REFRACTED GLORY – Bradley Jamrozik & Gabriel Hudelson

Original Review by Alan RogersRefracted Glory

Hummingbirds are amongst the smallest birds in the world and are an ornithological wonder. When hovering in mid-air their wings are beating at typical rates of 50 times per second and one cannot fail to be amazed at seeing how expertly they can control their manoeuvrability, being able to fly backwards as well as upside down. Refracted Glory is a feature-length documentary examining a variety of different aspects of these birds including their biology and the physics of hovered flight. Interviewing a number of scientists, pilots and engineers the documentary’s host, David Rives, examines hummingbirds as being an important example of “intelligent design” rather than evolution. Young composers Bradley Jamrozik and Gabriel Hudelson take on the task of conveying Refracted Glory’s celebration of these small birds.

Dividing the scoring duties roughly 50:50, Jamrozik and Hudelson have created a series of cues that re-inforce the wonder of hummingbirds. Upbeat rhythms and soaring passages reflect the dynamism of hummingbirds, with Hudelson in particular using high-register woodwinds as an additional musical tool to hint at both the bird and their flitting nature (e.g., “Kachinas”, “Torpor”). Jamrozik’s cues, on the other hand, appear to have been written for the more “scientific” aspects of the film: cues such as “Flight” and “Science of Breathing” offer interesting musical backdrops with strings, strong brass and the occasional wispy wordless vocals adding a level of ethereal wonder. “Defying Physics” and “Refracting” are excellent examples of how strong the score is at providing an interesting palette of musical ideas in support of the visuals. The remainder of the score follows in the same style, constantly reinforcing the beauty and wonder of the featured birds. The eight-minute “Life, Death, and Back Again” is a highlight example of the score as a whole. Only occasionally does the film’s music veer away from the sense of wonder. Short tracks such as “Evolution’s Great Trick” and “Fossils” offer a slightly darker and menacing feel (via slower tempo and low-register strings) and are perhaps reflective of the film’s perspective in support of creationism rather than natural selection as a mechanism for the bird’s development. The album is rounded out with several “bonus tracks” featuring music that was presumably not used in the final film. These tracks don’t really add much more to the listening experience except to extend the album by five minutes.

Refracted Glory‘s score is entirely derived from samples and, on the whole, it sounds quite good. Only occasionally is the lack of live musical instruments detrimental to the listening experience: I found that some of the woodwinds samples sounded a bit artificial. The composers seem to appreciate the limitations of their samples: for example, Hudelson was disappointed in the quality of his solo violin samples for “Why Does It Have To Be So Beautiful?” and so he brought in violinist Matthew Duran to play on this cue to get the level of quality he needed.

Bradley Jamrozik and Gabriel Hudelson’s score for Refracted Glory is an enjoyable listen that manages to convey the flitting and dynamic nature of hummingbirds. The music is also able to hint at the sense of wonder many people feel for these little birds. By the end though, I found myself tiring of the reliance of Hudelson on the woodwind motifs he uses and consequently found Jamrozik’s 30-minute contributions to the score more satisfying. Although the album could have done with a bit of trimming in terms of overall length, Refracted Glory contains many worthwhile tracks guaranteeing that it will feature in my documentary score playlists of the future. The soundtrack for Refracted Glory is available as a digital download from the usual online stores and can also be purchased as a CD directly from the film’s producers HERE. Audio clips can be heard HERE.

Rating: **½

  1. Refracted Glory (1:27)
  2. Kachinas (1:44)
  3. Torpor (3:22)
  4. M.A.V. (3:11)
  5. Flight (3:22)
  6. Defying Physics (5:02)
  7. Two Miles High (1:02)
  8. Proving Science Wrong (1:31)
  9. Energy (2:16)
  10. Science of Breathing (3:28)
  11. A Beautiful Mind (1:42)
  12. Beyond Our Sight (1:02)
  13. The Great Artist (2:18)
  14. Refracting (4:04)
  15. Evolution’s Great Trick (0:25)
  16. Kinds (1:55)
  17. Fossils (1:06)
  18. Where Have We Come? (2:14)
  19. Genetic Bottleneck (1:23)
  20. Symbiosis (1:24)
  21. Nectar (1:43)
  22. Symmetry (1:45)
  23. Why Does It Have To Be So Beautiful? (2:44)
  24. Life, Death, and Back Again (8:18)
  25. Credits (3:25)
  26. Into The Sky (Bonus Track) (1:00)
  27. Impossible (Bonus Track) (0:33)
  28. Now Or Never (Bonus Track) (0:59)
  29. Marvels (Bonus Track) (2:06)
  • 1-3, 15-24, 26, 28-29: composed by Gabriel Hudelson
  • 4-14, 27: composed by Bradley Jamrozik
  • 25: composed by Gabriel Hudelson & Bradley Jamrozik

Running Time: 66:44

Border Watch Films (2014)

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