MARO – Aram Mandossian

Original Review by Alan Rogers

In the world of independent film – and away from the spotlight (and control) of Hollywood – film-makers are able to experiment more easily. With Maro, a short fantasy film from 2008, director Michael P. Tedford tells the story using a minimum of dialogue (there are only 3 lines in the 38-minute film). As a consequence, music makes a more prominent contribution to the overall production. The film itself tells the story of the eponymous Maro (played by Sam Brittan) and his quest for love. I have not seen the film but it seems Maro must overcome both physical obstacles and inner personal struggles (don’t they always) in order to achieve his goal of true love.

Scoring the film is Aram Mandossian, a composer who has scored dozens of scores for both film (features as well as shorts) and television. Although this is an independent film, Mandossian is able to use a large orchestra and gives the movie a very full-sounding, very thematic and melodious score that is full of emotion. As is the composer’s want in his compositions, he also includes influences from his Middle Eastern roots as well as Renaissance instruments that add colour to the already rich orchestral sound. Although the score is memorable in terms of there being recognisable themes (e.g., “Main Title”), what lingers in the memory most is the siren-like vocals of soprano Carin Gilfry. First heard in the “Main Title”, her mesmerising voice wafts in and out of tracks such as “The Locket” and “Angels and Demons” as if the listener is in some sort of dream-like state. It is not until the cue “Underwater” is it that we hear a full statement of the vocals, accompanied by an emotional solo violin. This cue is a highlight of the score. 

Maro is definitely a score for a fantasy film (Dario Marianelli’s The Brothers Grimm comes to mind). The seductive tempo and slinky woodwinds together with a slight Middle Eastern flavour as heard in “Forest Dance” and the recurring floating woodwinds and delicate harp of cues such as “Order of The Black Masks”, all build this fantastical soundscape within which the composer sets out the various themes. But as with any fantasy there needs to be a dark side. Although the already-mentioned “The Locket” features the strong vocals of Gilfry, strings and horns intone an ominous feel to the cue. In addition, percussion effects, tribal rhythms and sickening string crescendos (“The Evil In The Forest” and “Backstage At The Carnival”) as well as what sounds like quiet wailing vocals (“The Showdown”) all give a dark edge to the score.

A couple of other tracks worthy of mention are “Silent Movie (Piano Reprise)” and “The Wizard”. Both sound quite unlike most of the rest of the score and add variety. The former track features the main theme being played in a style reminiscent of piano performances that accompanied silent film (and the recording is modified to reinforce this quality) and the latter cue, though short, lingers in the memory because of its use of Renaissance instruments and the use of Middle Eastern influences.

Aram Mandossian’s award-winning score to Maro is an orchestral score that could quite easily be mistaken as a score from a much larger film. Romantic, mysterious, dark, it achieves its goal as being a fantasy score for a fantasy film. Carin Gilfry’s vocals are of siren quality and any track featuring her voice is a score highlight. It’s a score that I heartily recommend and it can be purchased as a digital download at a limited number of online retailers such as iTunes and CDBaby, with the latter outlet also offering the score in CD format.

Audio samples can be found HERE and then click on arrow next to running time for samples of entire album or individual tracks.

Rating: ***

  1. Main Title (1:16)
  2. Forest Dance (2:20)
  3. Serenity and Surrender (3:29)
  4. The Locket (0:55)
  5. Maro’s Parade (1:58)
  6. Order of The Black Masks (2:20)
  7. Angels and Demons (3:19)
  8. The Evil In The Forest (1:19)
  9. The Girl From My Dreams (2:40)
  10. Silent Movie (Piano Reprise) (1:46)
  11. Underwater (1:38)
  12. Backstage At The Carnival (2:40)
  13. The Wizard (0:34)
  14. The Showdown (3:45)
  15. A New Beginning (0:51)

Running Time: 30:28

Aram Mandossian (2008)

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