Musings About Music In Film

Red Sky


By Jason Hess reddsky]

I’m not familiar with Tim Williams’ work, and I’m pretty sure the rest of the world isn’t either. He works often in Hollywood, holding many credits as a music editor and orchestrator, so it seems reasonable that this credit as composer comes on a direct-to-DVD release. Starring Bill Pullman, Rachel Leigh Cook, and no one else, the trailer for the film is exactly what you’d expect. But, my favorite credit goes to the director: the one and only Mario Van-Peebles! I know I should give it a chance, but this just seems like a Sharknado- type movie that my friends would only watch for a good laugh. Unfortunately, it's probably trying to be taken seriously.

The music was a little bit of a surprise, though. Lets be honest, Williams probably didn’t have much to work with here, and the production quality seems to be on par with most action-thrillers that bypass the theatre for your home screen. The mixes sound rudimentary (especially in the brass) and additionally, there is not one woodwind instrument in the score. Considering those and many other issues, the music should be pretty much un-listenable. Is that a word? It is now.

The nice surprise here is that the music has some high points that were completely worth a second listen. This is an action movie, but it is the non-action cues that actually work. 'Airplane Lovers' (mile high club or airplane enthusiasts?) and 'Widow' are two tracks featuring mostly guitar that are quite soothing. Tracks like 'Flight Out of Azerbaijan' 'Besh Barmag,' 'This Might Be Goodbye,' and 'Requiem For The Dead' feature some nice writing for string orchestra. Williams respects the pyramid of sound, and I respect that. We also hear the occasional trumpet solo, and Middle Eastern bamboo flute. The tone qualities that Williams creates are extremely simple. They’ve all been done before. But they work. They’re pretty.

I know what you’re thinking: the Middle Eastern singing and flute has been overdone. The reason I think it works here is that it isn’t thrown in our face over and over. It acts just as a garnishment on top of the orchestra. Again, there’s nothing groundbreaking in Red Sky, but these few tracks make for a pleasant listening experience. Just don’t listen to any of the other cues.

The action music is unremarkable. There is absolutely zero thematic material. You could drop this music into any action sequence from any movie and it would probably fit. It wouldn’t work, but it would fit. The only characteristic that holds the action cues together is its completely repetitive nature. We find nothing but pounding ostinato eighth notes with meaningless quasi-melodies on top, with the track 'First Wave' a perfect example. He valiantly tries to vary the background repetition with tempo and meter changes, but it's really the only tactic used so it quickly becomes boring.

The final track, 'Red Sky Anthem' peaked my interested when I initially read the track listing. Of course, I thought of the Top Gun Anthem and the rip-off I was about to hear. But, I decided to wait and listen to the tracks in order. I first listened to this score during a run, and this final track actually made me stop and laugh out loud. It is a pop-rock tune that I’m assuming was written just for this movie. It is awful. I’ll bet that some production assistant wrote down a four-line verse and a four-line chorus – then they had a song! The introduction is actually kind of intriguing, but it doesn’t get developed. The singing starts and the tune is over about 20 seconds later. So is the album. It is short – give me 26 minutes and I’ll present horrible action music with a peppering of some nice string cues.

With time and opportunity to work on those action cues, I wouldn’t be surprised if Williams gets some feature release work in the future. He could easily work on a Remote Control Productions type of score. In the end, Red Sky doesn’t give us much, but Tim Williams hasn’t created a complete loss of a score.

Red Sky is out now from Lakeshore Records