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The Awe Of Irresolution
For a film that was never meant to have a signature score, music was critical to the telling of "Zodiac.” It was meant to have only vintage music, 40 signposts that would keep track of the Zodiac story spanning nearly four decades. They would at times serve as an interlude to a continuum of the story, when the killer went underground.

But it was not enough. 

The obsessive nature that takes over with any aspect of telling the story of "Zodiac” had permeated the mix – something else was needed. 

"It wasn't until we got to the second and third acts, when we realized we had to take the emotional part of the film to another level,” explains Sound Designer Ren Klyce. "First it was 10 minutes, then 20, then more and there was no budget for a score, only for the 40 copyrights” from the 1960s through the late 1980s. It wasn't until he pulled together the temp track, using pieces from Francis Ford Copolla's "The Conversation” and Alan Pakula's "All the President's Men” that he knew. He wanted David Shire, composer of both. "This is a film about losing your life in a mystery that can't be solved, and it's a newspaper story,” adds Klyce. "Even though the studio was getting a sense we needed a score, I sort of had to do this under the radar.” 

Despite the fact that Klyce and Fincher had been friends since they were 18 and he has composed, edited or served as sound designer on every one of Fincher's films, because a score had not been budgeted for ‘Zodiac.'" I knew my head was on the chopping block.” 

Fincher knew the 70-year-old Shire was a talented composer. He trusted Klyce's certainty. But "at first I wasn't sure I wanted a score and I knew that I didn't want a dirge, I didn't want to ape anything done before,” Fincher says. 

Fincher was consistent in that deference to Pakula's 1976 Oscar nominee throughout the making of "Zodiac.” "I remember David said from the beginning `I don't want to make another serial killer movie. I want to make the last serial killer movie.' And on the other hand, he said `it is not really a serial killer movie – it is really a newspaper story',” says Fischer. "The model he held up was "All the President's Men,” which was also a true story about a real event, real people.” Fincher is quick to note, "'All the President's Men' is certainly much more high-minded journalism. But, it is the story of a reporter determined to get the story at any cost and one who was new to being an investigative reporter. It was all about his obsession to know the truth.”

Shire composed 27 minutes of music that plays throughout the film. Much of it plays on the escalating pressure and discord between police and the press – an undercurrent, Fincher says, that "had to play carefully.” 

"The first chord you hear is an unresolved note,” says Shire. "There are 12 signs of the Zodiac and there is a way of using atonal and tonal music. So we used 12 tones, never repeating any of them but manipulating them. We were looking for patterns to play off the feeling of the story itself, the patterns of a serial killer.”

Shire strove for a subtle suspense score "that was driving but not in an overt way. They wanted the score to add another dimension to the picture. The music is not just about the scene but about getting inside the characters' hearts and minds. I was thinking about the instruments to sort of represent the characters. The trumpet was Toschi, the solo piano was Graysmith and the dissonant strings were the serial killer Zodiac.” 

Shire drew his inspiration from American Composer Charles Ives' 1906 master work "The Unanswered Question.” The multi-layered piece involves the scoring for a string quartet, a woodwind quartet and a solo trumpet – each layer with its own tempo and key. Ives called it a "cosmic landscape” with the strings representing "The Silences of the Druids<

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