The release of a 2-disc edition of Season 4 music from Battlestar Galactica completes (if one ignores series prequel Caprica) a kind of Lord of the Rings narrative that seems like an unlikely if not ridiculous comparison, except Bear McCreary’s music really traces the evolution and conflicts of the many characters in the hugely successful TV series.
LOTR was immensely boosted by Howard Shore’s dead serious treatment of the novel, ensuring every note was sincere to the drama and characters, and that’s pretty much what McCreary’s accomplished, as he moved from periodic to head composer of the series during its 4-year run.
The Galactica music includes vocal pieces, laments, an oratorio, elegy on solo piano, large choruses, fabulous ethnic percussion, and a striking orchestral style that glues together the disparate stylistic and cultural music elements.
“The Signal” is typical of the show’s action writing – bold, invigorating, and layered to pinch the tenseness of scenes – and it’s also indicative of McCreary’s recognizable knack for rhythms and wonderful use of colours. Asian drums, chorus, and a pulsing beat with a funky twist are the lead elements, but there’s a graceful flow that makes the cue, as with any on the CDs, feel like a natural dramatic chapter in the album’s design: an up-tempo symphony that pits lush strings with rustic, primal ethnic instruments.
That combination – sleekness flowing through raw power – are intriguing because they’re stylistically different from Stu Phillips’ own laudatory work on the old seventies show: Philips patterned his formal orchestral design after the hugeness of John Williams’ Star Wars (heavy on brass, and lots of theme restatements), whereas McCreary seemingly chose two elements from the epic sci-fi playbook – strings and percussion – and manages to hit the same dramatic marks. His approach is faithful to the original series design (honorable humans against eeeeevil alien warmongers), and it manages to convey the same (if not more) information using less.
McCreary’s ornamentations draw from Celtic, Asian, New Age and rock, and his Galactica music really works best on the listener when played loud, because the composer has a gift for harmony, and rich bass tones and textures.
Disc 1 emphasizes major series themes and action motifs, whereas Disc 2 contains cues from the 3-part finale episode “Daybreak,” and it has a tighter and more uniform progression towards the finale. The “Daybreak” theme is a haunting stunner, and provides that episode’s score with striking moments of sadness, contemplation, and character vulnerabilities. Stellar, tense cues include the percussive “The Line,” whose configuration appears in the Caprica pilot episode, and the 15 min. “Assault on the Colony,” with multiple themes working their way through the cue’s thickening dramatic flow.
Each CD cue is well-edited and carefully placed to create a dramatically satisfying tribute to the series. Most of the cues run over 3 mins. (some longer), and the sonics and engineering are first-rate.
An epic score that’s absolutely riveting in its emotional power.
To read an interview with composer Bear McCreary, click HERE.
© 2009 Mark R. Hasan