Michael Whalen

Great African Moments

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This score for the Nature documentary "Great African Moments" is one of composer Michael Whalen's most ambitious creations. This particular documentary combined the best footage from prize-winning wildlife cinematographers, and Whalen's score matches their artistry. Whalen combines a variety of synthesizers and other electronic/MIDI instruments with orchestra, ethnic percussion instruments, nature sounds, and recordings of African chants and singing. The score is fascinating as it changes moods; there is peaceful village singing to portray a family of elephants, then the singers seem to be scaring animals from the bush. Actual visuals are not needed to appreciate "Fire and Ice," but a volcanic eruption seems to be part of the scene; violins create an icy edge as Whalen vigorously attacks the piano strings. A frantic race ends with thundering, swirling strums of the piano strings. "Killer Instinct" bristles with lifelike noises, dissonant, haunting sounds, and a pounding heartbeat. "Rain" calms everything down, a majestic panorama of sound. Whalen has written tracks that charm ("The Hyena and the Melons"), overpower ("The Cheetah Hunt"), and amuse (the delightfully rhythmic "The Slowpoke Cub"). The orchestral finale, "Cycles of Life," is enormous in scope. Its tribute to the heart of Africa is reminiscent of Copland's classic Americana, Appalachian Spring.

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