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CD: Africa (2013)
Review Rating:   Very Good  
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March 18, 2013

Tracks / Album Length:

26 tracks / (68:02)



Sarah Class


Special Notes:


Comments :    

Joining the BBC’s team of nature doc composers – which includes George Fenton (Frozen Planet [M]), Nitin Sawhney (Human Planet), and Martin Kiszko (Alien Empire) – is Sarah Class, and her roots in songwriting have given the score a highly melodic structure with each cue firmly rooted to a fully developed theme.

Exploiting the breadth of the BBC Orchestra, Class’ compositions are a mix of largely classical orchestral and contemporary melodic writing. The generally modest inclusion of percussion instruments adds a slightly exotic yet wholly accessible feel. Most of the score unfolds like complete chapters tied to groups of animals and / or behavioral montages, giving Silva’s beautifully mastered album an elegant flow.

The main theme is unusually passionate, but it matches the insanely detailed imagery in what’s so far the BBC’s most beautiful HD production. More attention was given to footage of creatures large and almost invisible, with incredible tracking shots on land and in the air, and Class’ music emphasizes the lengthy segments where life and death struggles unfold in almost macro detail. The rippling percussion in “Lion and Lizards Rock Café” is maybe a little too poppish (much in the way a few IMAX scores are sometimes designed to appeal to a broad, G-rated crowd with cheeky, jokey cues), but the mood & idiomatic change breaks up what could easily have been a score whose passionate tone could’ve devolved into unintentional earnestness.

The score’s most impressive sections are perhaps the least emotional – the subtly of harp and resonant tones in “Lakes and Flamingos” is a major highlight – and the handful of percussion cues have an upbeat style rather than harsh edges, such as the synth-augmented “Force of the Whale.” Solo violin and gentle piano carry the delicate theme in “Beauty of the Aguillus,” and the waltz rhythm in “Bangweulu Swam” is refreshingly playful.

A few cues are tinged with a kind of New Age, Spielbergian wonderment – “Up in the Clouds” works better in the doc than as solo cue – and “Turtles” is a little emotionally overwrought with an oft-used ‘danger’ surge, but Class’ contribution to the BBC’s nature series is pretty solid, adding another venerable credit to her existing body of documentary scores.



© 2013 Mark R. Hasan

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