TV

Soundtrack review: Outlander (Season 2) (Bear McCreary – 2016)

outlander-2

“Outlander” is a British-American television drama series based on the historical time travel Outlander series of novels by Diana Gabaldon. Developed by Ronald D. Moore and produced by Sony Pictures Television and Left Bank Pictures for Starz, the show premiered on August 9, 2014. It stars Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall, a married World War II nurse in 1945 who finds herself transported back to Scotland in 1743, where she encounters the dashing Highland warrior Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) and becomes embroiled in the Jacobite risings. Bear McCreary channeled his inner Celt to write the music and the first two volumes of music from the first season got perfect scores from me. Naturally I have great expectations from the music of season 2.

Celtic music is my favorite genre, on par with the 80s synth. No matter what i do I always come back to the misty longing of that land. Music like this is the best vehicle for me to travel on not just in space but also in time because the bagpipes, the flute or the strings bring me great nostalgia. There is a special kind of sensitivity in the way the instruments play and as I listen to “Leave the past behind” I feel as if I’m easing myself into a warm and comfortable lake. There’s sadness in the music but is the familiar sadness of a rainy day. I like to discover the sensitive side of a chameleonic composer like Bear.

Naturally having been spoiled with melancholic of joyful Celtic cues I frown at the march like anthems that mark the French period of the show. The music is spot on when it comes to the period and setting but these palace ball room pieces are not my favorites. Of course the elegance of the cues charms me eventually and I start remembering all the Balzac novels I’ve read.

The music of season two is different from what I heard in season one; the composer seems to have focused more on particular scenes and settings instead of emotions. The sound is quite unitary as well with strings and harp dominating the cues. The tone is very baroque like and quite melodic.

I find my bearings once again when I hear “The duel”, a surprisingly quiet and soft piece that brings back that Celtic longing that always gets to me. I am hypnotized and I have to mark this cue down for the list of “best cues of 2016”. The second half of the score gets back on my kind of track and even when the Celtic tones are sometimes subtle, when the specific ethnic instruments kick in they make me want to close my eyes and enjoy that quiet but determined mood. Bear Mc Creary grew up to the sound of bagpipes and he knows how to use them and feel them and how to transmit to the listener the right emotion. I feel the uprising, I feel the motivation, I feel the vengeance, all because of the way the music is written; above all I feel love for something beyond myself and joy of being able to hear such beautiful music. The second half of the score flows like the most beautiful and rich river which passes through different areas of the land, here darker, here lighter, but all of them rewarding and meaningful. I wish I could make a suite from “Moch Sa Mhadainn” on and keep it close for when I need to find my inner peace.

The musical canvas of “Outlander” keeps expanding under the magic wand of this wonderful composer and since the series was already renewed for two more seasons I can only look forward to at least two more albums like this. The journey of “Outlander season 2” is long and complex. We get over 70 minutes of nothing but meat, no filler moments. If you enjoy the baroque sound you will have a field day with the first half of this score. If you want pure Celtic inspiration and beauty, check out the second half. If you want a superb TV music album, listen to it all. Even if Bear McCreary’s body of work is vast and impressive for me the “Outlander” scores are his most personal compositions.

Cue rating: 95 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 55 / 70

Album excellence: 79%

Highlights:

Leave the Past Behind

Wrath of the Comte

The Apothecary

The Duel

Faith

Outlander – The Sky Boat Song (Jacobite Version)

Je Suis Prest

125 Yards

Vengeance at Your Feet

The Uprising Begins

Prestonpans

Moch Sa Mhadainn

White Roses of Scotland

Tales of Brianna

Running Out of Time

Destiny on Culloden Moor

A Fraser Officer Survived

 

 

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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