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CD: Turbulence (1997)
Review Rating:   Excellent  
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July 16, 2013

Tracks / Album Length:

22 tracks / (77:42)



Shirley Walker


Special Notes:

24-page colour booklet with liner notes by John Takis / Limited to 2000 copies.

Comments :    

Previously available as a limited composer promo with a significantly scaled down version of Shirley Walker’s score, La-La Land’s CD delivers the complete goods, plus two extended tracks at the end of the composer’s extremely playful variation on the Die Hard (1988) action score.

Turbulence (1997), dubbed ‘Fly Hard,’ was a conservatively budgeted riff among many on Fox’ successful DH franchise, but the music budget, at least under the sublime penmanship and baton of Walker, doesn’t sound scaled down, even with some extra augmentation from synth drums and light electronics.

Just as Michael Kamen began his DH score with the first bars of his main theme – a riff on Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” – Walker begins the score with her personal choice - the traditional Christmas “Carol o’ the Bells” - which is then spun off into a series of action versions + grimmer variations for when the plane’s lunatic chases the heroine, a spunky flight attendant, all over the plane prior to a rapid descent that poles and wires, and drags part of the landing gear through an office.

Walker’s role was pretty straightforward – score the preliminary tension, allude to the seething mental instability of soon-to-be free-roaming serial killer Ryan Weaver (Ray Liotta), and support the variations in dangerous encounters and torment as flight attendant Teri (Lauren Holly) attempts to repeatedly wrestle control from the loon and safely land the aircraft.

Walker’s orchestral palette features a heavy brass contingent, and her experience orchestrating on Danny Elfman’s Batman [M] (1987) brings out some wild flailing brass sounds, as well as a four-note fanfare that signals how far Ryan has managed to gain the upper hand and control of the plane. “Stubb’s Attack / Gunfire on Board” is the score’s first big action cue, and Walker supports the brass with some wonderful, furious figures from the strings.

“Ident Switch” introduces a lumbering motif which covers both the physical and emotional struggles between the two rivals; later versions have heavier bass that further trace the progression of vicious antagonism between the pair, as in the brooding “Topsy Turvy,” Also integral to the cue (and score) is some electronica which adds some warmth to the sharp sounds that dominate the first half of “Ident Switch.”

Walker saves heavy dissonance for some of the face-to-face contact between the pair, and “Here’s Johnny” features trilling trumpet figures, gliding strings, and thumping percussion without veering towards straight bombast. The colours within this cue are typical of Walker’s brilliant writing – seamless layering of clusters, textures, and trumpet figures that accentuate the eventual victory Teri has over her bonker’s rival – and it is surprising that after giving this straight B-movie such a potent sound (and very classy sonic veneer), she wasn’t able to graduate to big budget projects.

Most of what followed this film were TV movies, mini-series, and TV shows – all exemplary efforts - but it wasn’t until Final Destination (2003) that she was able to tackle suspense, action and horror with the same scope, working in her own witty sensibilities without mocking the ridiculousness of the respective films. (Her familiarity with genre conventions were also sometimes expressed as sly homages, such as the closing bars of “The Landing / Welcome Home, Teri,” with the low brass version of the heroic theme sounding quite a bit like a John Williams disaster film finale.)

La-La Land’s presentation features a punchy mastering, and deservedly appreciative liner notes by John Takis on the composer’s brilliance, and the film’s production. The success of Turbulence (especially on home video) led to a pair of direct-to-video sequels a few years later, although none of these increasingly budget-constrained productions were scored by Walker.



© 2013 Mark R. Hasan

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