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Beyond Rangoon (Soundtrack) by Hans Zimmer

Beyond Good
Review by Christopher Coleman


Beyond Rangoon (Soundtrack) by Hans Zimmer

Beyond Rangoon

Beyond Rangoon (Soundtrack) by Hans Zimmer




Originality 9
Music Selection 8
Composition 8
CD Length 7
Track Order 8
Performance 8
Final Score 8/10




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Hans Zimmer
Hans Zimmer


Quick Quotes

"Put simply, Beyond Rangoon is utterly beautiful - in my opinion, one of the best scores of Zimmer's career." ****

Jonathan Broxton - Move Music UK Reviews Beyond Rangoon



Composed by Hans Zimmer
Conducted by Nick Glennie-Smith
Orchestrations by Nick Glennie Smith and Fiachra Trench
Performed by Richard Harvey (ethnic pipes)
Released by Milan Records 1994

Composing sublime film music in the late Eighties and early Nineties help put Hans Zimmer on the film music road map.  With efforts such as Rain Man, A World Apart, and The Power of One, Zimmer carved out a unique space for himself and later his Media Venture partners.  In 1994, the release of a small budget film chronicling the unanticipated adventures of a Westerner in the Far East.  For Beyond Rangoon, Hans Zimmer triumphs in delivering a score that communicates the unfamiliar and beautiful land of Burma, the private tragedy of the central character and the political and economic tragedy the Burmese people suffer under.

The setting of the film is 1988, when a young doctor played by Patricia Arquette takes a vacation with her sister and is separated from her tour group as her passport has been lost and she must stay behind as a new one is prepared.  Having lost a loved one, Arquette travels to the Far East in hopes that it will help her to recover.  Divorced from the official tour, she embarks on a private tour with one of the Burmese locals and in the course of her tour is exposed to the injustices of the repressive military regime.  Arquettes character rediscovers her sense of purpose and belonging as a result of her exposure to the truth of Burmese plight. The real-life, oppressive climate of Burma existed even during the shooting of the Beyond Rangoon and so Malaysia was used instead of Burma, itself.

Zimmer's choice of instrumentation, themes and motifs accurately reflect these main elements of the film.  Quite obviously the locale is reflected in the employment of wood flutes and ethnic percussion instruments.  The loss and sense of mourning for the film's star and for the people of Burma are reflected in the solitary vocal theme used throughout the score.  At the same time these same vocals cleverly dawn an air of hope and determination resident in both Arquette and the Burmese.  Lastly, Zimmer utilizes the versatility of his synthesizers to communicate the sense of suspense, mystery, and the struggle for freedom from oppression.

The soundtrack begins with the infectious Waters of Irrawady (1).  The main theme of Beyond Rangoon is introduced here and is played on the wood flute.  The flute is used extensively throughout the score but never becomes tiresome.  There are a number of secondary themes that, by the time one reaches the climatic track 8, Beyond Rangoon, mesh together to make this a thoroughly entertaining soundtrack.  For the most part,  one wind instrument or another lead these themes, while wordless vocals are the next most frequent choice.  Of course, Zimmer's synthesized work is never too far off but rarely obtrusive.

Aside from his use of synthesizers, Zimmer foregoes mixing in too many blatantly Western motifs or themes.  His work for Beyond Rangoon both reflects back to his earlier works such as A World Apart but also shares familiar moments from some of his most successful scores such as The Lion King and The Prince of Egypt.  With 1995 being a pretty strong year for film music (Braveheart, Apollo 13, Nixon, Il Postino), the epic, yet fresh feel of Beyond Rangoon still warranted an Oscar nomination...even over Sense and Sensibility and over Il Postino, the eventual winner.

Fans of Zimmer's more exotic side will find Beyond Rangoon an addictive treat.  It's eight tracks total just over 38 minutes of music.  Being such an intriguing score, it certainly deserved a more complete release.  Still, the concluding track Beyond Rangoon (8) being over ten minutes in length, makes for a satisfying summation of the score.  Alone, it is worth the full price of the CD.

Track Listing and Ratings

 Track Title Time


1 Waters of Irrawaddy 3:46  *****
2 Memories of the Dead 1:43  ***
3 I Dreamt I Woke Up 8:11  ****
4 Freedom from Fear 1:06  ****
5 Brother Morphine 1:03  *****
6 Our Ways Will Part 7:11  ***
7 Village Under Siege 4:07  ***
8 Beyond Rangoon 10:09  *****

Total Running Time


*The Experience-O-Meter displays the track to track listening experience of this soundtrack based on the 5-Star rating given to each track.  It provides a visual depiction of the ebbs and flows of the CD's presentation of the soundtrack.

Referenced Reviews
The Prince of Egypt 




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