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Composed, Co-Conducted, and Produced by:
Ramin Djawadi

Co-Conducted by:
Jasper Randall

Orchestrated by:
Stephen Coleman
Michael J. Lloyd
Gernot Wolfgang

Additional Music by:
Brandon Campbell
William Marriott
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Walt Disney Records
(April 3rd, 2020)
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Commercial digital release only, with high resolution options.
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Buy it... if you have a soft spot for well-executed blends of African and Western musical conventions in film music, this entry a spectacularly rendered, highly thematic score for a Disney documentary.

Avoid it... if you have never cared for the prominent ethnic vocals of The Lion King or Blood Diamond, Ramin Djawadi not attempting to reinvent the wheel here.
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WRITTEN 3/17/21
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Elephant: (Ramin Djawadi) The independent Disneynature film studio exists to crank out family-friendly documentaries for Disney to distribute, each entry following a different type of animal conducting itself through the everyday trials of life. The difference between these Disney ventures and the plethora of alternatives is that the studio takes the footage of the animals and arranges it into a forced narrative that gives the anthropomorphized creatures names, motives, intentions, dreams, and probably a common disdain for humans like Donald J. Trump. Some famous person then narrates all of this to kiddos who can stream it over and over while their parents hope to forget whatever names were supplied to the animals. In the case of 2020's Elephant, the documentary is narrated by Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, in her first major media stardom aside from marrying a hairy prince and reportedly causing royal consternation because of her genetics. The setting is the Kalahari Desert in Southern Africa, and a herd of elephants must venture out on their usual migration while avoiding lions, rival herds, and other inconveniences. The crew concentrated their footage on a family of elephants consisting of a matriarch, Gaia, her supposedly younger sister, Shani, and a young male elephant of some equally dubious name that just wants to have fun but inevitably learns a lot about the world over the course of the story. Despite offering some rather scary imagery, including death, Elephant was met with warm praise, its 89 minutes of goodness coinciding with the early pandemic lockdowns of the year. For film music enthusiasts not ready to succumb to Disney's obnoxious documentary storytelling, Elephant provides a fairly significant upgrade in soundtrack quality compared to prior studio efforts. The genre has often featured fantastic music, but it has been generated for films from the BBC and others. For Elephant, though, Remote Control Productions veteran and now prolific solo composer Ramin Djawadi pulled out all the stops for perhaps the year's greatest film score surprise.

Djawadi's ascent under the RCP umbrella yielded less than stellar music early in his career, but between his major feature assignments of the late 2010's and his Emmy-recognized work for the entirety of "Game of Thrones," he has matured into an artist that can succeed when taking conventional, if not ubiquitous scoring techniques and rendering them in superior fashion. Elephant is much the same, starting with the known formula for Hans Zimmer-inspired blends of African and Western music and exercising it extraordinarily well. Modern conceptions of this Zimmer blend, displacing John Barry's popular sound for the continent, apply ethnic vocals in ways explored in 1992's The Power of One and taken mainstream in The Lion King shortly thereafter. James Newton Howard supplied a dose of the same African and Western mashup with tremendous success in Blood Diamond as well, though the origins of Elephant for Djawadi specifically were more likely rooted in the fine closing cue for his and Klaus Badelt's score for the South African-set Beat the Drum in 2003, which briefly explored the same vocals and percussion heard to a much greater extent in the Disney nature film. The ethnic vocal contributions dominate the score's flashier portions, their authenticity verified by the inflections defined in The Power of One but not as wildly defiant in tone. The lyrics of these performances, which alternate between male and female soloists over group chants, maintain their typical structure of emphasizing pairs of notes as common phrasing. For Elephant, Djawadi joins them with a full orchestra and synthesizers, the tone remaining organic for most of the score's length. More traditional choral applications for orchestral accompaniment may have utilized the same African singers. The orchestrations in this score merit special recognition, because the emphasis on certain players over Djawadi's stereotypically muscular RCP base sound is exemplary. Solo instrumental colors include African percussion and winds, marimbas, duduk, and dulcimer, though traditional woodwinds and brass generally perform lines of action also well highlighted over the rest of the group. In short, this score sounds fantastic, even with occasionally bloated gain levels in the mix.

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Average: 3.51 Stars
***** 26 5 Stars
**** 34 4 Stars
*** 28 3 Stars
** 15 2 Stars
* 7 1 Stars
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Track Listings Icon
Total Time: 60:33
• 1. Elephant Prologue (6:04)
• 2. Pool Party (2:42)
• 3. Mud Rescue (3:08)
• 4. Leaving the Delta (1:22)
• 5. Family Reunion (1:49)
• 6. A Magnificent Bull (1:19)
• 7. Stepping Stones (1:57)
• 8. Bones (2:32)
• 9. A Thousand Mile Journey (2:01)
• 10. Caterpillars (2:26)
• 11. Under the Stars (2:09)
• 12. Victoria Falls (3:49)
• 13. Palm Island (1:29)
• 14. Crocodile Crossing (4:43)
• 15. Angola Rains (4:10)
• 16. Lion Hunt (4:03)
• 17. Death of a Matriarch (2:41)
• 18. Mourning (1:31)
• 19. Rival Herd (2:01)
• 20. Floodwaters Return (2:01)
• 21. The Final Push (2:39)
• 22. An Unforgettable Journey (3:57)

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There exists no official packaging for this album.
Copyright © 2021, Filmtracks Publications. All rights reserved.
The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from Elephant are Copyright © 2020, Walt Disney Records and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 3/17/21 (and not updated significantly since).
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