As you know here at MMI we do review soundtrack releases, I wanted to bring to the attention of readers of this blog/website a compact disc that was released non commercially back in 2001 its not a film soundtrack but music from a ballet. RIBBONS was premiered back in May 2001 at the Brighton Festival and as that festival is just about to begin again I thought this would be the perfect time to remind people who have heard the music about it and also alert others who had not heard it about the score. The music is by Brighton composer Howard Watts, I did review the CD a while ago for another website/magazine but it is now no longer in circulation and I cannot find it online or in print. So I just thought to do it again to re-visit it as it were and I am so glad I did. I had forgotten just how good this is, it is a varied and very melodic sounding work, relying upon piano which give the score its foundation, the instruments are not actually instruments but are realised upon the Roland JV-2080 and other just technical set ups(sorry not that PC savvy). Anyway let us just say that for the majority of the score it actually sounds as if it is orchestral or conventional instruments that are performing, yes there are sections or certain phrases when one can pick out that it is synthetic, but in my mind this does not matter because the melodies which flow are wonderfully romantic and engrossing. The score contains many delicate and fragile sounding pieces which when listening to will just wash over the listener putting them at ease and giving them a sense of calmness and tranquillity. The composer has created a work that is in a word impressive and if I add another word to the description it would be outstanding. I for one cannot understand why Watts has not become more well known, surely he is still composing he was only young when he composed this and another theatre score entitled DRIVEN DESIRE (2002). There is a childlike and simple atmosphere to the work and dare I say a touch or hint of the style of James Horner is present or even Desplat in certain tracks. There is also present a darker side to the score, which I think begins to raise its head in track number 8 ENSEMBLE/JET STEALS THE RIBBONS which is a near 7 minute piece, that includes a clock ticking effect in the background, piano, synth strings and pizzicato effect are underlined by percussive sounds, all of which are fused together in this composition that is continuously building but never reaches what I call a real crescendo, nevertheless the end result is a piece filled with tension but at the same time it retains a wistful melodious content.
Track number 9 PEARL URGES HER FRIENDS TO DANCE is to a compelling and enjoyable listen, in the notes for the CD the composer apologises for borrowing off of Rachmaninoff, but if it works I am sure he wont mind. There is a sound to this score that is so familiar, it has a Barry-esque style and also gives a gentle nod to Horner and the classics, but at the same time it is filled with a freshness and originality which is stunningly beautiful and haunting. This Barry-esque sound is heard within track number 11 THE GREEN KINGDOM, where Pearl the heroine for want of a better description finds her way into a lush and green forest, she dances whilst discovering the joys of nature in the form of butterflies, wild flowers and bubbling waters. The piece is a light and airy cue performed by solo guitar and glockenspiel with flute, strings and pizzicato lending support. Watts evokes more John Barry sounds in track number 15, ASH AND JET’S LAIR, combining dark and sombre sounding brass with voices and percussion which are in turn supported by strings and timpani, Watts approach and ultimate style has to it a sound that is not dissimilar to composer Bruce Rowland when he is emotive mode, think of PHAR LAP for example. I cannot recommend this score enough, and I know it is probably pointless reviewing it as it is I think long deleted or out of print, if a private pressing can be deleted that is. Re-visiting this score after around 15 years is like taking a breath of fresh sea air as it blows away the cobwebs and makes you want to listen to it over again. Wonderfully melodic in fact a tone poem filled with fragility, emotion, drama, atmospherics and a depth that is surprisingly overflowing with romanticism from start to finish, Howard Watts where are you?