• Soundtrack Magazine
  • Filmtracks
  • Tracksounds
  • Music from the Movies

Soundtrack Magazine
by Randall Larson

ISLAND OF THE SHARKS is embodied with a surging melody for violins and brass, very much John Barry in style. In fact, that obvious similarity to Barry may tend to obscure the beauty of this rich composition for those listeners unwilling to venture beyond the pastiche. Williams embraces the homage and makes the most of it, lending an abundant sonority to the gentle Caribbean sunlit seas around which Michele Hall's film about marine wildlife is set. The music lends a swaying, lyrical beauty to the underwater scenes of drifting schools of fish and scampering crustaceans and gliding sea turtles, just as it does to the brightly lit world of oceanography glimpsed in the surface visuals. White tip reef sharks are heralded, in "The White Tips," with spooky squeals of synth and strings as an underlying carpet of percussion lays a mood of apprehension, ultimately overcome by a quickly-bowed succession of violin notes which creates a compelling mood of predatorial danger. "Hammerheads" swells into a glorious melody for violins, capturing the liquid poetry of the swimming sharks while an underlying sepulchral percussion texture belies the depth which lays beyond the glimmering blue hues of the surface water. "Marlin Attack" captures a violin ostinato, rhythmic, angular strokes of violins over cool, rusting percussive effects and brass chords lends a powerful sense of danger as the cue builds and grows ñ this could almost be a horror movie cue; "Shark Attack" sustains a similar suspenseful approach, with fertile instrumental textures and marvelous sound patterns. "Sea Stars" is gentle Caribbean pop, flutes and guitar and bongos, while "Sea Turtle and Hermit Crabsî" carries a slightly reggae instrumentality with marimba, violins, and bongos.

The main theme returns in "Rain and Rebirth" and, from crystal clear trumpet in "Hammerheads Return," in which the Barry influence is perhaps most evident, until it opens into a lavishly eloquent statement of the theme, over Williams' percussive bass and belltree which gives it his own exotic milieu. "Marble Ray Romance" is a gentle, almost breezy rendition of the main theme for woodwind, violin, and bass; devoid of the main Barry stylistic sensibility, the theme emerges as Williams' own, a mellifluent ballad for underwater gliding. Recorded with a 70-piece orchestra, Alan Williams truly demonstrates his capable handling of large orchestral forms. This score is powerful, beautifully melodic, and abundantly textured. Intrada has done a wonderful job at presenting this score, including notes from producer Hall.

Music for IMAX films, by definition, has to be a bit larger than life, and Williams accomplishes this task with music that is immediately accessible, richly melodic and deeply orchestrated with effective and compelling textures, and that creates a sound design which is able to transport the listener to these other places even apart from the huge visuals they were meant to accompany.

by Christian Clemmensen

Many fans of IMAX music have already heard and enjoyed Alan Williams' score for the popular IMAX film Amazon (which is, to date, his only commercial CD album release). Thanks to a series of promotional titles, however, Williams' music is becoming more well known both in the industry and among the soundtrack enthusiasts. The most recent promotional album of Williams' work is brought to us by veteran scoring label Intrada Records. Island of the Sharks is the third IMAX score by Williams to be released on CD in any fashion, and it is just as impressive as the others. Moreso than regular feature films, IMAX films are even more dependent on their scores, because the music and narration have to rival the immense images on the screen. Williams is up to the task.

Once again, Williams' IMAX scoring is reminiscent of the recent styles of Jerry Goldsmith and James Newton Howard. This time, though, Williams' breath taking themes offer a more dramatically heavy touch, a la John Barry. The sweeping string themes that carry this short score from scene to scene carry the same wonder and fascination that Barry evokes in his IMAX film score Across the Sea of Time. For this occasion, the setting of Cocos Island (off the Costa Rica shore) provides Williams with an opportunity to spice up the flavor of the score by including some light mambo pieces for scenes featuring the more innocent creatures in the island's waters. The dancing flute and percussion heard in track eleven is, like its counterpart cues in Amazon, a worthy page inspired by Goldsmith's Medicine Man. For the bigger and nastier creatures of the island, Williams manages to create menacing (and yet awesome) brass cues without resorting to the usually inevitable Jaws motif. Only does the music from track six break from the easily listenable progression of cues, though those two minutes are easy to forget when surrounded by such beauty in neighboring tracks.

In summary, I have yet to hear an Alan Williams score that I did not thoroughly enjoy. He has composed scores for both television and regular films, and yet it is his IMAX music that continues to inspire and amaze me. Island of the Sharks melds the styles of Barry and Goldsmith into a building block that Williams extends with his own magic. With the majority of tracks on this promotional release featuring gorgeous thematic performances by 70 players, I highly recommend you contact Intrada Records for a copy of your own... while they last. If not for just the sake of solid IMAX music, the album will provide you with a glimpse of the work of a composer who could produce superior mainstream work in the future.

by Christopher Coleman

Composer Alan Williams returns to, quite literally, the "big screen" with his score for yet another IMAX feature film, Island of the Sharks.

With the his 1997 IMAX film score, Amazon, Alan Williams gained valuable experience in composing music for such an overwhelming medium- as most IMAX films are. Showing inspiration from the likes of James Horner and Ennio Morricone, Alan Williams delivered a truly IMAX-worthy score: big, bold, and memorable!

Williams' return to this larger-than-life- format has presented him with a completely different subject field- the shark infested waters off the of Cocos Island.

With the surname of Williams and the topic of "sharks," one could easily jump to conclusions that the two-note terror-theme from the mid-seventies would surface. Instead of this much-too obvious connection, Alan Williams takes some inspiration from another master of cinema music, John Barry, for his main title theme. It is a sweeping performance of heavy strings and deep brass- a sound for which John Barry is definitely identified. Such a sound is certainly the last thing one would expect when dealing with the almost portentous predator as a its central subject, yet Alan Williams sets the listener at ease with his tender melodies..at least for a little while. With scientists trying frantically to change public opinion about the personality and tendencies of sharks, this music might actually be fitting. Maybe these ancient, water dwelling creatures are innocently soft, mellow, and gentle; just trying to "get by as best they can," as Williams' first two tracks suggest. Then again...

If sharks are to be involved one knows the intensity of the music is going to change. Track 3, The White Tips, brings us our initial introduction to the frightful fish. The mood changes quickly into one of foreboding. Williams mixes in wonderful percussions with fairly intense strings. Together they combine to form a pretty thrilling, albeit short, piece. Williams gives us several other tracks of menacing music, Marlin Attack, Cave Hunting, Night Hunt and Shark Attack. All feature the same four note string motif (which might be the closest thing to a Jaws-experience this soundtrack offers). While the nod to the other Williams might be subtle, there is a much clearer one made to Jerry Goldsmith. It is enough to make one to ponder the relationship that Hammerheads and Klingons might share.

Contrasted with these more intense tracks are a number of well-dispersed Spanish Caribbean cues. Sea Stars (track 9) with its Spanish-guitar and giggling flutes, congas, and determined strings introduces a nice change of pace to the CD. Following it is the slightly mellower, Sea Turtle and Hermit Crab, the bright Fairy Turne, and the Sea Stars-theme is reprised at the conclusion of the final track, Cocos Island.

Alan Williams, once again, delivers a mighty enjoyable score. Interestingly enough, the score accompanies yet another IMAX film. It truly is a toss-up as to which one might consider "better," Amazon or Island of the Sharks. Each has its common-stylistic-ground with other famous composer's works, yet it breathes all on its own as a unique musical experience that any film music lover deserves to hear. It is a shame that these films do not get the same sort of showing schedule or attendance as a regular release, thus granting composer Alan Williams the exposure he deserves.

Music from the Movies
by Andrew Keech

This promotional CD has been produced by the composer, Alan Williams, from his score for the Imax film Island Of The Sharks and is certainly an exciting and dramatic release. The composer has used many and varied styles to capture the beauty and the menace of the marine live featured in the film, along with ethnic music to represent the Cocos Island, Costa Rica where the film is set. The result is a highly enjoyable action score with many quite reflective passages. A big score for a big screen!

The opening 'Main Title' is extremely Barryesque, full of horns and kettledrums, accompanying majestically flowing strings, a wonderful opening cue that sets a power and purpose that is carried through much of the score. The second track, 'Underwater Currents' is a warm friendly theme that ebbs and flows with the currents it portrays. The action cues such as 'The White Tips' and 'Marlin Attack' are full of tension and menace without reverting to cliché musical tricks. The tracks that are reflections of the island setting demonstrate more than a passing resemblance to Jerry Goldsmith's Medicine Man with an inspired combination of flute and orchestra alternatingly used to generate a happy, busy Caribbean atmosphere. Tracks like 'Rain and Rebirth' and 'Creole Fish' return to a sweeping romantic texture that would not have been out of place in Out Of Africa. This is a stunning score that has become more enjoyable with every listening and is enhanced considerably by the distinct variations in musical style. Alan Williams has produced a beautiful, larger than life score for Island Of The Sharks, which is enthralling and captivating. The score is a broad, sweeping and orchestral, best heard at high volume! So far the only score available from Alan Williams as a full commercial release is the Oscar nominated Amazon, although some of his others scores are currently available as promos. This is definitely a must for anyone who enjoys an interesting and varied orchestral score.