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Soundtrack review: I am big bird (Joshua Johnson – 2015)

“I am big bird” is a documentary that chronicles the story of Caroll Spinney, the man who has voiced Big Bird from Sesame Street for 40 years. I haven’t watched that show so the movie might not have that much an impact on me but this man’s story sounds heartwarming. The score was written by Joshua Johnson, a guy who wrote additional music for “The maze runner” and “Dardevil”.

The warm prelude that welcomes us to this store has that lightness and sweetness I would be expecting from a story about a character from a children’s show. This beginning shows joy and innocence and clear blue skies. The music sounds as if the world was seen through the eyes of a happy child. I love the opening cue; it sets a very nice mood for this score. Joshua Johnson chose to make a light piano theme the main driver of this score, something in the style of Thomas Newman maybe and it was a very good choice. This kind of piano play can express a wide range of feelings, from joy to melancholy and sadness and when a cello motif joins in the weight of the music gets a little greater. “Mother and father” mixes reverence with love and it’s all done with just a couple of instruments. The effect is the right one.

I welcome such a beautiful and uncomplicated score like this one because when the music is stripped of sound effects and excess instruments it bears its soul and becomes more honest. The composer doesn’t hide behind complicated arrangements and mixes; he just gives way to his feelings and paints a musical world I would love to visit every now and then. The joy and stride of some of the cues make me remember my childhood at my grandparent’s and the beginning of a wonderful sunny day I knew I was going to spend in the park.

Because such a mood was set, even when the music gets a little more serious and toned down I still hear it as positive, as if a cloud came from nowhere and laid a rain shower on that sunny day. I’m a kid; I’m still playing outside so I don’t care. The score turns minimalistic at times and makes me think of some of Rob Simonsen’s gems from the past couple of years. But the most prominent feelings in Joshua Johnson’s music are hope, joy and passion for what one does. I imagine he is very passionate about film music to be able to write like this.

Yes, “I am big bird” is a beautiful score that just warms my heart and I could listen to it whenever I needed a boost of simple and unbridled joy. This is one of those compositions that are simply sweeping and honest and I think it will be heard to remain indifferent to it. Just try the wonderful fireworks of emotions that is “Caroll quits Rise to fame” and go from there. I would say go from there and listen to the entire score because it will make life seem a little more beautiful. If you want to recapture the joy and innocence of your childhood, if you want a beautiful score that also has the sweetness you heard in “Forest Gump”, this is for you. This is film music as its most honest and I am glad to discover such a promising composer. Chalk “I am big bird” up as one of the nicest surprises of the year.

Cue rating: 100 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 45 / 45

Album excellence: 100%

Highlights:

Prelude (Main Title)

Mother and father

Wanderlust

The Bozo Years

Caroll Quits Rise To Fame

Divorce

Jim Friendship

Rotc

Mr. Hooper

China

Big Bird Peaks

Family Matters

Transitioning

Big bird’s decline

Why He Still Does It

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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