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Soundtrack Review of “Life of Pi” by Mychael Danna

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When I started to see footage from the film; I was blown away by the richness of the visuals. From the colours, to the wonderful looking Visual Effects; I was expecting equally rich and colourful music. I have only heard a small amount of Mychael Danna’s previous music, and I wasn’t blown away by anything particular, though I did find it interesting. So when I heard he was scoring Life of Pi, I wasn’t sure what the result would be. I was hoping for a score that would bring him onto the map. He is known of course, but not a worldwide name, and if asked what your favourite score of his was, I doubt an answer could be found, until now…


You can listen to Mychael Danna’s entire soundtrack legally on Spotify below and might buy the Life of Pi OST on Itunes and Amazon.

Well, isn’t this cultural…

The first thing I noticed when listening to the score, was how cultured it was. He had found such a brilliant balance between honouring the French-Indian nature of the characters, and the spiritual nature of the setting. Immediately from the very first piece, ‘Pi’s Lullaby,’ which is a heavenly song; French instrumentation is mixed with distinctive Indian sounds, that makes for a fresh and beautifully new feel; one that you don’t get too often these days, especially considering the sheer amount of film music around. The beginning of the film is set on land, with the main character of Pi, shown living his life with his family and their animals, and it explores his interest in religion. The music reflects that, having a religious and innocent feeling; one of family, friends and spiritual growth. The piece ‘Meeting Krishna,’ and the following few pieces all have a hugely religious tone, as he explores his faith.

Feeling that emotion…

As the score goes on, it tips more towards the devastation that Pi is going through, the emotion of the situation, and the consequences of those events. Here then comes my favourite piece of the score, ‘Tsimtsum.‘ It is one of my favourite pieces of the year because it speaks so much in such a simple and meaningful melody. The choir really brings out the importance of this piece, making you want to cry with it’s grandeur. As the score goes on, it keeps the emotional struggle, but an unnerving and fearful tone comes in, whether from the deeper voices of the choir, and the stirring single vocal artist that appears, the feeling is not one of pure relaxation, but of the unknown. Exotic instrumentation then adds to the uneasy nature of the music, making you not know whether to enjoy yourself, or to brace yourself. This is most common in pieces like ‘First Night, First Day.’

Let’s get playful…

As Pi becomes used to his surrounding, as you as a listener do also; Danna makes his music more playful and childlike, and uses some upbeat percussive sounds to relax us again. As the woodwind returns, you start to smile once more, and revel in the lightness of the experience. ‘Set Your House in Order,’ is the first of the energetic and innocent pieces, as we venture into a more cheery part of the score.

The adventure continues…

To keep us interested; Danna mixes things up again, bringing back Pi’s theme in new ways, and adding completely new instruments that have yet to be heard in this score. He sends us to another world yet again in pieces like ‘Flying Fish,’ and ‘Tiger Training.’  But just as we start to have fun with the sensation of safety, that we have been lured into, he throws us right back into the deep-end with highly charged dramatic scoring of pieces like ‘God Storm,’ that remind us that this may not end well.

Things get serious again…

As we come to terms with what might happen to us during this score, the mood changes once more. We are sent back into an angelic state of relaxation of emotion as it comes to an end. The final few pieces, ‘Back to the World,’ and ‘The Second Story,’ are so peaceful and thought-provoking that you can listen to them for hours. They are reflective pieces, ones that will show you who you are when you lose yourself in them. As the final piece, perfectly named, ‘Which Story Do You Prefer?,‘ makes you smile for the last time as the choir returns to send the story to its close.

If I had to sum it up…

The main strength of Danna’s work is that every single piece is interesting. It is one of those scores that can be listened to completely all the way through from start to end without stopping. It all blends so brilliantly that you may think you are on a spiritual life-journey, one of finding your true worth. It tells an effortless musical story, and this is one story you will want to revisit again and again.

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Film and Television Score enthusiast. Podcast Host at Bombad Radio. World traveller.

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