Music Webmaster Len Mullenger


John BARRY The Beyondness Of Things English Chamber Orchestra LONDON 460 009-2 [55:18]  


Crotchet (UK)

It is best to ignore the rumours that some of this album came about from rejected material (The Horse Whisperer) since it is a guessing game that detracts unnecessarily. What is unavoidable however is the realisation that John Barry writes music that just happens to perfectly suit film. It is impossible to imagine that the style we hove come to know and love would not have made it into the world in some fashion. Directors can count themselves lucky that film is the idiom in which Barry came to write his music.

So for the first non-filmic disc of his in 22 years (Americans), we are presented with music indistinguishable from his filmic style. This is who he is. About all that can be noted technically is that cues average out at around 4 minutes - a luxury most composers don't get with the increasingly mad-dash editing styles of recent years. Having said that, Barry certainly loves to carry a tune in his films, and his albums do usually feature at least one development of a theme that stands concert performance consideration. That of course became the selling point of this album earlier this year - that it would get a live performance.

The title piece commences proceedings at an atypically sedate pace. Something that is the key to 'getting' the feel of the man's music. A deliberately mellow rhythm that in film allows you time to think about its meaning. With no such visual stimulus, this disc is actually even more fun. As stated, there is an unavoidable conclusion that he creates pure cinema in music and the fun is therefore in creating the images yourself. I cannot recall ever having a collection of tunes ever insisting itself upon the imagination so much. Even obtaining a disc before the release of the film will at the very least have a booklet with pictures to suggest the look of it. Here we simply have the enigmatic titles to go with. So "The Beyondness of Things" is the first chapter of the film without a film, and its long-line melody speaks of an introduction to a land of breathtaking scenery and colour. Barry's omnipresent flute creates a midway melancholic breakdown, so obviously this is a land with a tragic tale.

The humble daily life of this land's people is communicated by Tommy Morgan's Harmonica in "Kissably Close". There's a casual jazziness in the piece, mainly from the flexible piano line. We are obviously taking a pleasant stroll through the aspects of commerce that introduce the innocent lovers to one another. As we roll into "The Heartlands", the first of use of choir soothes a potentially tragic string motif. The lead into Harmonica re-assures us that the lovers are safe for now, and some contrapuntal brass hint at the noble loftiness of their great love.

"Give Me A Smile" is the affirmation of their fate to be together - a montage of sea walks and hilltop picnicking. Small solos make for a particular tenderness in an otherwise predictable arrangement. Part of their courtship evidently calls for a wavy line dissolve to earlier times as they recall "A Childhood Memory", and indeed the (Born Free) innocence seeps out until suddenly - oh no ! - some snare drums lead into a family tragedy. Was Father killed defending the home perhaps ? Moving up and down between the upbeat and the solemn, this cue seems to want the extremes of joy and sadness from us. Once back to the present day timeframe, our lovers take an evening stroll with "Nocturnal New York", and here the day's activities in the land are contrasted with the night's (Body Heat). A sultry saxophone from David White paints our couple against a moonlit shoreline, and is sad enough to hint at never having got over the earlier memory. Thank goodness then for the joyous journey through "Meadow of Delight and Sadness". The racy drums and brass (Dances With Wolves), put them on horseback for a prairie dash across the lush scenery.

Taking a breather, they exchange "Gifts of Nature" with a flute and trumpet speaking to one another. Leaves drift on by in slow motion. They lean in, and finally kiss - to which the music swells. Something always has to go wrong of course. Once home to announce their feelings to family and friends, they are paid a visit by "The Fictitionist", a scallywag intent on muddying the waters of true love. He rides in atop sinisterly sustained strings, and tells his lies

punctuated by hard edged piano chords and a saxophone's subtle warning cry. By the time the couple return all is lost. No-one will take them in, and they are left pouring their hearts out aimlessly. The warmth of the strings brings no succour, and still the sax goes unheeded. Arising to the "Dawn Chorus" of a land outraged by the lies they've been told, it's a do or die decision before the lovers. How can their chorus of love communicate the truth under the piano and flute of disbelief. They are lambasted on all sides by the sadness of strings. Yet is there some hope in the theme's development towards sunnier sounds ?

It seems the lies will never be curtailed, and on "The Day the Earth Fell Silent", our lovers paths seem never to cross again. The stand poles apart and we catch the trails of their tears in musical close ups, which carry the discs' most affecting string movements. This being a an imaginary Hollywood movie, there is of course a happy ending. Once the truth of their love is revealed, everyone is called together for a "Dance With Reality". The jazziness of "Nocturnal New York" is recalled as the piano weaves in and around the brush of a drum, the sax's calm, and even a guitar's strumming. All is upbeat and jolly. Fade to black and cue Harmonica to carry the end titles.

There were a few bracketed nods toward Barry scores above, and it really is the case that this album would have done a film proud. The real origins stem from the possibilities afford by signing to the Decca label, and some pent up poetical cravings of the composer. Throughout the packaging are mini stanzas of poetry. The photo shoot used to promote the disc of Barry by sea just reeks of the romantic soul. Since the result is 12 prolonged pieces of romanza, this is the best Barry soundtrack in years.


Paul Tonks


Paul Tonks

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