• Ben Erickson

Eighth Grade

Eighth Grade is a dramatic comedy centered around an adolescent in her final week of classes. The film, directed by comedian Bo Burnham, is an alarmingly perceptive look at the social existence of teenagers today, with an original score by Anna Meredith. Meredith is a British composer who specializes in electronic and acoustic music, formerly a composer-in-residence for the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, with Eighth Grade being her first effort writing music for the screen. Her work is often described as experimental, favouring upbeat, retro-style synthesizer techniques over the more common, nebulous drones one might experience with entirely synthetic compositions. The score is correspondingly peppy, actively rolling as synths do and gushing with emotion. There are many moments too where calm, thin textures with simple ideas come to the forefront of your mind that nevertheless have much to say. The music has an effect of cleaning the ears, similar to how your auditory senses might react to hearing a polyphonic Renaissance mass after listening to nothing but pop hits for a week. It presents an ironically upbeat attitude in the film to match the aggressively awkward subject matter; playfully dark and whimsical. Sorry to say, the mix in the film was at times problematically jarring, with a blaring synthesizer asserting itself on screen in certain places where it would have been better to respond to what was happening. For most concert composers transitioning to multimedia productions, this is the tell. In Meredith's case she even chose to use some previously composed works for the film, including "Nautilus" and "Honeyed Worlds". That said, apart from this foreseeable side effect, for a first-time attempt at film the score for Eighth Grade was altogether entertaining and successful.