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Seven Years in Tibet
Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
John Williams

Cello Solos by:
Yo-Yo Ma

Includes Excerpts Written and Performed by:
The Gyuto Monks

Orchestrated by:
John Neufeld

Mandalay Records

Release Date:
September 30th, 1997

Also See:
Schindler's List
The Lost World
A.I. Artificial Intelligence
Star Wars: Attack of the Clones

Audio Clips:
1. Seven Years in Tibet (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (243K)
Real Audio (151K)

3. Leaving Ingrid (0:32):
WMA (276K)  MP3 (345K)
Real Audio (215K)

5. Harrer's Journey (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (243K)
Real Audio (151K)

9. Approaching the Summit (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (243K)
Real Audio (151K)

Regular U.S. release.

  Nominated for a Golden Globe and a Grammy Award.

Seven Years in Tibet
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Sales Rank: 61565

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Buy it... if John Williams' most melodramatic and emotionally weighty themes for full orchestral melt your heart with great consistency, for this score contains one of his most majestic ideas of the decade.

Avoid it... if you expect Williams' score to make any substantial attempt to transcend mainstream appeal and adequately merge the Western ensemble with the vocals and percussion of the Tibetan culture.

Seven Years in Tibet: (John Williams) Of the two Dalai Lama-related films released in the latter half of 1997, Seven Years in Tibet was the pop culture answer to Martin Scorsese's Kundun. It's entirely possible that the only reason Jean-Jacques Annaud's film was green-lighted was due to Brad Pitt's portrayal of Heinrich Harrer in the lead. While the journey to self-discovery and redemption was the fascinating focus of the middle portion of Seven Years in Tibet, the film suffered from an attempt to address the entire modern history of the Tibetan fight for survival against Communist China rather than concentrating on the more interesting relationship between the 11-year-old Dalai Lama and Harrer, a former Nazi trapped in the British-controlled Himalayas at the start of World War II before escaping to Tibet. While the personal relationships in Kundun are explored with extreme respect and attention to detail, the friendship between Harrer and the Dalai Lama in Seven Years in Tibet are glossed over with the same bleached look of Pitt's hair. And thus, the film was artistically damaged despite wider mainstream appeal. The same problem exists with John Williams' score for Seven Years in Tibet, too, and one of the most interesting aspects of the maestro's approach to this project was his inability or unwillingness to travel down a musical route closer to Philip Glass' Oscar-nominated path with Kundun. Williams' score is very light on the authentic Tibetan elements, servicing the film with an extremely Western-centered and lushly romantic theme. There is significant dramatic weight built into the score, and the melancholy nature with which Williams addresses the wandering soul of Pitt's Harrer leads to a bittersweet atmosphere that only resolves with a mushy ending when required to do so for the character's ultimate redemption. As a listening experience, there is no doubt that Seven Years in Tibet makes for a far more fluid and enjoyable hour than Kundun. But Williams' attempts to insert a token reference to the Tibetan culture in his music only distract from the majestic appeal that the remainder of the score utilizes to symbolize the larger journey.

The ensemble for Williams would consist of a brilliantly recorded orchestra (recorded in 24-bit sound, as the album advertises) and the solo cello perfomances of Yo-Yo Ma, who would become a friend and future collaborator again with Williams. Ma's involvement with the production makes an interesting political statement given the subject matter of the film, though it's possible that the perfomer's heritage was only coincidental. For a couple of source-like cues, Williams inserts performances by the Gyuto Monks; these standalone portions would not mingle with the surrounding score as Glass had chosen to do with Kundun. Ma's performances in Seven Years in Tibet don't approach the powerful resonance of Itzhak Perlman's memorable violin contributions to Schindler's List, though they are elegant enough to merit crossover classical interest. Williams wrote one primary theme for Seven Years in Tibet, and this idea dominates the work. Additionally, however, he provides an equally emotional and weighty interlude to this theme that stands well on its own, as well as a minor motif for the Buddhist religion and its leader. The overarching theme is one of expansive beauty, made even more gorgeous by Williams' technique of layering strings and backing their performances with harmonious brass counterpoint. The full-scale tragedy of this glorious theme shares significant traits with his later title theme for A.I. Artificial Intelligence, especially in the theme's later progressions, though the gravity that this theme carries with its performances would rarely be heard from Williams outside of here, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and the love theme for Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. A slight hesitation in the theme, provided perhaps for mystery or perhaps the uncertainty of personal journey, raises memories of the fantasy elements in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. This theme's monumental performances are heard four times in full on the album, in the two concert suite arrangements as well as "Leaving Ingrid" and "Approaching the Summit." These lovely ensemble renditions are often countered by both Ma's solos and delicate piano solos that also are reminiscent of several dramatic Williams works.

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The secondary portion of this main theme is almost as intoxicating, introduced in the second minute of the opening suite presentation. This theme has passing similarities to the "Rememberances" theme from Schindler's List and is better suited to the style of Ma's performances. The third theme in the score is less utilized that hoped, though that's understandable given the film's wandering focus. Representing the Dalai Lama and his religion is this understated string theme, first heard at 3:45 into the opening suite, and while this theme would use some of the same, attractive performance techniques and percussion as Memoirs of a Geisha, its realization would be limited to two cues in the central portion of the score (and mainly in "Heinrich's Odyssey"). There are other parts of Seven Years in Tibet that will recall fond memories of other Williams' works. The brass flourish (and dry cymbal hits) used as the closing crescendo for the primary theme's concert performances is a page from The Towering Inferno. The rhythmic action in "Peter's Rescue" during the avalanche scene pulls from The Lost World: Jurassic Park, but of course without the percussion mix. The quiet reverence for the subject in the conversational and self-discovery cues are the score's weakest parts, mirroring the somewhat underplayed presence that would constitute the dull and ineffective parts of Amistad. Whimsical string performances in "Regaining a Son" are a singular moment of pure optimism in the score, despite a whirling reminder of the title theme that maintains an atmosphere most similar to Williams' Harry Potter scores. And thus, while superficial resemblences to the dramatic weight of Schindler's List exist throughout Seven Years in Tibet, the latter score serves more as a reference point for future Williams scores rather than exploring old ideas. The trailers for Seven Years in Tibet very effectively used Randy Edelman's Dragonheart, and there was much speculation at the time about whether or not Williams could surpass the majesty that Edelman's music provided for the trailers. Williams would be nominated for a Golden Globe for Seven Years in Tibet, and although the Academy would favor Amistad that year, Seven Years in Tibet remains more rewarding on album. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For John Williams reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.74 (in 69 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.59 (in 338,226 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.65 Stars
Smart Average: 3.46 Stars*
***** 713 
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    * Smart Average only includes
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  N.R.Q. -- 3/11/07 (3:37 a.m.)
   An excellent score
  Sheridan -- 8/18/06 (2:50 p.m.)
  Delores Campbell -- 5/24/06 (8:13 p.m.)
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 65:53

• 1. Seven Years in Tibet (7:08)
• 2. Young Dalai Lama and Ceremonial Chant (2:14)
• 3. Leaving Ingrid (2:43)
• 4. Peter's Rescue (3:45)
• 5. Harrer's Journey (4:05)
• 6. The Invasion (5:08)
• 7. Reflections (4:41)
• 8. Premonitions (2:56)
• 9. Approaching the Summit (5:44)
• 10. Palace Invitation (4:46)
• 11. Heinrich's Odyssey (8:03)
• 12. Quiet Moments (4:21)
• 13. Regaining a Son (1:48)
• 14. Seven Years in Tibet (Reprise) (7:13)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert notes contain information about the historical premise of the film, as well as a message from director/producer Jean-Jacques Annaud (translated by Cecile Stratta), part of which is as follows:

    "I have a lot of admiration for people whose work lies at the cross-roads of my two passions. If I believed in reincarnation, as the Tibetans do, my wish would be to come back as someone like John Williams, the composer and conductor, dividing my time between making music for films and music for its own sake.

    I do not know whether the good faries would endow me with the same versitility and talent, but we are allowed to dream. The fact is that for years I have dreamt of being able to place my images in the hands of John Williams. I rank him with Prokofiev and Nino Rota, for he is one of those rare people who has found the perfect marraige, the bloom of true reciprocity that develops between the orchestra and the screen."

Ma, Williams, and Annaud
Yo-Yo Ma (cello), John Williams, and Jean-Jacques Annaud (producer/director)

  All artwork and sound clips from Seven Years in Tibet are Copyright © 1997, Mandalay Records. 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 9/30/97 and last updated 3/2/08. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1997-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.