- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 22, 2003

The fusion of music to imagery is an essential ingredient of the successful period movie. What would "The Godfather" and "Braveheart" be without their wonderful musical scores? Still great, but diminished and incompletely realized.
A great score should at once complement its visual partner and be able to stand on its own.
The "Gods and Generals" soundtrack succeeds on both counts.
John Frizzell and Randy Edelman, who composed the music for "Gods," the Civil War epic that opened yesterday, have done a masterful job, shuttling easily between the triumphal and the sorrowful, the spare and the ornate.
The handsomely packaged soundtrack, a limited edition of which includes a bonus DVD with videos, theatrical trailers and other material, is a nice companion to a movie that depends much on music to evoke individual human emotions within its epic scope.
Before it delves into the film's orchestral score, the soundtrack opens with its theme, "Going Home," a folk ballad sung with exquisite plaintiveness by Mary Fahl and accented by fiddler Mark O'Connor, who performs throughout the set.
"Surely sorrows shall find their end/ and all our troubles will be gone/ And we'll know what we've won/ and all that we've lost/ when the road finally takes me home," Miss Fahl sings, conveying the crux of the Ronald F. Maxwell-directed movie: the heartfelt love of native soil and kinship and a higher devotion to principles that motivated soldiers on both sides of the war.
"Gods" ends with a sprawling rumination by Bob Dylan, a ballad called "'Cross the Green Mountain."
Between those two contemporary folk tunes, the soundtrack is packed with symphonic pieces that often nod to the Anglo-Celtic sounds of the South.
On Mr. Frizzell's "These Brave Irishmen" and "The First Crop of Corn," Paddy Maloney, the great tin whistler and uillean pipist from the Chieftains, lends his traditional Irish tonalities to tautly emotional bursts of strings and brass. During the simpler, unembroidered moments, he harmonizes sweetly with Mr. O'Connor's violin.
On "To the Stone Wall," the Nick Ingman-conducted orchestra, with an added layer of lower-register vocalists, builds to the heady adrenaline rush of battle.
Mr. Edelman's "My Home Is Virginia" ratchets things down to Earth, wistfully segueing into a quiet piano-driven arrangement that suggests the aftermath of the previous evocation of conflict.
The "Gods" soundtrack takes a briefly playful turn with "VMI Will Be Heard From Today," which opens with a harrumphing bounce of brass before arcing into a more sinister crescendo of battling cymbal crashes.
Anchored by Mr. O'Connor, "The Soldier's Return" is a brief summing up that closes the orchestral score and cedes the stage to the redoubtable Mr. Dylan and "'Cross the Green Mountain."
With the superb ensemble of American roots musicians with whom he has worked since 1997's "Time Out of Mind," Mr. Dylan proves yet again his ability to make eight minutes of the same verse-chorus structure seem inexhaustibly interesting. It's an ability that belongs to him alone.
Mr. Dylan is one of the finest songwriters in American history, and his contributions never fail to leaven a movie soundtrack, as with "Shelter From the Storm" in "Jerry Maguire," "Not Dark Yet" in "The Wonder Boys" and "Most of the Time" in "High Fidelity."
He is clearly the go-to guy for Serious Movie Moments.
Though he wrote "Green Mountain" exclusively for the "Gods" soundtrack, its meaning isn't limited to the Civil War. Rather, Mr. Dylan wraps the song in the timeless themes and universal aspirations of both antebellum and contemporary America:
"The bells of evening have rung/There's blasphemy on every tongue/ Let 'em say I walked in fair nature's light/and that I was loyal to truth and to right."
It's a graceful note on which to end a beautiful and memorable soundtrack to a movie about one of the most significant and consequential conflicts in human history.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide