March of The
Penguins (La marche de l'empereur) is a praised French documentary about the
life cicle of the Emperor penguin, that annually travels from the coasts of Antarctica into the
desolated and icy inner continent to mate. The American version of the documentary has an English narrative track by
Morgan Freeman and a score by composer Alex Wurman (Confessions of a
Dangerous Mind, Anchorman), which has been released by Milan Records.
Except for the narrative the documentary has no spoken words, and the music support
for the images grows in importance. In other words, the music's misson is to
evoke what the images or the narration cannot always explain. The resulting
score is an emotional piece of work, at times rhythmic, where Wurman puts the emphasis on Fred Selden's flutes, that follows the steps of the
penguins throughout their challenging journey.
Besides the flutes the music features piano (played by Wurman and Alan Steinberger) and ominous bass
chords. Wurman avoids the temptation of empty synths and gratuitous ethnic
music. However he enriches the score, complementing the European scales and harmonies with African beats, Middle Eastern
modes and Asian tones, in a way far from to be gratuitous - in fact, we barely notice these worldly
elements are there.
March of the Penguins's score is not a theme-oriented work but contains some recurring motifs, among them a piano melody which bookends the score.
This material helps to give to the the penguins some humanity, while the film
describes their mating ritual, their march for food and their struggle to
reach their natural home on the coastal sea.
Wurman says in the CD's booklet notes, "The images on the screen
provided all the inspiration one could want. They challenged me again and
again to match their beauty and emotional range". As result,
interesting enough we have a very gentle and melodic music that efficiently represents the harshness of the Antarctic land,
and at the same time make us care for those noble, yet funny, birds. And
without a doubt, this music can stand on it's own
apart from the images.
In short, this is a beautifully crafted work whose main characteristics are delicate melodies, light
percussion and a rich,
but desolate sound palette.
It's a must have for film-music fans who take listening to a composers score