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SPHERE

by Elliot Goldenthal


For the much-maligned "Sphere," Goldenthal took his two signature styles (the chaotic, atonal style from Alien3 and his loud, over-the-top style from Batman Forever) and blended them together (almost) seamlessly.  Unfortunately, the CD release from Varese Sarabande is only thirty minutes long, so you barely get an accurate picture of the score as a whole.  However, don't blame this on Varese, because the score was recorded in two different cities with different orchestras, so to have a longer release with music from both sources, they would have had to pay twice as much.  The music included was not the best parts of the score, but I thought it was still pretty good.  Contrary to popular belief, it contains several different themes, and would make a great 20th Century classical piece.

Track by Track Analysis:
1. Pandora's Fanfare (1:17)
Goldenthal begins with an ominous trumpet fanfare that states the basic thematic material from which all the other motifs are derived.
2. Main Titles (2:49)
He promptly establishes the foreboding underwater setting with the murky main titles.  This motif will appear later in the score.  A standard Goldenthalism (is that a word?) used in most of his scores is having the horn players bend their pitches.  Sphere is no exception, and they emerge halfway through this track.
3. Event Entry 6-21-43 (:53)
This begins with a loud orchestral burst accompanied by the pitch-blending horns.  Swirling strings and low bass notes make this sound like portions of Batman Forever.  A dissonant crescendo ends the track.
4. The Gift (1:42)
I'm not sure, but I think "The Gift" plays as the crew descends into the Pacific Ocean.  This is a variation on the theme first stated in track 1, but this time played by full orchestra.  The effect is quite graceful, and sets a beautiful, yet alien tone.  It segues into...
5. Sphere Discovery (2:08)
The desolate, ominous theme from the main titles returns as they realize the size of the alien spacecraft.
6. Visit To A Wreckage (1:58)
Boring track.  It starts with low ambiance, and in the second half, soft, dissonant violins come in.
7. Water Snake (2:37)
This is the first of the action music in Sphere.  It starts with thudding percussion and a string ostinato.  Eventually, the trumpets and low brass join the ostinato, and later there is a drum solo.  The trumpets come back in, this time bending pitches with the French Horns.  Weird percussion work ends the track.  This action music is characteristic of the rest of the score.
8. Terror Adagio (3:25)
Actually, this title should have been reversed, since the slow Adagio comes first, followed by terror ;)  The latter section sounds slightly corny, like sections of Batman Forever.  Maybe he was trying to make a point about the film, perhaps?  The frenetic action finally stops with chaotic, atonal trumpets.
9. Wave (3:18)
"Wave" breaks the tension most effectively with its mournful, elegiac trumpet solos.
10. Fear Retrieval (3:48)
Although, the first section is slow, dissonant action music like that from Alien3 eventually breaks out.  This leads to a string motif heard more fully in the film (it began the end credits, except played on piano.)  A dissonant orchestral tutti follows and tapers off as the track ends.
11. Andante (2:20)
Slow track.  Slightly more interesting than "Wave".
12. Manifest Fire (3:49)
For one of the main action sequences in the film, Goldenthal begins with string arpeggios over a restatement of the opening trumpet fanfare.  This driving, modernistic action cue is probably my second favorite on the CD, after track 4.  He successfully combines thudding low brass from Batman Forever with the pitch-bending horns and dissonant action sequences of Alien3.  Although grating on the ears at certain spots, I think the track shows intense compositional talent.  The motif from "Fear Retrieval" appears again at the end.
13. Manifest3 (3:48)
Another track reminiscent of Alien3, "Manifest3" extends the dissonant action music from the previous track.  Like the last track, it is intelligent music, but grating on the ears.  Goldenthal subtlely adds the motif from the main titles over all the chaos.
14. Their Beast Within (1:44)
Goldenthal takes the material from track 3, adds the theme from "The Gift," and extends it.  After the dissonant crescendo, the piano motif from "Fear Retrieval" appears one last time, and the CD ends with a fade-out.

Everyone seems to hate this score, but I actually like it better than Alien3.  Sure it's not Goldenthal's best work, but it's a solid sci-fi score that deserves more credit.  I think a lot of the low ratings are because of the movie and the ultra-short CD release.  The sound quality is fine, but sometimes the trumpets flubbed up a few notes.  Sphere isn't for everyone (in fact, it's not for most people,) but if you think you can stomach the grating atonality, I suggest you try it out.



 
Sphere: The Final Score
Music Rating 8/10
Packaging/Liner Notes N/A
Orchestral Performance 7/10
Sound Quality 8/10
Length 4/10

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Sphere is Copyright 1996 by Varese Sarabande.  Its appearance on this site is for informational, nonprofit use and is not meant as copyright infringement.  Review Copyright 1999 by Andrew Drannon.  These opinions are not those of Tripod or anyone else.