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A requiem "for those who didn't come back..."
on June 13, 2004
One of the truly outstanding scores composed for a television series was the late Michael Kamen's music for the HBO miniseries "Band of Brothers," a 10-part adaptation of the late Stephen E. Ambrose's non-fiction book about E Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. Executive produced by Ambrose, Tom Hanks, and Steven Spielberg, this monumental miniseries follows an elite light infantry unit from its training stages at Camp Toccoa, GA to the 11-month campaign in Northwest Europe, starting from the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944 to the surrender of Germany and E Company's capture of Hitler's private "Eagle's Nest" in Bavaria.
When I finally saw the first episodes of "Band of Brothers" on the History Channel a few weeks ago and heard the strains of the "Main Theme" (Track 1), the credits had not finished rolling, and because the style was similar to John Williams' music for Saving Private Ryan, I said to myself, "Oh, what a beautiful Williams contribution!" Instead of being an overtly "warrior music" theme with heavy use of brass and snare drums (think of almost every pre-1970s war movie or TV-show military show, or even today's "Theme from JAG"), the Main Theme features a more melancholic approach, featuring a full orchestra (London Metropolitan Orchestra) and voices, very much in the same vein as "Hymn For the Fallen" from Saving Private Ryan. Pure Williams, I thought, and certainly not without precedent; the composer has long teamed with Spielberg, working with the director/producer in all but one of his major movies. Williams has also written quite a few TV themes, including Land of the Giants, Amazing Stories, and the NBC Nightly News theme "The Mission."
Imagine my astonishment when I saw the credit "Music by Michael Kamen."
Well, maybe I shouldn't have been so surprised, because before his recent death, Michael Kamen was one of the most sought-after composers in Hollywood, having written scores for such for such films as Creepshow, Die Hard, Die Hard 2, and Die Hard with a Vengeance. He is able to convey the emotional context of diverse films by melding all sorts of musical references and styles (note how he works Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and bits of "Singin' in the Rain" into the score of Die Hard, for instance).
The album, obviously, is not a comprehensive recording with the complete score for a 10-hour miniseries. Rather it is a nicely conceived 20-track sampler with music from each episode (conveniently, each track is labeled with the cue name and episode title.)
Key tracks include:
1. Main Theme
2. Band of Brothers Suite One
3. Band of Brothers Suite Two
4. Part One -- CURAHEE: "The Mission Begins"
10. Part Four -- REPLACEMENTS: "Bull's Theme"
12: Part Six -- BASTOGNE: "Headscarf"
16. Part Nine -- WHY WE FIGHT: "String Quartet in C-Sharp Minor" (Op. 131) by L.v. Beethoven
20. Part Ten: POINTS: "Band of Brothers Requiem"
Kamen, who dedicated his score to his father's twin brother, Captain Paul Kamen (who was killed in Germany three days before the end of the European campaign), composed the music for "Band of Brothers" as a requiem, so even though there are hints of militaristic music, it's all infused with solemnity and sadness, reflecting the proud achievements of E Company's surviving members while remembering the ones the veterans consider to be the real heroes, "those who did not come back."