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Winged Migration
2003 Higher Octave

2012 Varèse

Composed and Orchestrated by:
Bruno Coulais

Conducted by:
Deyan Pavlov

Produced by:
Paul Lavergne

Labels and Dates:
Higher Octave Music
(April 22nd, 2003)

Varèse Sarabande
(October 30th, 2012)

Also See:
The Chorus

Audio Clips:
1. To Be By Your Side (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (251K)
Real Audio (156K)

10. Like a Breath of Air (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (243K)
Real Audio (151K)

12. Amidst the Factory Smoke (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

17. Feathers and Stripes (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (250K)
Real Audio (155K)

Both albums are regular U.S. releases.


Winged Migration

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Buy it... if you relax to expansive orchestral and vocal creativity with an extremely optimistic personality and international flavor for an IMAX-like setting.

Avoid it... if the dominant sounds of bird calls and other nature effects in the mix of several cues, as well as the lack of a satisfyingly dominant thematic presence, deters you from a truly unique experience.

Winged Migration: (Bruno Coulais) Among the contenders for an Academy Award for "Best Documentary Feature" in 2003 was Winged Migration, a film of several years in the making about the migration habits of several bird species around the world. The French production (which experienced a limited opening in America in April of 2003) used several pilots and cinematographers, as well as state of the art technology, to achieve breathtaking visuals and the authentic sounds of the birds during four years of their northern and southern flights. Following countless species of animals, the film shifts to each continent during the journey, creating a truly international flavor for French composer Bruno Coulais to emphasize in his music for the project. Prolific in Europe, Coulais was likely an unknown for many American film score collectors at the time, though not even the composer's Academy Award nomination for The Chorus not long thereafter really changed that fact. His dynamic score for Winged Migration, however, is a work that did gain him significant international attention. He assembled for the project an ensemble of vocal and instrumental performers greater than those of most other scores, akin to the kind of collaborative efforts put forth by Hans Zimmer during the same time period. Coulais' performers include a moderately-sized orchestra, specialized quartets of strings and woodwind instruments, a typical small chorus, several solo and group vocalists, and an array of sound effects that often features bird calls and ocean waves (among other sounds of nature). The eclectic nature of Coulais' music for Winged Migration separates it from mundane, generic film scores (and is more striking than many of George Fenton's more grandiose takes on nature) and classifies it closer to the Benoit Jutras, "Cirque du Soleil" genre of large-scale orchestral adventure for non-traditional applications. The unconventional employment of the human voice competes in the score with more familiar tones that listeners will recognize from the layers of singing in The Chorus. Almost every instrumental use is creative in its performance aspects, and the resulting score for Winged Migration is fascinating at the very least and enjoyable in some of its more accessible parts.

Coulais does follow the basic film score standard of establishing themes and motifs for the documentary, the primary identity provided in the song "To Be By Your Side" and developed without many obvious statements in the score. This theme, while harmonically pleasing, isn't powerful enough in its structure alone to shine through the instrumentation and performances of the idea. Other motifs are often simplistic, but they are performed with such a wide variety of ethnically diverse vocalists and unorthodox instruments that they are made interesting by their unexpected combinations of sounds. The juxtaposed tones of a music box, child's voice, bird calls, ethnic percussion, a deep male chorus, and a handful of solo instruments from the orchestra constitute the typical cue for Winged Migration. Its highlights are, just like The Chorus, the moments during which the small ensemble of vocalists performs melodic passages with the force of the orchestra behind them (along with the woodwind beauty of "The Swans Flight"), resulting in five to ten minutes of magical appeal spread throughout the album. Other sections, such as cue "Amidst the Factory Smoke," are fascinating solely because of their sound effects, and if this score has a weakness, it is its lack of consistency in the choice of which sounds are emphasized. The music for Winged Migration is certainly consistent in its unconventional instrumentation and editing, but there are just a few too many sound effects and unrelated vocal mixes to listen to the score with total comfort at any great length. The attitude of Coulais' music is extremely stable, however, featuring a positive and inspirational attitude in almost every moment. The songs fit snugly in this tone and are well balanced into the mix, with Nick Cave and Robert Wyatt's natural voices fitting the attitude and approach very well. Cave's performance of "To Be By Your Side" is perhaps the highlight of the album, with a style of inflection that reminds of the old Highwaymen classics. The original 2003 album, enhanced with several features for computer use, was the premiere and welcomed venture of the Higher Octave Music label into the realm of international soundtracks, and their choice of Winged Migration as a debut was a strong one. In late 2012, the Varèse Sarabande label re-issued the album intact and with no alterations, despite the prior product's continued availability. Fans of adventurous instrumentation and vocal creativity, boosted by the backing of a moderate ensemble, will enjoy this optimistic flight of fancy. *** Price Hunt: CD or Download

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.39 Stars
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 Track Listings (Both Albums): Total Time: 45:25

• 1. To Be By Your Side - performed by Nick Cave (4:04)
• 2. Masters of the Field - performed by Robert Wyatt (3:22)
• 3. Northern Bound - performed by A Filetta (2:25)
• 4. The Crossing (2:04)
• 5. The Highest Gander - performed by Robert Wyatt (3:14)
• 6. Beating Drums - performed by A Filetta (3:33)
• 7. The Return of the Cranes (2:34)
• 8. The Blue Thread (1:18)
• 9. The Red Forest - performed by Robert Wyatt (2:25)
• 10. Like a Breath of Air - performed by A Filetta (2:04)
• 11. The Takeoff (1:23)
• 12. Amidst the Factory Smoke (1:31)
• 13. The Glider (2:01)
• 14. After the Hunt (2:55)
• 15. The Paper Parrot (1:06)
• 16. The Swans Flight (1:21)
• 17. Feathers and Stripes (2:48)
• 18. The Wounded Dove - performed by Gabriel Yacoub (3:05)
• 19. Off Camera - performed by Robert Wyatt (2:03)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The inserts for both albums include extensive notes and lyrics regarding the score and songs. The enhanced CD portions of the 2003 product contains a film trailer, facts about birds, links to bird sites, and an opportunity to enter a now defunct contest for a bird-watching trip; you'll definitely satisfy your craving for bird-related entertainment.

  All artwork and sound clips from Winged Migration are Copyright © 2003, 2012, Higher Octave Music, Varèse Sarabande. 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 4/21/03 and last updated 3/3/13. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2003-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.