After years of involvement in film and TV composition, including contributions to Inception and The Dark Knight, Matt Dunkley has teamed up with the Babelsberg Film Orchestra to create a short album that sounds like – you guessed it – a soundtrack. The difference is that this is not a soundtrack, but a fully-orchestrated series of dramatic, moving works. Dunkley’s time has finally come around.
Most famous film scores revolve around a single theme, and while the variations may be complimentary, they remain variations. In composing Six Cycles, Dunkley wrote six different themes, making the half-hour album sound like a series of highlights from interlocked films. There’s no incidental music to be found here, nor any filler; these are fully formed, self-contained works.
“Cycle 2” is the most memorable of these, marked by a rising three-note motif, offset by soaring strings and a sense of dramatic tension. This sort of piece typically accompanies high action, such as a hero discovering his powers or an exciting chase in space. The interlude continues the string theme, albeit subdued, ready to rise again. When a new string line enters, far past the halfway point, one realizes that Dunkley is not content to led a theme ride; he prefers to develop and deepen as he goes.
If “Cycle 3” is slighter, it’s only because it’s the album’s most romantic piece, tender and demure. “Cycle 4” grows from this sedate launching point, by its end seeming to echo the birth of stars. The fifth is sadder, like the end of a cherished relationship in which both parties continue to love the other; by the end of the piece, the tears have begun to leak from the stadium seats down to the theatre floor. The sixth is consensus, conclusion, closure.
Normally we’d close such a review by writing that film companies should take note; this time, the approach is reversed. We love the fact that a TV and film composer has given us sounds to which we can form our own images. This is a great move for Dunkley, and we hope that both career tracks will continue to develop in concurrent fashion. (Richard Allen)