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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Classical Fusion?

If you've never heard of him before, I would like to introduce you to the music of Bear McCreary. You might better know him for his writing of the score of four seasons worth of the 2000's remake of Battlestar Galactica and the upcoming 2010 Caprica series. I loved the series and part of what I loved about it was the excellent score.

According to wiki, Bear McCreary worked under Richard Gibbs to make the score of the original 3-hour Battlestar Galactica mini-series. Gibbs' played keyboards in Oingo Boingo in the 80's along with Danny Elfman. Gibbs opted out of writing music for the regular Battlestar Galactica series, so the duties fell to Bear to write the music who did so all the way though the end of Season 4. He also wrote the score for Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

I'll try and explain what the music sounds like. Imagine tribal drums pounding to a beat along with acoustic guitar and middle-eastern sounding melody, at first with a gritty saxophone and then joined in by a bagpipe. Or imagine a minimalistic Philip Glass sting ensemble meets up with a celtic flute. Or a full orchestra joined by bass guitar and dramatic percussion. Some of the arrangements he uses sounds crazy but it works for me at a very emotional level. Some songs are sad, some dreamy, some are hauntingly beautiful, others dramatic and powerful. The reason one could label this fusion is because of the conglomeration of many different musical styles all colliding together into one body of work, though the technical term music like this is post-modern. One of the tracks that drew me into his music in the first place was a song called "Something Dark Is Coming" which could best be described as Porcupine Tree-ish. Season Three even has a interesting rock track that is a deconstructed version of Hendrix's "All Along The Watchtower." Is it progressive? You bet.

According to Bear's website: "His Galactica score has been described as "sharp and sensitive" (The Wall Street Journal) , "a key element in establishing the show's dark, complex tone," (The Hollywood Reporter) and "rich, raw, oddly stirring... kick-ass and powerful as hell," (E! Online). It "fits the action so perfectly, it's almost devastating: a sci-fi score like no other," (NPR) . Seasons One, Two, Three and Four of his best-selling Battlestar soundtrack albums have rocketed up the Top Music Sales Charts, reaching the #1 sales spot in both television and movie soundtrack lists, many weeks prior to their releases. The most recent album, Season 4, cracked into's Top 5 Music Sales and charted in the Billboard Top 150."

I don't know exactly where one should start with all of his CDs because the are all excellent. They are all great but Season Four gives you the most bang for the buck because it contains two full CDs of music.


guitarsean said...

Cool! I don't have cable (or a tv for that matter) but one of these days I'm going to see this series. Even though I have a music degree I find the hundreds of years of classical music a little daunting to sort through and find things I like. Soundtrack, on the other hand, I love. I think the same kind of imagination that lets people envision a sci-fi world like Battlestar Galactica drives fans and creators of prog. 'Cinematic' is a word I use to describe a lot of my favorite music.

guitarsean said...

I just found the BSG version of All Along The Watchtower on youtube. Wow! That is an amazing rethinking of that song.

I have to be a music nerd though and point out that Bob Dylan wrote it, not Hendrix. Though the Hendrix version is the best known.

MAVIII said...

I've always thought Soundtrack Score Composers were the Modern Day/Contemporary "Classical" Writers of our day (Wow, what a redundant paragraph that is :P).
I'm a Soundtrack junkie myself :)

And wait a minute...
You mean Michael Hedges didn't write "All Along the Watchtower"!?? ;)

Sean, also look up versions of:
"Sounds of Silence" by Nevermore and "Eleanor Rigby" by Realm :D

Battle Star is a great series and
a FX Quality that you would find in Film, but the stories are very compelling and well written too. And awesome music!

guitarsean said...

I love Nevermore's version of Sounds of Silence. I also really dig Queensryche's version of Scarborough Fair. It's on the "Anybody Listening?" single.

I often play Hedges version of All Along the Watchtower for my acoustic shows. I usually introduce it as "my rendition of Michael Hedges arrangement of a Bob Dylan song made famous by Jimi Hendrix"

Back on topic, can anyone else think of other soundtracks like BSG? Meaning, those that use metal, rock, tribal, and non-western classical influences?

Zaii said...

the soundtrack to 300 by Tyler Bates has some good stuff in it. Though it is nowhere near the scale of the BSG track, being 25 2-3 minutes shorts.

Back off topic, I like "the Hamsters" version of All along the Watchtower - though it is really a cover of the Hendrix cover of the Dylan original :-)