Though John Barry achieved popular recognition for the swinging, loungey, noir-ish soundtracks he composed for the James Bond films, he moved to the front rank of film composers with his score for 1966's BORN FREE. Stylistically, the music of BORN FREE is miles removed from Barry's Bond soundtracks, though the composer's fondness for brass fanfares, stirring strings, and lush, intricate charts with stunning dynamic range is still intact.
On the whole, however, the music to BORN FREE has a playful, innocent quality, evoking the nature of the wild animals at the film's center. As the movie is set in Africa, Barry employs a range of African percussion instruments, and sections of flute music (which often seem to echo the sounds of birds or other creatures). The arrangements are expansive and sweeping, giving rise to the sensation of open plains, and Barry's recurring musical themes parallel the film's action (the track titles indicate plot events). The score is, for the most part, surprisingly subdued, with occasional bursts of energy (mirroring tumultuous events onscreen) and its stirring title theme the exceptions. Barry won an Academy Award for the score in 1966.