S T A R G A T E
by David Arnold
Wow, what a theme! David Arnold literally leaped
onto the film scoring scene with this epic, sweeping sci-fi score.
He writes in a lush, Williams-esque orchestral style (very little synth.)
that simply cannot go without being noticed. Additionally, there's
a giant chorus, which adds great depth to a large handful of cues.
Going back to the theme, I think its one of the very best from '90s scores.
From the thundering chordal brass arrangement to the romping scherzo in
"Mastadge Drag," the main theme lends itself masterfully to all scoring
purposes. Overall, if you love loud, and I do mean LOUD, adventurous
orchestral music coupled with tribal chanting, you could do no better than
Stargate. For those who enjoy the more romantic, sweeping, quiet
music, this album still warrants a listen, as it has a number of great
tranquil arrangements of the theme. My only qualm is that some of
the quiet tracks tend to get on the boring side, but don't let that deter
you from purchasing David Arnold's magnum opus. The CD release is
quite good, featuring liner notes, as well as 60 minutes of music.
IMHO, they could have combined a few of the shorter tracks (there's 30
tracks in all) but I guess it's too late for that.
Track by Track Analysis:
1. Stargate Overture (3:01)
As I've already stated numerous times, I LOVE
THIS THEME! It begins with low choral mumblings and a building string/woodwind
motif, which leads into the first statement of the grand theme. This
is probably the best presentation of it, with gargantuan pounding brass
chords ringing out from the orchestra, augmented by flute flourishes.
The second part of the theme is much quieter, played on strings.
Eventually the chorus enters again, which chants itself into a frenzy,
reaching a thunderous climax accompanied by a final brass chord.
2. Giza, 1928 (2:10)
Another excellent cue, this begins with ethnic
percussion with a solo female vocal. The percussion continues, and
the orchestra introduces another theme, which is quite ominous and foreboding.
The score relaxes, however, with another motif, now augmented by the vocal.
Following this is a short interlude with the main theme played on horns,
building to a glorious choral section accompanied by brass chords.
3. Unstable (2:07)
Things become decidedly calmer, with a tension-building
string line which is enhanced by harp and celeste. Thematically,
nothing substantial occurs.
4. The Coverstones (:58)
Another new motif appears, slightly based on
the main theme, but with a more Arabian flavor.
5. Orion (1:29)
Returns to the tone set by track 3 for the first
few seconds, but eventually builds, hitting a full statement of the foreboding
motif (from track 2) played on horns. The main theme comes at the
end in a woodwind orchestration.
6. The Stargate Opens (3:58)
This opens with a totally lush string melody,
which disappears after the first minute. Next comes a tender horn
passage based on the main theme. The music quiets in anticipation
of the events on screen, and the foreboding motif makes a brief appearance,
overshadowed by an upbeat, jaunty woodwind melody somewhat like the ever-present
main theme. As the Stargate finally does open, Arnold surges the
orchestra into operatic proportions, and there's a brief choral part at
7. You're On the Team (1:55)
The first minute is home to another tranquil,
moving string section, and the second minute returns to the foreboding
8. Entering the Stargate (2:57)
After a minute of unremarkable underscore, a
horrific dissonant section with growling brass comes up for a while.
It lightens, however, with a great passage which uses the third motif from
"Giza." Another atonal section appears, even more dissonant and scary
than the first.
9. The Other Side (1:44)
Pretty unremarkable for the first minute, but
an awesome choral brass fanfare crops up eventually.
10. Mastadge Drag (:56)
Another one of my very favorite cues, this is
the breathtaking scherzo based on the main theme. A pity it's not
longer, but I'm not complaining. :)
11. The Mining Pit (1:34)
At first I thought this was going to be mediocre
underscore, but it quickly redeems itself with yet another fantastic brass/choral
duo, a minor key transcription of the main theme.
12. King of the Slaves (1:15)
It's a good track, but pretty unremarkable when
compared alongside the touches of genious that this score has so many of.
The track's more low key variations on the main theme.
13. Caravan to Nagada (2:16)
Opens with a nice string interpretation of the
M.T. followed by more weavings from the orchestra. Finally, a full
statement of the M.T. appears, and the supporting chords in the strings
and woodwinds are changed somewhat, stronger than usual.
14. Daniel and Shauri (1:53)
This lush, moving track sports more permutations
of, you guessed it!, the main theme.
15. Symbol Discovery (1:15)
Another one of those Arabian-esque "discovery"
track. Even though they're all great, they begin to run together
at the halfway mark of the score.
16. Sarcophagus Opens (:55)
This is probably the most disturbing track on
the album. It's basically a conglomeration of unsettingly atonal
brass chords supported by chromatic dancing woodwinds.
17. Daniel's Mastadge (:49)
Written in much the same way as "Mastadge Drag,"
this is another scherzo based on the main theme. On its own it's
excellent, but I don't think it holds up to the greatness of its predecessor.
18. Leaving Nagada (4:09)
This is a mournful track, with snatches of most
of the themes.
19. Ra- The Sun God (3:22)
Pretty much like the previous track. (Can
you tell I'm running out of praising things to say?) One of the best
parts is an apocalyptic trumpet motif, which continues to build throughout
20. The Destruction of Nagada (2:08)
Okay, now the mournful strings are starting to
get on my nerves. The main redeeming quality of the track is an oboe performance
of the third motif from "Giza."
21. Myth, Faith, Belief (2:18)
At this point, the score digs itself even deeper
into the hole of mediocre underscore. Fortunately, it regains its
former momentum for the final string of cues.
22. Procession (1:43)
This dirge-like march begins with a section based
on a motif from the previous track, but later becomes an awesome choral
march. Mention should be made to the impressionistic choral/string
writing at the very end.
23. Slave Rebellion (1:00)
Another excellent track, this is almost like
the two Mastadge tracks, with the beginning based on the second part of
24. The Seventh Symbol (:57)
This short cue resurrects a stirring motif not
used since one of the earlier tracks.
25. Quartz Shipment (1:27)
There's not a whole lot to say about this, it's
more variations on various motives. Not bad, but not one of the best
26. Battle At the Pyramid (5:02)
Arnold lets loose after the string of underscore
with this cataclysmic action sequence. There are a number of exciting
ostinatos. as well as a couple breaks in the tension. Surprisingly,
there's not a ton of thematic material, mainly new action motives and ostinatos.
It's one of the many highlights of this incredible score.
27. We Don't Want to Die (1:57)
A final yearning string-filled track. I
think it's better than all of the low underscore tracks.
28. The Surrender (1:44)
In the style of "Battle At the Pyramid," this
final stunning action piece builds on the material from that.
29. Kasuf Returns (3:06)
For the beginning of the end of this score, Arnold
gives us yet another simply incredible cue. Previously unheard is
a rendition of the main theme on some ethnic flute instruments. Later
comes one of the truly awe-inspiring statements of the M.T. with full orchestral
tutti. And finally, a giant, towering, cataclysmic choral chanting
passage. It's almost too much! :-)
30. Going Home (3:09)
The first few minutes allow us to say goodbye
to the marvelous main theme. In the last few seconds, the orchestra
builds into a gigantic fanfare, ending on an awesome cadence.
I know you're probably sick and tired of me raving
on about the greatness of the main theme, but it's impossible to ignore.
This album gets a 10, mainly for the theme. It would have gotten
the Choice Award, but it had a few too many low underscore cues with not
much happening. Overall, however, I can wholeheartedly recommend
this marvelous album to anyone.
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Stargate is Copyright 1994 by Milan Records. Its appearance on this
site is for purely educational use. Review Copyright 1999 by Andrew
Drannon. Opinions expressed are not those of Tripod. Get over