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Kundun Original Soundtrack Classical, Soundtrack
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KUNDUN is as rich in music as it is in dramatic imagery, and in fact, significant portions of the film were edited by Scorsese expressly to match the score. The film's soundtrack - excerpted from a lavish 100 minutes of material, including Tibetan singers and musicians - is by Philip Glass who, in addition to being one of the world's best-known composers and a Buddhist himself, is celebrated for his numerous collaborations with noteworthy filmmakers.
For the second of 1997's dueling Buddhist epics (the other being Seven Days in Tibet, scored by John Williams), director Martin Scorsese made a wise--if commercially challenging--choice in tapping noted minimalist composer Philip Glass to score Kundun. Glass (who's previously scored the avant garde documentary Koyaanisqatsi trilogy, Mishima, and the strange Candyman horror series), is the perfect choice here; his own Buddhist beliefs play a key role in meshing image and music. Glass's familiar compositional techniques are wedded on Kundun to a sensitive use of ethnic instruments and the voices of the Gyuto Monks, adding an aura of spiritual power missing from most Hollywood fare. --Jerry McCulley
Top Customer Reviews
One of the reviewers below complains that this music isn't Tibetan enough. This is like complaining that Beethoven doesn't use Flemish folk songs enough. If you want traditional Tibetan music, buy some. If you want Philip Glass, buy "Kundun".
It's true that the music is vaguely reminiscent of "Koyaanisqatsi". This is not necessarily a bad thing, "Koyaanisqatsi" being one of Glass's greatest works.
Some of the music is also reminiscent of Bernard Herrman's score for "Journey to the Center of the Earth". Since Glass is a Minimalist instead of a Romantic like Herrman, however, don't expect to hear the great bursts of emotion you find in "Journey to the Center of the Earth". On the other hand, Herrman followed the action of the movie so closely that his score sounds like a series of unconnected pieces. "Kundun" is far more unified, and you feel like you've heard a symphony when it's over.
One of the reviewers complains that the orchestra doesn't seem to contain many Tibetan instruments. I wonder how many Westerners can recognize Tibetan instruments when they hear them. If you look at traditional non-Western instruments all over the world, you find the same general themes over and over again: flutes (like the Andean pan-pipes), horns (like the Tibetan horns heard in this music), drums, and stringed instruments (like the Chinese biba or the Japanese koto). It takes a sensitive ear to hear the difference between one of these instruments and the Western equivalent.
Glass has done a lot of great work, and also a good deal of mediocre work, and this score is definitely in the latter. While it works well with the movie, listening to it on it's own is a disappointment. The difference between this and the great "Koyanisqaatsi" is important. The music for that movie was written with a core focus that permeates each piece, and althought the individuals sections are much longer than in "Kundun," interest never wanes. On this soundtrack, however, the trademark repetition never really catches hold, since there always seems to be a crucial musical element missing, as if there was nothing but accompaniment. While the tracks are briefer, they say very little, and there's no build up of musical drama. Of course, it's a soundtrack, and a good accompaniment to the other element of the movie, but as a stand alone recording it doesn't work.
Not less than a week ago I wrote a five-star review of the excellent Powaqqatsi soundtrack, relaying how great I thought the music was while knock, knocking Philip Glass for his repetition. After that I began browsing through the other Glass listings, listening to the samples. Later, I saw the Kundun DVD at my video store, and decided to watch it again. The next day, I searched out the soundtrack. I have to take back the statement I made about never having to hear another Glass score. Granted, all of his music seems to be variations of a similar theme, but he can take that in many directions. Kundun has an entirely different feel than Powaqqatsi. It is meditative, while Powaqqatsi is like a celebration of life. I own two Glass albums now, and now it seems likely that I'll own three (the Glass/Shankar collaboration looks appealing). I wouldn't have been able to fathom that a year ago.
I'm just not convinced that it is a great album, or that it is better than Koyannisqaatsi. In many ways some of the good bits of the album seem like retakes of the earlier work. As a previous reviewer states it doesn't seem like Glass has advanced his art very much with this music.
There is surprisingly little Tibetan influence - occasional chanting monks, some horns and cymbals, but its either not there or its melded with the minimalism so effectively it might as well not be there.
Yet despite these reservations, if you like Glass you almost certainly will like this album - though the endings of some tracks seem a bit - "er, I'd better stop somewhere" - other parts of the album are well crafted, and it obviously affects some people deeply.
If you've never heard him before try Koyannisqaatsi first. If your interested in Tibetan Music, then find some 'real' Tibetan music.
I haven't seen the film, so my remarks are based on the music itself. Glass seems stuck in a rut with this one. From Koyannisqaatsi to Akhnaten to Powaqaatsi, there was a real development of new sounds and melodies and style. This one sounds like a rehash of much earlier work, such as Mishima, with the addition of that presumably Tibetan instrument that sounds like a loosely strung harp being assaulted with a piece of scrap metal. Also the use of mainly western instruments seemed out of place to me, though again I haven't seen the film.
Oh well. I highly recommend Akhnaten, it will probably be very difficult to find but in my opinion it ranks right up with Koyanisqaatsi as the most powerful and beautiful of Glass's compositions.
Most recent customer reviews
Phillip Glass is one of the best minimalists in film. "Kundun" in a great achievement (Movie & music) but not Glass' best score to date. Read morePublished on Aug. 29 2001 by Manger M. Bargin
A film score like this comes around very rarely-Philip Glass''Kundun'is so powerful and inspired that one may wonder whether the music generated the brilliant movie or the other... Read morePublished on Dec 15 1999 by Bete Noire
This is the best CD that Ive listened to by glass and it is slightly above avereage. I have listend to other works from Glass, and this is the best one, which is not... Read morePublished on Aug. 31 1999
While I found Philip Glass's music a bit distracting while watching the film, the score by itself is incredibly beautiful. Read morePublished on Aug. 27 1999 by Clayton W. Hibbert
This is a totally haunting score, it just sweeps all over you. This is Philip Glass's second best foray into film-scoring, his best is CANDYMAN, extremely haunting music there.... Read morePublished on April 13 1999
An incomparable score to an incomparable film, it almost seems as if Scorsese filmed the movie around the score, not the other way around. Read morePublished on Dec 20 1998
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