E.S. Posthumus Creates Sounds of “All Things Past”

Whenever you feel that heart-pounding, tension-filled moment in the cinema, the background music, nine times out of ten, is performed by classical instruments with integrated electronic music. The band E.S. Posthumus produces movie trailer music by incorporating classical music directly into its scores, most recently being featured in the trailer for “Sherlock Holmes.” The group is known for its use of Gregorian chants, an early vocal form of music, and then mixing it with electronic music and rhythmic drum beats. The end result is a form of classical rock that is very approachable to critics and listeners alike. E.S. Posthumus is a two-member band consisting of brothers Helmut and Franz Vonlichten. Originally from Los Angeles, California, the band has been active since 2000. According to the brothers, the “E.S.” in the name stands for “Experimental Sounds,” and “Posthumous” signifies “all things past.” They have released two albums, “Unearthed” and “Cartographer,” both of which have been widely featured in TV and cinema. The album “Unearthed” was used in trailers for movies such as “Vanity Fair” and “Unfaithful.” Each of the songs in the album is named after an ancient city that was either destroyed or abandoned, in accordance with the band’s theme of connecting to the past. Each piece is dramatic and tension-filled to the finish. The electronic part of the music is delicately interwoven to form a well-balanced fusion of traditional and contemporary styles. The most famous piece in the album, “Nara,” is composed of simple harmonies that build up with the aid of steady drumbeats in the background. Because most of the instruments are traditional orchestral instruments, the piece has an organic feel. The diatonic sounds in the strings contrast the lyrical themes in the woodwinds. “Pompeii”, which was used in the “Spiderman” trailers, is unique from other pieces mainly due to its use of chorus. The addition of voices gives a human aspect to the music. The sopranos add a melancholy feel to the piece while the harsh drumbeats clarify the rhythmic gestures of the piece clear. The audience is able to relate to this piece, as it is possible to sing along. In the second album, “Cartographer,” E.S. Posthumus takes a different approach to its music. For example, “Mosane Pi” is strikingly different because the drumbeats are not clearly distinct until the later half of the piece. Even then, the use of drums is significantly less than in the album “Unearthed.” The oboe theme in “Mosane Pi” touches the heart with its expressive chromatic harmonies. Also, instead of revealing the climax at the end, “Mosane Pi” gives an anticipation of dramatic finale through unresolved harmonies. This keeps the listener engrossed until the ending, an eerie silence. E.S. Posthumus is also known for its singles, including “Rise to Glory”, “Unstoppable” and “Arise.” An abridged version of “Rise to Glory,” called “Posthumus Zone,” was on television sports programs such as “The NFL Today”. The piece “Unstoppable,” which served as the trailer music for “Sherlock Holmes,” features a wide range of instruments, including violins, drums, electric guitars and electric synthesizers. It then culminates in a climax with full orchestral, explosive chords. Hopefully we may eventually see a film that is completely scored by E.S. Posthumus, with its unique combination of classical and electronic music.