Sally Hemmings An American Scandal
Original Soundtrack for the
CBS mini series
PROMETHEUS PCD 149
At almost seventy minutes, there is plenty of music on offer here from this
made for TV miniseries. Its just a pity then that much of it sounds
The main theme is introduced in I was Born Sally Hemmings with
female voice setting things up before inevitably strings take precedence.
While its structurally unsurprisingly, it manages to hit all of the
expected emotional highs and lows that these kind of scores are required
to. The other key motif of the score is first heard in Haunted
Paris/Consummation, a quietly effective piano led, melancholy piece
that provides some of the more auspicious moments to be found on the CD.
As this is a story set in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century,
the score is strongly influenced and often incorporates the classical musical
styles of that era. Journey to Paris for instance is typical
period drawing room fare, while At Versailles brings to mind
the pomp and circumstance of the wealthy and the powerful.
The two major themes are recalled in a number of tracks in many different
guises, such as Birth of the First Child, Love Letters
and Falling in Love to name only a few (the latter very, very
romantic, pulling out all of the stops with flute, oboe and much tinkling
piano and soaring strings).
Brass fanfares also feature, as in The French Revolution and
Returning Home, while folksy fiddle playing is heard in
Homecoming Celebration and Crittas Tale allowing
for a fairly broad, if somewhat predicable musical palette. But ultimately
this is a romantic work and the majority of the cues reflect the central
love story tinged with looming tragedy.
Apart from taking inspiration from classical works, two actual pieces are
used at key moments in the score; Beethovens Piano #8
"Pathétique" adagio cantabile in Tom Hemmings
Leaves and Corellis Concerti Grossi for String Orchestra,
Opus 6 on Sally Must be Sold
Probably the best way to describe Joel McNeelys work on Sally
Hemmings is overly familiar if perfectly serviceable. Many tracks (there
are twenty eight in total) get lost amidst so much similar music and one
cannot help feeling that a lot of it is excess to requirements outside of
the miniseries itself.
To listen to the entire score in one sitting is a little wearing to be honest,
as there simply isnt anything here we havent heard many times
before. Of course, this criticism can be levelled at many, many other modern
When you actually stop to consider it, how on earth do composers ever manage
to rise above the obvious limitations and restrictions imposed upon them
and produce works of art in their own right!? The truth is that it doesnt
happen very often. More often than not, as is the case here, the most you
can expect is a very professional, sturdy job of work
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