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

Monday, January 05, 2009


I'd like to say I'm back and fully recharged, but truth is I've been doing a lot of thinking over the holiday when I finally had a little time to actually take a breath, between all my jobs (7 days a week, morning and night - and sometimes in between) and my film music study. Thing is, I'm beginning to feel my own mortality. This past year hasn't been the healthiest for me and, as I'm now into my fifties, I think it's about time I started trying to find some quality time for me. The paid jobs I can't do much about, particularly in these times of global recession, where I'm forced to take on as much work as I can possibly find just to keep my head above water, but how I spend the rest of my time is a thing I can do something about. So, without actually making any New Year's resolutions (who ever can keep them anyway?), I am determined to spend less time on some things and more on others, which means perhaps more selective film music appreciation and more actually seeing some of the films I'm hearing the music for. For the last two years (or maybe more), I've increasingly had to record films for future viewing and then struggled to actually view them (I've still got films on video from two Christmases ago I haven't watched). As for new films, well it's a struggle just to find time to hire a DVD, let alone go to the cinema, which is pretty much impossible anyway, with my working day.
Regarding film music; of course I still love it, but I find that now, whereas I can still hum a theme from a score from the 80s and before, it's increasingly hard to remember anything from scores I've been reviewing in recent years. Now, I know that many writers bemoan the fact that there just aren't enough good themes being written for films these days, and this may well be true, but the fact is that where I used to be able to listen to a score three times before reviewing it, all I now get time for is one casual listen and then a concentrated listen as I write, which is not a very satisfying situation at all. Don't get me wrong, I'm eternally grateful to all the fine record labels, publicists and composers who so generously send me their product to review, and I hope they still approve of my efforts, it's just there's so much of it to get through and often I'd love to give more time to a score that really takes my fancy, but have to treat it the same as one which does very little for me.
So where is this leading me? Well, this is just to say that, whilst I have no intention of closing the site down (though believe me, it had more than crossed my mind), you may not in future find quite so many detailed reviews, nor will I beat myself up if I don't post a review most days of the week. Of course, should the suppliers of the material I review not approve of my changes, there may not be much to review anyway, but I hope they will bear with me, as if I like something they send me I'll undoubtedly want to pass my enthusiasm on to you, the reader.
Anyway, I've rambled on long enough. All I can say to conclude is please bear with me and we'll see how things go.

So to my first review of 2009:-

Captain Abu Raed
Musicf by Austin Wintory
NeoClassics Films Ltd. For Your Consideration Promo
10 Tracks 17:04 mins

Austin Wintory is a new name to me, but obviously one to take note of, as his score for this the first-ever Jordanian entry in the Academy Awards' foreign language film category, has already won him the "best New Composer" award at the first annual Hollywood Music Awards, whilst the film itself received the World Cinema Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival.
Described as a "story of dreams, friendship, forgiveness, and sacrifice," the film follows a lonely airport janitor who, admittedly through a deceit, attempts to make a difference to the lives he touches.
Wintory was actually a film music fan before he taught himself to compose, orchestrate and conduct, going on to study at universities in New York and California. Still only 26, he has now taken his first steps into the world of feature, short films and videogame scoring, receiving a BAFTA nomination for his work in the latter field on "fl0w." His score for Captain Abu Raed mixes traditional Arabic instruments with orchestra and other less conventional western instruments like sleigh bells and castanets, and is performed by the Hollywood Studio Symphony, with vocals by Lisbeth Scott.
This rather brief CD, kindly forwarded to me by the composer's publicists, Costa Communications, is I imagine just a sampler and let's hope for a full commercial score release at some time in the not too distant future. The disc opens with Ms Scott's haunting vocals for "In the Fog," against a background of rather spiritual strings. An elegiac horn soars above yet more of those uplifting strings in "More Stories," which is followed by the initially bubbly "Storyteller," and then the wistful "Goodbye and Ascent." "Airport Revelations" first introduces more eastern elements, though ends on the strings again. A delicate harp solo opens "The Two Captains," before cello takes up the warm melodic line. "Progenicide" presents the first moment of discord and features oppressive strings building to a climax; whilst "Abu Murad" follows mournfully after. Things pick up with "Fly By Night," a quite brief, but tense action cue; the disc concluding in satisfying fashion with the warmth of "Tea with Um Raed."
From what little I have heard of it here, this is truly a lovely score from a composer whose name I shall be looking out for in the future. This certainly bodes well for a long and successful career in the art Austin Wintory has admired so much since the early age of ten.


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