogriff, This Is The Night and Magic Works.


Bodysong marked Greenwood’s first foray into film composing and both the music and the documentary itself are interesting, to say the least.

Director Simon Pummell created Bodysong using archive footage spanning over a century to create this look at the human experience from creation through to death. It’s not an easy watch and is, at times, an assault on the senses that left me feeling quite nauseous, but it’s a remarkable piece of work.

Greenwood’s score is perhaps the biggest draw to the piece. It certainly was for me. It’s more representative of his experimental tendencies than it is of him as a guitarist. The soundtrack is a sonic tapestry that incorporates many genres and, as an album, gets stronger with each listen.

There Will Be Blood

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Paul Thomas Anderson’s fifth feature received critical acclaim upon its release, but was recently Gaye’s pick for 10 Movies we don’t see what all the fuss was about feature. It’s a film that I loved, but I know a lot of people who didn’t enjoy it and I can understand why.

If I hadn’t known that Greenwood was the composer before seeing There Will Be Blood, I would have probably guessed that the music was composed by The Kronos Quartet. His work here is, without doubt, far removed from anything in Radiohead’s back catalogue, which is saying something given their output.

There’s no sign of the electronic instruments that Greenwood has used throughout his career, the score consists entirely of instruments available at the turn of the century and strikes the balance of being understated and intense and oppressive to brilliant effect.

The score was deemed ineligible for the Best Original Score Academy Award as it was adapted from and contained elements from Popcorn Supheret Receiver, which he composed for the BBC. Despite the snub from the academy, it remains one of the best scores in recent years and, without a doub, a highlight in a long and brilliant career.