Released 1990 FormatCD TypeJewel Case Added onThursday, 30 July 2009 GenreSoundtrack Length49:36 N of discs1 Edition date 1990 CountryUSA LabelPolydor Catalog Number843 013-2 Edition details
Among the subtlest and most underrated of modern film composers is Michael Small, whose delicate melodies and atmospheres have added immeasurably to the internal psychologies of films like KLUTE, THE PARALLAX VIEW, THE MARATHAN MAN and BLACK WIDOW. Regrettably, the only soundtrack of his music is a bootleg of KLUTE; the body of Small’s most effective work remains sadly neglected on album or CD.
This new score is not only a welcome relief to that predicament; it’s also Small’s broadest orchestral score, a rich, full-melodied work which really comes to life on this Polydor CD. Drawing inspiration from the film’s African setting and its period (the story dramatizes the exploits of two 19th Century British explorers), Small creates a vibrant musical atmosphere for the film’s setting and characters. Small’s musical atmospheres range from primitive African-styled traditions to full-blown symphonic orchestrations, built around three primary themes: “Journey”, a descending motif associated with the explorers’ travels over the African terrain, its underlying ethnic rhythm and descending melodic figures suggesting some danger and apprehension; “Burton’s Theme”, an ascending, heroic melody for full orchestra which denotes both the explorer’s lust for adventure and his human frailty; and "Isabella’s Theme", a beautiful, lushly tender romantic melody.
Characteristically, Small emphasizes the film’s internal psychologies - its characters and those feelings, motivations and nuances that lurk beneath the surface. Michael Small has always preferred to support these aspects, and the nice thing about MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON is that he has the chance to do that while at the time exercising a hitherto undemonstrated capacity at scoring broad adventure and exotic locale.
Cues like “It’s the Lake”, the action-filled “Ambush” and the romantic crescendos of “The Wedding” really surge with energy and life, while moodier cues such as “Dark Caravan” (which contains a haunting woodwind motif over low, throbbing percussion and synthesizer) “Farewell to Mabruki” (with its tender, poignant winds over strings melody) and the gentle violin lyricism of “The Decision” are more introspective and delicate. Small’s use of ethnic styles and instruments is effectively incorporated into the score. “Ngola’ s Court” is an eerie percussion and synth track, its strange sounds really coming to life on compact disc.
MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON is a powerful merging of European and African musical styles, representing both the contemporary British explorers and the primitive, timeless land they explore. “Speke and the Great Lake”, which captures all of the score’s varying moods and orchestral styles in its four minutes, sums up much of the score’s power, suggesting the majestic splendor of the landscape and the heroic adventures of the explorers while also underscoring the land’s mysterious danger and the vulnerable humanness of the characters. A very, very powerful score and a fitting debut for the composer on compact disc.
Randall D. Larson - Originally published in Soundtrack Magazine Vol.9/No.35/1990
The Market (Traditional, arranged by Michael Small)
Escape to England
Return to Africa
Mabruki and the Lion Shoot
The Long Walk
Burton Sings (The Lone Rock) (Traditional, arranged by Michael Small)