January 2003 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Gary S. Dalkin
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Music composed by Mychael Danna
Soprano Isabel Bayrakdurian
Duduk Albert Vartanian
Saz Arto Tuncboyaciyan
  Orchestrations by Nicholas Dodd and Mychael Danna
Conducted by Nicholas Dodd
Session orchestra, Armenian folk musicians, Armenian choir
  Available on Milan (97116-2)  
Running Time: 48:39
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Ararat is the ninth collaboration between composer Mychael Danna and director Atom Egoyan. It has so far been nominated for nine Genie Awards, the Canadian equivalent of the BAFTA, including those for Best Achievement in Music and Best Motion Picture. Set in contemporary Canada, the film is the story of the making of a film about the Armenian genocide between 1915-18, and as such features a score ranging from conventional Western orchestral underscore to material rooted in traditional Armenian popular melodies - music from church, folk and court sources. Thus apart from orchestra, the music is composed for instruments played by a group of Armenian folk musicians, an eight part Armenian male choir and a soprano: Isabel Bayrakdurian. The instruments employed are the duduk - the haunting wind voice made popular by Gladiator - zurna, shvi, bhul ney, tar, kamancha, kanon and dhol.

Opening with the plaintive sound of solo duduk, 'Groonk' builds with ethnic instrumental until the powerful introduction on strings of Danna's eloquent, moving, main theme. It is a strong introduction to an album which does not disappoint, the cue ending with the choir in a setting which sounds not so far removed from the timeless world of Eastern Orthodox church song. 'Oor es Mayr Emm' offers Bayrakdurian's lovely, melancholy soprano soaring above a restrained setting of the main theme. Then, completing a highly diverse introductory trilogy of pieces comes 'Siege'; bold action writing is the best Hollywood manner.

Much of what follows tends to the haunted, lyrical and introspective, shot through with effective folk colours and alternately sombre and yearning strings. A subtle, detailed and moving score which nevertheless delivers several thrillingly effective peaks (try the passionate choral writing of 'Yeraz'), Ararat is a sophisticated development of a musical direction began by Peter Gabriel's The Last Temptation of Christ. Here that experimentation is shorn of electronics and married with the full majesty of traditional Hollywood scoring, such that those attracted to World Music flavoured soundtracks will find much to enjoy. It is certainly an original, melodic and highly appealing work.

Gary Dalkin

**** 4

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