Composer Christopher Young has been around just a few years now, I remember getting his soundtrack for HELLRAISER and thinking on hearing his macabre sounding waltz like opening for that movie. ” Now here is a talent and a name we will hear a lot more of”. DEF CON 4 followed and also his score for U BOATS then we were treated to a plethora of horror scores that although atonal in places remained attractive and became compulsive listening. It is probably true to say that Young has been involved on a number of lower budget movies during his career and has also worked on numerous made for TV movies but this has certainly not affected the quality of his music, the composer has always produced scores that have served the movies well and as a bonus have been real musical treats for us film music collectors. THE MONKEY KING is a Chinese movie that tells the tale of mystical characters from legends who first came to fruition during the period of the Ming dynasty in the 16th Century, being characters created for the novel JOURNEY TO THE WEST it is an important part of Chinese literature and can be likened to the tales of the Greek Gods and the likes of Jason and the Argonauts and The Minotaur etc filled with mystical and magical events. There have been many incarnations of THE MONKEY KING in film one in particular that I remember was aired on the BBC during the 1980,s and entitled simply MONKEY. This latest version of the story is a rather more lavish and colourful re telling of the tale and is said to be the first in a series of movies charting the adventures of THE MONKEY KING. The movie which is shot in 3D contains a really beautifully written soundtrack. Composer Christopher Young creating lilting and haunting Oriental flavoured themes which underline and punctuate the action wonderfully but also lend much emotion and fragility to the films storyline. Young has fashioned a work that is a combination of Chinese sounding musical passages and has fused these seamlessly with a more Western sound by utilising romantic strings and also introducing fierce brass at certain points within the score interweaving these with Eastern musical trademarks the end result is stunning and I think he has got the balance perfectly correct. The opening track for example YU HUANG DA DI THE JADE EMPORER is a dramatic and exhilarating piece with a backing rhythm that could be straight out of THE PLANETS suite (MARS THE BRINGER OF WAR) but is more contemporary having a modern sounding tempo or beat but it remains a driving and ominous foundation on which the composer begins to build his composition, powerful brass and percussion combine to create the said pulsating rhythmic backing as the composer introduces strings and choir, building the tension gradually and layering the cue with a sound that is filled with urgency, gusto and anticipation.
The cue then steps up the tempo and Young lifts the whole persona of the composition with one of the core themes from his score bringing into the proceedings flyaway sounding woods even more urgent strings foreboding choral support and the ever present brass flourishes and stabs. This is an imposing and powerful opening to the compact disc and establishes the fact that this is a work of quality, it also sets the scene perfectly for much of what follows the composer being unrelenting in providing infectious themes and dramatic passages that are accompanied and punctuated by glimpses of emotive and romantic nuances which evoke his past works such as HAUNTED SUMMER and more recently CREATION. Of course being a tale from Chinese mythology the composer also employs a number of ethnic instruments throughout the score that give weight and credence to the work. The composer also has written sections where soloists take the floor and these sections not only include traditional Chinese instruments but also electric guitars and violin, harp etc. This is a score that will enrich any film music collection and even if you are not a fan of Christopher Young or maybe are unfamiliar with his music I am confident you will be impressed by this addition to his canon and also will want to seek out other works from his pen. Young I think you will agree was probably an unlikely choice as composer for this project and how he actually became involved is unclear. However I am pleased that he was chosen to work on the movie as he has produced one of his most accomplished scores which is quite something as he has as most of us are aware one of the most impressive lists of credits to his name. It is a score that is filled with emotion and jam packed with expressive and haunting themes and one that I know once listened to will not easily be forgotten and will be returned to again and again.