Dedicated to reviews and news of music for film, TV and games

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


The Howling
Music by Pino Donaggio
La-La Land Records LLCD 1037 (U.S.A.)
34 Tracks 45:58 mins.

Around the late '70s, early '80s, Italian composer Pino Donaggio developed a very distinctive string sound, very reminiscent of the late Bernard Herrmann, for various entries in the horror/thriller genre, most notably for director Brian De Palma, but he also scored early films by Joe Dante, before the director hooked up with Jerry Goldsmith. One of these was 1980's The Howling, a werewolves in the woods tale, most remembered for Rob Bottin's ingenious transformation effects.
Donaggio's dramatic and stabbing strings perfectly complimented the events on screen, with his carnival-like, hypnotic vocal motif, allied to powerful brass often accompanying the more terrifying moments. Church organ adds a splendid gothic touch, with subtle electronics added to the mix. Lighter moments are given a light country-pop feel, as with the strangely sunny End Title.
The score is here presented in an expanded form to the original album release, and includes a further 12 tracks, including some brief electronic stingers. As with all La-La Land releases, a colourful and informative booklet accompanies the CD, featuring comments by both composer and director.

The Beautiful Country
Music by Zbigniew Preisner
Mellowdrama Records MEL102 (U.K.)
17 Tracks 50:07 mins.

Polish composer Zibigniew Preisner is another to have a very distinctive string sound and his sensitive, melancholy approach is perfect for this new film by Has Petter Moland, with who he previously collaborated on 2000's Aberdeen. The film tells of a young half-caste refugee's escape from impoverishment and servitude in Vietnam, a journey that leads him to America, by way of internment in a Malaysian detention camp and, judging by the music, it's a pretty bleak affair, dominated by Preisner's strings, complimented by piano and guitar, with subtle electronic atmospheres, and with ethnic Asian touches, largely signified by a delicate, ethereal flute theme, first heard in Letter to my Mother, and lightly percussive travel music, like in Saigon and Malaysia. The score culminates in the jazzy Time Passing, with vibraphone, piano and guitar featured prominently.

Land of Vikings
Music by Alan Williams
Silverscreen SMCD019 (U.S.A.)
13 Tracks 31:51 mins.

If only every composer was as enterprising as Alan Williams, who for some time now has been putting out CDs of his music, one of the latest being this compilation of his music for the documentaries Parting ands: An Ielandic Saga and The Green land: Wildlife in the Land of Vikings, both films directed and produced by the award-winning filmmaker Bo Landin and Scandinature Films.
Williams' score is dominated by haunting ethnic flutes, seemingly straight from the mists of time, performed by Joe Stone. Guitars and hand drums feature in the more flowing passages of the score, which is performed by a combination of live musicians and synths. John Barry fans may like The Green Land, a pastorale that could easily have come straight out of Dances With Wolves, and will find it reprised in a travelling variation in Parting Lands. Another peaceful track is Nightfall, a flute and synths nocturne, with guitar joining.
Overall, a largely low-key, but affecting little album, this is the first of a number of Alan Williams CDs I shall be covering, both new and slightly older, over the next few weeks but, in the meantime, should you wish to find out more about the composer and see his range of CDs, visit


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