May 2000 Film Music CD Reviews Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Michael WHALEN Titanic: Anatomy of a Disaster    Soundtrack of the Discovery Channel Documentary    CENTAUR CRC-2380 [51:31]

Performed entirely by the composer ("synclavier, synthesizers, ewi, piano, percussion and programming," to cite the production notes), Michael Whalen's "Titanic: Anatomy of a Disaster" sounds like a modern adventure in the Atlantic, despite underscoring a documentary on the science and history of resolving a then 85-year-old mystery.

The synthesized orchestra and other musical effects are by turns aggressive and euphonious. The 'orchestrations' are august, the themes are basic and contemporary -- perfectly serviceable, but the contexts, rather than the statements, provide the interest. To achieve greater melodic depth it deserves the benefit of counterpoint. Motivic dynamics are almost required when dealing with issues of past and present as they suggest monumental things. Whalen's straightforward approach instead overextends itself at 51-and-a-half minutes... I become irritated about halfway through, but I cannot say exactly whether it is due to an overall lack of variety or simply because of the vertiginous synthesized patches. I suspect the latter is most liable.

One item that sticks out is the score's sense of place. It sounds nautical. It *sounds* like the Atlantic. Social conditioning obviously comes into effect, but how Whalen tapped into the phenomenon as deeply as he did is gratifying and auspicious. The album is not much but is sufficient, and the music within is generally better than a few higher-paid composers achieve.


Jeffrey Wheeler


Jeffrey Wheeler

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