James Horner – Avatar Soundtrack

James Horner – Avatar Soundtrack - 4/5

I’m going to start this review by saying that I am not really a fan of soundtracks. Of all the ones I’ve listened to over the years I have only ever purchased two with Gladiator being the first and, with a recent visit to Amazon, Avatar being the second. The first goal of soundtracks is to create a soundscape. No, soundscape is not a real word but it fits perfectly what I am trying to describe which is a view of the landscape or circumstances surrounding the major themes of the movie, only these visual representations are conveyed through sound. Generally memory recognition will automatically cause a listener to think of the movie due to a certain sound or melody that catches our ears and reminds us of sitting in front of a big screen. If a soundtrack completes this goal then it has done its job.

What separates the Avatar Soundtrack from any other such composition is that, just as the movie did visually, it instills into the mind a feeling of awe and wonder and makes the listener feel as though they are beholding something bigger than life itself and yet your imagination creates this feeling for you. It’s not necessarily memories of the movie that will move you, though it can be if you want it to, its your own imagination. The freedom this soundtrack give to just let one’s mind wander to fantastic places is amazing and speaks volumes to Horner’s skill.

While the instrumentation is rather unoriginal and has been done many times before, classical with various native elements thrown in the mix, Horner takes a rather bland formula and creates an ambient masterpiece. The depth that goes into each song and the smooth transitions between movements in the pieces is majestic, and when a melody is brought into the forefront of the brilliantly done music bed it is always catchy and memorable and always manages to grab the listeners attention and yet not detract from the tranquil movements underneath it. “Jake’s First Flight” is literally the closest music has ever come to making me feel as though I am actually flying and that’s really saying something when you’re competing with “Learning to Fly” and other classics.

When listening to this album I literally felt as if I was suddenly taken from this planet to some Pandoraesqe world and am beholding the majesty of such a planet for 48 jaw-gaping minutes of awe at the wondrous soundscape before me. Then, the final four tracks come up and invoke strong emotional pulls of sadness and need for action which I attribute partially to my memory picking up on the low, almost heartbeat like, melody that seems to be beating its last breaths as it approaches the end, partially to the fact that “War” literally makes me want to get up and just do something/anything (hopefully productive) while I listen to it, and partially to the fact that the music is just positively brilliantly composed.

Overall I firmly believe that Avatar will, if it has not already, eclipse my previous favorite soundtrack and take that top spot on my list very soon. I also firmly believe (though I can’t speak from experience) that even individuals who have yet to behold the rather unoriginally written but visual masterpiece that Avatar is will enjoy this album. Though I would probably bet that you would enjoy it more if you have seen it.

Highlights: Jake Enters His Avatar World, Pure Spirits of the Forest, The Bioluminescence of the Night, Jake's First Flight


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