February 2006 Film Music CD Reviews

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

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The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe  
Music composed by Harry Gregson-Williams
  Available on WALT DISNEY RECORDS (61374-7)
Running Time: 70:55
Amazon UK   Amazon US

I make no apologies for saying that C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books are very dear to my heart. I grew up with them and they carry profound memories for me. Those stories influenced my thoughts, my beliefs and probably most fundamentally, my imagination. So when it was announced that a big screen production of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe was in production, I was filled with a sense of both potent anticipation and apprehension. Thankfully the movie was being produced in the wake of the extraordinary Lord of the Rings films, but my hopes for this adaptation were very much in the balance as I awaited its release.

And of course, because of my great love and interest in film music, the score would be crucial if the translation from page to screen was going to be successful. The choice of Harry Gregson-Williams was a difficult one to assess. While his music for the two Shrek movies showed promise and he was once again re-teaming with the director of those films, Andrew Adamson, I couldn’t be sure that he would find the right kind of sound and style to capture the unique magic and majesty of the world of Narnia. The best indication he was up to the task was Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven (2005), but Narnia needed something all of its own, a distinct sound that was its own thing.

Now that I’ve seen the film twice and listened to the score many times, I find myself wondering why this soundtrack has not won more plaudits from the film score community. It is truly wonderful, inventive and melodically beautiful film music. I have heard complaints concerning the composer’s stylistic choices, a little bit of electronics here and there the main gripe, but generally the response to this work has been fairly muted. And I find that quite simply baffling. The more I read the less enthusiasm there appears to be for this work. So all this leaves me to do is shout all the louder about its quality. Yes, Gregson-William’s style is modern and the story is a period piece (at least at first), but this tale is all about magic and the music of magic should sound both dark and joyous, stirring and tragic.  Harry Gregson-Williams achieves all of this with aplomb, as far as I’m concerned.  But of course, appreciation of such things is a personal thing. I won’t even bother discussing individual cues. The score is a delight from beginning to end. The only shadow of a question mark falls over the four songs included. One, ‘Where’, by Lisabeth Scott, (co-written by Gregson-Williams) forms part of the score itself and is quite lovely. Alanis Moriesette’s ‘Wunderkind’ is a solid ballad and is perfectly welcome and the same can be said of Imogen Heap’s ‘Can’t Take it in’. Only Tim Finn’s ‘Winter Light’ seems out of place, but passes by harmlessly without causing any real concern.

Simply stated, this is my favourite score of 2005. For the nay-sayers, we are all entitled to our own pleasures. This one is mine. I wish you all the best with your own.

Mark Hockley

5

Michael McLennan adds:-

Anno Domini 2005 has certainly been the year of Harry Gregson-Williams, with two high profile blockbusters turning to the late Media Venture’s most impressive graduate for their scores. While the breath-taking Kingdom of Heaven benefited enormously from his inventive musical choices – such as the use of the Consort of Viols and the consistently well integrated choral contributions – the Narnia score doesn’t seem to fit its film nearly as well. In hindsight I suspect the Disneyfied adaptation of C S Lewis’ classic novels weighs the music down in context, as on CD there’s some marvellous material here. The duduk gives voice to Tumnus’ flute in the potent ‘Narnia Lullaby’, while electric cello lends the right frosty tone to Lucy and Tumnus’ hesitant first encounter in ‘Meeting Mr Tumnus’. Three strong themes drive the score – a theme for Narnia unfolds with choral and intimate instrumental splendour in ‘The Wardrobe’. Peter’s heroism bursts forth impressively in the brass in ‘To Aslan’s Camp’, and less-successfully in the poorly mixed ‘The Battle’. These and the Family theme are recapped with all the major elements of the score in the concluding score track hopefully-titled ‘Only the Beginning of the Adventure’ (hopefully with a new director).

Michael McLennan

3

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