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Soundtrack review: Jane (Philip Glass – 2017)

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Soundtrack review: Jane (Philip Glass – 2017)

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Drawing from over 100 hours of never-before-seen footage that has been tucked away in the National Geographic archives for over 50 years, Academy award nominated director Brett Morgen (Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck) tells the story of JANE, a woman whose chimpanzee research challenged the male-dominated scientific consensus of her time and revolutionized our understanding of the natural world. Set to a rich orchestral score from legendary composer Philip Glass, the film offers an unprecedented, intimate portrait of Jane Goodall — a trailblazer who defied the odds to become one of the world’s most admired conservationists. The score was written by my favourite piano composer, Philipp Glass. I am always happy to see his name on a score.

Whatever the story or the subject of the movie, Philip Glass has a unique style of writing music for it; it’s a combination of strong, fiery piano and quietly emotional piano, the one that works best usually for films. But the craft and imagination of a musical genius like Glass goes beyond the confines of films and stories; I have listened to almost everything he ever composed and stormy, avalanche like piano pieces like “Time of discovery” are concert pieces, written for a wider range of listeners. I love the piano, it’s my favourite instrument and I love what Philip Glass does with it; it’s as if the keys are pressed harder in his compositions, as if he knows a secret, special way to make the keys press the hammers onto the strings that creates a sound that is both violent and pleasant. It’s a unique thing that he does and I love listening to it.

Storms like these can be followed by sombre, quieter pieces like “Mother” where there’s silence outside of the piano with the exception of a subtle string section. The emotion is cold and distant and this cue is beautiful as a melting iceberg rising from the sea on a bright sunny day. The trademark furious and stormy piano returns for “The proposal” and I just wish I could have been in the hall where they recorded this to enjoy a piano concerto. “Serengeti” is the most joyful cue of the score so far, a celebration of optimism where the piano rolls and the flute and horn section carry it even higher. It’s a spectacular piece that shows the endless imagination of the composer.

With “Jane” I feel like I am reviewing a classical music album. It’s fascinating though how Philip Glass can manoeuvre his piano and his orchestra to still make a connection with the movie scenes, like the opening of “The aggression” where I can almost see sparks jumping out of the piano and there’s a metallic sound of an instrument being hit as the trombone also is as loud and violent as possible. There’s also a playful comedic motif at the beginning of “Hugo arrives”. “Teeming life” brings the percussion as well for the most agitated and chaotic cue yet. I just love the musical passion that steams from cues like these. I feel inspired, motivated, it sounds like a training montage for scientists.

You know what you get when you listen to a Philip Glass composition; if you want a piano symphony, stormy and dense, written in a unique style you will not find at other composers. For me “Jane” inspired devotion and passion towards the piano.
A Glass hour always leaves me stirred up inside and “Jane” is no different. It would be a shame to miss an album like this from one of the most inventive and gifted musicians of our time.

Cue rating: 92 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 33 / 58

Album excellence: 57%

Highlights:
Time of Discovery
The Proposal
Serengeti
The Aggression
Teeming Life
Parent and Child
Time in Gombe
Community Divides
Perfect Life

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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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