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LAWRENCE

OF ARABIA

by Maurice Jarre

This was the origination of all the cliched desert music we have in our culture today.  Jarre masterfully composed three instantly recognizable themes, and that was just in the overture.  Other major themes include the traditional English march "Voice of the Guns" as well as another playful motif for Lawrence's two servants.  Although some may not see it my way, I never grow tired of the themes, even though they appear at least once every track.  The score uses several unusual instruments, namely the Ondes Martenot (which sounds like it could have come out of a '50s sci-fi movie - almost like a theremin) and a cithara.  This CD is not the original soundtrack, but rather a rerecording on Silva Screen conducted by Tony Bremner with the Philharmonia orchestra.  It has over 25 minutes of previously unreleased music along with the improved sound quality.  The booklet is very informative, giving information on the cues as they appear in the movie, an essay on the making of the movie, another essay on the music, and a biography of Maurice Jarre.

Track by Track Analysis:
1. Overture (4:22)
One of the most original suites ever composed, this introduces all four major themes, and blends them together at the end.  It opens with a furious timpani passage, which fades for a minute, and comes back with a trumpet intro, the first of the motifs.  This quiets, leading into the first statement of Lawrence's theme, a lush, sweeping desert-like theme on violins.  After two versions of the first part of the theme, an extension appears in the low strings, which is even more sweeping than the first part.  The first passages repeats again, segues into a timpani interlude, and introduces the theme for the nomadic Arabian tribes.  Next comes "The Voice of the Guns," a traditional British military march by K.J. Alford.  As if to hint at what's to come next, Jarre introduces a section of Lawrence's theme into the march, and eventually the tribal theme.  The timpani interlude surfaces again, and Jarre plays Lawrence's theme, "The Voice of the Guns," the opening fanfare, and the tribal music literally on top of each other, forming an intricately complex passage.  A final statement of the introductory trumpet fanfare ends the track.  The overture is definitely the most memorable piece on the album, for its sheer complexity.

2. Main Titles (2:13)
The tone continues much as before, with pulsing brass, which lead into an introduction of another major theme, the playful scherzo signifying, among other things, Lawrence's homeland.  The main desert motif makes a short appearance, and the titles end with more of the homeland theme.

3. First Entrance to the Desert/Night and Stars/Lawrence and Tafas (9:37)
Most of the unreleased music appears in this lengthy suite, which utilizes Lawrence's desert theme and the homeland theme extensively.  It begins with a mysterious flute solo based on the desert theme, and builds into a full orchestral rendition of the desert theme, except with several of the rhythms changed.  A playful version of that theme with xylophone leads into more of it, with different rhythms every time.  Brief snatches of the homeland motif also work their way into the continuation of the desert motives.  The second part introduces an appropriately celestial mood with the mysterious Ondes Martenot playing Lawrence's theme, accompanied by that flute solo that began the track.  Playful music based remotely on the desert theme introduces the next section, with the homeland theme in the higher register.  "The Voice of the Guns" enters in a full, brassy statement, giving way to more of the desert theme.  The mysterious mood returns, characterized with a ticking motif in high woodwinds, with more permutations on the desert theme and tribal theme.  The second part of the desert theme appears with a cliched timpani pounding.  The final part of the track is a final version of Lawrence's desert theme coupled with the homeland theme, ending with a nice cadence.

4. Miracle (2:27)
Basically a foreboding, ambient track (one of many to come.)  It starts with an ostinato, and a rising horn motif enters, which falls into the strings, and builds into a cymbal crash.

5. That is the Desert (2:51)
Written in much the same manner as the previous track, this has another, different building motif played by the entire orchestra instead of just the strings.  Fragments of the banal tribe theme work their way into the proceedings, as well.  The score starts to sag in this track, losing much of the wonder that was characteristic of the first few tracks.  Don't worry, it redeems itself soon enough.

6. Nefud Mirage/The Sun's Anvil (5:24)
The foreboding mood continues, but this is the last track that it really affects.  Still, it's much more interesting than the previous two, with several oppressive, dissonant motifs to represent the harshness of the desert the travelers are traversing.  Once again, fragments of the tribal theme, as well as most of the other themes appear at various intervals.

7. The Rescue of Gasim/Bringing Gasim Into Camp (4:07)
This is the last of the semi-boring ambient desert tracks, erupting at the 1:15 mark into a welcome full statement of the main desert theme played by full orchestra, complete with Ondes Martenot.  As if Jarre's relieved to be away from the ambient work, he gives us one of the most full-blooded versions in the entire score.  This jovial mood continues into the second section, but this has all the major themes, including snippets of the tribe motif, the homeland/servant motif, and "Voice of the Guns."  The mystical Martenot plays over the strings in the final part.

8. Arrival at Auda's Camp (2:09)
For the first time since the overture we are treated to Jarre's oft-imitated tribal motif.  It's accompanied by a new motif, in a major key, as if to offset more of the dissonant trumpet opening (from the overture.)  After all the ambient stuff, this provides a welcome respite.

9. On to Akaba/The Beach at Night (4:40)
More unreleased material, Jarre opens with a large trumpet fanfare, which combines with the desert theme for the first minute.  The tribal theme enters, and quiets into a dissonant piano section, only to be swallowed by more of the jubilant fanfare/desert theme, in the same arrangement as the opening of the cue.  A mystical rendition of the desert theme coupled with harp arpeggios forms "The Beach at Night."  Like "Night and Stars," the Ondes Martenot plays Lawrence's desert theme, with cithara comprising the refrain.

10. Sinai Desert (1:06)
This is pretty unremarkable, having more dissonant ambience and a timpani motif.  Definitely not the strongest part of the score, and I usually omit it.

11. The Voice of the Guns (2:01) by K.J. Alford
One of the main themes is given its own track, with a new arrangement and several sections we haven't heard before.  The way it suddenly switches between major and minor keys is quite intriguing, and there's a great flute accompaniment in one section.

12.  Horse Stampede/Ali Rescues Lawrence/Lawrence and his Bodyguard (5:15)
The final sections of unreleased material hold more typical versions of all the main themes.  I find the first one particularly interesting, as it blends a few of the themes much like the last part of the overture.  They could have omitted the second cue, because it's crafted much in the same way as the other ambient cues, interpolating various signature themes over the dissonance.  Things perk up in the final section, based entirely on the first motif from the overture.  It's actually much more diverse than it seemed then, as this cue proves, putting it through many different permutations of varying dynamics and tempos.

13. The End/Playoff Music (4:34)
The end credits open with a final dissonant brass section, which segues into a full rendition of "The Voice of the Guns," that ever-versatile military march.  Final fragments of the main theme and tribal theme lead into a large brass fanfare for the end.  The playoff music, which was heard as patrons exited the cinema, is basically a restatement of most of the overture themes, opening with the main desert theme, although it's much slower and majestic than the overture.  He omits the tribal motif, instead opting to skip directly to another arrangement of "The Voice of the Guns."  However, for the final showstopping climax of all four themes played simultaneously, that tribal theme makes its regular appearance.

All in all, I'm going to have to give this one yet another recommendation.  Some may grow tired of the repetitive nature of "Lawrence," but it's still one of my favorite scores.  Buy it at least for the spectacular overture.  For the final rating, I'm not going to judge orchestral performance, since many assert that the OST has a much better performance, and I haven't heard it.



 
Lawrence of Arabia: The Final Score
Music Rating 9/10
Packaging/Liner Notes 10/10
Orchestral Performance N/A
Sound Quality 9/10
Length 7/10



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Lawrence of Arabia is Copyright 1989 by Silva Screen Records, Ltd.  Its appearance on this site is for purely educational use.  Review copyright 1999 by Andrew Drannon.  Opinions stated are not those of Tripod.