Horton Hears A Who

John Powell

Rating: 7.5

The first serious attempt to turn a Dr. Suess story into a completely computer animated full length feature comes in the form of Horton Hears A Who, and, though the genre seems made for the story, the task of making this type of book a movie is not an easy one. Dr. Suess' books have wit, rhyme, charm, fun, innocence, and a bit of randomness. The genius that comes out of this combination is one that is hardly ever disputed, and Dr. Suess stands as a towering figure in the history of children's stories. The music in this type of film plays a very important part. That sort of tongue-in-cheek, wink wink, charm has to come, in a large part, from the music. John Powell, widely recognized as one of the most creative composers working in film music today, was chosen and brought his considerable skill and experience in the combination of orchestral and synthetic textures to the plate. It certainly looked like the perfect fit.

When it comes to the already mentioned randomness of a story like this, there is no better composer than Powell. The mood and textures constantly rotate, from sweepingly heroic MV/RCP (but better) textures to quiet, tender moments, to almost arcade-ish synths, to jazzy, big-band brass, to heavily percussive, beat-box dance moments, to (in "Horton Suite") the combination of all of these elements. How any composer could hold together such a mishmash of styles, and create anything like a confluent listening experience must be practically impossible, and Powell comes as close as one could. Some have said that enjoyment of this score requires a soft spot for Powell's quirky musical ways. I think it is safe to say that I have that soft spot.

This is not an album to listen to and expect to flow in a musical and thought-out way. Instead, it almost feels as if it has an element of improvisation in it, and this is part of what makes it work so well as a Dr. Suess score. His books, well certainly thought-through, sometimes seems as if he is making it up as he goes, especially with his use of made-up words. Powell's score has captured that mood very well, and randomly playful textures dominate the writing. String pizzicato, staccatos all around, and tinkling percussion are only some of the orchestral textures he employs. But what is even more impressive is the way in which Powell can combine orchestral and synthetic textures, and put real emotion into it. Whereas many composers view these elements as modern and 'edgy' aspects, Powell is so completely at home with his creativity that he can write movingly creative emotional synth parts. A rarity, to be sure.

The album is split into thirty-four tracks, few of which ever meet the three minute mark. Thus, any sort of track-by-track discussion would be tedious to say the least. Suffice to say that the musical interest, especially orchestrationally, rarely if ever lets up. There are also a few themes which get nice treatments and development, the highlight of which would be a quirky little minor bassoon melody, which finds its way into the parts of many woodwinds, but is most impressive and pronounced when played on the bassoon, for which it works perfectly.

While certainly not ground-breaking, this score is still creative and continually interesting. Powell cranks out scores at such a break-neck pace, one would think that they must suffer for it. But Horton Hears A Who is Powell at the top of his animation game, and a Dr. Suess story fits Powell's talents like a glove.

-Colin Thomson

Track List:

Fall From Tree
Cave Of Destiny
Jungle Of Nool
Horton Takes A Luxurious Bath
Enter the Kangaroo
Banana Wars
Into Whoville / Breaking With The Mayor
Club Nool
The Town Council
Dr. Larue
The Quest
The Bridge Work
Horton Dance!
Handle With Care
Snow Day
Horton Tells of the Kangaroo's Duplicity
Vlad Attack
Power Grab
Kite Flying Day
Mountain Chase
Clover Field Search
Memory Game
For the Children!!!
Angry Mob
Roping and Caging
We Are Here
Jojo Save the Day
Hall of the Mayors
Horton Suite
A Big Ending

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