August 1, 2009

CD Review: Battlestar Galactica - Season 4 Music Composed by Bear McCreary

After taking over the reigns from Richard Gibbs, who scored the Battlestar Galactica mini-series in 2003, Bear McCreary has been off to the races. Since the very first note of "33" you could tell that the music for this series was going to be something special. Of course, it took me until the release of season 3 for me to actually pick up one of the disks, but no mind. The important part is that I did. With that release, I could finally stop just thinking about how cool the music was and could take the time to listen to it. Now, having heard that, plus this two-disk season 4 release I feel pretty safe in saying that no one has composed television music like him before. Actually, there probably are not that many who equal him on the big screen either.

Listening to Bear McCreary's work for Battlestar Galactica is a near transcendent experience. His music takes you on a journey with recurring themes, a variety of styles and instruments, and the willingness to experiment. Even in what is essentially a "greatest hits" collection, it is very easy to get caught up in the flow. Whether it be the softer, emotion filled, contemplative pieces like "Lament of Gaeta" or "Diaspora Oratorio" or the more intense moments like "Roslin Escapes" or the later portions of "Boomer Takes Hera," it is very easy to get caught up in the music to the point of forgetting what you were doing.

With season 4, Bear is completing the circuit. What began with a more militaristic, percussive sound, the music has changed, evolved, morphed, and grown through a number of permutations. As the series moved into more philosophical ground and the characters began to find themselves (or lose themselves, as the case may be), the music changed with them, reflecting their state of mind, or the new surroundings they find themselves in.

This final season collection sees the bulk of the music turning inwards, reflecting the change from the early military sounds to this. Much like the characters, the music has gone through its own arc. An arc that has afforded its composer to experiment with a variety of sounds and instruments, never bound by any rules of composition, given free reign to wild. The end result is music that incorporates a large variety of influences from around the world into one cohesive work that is as epic as it is deeply personal.

When you listen to the first disk of this set, I encourage you to pay particular attention to "Gaeta's Lament" and its instrumental version, "Cult of Baltar," "Blood on the Scales," "Kara Remembers," "Dreilide Thrace Sonata No. 1," and every other track here.

As an added bonus, this release has a second disk. This disk is focused completely on the series finale, "Daybreak." Much like every other album of Bear McCreary's music, this is not to be missed. It may be the most focused of the Battlestar Galactica albums, aside from Caprica, as it is not a "Best of" collection it gives us the opportunity of taking the musical journey from start to finish.

This disk begins with the sorrowful "Caprica City, Before the Fall" before moving onto a slightly more hopeful "Laura's Baptism." This build continues through the next couple of cues, all building up to the album's centerpiece.

At the heart of the "Daybreak" score is a massive 15-minute epic called "Assault on the Colony." This is just a massive work that seems to incorporate everything that Bear has done over the series. There are quiet moments, in your face explosions, a regular climb and falls, recognizable themes, everything in one massive package.

One would think that a piece like this would sap the album of momentum by peaking too early. That is not the case hear, the momentum carries right on to "Baltar's Sermon" and the rest of the score.

This score works very well. There is some wonderful pacing throughout, it never gets boring or repetitious and is just as good listening apart from the show, always a sign of a good score.

Bottomline. I am sad to see this series end. Not only is it landmark television with a great story to tell with wonderful performances and great look, but it generated such wonderful music. It is sad to realize that we will not be getting anymore Bear Battlestar music. Sure, we have Caprica but it is not the same thing. Still, Bear is a wonderful composer who has done some great work and has nowhere to go but up. I look forward to seeing what happens when he gets a shot at a major film. You know it will happen and you know it will be great.

Highly Recommended.


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