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Hawk soundtrack review


Welsh fantasy short has a soundtrack worthy of tall praise...

A boy embarks on a hero's journey in 'Hawk'

If you haven’t heard of Hawk, you shouldn’t feel bad. Googling it doesn’t bring much up about the project, or its director, MJ McMahon. It is a 38-minute fantasy epic loosely based on Welsh folklore and tells the tale of a boy named Rowen, who is taken away from the civilized world, where his lessons in the wild begin. Yet when he shatters the balance of nature, Rowan discovers another world beneath our own. In that shadowy land of old gods and wild hunts, the divide between man and beast becomes uncertain and the fairy tales of childhood spring to life. With only the guidance of a hunting hawk, Rowan must make amends for his crime, and choose between what is real, and what is not.

The task of scoring this film fell to Stuart Hancock, an award-winning composer who has worked in film, television, commercials, theatre and written concert music. Stuart's soundtracks to three recent feature films - Underground, Bodyguard: A New Beginning, and One Night In Turin - have been recently released on CD and to download.

According to Hancock, “The style of the score – dramatic, dark, epic – suited the look and story of the film.”  He achieves just that with this score, which is at once gripping and beautiful, even haunting in places. It is the sort of score that would fit well with a space opera like Star Wars, in a sword-and-sandals epic, in a fantasy world fitting of Tolkien, or even in a horror movie. Warm, rich undertones of strings and low brass lay the foundation for a tale of mystery and of possible menace, while intricate vocal lines convey different emotions throughout the score. Violins and woodwinds weave their magic to illustrate a land that is awe inspiring and frightening. For the task of creating such a soundscape, Hancock enlisted the services of the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra, the Welsh choir Serendipity (winners of the 2005 Côr Cymru), and former harpist to the Prince of Wales, Catrin Finch.

“Live human voices can deliver raw emotion and drama, as well as scale to a soundtrack, like nothing else can,” described Hancock. “The lyrics are taken from Taliesin, a 6th century Welsh poet and bard, and are sung here in the original medieval Welsh language in which they were written.”

Right out of the gate, the album starts off with “Flight of the Hawk”, which gives the impression of soaring over the vast stretches of wilderness, and hints at the strength of the bird. “Yn annwfyn y diwyth (The Peace of the Underworld)” is a tranquil piece, save for moments of uncertainty produced by trilling strings. The harp work in it paints a picture of a strange new realm of immeasurable beauty, but of uncertain destiny. “The Burial” is a requiem, really, starting off light but soon taken into darker territory with impending drums. The track finishes with a lovely choral section that grabs you. “Wrth War Wrth Wrys (The Savage Dawn)” has a war-like feel to it, of battle and blood. “Revelations” has the sound of wonderment, and discovery, with angelic chorus and an enlightening, moving string section. “The Rising Soul (End Credits)” is triumphant brass and chorus, sounding of battles won and tests proven, of courage in dark times. The works here are intricate, each note specifically placed, each voice put in its intended spot. Hancock has achieved quite an accomplishment here, and it’s a wondrous thing to behold.

The bonus track is the poem “The Legend of Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed”, read by Christopher Lee. It is the tale of a young hunter who chases after a stag, only to have his prize taken from him. I can’t say for sure that this poem is one that the film’s story is based on, but the poem is a beautiful addition, and Lee’s voice is always pleasant.

I had every expectation met with this soundtrack, and more. It is a delight to listen to, even with repeat listening. I may not understand the Welsh language (which is okay, because I’m not sure the Welsh do either), but the songs here are amazing. Rush out and pick this one up if you love this genre.

Hawk – Original Soundtrack from Moviescore Media is now available digitally and in stores.

5 stars

See also:

The lost film that accompanied The Empire Strikes Back

Top 20 movie and TV voices of all time

Nine Non-Mainstream Movies Worth Seeing This Summer

5 movies that deserve a second look

Francis Lai: The Essential Film Music Collection review


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