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Frozen Planet by George Fenton

Frozen Planet

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Frozen Planet (Soundtrack) by George Fenton
Frozen Planet (Soundtrack) by George Fenton
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frozen Planet (Soundtrack) by George Fenton

Frozen Planet
Composed by George Fenton
Lakeshore Records (2012)

Rating: 8/10

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“[George Fenton's] FROZEN PLANET is a audible-lens of wonder through which we can observe all the mystery, majesty and magic of the natural world. ”

Cold and Classy, Bold and Brassy
Review by Thomas Midena

 

There’s nothing like a top-grade nature documentary which displays most intriguing wildlife on Earth through stunning visuals. But these visuals are only one side of the experience. A sweeping documentary isn’t sweeping without a sweeping soundtrack. Luckily, FROZEN PLANET is scored by the ever-classy George Fenton, and it’s sweeping! FROZEN PLANET is a seven-part series from the BBC about nature in the Arctic and Antarctic. It explores the intrigues of wildlife, land formations and weather, including the confronting effects of climate change. It’s a setting which is inspiring, but also gives FENTON the freedom to explore and experiment - an opportunity he does not waste.

From the delicately small to the magnificently large, “The North Pole” (2) demonstrates how this score can emphasise beauty on opposing ends of the scale, even within seconds of one another. FENTON displays mastery in not only changing scale and tone, but also in changing pace. “Antarctic Mystery” (5) is a very slow piece, but no less beautiful for it. It conjures mental images of desolate natural landscapes and explores their darker side. “Flying South” (6) has understated intensity, a building of tension and a visceral sense of excitement. It gives me that magic feeling that only the best soundtracks can provide. “McKenzie River” (8) sings of beauty on a grand scale. This piece is what a documentary score is all about. It is magnificent and beautiful - a full orchestral moment of awe.

“Stones” (7) and “Cubs First Hunt” (9) use plucking strings, light percussion, xylophones and tinny brass for a cheeky, playful tone. This brash tune reappears in “Competing For The Girl” (20) to great effect - FENTON knocks playfulness out of the park. Most of these tracks underscore the escapades of penguins, and their comic nature is a highlight of the soundtrack. “Owlets / Protection” (15) is another cute and cuddly one, aside from an effective moment of tension in the latter half when the music stops and we hear slow stabs of sliding percussion.

The album contains only a few “filler” tracks which offer little purpose or entertainment value. But on the whole, this is well over an hour of top notch music! Even the 50-second-long piece, “Lazy Bear” (17) is a tinkling, magical and life-encapsulating moment.

FROZEN PLANET doesn’t feature many recurring themes or melodies per se. Instead, most of the 32 tracks are original in style and structure. As a theme-lover I like nothing more than a brilliant, familiar melody, but it’s impossible not to appreciate the scope of a soundtrack like this, which is changing and evolving to the very last note.

“Elephant Sea Duel” (11) takes the drama to a cinematic level of action, and would be appropriate for a massive medieval battle. Truthfully, this whole album sounds as though it could be from a recent fantasy film; FENTON’s style is bold and adventurous. The darkness and danger of an approaching Winter is an idea which appears in several tracks. In “Winter” (22) FENTON portrays fear and wonder with delicate subtlety: deep, drawn-out brass notes underline manic, massing strings. “Winter Sets In” (25) opens with a similar desolate tone, but grows into a powerful climax, emphasising the strength of natural weather cycles. It is the final section of the album which truly impresses, though. One of the most exciting tracks is “Battle of Wills (26). It’s an evolving piece with ample energy and personality, obviously underscoring an intense conflict on-screen. The piece is followed by “Emperors Return”, a beautiful track with a light, dancing strength similar to Michael Giacchino’s Star Trek theme. The final track, “Scott’s Legacy” (32) is a reprisal of all the magic and wonder we’ve experienced. Tinkling and jingling methodically, FENTON throws us a final few powerful brass notes to say “The End”.

The wonderful element of a documentary soundtrack is the fact that the music gets to own the stage. There is little to no dialogue or sound effects that the music has to subjugate or surrender to. In this format, unencumbered by oral storytelling, the composer gets more opportunities to invent, explore and create excellent standalone pieces of music. These boons certainly show in FROZEN PLANET. Yet despite the freedom a documentary score provides, FROZEN PLANET is still very much a soundtrack. FENTON plays to each setting and theme like any film or television composer, enhancing ideas and visuals. The result of which is an album in which soundtrack fans will feel right at home.

GEORGE FENTON has done his job flawlessly, composing a soundtrack for the natural world on a suitably tremendous scale. His FROZEN PLANET is a audible-lens of wonder through which we can observe all the mystery, majesty and magic of the natural world. It should be a no-brainer for lovers of classical soundtracks.

Now, can someone please get FENTON on an adventure film?


 

Rating: 8/10


Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Frozen Planet Opening Titles 0:30  ***
2 The North Pole 2:02  ****
3 Rapid Change 1:21  ****
4 Surfing Penguins 1:00  ***
5 Antarctic Mystery 3:53  ***
6 Flying South 4:21  ****
7 Stones 2:06  ****
8 McKenzie River 2:41  ****
9 Cub's First Hunt 3:34  ***
10 Narwhals 3:02  ***
11 Elephant Seal Duel 2:09  ***
12 Returning Seabirds/ Albatross Love 2:20  ***
13 Ice Sculptures 1:25  ***
14 Leaping Penguins 1:28  ***
15 Owlets/Protection 2:48  ***
16 Seal Ballet/Arrival of the Humpbacks 3:39  ****
17 Lazy Bear 0:50  ***
18 Exercise 1:36  ***
19 Belugas 2:27  ***
20 Competing for the Girl 3:06  ****
21 The Long March 1:17  ***
22 Winter 3:04  ***
23 Activity 2:02  ***
24 Weasel 1:54  ***
25 Winter Sets In 3:25  ***
26 Battle of Wills 5:38  *****
27 Emporors Return 3:00  *****
28 Greenland Patrol 1:24  ****
29 Minus Forty 1:52  ***
30 Following The Herd 1:27  ****
31 Walrus Kill 1:31  ****
32 Scott's Legacy 2:36  *****
  Total Running Time (approx) 75 minutes  

 

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