Release date: December 17th, unhealthy 2012
Running time: 65.51 minutes
Composer: Mychael Danna
If I were to summarise how I feel about music, click the only words that would come close to describing its place in my life would be to say “It’s my lifeline”. There’ve been times when it’s fuelled my desire to do something more with my life, when it’s forced me to lay bare my emotions with someone and when it’s inspired my work. I can also testify to the fact that music soothes the savage beast. Yet for all what I believe music means to me, as I sat down to listen to Mychael Danna’s soundtrack for Life Of Pi what I experienced was something so much more.
Danna, who studied music composition at the University of Toronto, winning the Glenn Gould Composition Scholarship in 1985, would go on score the soundtracks for many films I’ve enjoyed such as The Ice Storm (1997), 8MM (1999), Girl, Interrupted (1999), Hearts In Atlantis (2001), Aurora Borealis (2005), Capote (2005), Little Miss Sunshine (2006) and Moneyball (2011), but it’s his work here on Ang Lee’s adaptation of Yann Martel’s 2001 novel of the same name that made me fall in love with his music as a deep expression of emotion, dreams and exquisite harmonies.
Beginning with Pi’s Lullaby which opens with a lone female voice, belonging to Bombay Jayashri, singing in Tamil, the song then introduces the sublime sounds of the flute, sitar, tabla and various other percussive instruments to create an opening for the film that’s soothing and magical, as well as the feeling that “a child sleeps not because he is sleepy, but because he feels safe.”¹
From there it moves on to Piscine Molitor Patel which combines Western, European and Eastern sounds that fits well into the time period the story’s set in. This tri-fusion of style is carried on to Pondicherry with the inclusion of a string segment toward the climax bringing it to a blissful end, but it’s with Meeting Krishna that we return to the enchanting voice of Jayashri.
There are more Indian instruments on Christ In The Mountains and the track carries the light motif that we hear interspersed throughout the soundtrack. With Thank You Vishnu For Introducing Me To Christ we can really hear that this is a score for a big-budget Hollywood movie. Though it’s a short piece it contains a sweeping orchestral arrangement complete with violas, violins, bassoon, clarinets, trombone and oboe that sound more West than it does East.
As we move through the compilation Appa’s Lesson, Anandi, Leaving India, The Deepest Spot On Earth and Tsimtsum all serve to further remind us of the brilliance of the film. Marrying a beautifully told story with astounding cinematography and a majestic and elegant score what we have with Life Of Pi is one of those instances where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
1. Pi’s Lullaby
2. Piscine Molitor Patel
4. Meeting Krishna
5. Christ in the Mountains
6. Thank you Vishnu for Introducing Me to Christ
7. Richard Parker
8. Appa’s Lesson
10. Leaving India
11. The Deepest Spot on Earth
13. Death of the Zebra
14. First Night, First Day
15. Set Your House in Order
16. Skinny Vegetarian Boy
17. Pi and Richard Parker
18. The Whale
19. Flying Fish
20. Tiger Training
22. Tiger Vision
23. God Storm
24. I’m Ready Now
25. The Island
26. Back To The World
27. The Second Story
28. Which Story Do You Prefer
The next few tracks, while they didn’t particularly stand out for me were still what I’d consider to be well put together, but it’s really the Indian sounds that I’m love with here especially having grown up with so many of the evergreen movie classics that my family introduced me to. Similar harmonies are present in Danna’s tracks but in the later half of the score they give way to more Hollywood sounding pieces.
As it draws to a close though, that familiar melody we began with is reprised with Tiger Training and the light motif is picked up again on Orphans and Tiger Vision but things mellow out with the peaceful and lullaby-ish The Island, a sparse track with a calm melody that changes toward its final moments with a string outro.
For the closing track, Which Story Do You Prefer Danna’s chosen to bring together the melodies here’s used sparingly in the previous pieces. The orchestral arrangement is lush and what we hear is something that leaves us filled with feelings about the film we might’ve just seen, asking us that very question Pi poses at the end:
There’s no doubt in my mind that Life Of Pi is an extraordinary story and film for our time, reflecting on how we choose to view nature in both its beauty and brutality, but its score by Danna is also something quite magnificent, soothing and inspirational that can be enjoyed in addition to Lee’s film and Martel’s novel or as a stand-alone collection of songs.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .