A Warrior’s Odyssey/Kouneva
October 25, 2012
Before I begin the review I would like to introduce Howlin Wolf Records to my ever growing list of companies that have partnered with Film Music: The Neglected Art. I as a reviewer am anxious to explore their material and if this release is an indication of what to expect I am already looking forward to their next release.
While listening to the CD for the very first time, I read the liner notes authored by Gergely Hubai, who just published a book Torn Music that deals with the subject of rejected film scores and discovered that composer Penka Kouneva had a doctorate in composition from Duke University along with an impressive list of credits in composing and orchestrating over the last thirteen years. My first impression of the recording was here is yet another game sounding score minus the game with slightly less bombastic moments and a hint of a woman’s touch giving the quieter moments a nice feel. However, repeated listens produced a growing fondness for the entire work and I could begin to feel and experience at least on a small level the style of “Pictures at an Exhibition,” a work that Penka admired and patterned her tone poem after.
The prelude to the work is Waiting for Dawn to Break with its eerie sounding tick tock percussion and unusual sound from the strings. The piano enters creating a new layer of sound repeating the prelude theme with the tick tock still evident in the background. The prelude takes a turn to the dissonant with pounding pulsating percussion with harmony being supplied by the strings and brass. The first section tells the story of The Battle Begins with the attack “Storming the City,” a melding of synthesized and orchestra with the ever present percussion dictating the tempo. It becomes solemn in “Mission Fail 1” with the return of the tick tock layered with a sad cello solo. “A Soldier’s Odyssey is in two parts: the first offering a time of reflection offered by the quartet with harmony from the piano. It becomes heroic with horns and choir proclaiming a feeling of hope. Funeral is the key word o describe “A Soldier’s Odyssey” with a lonely trumpet in military style. “Sniper Attack” with staccato bars from the brass with harmony being offered by sliding trombones and backed by more pulsating percussion sets the stage for a dissonant track “Confrontation from a Lo-Fi Dimension.” The third section offers ethnic sound making use of Slavic folk tunes as well as percussion from frame drum, djembe, dumbek, taikos, and strings using tamboura, saz, and oud to complement the style of her heritage. The Battle Must Go On begins with a restating of the prelude theme before it begins a final series of contrasting styles. “Mission Fail 2 and Requiem” offers powerful bars from the piano before another somber funeral passage from the quartet making an ear opening contrast. “Broken Watch” is a return to the tick tock percussion and finale, “Airplane Bound for the Skies,” my favorite track is the perfect blend of orchestra and electronics. The brass section is center stage for the finale with an able assist from the pulsating percussion.
While I consider this material a 21st Century tone poem gamers will listen and envision a video game with victory and defeat. One should ponder what Liszt, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Mussorgsky might have done if they were vaulted a 100 plus years in time. To have the electronics and mixing capabilities in today’s world would open a new door to them. Penka has given this work many hats and repeated listens will reveal layers and tone colors that are rich and fulfilling. I heartily recommend this one.
Total Duration: 00:51:26
Howlin Wolf Records number HWRCD012 (www.howlinwolfrecords.com)