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Review: Heroes Soundtrack

May 11, 2009

If you know me personally and seen me in person in the last two months, I’ve probably talked to you about HeroesIn that time I’ve only watched the first season twice and am currently working on my second trips through season two and three.  If you don’t fit into either of those characters, let me briefly summarize: 

Heroes is really really awesome.  The first season is as close as a broadcast television show can probably come to being a work of art.  The cliffhangers are amazing – especially the end of Season 3.  The music is so good.  The character Hiro is so adorable.  I’m both extremely frightened by and wish I could be Sylar – at the same time. The music: great. Et cetera ad naseum.

Did I mention the music?  Yes, the music.  It’s wonderful.  Written by Wendy and Lisa, formerly employed by Prince to sound awesome, they have taken the many complexities of the show and managed to balance them out with sound.  I can’t really give it the credit it deserves using words alone.  Likewise, the music alone doesn’t really give it its due credit.  By itself, the music at times resembles hyper produced pop hits that indiscriminately borrow from lots of genres to the point that the music almost devolves into a patchwork of unrelated parts.

Oh, yeah – the duo just released music they’ve been injecting into the show as a stand alone album.  I probably should have mentioned that before the fourth paragraph.  To balance out that last paragraph- the album is good.  It does more than just touch on the many themes of the show, but develop them and give them their full due.  The track of Hiro’s music takes the minimalist sounding groove heard in snippets throughout the three seasons and turns it into the pillar of strength Hiro is constantly attempting to fashion himself into.  The synthesizer beds that blanket the show during its most moody take on a different life by themselves since your imagination is allowed to create the images rather than connect them. 

I had a hard time deciding if I’d mention the album at all.  At first glance, its hardly classical or new music.  That said, I still feel strongly that the fundamentals of the album were created no differently than soundtracks by, to take two random examples (that prove my point, of course), John Corigliano’s Altered States or Philip Glass’s Dracula.  Is this music more accessible than either of those scores?  Yes.  I’ve still not seen Altered States but the music is not of this state of consciousness, often in a bad way if you’re looking at things with accessibility in mind.  I’d also almost rather watch Dracula without the score that Glass created – it’s woefully unresponsive to the acting and made me wonder if Dracula’s mystical abilities weren’t sucking humans’ blood but sucking their brain cells through mindless repetition. 

In contrast, Wendy and Lisa have taken great care to sculpt out the essence of each of these characters and turn them into sound.  The use of an actual ticking clock for Sylar is genius.  Its also found sound and something akin to a leitmotif, which makes things about as ‘new music’ and ‘classical’ (okay, romantic) as you’re going to find in television scoring.  Mohinder’s theme, which sounds like a piano sound manipulated to allude to a gamelan may not be entirely culturally accurate but is extremely vivid (Mohinder is Indian, not Indonesian, but what’s a few letters between friends, eh?).  The timbre conjures up images of something exotic and the melody’s classical nature his profession as a doctor.

I could go on, but I’m not going to, because I’m very close to veering off into fan boy territory (or already have).  The point of it all is that this music is interesting, evocative, and important to the Heroes product as a whole.  Does it have the same emotional force on its own?  No, but why should it?  It is still highly emotional, but arrives at it in a different way.  The soundtrack is good music, which at the end of the day is all that matters.

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