Archive for May, 2011

Soundtrack Collection: Enemy Below to Evita

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

The Enemy Below

The Enemy Below (Leigh Harline, 1957): This golden age action score is highlighted by a stirringly militaristic and melodic main theme, dominated by trombone and other prominent brass instruments.  It is a thrilling attention-grabbing theme that establishes the composer’s very dynamic action approach to the score.  This theme is particularly dominant in this score, repeating frequently, but with many variations in orchestration and pacing.

As is frequently typical with this type of action score, there are some darker, more suspense-oriented passages as well.  One of the earliest in the score is the cue “Charting Tables”, which tends to use slower pacing and lower brass to present a darker mood, while still remaining centered around the melody of the primary theme.  Action is definitely central to the score, though, with plenty of fast paced action cues, such as “Abandon Ship”, which contains some aggressive piano underlying the expected brass.

The score ends on a somewhat surprising note with a gently melodic end title cue, which is mainly string oriented.  Coming right after some much more fast paced action music, this cue provides a pretty effective winding down of the score.  While much of this cue is somewhat disconnected from the other parts of the score, it does work up to a bold, fanfare-style statement of the main theme as an ending flourish.

Intrada’s limited edition CD release is now sold out at their site and rare enough that I couldn’t even find an Amazon link.  It contains a little over 40 minutes of Harline’s score, plus another 8 minutes of bonus cues of source music.  The bonus cues include a number of vocals by Theodore Bikel, a military band march, and various “radar blips” that were composed by Harline essentially for sound effects.

Enterprise

Enterprise (Dennis McCarthy, 2002): The most recent (to date) “Star Trek” TV series mostly inherited the same musical style that was established with “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and continued through each of the subsequent TV series.  It was not surprising that Dennis McCarthy, one of the most frequent composers on the previous series, was brought in to score the pilot as well as other later episodes of the series.

One strange, and controversial, choice that was made by the series’ producers was to deviate from the usual orchestral main title themes and instead use a pop/rock song.  Even stranger was the decision to use a re-worked version of “Faith of the Heart”, which was written by Diane Warren and performed by Rod Stewart for the movie Patch Adams

The version of the song used for “Enterprise” was re-titled “Where My Heart Will Take Me” and performed by Russell Watson, essentially copying Stewart’s rough voiced style.  While this decision was, I suppose, fairly bold, it wasn’t really a good one.  The song felt terribly out of place over the series’ nostalgic opening title sequence (which featured visuals giving the history of space exploration) and it certainly didn’t fit with the musical approach used for the actual episode scoring.

The series was never a big hit (it only lasted 4 seasons, compared to 7 each for the previous three series) and only one soundtrack CD, containing the pilot score, has been released so far.  The CD also contains two versions of Russell Watson’s performance of “Where My Heart Will Take Me”, a longer version that opens the CD and the shorter version used on the show, which closes the disc.

McCarthy provides a primary theme that is incorporated frequently into the episode score.  The theme is dominated by majestic brass along with some soaring strings, which nicely evokes flight while also presenting a bit of a nostalgic flavor.  This theme was originally intended to be the opening title theme and the full arrangement written for that purpose is presented on the CD as “Archer’s Theme”.

As with any “Star Trek” incarnation, the show provided opportunities for a mix of dramatic, somewhat-cerebral scoring as well as some faster, more percussive action music, such as “Klingon Chase-Shotgunned” or “Phaser Fight” and darker suspense cues as in “Morph-o-Mania”.  The action cues, in particular, tend to have quite a few synth elements to supplement the otherwise orchestral presentation.

(more…)