Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

David FERGUSON The View from Now: Film and TV themes. Contract orchestra CHANDOS CHAN 9679 [63:00]
 Music from: Cracker (2 selections); The Woman in White; Bravo 2 Zero; A Dark Adapted Eye (2 selections); American Visions (3 selections); The Ice House; Some Kind of Life; Albert Camus; Hostile Water; Bad Girl; Marilyn; Life after Life; Breakout; Disaster at Valdez.

You may buy
this disc here

This album is the first album in a planned Chandos series of film and tv scores. It is an interesting beginning. I have to confess that I was unfamiliar with the name of David Ferguson but on this evidence he should be better known for his music shows ingenuity and imagination. He writes in bold colours and although he is English, he has a European sensibility in that he is not afraid to show emotion a characteristic which is, of course, essential when underscoring screenplays. Many of the scores here are highly dramatic, if not melodramatic, and Ferguson responds to them fully.

For the Robert Carlisle episode of Cracker in which Carlisle is the homicidal police killer, the score is essentially jazz-based but the atmosphere is not only creepy and tense but it portrays the isolation and gnawing despair of the killer. In the Cracker episode about a religious cult and the cover-up of a young girl's murder, the music is gloomily gothic with ghastly snake-like rattles and electronically created croaky breathing noises before the music breaks into Ray Charles-like jazz figures. The Woman in White is another excursion into the gothic with a solo soprano intoning wordlessly over music that, fittingly, weaves wraith-like behind visuals of the midnight grave yard before the tension heightens and the music grows in power and menace. A Dark Adapted Eye is a study in neurosis and the nervy music reflects the bizarre relationship and battle between two women over the custody of a child. Hostile Waters is a nicely judged evocation, using a theme from Mahler's Third Symphony, of peril on the high seas using patriotic snare and bass drums a little more imaginatively than the norm, to evoke a potentially but accidental confrontation between Soviet and American subs, the music with its urgent rasping brass and ostinato bass drumings suggesting the deadly threat of a collision of nuclear mights. Another Gung-ho heroic score presents itself in the shape of the Bravo 2 Zero music for the film about an SAS infiltration behind Iraqui lines - very emphatic and atmospheric and probably the strongest theme in this collection. Life after Life, a film about the troubles in Ireland and the experiences of a terrorist, tells of the sadness of his wasted lost years in gaol and the music, highlighted by the use of Uilleann pipes, speaks eloquently of this sadness and the overall tragedy of Ireland. An interesting inclusion is the music for a film that was never made about Marilyn Monroe - it is suitably cool, sexy and slinky yet with a sense of romance and vulnerability.

But the most impressive music in the collection, for me, are the three selections for American Visions.This is an Englishman's view of America, its people and culture but no less valid for that. There is an interesting originality here, true there are subtle Coplandesque allusions but these are minimal. What you do feel is an authentic atmosphere of the vastness of the landscapes, the harsh urban glitter and the vitality and enterprise of the American people and their culture. I was very impressed with Ferguson's evocation of the march of the railways as they expanded across the continent; Ferguson uses a vast array of percussion including xylophones, whistles, cymbals, triangles and timpani, bass drums etc to show us huge, powerful steam locomotives pushing civilisation forward. Well worth considering

Ian Lace

Return to September Film Music Reviews