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Section Header
Snow White & the Huntsman
(2012)
Composed and Co-Produced by:
James Newton Howard

Co-Orchestrated and Conducted by:
Pete Anthony

Co-Orchestrated by:
Jeff Atmajian
Jon Kull
Marcus Trumpp
John Ashton Thomas

Co-Produced by:
Stuart Thomas
Jim Weidman

Label:
Universal Republic Records

Release Date:
May 29th, 2012

Also See:
Hunger Games
Lady in the Water
The Last Airbender
The Village
The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep
Mirror Mirror

Audio Clips:
2. I'll Take Your Throne (0:29):
WMA (193K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

10. Sanctuary (0:32):
WMA (213K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

15. Warriors on the Beach (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

18. Coronation (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

Availability:
Regular U.S. release.

Awards:
  None.









Snow White & the Huntsman
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Buy it... if the mere atmosphere of James Newton Howard's fantasy genre writing engrosses you with its lyricism and orchestral depth, in which case this score pushes the right basic buttons to entertain and occasionally enthrall.

Avoid it... if you expect to be overwhelmed with the same sense of magic that graces Lady in the Water and The Last Airbender, few passages in this work attempting to really address the concept of beauty without interruptions by challenging dissonance.



Howard
Snow White & the Huntsman: (James Newton Howard) After the embarrassingly laughable attempt by the 2012 film Mirror Mirror to shame the Brothers Grimm topic of "Snow White" with teenager-aimed devices, Universal's Snow White & the Huntsman a few months later in the same year takes a decidedly darker and more feminist approach to the story. While not met with universal praise from critics and audiences, the latter film at least takes a stab at the concept from a serious perspective despite an arguably overblown performance by Charlize Theron in the role of the evil Queen Ravenna. With pop culture stars playing both Snow White and the Huntsman, as well as stylish special effects for innumerous transfigurations, it's difficult not to get the impression that the film was still aimed at younger audiences. The tale remains familiar in its basics, the Queen taking control of the throne and aspiring through magic and killing to win every beauty contest in the land. When the rightful heiress, Snow White, becomes her next target, the younger woman flees to the forest and unites armies of men and dwarfs to defeat the Queen's magical fighters and overthrow the evil bitch. Romance, betrayal, and that damned apple all play their parts in this predictably contemporary vision of Show White in armor and on horseback. It's unfortunate that Theron's version of the Queen isn't forced to dance in iron shoes at Snow White's wedding until she dies (the common ending to the actual story); apparently such a spectacle of humiliation doesn't cut straight enough to the heart of matters for today's blood-thirsty society. First-time feature director Rupert Sanders and the largely British production was fortunate to land composer James Newton Howard for Snow White & the Huntsman. A veteran of the fantasy realm, Howard had provided some of the most satisfying music for the genre over the previous six years, including top notch entries for Lady in the Water and The Last Airbender. The low quality of these films does not deter the composer from pouring a tremendous amount of emotional weight into his assignments, and his collectors will likely be enthused by similar but diminished results for Snow White & the Huntsman.

If there is a formula for success that Howard adheres to in his non-science fiction-related fantasy efforts, it is followed closely in this work. There is never any doubt during the entire length of this score that it fits squarely in the composer's recognizable comfort zone. The instrumental balance in Snow White & the Huntsman is rather conservative outside of some nasty effects for the villains of the tale. Orchestral depth is aided by notable solo performances by cello and piano, chimes and harp lending familiar tones as well. The cello here is a specific, tragic reflection of elusive beauty and the nearly perverse allure of yesteryear. The choral element is adult, mixed, and deep as usual for Howard, though there are continuing concerns about how far back into the mix these contributions are pushed (at least for the album release). Don't expect the choir to be as dominant a force as in Howard's prior classics in the genre, its applications a bit generic during moments of grandeur and lacking the cooing beauty for as many of the softer sequences emulating Lady in the Water. The instrumental representations of evil in Snow White & the Huntsman aren't particularly refreshing, either, extremely deep trombone (and other brass) blasts heavily emphasizing the brutality of the Queen and her armies. The magic she exercises is matched with a few industrial grinding noises, the kind of grating, wailing sounds you might hear from massive, poorly lubricated machinery in a foundry or glass manufacturing plant. Such usage would be more interesting if its tones were perfectly synchronized with the pitch of the orchestral accompaniment, but the metallic accents are typically layered as simply tools of dissonant discontent. Howard unfortunately resorts to such difficult passages bordering on sound design more frequently in this score than in his other fable-oriented efforts. These portions often do sonic battle with Howard's themes for Snow White & the Huntsman, resulting in fewer lengthy tonal passages of ease. There's a pretty clear dichotomy in the thematic structures of this work, Howard not doing much to really intertwine or complicate the dueling identities for Snow White and Queen Ravenna. Both of these two major themes feature consistently stated secondary lines or assistance from other ideas that utilize similar instrumentation, but they aren't particularly difficult to grasp.

The villains' identities are led by the primary theme for the Queen, a repetitive and menacing four-note progression that suggests the character's endlessly ongoing struggle to retain her beauty through killing. Exploding with force on low brass in "I'll Take Your Throne," the theme boils on bass strings in "Something For What Ails You" and appropriately suggests trouble in "I Remember That Trick" before going through the motions in "Warriors on the Beach" and "You Can Not Defeat Me," the latter predictably defiant in the face of defeat. A pair of related, descending notes and the aforementioned synthetic grinding effects accompany the Queen's armies and other general magic. For the protagonists of Snow White & the Huntsman, Howard starts with a well developed theme for Show White and surrounds it with nebulous supporting ideas to accompany her relationships. Her theme is the score's main identity, heard immediately on lonely horn at the outset of "Snow White" and progressively building in stature until its almost saintly (to the point of corny) expression of grand scope to close out "Coronation." Faithful nurturing of the theme is a highlight of Snow White & the Huntsman, its primary phrase informing most of he score's major cues with wide emotional range. The theme's secondary phrase is perhaps more interesting, always left hanging at a high note (usually for violins) that shifts belatedly from the major to minor key. This downer of a transition is explicitly conquered at the culmination of the shift in momentum at the end of "Death Favors No Man" (complete with glorious choral majesty as well), though Howard does throw one last reminder of that minor shift into the middle of "Coronation." A number of flowing Howard expressions of optimistic beauty represent the "discovery and friendship" aspect of the story, the rambling piano and string chords of extremely tonal accessibility sounding like leftovers from Lady in the Water. While connected loosely by the same general two and three-note progressions, these passages are more commonly recognized by their lovely rhythmic flow and ability to bring a sense of relaxation to an otherwise grim score. Suggested in "Snow White," this material is featured beautifully in "Sanctuary," easily this work's singular tonal highlight, before the same instrumentation and rhythms flow into performances of the main theme in "White Hart." The middle portion of "Sanctuary" actually reminds of both James Horner and Jerry Goldsmith, the former's rolling piano figures and the latter's puffing flutes on beat creating a lighter fantasy environment.

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Unfortunately, Howard doesn't have a great number of opportunities to expand upon the softer material's sincere heart in Snow White & the Huntsman, and one of the overarching problems experienced with the score is the composer's inability to really play with the themes outside of their basically expected placements. As such, this score has all the makings of Horner's classic Willow but lacks anywhere near the same thematic satisfaction or spirited personality. Too much of this score meanders with slight filler material for it to compete with Howard's best, and the action material, while sufficiently entertaining in "Warriors on the Beach," is extremely generic in modern blockbuster methodology. Obnoxious is "White Horse," a seemingly simplistic intrusion of Hans Zimmer techniques (and even Mark Mancina's signature passing horn sound from Speed at 0:55 and beyond) in this context. When attempting to address tragedy in "Journey to Fenland" and "Fenland in Flames," Howard also underwhelms. The synthetic elements are adequately tingling but imposing at times, seemingly at direct odds with the purpose of the solo cello to denote fleeting beauty. As has been an issue with a few Howard scores recently, the choir is seemingly undermixed, at least on the album, greatly diminishing its impact during the chanting in "Escape From the Tower" and in the expression of purity at the end of "You Can't Have My Heart." The song at the conclusion of the film (by alternative British band Florence + The Machine) is, despite instrumental background contributions by Howard, a progressively irritating attempt to emulate the sound of The Pretenders for another age and is too disconnected from the score to really make much sense. Likewise unrealized potential exists in the "Gone" source-like vocal performance in the middle of the soundtrack. Overall, there is much to like about this work, but as with the inferior Hunger Games the same year, Howard doesn't pull it together into one gloriously transcendent package as he has done before. His devoted enthusiasts will likely disagree, but these two summer blockbuster scores from Howard in 2012 do not come close to reaching the heights achieved by Lady in the Water and The Last Airbender, and unlike The Village, The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep, and other very strong efforts from the veteran, this work doesn't even feature (outside of a minute in "Sanctuary") one of those fantastic interludes of irresistible beauty that alone floats the whole endeavor. Be prepared to hear technical precision in theme and instrumentation, as well as a solid soundscape for the topic, but temper your expectations otherwise. ***   Amazon.com Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For James Newton Howard reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.31 (in 54 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.26 (in 59,668 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.





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   Fantastic and underrated treasure from JNH
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 67:07


• 1. Snow White (3:24)
• 2. I'll Take Your Throne (3:00)
• 3. Tower Prayers (2:08)
• 4. Something For What Ails You (3:26)
• 5. Escape From the Tower (2:33)
• 6. You Failed Me, Finn (3:03)
• 7. White Horse (2:03)
• 8. Journey to Fenland (3:39)
• 9. Fenland in Flames (4:08)
• 10. Sanctuary (2:33)
• 11. White Hart (6:37)
• 12. Gone - performed by Ioanna Gika (3:10)
• 13. I Remember That Trick (5:35)
• 14. Death Favors No Man (6:13)
• 15. Warriors on the Beach (3:31)
• 16. You Can Not Defeat Me (2:35)
• 17. You Can't Have My Heart (1:57)
• 18. Coronation (2:06)
• 19. Breath of Life - performed by Florence + The Machine (4:11)




 Notes and Quotes:  


The insert includes a list of performers and a very general note from the director about Howard.





   
  All artwork and sound clips from Snow White & the Huntsman are Copyright © 2012, Universal Republic Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the filmtracks.com site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 6/3/12 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2012-2013, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.