One of the oddest footnotes in postal history, The Rocket Post deals with a pair of German scientists who figured a rocket would speed up postal delivery between the Scottish Isle of Scarp and the British mainland in pre-WWII England.
Tales of technological underdogs, eccentrics, and benevolent loons have been pretty popular with filmmakers, and the films are more often about odd characters than actual historical footnotes, as in recent films such as The Dish and The World's Fastest Indian, and for composers, a soundtrack can either indulge in the character oddities, or really dig into some inner conflicts.
The score by Nigel Clark and Michael Csányi-Wills (the composing due behind The Little Vampire, from 2000) elegantly evokes the isle's culture without being syrupy and overly chipper – something almost endemic to standard Hollywood productions that rework historical events into familiar sagas of small town rebels who buck the bureaucracy with their unbridled, independent free spirit.
A few cues like the lilting “Impressions” are deliberately evocative of an idyllic Scottish culture, with rustic woodwinds and supportive strings at the core, but Clark and Csányi-Wills' music follows a more classical heartwarming pattern, evidenced in the opening cue “The Islands,” and some very beautiful cues of sadness and introspection.
The film's main theme unfolds like a cascading waltz, with flute or clarinet playing the melodic line and its fairy tale intonations. The use of harp also adds a tender, dreamlike character, and gives an impression of very distinct natural splendor: a rich-blue sky, an expansive ocean, green island pastures, and the colours and textures of local stones quarried, chiseled, and fitted together to form ancient churches, and small homes.
The album's best cues, however, are those which reflect character conflicts. “Betrayal” begins with extremely low strings, and the composers use solo piano and celli for the intro to convey potent sadness. Around the midpoint the alternating melodic phrases by high strings and flute are accompanied by an ostinato on low strings, shifting between chords, and emphasizing a distinct unease.
That Barryesque quality is also present in “Zucker's Death,” which emphasizes sadness through simple orchestrations, and minimal contributions from piano and distant strings. The reintroduction of the main theme also shifts the cue from tragedy to a kind of emotional closure, thereby letting the characters heal, and bringing the audience (and listeners) back from something that could easily have dipped into something quite maudlin.
A vocal cut, “Distant Shores,” closes the album in both a complete version, and one cross-mixed with a brief orchestral intro. Sung in Gaelic, it's a fairly generic feel-good tune dominated by harmonics set to a slow tempo, and while songs tend to be the mandatory music that plays over a film's end credits, the film (and album) would've been more complete without a New Age-styled tune.
Vocal cut notwithstanding, The Rocket Post is an extremely pleasing score with excellent thematic diversity and variations, and a strong emotional narrative that grabs the listener's attention.
The orchestral score is crisply recorded, and the MP4 downloadable album offers a fine balance of frequencies with warm, if not a bit too subtle bass.
This album is available as a limited edition CD release and as a downloadable MP3 album from iTunes and MovieScore Media.
© 2007 Mark R. Hasan