Quand Les Égyptiens Naviguaient Sur La Mer Rouge (When The Egyptians Sailed On The Red Sea) is a French TV documentary from 2009 that follows American archaeologist Cheryl Ward as she builds a replica Egyptian ship (from around 1500BC) and attempts to retrace the voyage of a fleet of five ships to the mysterious land of Punt, thus proving that the Egyptians were a seafaring people. Directed and co-written by Stéphane Bégoin, the documentary, in typical Discovery Channel style, is a mix of following present-day archaeologists as they build a picture of events during the reign of Queen Hatshepsut (whose time as Pharaoh encouraged the establishment of trade relations) and of dramatic reconstructions of the period. Scoring the documentary is French-born composer Bernard Becker (El Guerrero Sin Nombre) who provides an interesting and effective score that is made up of two different aspects.
Becker seems to have decided to split the score into two different “sounds”. One half the score has a particularly ethnic feel to it. Through the use of specific instruments (ethnic woodwinds, percussion) and musical style (melodies and rhythms), the composer effectively conjures up a sense of place both in terms of location as well as time. The opening track “Le Mystérieux Pays de Punt” highlights this, setting the scene for the documentary and the score with a breathy woodwind that plays out a seductive melody. The use of ethnic woodwinds and exotic rhythms is heard several times throughout the score (e.g., “A Bord du Navire” and “Les Portes du Temple”). A particularly effective use of the ethnic woodwind can be found in “La Reine Hatshepsout” and “Le Ciel d’Égypte”. Solo woodwind plays a reflective, almost sad melody that seems associated with the Pharaoh Queen herself. [Read more…]