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As soon as I received this, I just KNEW it was going to be horrible.  From the cover, it looked like a collection of circus marches, like Sousa on overkill.
Fortunately, I was completely and utterly wrong.
In fact, there are only three march tracks on the whole thing, and they're actually good!  The bulk of the score turns out to be a hugely lilting slice of Americana.  Hummie Mann's main theme  is a pastoral melody, presumably to represent the title character.  It's not exactly the most complex theme ever written, but it gets the job done.  Actually, it reminds me of another pastoral score written last summer, Mark McKenzie's Durango.  And, like that release, my main complaint is that there is basically no complex music.  Another problem is that it's MUCH to happy and upbeat.  Mann throws in several downright embarassing country jigs, which is the closest thing we get to action cues.  Still, it makes a good listening experience and would probably be useful for background music.  The release is a private composer promo, supervised by Doug Fake and Intrada.  Sound quality is OK, except for the main title, which sounds like it's in mono.  There are a few notes from the composer and director.  If you want to buy it, check at Intrada (www.intrada.com)  It'll probably be out of print within a few months and, like all promos, jump to obscenely astronomical prices.


Track by Track Analysis:

1. Main Title/Reminiscing/Young P.T. & Charity (6:13)
The main title promptly presents Mann's Americana main theme in a Sousa-like circus march.  I don't think a biographical miniseries could ask for a much better theme - it's really quite original, as well as quite diverse, which is proven in the next cue.  "Reminiscing" takes the march theme and places it in its native setting - a calm, flowing pastoral melody.  After a couple of excellent arrangements of the theme, another secondary theme enters, which sounds much simpler, but without the strong melody of the original.  Unfortunately, a banjo plays the theme next, which completely ruins the mood.  "Young P.T. & Charity" introduces Mann's typical action cue sound - bouncy, annoying Americana in the style of Copland with banjo backing.  I'm sure this sound worked in the show, but aside from the main title and first few seconds of "Reminiscing" I usually can't make myself listen to this entire track.  Yet another theme in the same style as the first and second appears in the final seconds.

2. Caroline is Born/Touring with Joice Heth (5:28)
"Caroline is Born" falls into the category of bouncy action, presenting a Colonial version of the main theme.  "Touring with Joice Heth" is based around the last part of "Yount P.T. and Charity" with a grating recorder solo.  After more action parts, yet more pastoral string-driven music appears, with a typical arrangement of the main theme near the end.

3. Proving Turner Wrong/Back Home/The Scudder's Swindle and Purchase (4:26)
"Proving Turner Wrong" gives a more upbeat, faster pace arrangement of the theme, even with snare drum at some places.  "Back Home" returns to annoying Western sounds with intolerably bouncy brass licks.  Later, one of the earlier themes gets a more decent arrangement from the one in track 1, with interesting violin accompaniment.  Unfortunately, another upbeat version of one of the themes rounds out the track.

4. Discovering Tom Thumb/Touring Europe (6:34)
Another delicate string-based Americana melody forms "Tom Thumb."  Later in the same cue, a mock-military march with snare drum appears.  "Touring Europe," as you'd expect, returns to the style of action cue found throughout the score, although there is a nice arrangement of the main theme in it.

5. Letter to Charity/Frances Dies/Return from Europe (5:26)
I really like this track.  It gives probably the most moving account of the theme we've heard so far.  Also, Mann introduces the FIRST minor chord in this cue, which eventually turns the cue into the most moving of the score so far, with several grand versions of the theme.  Here, the music's simplicity greatly adds to the effect.  "Return from Europe" brings back the major-key Americana, with more upbeat versions of the themes.

6. Iranistan/Back to New York (3:15)
"Iranistan" is another great cue, with mystical, epic string solos under a bed of twinkling celeste along with more tragic string melodies.  "Back to New York" presents yet another arrangement of the main theme.

7. Disoriented Memories/A New Start/Paying off Debts Tour/Iranistan Burns (4:34)
"Disoriented Memories" returns to the main theme, but it's now played by oboe and clarinet, introducing a fresh new sound.  Another pastoral string version follows.  As you can probably tell from the title, "A New Start" lightens the mood up with more Copland-style writing.  "Paying off Debts Tour" is one of the better cues heard so far, with the second theme from track 1 played by woodwinds, backed by a fascinating string ostinato.  Later, as the theme continues, Mann introduces some Christmas jingle bells.

8. Permission to Marry/Lecture Tour/Caroline's Baby Dies (3:30)
"Permission to Marry" gives another upbeat dance-like melody, followed by a great variation on theme #2.  More typical string meanderings comprise the rest of the cue, which takes on a darker, more tragic tone in cue 3.

9. Barnum's Return/Loyalist Supporter/Alone (4:46)
The upbeat Copland-esque theme returns as Barnum returns (from where I don't know).  More of the Copland sound with banjo comprises much of the rest of the track.  After a huge lead-in, the triumphant main theme finds yet another inspiring arrangement.  Next is a snare-backed action-bit that actually breaks out of the Americana sound.  "Alone" is the closest thing to dissonance we get, found in high strings.  A delicate clarinet version of theme 2 rounds out the track.

10. Newspaper Article/Charity's Illness/Road Show/Charity Dies (5:23)
"Newspaper Article" presents a typical string arrangement of the theme.  "Charity's Illness" isn't really noteworthy - more of the same string/woodwind/piano meanderings.  "Road Show" almost a grand action track, but falls into Copland mode.  "Charity Dies", as you would expect, presents another delicate string elegy.

11. The Greatest Show on Earth (3:29)
The only other Sousa-esque march besides the main title and track 13, this is probably a highlight of the score, even though the brass seem out of tune at points.  Mann interpolates the main theme at key points.

12. New Life with Nancy/Public Office/Pauline Dies (4:03)
"New Life with Nancy" returns to the string-laden sound.  "Public Office" gives another moving recap of the main theme.  And, yes, Pauline does die (whoever she is), and, yes, another string elegy underscores it.  And (how did you guess?) it's based on the main theme.

13. Barnum & Bailey Join Forces/P.T. Dies (this is, what, the 5th death cue?) (3:48)
"B&B Join Forces" gives a final farewell to the Americana material, as well as the Sousa material.  Mann incorporates "Battle Hymn of the Republic" into the march material.  As P.T. dies, Mann gives us a final, moving arrangement of the main theme.

Overall, this score is perfectly serviceable, and the main theme is even enjoyable in a few places, but I can't make myself truly enjoy the music.  However, keep in mind that Hummie Mann provided a score that works perfectly in the picture, so if you saw the miniseries and enjoyed the score, go ahead and purchase it.



 
P.T. Barnum: The Final Score
Music Rating 5/10
Packaging/Liner Notes N/A
Sound Quality 7/10
Length 6/10
Orchestral Performance 8/10


P.T. Barnum is Copyright 2000 by Hummie Mann.  Review Copyright 2000 by Andrew Drannon.  All Rights Reserved.