December 2006 Film Music CD Reviews

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

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The Sisters  
Music composed, orchestrated and conducted Thomas Morse
Produced by Hector Salazar and Michael McDonald
  Available on Movie Score Media (MMS-007)
Running Time: 38:04
Available from iTunes

The newly started Swedish record company MovieScore Media has during its few months in business done a great job in introducing film music works from smaller films by lesser well-known composers – already have seven composers that I for one had earlier never heard of been introduced. The seventh release in their catalogue is the score for the intimate ensemble drama The Sisters (based on Chekov’s novel), composed by Jerry Goldsmith student Thomas Morse.

The Sisters is a pleasant, sometimes moving and often melancholic score. Morse’s score is driven mainly by strings, with prominent piano, harp and woodwind solos. It moves slowly through the lower territories of the orchestra, creating a dark and sombre mood for the most part. This quite melancholic mood stays for the whole score; never does the music really burst out in any lighter territories of ‘happier’ music – the music is no less beautiful for the consistent mood. The music is clearly based on a number of themes, but I must admit I am having difficulties picking out specific themes, and I find that none of them really stays in my mind. There is a certain ‘minor theme’ feel to much of this thematic material – themes that don’t really stand out.

But music is not all about themes. And The Sisters is a very beautiful score throughout, especially when the flute, clarinet or oboe emerges with a beautiful melody from sombre strings, sometimes with piano or harp in the background. The duet between harp and clarinet in ‘I’m not going’ is excellent, as is the interplay between woodwind solos, harp and strings in ‘Back to Charleston’. The moments of notable solo writing – the piano at the end of ‘Vincent Leaves’ for example - comprise the greatest strength of the score. The interaction of various solo instruments and strings are sometimes quite exquisite and quite moving (‘The Wedding’, for example). But while the weave of strings that form the base of this score is beautiful and soothing it is not very complex. I find that I miss some more intricate writing, harmonically as well as rhythmically – but especially rhythmically. Morse’s string harmonies move slowly, long notes flowing from track to track, like a calm breeze.

The highly dramatic ‘The Crash’ stands out –as close to a gush of wind as this score offers. It opens with a low string melody, punctuated by low piano and plucked strings, followed by a lyrical piano theme. Unsettling high tremolando strings slowly growing louder in the background, until they overshadow the piano and the dark mood of the opening returns leading to one of the few more majestic moments of the score where the strings are allowed to soar. This piece is one of the few standout tracks in this score, which otherwise mainly is a weave of sombre string writing and beautiful woodwind solos that slowly moves forward without any extraordinary moments.

It carries on, beautiful all the time, but almost never especially outstanding. I find when listening to it that I never notice when tracks begin or end, since they are all so similar in construction. Sometimes the whole score passes by without me having listened especially closely to anything – often I lose the interest in listening actively after a few tracks because of the consistent mood. This is not necessarily a bad thing. As a listening experience, it is a soothing treat for the ears and fits excellently for that moment of relaxation we all crave now and then. With stronger, more instantly recognisable thematic material, The Sisters could have been a more interesting score. More complex string writing at times might have been to the score’s benefit as well. But it should be clear: even if I found myself drifting away from the music in my thoughts, it’s never unmelodic and uninteresting. It demands very little of its listener, which is both a gift and a curse. It is easy to enjoy, but hard to be truly taken by.

This is a very fine release from MovieScore Media, a beautiful, pleasant score that demands very little of its listener. Considering its sombre beauty, the qualities of its solo writing, and the relatively low retail price of these internet-only releases, I recommend it. It is a genuinely relaxing experience.

Adam Andersson

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