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The Great Human Odyssey
  • Composed by Darren Fung
  • Varèse Sarabande / 2015 / 64m

A three-part Canadian tv series about humanity’s spread from Africa and evolution (and some near-misses when the species was at risk), The Great Human Odyssey aired earlier this year as part of the long-running The Nature of Things series.  For the music, writer/director Niobe Thompson turned to Darren Fung, a prolific Canadian film and tv composer.  This sort of show has attracted some outstanding music in recent years in various BBC productions, but Fung didn’t go down the classical romantic George Fenton route, taking inspiration instead from a far more modern sort of Hans Zimmer or Brian Tyler blockbuster sound.  It’s all very big and grand, but avoids feeling self-important or in any way sentimental.  There’s a big orchestra and choir which are used to the max and there are times when the music’s so big that, to over-simplify, it’s what you might expect one of Michael Bay’s Transformers movies to sound like if they had been scored by somebody competent.

There are some more delicate sections, notably with some twinkly piano solos, the odd meditation for winds, but by and large this is music unafraid to be big and bold.  Its influences are fairly plain to spot (the Zimmer/Batman action motif in the basses and celli, the Tyler/Marvel-style power anthem, a bit of the Horner/Avatar-type of world music) but there is considerable entertainment value.  It conjures up images of sweat-soaked action heroes hanging from helicopters or riding on a horse with a gun in one hand and a pretty girl in the other, so it’s hard to put it together with what it was actually composed for, but I haven’t seen it so can hardly pass any comment.  It’s undemanding fun and the hour-long album breezes by in no time.  If you like the Brian Tyler orchestral gloss version of the Remote Control sound, you’ll like it, and you can clearly hear in some of the more imaginative passages that Fung is a composer of real talent.

Rating: *** 1/2 | |

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  1. ANDRÉ -- Cape Town. (Reply) on Thursday 16 April, 2015 at 17:46

    I was very impressed with FUNG’S score for the Black Comedy ‘Just Buried’…a young man inherits a Funeral Parlour in a small town, and relocates there to make his fortune. Big Problem though–nobody’s dying, and a man’s gotta eat. Easy solution – start killing off the citizens in this God-forsaken town. Armed with a harpsichord, dulcimer, vibraphone, piano, celeste, marimba and strings, FUNG created a score that is at times wistful, humourous, achingly beautiful AND ORIGINAL. DARREN FUNG is classically trained, is innovative and clever, and will be a composer to watch with future assignments. There’s no lifting ideas from HORNER, TYLER or ZIMMER for ‘Just Buried’…so I’m looking forward to hearing their influences in this opus. Thanks for the info James…I love a massive symphony orchestra, embellished with Chorus, and hope my CD arrives soon to hear what wonders FUNG has produced.

  2. James Southall (Reply) on Thursday 16 April, 2015 at 22:34

    Thanks for the tip. I’ll check out Just Buried if I can.