May 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Michael WHALEN
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 each other.

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.


Jeffrey Wheeler


Jeffrey Wheeler

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