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Rinse and repeat. Again and again.
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2006 Walt Disney; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
I know it's not the right thing to say, but Philip Glass is a terrible film composer. (I can hear the mutterings of "you idiot!" from here.) Really - however brilliant his music may be on its own terms, it is completely ill-suited to being in films. Whenever he scores one, it's treated as an event, the classical music magazines say how great it is to have some real music in a film for once, he gets nominated for many awards, and if I see the film then I invariably end up scratching my head wondering how anyone ever thought that music was the right thing to put with those images.
There's an exception: a pretty big exception. His work on Godfrey Reggio's Qatsi films is breathtaking, not just joining with the visuals, but being an equal partner with them in the film experience. He's done some documentaries, too, with some success (recently the much-lauded The Fog of War). So despite my trepidations about his dramatic abilities as a film composer, Glass actually seems like a natural choice for Roving Mars, a documentary about two land craft on the red planet, gathering their data and so on..
Glass composes in his traditional way, of course - endlessly repeating figures sometimes rising to rapture, sometimes descending to monotonous drone. It's a small orchestra here, focusing as usual on piano, strings and winds with a few trumpet solos thrown in. It's more ordinary than the finest moments of the Qatsi scores, more mundane, but there is a predictably hypnotic air running throughout which keeps the listener's rapt attention even if it doesn't fill him with delight.
Some of the slight experiments don't work (the presumably comic intentions of "So Much of our Hopes" just sound silly) and for sure, even with only 34 minutes of score it can become just far too much. Fans of Glass's better film music albums will undoubtedly like this, but in terms of those, it may be composed partially in the spirit of Koyaanisqatsi or The Hours but it never quite rises to their level. When it works, boy does it work - but sadly that's not quite often enough.