May 2001Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings /May01/

- Music from the Sci-Fi Channel Mini Series

If you check out my review of Toto's score for David Lynch's 1984 incarnation of Dune, you will know how highly I rate their work on that film and as a result I suppose it's fair to say that I approached Graeme Revell's new musical take on this epic tale with both anticipation and a little wariness. The one thing that alleviated any potential uneasiness however was my growing appreciation of Revell's music, right through from the way above the call of duty Child's Play 2 (1990) to more recent offerings such as the punchy The Negotiator (1998). Sadly though, with this new soundtrack the composer takes a definite step backwards as far as I'm concerned.

The score is actually broken up into three sections to reflect separate parts of this ambitious production, opening with a 'Main Theme' that makes very little impression and remains steadfastly unmemorable. Even so, at least this piece is melodic, which is more than can said for the majority of what follows. For the most part the music is dominated by either abstract atmospherics ('Navigator Advises', 'Pain Box', 'The Killing of the Innocent' etc) or Middle Eastern styled ambience ('Desert Trek' etc. etc. etc.). And it's this latter influence that pervades the entire score, an artistic choice which I have to say I feel was rather obvious and unadventurous. I would have far preferred something more imaginative than simply equating lots of sand (ie: Dune) with Middle Eastern desert music. There are of course also a few action/suspense cues like 'Worm Sign/Escape the Worm' and 'Up the Ladder/Battle', but they really are no more than adequate at best and the score only very occasionally grabs the interest with anything remotely dynamic on tracks such as 'Travel with Fremen', which features a rare melodic line and the subtle choral work of 'Paul Drinks'. But the truth is these moments are few and far between. Unfortunately, ethnic percussion does not make a very compulsive listen and pieces like 'Seduction-Part 1' and 'Jihad Begins/Last Fight' are very trying to say the least. Indeed, part two of the score, which reflects time spent on the desert planet itself, is sorely testing and I really cannot imagine anyone wanting to sit through it a second time, unless perhaps as a meditation aid! The sleeve notes tell us that the composer also utilised some Asian instrumentation for the villainous Harkonnens and a loose adaptation of a classical minuet for the Emperor and his court. Well, perhaps I did detect a slight Asian influence in there somewhere, but the classical elements must have just passed me by. And to be frank, all I can hear echoing in my mind right now are those interminable Middle Eastern atmospherics!

This is a score that goes for a distinctive permeating effect, with exotic sounds swelling and rising to depict alien landscapes and otherworldly encounters. Or that's the intention anyway. But the music simply fails to elicit even the slightest emotional response, leaving it dull and passionless. Nothing came close to moving or stirring me. This is more a case of music as sound effects and as an aficionado of melodic film scoring it all just leaves me icy cold.

A very great disappointment

Mark Hockley

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