September 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Tora! Tora! Tora!  
For further information (including track list): Film Score Monthly

Tora! Tora! Tora! released by 20th Century Fox in 1970 was about the attack on Pearl Harbour as seen from the American and Japanese points of view.

Jerry Goldsmith, under contract to Fox at the time, had accumulated very ample experience of Asia and the war epic (The Sand Pebbles, The Spiral Road, Morituri, The Chairman, In Harm's Way, Von Ryan's Express and The Blue Max) and was a natural choice. Without a central character as in Patton, he chose to score the implacable forces of war and fate and the ancient cultural underpinnings of the Japanese warriors. His music, as typified by the opening Main Title, is sharp and explosive with jagged dissonances wrapped in exotic Japanese harmonies and orchestrations. There is also a feeling of religious zeal. This mood continues over into 'The Chancellery' where the machinery of war screws up to almost hysteria as the Tri-Partite Pact with Hitler is sealed before a mood of noble forbearance overtakes as the scene shifts to Washington. Goldsmith shows great imagination and ingenuity in screwing up the tension as the inevitable grows closer with small cells of music endlessly repeated but varied in tempo and orchestration and pitch -- sometimes with shuddering glissandos or wrenching pitch bends. 'The Waiting Game', for instance, grows in rhythmic complexity with solo block percussion opening the cue and running through most of the piece eventually joined by echoplex effects with fluttering woodwinds adding a mix of traditional and modernistic Japanese sound as the Japanese aircraft carriers make ready for invasion. 'Pre-flight Countdown' brings the tension to fever pitch as groans and urgent horn figures prelude pounding war rhythms against dynamic flourishes from the brass, flutes and piccolos. It is amazing how vividly Goldsmith evokes the acceleration of propeller blades and the upward swoop of the aircraft.

In addition to the basic fourteen cues there are seven bonus tracks, most of them offering some well-needed variety. If there can be any criticism levelled at this album it does tend to become a tad repetitive and tedious in its action material and the relentless repetition of small cell ideas over so many tracks. 'Japanese' and 'American Military' offer military band music. 'Big Band Source' features two big band tunes from Harry Owens and Mack Gordon: "At Last" and "Chattanooga Choo Choo". 'Hawaiian Radio' plays Hawaiian music and there is cocktail lounge piano and orchestral version of the Tora Theme.

Exotic and exciting, another must for Goldsmith fans.

Ian Lace



Ian Lace


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