Great African Moments
The music for Nature's Great African Moments contains inklings of
developing distinction. When it could lean against a wall of nebulous cacophony
like many present film and television scores it instead toys with Africa's
autochthonous rhythms & instrumentation, chanting, samplers, and full
orchestra. It has lovely moments, pleasant themes, and suitable orchestration.
Yet the score's failing, and this is a big one, is that despite Whalen's
attempt to make the underscore cohesive the elements rarely seem aware of
There are two reasons for the separation: The sound mixing & editing
provide such division of the parts that overdubbing is plainly obvious; and
each section has their own ideas that are never shared among the entirety.
Chanting appears layered below a symphonic melody, yet there is no reaction
of one toward the other. There is no interplay. The samples come, the samples
go. The themes come, the themes go. I find something to enjoy and admire
in each contribution, and the soundtrack peaks majestically when the orchestra
stands alone, but none of it connects to form an audio narrative with any
sort of clear rational.
Michael Whalen has several scores under his belt, a few jazz, new age, and
classical albums. A number of them are worth recommending. One in particular
is Phantom of the Forest, a companion Nature album I reviewed
for an upcoming Cluttered Reviews mailing, and one that I enjoy nearly twice
as much as Great African Moments. The effect there is beautifully
straightforward and comfortably suited to Whalen's composing style. The effect
here is awkward with halfway innovation.