March 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

Nicholas HOOPER  Land of the Tiger   BBC Television Series BBC WMSF 6005-2 [55:22]

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Documentary composer extraordinaire Nicholas Hooper blends Indian music and cultural samples with full orchestra in a fascinating manner, truly providing the emotional and educational experience that earned the score the 1998 Golden Panda Award for Music.

Hooper conducts the BBC Concert Orchestra and various ethnic instruments including tabla (a wooden, three-skinned hand drum), santoor (a dulcimer) and Indian flutes and violins. At times, his orchestral style is reminiscent of Alan Hovhaness, building upon

animated melodies, broad intervals, and noble horn passages. His Indian ensemble is not as instantly approachable to my ears, but becomes even more interesting once the personal disposition toward Western music recedes. Indian vocals and electronically sampled birdcalls are especially exotic standouts. Consider also that the title theme is an exceptionally striking tribal melody generously evocative of the India subcontinent and heard in a dramatic variety of guises all through the score. There are social and environmental riches ready for mining here.

The production is nothing to shout about, but is more pleasing than I thought at first glance. The featured photography is nothing short of magnificent. Notes on the composer and behind-the-scenes of the score itself are gushing but proportionately informative. The use of visual contrast may simply add to the aura created by the music.

The emotional tone is strong, so the music bears functionality on its own. It serves to heighten awareness of an oft-underrepresented area of our global ecosystem, and it works as a compositional whole surprisingly well, though it may take some getting used to for those not from 'the land of the tiger.'

It has my endorsement.


Jeffrey Wheeler

Kostas Anagnostou adds:

Another entry into the long list of BBC documentaries, Land of the Tiger is a six part series capturing the fascinating and exotic wildlife of the Indian subcontinent. Not surprisingly composer Nicholas Hooper weaves the score with a variety of styles, from Central India to the Himalayas. To an ear unaccustomed to Indian music, the soundscape of this album might seem quite flat, most of the tracks being similar. On the contrary, the composer utilises textured and ethnic orchestrations, extending the musical palette so as to include wordless solo Indian female voice, making the music sound quite authentic.

The music evokes: high and mighty mountains, 'Up to the Himalayas' building slowly into a grand and magnificent theme, hot and majestic deserts, 'Desert Ass Dance', and the deep and mysterious seas. Every kind of life is musically imprinted, from the tiny spider, using quiet winds and soft clashing metals, to the enormous whale shark, with a clean, string-based theme accompanied by magnificent brass statements which never loose the Indian flavour of the score. 'The Tiger' itself is relished with a slow and menacing theme, which also serves as the main theme to the score.

The music is as varied and as complex as the Indian life it portrays. The composer travelled to India to gain some insight in the tradition of Indian music, and combined the BBC Concert orchestra with various authentic Indian instruments, creating a highly textured musical tapestry along with some interesting orchestral themes. Recommended as a great companion to the series, but also as a stand-alone listening experience that conveys so many images of this exotic land.


Kostas Anagnostou


Jeffrey Wheeler

Kostas Anagnostou

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