Fantastic Voyage (Leonard Rosenman, 1966): Leonard Rosenman provides a moody and often dissonant, but also sometimes melodic and thematic, score for the popular science fiction adventure about a team of miniaturized scientists exploring he innards of the human body. It is an unusual and experimental score, but also distinctive and effective.
The melodic aspects of the scores are primarily built around a haunting and evocative central theme. The theme is fairly short, primarily characterized by a short fanfare-type motif, although its statement usually leads to fairly dissonant and, at times, atonal material. The score finally goes fully-melodic, and becomes recognizably Rosenman’s style, during the dramatic finale cue, entitled “Optic Nerve/End Cast”.
The soundtrack CD opens very strangely, with a minute and a half “Main Title Sound Effects Suite”, which is exactly what the title suggests. It includes a variety of beeps, buzzes, clicks, and electronic hums with no melody involved. The early part of the film (up until the scientists first enter the body) was left unscored, so this sound effects suite is representative of the opening of the film.
Film Score Monthly released a CD of the score back in 1998, the first release separate from the film. This is a complete presentation with a running time of a little over 45 minutes. The CD is out-of-print and is now a bit expensive, but not difficult, to locate.
Far and Away (John Williams, 1992): While the film was not a big hit and the score isn’t extremely well-known to the mainstream public, John Williams’ music to Ron Howard’s 70mm epic Far and Away has become a favorite of film music enthusiasts and is frequently featured at Williams’ live concerts. The epic scope of the film provided Williams with an opportunity to showcase a wide range of highly-thematic material, including Irish/Celtic flavored melodies, western-tinged Americana, and rousing action cues. The result is one Williams’ richest and most diverse scores.
The film’s focus on the relationship (and romance) between Irish immigrants played by Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman made the use of Irish-influenced melodies an obvious choice that Williams certainly embraced. The first cue on the soundtrack, “County Galway, June 1892” establishes the main theme, which incorporates bagpipes along with the orchestra and is both distinctly ethnic and also an example of Williams’ strong gift for rich, thematic melody. As the film transitions into American settings, the more ethnic elements of the theme are pushed more into the background in favor of a distinctively Americana orchestral flavor.
The strength of the main theme from Far and Away, which isn’t fully dependent on the Irish arrangements, led to a very effective violin arrangement of the theme that Williams arranged for the “Cinematic Serenade” album that he did with Yo Yo Ma, and which is now a frequent showcase for the lead violin player at some of Williams’ live concerts.
The ethnic components of the score are further strengthened through the participation of the popular Irish band The Chieftains on several of the scores cues. On the soundtrack, these are the cues “The Fighting Donellys”, “Fighting for Dough” and portions of the end credits suite. Their energetic strings and percussion are expertly blended with the orchestra.
Williams provides some exuberant, orchestral action music in such cues as the rich, string-centered “Blowing Off Steam”, “Fighting for Dough”, and “The Big Match”. Williams sticks with grand, very melodic material for the action segments of the score, eventually culminating in the absolutely thrilling 5 minute cue “The Land Race”, which is one of the score’s highlights.
The score also features richly dramatic components, including the cue “Am I Beautiful”, which is highlighted by an especially effective piano rendition of the score’s central theme. Another distinctive, quietly dramatic cue is “Inside the Mansion”, where Williams mixes tender strings with bell-like piano to create an almost dreamlike quality to the music, eventually leading into another tender piano rendition of the theme. This cue then transitions into the more darkly-dramatic “Shannon is Shot”.
In addition to Williams’ music, the soundtrack album also contains the song “Book of Days”, written for the film and performed by Enya. I admit that I tend to find that Enya’s songs all sound fairly interchangeable to me, although I generally find them pleasant enough. I do like this song and it blends in fairly well with the score. The song’s presentation on the album is between the film’s finale music and Williams’ end credits suite, but it doesn’t really feel out of place.
The soundtrack album to Far and Away isn’t a complete presentation of the score and isn’t entirely chronological, but it perhaps one of the best arguments out there in favor of an album arrangement over a complete and chronological release. The listening experience on the album (which runs just under an hour and ten minutes) is simply superb, with expertly edited cues and transitions. While I would likely purchase an expanded release, I am also pretty sure that I would both retain and still frequently play the original album.
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