I would apologize for the pun in the title, but since I’m an unapologetic lover of bad puns that ain’t gonna happen … at least not in this lifetime. Probably not the next, either, so let’s all just move on.
Music is an absolutely essential part of storytelling in films. It helps set the atmosphere and pulls at the audience’s emotions to greatly enhance the movie-going experience. Without music, you’re missing one of the most important elements of the experience. Even old silent films had someone playing music to accompany each scene. That’s how long people have realized the importance and power of a musical score in film.
If you want to see for yourself just how important music is to a film, just try muting the volume on your favorite movie for a few minutes. Go ahead, you can even turn on subtitles if you like, but even the mighty Darth Vader comes across as bland when the Imperial March is missing from his grand entrances.
At the most recent San Diego Comic Con, I met composer Charles-Henri Avelange, who wrote the musical score for the upcoming scifi dramedy Nobility. He was a very kind and soft-spoken guy who was easy to talk to. That’s something I really appreciate, because making conversation with people you’ve just met can sometimes be hard. Charles-Henri made it easy.
A recently released project that benefited from Charles-Henri’s considerable skill is the indie science fiction movie Starship Rising. While I have yet to see the film, the young composer has generously provided me with an autographed copy of the original soundtrack for my enjoyment (and I really enjoyed the hell out of it!).
My intention was to review the soundtrack, but then I realized there was a major problem: I know nothing about music. I listen to it and enjoy it, but beyond saying “it’s cool” or “it really blew me away” I am as unqualified to offer an informed opinion as my dog is to operate a doorknob. That realization caused me to freak out a little. Suddenly, I’m a dog with a doorknob.
Don’t be a dog with a doorknob.
A few panic attacks and one drinking binge (that may or may not have involved pantsless karaoke) later I came up with the perfect solution – ask a professional!! Yeah, take that, doorknob! I found a human to operate the door for me.
Enter one Greg Conrad, professional musician who pretty much does it all. He sings, plays guitar, writes music, and even repairs stringed instruments. This guy is a jack-of-all-musical-trades and he knows his stuff.
On top of all that, he’s a generous fellow who offered to take a listen and provide me with some educated feedback. Greg’s informed opinions about the soundtrack follow. It’s a far, far better review than I could have ever hoped to provide on my own. In other words, it would’ve been impossible without Greg. Or at least very, very ugly and amateurish … like 99% of what I write.
Here’s what Greg had to say about Charles-Henri Avelange’s score for the film Starship Rising:
This soundtrack is one of the most exciting and epic film scores I have heard, it is perfect for the mood it’s trying to set. I have never seen the movie, but the music alone sets the scene and even tells a story. Right away, from the first track, “Rise From The Ashes,” you get a sense of being in space, specifically, a distant, unknown part of space. The music takes us from a very ominous tone into a heavy march. The blaring brass and the pounding drums drop you in the middle of a galactic battlefield. The space created by the music is gigantic and expansive, with large orchestrations and lots of reverb. It’s some of the coolest arrangements I’ve heard.
A lot of work went into mixing the organic instrument sounds with electronic drums and synthesizers. With all the sub bass tones and use of weird filters, you get an other-worldly feel. The use of human voices is excellent, too. There isn’t much of it, but the church choir was awesome with the pope scene, and the Hindi riffing on “Captain vs. General” was outstanding. It is great to hear different tonalities and different schools of musical thinking being blended together.
The mix of all the instruments and sounds is perfect. All the instruments are set at great levels, allowing you to hear leads and different parts when you’re supposed to. It’s not easy to get such a large mix to sound so even, but this was done beautifully. There’s a lot of cool editing stuff done, too, like a lot of reverse swells dropping you off into nothing. It can be such a jarring effect and it is used on this soundtrack many times at the right moments.
A lot of this soundtrack is in the same key and used similar sounds and orchestrations. I understand that in the context of a movie, this would all probably work perfectly, but when just listening to it, a lot of the tracks did blend together. Never was it boring, but I would have liked to hear more use of the world instruments that were played. I almost wanted more dynamic ranges of motifs and songs.
Overall, it really was a pleasure to listen to – the sounds were very fresh and original. I did get a Hans Zimmer vibe sometimes, which is great because I love his work. The orchestrations were great, as was the use of organic and electronic sounds together. This is definitely a movie I would like to see, the music set up such a cool environment. This soundtrack stands on its own though; you can listen to this by itself and really get the picture.
Greg’s review is very positive and includes coherent thoughts, which is something you’d never get from me. Thinking is hard. I hate hard.
Here’s a conversation with Charles-Henri Avelange in which he discusses the process of creating the soundtrack for Starship Rising. It’s a peek behind the curtain to see how the music comes together to enhance the final product.
Official Website of Charles-Henri Avelange