Birdsong

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about it, but long-term readers (both of you) will recall that I’m a fan of music from movie soundtracks and video games. And there’s one particular soundtrack that I wanted to bring to your attention.

There’s a documentary from 2001 that you probably haven’t heard of called Le Peuple Migrateur or Winged Migration. It’s basically a film that follows a bunch of different birds on their incredible migratory journeys. It was filmed mostly with birds that had been imprinted so they allowed people and equipment to get close — that meant that there was some absolutely fantastic cinematography as they filmed birds in flight up close. I’d say the film is worth it because of that alone.

But there’s also almost no narration in the whole movie. A few bits here and there, some superimposed text to say what kind of bird is being showcased now. But mostly, the visuals spoke for themselves of the incredible journeys of the birds, what they go through, and just how magnificent the whole thing is.

Except that’s not true — because the visuals had a huge help from the soundtrack.

Composed by Bruno Coulais, the soundtrack had the extremely difficult job of not only providing the mood of the scene like in most films, but of being the only thing the audience would be listening to. Even more difficult — the soundtrack essentially instilled the visuals of the birds and their actions with plot, with intent, with stakes and tension and conflict. In many ways, the soundtrack was the heart of the film, the writing and story and direction.

And it succeeded magnificently.

Tracks of the soundtrack go from the slightly whimsical nostaglia of Masters of the Field, to the danger of Dans la fumée des usines, to the pure magificence and power of Tambour battant. Every song perfectly captures the emotions of the moment, and that’s what makes a soundtrack amazing — and worth listening to on its own merits. As a soundtrack that carried half the weight of the film, this one is especially worth it.

I’ll gie you a couple samples. This is To Be By Your Side by Nick Cave, a song that still gets me.

And here is Tambour Battant, the song whose pure power and beauty was what made me want to get the soundtrack in the first place.

So. Go out and watch the film. Then get the soundtrack. An hour and a half of watching birds was never so amazing.

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