July 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Maurice JARRE
I Dreamed of Africa
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As a technician there is no doubting Maurice Jarre's ability, but as a artist his music all too often is bland and uninspiring and that is certainly the case here. The irony is that he has proven that he is capable of writing emotionally resonant work, such as his memorable score for Jesus of Nazareth. But as that seems to be the exception rather than the rule, perhaps in that particular instance it was more a case of divine intervention!

Anyway, 'Arrival in Africa' opens with a conventional, unsurprising mixture of strings and a few African tribal rhythmic embellishments that unfortunately only add up to a feeling of heard it all before.

Supplementing the Jarre tracks are a number of pieces by African musicians, the first being 'Ondiek' written and performed by Ayub Ogada. I suppose this could well be described as modern African folk music, but I'm sorry to say that I found it to be rather dull.

'A Different Rhythm' is curiously uninvolving too, as if merely going through the motions, although of course I'm certain that Jarre does intend that to be the case. The problem is that he so often provides film-makers with the flip side of what artists like John Williams or Danny Elfman offer. Where their scores seem to be so rich and evocative, Jarre's work can sometimes meander along without hitting any kind of strong emotional buttons.

Next Geoffrey Oryema contributes 'Kel Kweyo', an up tempo Africana piece with plenty of solid rhythmic work and moments of vocal interest, before Jarre returns with 'The Storm', beginning with dramatic percussion and brass followed by a lengthy section of low-key semi-melodic tinkling. A combination of buff and bluster and quiet introspection.

'Death and Misery' incorporates Richard Strauss and Joseph Von Eichendorff's 'Im Abendrot' with solo soprano by Michaela Kaune. The melodramatic string and tribal rhythm section half way through comes as something of a surprise after a very restrained opening, but once 'Im Abendrot' takes over we are at last provided with something of substance and quality. Whether the comparison is fair or not, Jarre's original work is made to look rather second-rate.

'Obiero' is the second track featured written and performed by Ayub Ogada and while it's more enjoyable than his first selection, I still didn't find it particularly engaging.

The final Jarre cue, 'Kuki's Determination' recaps some of the themes previously heard with swirling strings plus the obligatory African rhythmic elements. While this clearly attempts a big, uplifting conclusion, all that is really achieved is a sense of workmanlike mediocrity.

All of Jarre's pieces are on the longish side ranging from six to eleven minutes in length, but sadly this only seems to highlight their lack of vitality or invention.

I think it will come as no surprise if I conclude by saying that this is not a score I will returning to any time in the near future


Mark Hockley


Mark Hockley

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