Monthly Archives: April 2016

The Jungle Book

I haven’t seen the new Jungle Book, and I’m not going to, because I’ve listened to the soundtrack, and it sucks.

Specifically, it sucks in comparison to the soundtrack from the 1967 animated version, which I think is Disney’s best, both in terms of songs and score:

The music in the current soundtrack about as bland a generic Hollywood action score as I could imagine. It’s competent, but where are the spices of the orient? Where those trilllzzz at? Where those Randall Thompson strungs at?? Where the hell is the alto flute doubling low-register clarinet mixed with some dope-ass muted hornzz???

Now we just get a little Zimmer here, a little Horner there, and a whiff of Elfman to tie it all together. Nary an attempt is made to place the action in India, and that was a real opportunity to improve on the ’67 version which employed only a vague (though delicious) brand of Orientalism.

The current score sounds more like “Colors of the  Wind” meets “Lion King” meets “Titanic”. Why not incorporate some Indian tablas or a spicy sitar lick? Or perhaps something reminiscent of Elgar and empire? I know I’ve made this complaint before, but why oh why can’t we have film scores that contribute to the movie’s setting?

Luckily, I can do more than bemoan bad Jungle Book music in this post, because I’ve just discovered a new (old) composer: Charles Koechlin. You want Jungle Book music? Baby, you got it.

Koechlin was a wildly prolific, long-lived (1867-1950) French composer who was obsessed with Rudyard Kipling in general and The Jungle Book in particular. His music is a fascinating mixture of French Impressionism, Scriabinian eccentricity, and an almost Webern-esque exquisiteness, and the whole adds up to way more than the sum of its parts.

He wrote gobs and gobs of music, and I’ve just bitten in, but I haven’t yet to be disappointed. After you finish with the Jungle Book music (of which there is more) I’d direct your attention to Les Heures persanesHe also wrote an orchestration treatise which is said to be among the most complete treatments of the subject, so I’ll get back to you on that once I can track one down.

Isn’t it fun having a new composer in your life??

Acadia Fanfare

for orchestra
2+p.2.2.2 – 4.3.3.1 – tmp+3 – str; durata ~6 minutes

View Score (free)

The accompanying slideshow (pictured in the video above) is available for licensing at a rate of $25/performance through photographer Gerard Monteux. Please contact info@willcwhite.com for more info.

Program Note

Acadia Fanfare was commissioned by the Pierre Monteux School with support from the Maine Arts Commission to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of Acadia National Park. It was composed from February – April of 2016.

Acadia Fanfare was inspired by the natural beauty of and rugged landscape of Acadia National Park, and also by the musical tradition of the Pierre Monteux School, which sits in close proximity to the park itself. The work opens with a depiction of waves beating against the rocky shores of Mt. Desert Island, musically, an homage to Debussy’s “La Mer”. The squalls of seabirds sound in the distance as the day comes alive. The waves grow larger and larger as the musical texture builds to a breaking point, and finally the fanfare theme itself bursts forth in a blinding array of light and mist.

The central section captures the magic and majesty of the park’s interior, and gives the forrest birds a turn to speak. The work concludes by once again evoking the rocky coastal shores of Acadia, as an accretion of birdsong and crashing waves usher in a recapitulation of the fanfare theme leading the work to its triumphant finale.