Masterfully scored by Cliff Martinez, The Knick details the harrowing story of medical experimentation in 1900. It’s partially based on the story of William Stewart Halsted, who was instrumental in several important introductions to the world of surgery, including anaesthetic, operations and cleanliness and sterility during surgery. Produced by HBO and airing on Cinemax, The Knick has thus far received positive reviews in America, and reaches Sky Atlantic on Thursday October 16. You can catch it at 9pm.
To promote the series, HBO and Cinemedia Promotions have released The Knick: Music By Cliff Martinez, which brings together the score of the first season. It is a wonderfully encapsulating soundtrack, including the organic notes of ‘I’m In The Pink’, the melancholy underwater vibes of ‘Goodbye Nurse Elkins’ and the slow-burning heartbeat of ‘New Standard Hernia Procedure’. A sense of despair and suspense encapsulates the entire soundtrack, akin to the bleak tones of the show itself.
Martinez said of his work on the show: ‘For The Knick, I revisited a time-honoured Soderbergh [Steven Soderbergh, director] tradition that I like to call “one thing”. I try very hard to score an entire scene using only one sound or instrument. It’s difficult and I usually end up cheating and using more. But by limiting the number of elements, I’m always guaranteed an expressively minimalist and fat-free soundtrack.’
And this is certainly the case. Minimalist is the word to describe this soundtrack. It’s evident on all of the tracks, but perhaps most pertinent on ‘Abscess’, which is so minimalist the notes are barely audible.
This minimalist approach creates an almost sterile sound. The soundtrack is washed in simplistic notions, wonderfully juxtaposing the scenes of groundbreaking surgical advancement. But it is an intense affair. ‘My Book’ may be soaring and simple throughout, but underneath a sense of urgency is evident, faintly. The sounds drop to almost nothing, creating the urge to find out more, the urge of desperation those involved in the experimentations would have felt.
The Knick: Music By Cliff Martinez is available from the HBO Store now. You can buy it here.