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(35:58; Wild Symphony)
While this project has been given a fair amount of press already, I suspect that many people are still unaware of the "Wild Symphony" project, a children's book written by Dan Brown, illustrated by Susan Batori and featuring a soundtrack composed by Dan Brown and recorded by the Zagreb Festival Orchestra. The recordings were overseen by Parma Recordings, and while I do not know if the music is actually sold as a separate entity I did want to cover the musical side of this production, and Parma Recordings were kind enough to send me the music so that I would be able to share my thoughts on the music side of this project. When reading up on this venture I understand that the music itself was written and recorded on keyboards back in the 1980's by Brown himself, and sold independently by him under the name "SynthAnimals". Due to various incidents a few years back this project resurfaced, and if I understand all matters and details correctly Bob Lord of Parma Recordings was instrumental in giving this music a new lease of life, so to say, and thus also in making this project what it has become in 2020. While the book side of this project is aimed at children in the age segment 3 to 7, my perception is that the score for the book should have a much wider audience base. "Wild Symphony" is a good, old fashioned classical symphonic orchestra creation, and one with a structure that in some ways can be compared to Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition", in that it wanders from one scene to the next. In this case without specific repeated motifs used to connect the individual bits and pieces, but with other aspects creating a strong identity mark. Many children will enjoy the music here of course, as plenty of details that will fascinate children have been thrown into the mix. Liberal use of mallet instruments, and the marimba most of all unless I'm much mistaken, adds a playful spirit to the percussion side of the material. All the instrumentalists in the orchestra have been inventive in terms of finding whimsical, funny and slightly off kilter sound details and unusual notes to add flavor to the arrangements, and many of the individual parts feature sounds that will give rise to associations towards the animals they represent. The distinctly bouncing rhythm effect on 'Bouncing Kangaroo' is perhaps the most striking example, and I did note a more dampened version of that effect appeared later on too in the part named 'Dancing Boar'. Which is clever and creative on a few different levels. Adult listeners will have a lot to enjoy here as well. The use of both stark and subtly contrasting elements, layers of sounds and textures, parts and passages alternating between calmer and more lively sequences, various subtle motifs and effects resurfacing here and there throughout the album and a good handful of parts that for an active listener will be rather challenging to listen to due to all the details, effects and layers that are used. While dramatic effects of the kind that a novice listener to classical music as myself often will describe as Wagnerian is a staple throughout, there are also parts with a less dramatic and more joyful spirit to them, as well as excursions that are more melancholic and arguably even mournful in mood and spirit. On a couple of occasions I also got associations on a musical level to Mussorgsky, with what I in my layman language would describe as a subtle folk music tinge as an undercurrent. Playful, expressive and whimsical are the staple words that best describes the overall mood and spirit of this 21 parts strong symphony. There are many more facets and details to this creation than merely those three words, but as an overall experience those are the words I would select. From the drawings I have seen, and the knowledge that Brown is a well established author, I have no doubts about the children's book being a worthwhile purchase. Fans of classical symphonic orchestra music may well want to experience the score for the book as well, in my personal opinion they should, and if you do not have the need to buy the book to be able to do that the music is available on the major digital and streaming platforms. "Wild Symphony" is a project that will surprise many people, as a children's book and a classical symphonic orchestra score isn't what too many people would expect from the author of "The Da Vinci Code". I understand that Brown has been a musician and composer of music longer than he has been a writer though, so hopefully we'll get to hear more music penned by Brown surfacing in the years to come. Needless to say, perhaps, is that I do recommend music fans to track down Brown's wild symphony to hear for themselves what this is all about.
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