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Soundtrack review: Emerald City (Trevor Morris – 2017)

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Soundtrack review: Emerald City (Trevor Morris – 2017)

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“Emerald City” is an American fantasy television series developed for NBC by Matthew Arnold and Josh Friedman, and based on the Oz book series written by L. Frank Baum, set in the fictional Land of Oz. It is drected by Tarsem Singh and starring Adria Arjona, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Ana Ularu and Vincent D’Onofrio. Swept up into the eye of a tornado, 20-year-old Dorothy Gale (Adria Arjona) is transported to another world – a mystical land where an all-powerful ruler (Vincent D’Onofrio) governs over one kingdom, has outlawed magic, and faces not only the wrath of a growing cauldron of witches but a looming disaster brought on by a mythical force. Trevor Morris wrote the score, and of course he did since it’s TV and it’s fantasy and his musical joy and life force is right for this.

I am a little surprised by the opening of the score “The storm”; I was expecting something epic to welcome me to this world and yet Trevor starts with a serious drama cue, more electronic then orchestral and tense instead of loud. I know this is a fantasy TV show but in the beginning I feel as if I am listening to a thriller score. I was so used to fun spectacular Trevor that I forgot about the other equally rewarding facets of his music. “Arriving in Oz” is another sombre piece, with a cello solo and a mysterious chime inside and my expectations for this album are adjusted in consequence. If I am not to be immersed in a spectacular and magical musical world I will take what I get, a darker, more subdued composition with Celtic and electronic accents. I was dreaming of a magical land and the harsh reality has hit me hard with a cold darkness. I haven’t seen the show so I don’t know if this is the overall tone but I imagine it is because a composer like Trevor Morris would have jumped at any opportunity to go bold and wild.

As the score progresses it becomes even colder. There are sometimes chants in the background that send shivers up my spine. The happiest moment of the score is “To Emerald City” which I imagine represents the opening credits. Like I said once I know for sure that the music will be different than I expected I get go on and enjoy it for what it is, a score from one of my favourite composers. I hear “The great wizard of Oz” and it’s the kind of complex and mysterious theme that I wouldn’t mind listening to again. “The Yellow brick road” is also a magnificent fantasy cue and the piano motif makes me think instantly of James Newton Howard’s “Snow white” theme. “Dorothy and Lucas” plays that motif again and I am charmed right out of my chair. This is what trusting a great composer is all about; any curve ball in the music is a blessing in disguise as what really matters, the music itself, is great no matter the mood and genre. The more I listen to this score and think of it the more I realise that this is Trevor Morris so confident in his craft that knowing what people would be expecting as a sound for this, he went the other way and still delivered an excellent score.

“Emerald City” is another proud feather in Trevor Morris’ wizard hat; a different kind of fantasy score, more in the vein of what James Newton Howard has wrote lately, totally unexpected in sound and opposite to my expectations it managed to conquer me and leave me wishing to hear more of it. A dark score with an emotional piano core that melted me away, it shows a composer who knows how to write great TV music, pure and simple and it’s just further proof that he will never fail to impress me and give me enjoyable standalone listening experiences with every new score.

Cue rating: 91 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 37 / 68

Album excellence: 54%

Highlights:
Arriving in Oz
To Emerald City
The Great Wizard of Oz
The Yellow Brick Road
Dorothy and Lucas
Witches Aftermath
Witches Hung in Square
Dorothy Enters the Tornado
Snowing Inside
Tip Throws Jack
Dorothy and Toto Meet Lucas
Tip Learns Magic with West
Lucas Fights Lucas
Dorothy Crucifies Lucas
Ojo and Nahara / The Beast Forever Rises
Witches Join Tip
Locust Attack
Dorothy’s Path
Back in Kansas

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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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