Jan 31, 2009

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: THE SCORE music composed by Christophe Beck

Based upon the 1992 box office bomb, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, was a television series that would grow into a pop culture phenonmenon during it's seven year run, beginning in 1997. Oscar-nominated Buffy creator, Joss Whedon, all ready had quite the resume under his belt, as a co-writer on Toy Story & Titan A.E. (with Tim Burton regular, John August & Firefly/Angel scribe Ben Edlund), the unfortunate writer on Alien Resurrection, script-doctor on Speed, Twister & Waterworld and writer on the TV sitcom Roseanne. Unhappy with the way his scripts turned out on film, due to the directors, Whedon decided to turn to television. From there he resurrected the idea of a highschool girl turned superhero and developed it into a critically acclaimed televsion series.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer mixed horror, humour and human drama into it's stories unusually well. It's characters were given the gift of witty dialogue and even greater character arcs. However it was the music that brought a cinematic feel to the series, when it went into it's second season.
In the first season, Walter Murphy scored the show, with mixed results. His music felt overly synthesized and low budget, which really stood out (and not in a good way). Murphy left the show and went on to score Family Guy, which better suited him. In stepped Canadian composer, Christophe Beck, who really hadn't done much, other than collaborated with then unknown composer Marco Beltrami on the forgotten series, Land's End.
Christophe Beck, brought the cinematic feeling to Buffy, that it needed and it almost immedietely took the series to a brand new height.
Beck, used a mixture of synthesizers and real instruments to create a sound that could very well belong in a feature film. Pouring everything in the mixture that he could, Beck's music was at times touching, horrific, exciting and humorous.
He ended up scoring 58 episodes in total, during the years of 1997 and 2001 and picked up an Emmy Award for his work on the season two episode, Becoming Part 1. During that time, his music was rarely ever released on album, besides a single track on the first official soundtrack album and one on the 2nd UK edition soundtrack. Followed by that, a few suites were released on the Buffy musical episode soundtrack album. Fans didn't think that was enough and wanted a whole score album. It wasn't until 2008 (five years after the show went off the air), that an official score album was released to the rabid fans of the show.
Clocking in at nearly sixty minutes worth of music, the album is what anybody who was a fan of show's score would want. It's score follows through with cues starting from the pivotal season two episode, Innocence, all the way to season five finale, The Gift, which was Beck's run through the series, if you don't count the single musical season six episode, Once More With Feeling.
The album begins with a bang, with "Massacre" from the season 2 episode, Becoming Part 1. An exciting cue, with it's sweeping strings and violent brass section that match Beltrami's horror cues from his Scream scores. It slows down at the end to interpolate with the Buffy/Angel love theme, that fans will immedietely recognize and cherish. Coincidentally, Beck would reuse the action theme from this cue, in Becoming Part 2 and the season one Angel episodes, I Will Remember You & War Zone. Followed by "Angel Waits" from the Season two's Passion. Quite possibly my favorite episode from the entire series and the music has alot to do with it. "Angel Waits" is a stalking soundscape, which creaks back and forth with pure evil. "Remembering Jenny" is another track from Passion, which is the Giles/Jenny Calender love theme. A theme I could listen to forever and wish so badly there were more variations on the theme itself. With it's deeply moving piano and Anthony (Giles) Head's vocals, it puts a lump in my throat just thinking about it. Followed by "Twice The Fool" from the season two Xander-centric episode, Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered. A playful little ditty, with strings that could quite possibly pop out of Elfman's Beetlejuice score.
"Kralik's House", from the season three episode, Helpless is an uber-creepy track that layers synthesized strings and an ominous droning sound, that sends chills up and down the spine, then suddenly jumps out at you, just like the Kralik character relished in doing so much. Things get emotional with "Magic Snow Music" from the season three Christmas episode, Amends. You get the feeling, Whedon wanted something straight out of Edward Scissorhands and Beck delivers. A funny little tidbit on this track, if you put the cd in your computer, it reads as "Magic Snow Missile", possibly thrown in there by some D & D fan.
"Slayer's Elegy" from the Season 3 episode The Wish, is a beautiful gloomy track that focuses mainly on a female soloist vocal performance, which mirrors Beltrami's Scream cue, "Sidney's Lament".
The action really picks up again, with "Faith's End" from the season three episode, Graduation Day Pt. 1. This cue is like the bigger, meaner brother to the "Massacre" track. It makes you want to jump up and kick some ass...you could almost imagine the internet child star "Star Wars Nerd" filming himself again, only this time he's a vampire slayer and...well...it just gets weird.
"From The Grave" from Season Four's This Year's Girl, is a somber cue, which plays along with Faith's dream/nightmare before she wakes from her coma.
We are then treated to several unreleased cues from the Season Four episodes, the Emmy-nominated Hush & Restless. Even though the Once More With Feeling soundtrack included some extended suites from these episodes, it is nice to hear even more score from Beck's masterpieces. I'm particulary fond of the cues from Hush, as it is probably my second favorite episode. The Gentlemen's theme is just so damned creepy, it's like something out of a classic horror movie from the Golden Age. Restless being my third favorite episode, musically, was a real treat. I loved the vocals that were used in this, they remind me of the Hans Zimmer/Lisa Gerrard score for Gladiator.
The album ends with a handful of tracks from Season Five, which I find somewhat forgettable, other than the final track "The Gift", from the season finale of the same name. This track is labelled as an alternate version, from the version that was heard on the OMWF soundtrack. Personally, the original version stands up better, than this alternate version, as it ends more dramatically.
In the end, "Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The Score" is a pretty decent stand alone album compiling some of the best cues spanning over Christophe Beck's work on the series. However several of the tracks are edited down from the season two and three era, which really makes me wonder why, as they could still easily fit on the album in their complete running time. Personally, I don't mind too much, as all these tracks can be found on the Season Two & Three score promotional albums in their entirety. Unfortunally the promo albums were never released to the public, so the only way to get them is to hunt them down online and get the MP3's. Another annoyance is the way the album was released. By purchasing the album online, you would recieve several bonus tracks, all of them differing depending on where you bought them from, whether it was iTunes, Amazon or Rhapsody.
I highly recommend this album and the two promo discs (if you can find them), whether your a fan of the series or just a score collector, it stands on it's own feet either way. So here's hoping a volume two is on it's way, right?