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Comments about the soundtrack for The General's Daughter (Carter Burwell)

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Filmtracks Sponsored Donated Review
• Posted by: Michael Lyons   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Sunday, September 7, 2008, at 5:48 p.m.
• IP Address:

(The following donated review by Michael Lyons was moved by Filmtracks to this comment section in September, 2008)

The General's Daughter: (Carter Burwell) The General's Daughter marks the second time director Simon West has helmed a big, full scale Hollywood production. His first film, Con Air, was accompanied with a loud, sometimes obnoxious score full of wailing guitars and snyths from Mark Mancina and Trevor Rabin. This kind of music was completely fitting for the subject matter of the film being presented on screen. For his second outing, however, a much darker score was needed to fit the very dark plot of the film. To accomplish this, West called on Carter Burwell to craft the music to accompany the visuals on screen. What resulted is a perfect underscore for this dark mystery, yet it becomes too repetitious and dull on occasion for great stand alone listening.

The 13 score tracks presented on this release are almost all built around the same main theme. It's rather dramatic, and depending on the section of the orchestra performing it, it can have some rather different moods. The performances of it early in the score by the strings serve as an opening to the score. Nothing special really rings out of these performances, but it is rather peaceful, especially when combined with a quiet brass background in the style of John Barry. The second performance of the theme is where it really cooks. It comes from one of the best two score tracks on the album, track 7, "The Body." Here, in addition to the bed of strings and brass, a guitar sounding synth effect is used to really bring out the melody. This effect really pulls a huge mysterious element into the music, and gives the listener a true feel of what's going on during the film. The final performances come from solo brass, usually a trumpet, or with the whole orchestra going full force with pounding percussion lines. This version of the theme symbolizes the whole military aspect of the score while providing a mournful background for the true meaning of the story.

Beyond this amazing main theme, however, this score simply plods along as underscore. There are interesting guitar riffs that symbolize the setting of the film (Georgia), with appropriate percussion to go with them. Track 13, "The Conspiracy," also stands out as the one track where Burwell really cuts lose with militaristic drums and brass at a rapid tempo. The bagpipe solo of "Amazing Grace" in the last score track is also powerful and effective. Other than these standout points, however, the score just meanders along with the strings and the occasional synth leading the music. While this is excellent background music, it doesn't really jump out and grab the listener like the score, and the movie itself, could have during its middle sections.

Bookending the score tracks on the Milan release are 7 songs that are either source music in the film or songs that stand alone on the soundtrack. The first four songs are all "Negro spirituals" that have been extracted from source recordings found at the Library of Congress and accompanied by synthetic percussion, probably arranged by Burwell. These songs aren't really spectacular except for "She Began To Lie," which features incredible pounding percussion that signifies military pride in every possible way without using snare drums and real brass. The lyrics also suffer from a fair amount of static hiss because of the age of the source recordings. This can lead to a rather annoying sound when listening at a high volume, even if it does make the music more authentic. The 3 ending tracks consist of two classical pieces, the second of which is a surprising addition considering the context of its use in the film, and a remix of the opening track with a rather interesting synth beat. It is, however, an unnecessary addition when more of Burwell's score could have been added in its place.

Overall, Burwell has crafted a rather effective score for The General's Daughter. Even if it does serve mainly as simple underscore, it has a powerful theme that can linger on after the album is over. In addition, the source material, even though it is unnecessary at times, neither detracts nor adds to the overall quality of the release. This definitely isn't award winning material, but it can provide for an interesting listening experience, especially with the songs. ***

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