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Life of Pi
Composed, Co-Orchestrated, and Produced by:
Mychael Danna

Co-Orchestrated and Additional Music by:
Rob Simonsen

Conducted by:
Mike Nowak

Co-Orchestrated by:
Bruce Fowler
Walter Fowler
Kevin Kaska
Joseph Newlin
Dan Barr
Conrad Pope
Carl Rydlund
Clifford Tasner

Sony Classical

Release Date:
November 19th, 2012

Also See:
The Nativity Story

Audio Clips:
8. Appa's Lesson (0:29):
WMA (193K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

12. Tsimtsum (0:32):
WMA (213K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

16. Skinny Vegetarian Boy (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

28. Which Story Do You Prefer? (0:30):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

Regular U.S. release.

  The score won a Golden Globe and an Academy Award. The score was also nominated for a Grammy Award. The song "Pi's Lullaby" was nominated for an Academy Award.

Life of Pi
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Buy it... if you appreciate film scores that make you think, Mychael Danna providing music for Life of Pi that is more culturally, instrumentally, and thematically intelligent than most all others of this generation.

Avoid it... if extremely measured subtlety is not your taste, though even in that case, this work may have enough religiously beautiful choral highlights to retain your interest.

Life of Pi: (Mychael Danna) The story of Life of Pi has fascinated a variety of Hollywood studios, directors, and screenwriters since it debuted with authority in 2001 in the form of Yann Martel's novel. Even American President Barack Obama felt compelled to write Martel personally to describe the story as "an elegant proof of God and the power of storytelling." After directors M. Night Shyamalan, Alfonso Cuaron, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet were all attached to the project at various levels, famed art house veteran Ang Lee took the helm and, with the help of screenwriter David Magee, adapted the popular story of the book quite faithfully in 2012's cinematic Life of Pi. That tale follows the intellectual and physical growth of an Indian boy named Pi Patel, whose worldly parents operate a zoo in India. The youngster comes of age while exploring his relationship with God through various religions, and, when his parents decide to emigrate to Canada to escape the politics of India, he sets off with them and their animals aboard a Japanese freighter. That ship capsizes in a horrific storm and the boy is the lone human survivor, struggling aboard a lifeboat along with four of the zoo animals. When the animals kill each other, a Bengal tiger prevails and challenges Pi for control of the lifeboat. The two are forced to come to peace with one another and spend 227 days at sea, stopping at a mysterious island of edible algae and meerkats before eventually washing ashore in Mexico. When insurance agents for the Japanese freighter ask Pi for information about the ship's demise, he first tells them the story we've just witnessed, but he is then coerced into telling a more realistic version of events, allowing audiences to determine which they choose. The element of religion is key to understanding Life of Pi, an older version of the main character telling the story through his accomplished lifetime of experience exploring divinity. Unfortunately, the film adaptation of Life of Pi has been compared to 2011's Hugo, an artistic masterpiece that fails at the box office due to the lack of star power; despite its heralded 3D technology, Life of Pi appeared destined within weeks to be considered a disappointing financial failure for the studio, which hoped for an awards-season push to save its viability. No stranger to previous Lee films is composer Mychael Danna, whose experience in writing thoughtful scores for the topics of religion and world cultures proved a worthy reason alone to continue their collaboration for this assignment. Without a doubt, Danna lives up to his end of the bargain, producing extremely smart, appropriately understated, and consistently satisfying music for Life of Pi.

While Life of Pi as a film contains highly touted visual elements that will likely arrest the attention of most viewers, Danna's score expertly reflects the main character's journey while rarely making a spectacle of itself. This astute musical commentary on culture, religion, an transcendence is rich with instrumentation informed by a plethora of world cultures, and Danna's application of themes is extraordinarily well planned. You have to appreciate the score for Life of Pi on two levels, for the instrumental representations and the thematic evolution harmoniously explore concurrent journeys that may seem opaque upon a casual listen but are fascinating when examined closely. On the surface, Life of Pi may seem life a pleasantly aloof, ethnically ambient work laced with occasional religious depth, but Danna supplies much more to appreciate than just the obvious accessibility of his culturally diverse expressions. The cultural elements are all over the place in Life of Pi, an appropriate choice given that Pi's family consists of internationally informed folks and the boy comes to grips with a wide swathe of the world in the tale. Understandably, the most obvious ethnic elements are Indian, with bansuri, sitar, and percussion native to the country joined by a vocal performance by famed Indian performer Bombay Jayashri for "Pi's Lullaby," a song co-written by Danna and the singer. On top of that, you have Indonesian and French specialty instruments offering a gamelan and accordion, respectively, to various aspects of the story. As you would expect with Danna, a variety of other specialty instruments for the East are offered as well, including the Persian ney flute. An orchestra and varied choir, joined by a boy soloist, define the religious aspect, and a solo piano brings the story back to reality at the end. The emphasis of the instrumentation shifts as Pi achieves his desire to explore God and reach the next phase of his life, the buoyant Indian elements and their enticing rhythms yielding to more generic international flavor on the island of fantasy and succumbing almost completely to the Western performers at the end. The direct instrumental representations are not particularly surprising but Danna executes them with precision. The boy's innocence is represented by the fluttering Indian bansuri flute while the tiger is granted the more throaty Persian ney flute (which, unfortunately, doesn't make as much of an impression throughout the score). A vaguely French atmosphere for the parents, the choral reflection of divinity, and the piano's insistence upon reality all complete the picture. The voice of Jayashri re-appears in the score to hauntingly remind of India as appropriate. While the orchestra is not impressively overbearing, it serves its supporting purpose very well.

The intelligence with which Danna defines the score for Life of Pi does not stop with the culture and instrumentation. His themes are equally intriguing, and they mature alongside the instrumental choices, eventually adjoining themselves to the question posed at the end of the film. Among the few weaknesses of the score is the fact that primary phrases of "Pi's Lullaby" do not translate into the score. It's a pretty, whimsical song, but don't expect to hear the main melody carry on into Danna's solo work. What does receive treatment in the score, however, is the lyrical interlude sequence (commencing at 1:33 into the song and reminiscent of the "Willow Song" in Charlie Mole's Othello), which is reprised in far less exuberant forms between "Tiger Training" and "The Second Story." Strictly confined to the score are Danna's two primary themes, and he expertly ensures that they do not mingle until the end. The primary identity for Pi is somewhat elusive because Danna at times cuts off the theme's first two notes, making a high, descending pair of major-key notes the most memorable aspect of the motif. After an adapted French piece in the first minute of "Piscine Molitor Patel," Danna introduces this theme on bansuri and other Indian elements over almost taunting vocals and French ambience. The playfulness of the theme allows for fantastic, meandering bansuri contributions in this and other cues (highlighted by the bright solos in "Skinny Vegetarian Boy"). The dancing statement in "Thank You Vishnu for Introducing Me to Christ" and thoughtful rendition in "Appa's Lesson" both infuse the theme with the seeds of the orchestral and/or choral representations of religious exploration, the latter with more lovely bansuri counterpoint. An ominously resounding brass performance of the theme in "The Deepest Spot on Earth" is a noteworthy deviation. As the boy's innocence departs, so does the theme, one final full performance on the album in "Orphans" followed only by a retrospective hint at the very end in "Which Story Do You Prefer?" Conversely, Danna's other theme in Life of Pi is not coherently expressed until late in the story. This series of paired notes may be in the major key, but they are about as somber and reflective as possible. Introduced in "Pi and Richard Parker" (in which the bansuri does intertwine with the theme a bit), the idea dominates the final cues, extensively expressed with varying orchestral accompaniment in "Back to the World" and "Which Story Do You Prefer?" The eight-minute "Back to the World" is the centerpiece of this theme's development, a very sobering transition from the playfully exuberant Indian elements of the score's early portions to the pensive, strictly Western identity that awaits Pi in his future. Rarely has a thematic transition within a score, accompanied by appropriate changes in instrumentation, been so stark and effective.

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The final aspect of Danna's approach to Life of Pi worthy of significant discussion is the outwardly religious element. Film music collectors will recall that his work for the 2006 film The Nativity Story remains arguably his best achievement of the 2000's, and you can hear lesser cousins of that remarkable score's pious personality in portions of Life of Pi. Starting in "Christ in the Mountains" and continuing to the very end, this choral element is nothing less than lovely, expressing many soothing and redemptive interludes to the score's expansive ethnic journey. In no cue is this influence as organized or pronounced as in "Tsimtsum," the freighter sequence of pivotal importance during which Danna unleashes a few minutes of fully glorious, religious magnificence in The Nativity Story style. This element is combined with the interlude sequence of the song in "Tiger Vision" and expressed more vaguely in "First Night, First Day." The score's only action cue, "God Storm," puts a more frantic tone into this material, though the disparity between the deep male voices and the solo boy remains. On the whole, Life of Pi is a fascinating score to study, but one that will require patience. There are multitudes of nuggets in the work that will please listeners prepared for an intelligent treatment of a philosophical story with a potentially mind-numbing twist at the end. The final cue is remarkable by itself despite its relatively soft demeanor. Only here does Danna allow the three sides of the score to truly interact with ease, the somber piano theme opening the cue and reprised at 1:28 while the boy's original theme echoing in the distance at 0:55 with the return of the bansuri. Even the tiger's ney makes one last appearance at 1:31 under the piano theme. The religious "coming to peace with God" aspect of Life of Pi takes over in the final thirty seconds, allowing the choir to close out the score in harmonious sincerity and with poignant thought. Few final cues in film scores of this era are so adept at providing subtle but immensely satisfying closure. Incidentally, it should be mentioned that there is a touch of Danny Elfman's whimsical style to be heard in parts of Danna's work for Life of Pi, too. The entirety of the upbeat "Flying Fish" expresses Elfman orchestral and choral enthusiasm in eerily accurate form, and the last thirty seconds of "Orphans" may as well be from the tender moments of Real Steel. While the music for Life of Pi comes damn close to earning five stars for its intellectual prowess, the score's handful of weaknesses restrain it to a very strong four stars. The source-like percussion of "Set Your House in Order," the underplayed false beauty of "The Island," and a few of the intentionally funny opening cues (including the ultra romantic slurs of "Meeting Krishna" and the French elements) are a tad much to handle. Still, Life of Pi is the thinking score collector's delight, a truly impressive achievement. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Mychael Danna reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.33 (in 12 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 2.96 (in 3,991 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

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Regular Average: 3.58 Stars
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 65:39

• 1. Pi's Lullaby - performed by Bombay Jayashri (3:42)
• 2. Piscine Molitor Patel (3:39)
• 3. Pondicherry (1:12)
• 4. Meeting Krishna (1:51)
• 5. Christ in the Mountains (1:13)
• 6. Thank You Vishnu for Introducing Me to Christ (0:55)
• 7. Richard Parker (0:54)
• 8. Appa's Lesson (1:06)
• 9. Anandi (0:55)
• 10. Leaving India (1:20)
• 11. The Deepest Spot on Earth (0:48)
• 12. Tsimtsum (2:49)
• 13. Death of the Zebra (0:33)
• 14. First Night, First Day (3:45)
• 15. Set Your House in Order (2:10)
• 16. Skinny Vegetarian Boy (2:16)
• 17. Pi and Richard Parker (2:14)
• 18. The Whale (2:02)
• 19. Flying Fish (0:49)
• 20. Tiger Training (1:22)
• 21. Orphans (1:36)
• 22. Tiger Vision (4:31)
• 23. God Storm (3:42)
• 24. I'm Ready now (3:21)
• 25. The Island (1:59)
• 26. Back to the World (8:20)
• 27. The Second Story (4:02)
• 28. Which Story Do You Prefer? (2:05)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes a list of performers, lyrics to the song, and a note from the director about the score and composer.

  All artwork and sound clips from Life of Pi are Copyright © 2012, Sony Classical. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 12/1/12 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2012-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.