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Tuesday, December 22, 2009


The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Music by Mychael Danna & Jeff Danna
Silva Screen Records SILCD1303
22 Tracks 47:44 mins

Terry Gilliam's latest is of course the film that nearly didn't make it, owing to the tragic death of Heath Ledger. However, the director rallied round and came up with the necessary changes to script and cast, enabling the film to be finished.
The Danna brothers, Mychael and Jeff, were on board from the start, having successfully collaborated with the director on Tideland. Of course, Gilliam's films are seldom straightforward and this one is no exception, requiring a music score that is suitably varied, whilst somehow remaining a cohesive whole, to suit the film's situations. The press release capably describes it as "a breathtaking and surprising post-modern score. Tangos, waltzes, Tibetan monastic chant, Mediaeval music and a greasy noir-ish saxophone tune for Tom Wait's characterization of Satan all mix together with a full orchestra and a couple of show-stopping songs."
The album opens quite somberly with solo cello and violin over a bed of strings in "Once Upon a Time, and is followed by "The Imaginarium," which fairly trips along, providing a mix of wonder and menace. "The Tack" opens propulsively and quite darkly, but blossoms later, with the sense of wonder returning. "Tony's Tale of Woe" is suitably sad; whilst "The Monastery" again opens darkly, giving way to the aforementioned noir-ish sax theme. "Book and Story," is largely subdued, but ends powerfully. "Sympathy for the Hanged Man" is suitably poignant, with airy flute and violin solos; with the sax theme dominating "The First to Five Souls." The piano-lead action of "Escape from the Pub," ends somewhat sadly; the subdued mood continuing in "The River." After an overblown opening, "Suicide Attempt" offers a mix of hope and despair.
"Tango Amongst the Lilies" features the kind of high, wide and handsome opening John Barry used to excel at, before developing into traditional-sounding tango music. "Victory in the Lilies" becomes more and more ominous as it proceeds; whilst "Four Through the Mirror" is circusy and episodic. The dark, rhythmic action of "The Ladder World" gives way to the brief song "We Love Violence, sung by male voices, and ending in a chorus of raspberries!
"Top of the Wagon" is delicate and flirtatious, and is followed by children's choir singing the brief "We are the Children of the World." "Tony's World Collapses" features a return to the rhythmic action of before, and is followed by more action in "The Devil's Dance," giving way to a tango variation on the sax theme.
The penultimate track, "Tony's Salvation" goes through a number of mood changes before it reaches its powerful conclusion; with the album's final and lengthiest track, "Parnassus Alone," concluding the score unremarkably, with airy flute and woodwinds mixing with the sombre cello from the opening track.
It's an interesting score, which can often be said of the Dannas' work (particularly Mychael's), which is not immediately a winner, but improves with repeated listening.
Go to for samples and to order your copy, either on CD, or as a digital download.


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