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Soundtrack review: Snow to sand (Frederik Wiedmann – 2018)

Best of 2018 Documentary perfect scores

Soundtrack review: Snow to sand (Frederik Wiedmann – 2018)



“SNOW TO SAND” tells a timeless story about adventure and exploration through two modern day explorers traversing America’s 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail from Canada to Mexico for the first time in the winter. After trekking more than 55,000-miles around the world, explorers Shawn Forry and Justin Lichter set out on an epic journey to be the first people to traverse America’s 2,650-mile Pacific Crest from Canada to Mexico in winter, an adventure The New York Times has called “the most daring and foolhardy wilderness expedition since Lewis and Clark.” Inspired by the legendary John Muir and native ancestors who walked this land before them, the team documents their observations of a changing landscape amidst a historic drought, and strive to understand humanity’s role in protecting the environment for future generations. Freddie Wiedmann wrote the score.

A road movie like this, a story of isolation or discovery for me could only sound a certain way; this is, more than most other stories, something I could related to, identify with so I have an idea about the kind of music I would like in my ears for a journey like this. The music should be minimalistic, broad, sparse, with enough space in it to fill with my own thoughts and emotions. It should be quiet and warm to compensate the inevitable cold of the journey and it should always have strings in it. As I am writing these thoughts I realise that I’ve already started this imaginary journey as Freddie’s music is as immersive and inviting as I wished for; there are no rough edges, no overly loud motifs. There is the occasional touch of Americana that makes the score feel ever more genuine. The passage of time is beautifully reflected in subtle changes in tone, from the Americana autumn feel of “True freedom” to the misty woodwind sound of “Winter”, an absolute stunner of a cue that for a lover of ambient music like myself is simply perfect.

Listening to a score like this after basically growing up imagining stories of the albums of artists like Mike Oldfield, Loreena McKennitt and Yanni means revisiting one of the most comfortable and familiar musical places to me and immersing myself in the warm reflective atmosphere that simply blanks out whatever trouble or problems I might have in real life. I imagine the journey depicted in the movie was harrowing, tough with enough unforgiving moments and hours of doubt; Freddie Wiedmann chooses not to focus on that, not to comment on that and instead makes his music be a silent witness, part of the still nature around the travellers, providing the canvas on which their story will be written. Sometimes the music gets more alert and makes me think of moments when I would need to move faster, act quicker.

For me listening to film music, or to any type of music is all about feeling. If the music makes me feel something that those minutes are gained for me. When I run into a cue like “Isolation”, two predominant feelings take me over: nostalgia and gratitude. They are actually the two emotions that dominate this score for me as I am simply grateful that beautiful music like this is created and I have access to it, to calm me down, to bring me that small measure of peace I am looking for, and nostalgia because like I said before ambient music has a very special place inside me.

Apart from this poignant atmosphere it brings, “Snow to sand” also has melodies, not just ambient tones. The string passages, regardless of the instruments played, are enjoyable and pleasant even for fans who aren’t into minimalism. I don’t know who played the violin on this score but he or she deserve praise. Imagine a Nick Cave and Warren Ellis score stripped of the angst and the pain and you will know how this one feels. For me it’s one of the best scores of 2018 so far.

Cue rating: 100 / 100

01 A Journey
02 True Freedom
03 Winter
04 Cold
05 Isolation
06 Drive
07 Final Frontier
08 No Shelter
09 The Force of Nature
10 Limits
11 Everything is Connected
12 The Other Side
13 Solitude
14 Snow to Sand

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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