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Section Header
Soul Surfer
Composed, Conducted, and Co-Produced by:
Marco Beltrami

Additional Music by:
Marcus Trumpp

Co-Produced by:
Buck Sanders

Madison Gate Records

Release Date:
April 20th, 2011

Also See:
The Mighty

Audio Clips:
2. Turtle Bay Surfing (0:29):
WMA (191K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

8. Back in the Water (0:32):
WMA (213K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

16. Paddle Battle (0:31):
WMA (204K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

17. Bethany's Wave (0:32):
WMA (213K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

Regular U.S. release, primarily distributed via download but also available through's "CDr on demand" service.


Soul Surfer

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Sales Rank: 164219

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Buy it... if originality is your desire, for rarely do you hear traditional Hawaiian chants beautifully integrated into an inspirational, instrumentally creative and occasionally robust dramatic score.

Avoid it... if the idea of hearing absolutely nothing resembling Marco Beltrami's usual mannerisms makes you nervous about exploring this surprising and tremendous expansion of his career into the realm of melodramatic, tonal beauty.

Soul Surfer: (Marco Beltrami) A project of passion for its filmmakers, Soul Surfer is a biographical depiction long in the making about Bethany Hamilton, a young female surfer in Hawaii whose arm is bitten off by a shark in 2003 but who, in defiance of the odds, returns to the surf board and eventually turns pro in the sport. The 2011 production of this particular famous story has been awaited for years, and the script of Soul Surfer underwent several years of expansion while director Sean McNamara and the other filmmakers struggled to seek funding for the project. At odds with the studio was the Christian faith obnoxiously pushed in story, the bible and praises of God referenced regularly; although the studio was initially worried about attracting secular audiences to Soul Surfer, the success of The Blind Side in 2009 affirmed the possibility of crossover appeal in the sports genre. The most challenging production aspect of the film was the digital removal of the left arm of lead actress AnnaSophia Robb in 450 different shots, though the finished release managed to gross twice its final budget theatrically. Although appealing effectively to a younger female demographic, Soul Surfer was infused with a tad too many Hollywood cliches of a melodramatic nature for some critics to handle, leading to mixed reviews. One of these clearly saccharine aspects of the movie is the original score by Marco Beltrami, an unlikely man for the job, perhaps, but ultimately the right one. Known primarily for his horror and psychological drama scores, Beltrami isn't exactly the composer one would expect to see attached to a lighter redemptive drama in the sports genre. He has shown glimpses of tonal greatness in brief passages throughout his career, the most memorable such music in a mainstream assignment coming in 2009's Knowing. But when you hear Soul Surfer, you'll encounter a side of Beltrami that most film collectors will not have heard in such acoustic and beautiful harmony. He thankfully approaches the movie from a very smart standpoint of addressing all of the film's underlying themes rather than emphasizing one over the other.

Dozens of composers could have provided this film with extremely simplistic background rhythms of a contemporary nature, even composers like Trevor Rabin and Gustavo Santaolalla. But Beltrami is seemingly inspired by the topic to such a degree that he wisely tackled the full range of concepts with native chants for the Hawaiian culture, beauty from a choir for the religious side, piano and guitar contemplation for a healing family, and large orchestral ensemble for the expanse of the ocean and surfing competitions. Together, the four disparate ingredients in the Soul Surfer score are brought together brilliantly by Beltrami to form a cohesive whole with a satisfying narrative flow. The most striking emphasis of these four is placed on the inclusion of several Hawaiian chants (known historically as a "mele"), some of which assembled for performances specific to this recording while others adapted into an original background mix with the orchestra. Beltrami contracted with Lowell Edgar to assemble a small group of roughly eight Hawaiian singers capable of enunciating the native chants pulled together from a number of traditional sources by Amy Stillman. The texts that form the resulting lyrics come from hundreds of years through history, and those chosen for Soul Surfer are appropriate for the roughly half a dozen scenes in which they are heard. While some of these texts glorify the location as expected, some specifically relate to surfing and the most powerful, a deep, throaty male chant in "Shark Attack," is frightfully ominous in its meaning. Most listeners to the score won't care about the precision of these lyrics, but they are just one example of the care that went into this music. The small ensemble vocal performances range from the mostly female tones of the upbeat location chants to the two aforementioned male contributions in the bass to represent the evils of the ocean and Bethany's conquering of it. A larger, more general choral cooing is occasionally called upon as well, most likely to represent the religious aspect of the story, "Hymn For Bethany" and the more somber "Phuket" using streamlined tones (dominated by either women or children's voices) that will remind of early James Horner children's scores.

The highlight of the vocal usage in Soul Surfer is surprisingly the most unoriginal one. For "Main Titles" and "Bethany's Wave," Beltrami adapts a performance of "E Kuini E Kapi`olani" by Kulia I Ka Punawai as heard on a 2007 CD titled "Legacy Hula Volume 2: Kapi`olani." This elegant chant, alternating simply between two notes, is performed with fantastic inflection, and Beltrami literally writes his two cues around this existing recording. He affords it resounding orchestral backing and even alters its ambient tone, giving it a little reverb to match the sound of the other, original singing performances for Soul Surfer. This technique culminates in an insertion at 1:52 into "Bethany's Wave" that serves as a breathtaking interlude to Beltrami's primary theme. Other Hawaiian elements are applied in the instrumental palette for the score, most notably a slack key guitar and various percussion struck often with fortitude. A ukulele and nose flute round out the ethnic contributions. For more straight forward representations of the girl's relations with her family, Beltrami sticks to familiar guns, using acoustic guitar and piano performances to support several conversational cues. Although the various solo elements mixed into Soul Surfer provide more than enough color to Beltrami's canvas, the orchestral passages speak to the underlying passion for the sport that inspires the lead character and in turn the audience. While extremely soothing strings are typical accompaniment for the chants and other solo performances, the full group is allowed several moments of grandeur. These cues, led by "Turtle Bay Surfing," "Back in the Water," and "Welcome to Nationals," cater to the norms of the sports genre, and varied chopping rhythms from the lower strings with violins and brass on top are reminiscent of a technique Jerry Goldsmith may have used in this circumstance. Toned back are cues like "Fireworks" and "Awards," though even in these moments (and the solo performances by piano and guitar), Beltrami remains extremely faithful to his main theme. This melody is heard in many guises throughout Soul Surfer, from the chants of "Main Title" to the robust orchestral force of "Back in the Water." A pair of similar, affable rhythmic presentations of the theme on piano and slack key guitar over ukulele in "Half Pint Boards" and "Bethany Gives Thanks" are upbeat relief from an otherwise generally serious score.

Other deviations from the relatively even flow of Soul Surfer include the unique percussion applications in "Homecoming" (joined by flutes seemingly trying to emulate birds), "Paddle Battle," and "Big Drum Competition," as well as the straight horror cues, "Shark Attack" and "Trying to Get Out," the latter a full ensemble action piece complete with more standard synthetic loops from Beltrami. Even though the composer maneuvers through these disparate styles in the score, he manages to pull all of it together into one finely cohesive piece of music. Some listeners won't care for the entirety of Soul Surfer, for there are indeed challenging cues to be encountered (and some may not appreciate the tone of the Hawaiian chants, either), but the score features so many highlights that you can easily assemble them into an unquestionably outstanding twenty-minute presentation. One of the most spectacular moments in the score is "Back in the Water," a strictly symphonic piece (with acoustic guitar accompaniment) that expresses upbeat perseverance and ultimate triumph at its conclusion that is nearly tear-inducing in context. One of the reasons this cue is so powerful is that its conclusion, starting at 1:42 as Bethany finally gets back on the board successfully for the first time, is so reminiscent of the kind of orchestral enthusiasm that Basil Poledouris would have written for this scene if he were still alive. An avid surfer and man of the ocean, Poleoduris would likely be proud of "Back in the Water" and the other full ensemble surfing cues in Soul Surfer, an extra element of sentimentality built into Beltrami's achievement for avid score collectors. Another reason to appreciate Soul Surfer is its fantastic sound mix. The balance between instruments and voices is masterful, the two sometimes fading in and out of each other seamlessly. The integration of the vocal performances, starting with the adapted mele over the main titles and extending to the religious material, is remarkable. Most impressive is the fascinatingly propulsive "Paddle Battle," during which percussion, strings, and brass perform in sharp staccato rhythms underneath the male chant that had earlier represented the shark attack, smartly suggesting that Bethany has conquered both the ocean and her own fears. The orchestration of the score is far more complex than it needed to be, too, exemplified by intriguing flute flourishes in "Turtle Bay Surfing" and an alluring cello solo in "Bethany's Wave."

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Overall, all of this attention to detail by Beltrami translates into a tonal score that sounds very little like the Beltrami that most film music enthusiasts know. It's hard to say what the collectors of his horror material will think of Soul Surfer, though if you agree with most other movie music fans that Beltrami suffered from a lack of passion in the concurrent Scream 4, then perhaps he saved and expended all of that intensity of focus in Soul Surfer instead. You have to respect what the man has achieved in the horror genre through the years, but between 3:10 to Yuma and Soul Surfer he shows a diversity of talent that overshadows his horror work in nearly every regard. Because of its tonal beauty, Soul Surfer will quickly become his career crown jewel for many casual collectors with just a handful of Beltrami scores. That said, the high recommendation of this music comes with a few caveats and warnings. First, the main theme's full ensemble performances, especially those with the ethnic choral accompaniment, will remind listeners of Trevor Jones' equivalent theme in The Mighty, not only in the progressions and instrumentation but also in their common inspirational tone. The album has a few quirks as well, beyond just the inclusion of some of the solo performances during conversational scenes that slow the overall presentation. High gain levels at 1:58 into "Hymn For Bethany" cause brief distortion. There exists a version of "Bethany Gives Thanks" (and, by association, "Half Pint Boards") that includes a female vocal similar to the Kulia I Ka Punawai performances that open the album during the piano and slack key guitar portions of those cues. Unfortunately, this lovely mix only exists in a YouTube video chronicling some photography from the score's recording sessions with the soloists in Beltrami's studio. Finally, the album only exists as a download or "CDr on Demand," the latter the only lossless option. Like Christopher Young's Priest from the same period of time, Soul Surfer is a score that merits the expenditure on the CDr, despite the occasional nagging issues inherent in those burns. You rarely hear a score with so many integrated facets, all of them successful. It is to inspirational drama what A.R. Rahman's Couples Retreat was to comedies a few years prior: an immense overachievement for a picture that gives you highly original music you rarely hear in film. In this case, you get the added benefit of Hawaiian tradition, too, and how often do you hear that? Take the plunge. ***** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Marco Beltrami reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 2.73 (in 22 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 2.79 (in 15,925 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.77 Stars
Smart Average: 3.57 Stars*
***** 88 
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   Re: Wow.
  Rick R -- 9/4/11 (2:46 p.m.)
  Dean -- 9/3/11 (11:30 p.m.)
   Re: I didn't see this coming!
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 45:34

• 1. Main Titles (2:34)
• 2. Turtle Bay Surfing (2:12)
• 3. Fireworks (0:35)
• 4. Shark Attack (6:22)
• 5. Alana Visits Bethany (1:18)
• 6. Homecoming (1:59)
• 7. Dark Day (3:38)
• 8. Back in the Water (2:38)
• 9. Trying to Get Out (2:03)
• 10. Bethany and Dad (2:20)
• 11. Phuket (1:20)
• 12. Half Pint Boards (2:53)
• 13. Hymn for Bethany (2:24)
• 14. Welcome to the Nationals (1:28)
• 15. Big Drum Competition (3:09)
• 16. Paddle Battle (1:51)
• 17. Bethany's Wave (3:26)
• 18. Awards (1:59)
• 19. Bethany Gives Thanks (1:25)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes no extra information about the score or film. As in many of's "CDr on demand" products, the packaging smells incredibly foul when new.

  All artwork and sound clips from Soul Surfer are Copyright © 2011, Madison Gate 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 7/7/11 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2011-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.