Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2021 May 10 • Monday

Leonard Rosenman's score for Fantastic Voyage is the 673rd Soundtrack of the Week.

First up is the main title, of course, which is actually mostly sound effects: heartbeats, typewriter, some bleeps and bloops. Visually this sequence is, I think, more than coincidentally similar to the opening credits for The Six Million Dollar Man, but there isn't really music per se here.

Rosenman had an idea not to use any music at all in the movie until the voyage of the title actually commenced. Certainly an effective choice and one that required considerable courage, as that means that about 38 minutes of of the film pass before we hear any music.

The first music is the modern and fascinating "The Proteus", which lets the string section handle most of the musical statements while horns and percussion punctuate with interesting additions here and there, occasionally making statements of their own.

The general feel of eerieness and other worldliness continues in "The Chart", again contrasting smooth and long sonorities with sharp, jagged and agitated expressions, the orchestra bubbling over with different moods.

The horns and basses get to say more in "Pulmonary Artery", creating an atmospher that's more stable but also more ominous.

"Group Leaves" has some exquisitely precise writing for harp and percussion, set off perfectly by orchestral backgrounds. This is followed by the very short "Pleural Cavity" cue, which is almost like a tag for the previous piece.

The sense of danger and adventure resumes with "Proteus Moving Through Sac", which modulates energy level and density while continuing a motif of building triads with wind instruments, suggesting a dissonance that isn't really there.

The string section busily suggests the tension in "Channel to Ear" while flutes indicate the forward momentum of the characters before the mood changes to a more spacious and cautious one, with more space and resonance.

"Cora Trapped" is one of the tensest parts of the movie and Rosenman provides stabbing, clustering, soaring and diving string parts, frequently accompanied by the three-note motif that's become more familiar as the score proceeds.

The biggest suspense scene is "Proteus in Inner Ear", which here gets a short (less than a minute) cue that lets a few notes both rise and fall while Rosenman's orchestration adds various colors and moods.

More mystery and menace using the same techniques create "The Human Brain", which has the strings exploring some higher frequencies while the horns explore something that sounds like avant-pastoral.

At almost seven and a half minutes, "Get the Laser" is the longest cue in the score. Perhaps it goes without saying that it covers a lot of territory. Rosenman certainly outdoes himself, varying moods and intensities and coming up with a brilliant suite of excitement, tension and suspense. Really, this could almost be like a cheat sheet for film music composers. Here in this one cue alone are at least a dozen ways to use an orchestra for a dozen different powrful effects.

Finally things wrap up with "Optic Nerve/End Cast", not the huge climax you might expect but instead a move in the other direction, using even more space and being even quieter in places, so that when the horns and strings burst into sound it has even more of an impact.

The second half of it, for the cast, is the only part of the score that sounds "normal", that is, familiar and reminiscent of more conventional movie music. It's an ingenious way to resolve all of the tension that was previously built up.