Saturday, 10 December 2016

To boldly go: part 3

Title: A come Andromeda
Year: 1971
Composer: Mario Migliardi

A come Andromeda tells a story about creating artificial life and it’s considered to be the first sci-fi TV series produced for Italian TV. It’s based on the British TV series from the 60s also called A for Andromeda. The Italian version includes a varied score by Mario Migliardi who isn’t that well-known film composer and quite unknown to me as well. This score is the only one I own from him and I haven’t listened to it for a while so it’s nice to hear how this very lengthy album holds up.

The album begins with the main title track that features the eerie voice of Edda dell’Orso accompanied by both electronic and acoustic guitars, pop comp and other choir members of I cantori moderni. The melody draws inspiration from Baroque progressions and strangely also from Spaghetti Western melodies and it perfectly accompanies that feeling fit for mad scientists and sterile research facilities. The chamber-sized ensemble allows all the delicate instrumental choices to shine through. Unfortunately the melody isn’t featured during the rest of the score. There’s a single version in track 23 which sounds very fresh after the preceding dissonance even though I really can’t hear any differences to the first version.

The album is roughly divided into two parts. The first one is the dissonant music perfectly describing all the scientific experiments going on. The music seems to blend both electronic and acoustic instruments into a mixture of ever-changing and surprising, musique concrète inspired moments of pure oddness or terror. Both the first two sequences titled A come Andromeda are perfect examples of this. The first one concentrates more on the weird instrumentation that sounds even comical with its use of the xylophone. The second one has earth-shattering, massive orchestral crescendos that certainly make the hairs on your back stand up. Seq. 4 includes strange electronic effects that are contrasted to a delicate harp performance for some reason. Seq.5 on the other hand begins with a massive church organ playing dissonant chords before turning back to tinkling electronics. Seq. 6 first sounds like it would turn into a brass band piece but it takes a 180 turn back to the most abrasive dissonance heard thus far.

However the effects intensify as we go further down the line: Seq. 7, Seq. 9 and Seq. 10 consist only of sound effects produced with pianos, electronics and occasional choral textures. Seq. 11 offers completely terrifying and otherworldly choral voices along with strange acoustic noises probably produced by piano strings. There’s also an atonal flute solo in Seq. 12 that could sound rather charming in a different setting but now it’s only accompanied by cold and sterile electronic textures. Atonal string writing of Seq. 14 and electronically manipulated choral voices of Seq. 15 move away from the constraints of traditional film scoring but are unfortunately too difficult to enjoy on their own. The last 2 tracks before the single versions quiet down to the bare minimum of tinkling electronics before the Ligeti like choir appears for the final sendoff.

The second part of the album consists of lounge music inspired cues though many of them offer some weirdness too. The first one is Seq. 3 which has bossa rhythms and a jazzy flute solo, but the accompanying strings just sound like they’re playing the wrong notes. The mixture is just so weird but intriguing at the same time that it makes me smile. La spiaggia di Durness is a moment of that romantic 70s fluffy string work with flute and harp flourishes among classical piano solos. It’s easily the most ‘normal’ sounding cue on the album but it suffers from not having a clear, hummable melody. At the end of ‘versione TV’ it turns into a fast jazz waltz for a moment that soon returns to the fluff that came before. It’s reprised in track 20 with a more atonal string intro. It also ends the whole album with its single version which is basically an extended treatment of the jazz waltz.

Another long track Seq. 8 opens with dissonant creeping around in empty hangars and corridors with ghostly choral voices and woodblocks which eventually turn into a laid-back party cue complete with groovy electric guitars and buzzing keyboard solos. The choir returns at the end of the cue with a strange juxtaposition of them singing in the distance, away from the band. There’s also another 70s party cue Seq. 13 that includes more keyboard solos but ends with strange metallic twanging sounds. There’s almost a sacred acapella choral piece in Seq. 16 that is like music of some alien civilization.

I can imagine that creating music this varied and unique must have been a fun task to do and in some of the tracks you can even sense the enthusiasm. The problem is that though I like challenging music, even I find some of the techniques used in this score too obnoxious and difficult. The length of the album doesn’t help either, there’s way too much of droning dissonance that really doesn’t develop into anything. Though the score is at times frustrating, I have to give credit for the unique soundscape Migliardi tried to create here even though he perhaps went too far in a few places.

Rating: ***

1. Tema di Andromeda (Titoli) (03:39) *****
2. A come Andromeda (02:48) ****
3. A come Andromeda (Seq. 2) (02:54) *****
4. A come Andromeda (Seq. 3) (01:24) *****
5. A come Andromeda (Seq. 4) (01:34) ****
6. A come Andromeda (Seq. 5) (02:05) ***
7. A come Andromeda (Seq. 6) (03:03) *
8. La spiaggia di Durness (versione TV) (05:59) ****
9. A come Andromeda (Seq. 7) (02:03) *
10. A come Andromeda (Seq. 8) (08:00) ****
11. A come Andromeda (Seq. 9) (01:07) **
12. A come Andromeda (Seq. 10) (01:28) *
13. A come Andromeda (Seq. 11) (03:28) ****
14. A come Andromeda (Seq. 12) (02:23) ****
15. A come Andromeda (Seq. 13) (03:28) ***
16. A come Andromeda (Seq. 14) (04:43) **
17. A come Andromeda (Seq. 15) (04:24) **
18. A come Andromeda (Seq. 16) (01:13) ****
19. A come Andromeda (Seq. 17) (01:36) **
20. La spiaggia di Durness (versione TV #2) (01:57) ****
21. A come Andromeda (Seq. 18) (03:04) **
22. A come Andromeda (Seq. 19) (03:06) ***
23. Tema di Andromeda (Mix Singolo Lato A) (03:39) *****
24. La spiaggia di Durness (Mix Singolo Lato B) (02:59) ****

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