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Comments about the soundtrack for Babylon 5: Sleeping in Light (Christopher Franke)

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Filmtracks Sponsored Donated Review
• Posted by: Jonathan Jarry   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Sunday, September 7, 2008, at 6:12 p.m.
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(The following donated review by Jonathan Jarry was moved by Filmtracks to this comment section in September, 2008)

Babylon 5: Sleeping in Light: (Christopher Franke) With Sleeping in Light, the final episode of the five-season science fiction series Babylon 5, composer Christopher Franke took his musical experience to a new height in order to make us feel the end of the saga and give us a taste of new beginnings. As much as Franke's initial scores to the first seaon of Babylon 5 were synth driven and reflected his time with Tangerine Dream, his style evolved, enhancing the percussion, then the brass, and finally settling, during season 5, with the nobility of strings. Sleeping in Light is the perfect example of his use of violins and guitars to achieve sadness and regret, some of the issues present in the series' finale.

The score starts in a quiet way with "Sheridan's Dream", a travel down memory lane, in the middle of the night. Strings can be heard in the background, carrying a lot of sadness and foreshadowing events yet to come. The track does not end with the traditional "Main Titles", as with all of the other episodic releases from Sonic Images, since this episode did not have any opening credits. More time would be spent, however, on the end credits, a real treat to fans.The second track is a nice combination of various styles and themes. A nice horn solo announces the arrival of the Ranger in General Ivanova's room (which reminds me of the "Babylon station" theme, but more on that later), followed by a quick cue from the piano, which is immediately succeeded by a short rendition of the Centauri theme. Finally, as we travel to Mars, a nice transition element, composed of brass and strings, ends the diversity of style. More disturbing strings follow, always in a quiet fashion, like the unspoken death of Sleeping in Light.

"How Long Do I Have?" is a very touching cue, played by the violins once more, and continually balancing dark and light, closely following the dialogue. However, one of the highlights of the scores only comes with the second cue on this track, entitled "Old Friends", when Vir remembers a scene about Londo and singing Pak'Ma'Ra. The scene is very touching, not only because of the excellent acting on the part of Stephen Furst and the rest of the cast, but also because of the incredibly sad musical accompaniment. Violins and guitar come together to deliver a very dramatic prelude to an abrupt cut in the style, when Sheridan offers a toast to "absent friends, in memory still bright." Stirring violins and a beautiful accompaniment at the guitar, reminescent of the fifth season musical style, bring this cue to a beautiful end.

On track 4, "Good Night, My Love" is one other such cue which takes us rather by surprise. When all seemed too quiet, Franke abruptly starts the orchestra, delivering a departure theme for high-pitch violins, accompanied by some lower strings and guitar, once again. Another nice addition to the score is the presence of the "Babylon station" theme, that can also be heard in the new opening monologue of "The Gathering - Special Edition", which consists of two simple notes, played by the brass, in a very delicate manner. "Only Memory" is a cue that starts in a dark fashion, reprising the theme from "How Long Do I Have?" One thing about scoring a weekly television series is the lack of time to give each scene an original musical cue. Franke has thus often reprised cues from previous episodes, notably the sad theme from the season 4 episode "No Surrender, No Retreat", when Londo offers a drink to G'Kar. However, even though we hear these themes over and over in many episodes, they never become dry or unoriginal, since they are always brought in a quiet and delicate manner and always serve the purpose of the scene. "Only Memory" is one such example. It then ascends to a flashback scene, in which Franke brings the Sleeping in Light theme to an almost-completion, accompanied by cymbal crashes.

Another nice touch, in the cue that follows, is the reprise of the piano motif as heard in "Sheridan's Dream". At this point, Sheridan remembers a part of his initial dream, featuring the alien Lorien, and thus Franke brings back part of the same music, ending the track in a hopeful manner with brass and strings. The highlight of the fifth track is certainly "Dying Station", although "Echoes from the Past", the music accompanying Sheridan's death, is an incredible use of guitar on Franke's part, mixed with a powerful string ensemble. "Dying Station" is Franke at its best. It features a theme which had been used in the previous episode, "Objects at Rest" (also available from Sonic Images), when Sheridan and Delenn left Babylon 5, taking one last look at the place. It is such a powerful theme, one that J. Michael Straczynski, the creator of the series, described as "breaking our hearts", that it had to be played when we'd see the final fate of the station. It begins by descending violins, the same cue used in "Old Friends". It hesistates a bit near the end, stopping, continuing, then ascending to a grand orchestral hit, complete with a timpani roll and cymbal crash. The full theme soars, rendered by the brass section, counterthemed by the string ensemble, and given more force by cymbals. It then falls into a quiet melody, where the guitar join the violins one last time. Finally, "Delenn's Sunrise" features a serene piano cue, reminescent of Babylon 5: Thirdspace's, this time accompanied by violins, which brings the episode to a beautiful closure.

The "End Title" is merely an identical reprise of the "Dying Station" theme, but it is again more than effective, as we see on screen the credits for the main actors and actresses, a short video of the first time we saw them on the show compared to their last time, a nice look at the changes and evolution. As a whole, the album falls short under 25 minutes. Although this is one of the shortest Babylon 5 episodics released by Sonic Images (some being as long as 36 minutes for a 45-minute episode), it does not suffer from any down moments or unecessary lengths. Sleeping in Light truly is Franke at his best, combining the richness of the new themes he devised for the fifth season with his mastering of grand, sweeping melodies which fans remember from various episodes and seasons. The series finale thus represents the culmination of five years of learning to score television episodes, of integrating new ways of composing and using music through the union of synthetizers and symphonic orchestra, and of crafting and reworking old and new themes. It is a very fine gem, both as a stand-alone score and as an accompanying piece to the finale, and if there is one score from Franke which you should get, one to make you sad but also to give you hope, then it should be Sleeping in Light. It is lush yet quiet at times, sad yet optimistic at others, but always well done and touching. Listen to it and you too will know that Franke can "break our hearts." *****

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