Soundtrack review: The dovekeepers (Jeff Beal – 2015)
Alright, a 2 CD Jeff Beal TV score, say no more. I know it’s not season 3 of “House of Cards” (which I can’t wait to hear) but still this guy has unlimited credit from me. The intelligent and efficient way in which he scores that complicated series has made me a fan and I know he can fill up two hours with quality music. Two and a half hours? Well bring it on. “The dove keepers” is a movie set in ancient Israel in year 70. This is based on a true story of 900 Jews who were forced out of their homes by the Romans and besieged in a fortress at Masada. The movie is adapted from a critically acclaimed novel which tells this story from the perspective of four extraordinary women whose lives intersect in a fight for survival. These women work together daily as dove keepers and all conceal some extraordinary secrets. See, we have secrets, survival; these are common themes with “House of cards”. Yes I really liked that score. The release I am reviewing takes up the time of two full CDs so we better get going.
The opening title has that special sound I also heard in Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe’s “The bible”: ethnically authentic for that period and that people, mysterious and addictive. I like this sound. It’s emotionally fulfilling without being heavy and the instruments bring a feeling of eternal melancholy and a predisposition towards reflection. There are bound to be flutes and soft, poignant choral inserts all on a minimalistic melodic background.
“The dovekeepers” also travels familiar musical paths inside me. There are moments when it reminds me of “Gladiator”, other moments when I think of “Kingdom of heaven” and, once again, “The bible”. This doesn’t mean that Jeff Beal’s composition is not original. It just means it’s authentic and beautiful. I can also recognize the special sound of this composer in it. He has a special way of inserting the choral parts; he makes them sound like screaming echoes trapped somewhere far away. He also has a special way of maneuvering the music through tight spots you wouldn’t think it might fit. His music also changes shape when you least expect it and that’s how you get a cue like the exciting and rousing “Ben Simon”.
“Road to Masada” shows why I liked Jeff Beal’s music so much: a 7 minute long cue in the middle of a 150 minutes long score and I am enjoying it as if it was only the beginning. There’s no fatigue and no desire to rush through this score. I am comfortable with its length and pace and I am taking all I can from this special journey. This is the highlight of the first disk for me. The first CD was all about the life of those people before the Romans started the siege, and it ends with the Roman’s arrival.
I like how Jeff Beal makes all the points he needs without getting too loud or overly dramatic. His tools are the subtle changes in tone, the urgency of some moments and the use of different instruments to express different emotions. Most of the emotions his music show are subdued but intense. There are no bursts of joy or bouts of depression. Everything is elegant and poignant in the same time. The loudest moments are cues like “Give yourself away” which represents the revolt of the usual sound.
The second CD of “The dovekeepers” is slightly darker and more menacing than the first. Things probably get serious and more dangerous in the TV show as well and fighting ensues. We get new instruments, some horns, some traditional drums and the music is more alert. Fighting brings even more surprises and make listening to this score as rewarding as watching the miniseries. I don’t even remember where I was when I started it and I am much invested in the musical story I want to know how it ends. This is what a good, solid very long score does.
There’s a reason Jeff Beal’s releases are getting so much play time. He can tell a story and he makes the most of how much material a TV show has to offer. He doesn’t let anything go and doesn’t repeat his motifs. He gives every scene its musical worth and us the listeners are the ones who win. Just check out the emotional and powerful ending… “Last breath”, “Do this for me” and “Honor your brothers and sisters” bring this journey full circle and deliver a finish worthy of any epic movie.
Cue rating: 86 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 62 / 149
Album excellence: 41%
01 The Dovekeepers Main Title Theme
06 Banished From Jerusalem
07 Message To Eleazar
10 Ben Simon
12 Creature Of The Desert
14 Road To Masada
15 Reunion At Masada
16 Desert Wind
27 No Deliverance
07 Everyone Has A Father
Attacking The Convoy
22 Last Breath
23 Do This For Me
24 Honor Our Brothers And Sisters