The Soundtrack


By • Jun 25th, 2005 •

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Just an interim column to mention some interesting CDs that have winged their way to me this past week.

Composed & performed (except where stated) by Nathan Larson
Label: Commotion Records / Running Time 45:32
Verdict: Recommended and Refreshing

Nathan Larson’s filmmusic career began as a member of the influential art-punk band Shudder To Think (HIGH ART, FIRST LOVE LAST RIGHTS). His solo music for the Academy Award®-winning film BOYS DON’T CRY established him as a film-scoring force on his own, and since then he has become a sought-after composer by defining himself through highly acclaimed and challenging work. His diverse scores include Todd Solondz’s STORYTELLING and PALINDROMES, Joel Schumacher’s TIGERLAND and PHONE BOOTH, Lukas Moodysson’s LILJA 4-EVER, and Stephen Frears’ DIRTY PRETTY THINGS. His music for 2004’s THE WOODSMAN starring Kevin Bacon earned him the prestigious Gras Savoye Award at the Cannes Film Festival.

FILMMUSIK features a collection of original tracks and sound bytes from his soundtracks to PROZAC NATION, BOYS DON’T CRY, TIGERLAND, PHONE BOOTH, LILJA 4-EVER, THE WOODSMAN, THE CHATEAU, DIRTY PRETTY THINGS, HIGH ART and STORYTELLING and despite the tracks being selected, by Larson’s own admission, haphazardly, and presented in a random fashion, it is a satisfying and fascinating album, and for the most part consists of previously unreleased material.

Keep your eye, or more correctly ear, on Nathan Larson.

Composed, Performed & Produced by Mark Isham
Label: Superb Records / Running Time 58:41
Verdict: Highly Recommended

Not to be confused with the David Cronenberg movie of the same title, CRASH is a compelling urban drama taking a provocative and unflinching look at the complexities of racial conflict in post-9/11 Los Angeles, examining fear and bigotry from multiple perspectives as characters careen in and out of one another’s lives.

With an ensemble cast including Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Sandra Bullock, Jennifer Esposito, William Fichtner, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Howard, Chris Bridges, Thandie Newton, Ryan Phillippe and Larenz Tate, CRASH is a rare cinematic event – a film that challenges audiences to question their own prejudices.

Composer Mark Isham’s other memorable and evocative scores include such films as MIRACLE, A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT, THE MAJESTIC, OCTOBER SKY, BLADE, NELL, MEN OF HONOR, SAVE THE LAST DANCE and MOONLIGHT MILE. Here he provides an appropriately eclectic mix of musical styles and ethnic voices. Paradoxically, for a film about racial tensions, there is no tension in the score. The music is tranquil and in places beautiful. At times I was reminded of some of Chris Franke’s more peaceful passages from his BABYLON 5 scores. This is a supportive and unobtrusive soundtrack that you hear without realising it and it is also a great stand-alone music album. The album is rounded off by the two songs featured in the film, “In the Deep” performed by Bird York and “Maybe Tomorrow” by the Stereophonics.

A second album, also from Superb Records, ‘CRASH – Music From and Inspired by the Film’, contains the Bird York and Stereophonics tracks, plus ten additional songs by Billy Idol, Chris Pierce, Civilization, Randy Coleman, Al Berry, Move.Meant, Pale 3 featuring Beth Hirsch, Quinn, Quincy, and the lead single “If I …” by Kansascali. As inspired and inspirational as they may or may not be, they weren’t in the film and thus do not count as a soundtrack album. Also I do have my misgivings about these ‘music from and inspired by’ albums. I’m a professional musician myself and I have to say I’ve never been ‘inspired’ to write anything as a result of watching a movie (have you?) which is why I’m not reviewing it.

Label: La-La Land Records / Running Time 78:33
Composer Bear McCreary
Featured vocalists: Brendan McCreary, Caitanya Riggan, Daniel McGrew, Ken Stacey, Lillis Ó Laoire, Melanie Henley Heyn, Michael Now, Raya Yrbrough
Verdict: Interesting

Much as I enjoy this album I have a problem with it. Bear McCreary, who corroborated with Richard Gibbs on the BATTLESTAR GALACTICA 2003 mini-series, has continued here with that multi-racial/ethnic and somewhat minimalistic style of accompaniment for the visuals. Here also have been composed pieces featuring Irish pipes, Bach/Mozartesque string pieces, Latin Muzak, Japanese Taiko (drum), Mediterranean/Middle-Eastern style percussion & wind instruments, Afro-Caribbean percussion and even full-blown traditional opera. Many tracks combine some these elements and are fine, and interesting. Some however are too nation, region, era, or musically specific to our own planet Earth, and even the lyrics for the songs are provided in the sleeve notes in both Gaelic and Latin. I accept that the characters have to speak in a familiar language so we know what’s going on, but the protagonists in this series are, after all, not from Earth, and certainly none of them ever speaks Gaelic or Latin, so the languages and music surrounding them should not be influenced by our regional perceptions. The counter to this of course is that Earth is supposedly, according to the premise of the BATTLESTAR GALACTICA series, the ‘lost’ colony of these very same protagonists; we are/were originally the same race and therefore we will have developed music and language along the same lines.

This assumption is my problem.

All of us humans on this beautiful planet have, in reality, descended from the same root and have lived next door to each other for thousands of years yet still we have developed an infinite diversity of language, culture, musical styles and totally different ways of thinking (to the point of blowing each other to bits) from our fellow humans living relatively just down the road. How then would a supposed colony, separated from it’s home planet by a vast amount of space, and left to stew in it’s own juices for hundreds or thousands of years, possibly maintain the culture, languages and music of it’s forefathers?

That notwithstanding, although not a jolly listen, the album is compositionally fascinating in some parts, and totally enjoyable in all, because of it’s diversity and combination of musical styles. I just think some of the music is inappropriate for it’s series setting.

A review of some of the man’s greatest and most iconic film scores including DIRTY HARRY, ENTER THE DRAGON, BULLITT, KELLY’S HEROES, COOL HAND LUKE, RUSH HOUR, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, THE CINCINNATI KID and the newly released MAGNUM FORCE.

Keep listening.

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