CAIRO TIME – Niall Byrne

Original Review by Alan Rogers (First uploaded at

When talking about film music releases being available as digital downloads the discussions invariably centre around the sound quality of the music and very rarely is there a discussion on the merit of digital downloads as an avenue for hearing music that would not be released in a CD-only environment. Irish composer Niall Byrne’s excellent music to the romantic drama from Canadian director Ruba Nadda, Cairo Time, is a prime example of a score of quality and beauty that is available for all to hear because of the digital media release route.

In Cairo Time, Juliette (Patricia Clarkson) – alone in Cairo – waits for her U.N. employee husband who has been delayed in Gaza. Her husband’s friend Tareq (Alexander Siddig) escorts her around the city and slowly they find themselves in the midst of a brief affair. The film centres around the character of Juliette and this is reflected in Byrne’s short, 25-minute score. The music is firmly set (for the most part) in the Western idiom, featuring a strong presence of solo piano (perhaps played by the composer himself) with the support of a small string ensemble (possibly a quartet). Heard immediately in the first cue “Arrival”, the lyrical theme gets a full statement on piano and reminds me much of the work of Ludovico Einaudi. Throughout the subsequent cues we hear this theme being played with slight variations both in the piano lines as well as in the supporting strings. For example, fragments of the theme can be heard as part of a waltz in “Tareq Takes A Quiz”. We first hear any hint of place geographically in track 8, “Bus To Gaza” where what sounds like a zither-type instrument plays a hesitant secondary theme. This secondary theme and the ethnic influences are featured in several subsequent cues (“Stopped By Israelis”, “Mosque”, “Tareq and Juliette Drive”), sometimes being heard in conjunction with some threatening sustained synth underscore (e.g., “Stopped By Israelis”). 

Byrne’s lyrical theme on piano is certainly the principal character of this score and some listeners may find its frequent appearance tiring. But it is a theme of such simplicity and beauty that, for me, its constant presence is a pleasure. Available as a digital download from stores such as Amazon, eMusic and iTunes, Cairo Time certainly worth hunting out. And being a digital download you can choose to have the entire score or just 1-2 tracks that showcase the main theme if that’s what you wish.

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

Rating: ***½

  1. Arrival (1:21)
  2. A Partial View (1:45)
  3. Out of Her Depth (1:01)
  4. White Desert (3:22)
  5. Juliette Is Happy (2:28)
  6. Top of Felucca Ride (0:55)
  7. Orabi Square (1:31)
  8. Bus To Gaza (0:41)
  9. An Unspoken Moment (1:44)
  10. Stopped By Israelis (1:41)
  11. Tareq Takes A Quiz (0:43)
  12. Mosque (1:45)
  13. Pyramid Affair (2:15)
  14. Tareq and Juliette Drive (0:59)
  15. Cairo Time (1:23)

Running Time: 23:42

Virtual Screen (2010)

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