Walking With Dinosaurs
22nd December, 2006
The Arena Spectacular
Score commentary from the original soundtrack album
Just over a year ago I was lucky enough to be asked to write the music to accompany a live arena show charting the rise and fall of one of the most fascinating periods in our natural history. The subject matter was both daunting and inspiring and I have absolutely relished the chance to immerse myself in this most dramatic of stories; that of the dinosaurs.
The score needed to be epic to match both the scale of the individual dinosaurs and to convey the almost unimaginable lengths of time involved. However, the music couldn’t always just be “big”. There were various strands that made up the story and I wanted to approach each of these differently, particularly the characters of the dinosaurs but also the nature of an ever changing landscape and a huge land mass, Pangaea, constantly shifting over vast passages of time.
The show itself needed an identifiable and, hopefully, memorable Main Theme which is used primarily to punctuate the show with a unifying musical idea and, in its fullest version, to announce the sheer size of the story. After the introduction and grand opening of the show we are transported back in time, through our imaginations, to the early Triassic period 220 million years ago. We have been looking at modern day fossils but suddenly these Eggs Come Alive. We are in a harsh, hot and dry world but, even so, life can be sustained. Our first dinosaur is a small, agile predator with grasping hands and sharp teeth. This Liliensternus scavenges and darts across the landscape and musically he is represented by spiky double reeds spitting out angular melodies and motifs. He takes one of our newly born hatchlings.
We learn that each of the dinosaurs developed its own survival characteristics in what was an unforgiving world and, as a 9 metre, 4 tonne Plateosaurus Enters we see that size was a useful advantage. She enters accompanied by a slightly melancholic but melodic tuba. Threatened by a marauding Liliensternus and desperate to defend her young, the Plateosaurus chases away the threat in a dissonant and rhythmic Triassic Encounter. The gentle nature of the mother is revisited as her surviving hatchlings scurry about the hot landscape before the main theme signifies the inevitable passage of time and The Plateosaursus Exits.
As time passes the great continent Pangaea shifts and the hot and arid world of the Triassic gives way to the much more fertile and abundant land that is The Jurassic Age. This piece takes us from a dissonant and angular musical world into a more romantic and lush tonality. The first dinosaur we encounter here is the mighty and regal Stegosaurus measuring a full 13 metres from nose to tail and played-on by magisterial French horns. No sooner has the Stegosaurus settled to graze than the largest and most fearsome carnivore of the Jurassic appears. This beast is swift and cunning and when the Allosaurus Attacks a mighty battle ensues. Forced to flee, the Stegosaurus eventually succumbs to the long, grappling-hook-like claws of its merciless attacker but just at the final moment the two creatures are interrupted by an even more powerful force; a devastating Forest Fire rips through the terrain destroying everything in its path until finally engulfing the Stegosaurus and forcing the Allosaurus to seek refuge. After the fire there is Rebirth. Out of the ashes new vegetation grows and we are presented with huge trees that form a flourishing and verdant forest canopy which totally dominates the area. Slowly from within this sea of green we hear the footsteps of perhaps the greatest beasts ever to have roamed the planet. Musically accompanied by full and lush strings the graceful Brachiosaurs enter the arena measuring a staggering 13 metres in height and 23 metres in length. Again, the Allosaurus attacks but this time, during the Brachiosaur Battle, loses out to a larger and more intimidating adversary. The Brachiosaurs parade around the forest in a victory lap and are played out by a galaxy of stars in a Moonlit Jurassic, ultimately leaving us to take their place in time.
The second act starts in the Early Cretaceous, 127 million years ago marked by an ever changing planet represented here by a Pangaea Storm. We are greeted by a soaring, winged pterosaur, this Ornithicheirus Flight occurs over stormy seas as it looks for food and tries to find landfall. Unfortunately, the only land that he finds is populated by a pack of Raptors, which promptly force him off. The group squabbles over a carcass before an unseen member calls them from offstage. We learn that with their superior intelligence, agility and ability to communicate these are indeed daunting predators. They stealthily set off on a Raptor hunt.
Once again, Pangaea shifts and we move through time to the Mid-Cretaceous. Here there are many species of broad leaf trees, exotic Flowers And Insects as well as the awesome and gladiatorial Duelling Torosuars. Two horned males come on accompanied by brassy trombones and ferocious percussion. After a grand mating display and tense standoff, they engage in a “duel” which incorporates fast, rhythmic tribal drums and metal beating out their struggle for dominance.
Time has again passed and we are now in a Fading Paradise, a more sulphurous world heralding a decline in some species. However, life continues and an old and peculiar looking Ankylosaurus shuffles on stage. This dinosaur was so heavily armoured that its skull was reinforced to the extent that there was only room for the smallest of brains. A high solo bassoon matched with curious orchestrations attempt to evoke this strange beast. The Ankylosaurus accidentally strays into the path of a Gawky Bird – in actual fact a baby Tyrannosaurus and a melee follows. Just when the young and inexperienced creature is in trouble a large and imposing female Tyrannosaurus Rex appears in defence of her young. She attacks through sharp and savage, dissonant orchestra and drives off the armoured veteran before nursing her child in a tender moment.
It is the Last Night On Earth and the two Tyrannosaurs are unaware that in the peaceful night sky a mighty comet is hurtling towards them. Impacting in the Gulf of Mexico the comet was 10 kilometres wide and would have caused severe acid rain and global wildfires as well as blocking out the sun for a prolonged period. However, out of this devastation and the extinction of many of these successful species new life emerged and, just as new forests had risen from ashes previously, so new species continued to evolve on a global scale. The piece therefore concludes positively and with hope for the future that followed and for the future that will follow us.Music