April 2006 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Michael McLennan
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster: Len Mullenger

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Firefly  
Music composed by Greg Edmonson
Performed by Unnamed Ensemble
Theme song by Joss Whedon
  Available on Varese Sarabande (VSD-6699)
Running Time: 60:30
Amazon UK   Amazon US

Firefly is a science fiction television series by Joss Whedon, the famed author of the popular Buffy the Vampire Slayer series. Unfortunately Firefly was cancelled after only eleven episodes, but due to the prominent sales of its DVD release, Whedon was able to convince Universal Studios to make a film based on the series, called Serenity. The public appeal the original series and film have experienced since that filmís release could be explained by what one might call the cyclical formula of commercial endorsement: the film promoted the series, and the series promoted the film.

Fireflyís setting provides occasion for much spectacle. It takes place in the year 2517 after evacuation of planet Earth, the planet cryptically described as having been ďused upĒ by the human race. Stylistically, there are few futuristic elements to speak of, but the foundation of the series is a combination of various styles such as the romantic space opera and western genres.

The music score by Greg Edmonson combines various popular and ethnic styles such as blues, country music, bluegrass, and an Asian influence that could perhaps be based on the Indian raga scales. This soundtrack release could serve as a decent textbook for composition students looking for ways to incorporate popular music forms into dramatic background music, but the problem with Edmondsonís approach is that it fails to have a distinct voice of its own. On the outside it has a considerable dramatic effect, but it lacks any real musical substance. It is pastiche at best, and parody at worst, the latter surely not dramatically intended.

It must be said however that Edmonson has to some degree managed to create an organic totality of his score. For instance a solo violin reoccurs several times throughout the soundtrack to make statements of sentiment and warmth. A solo guitar takes the foreground in a casual blues arrangement that seems to somehow counteract the sentiments of the violin. The contrast between these two instruments does to a certain degree create an effective dualism and provide the complexity that a good television show needs and deserves.

A question mark must be raised towards the narrow instrumentation of Firefly, as the composer had very few instruments available to him. The severe lack of string players forced the use of the synthesizer as a means of compensation. I find it strange that a visual and dramatic setting of this magnitude should only receive the funds to hire a handful of musicians to perform the soundtrack? It could be intentional though, however unlikely. Perhaps it was an experiment to counteract the bold setting with a chamber ensemble? Either way it fails miserably, as the forced use of the synthesizer reduces the string arrangements to a mere succession of pitches, robbed of any kind of genuine musical expression. The sound gets bigger, but the music gets smaller. Edmonsonís Firefly is scarcely sufficient as a soundtrack release, and should probably have been kept exclusive to its original context.

Mark Rayen

Rating: 2.5

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