by Mike Brennan
Building up his career as one of Hollywood's top composers, Harry Gregson-Williams has come a long way since his days of working with Hans Zimmer in the late 90's. Stepping off the success of his collaborations with John Powell on Antz, Chicken Run and Shrek, he broke into his mainstream solo career with Spy Game in 2001, which was quickly followed by blockbusters such as Shrek 2, Man on Fire, and this year's Kingdom of Heaven. Each film Gregson-Williams scores expands his repertoire to a slightly new genre: The Chronicles of Narnia is his first journey into the world of live-action epic fantasy, and it gave him a wonderful opportunity to pull out all the stops.
The production of the score for The Chronicles of Narnia was on a grand scale. From late September until early November, Gregson-Williams conducted the 75-piece Hollywood Studio Symphony and supervised the recording of the 140-member choir at Abbey Road in London. Additional solo musicians were recorded at his Wavecrest Studio, including vocalist Lisbeth Scott and electric violinist Hugh Marsh. The result is simply astounding. Bold orchestrations, strong choir, and careful thematic development define this score as one of the best of the year.
As tends to be the case with our First Listen articles, SoundtrackNet has not yet seen the final film, and so what follows is a track-by-track description without the benefit of context from the film. Please keep in mind that we don't have the final liner notes, and portions of this article might be rendered inaccurate once the final album and film are released. We hope you enjoy this exclusive "First Listen" of the soundtrack to The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.
Please note that the latest version of Quicktime is required to listen to the audio, and clicking the track titles below will pop open a new window. If the media server is overloaded, try again later!
Windows users: you might have an issue with the Quicktime Plugin. Be sure to upgrade, and if necessary, "reload" the popup window (Ctrl-R)
1. The Blitz, 1940 (2:32)
This cue opens the album on a tense note with racing strings and strong percussion and brass. The first Children's theme is introduced here. The sound of fighter planes rumbles in the background of some of the louder parts. The track builds dramatically and then ends on a subdued note.
2. Evacuating London (3:38)
Beginning with string and woodwind statements of the Children's theme, this is a sorrowful cue that continues with a drawn out piano version, then a clarinet. The second half of the cue is one of the more unique moments on the album with a bit of electronics and chimes backing a song performed by Lisbeth Scott. Throughout her vocals, the Narnia theme is hinted at, passed between the strings and the French horn. The family theme is also played underneath.
3. The Wardrobe (2:54)
A gentle crescendo with strings, harp, and piano builds into solo flute and clarinet statements of the Children's theme, followed by the first full performance of the Narnia theme in the woodwind, backed by the choir. The track then ends on a dark note.
4. Lucy Meets Mr. Tumnus (4:10)
Hugh Marsh's electric violin dominates this cue. Gregson-Williams' effectively evokes the cold setting of the meeting at the lamppost and shows the versatility of Marsh's unique sound. Piano and chimes add to the wintery sound. The cue closes with another statement of the Narnia theme.
5. A Narnia Lullaby (1:12)
Performed by Mr. Tumnus in the film, Gregson-Williams chose the duduk for the sound of the fawn's pipe. Lisbeth Scott and the orchestra enter halfway through and end the track on a bold note.
6. The White Witch (5:30)
A dark ominous cue with solo performances of the low strings, brass, and chorus. This is one of the longer cues, and a bit slow. It ends on a dissonant note.
7. From Western Woods to Beaversdam (3:34)
Scott's voice starts off with the piano and some light percussion with brief hints at the children's theme in the piano. A flute comes in with the orchestra with more of this theme. While slower, this cue has a definite sense of motion with the light percussive orchestrations.
8. Father Christmas (3:20)
A happy, Christmas-sounding cue with the choir. Various woodwind solos build into a brief brass quartet statement of the children's theme, which is followed by a choir and horn partial statement of the Narnia theme.
9. To Aslan's Camp (3:12)
Here we are dramatically introduced to the Heroic theme in the brass. A clarinet then begins what builds into the fullest statement of the Narnia theme on the album. The children's theme returns here and, backed by pulsing strings, builds into a full statement of the Heroic theme.
10. Knighting Peter (3:48)
Soft strings and horn open this cue and segues into a moving, triumphant statement of the children's theme on the French horn. The rest of the track is more dramatic, with some tense brass and low string orchestrations. It ends with a quiet flute performance of the children's theme.
11. The Stone Table (8:06)
The longest track on the album, we first hear an eerie statement of the Heroic theme on the electric violin backed by Scott's ethereal vocals. Tibetan vocals and percussion give the cue into a violent and grim undertone as the Family theme and the Heroic theme are given their darkest treatments in the brass and bass strings. The sound of snipping scissors can be heard beneath some of the music at one point. The percussion picks up the tempo as the orchestra builds into a tense, series of brass chords underlain by low strings. The cue closes with chimes and a children's choir backed before the percussion kicks in again with the orchestra and ends on a dark note in the low strings.
12. The Battle (7:08)
Here we get the full orchestral treatment of the Heroic theme as it is bounced back and forth between the low brass and trumpets with the orchestra and full choir behind it. Then the snare drums kick in and the battle is on! The chorus is amazing here, as are the powerful brass and percussion performances. This cue is takes many ideas from Gregson-Williams' other epic score this year, Kingdom of Heaven, and applies the large-scale battle sound to Narnia with multiple and varied statements of the Heroic theme. A bold brass motif that was heard in the first track returns here for the action sequence. The choral contribution is upped another notch toward the end with a moving hard percussion line behind it. The orchestra then races toward the end, which takes on a quiet, uneasy tone.
13. Only the Beginning of the Adventure (5:32)
A flute brings back the children's theme with a French horn on the countermelody; chimes and piano back further statements of the theme. An uplifting cue, this final score track reprises all three main themes with the Narnia theme receiving only a shortened variation. The Heroic theme takes over as the primary thematic idea as the choir and full horn section comes in. A solo horn then segues into a moving piano cue with the electric violin that reprises the tone set in the "Evacuating London" cue. The Heroic theme returns in the brass with racing strings underneath, then slows and quiets to a solo clarinet that ends the score on an unresolved note.
14. "Can't Take It In" - Imogen Heap (4:42)
This original song is performed with multiple vocal tracks by the lead singer of Frou Frou, with Gregson-Williams fleshing out the instrumentation. Her voice reflects the tone that Scott's vocals took for the score, and acts as a decent companion song for the score.
15. "Wunderkind" - Alanis Morissette (5:19)
A new song by Alanis written for the film. The lyrics were written from the point of view of Lucy's character. The song is good and reflects the innocence and wonder of the youngest Pevensie character.
16. "Winter Light" - Tim Finn (4:13)
A slow song, it relates, lyrically to the winter setting of the film, but is the weakest of the four songs in its connection to the idea of the film.
17. "Where" - Lisbeth Scott (1:54)
A short, but good song that uses the Family theme within Gregson-Williams' orchestrations. Scott's vocals are as good as in the score and the song ends the album nicely.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe will be released on December 13, 2005 by Walt Disney Records, in two varieties: a regular soundtrack release, and a "special edition" release, which will include a bonus DVD with behind-the-scenes featurettes.
Special thanks to Maria Kleinman, Jamiellin Kelsey, Dan Goldwasser, and Harry Gregson-Williams.