Music composed by Alex Wurman, conducted by Jeffrey Schindler
Label: Milan Records
Year: 2005

1. The Harshest Place On Earth 
2. Walk Not Alone 
3. The March 
4. Found Love 
5. The Egg Arrives 
6. The Mothers' Second Journey 
7. Arrival At The Sea
8. Walk Through Darkness 
9. First Steps 
10. The Dangers Remain 
11. Reunited 
12. Going Home For The First Time 

Total Time: 41:33

Reviewed by
Jorge Saldanha


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 seriously.