Sheldon Mirowitz

Columbus & the Age of Discovery

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One of the first two releases in Narada's new Cinema series (the other is Hans Zimmer's Millenium soundtrack) and a good way to start the series, in every respect. Mirowitz has been providing soundtrack music for PBS documentaries for a number of years, most prominently as one of the composers for Nova. The music itself is a nice blend of synthesized textures with real instruments, taking forms from a broad stylistic and tonal palette -- synthesized strings mesh with sampled gong crashes in one section, while several parts of the South American section feature Inca Son, guitars and all. Mirowitz manages to conjure up an air of mystery in several places, the music ebbing and flowing with minor-key grace, stately and studied. The orchestral writing avoids any attempt to be overwhelming, while the ethnic colorings provide more flavor than actual form, a choice that works for this kind of project. Not accurate, perhaps, but on the mark in terms of the tone picture Mirowitz is painting. It's certainly interesting to note the parallels between the feel of this recording, developed as musical support to documentary imaging, and that of David Arkenstone's In the Wake of the Wind, an album created as an extension of new age music into the area of symphonic concepts. The big difference is that Mirowitz's album comes across as more whole, more fully worked out, sure it is indeed symphonic, not simply new age with symphonic flourishes. On the mastering and production side, the album has a very nice touch -- the cues are organized into suites, with each suite occupying several tracks. As a bonus, tracks consisting of several cues have each cue indexed, providing the opportunity to seek out and examine brief passages by themselves. High marks to Narada for this -- other producers of soundtrack albums would be well advised to follow suit. An excellent release in every respect.

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