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The Tillman Story by Philip Sheppard

The Tillman Story

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The Tillman Story (Soundtrack) by Philip Sheppard

The Tillman Story
Composed by Philip Sheppard
Lakeshore Records (2010)

Rating: 6/10

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“As an underscore to a documentary, Sheppard’s score is nothing less than adequate. Rarely does it threaten to become intrusive, but neither does it ever show the ambition to truly match the magnitude of the story it is telling.”

A Cover-up's Underscore
Review by Richard Buxton

On April 22, 2004 former Arizona Cardinals Defensive and Corporal of the United States Army Rangers Patrick Tillman, was killed in Sperah, Afghanistan. Having rejected a $9million NFL contract in order to serve his country, Tillman was rightly commended. The sacrifice of a soldier for his country secures immortality through the respect and gratefulness of the people he or she fought for, and it is this that makes the events following his death all the harder to accept. Despite the numerous cover-ups, the true events of April 22 were eventually revealed. Tillman was in fact killed by friendly fire, a cause that had been hidden from the Tillman family for weeks after Patrick’s death. THE TILLMAN STORY is an insight into the conspiracy, propaganda and ultimate failings of the system.
In hiring Philip Sheppard, director Amir Bar-Lev chose a composer with a strong history of documentary scoring. Notable previous works include the space-faring documentary “In The Shadow of the Moon”, a stirring accompaniment to the retelling of the Apollo missions in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Firmly familiar with the documentary formula, in the case of THE TILLMAN STORY Sheppard has composed a score that does the job but does little to go beyond the call of duty. Consisting of two distinct parts, the soundtrack weighs in at a seemingly generous 32 tracks. However the majority of these last for no longer than a minute and a half each.

Opening with the track “Memorial” the tone of the first and more subdued half of the score is instantly set. A constant repeating of piano chords paves the way for haunting strings. This repetition serves as the theme for the opening half of the score, creating an ambient sadness while the traces of menace heard in the strings engineer tension and anticipation. This formula returns on a number of occasions throughout the score, albeit with changes in its complexion. In the fourth piece “Cargo” the repetition of the percussion is joined by a string section of a significantly stronger texture. The harmonies of the strings enhance the irrepressible foreboding of a nation and its soldiers at war. These harmonies receive further attention in “Aria”, where the reflective strings mask the menacing bass.
While the tone of the score continues with the unease heard previously, it is in “Suspicion” that the pace of Sheppard’s music sees considerable change in its dynamics. “Suspicion” opens with the familiar repetitions but at a much higher pace, the constant plucking creating a frantic atmosphere before returning to the solemnity of the strings. Both “Flight” and “Just A Kid” maintain the change in style, the unremitting piano taking centre stage once more. It is here that the repetitions begin to falter. While they provide a suitable platform for the filmmakers from which to create the necessary drama, as a purely listening experience the almost incessant repetition begins to grate. Listening to the entire score uninterrupted may prove to be somewhat of a struggle unless it is employed solely as background music.
It is with great relief then that “New Almaden” arrives shortly after the basis of the score begins to wear thin. The electric cello provides a haunting contrast to the softly spoken strings in this reflective piece. Unfortunately, this strong track is immediately followed by a return to the almost perpetual repetition. “Night Vision” signals Sheppard’s descent into the action side of the score. With its harmonies “Afghan” manages to paint the score with a strong intense Arabic feel, while “Into The Valley” continues with this intensity, albeit with a more traditional suspense soundscape.
THE TILLMAN STORY swiftly diverts from its Arabic flavourings and once again falls back on the repetitions in order to establish atmosphere. “Fallout” does a considerably better job at this style and perhaps represents what would have been a better overall basis upon which Sheppard could have worked. The repetitions remain, yet they are diverse and often sporadic enough to provide adequate variation upon the motif in question.
The faults of THE TILLMAN STORY come to a head in “Brother”, where the incessant, jarring repetitions become almost too much to bear. They creates little to no anticipation and the constant plucking almost instantly becomes aggravating. The aggravation is eventually put to rest as the score returns to its peak in “Chorale for Pat”. Essentially a development upon “New Almaden”, “Chorale for Pat” is a wistful look back at the tragic and shocking tale of Patrick Tillman.

As an underscore to a documentary, Sheppard’s score is nothing less than adequate. Rarely does it threaten to become intrusive, but neither does it ever show the ambition to truly match the magnitude of the story it is telling.

Rating: 6/10




Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Memorial 1:31  ****
2 Lux 0:56  ****
3 Total Champion 0:47  **
4 Cargo 1:09  ***
5 Background 2:09  ***
6 Aria 0:41  ***
7 Turn the Corner 0:51  ***
8 Suspicion 5:24  *
9 Yeti 0:27  **
10 Flight 0:43  **
11 First Glance 0:48  ***
12 Military Ceremony 1:38  **
13 Just a Kid 2:01  **
14 The Wedding 1:10  ***
15 Wedding Dance 1:37  ***
16 In the Dark 0:45  **
17 New Almaden 1:52  *****
18 Night Vision 1:18  **
19 Jessica Lynch Waltz 0:57  **
20 The Afghan 1:25  **
21 In the Valley 5;27  ***
22 Total Champion II 2:35  ***
23 The Message 3:22  **
24 Washington 0:49  **
25 Fallout 1:26  ***
26 Conspiracy 0:56  ***
27 Tackle 1:27  ****
28 Brother 0:59  *
29 The Hearing 1:33  ***
30 99 Yards 1:55  **
31 Chorale for Pat 2:19  *****
32 Last Look 0:17  ***
  Total Running Time (approx) 51 minutes  




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