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.
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.
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.