Film music is an expansive terrain to cover. But as we all know there are stand out exceptions. Anything by John Williams
, we all should know and love, but him aside, there are many other well deserved film composers. One of them is less know Basil Poledouris
, who few may remember composed the cliché music from the film Free Willy
, and the less flattering Starship Troopers
. Marine scores seemed to be his within his expertise, as he by now had already composed for many films with the theme of water, and some other object. In Free Willy’s case it was a killer whale, but in 1990, before he embarked on scoring the music for the black-and-white beast, he developed his watery musical explorations in the film The Hunt for Red October
. For Poledouris, it was just another film; after all he’d been so successful with the Conan the Barbarian
score that this was just another day at the office. However, what positions this music apart from his earlier deeds is the inclusive electronic elements that scatter about the design like fish swimming around coral – the result is a classical/electronica film score that is partly revolutionary in design, but just doesn’t seem to trek far enough to dazzle or inspire.
In most films, the introduction is pivotal for introducing the setting, and mood. Look at how Star War’s prologue practically singed its sound onto everyone who ever set foot near it. Similarly, Poledouris, like all film composers, seems to have poured his heart and should into the effort of creating the first passage, “The Hymn to the Red October,”
and his efforts pay off incredibly well. Not only is the music totally memorable, it is also a well modified to captivate the visual and audio audience. For the recording he obtained the well-renowned Red Army Choir
, who when used in such a way, create a stirring sound that is reminiscent of earlier operas by Richard Wagner
But, contrary to the magnificent opening, the music droops into the depths, and becomes little more then background compliments for the film’s complex storyline. There are times for the music to surface however, such as the scene known as “Red Route I,”
where the submarine Red October has to manoeuvre through a tight labyrinth of underwater canyons to avoid detection from sonar systems. In this scene, Poledouris again uses the coupling of the choir, and orchestra to create a very atypical suspense driven musical passage. While it certainly is a conventional approach to a scene of this calibre, the music both compliments and adds to the scene, something which can be hard to even the most adept composer.
Other notable additions include the hectic and spine-driven “Nuclear Scam, “Plane Crash”
and “Turbulence Chopper,”
which showcases his use of electronic instruments, and also the influence of percussion to a lot of his music. However other than these, there is little to offer. This is what makes to score suffer unlike his previous scores for the Barbarian double, where the music seemed to be almost as important as the visual display itself. Naturally, most film scores are effected by this; they are mainly only meant to compliment the visual art, but where others fail, Poledouris succeeds in bringing a revitalising finish to a film which could have well have been less screen-worthy if it weren’t for the dramatic assortment of orchestral, electronic and percussive elements. One cannot criticise the music itself, it is certainly wonderfully written, but at the same time, it’s not invigorating enough on its own to be thoroughly enjoyed without its film counterpart.