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The Walk (Alan Silvestri)

October 6, 2015

Cover_TheWalkTHE WALK

Alan Silvestri, 2015, Sony Music
15 tracks, 56:22

“The Walk” marks the 14th collaboration between Alan Silvestri and director Robert Zemeckis. Is the spark still there?

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

Directed  by Robert Zemeckis, “The Walk” tells the real-life story of French high-wire artist Philippe Petit, who, in 1974, hung a wire between the two towers of the World Trade Center… and then walked across it. It wasn’t exactly legal to do this, so the stunt had to be planned and executed with heist-like precision.

What does it sound like?

“Pourquoi?” opens the album with echoing piano and soft strings. It’s very low-key, and reminds a little of the composer’s work for the “Cosmos” tv series. Gradually the slow string lines converge to form a theme. It may be a little vague at this point, but it will be repeated throughout the score (particularly during the second half of the album). Some of the harmonies remind of James Horner. The echoing pianos become more intense, and the whole thing starts to become quite hypnotic. But then halfway through the cue, all this stops and suddenly smooth Mancini-like jazz takes centre stage. This too stops suddenly, as the album moves to “Young Philippe”. This picks up the piano and strings theme, but drops it again in favour of some light-hearted circus-like music (which I’m sure harbours a melody that is, unwittingly, derived from “Father of the Bride”). But again, moments later Silvestri introduces a new, really sweet, melody for strings, accordion and mandolin. It’s all very nice, but within mere minutes leaves a fragmented impression.

Strings and accordion continue into “Two Loves” where Silvestri offers an understated, but lovely little melody in waltz-time. Woodwinds and piano join in. Heist-like jazz music makes up parts of “The Towers of Notre Dame” and “Spy Work”, whilst slow strings add tension to “It’s Something Beautiful” and “Full of Doubt”.

With “Time Passes” the album starts to really come to live – and more importantly, it starts to come together. String ostinatos are accompanied by Silvestri’s typical snare hits and brass motifs. The cue then sort-of morphs into a variation on Hans Zimmer’s “Thin Red Line”, as the sound of a ticking clock is accompanied by staccato flute.

“The Arrow” is a brilliant track that opens with a building ostinato for low strings and woodwinds. Violins join in, as does brass. And before long, Silvestri unleashes his typical ‘square’ march-like percussion. Previous scores like “Volcano” or “Eraser” do briefly spring to mind. “We Have a Problem” takes the action material from the previous cue to the next level. Electronic percussion is added to the mix; and halfway into the cue Silvestri introduces a simple yet very effective oscillating brass motif. As with the main theme, this brass motif reminds a little of James Horner.

“The Walk” is a surprisingly understated cue that reprises the echoing pianos and main string theme that was introduced in “Pourquoi?” Silvestri takes it through some heart-achingly beautiful, if almost painfully slow, variations. There is a 2-chord motif that reminds of “Contact”, and almost feels like Silvestri’s signature. “I Feel Thankful” opens with Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” on piano. Orchestra joins in and Silvestri reverts to his typical action music, though the timpani-work continues to remind of Beethoven. Halfway through, the main theme is reprised, gloriously, for strings, horns and (sampled) choir.

Another wonderful reprise, almost “Pandora’s Box”-like, is heard during the second half of “They Want to Kill You” after some surprisingly powerful and exciting action music. The main theme recurs ever so delicately in “There Is No Why” before “Perhaps You Brought Them to Life – Given Them A Soul” closes the album with gentle strings and piano – though it does build to a stirring, if very brief, finale.

Is it any good?

Alan Silvestri’s “The Walk” is an album of two halves. The first half feels disjointed, with different musical styles succeeding each other rather rapidly; and sometimes even within the same cue, without much of a transition. It’s proper film music. It tells a story, it does its job. It’s pleasant, but makes for a fragmented listening experience when separated from the film. However, the second half, from “The Arrow” onward, is simply stunning. It’s Silvestri doing his thing and doing it well. The cues are longer and more coherent. The main theme get a chance to shine. It’s really wonderful, reminiscent of “Cosmos” and “Contact”.

Rating [3.5/5]

Tracklisting

1. Pourquoi? (3.21)
2. Young Philippe (2.11)
3. Two Loves (3.19)
4. The Towers of Notre Dame (1.49)
5. “It’s Something Beautiful” (2.57)
6. Spy Work (1.36)
7. Full of Doubt (2.30)
8. Time Passes (4.01)
9. The Arrow (3.16)
10. “We Have A Problem” (5.16)
11. The Walk (6.24)
12. “I Feel Thankful” (7.20)
13. “They Want To Kill You” (3.56)
14. “There Is No Why” (3.56)
15. “Perhaps You Brought Them To Life – Given Them A Soul” (4.20)

 

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