Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

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Wander, My Friends

Because jailnurse was able to squeeze in some really concentrated Battlestar Galactica sessions in for me this weekend (thanks!!!), I've been thinking quite a bit about the music for the show and how it has evolved. I was very conscious of the music as I was watching the show, and there were quite a few cues I'm quite hoping will be included on the eventual Season Three soundtrack album. And I'm also wondering how many more seasons the show will run, as I am wondering how long I should wait before making a Battlestar Galactica mix... (is that a collective groan I just heard?)

"Three measures of Gordon's; one of vodka; half a measure of Kina Lillet.
Shake it over ice, and add a thin slice of lemon peel."

I have to say that while I like Richard Gibbs' mini-series and feel it contains some really gripping and emotionally engaging pieces, I find myself listening to the Bear McCreary albums much more often. While the general sound of the new Battlestar Galactica - the aggressive, percussion driven action, the sinuous melodies, the washes of sound - was firmly established by Gibbs, it was developed and broadened by McCreary. His scores for the series evolve, never losing sight of their origins but ever changing, mutating, deepening. Over time the palette expands and contracts, often touching on different idioms, mixing them around and incorporating both composer's thematic material. A prime example of this is the 'Allegro' from "Home, Part One,". The orchestration and primary thematic material is the baroque/minimalist theme introduced in "By Kobol's Last Gleaming," but there are subtle integrations of several other themes throughout the repetitions.

I really like the fact that these scores can be so diverse. You never know what you're going to hear next, but whatever it is it will somehow work with the musical language of the program. My sole reservation about this is the introduction of the Pegasus, which, while I like it on its own merits as music, I don't think it fits very well in this context. Too many shades of Andrew Powell's Ladyhawke for my taste.¹ I don't mind the theme, as its use in 'Something Dark is Coming' and 'Gina Escapes' is genuinely arresting.

The show has very subtle ways of referencing the original series, but one of the most apparent is the use of Stu Phillips' rousing theme from the original series as the Colonial Anthem in both the mini-series and the episode "Final Cut." The latter cue opens the Season Two album, and it is an interesting adaptation, opening out into what is essentially the traditional '78 brass lines, but with taiko drum syncopation. In itself a respectable joining of the two worlds, but the best part is after the main theme, after the "news program" is over, and the action then turns to Caprica and the Cylon reaction to the film. The motif that Phillips used for the '78 Cylons is heard, but on Ney (Arabic flute)² and suddenly, even though we're still hearing Phillips' music we're completely back in the soundscape of the modern Battlestar Galactica.

Which brings me to the fact that I think that McCreary, Steve Kaplan and Ford A. Thaxton put together some mean records here. I love the way he laid out both the Season One and Season Two albums. The tracks are extremely well organized suites that are arranged in a way that not only leads one through all these different permutations but somehow does it while making them very consistent listens... and also leading to a conclusion. There is a very logical musical progression to the CDs as a whole, while the mini-series album seems more fragmented.

My appreciation of the albums has given watching the shows a new dimension. When Adama looks at the lighter in "Home," and 'Wander, My Friends' from "Hand of God" is heard again. It immediately conveyed what the character was thinking at the time, and its re-appearance in "Exodus" is one of the best bits of scoring in the new season. It represents both the re-uniting of humanity as well as a decision being made by the other Adama that reflects the one his father made before him in the previous episode. I loved the development of 'Adama and Roslin' heard in "Unfinished Business," this Friday's episode.³ I'm eager to see the next block of episodes because we're gearing up for the mid-season cliffhanger soon and that means some major evolution in the sound of the series is coming.

¹ No, I did not just sneer. Okay, maybe I did, a little. I respect experimenting with idioms in film music. It's one of the reasons I like them so much. But Ladyhawke just didn't work for me. Sorry.

² The woodwinds on the Battlestar Galactica are performed by Chris Bleth, who performed on many of Christophe Beck's Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Robert J. Kral's Angel scores.

³ It is heard during the flashback in which Laura and Will are off in the woods on New Caprica after having shared their joint.
Tags: film music
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