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Serenity - (Widescreen) Own the DVD

 

 


Music in the 'Verse: Firefly and Serenity

Review by Steve Townsley

The Soundtracks

Firefly Original Soundtrack by Greg Edmondson

Firefly
Composed by Greg Edmonson
Varese Sarabande

Rating: 10/10


Buy FIREFLY Original Soundtrack from Amazon.com

Serenity Original Soundtrack by David Newman

Serenity (2005)
Composed by David Newman
Varese Sarabande

Rating: 8/10

Buy SERENITY Original Soundtrack from Amazon.com Download SERENITY Original Sountrack at iTunes.


 

Soundtrack Review

“ Now there’s us, staking out our piece of cinematic turf (might be small but it’s ours). And the music has to fit the vision as specifically as it did for [Star Wars and The Matrix.] OUR music comes from THEIR music, this scrappled bunch. It is spare, intimate, mournful and indefatigable. ”

Joss Whedon, Serenity: The Official Visual Companion.

There ain’t too much I can tell you about Joss Whedon’s sci-fi phenomenon that you don’t already bring with you at this point. Some folks are in the know, and that’s good. The ones that ain’t, well, they can listen to the ones that do, but fair warning—enthusiasm for the show is infectious, and that persistent curiosity that led you here? Well, I hope it pays off for ya.

FireflyDropping the faux-western drawl idiom for a bit, now….Short of a straight-out polling of viewers, you might find it difficult to tell which of the viewing public came in through the Front Door, and which of them came in through the Big Door. “Firefly”, a 14-episode series, woefully cut short, was rarely seen on the air, but continues to enjoy a snowballing popularity in a bestselling DVD set, which, in all fairness, is probably the way most good folks enjoy their shows these days, free of commercial interruption. “Serenity”, on the other hand, was something of a miracle—a miracle that it was made in the first place. For some viewers, “Serenity” is the Big Door, the 2005 feature film introduction to the universe of Captain Malcom Reynolds and company. And, even now on DVD, it’s still a Big Door, sitting on the new release shelves of video rental establishments everywhere.

The point is, it’s out there now, and from person to person, the word is traveling fast. “Can’t stop the signal”, as Mr. Universe would say. But while you’re cozying up with this prospect, let’s take a moment to reflect one element that makes the universe not only unique, but wonderful. And since you’re reading this on a site called “Tracksounds”, I’m guessing you already know my answer: Music.

Little known composer Greg Edmonson was not a complete stranger to television or science fiction when he started working on “Firefly”, having written music for “Quantum Leap” and a handful of other shows, including the very non-science fiction animation “King of the Hill.” But those shows may very well give you an idea of his approach, one being a non-conventional time-traveling science fiction series, and the other being a contemporary western-family oriented sitcom (which also happens to be a cartoon.) So hearing the music for “Firefly” for the first time is a particular treat--Mostly because it’s not what you expect at all….Serenity

Instead, what you get is an incredibly appropriate anachronism. Old music from the future—the music of roaring campfires and racous cowboys mixed with the warm, pensive sounds of Asian culture and, occasionally, a cold imperial trumpet, heralding the ominous structural presence of a domineering government. Completely thrilling.

Edmonson works wonders here, as his guitar pieces come to symbolize the ship and the crew itself. When Whedon takes the scientifically accurate path and does not incorporate sound into exterior shots of Serenity in space, the guitar becomes the voice of the ship. Simple chords plucked with deliberate precision launch the ship through the otherwise cold void of space. Throughout the score, violins speak up, joining the guitars, both instruments played sweetly and sometimes sadly to accentuate the emotional and psychological storyline that the inhabitants of Serenity travel. Soft piano motifs represent the fragile character of River Tam, whose presence aboard Serenity draws increasing concern throughout the series. The soundtrack album for the series, released in late 2005, presents the music in shared-track suites, which in turn, seem to function a much larger suite of music, as the pieces flow from one to the next. With over an hour of music presented here, the musical journey is well worth taking.

When the network voyage of “Firefly” was cut short, creator Joss Whedon pressed forward with a green-lit full-feature version. For now, we’ll set the serendipitous logic behind these two events aside, and just focus on what is. Now-feature-film-director Whedon originally chose Coen Bros. go-to composer Carter Burwell to score “Serenity”, though creative choices led to a change of composers, and diverse maestro David Newman stepped in to handle scoring duties. What was lost in the conversion process of small-screen to big-screen was the encapsulated warmth of episodic storytelling, a process handled brilliantly by Mr. Edmonson. What was gained was a broader scope of action and danger in the galaxy inhabited by the crew of Serenity, which remains true to the essence of the series, while stating quite clearly that yes, a change is coming—for everyone involved.Serenity

David Newman’s score retains the emotional essence already laid out from the series, and emulates while not imitates the key motifs, but switches things around a tad. Starting things off with an unsettling, dreamy piece entitled “Into the River”, Newman is quick to match the startling visuals with a musical shock as well. After some thrilling heroics, the Main titles begin. Here’s where the heart of the story kicks in--Newman’s feature score give a truly haunting violin theme as the ship’s theme, a stirring theme that will be revisited before the conclusion. River’s character is still initially treated with a delicate motif which truly blossoms into a powerful theme as she undergoes her catharsis throughout the story. The villains of the story (both the known and the unknown) are given a due amount of ominous symphonic presence, which, as it should, does not sit well with those entrenched in the story, for we are keenly aware of the coldness and dissonance that emanates through the music. On this album, though, it’s not the action music that keeps you listening—it’s the crying music. By the time you’ve reached track 23, “Love”, you want Serenity to stay in the air, because if by this point, you aren’t in love with the characters, the story, and the music by the time you hit the End Credits, you never will be. You could do yourself much worse than giving Mr. Edmonson and Mr. Newman’s scores a whirl.

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