April 2001 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Founder Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings /April01/

More music from Gladiator
DECCA 013 192-2 [55:35]
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At first cynical glance, this new collection of cues derived from the hugely popular Gladiator (rightly so in my humble view!) may appear to be no more than exploitation. Instead though what we actually have is a fascinating record of a work in progress, the sort of thing we so rarely get an opportunity to appreciate, indeed the kind of extra bonus material that admirers of DVD's would lavish with praise. The fact that ultimately none of this music (in this form anyway) was used in the final cut of the film just adds to the interest. Of course some may still feel that what's on offer doesn't warrant a release, while others may balk at the dialogue extracts, although at least here they are presented in context with the underscore and are for the most part very effective.

Musical highlights would include the stirring, Spanish flavoured 'Duduk of the North', featuring the ancient Armenian instrument of the title, performed wonderfully by Djivan Gasparyan. Then there's 'The Slave Who Became a Gladiator' with its striking choral effects, something that also can be heard on the Moroccan styled action music of 'The Mob'. Also significant is 'The Gladiator's Waltz' in its original synthesised demo form (later becoming 'Barbarian Horde' and 'The Battle') which Hans Zimmer describes as a sort of musical diary. Interestingly Hans does comment on the similarity to Holst's The Planets that just about everyone has picked up on, something which many have used to beat him violently about the head with (metaphorically at least!). Personally I think he's right when he says that it's the same language but not the same syntax and ultimately if we consider musical composition in realistic terms, from time to time composers will be influenced by and recall existing works. As long as it is not intentional (unless as a homage) this must just be seen as a fact of musical life. By the way, this early synth creation stands up really rather well.

'Rome is the Light' emphasis' Lisa Gerrard's distinctive vocals in this unused cue that was the model for what eventually became the wonderful 'Now We are Free'. Although very different melodically, the thematic idea is obviously there and we are also treated to two alternative takes of that latter motif in 'Now We are Free (Juba's Mix)', which is similar to the version heard in the film, but with a few more vocal indulgences and a slightly uncomfortable, pseudo disco version in 'Now We are Free (Maximus Mix)'.

Returning to the subject of the use of dialogue, normally this is not something I would advocate on soundtrack CDs, but because of the nature of this work I find myself more forgiving and certainly when the dialogue is used to highlight the music just as much as the words, I think it has a real impact. A very fine example of this can be heard on 'Death Smiles at us All' featuring Joaquin Phoenix and Russell Crowe. Very powerful and dramatic.

Although some of the tracks cut off rather abruptly, this is probably due to the fact that many of these pieces were early takes and never meant to be commercially reproduced. However, it all just adds to the intimate, anecdotal nature of the work. While there will be those who feel that this is something of a self-indulgent exercise, I would counter that for fans of the movie and even more so for fans of the film music scoring process, this is an engaging and valuable record of the development of a highly entertaining, accomplished score.

Mark Hockley

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