Monday, September 2, 2013

Revolution by Christopher Lennertz (2013)

Review by Travis Elder

Revolution is a J.J. Abrams produced, Eric Kripke created television series about yet another post-apocalyptic-end-of-the-world-start-over tale, a theme abounding these days such as in Falling Skies, World War Z, The Walking Dead, Battle Los Angeles, and Defiance.  This time the end comes when electricity mysteriously shuts down worldwide and never comes back on.  The loss of power results in the widespread disruption of the government and within fifteen years the United States ceases to exist and becomes divided into six different militia states.  Sebastian Monroe, the self-appointed leader of one of the six militia states, the Monroe Republic, sends out a squad of militiamen to capture Ben Matheson, a person he believes holds the key to turning the power back on.   The story begins when this militia unit and its leader, the ruthless Captain Tom Neville and former insurance adjuster, confronts Matheson and one of Neville's trigger happy lackeys ends up killing Ben.  During the incident, Ben Matheson's teenage son, Danny, is taken prisoner.  Much of the first season involves the pursuit of Danny by his protective older sister, Charlie, who searches for him in the company of a family friend, Aaron Pitman (former Google exec and best friend to Ben), and Miles Matheson, Ben's brother and former Monroe Republic founding father.  Later, a mysterious pendant, given by Ben to Aaron before his death, becomes sought after by Monroe and others when it is discovered that the pendant can turn the electricity on within a small range.  Another subplot involves a snaky former U.S. defense minister, Randall Flynn, and his apparent knowledge about the pendants and what turned off the electricity in the first place.

For the score and aside from the J.J. Abrams penned opening theme, the showrunners turned to American composer Christopher Lennertz who previously scored Kripke's television series, Supernatural.   Lennertz' previous scores include a number of film, television, and video game credits including the cult classic spoof, Vampires Suck, and the Medal of Honor and Mass Effect video game series.  Kripke, director Jon Favreau and Lennertz agreed on a traditional orchestral score with a large scope, but filled with ethnic orchestrations to give the score an other worldly feel.

Lennertz and the producers also agreed that the show should have a strong recurring theme.  This comes in the form of Charlie's Theme, which is fitting since Revolution is really Charlie's story.  Lennertz' choice of a solo flute translates Charlie's innocent ingĂ©nue perfectly.  The theme is lovely, but not overbearing or too sappy.  Lennertz weaves the theme through a number of variations throughout the score playing it with strings and other instruments such as the trumpet.  One of my favorite variations though is when Lennertz skilfully places Charlie's theme in an action setting in Danny Down from 2:13 to 2:24.  Top notch!

Miles comforts Charlie just after Maggie's passing.
Charlie deals with death a number of times throughout Revolutions' first season and Lennertz shows his skill in scoring its brutality, loss, but also its hope.  Ben's Death from the pilot episode runs through the gamut of demise beginning by building tension, letting loose with dissonant orchestral violence mimicking the onscreen barbarity, and culminating in a mournful epilogue as Charlie shares some last few moments with her father.  This cue stands in contrast with how Lennertz scored Maggie's death in Episode 4.  Maggie stepped into Charlie's life at a critical time when her own mother was out of the picture.  Charlie did not always appreciate her, but in the end Charlie realized the void Maggie filled in her life.  Lennertz' music captures these emotions perfectly.  Tender solo piano begins the piece mirroring Charlie's solitary feeling, bereft of a mother for the second time.  The piece is the highlight performance of a theme first introduced in Matheson Adagio, a theme typically used as the epilogue for adversity.  This theme is also repeated later in the unsettling Danny Down when Charlie loses Danny after he is mowed down by a helicopter.  With only a few delicate notes the Lennertz subtly wrenches the soul in Maggie Dies and gives us a hopeful lament as a comforting friend in our own difficult times.

As mentioned, nontraditional instruments such as dulcimers, gamelans (traditional instruments from Indonesia including various gongs), Persian nay flutes, and hammered dulcimers convey other worldliness throughout the score.  The musical tapestry created by theses instruments highlights well the foreignness of the new world with its vegetation overrun cities, vehicle planter boxes, and streets filled with corn stalks, gardens, and dirt instead of motor vehicles.  The mystical Life After iPhones epitomizes the sound giving the flavor of a middle eastern bazaar.   Other notable cues include the safari sounding Grace's House and the ethnic percussion filled Road to Wrigley.

The score features no shortage of action music.  For the most part it is fairly standard with a few highlights such as the Goldsmithian Blowing It Up with its brawny percussion and the dramatic Genesis of Power.   Since the military plays such a prominent role, more militaristic percussion (such as in Strategizing General Matheson) and a more defined musical identity for the militia and the film's principal antagonist, Monroe, could add some needed variety to the action music and set it apart from the run of the mill.

Overall, the score shines best on album in its intimate moments with excellent themes for both Charlie and the trials she and her family and friends face.  I look forward to hearing how Lennertz continues to musically translate Charlie's journey when Season 2 starts later this month.  The score for the first season is available on disc and digitally from WaterTower Music.  Amazon CD | Amazon MP3 | iTunes

Track listing:
Revolution Opening Theme
Charlie's Theme
Ben's Death
Life After iPhones
The Plane Gang
Road to Wrigley
Magic of the Pendant
ShowdownWhat Now?
ReflectionRandall's Visit
Grace's House
Truth About Miles
Rachel Kills Strausser
Matheson Adagio
The Lighthouse
Maggie Dies
Maggie's ElegyNeville Transforms
Rachel Draws
We're Saving This One
Hairless Ewoks
Pendant in the Open
Blowing it Up
Family Reunited
Danny Down
Charlie Thanks Miles
StrategizingGeneral Matheson
The Drone
Aaron and Priscilla
Fly Away
Entering the Tower
Dark Tower
Meeting the Others
Genesis of Power

Christopher Lennertz on Scoring Revolution


  1. In what universe is Vampires Suck a "cult classic"?

  2. Probably none, but it is a "cult classic spoof"


Thanks for sharing!