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Friday, April 25, 2014

John WIlliams -- Saving Private Ryan (Music From the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

 photo Saving_Private_Ryan_-_The_Original_Motion_Picture_Soundtrack_zps688d09b0.jpg

Saving Private Ryan is not a typical John Williams soundtrack. Williams, Spielberg, and the production staff decided to leave the film's intense battle scenes score free. This increases their intensity and dramatic impact. Any amount of music would have been too much, over the top, and honestly, an insult to the men those scenes represented. However, this also left Williams to score only the more mundane aspects of the film...walking through fields, talking, eating. He does get to create the moving, ethereal "Hymn to the Fallen," which closes out the film, and which I know quite well for soundtracking a teenage Iwo Jima flag raising re-enactment for Veteran's Day I once had to participate in, and thanks a lot for making me do that, Mrs. Nancy. "Hymn to the Fallen" is more akin to Williams' Olympic Theme Work than any of the rest of his film work, but it fits Saving Private Ryan quite well. Its beautiful, haunting choral work and patriotic stirrings are evocative of all the emotions Saving Private Ryan attempts to stir.
"Hymn to the Fallen" appears twice, bookmarking Saving Private Ryan (Music From the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), and essentially leaving the middle to be filled with incidental music. This is John Williams we are talking about, though, so this stuff isn't throwaway. Williams has created an appropriately weary theme for the soldiers moving on from a situation. Though it is the only real theme to speak of here, it is memorable and effective. Track two, "Revisiting Normandy," is gorgeous and heartbreaking, as a veteran walks through a graveyard populated by his compatriots. "High School Teacher" is the album's standout piece, backing arguably the film's emotional high point, as Tom Hanks' captain character breaks up a fight among his men by admitting his pre-soldier profession. The tracks also features the aforementioned "moving" theme, as well as an unsettling buildup to a firefight. These tracks and track three,"Omaha Beach," highlight dramatic moments, though. The five in the middle do not, and as such, they aren't very engaging--the sounds of walking and eating MRE's. As I've said, this is no fault of Williams. This was a conscious filmmaking decision, and I believe, the right one, but anyone expecting a whiz-bang score based on the title will be disappointed. For the rest of Williams' fans, though, the album's higpoints, featuring forlorn brass, distant martial drums, and achingly beautiful strings just might be enough. They are for me.

1998 Dreamworks
1. Hymn to the Fallen 6:10
2. Revisiting Normandy 4:05
3. Omaha Beach 9:15
4. Finding Private Ryan 4:37
5. Approaching The Enemy 4:30
6. Defense Preparations 5:54
7. Wade's Death 4:30
8. High School Teacher 11:02
9. The Last Battle 7:56
10. Hymn to the Fallen (Reprise) 6:10

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