It’s not usual of me to review soundtracks. Our reviews are primarily an educational resource, but it is for this specific reason that I believe this soundtrack merits a review here. First some background. The soundtrack listening community was quite surprised to hear that Gabriel Yared was selected to compose a score of such a grand scope as the movie Troy. Up till then, Yared had primarily composed for more drama and romantic oriented filmography. My personal thoughts have always been that, if you want something great, give it to someone who doesn’t know that he can’t do it. You’ll find they do it well beyond your expectations.
However, in Yareds case after a year of composing and almost completing the score, it was presented to a test audience and completely rejected by the viewers. It is rare for people to notice the music in a film so if they do, something must be wrong. Gabriel Yared was subsequently fired with no chance of amends and James Horner was quickly hired to pull off the unbelievable of completing a soundtrack in under 3 weeks. This didn’t particularly surprise soundtrack enthusiasts, most having written him off early to being with. That was until Gabriel Yared released pieces of the music he composed on his website.
It was an immediate turn about face after listening to what he wrote. No one could believe it was rejected. I was itching to hear the rejected soundtrack. Unfortunately I never had the opportunity as Warner Brothers forced it to be removed since they owned the copyright. This left me exceptionally curious if not downright frustrated. I signed the online petition for Warner Brothers to release it and longed for the day it would become available.
Due to some loophole somewhere, a release was eventually made of the score in germany. Finally I managed to hear a copy of it. Before listening to it however, I had already researched a lot of the reasoning’s for it’s rejection. One that had the most stirring impressions was from the composer that replaced him, James Horner. One can hear by the way that Horner articulates himself that in addition to being an accomplished composer, he is a highly intelligent. So when I saw what he had to say about the soundtrack after others had reviewed it highly, it left me in doubt as to the veracity of the critics high rating. Having listened to it though, I have to respectfully disagree with Mr. Horner.
It is undoubtedly a masterpiece.
Prior to listening I thought that perhaps the soundtrack sounded simply dated. Such as epic old score like Spartacus, Ben Hur, or Jason and the Argonauts which may be considered bombastic by more modernly tuned ears. That may make it a listening treat for people who are more accustomed to a more golden age sound, but risks isolating the mainstream. However after listening this is clearly not the case. The score caters to the modern ear whilst still capturing the historical sound of film. Clearly this score was thought out from conception before the first note was laid down taking into consideration the era setting. It was as intellectually considered as well as musically modeled making it a key entry into the soundtrack field instead of the more usual rushed productions where time restraints force functionality over genuine expression. So it begs the question, why was it rejected? It’s hard to say without specific details, but I can only offer what I think may have been a crucial cause. The sheer magnitude of it means that the dynamic range is exceptionally large. When you listen to it you raise your volume control very high to hear the soft parts, consequently the loud parts will be exceptionally loud. This serves as an excellent way to get the result of such an epic sound, however once again the modern ears are used to a squashed dynamic where everything is the same volume and may find it sounding bombastic. This is what I believe could be a strong potential reason that the score did not hold up in the test performance. However the solution to this is not in the composition but in the re-recording mix. It is not an issue to simply reduce the dynamics for the film and leave the full dynamic nature when releasing it on CD.
The shame here is that we have score that is legendary. I’m not keen on comparing scores to other scores but since it takes more than the usual effort to get a hold of it, in an attempt to inspire you to make that effort, I’ll take the chance: I would relate it to the grandiosity and power of the Conan the Barbarian score and the climactic majesty of the score for The Abyss. It also has certain elements that would sit perfectly in an old school computer game with an epic ancient. The way I see it, the movie would have to fight to catch up to meet the greatness of the soundtrack.
Strangely if not out right ironically, Gabriel Yareds score by the downfall of being rejected has aided it to ensure it’s longevity as a travesty of “what could have been”, albeit more so to the enthusiast than to the common listener.
A professor once told me that truth will always triumph over falsehood over time. Folly in knowledge will always fall away in the long of things. This scores greatness as such will thus without doubt be considered a masterpiece regardless to it’s rejection. The true tragedy here is that it was not released as part of the film thereby denying the film to share a legendary status. So my main intent on writing this article is to implore you specifically if you are a mainstream listener without a specific interest in soundtracks, to try listen to the score. You will be in for a magnificent experience that will inevitably leave you wandering why greatness has to fight so hard to triumph over mediocrity.
Sonic Brilliance Rating: * * * * *