Music Webmaster Len Mullenger
FILM MUSIC RECORDINGS REVIEWS
|Christopher FRANKE||Episodic Babylon 5 CD's||
|Falling towards Apotheosis||Sonic Images SID-0404 [23.03]||Amazon (USA) Crotchet (UK)|
|Darkness Ascending||Sonic Images SID-0516 [25.35]||Amazon (USA) Crotchet (UK)|
|Sleeping in Light||Sonic Images SID-0523 [24.43]||Amazon (USA) Crotchet (UK)|
|Objects at Rest||Sonic Images SID-0522 [27.55].||Amazon (USA) Crotchet (UK)|
These four releases are part of a larger set of episodic cd's composed and produced by Christopher Franke as the soundtracks for individual episodes of the Science Fiction television series Babylon 5.
The genre of television science fiction drama is uniquely exemplified in Babylon 5 and it's use of state of the art digital effects and graphics sets it apart from the more traditional sci-fi soaps like Star Trek and its spin-offs. The series has always been visually stunning and the extensive use of computer generated images has helped move it to cult status. Babylon 5 is set in a far future where a gigantic space station holds the last hope of mankind and extra-terrestrial races co-existing in peace. Each episode of the series is a self contained story with thematic continuity through each season. Key to the series retaining its fans is the highly creative evolution of the characters and story lines.
In keeping with the unique visual impact of the programme, the soundtrack adds the dramatic counterpoint exactly where it should be. Emphasis and musical alliteration abound in a way that must be described as Babylonian, each scene is interlaced with familiar musical threads and a lot of surprises.
The composer and producer of the work, Christopher Franke, is now in the fourth season of writing for the series and finds the evolution of the story lines an inspiration that keeps the work fresh and interesting. He writes and performs most of his soundtracks solo with his Berlin Symphonic Film Orchestra. By adopting state of the art technology, composing and keyboard work takes place in Los Angeles, while the orchestra is conducted in Germany. Perhaps his use and grasp of digital technology on this planet and in this time provides a link to the future and its barely imaginable possibilities.
The use of the orchestra is blended with synthesised sounds so seamlessly that it requires careful listening to distinguish synthesised sounds from real ones. The low bass of a bowed cello and warm, lush strings meld wonderfully with sparkling synthesised sounds that speak of crystals and brightness.
A full sonic palette greets the ear and although the music can be edgy and pensive at times, there much reflective and softer imagery to experience. The Babylon 5 main theme is repeated with variations that keep it alive and powerful timpanic drum parts set against moving synth bass lines drive the listener forward with a sense of anticipation and determination.
The use of a military style snare drum with what sounded like plucked cello and electric bass gave echoes of Mars from the ubiquitous planet suite and kept the imagery changing from moment to moment.
At times a Moorish influence could be heard and this gave an eastern presence than contrasted well with a later use of harp sounds in a more conventional tonality.
Some of the themes are reminiscent of a film score for a block- buster western, others for a marching marine band. Occasionally a sound like a hammer hitting an anvil was employed and this is only one example that demonstrates the composer's wide inventiveness and creativity within the sounds employed.
The tracks play out in the order they were aired and most of time this works with no great jarring contrasts. The cd's do sound similar to each other and one would have to live with them for a while before easily identify pieces from cd to cd.
Overall the compositions are worthy of merit, the quality of the recordings being up to projecting the wider frequencies employed by the synthesised high end and low basses. If you have a sub-woofer on your hi-fi system, be careful of the transient bass and low drum sounds that will have your teeth rattling but are really exciting and powerful.
For someone who is a Babylon 5 fan, or has watched the TV series then it is very easy to relate to the music in this collection. To take the music in isolation from the imagery it was written for makes it more of a challenge for the listener but possibly more rewarding.
see also http://www.babylon5.com
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