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Field of Lost Shoes (Frederik Wiedmann)

October 11, 2014

Cover_FieldofLostShoesFIELD OF LOST SHOES

Frederik Wiedmann, 2014, La-La Land Records
26 tracks, 72.33

The American Civil War. So much bloodshed. So much horror. And yet, it continues to inspire so many wonderful films and equally wonderful scores. Frederik Wiedmann’s “Field of Lost Shoes” is no exception.

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

“Field of Lost Shoes” is based on a true story of the American Civil War, culminating at the Battle of New Market, May 1864. A group of teenage cadets must confront the horrors of an adult world when they are called upon to defend the Shenandoah Valley. Leaving behind their youth, these cadets must decide what they are fighting for.  The movie’s title refers to the moment when 257 young VMI cadets charged successfully through a soggy wheat field toward Yankee positions — even as many of their shoes remained stuck in the mud — forcing the Union forces to withdraw. The film stars David Arquette, Tom Skerritt, and Jason Isaacs.

The original score is by Frederik Wiedmann whose “The Damned” was also released earlier this year. Whilst that score was an adequate, if unremarkable, horror score, “Field of Lost Shoes” is… something else! (Yeah, that reads rather obvious. It sounds better in my head.)

What does it sound like?

I dreamed of a day where I get to write an epic, thematic orchestral score for a period drama, and that dream seemed just so far away.  But years later, I met “Field of Lost Shoes”,” says composer Frederik Wiedmann. “During the spotting session, I realized I was about to get the chance to write my dream. As I discussed the tone of the film with the director Sean McNamara, editor Jeff Canavan and producer Brandon Hogan, I knew it would be that sweeping, epic, orchestral score that I dreamed of composing.

These sympathetic liner notes reveal just how much a labour of love this score is for Wiedmann. John Barry is mentioned as a great influence; as are James Horner and Jerry Goldsmith. Further notes by Jeff Canavan (editor and co-producer) reveal a true love for cinema and filmscores, with mentions of Thomas Newman, Marco Beltrami and Hans Zimmer. This instantly puts the score in good stead, without even hearing a single note.

The album opens with “Main Title” and we instantly greeted with a heart-warming, lyrical theme for choir and strings. Within seconds you know you’re listening to something special. The strings start racing, percussion comes in and the chords start climbing up the scales. Then the theme comes back. What sounded so personal and fragile a moment ago, now sounds courageous and determined.

Isn’t it funny that one of America’s bloodiest wars continues to inspire some of the finest and noblest music? Isn’t it also funny that films about the American Civil War have a specific sound? It’s not just the fiddle or flutes, but also the oboe and clarinet, as well as specific chord progressions that contribute to this distinct sound.

Playful guitar and violin take centre stage in “Young John Wise” and “Sunstruck Rat”, two Thomas Newmanesque Western cues. “From an Artist’s Mind” also has an air of Newman about it, though this time through its slow, lingering string chords. Various other tracks come and go – all equally beautiful, all dominated by strings, often of a brooding nature. What makes Wiedmann’s score so pleasurable and so easily listenable is that his music always revolves around the themes (or variations on them; or on moving chords at the very least). The music is never stagnant, it keeps moving, evolving, engaging.

One of the score’s highlights comes in the form of “The Recruited”. It starts off a bit hesitant with scraping strings and a nervous rhythm. That rhythm becomes more strident and the strings start to hint at the heroic main theme. Around the halfway mark that main theme arrives as choir takes over. Military snares and trumpet are also present. Soon after, strings and choir segue into an equally beautiful (and somewhat similar) secondary theme. There are times these themes remind me of John Williams’ “The Patriot” (at 2.50 and 4.15 I’m almost expecting it to segue into the b-phrase of “The Patriot”), sometimes of Alan Silvestri’s “The Abyss” (the way the chords rise around 3.30) and sometimes of James Horner (the way the key change is handled around 4.25). Comparisons aren’t always fair and some may not hear what I hear; but as far as comparisons go, those three ain’t bad!

One of the most influential film scores for me was without a doubt John Barry’s legendary music to Dances With Wolves,” writes Wiedmann in the liner notes. “I was 12 years old when I came across this film and the music, and, besides it being the first physical soundtrack I ever bought, it was also the score that made me aware of the world of film music and film composers. Some of my favorite composers back then were without a doubt James Horner, James Newton Howard, Jerry Goldsmith and, of course, John Barry.

“Young Cadets Marching” opens with a military trumpet call which fades away, making way for a string elegy. Another highlight is “Thoughts on War” which features a heart-felt rendition of the main theme for strings, violin and humming choir. “May 15, 1864” introduces powerful string ostinatos and percussion, marking a shift in tone as the score becomes a little more action-orientated. String ostinatos and percussion continue into “New Market Heights” and “Vadimus Miles” (which also adds choir). The score has moved a little closer to Hans Zimmer’s territory; even when the main theme returns it’s accompanied by heavy brass chords and a pulsing bass.

Wiedmann cranks it up a few more notches in “Send the Boys In” – a balls-to-the-wall action cue with racing strings and thunderous percussion. Yet, the composer manages to keep it harmonic, melodic and engaging. And then… he finds yet another gear in “Storming the Hill”. Strident string arpeggios, big drums, big chords and a choir – this is epic trailer music, if nothing else. After a few minutes it turns into a more traditional action cue, before eventually quieting down. At seven minutes long, it’s one hell of a ride!

The album ends with three reflective cues. The second half of “A Soldier’s Heart” once again reminiscent of James Horner; whilst “Field of Lost Shoes” closes with a beautiful version of Wiedmann’s magnificent main theme. It is lush and the counterpoint writing is fantastic, yet Wiedmann resists going all-out bombastic. It’s quite restraint – and all the more powerful for it. When the solo violin comes in to carry the main theme one more time, accompanied by solemn timpani hits, I get goosebumps. Genuine shivers.

Is it any good?

Frederik Wiedmann’s “Field of Lost Shoes” is a gorgeous score. It’s heroic and noble where it needs to be; and it’s reflective where it needs to be. And then, towards the end, it pulls out all the stops and manages to kick an ass or two (and I don’t mean of the donkey variety). At 72 minutes it’s a long album; and I think it could’ve been a little shorter. That said, Wiedmann manages to keep the music engaging. Even the ‘less interesting’ cues are perfectly enjoyable. There is a strong sense of harmony and melody throughout the score, which keeps it moving. And those melodies… they stick! They are wonderful. The highlights, as highlighted in the review, are amongst the best cues of the year. “Field of Lost Shoes” is clearly a labour of love for Wiedmann; and it comes highly recommended.

Rating [4/5]

Tracklisting

01. Main Title (2:31)
02. The Issue of Slavery (2:37)
03. Young John Wise (1:11)
04. The Initiation of a Rat (3:47)
05. The Flower of His Youth (3:03)
06. Sunstruck Rat (1:24)
07. From an Artist’s Mind (0:54)
08. Libby (1:59)
09. Old Men Make the Promises (1:42)
10. The Recruited (5:02)
11. Love at First Sight (1:35)
12. Young Cadets Marching (1:09)
13. A Picture of the Past (0:58)
14. A Conversation (2:49)
15. I Will Fight for My Family (1:39)
16. The Language of the Winners (1:45)
17. The Helpless (2:06)
18. Thoughts on War (5:41)
19. May 15, 1864 (1:38)
20. New Market Heights (2:15)
21. Vadimus Miles (3:09)
22. Send the Boys In (3:32)
23. Storming the Hill (7:02)
24. Aftermath (6:20)
25. A Soldier’s Heart (2:46)
26. Field of Lost Shoes (4:05)

Availability

For more information, and audio samples, visit the La-La Land Records website.

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