- Battlestar Galactica (2003) [Miniseries]
Review: Battlestar Galactica
3 / 5 Stars
John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith set a precedent in the late 1970's for scoring space films with massive orchestral efforts. Richard Gibbs' latest contribution to the genre takes a completely different approach that, in some ways, seems to make more sense for what is being illustrated on the screen. There are no major themes, other than some repeated rhythmic patterns, but it terms of style, he uses a wide array of percussion instruments, backed often with string or brass chords, which convey the harshness of space and, at times, the inhumanness of the Cylons.
Gibbs, former member of Oingo Boingo, oddly enough wrote a score for a remake that is most comparable to Elfman's Planet of the Apes remake. Rhythmic, percussive, and fast-paced, Battlestar Galactica is not the easiest score to listen to on album, but it works well in the movie and it pushes the limits of science fiction cinema. The music for Sci-Fi Channel's mini-series has received more attention of late. Battlestar Galactica lands somewhere between Graeme Revell's Dune and Bryan Tyler's Children of Dune with the former's ambient nature and the latter's ethnic instrumentations.
All the elements of the score are included in the first track, "Battlestar Galactica Main Theme": female vocals, light orchestrations, pounding percussion, and a droning duduk. The most interesting part to this score only appears in "To Kiss or Not to Kiss" which is a female vocalist singing lyrics from the Upanisads in Sanskrit. They are the same segment (Brhadaranyaka Upanisad 1.3.28) which Don Davis used in the latter parts of The Matrix Revolutions, most notably in "Neodammerung", although this appears to be a coincidence. Nonetheless, it is fun to hear a new use for these lyrics, and it calls attention to some of the instrumentation choices Gibbs made. He uses an Armenian duduk, Japanese Taiko (among other percussion), and Indian lyrics. The sound of these elements together is great and using ethnic instruments for sound alone is something that should maybe be done more. The Taiko is a widely used instrument in modern film music, though it is often employed either to represent Japanese or Pacific characters or settings or as a beat behind an orchestra. Hearing these powerful drums standing alone with other percussion for the space battle scenes is really unique and quite thrilling. Gibbs says he intentionally clouded the distinct sounds of the Taiko with other percussion to avoid a geographical limitation. In that case, he should have avoided the duduk too. I would have loved to hear just the Taiko, as - oddly enough - was also done in the Matrix sequels for the Teahouse scene.
The album is a little hard to concentrate on for long because of its lack of a main theme, but after a few listens, it is very engaging, especially because Gibbs varies the percussion sounds. Some standout cues include "Apollo to the Rescue", "Launch Vipers", "The Lottery Ticket", and the seven minute percussion cue "Battle". This is a good score to look into if you liked the new take on the old series, or if you're sick of overblown orchestras blasting through your speakers. Battlestar Galactica is a unique score and, with patience, an interesting listening experience. I don't normally like minimalist scores, but this one works really well. The composer followed the director's requests to make the film appear documentary style and therefore was not able to use full orchestrations, but he still made the score work really well. If nothing else, Gibbs should be commended for pulling off such a unique approach.
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