The Spinners

Out of Africa: Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack (John Barry, 1990)

In Classical, Monchito Nocon, Soundtrack on January 26, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Heaven knows how I got cajoled into writing, however brief, a classical music review. While I do listen to it—it’s the kind of music that I have on when I want to calm my nerves and relax—and as much as I would want to project myself as, ehem, a “cultured gentleman”, I’ll be the first to admit that I cannot tell my Bach from my Mozart, or even my Beethoven from my Handel. But be that as it may, I suppose there really is no harm in trying. Among the few classical albums that I have in my collection, there is one —a movie soundtrack to be precise—that I wish to write about:  Out of Africa: Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack.

I cannot begin talking about the album without first touching on the film, which stars Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. As the title suggests, the movie is set in a coffee plantation in Africa—idyllic, rugged, and quite a stunning backdrop. It is a love story, and apart from the beauty of the land, the accompanying music also helps set the romantic mood and tone for the whole film. The soundtrack consists of twelve tracks, ten of them originally composed by John Barry. Among them, it is the “Main Title (I Had a Farm in Africa)” and “Karen’s Theme”, with its three variations (“I’m Better at Hello”, “I Had  Compass From Denys”, and “If I Know a Song of Africa”) that really tug the heart, stir the soul, and draw out inner emotions.

“Main Title (I Had a Farm in Africa)” is deeply moving.  When I listen to it, I cannot help but wax emotional where feelings of melancholia and longing get the better of me, as if John Barry took all the times when I felt alone, lonely, blue and set it to music. “Karen’s Theme”, on the other hand, is a subtler work.  Whereas “I Had a Farm in Africa” begins with the intensity of its string instrumentation, it kicks off with the calmness of the flute, and yet its effect is even more powerful.

Moving and powerful, right. These are two qualities that best describe John Barry’s soundtrack to Out of Africa.

– Monchito Nocon

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