Da Vinci's Demons
Music By: Bear McCreary
Distributed by: Sparks & Shadows
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Da Vinci's Demons is a dramatic television series airing on STARZ. Taking place during the Renaissance Period, the series stars Tom Riley as a young Leonardo Da Vinci. At 25 years of age, Da Vinci is a genius, inventor, artist, idealist and lover who struggles for recognition among his peers. In this series, he is not yet the famous historic individual we have all studied in school, but a struggling artist bent on success. The series is not factually based - this period of Da Vinci's life is largely unrecorded - but a fictional account of what Da Vinci might have gone through while attempting to find fame as an inventor/artist in the early years of his life.
The musical score of Da Vinci's Demons was created by Bear McCreary, known for his dramatic scores created for television, movies and video games. You may have heard of him - he created the musical scores of the Battlestar Galactica series, Eureka, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, The Cape, The Walking Dead, Defiance, Rest Stop, Dark Void, SOCOM 4 and more. In October 2013, Sparks & Shine announced the release of a two-disc collector's edition of the Da Vinci's Demons Soundtrack. I recently had a chance to take a listen.
Expecting the soundtrack to be steeped in the music of the Renaissance Period, I was surprised when I heard Bear McCreary's classic dramatic score. Sure, there are some notable tracks in which music of the time period were used like Vilana Che Sa Tu Far, A Cheval Toutes Homes A Cheval and Ben Venga Maggio, but those appear to be incidental. According to series creator David Goyer, "I wanted anti-period music for Da Vinci. Meaning, I didnít want something that sounded like Richard Lesterís Three Musketeers. I wanted Bear to change things up Ė to use contemporary sounds and instruments as well as period ones. Bear didnít disappoint."
According to McCreary, who researched the music and instruments of the Renaissance thoroughly before working on the score, Renaissance Period music "lacks the necessary tension, precisely because the timbres and chords we associate with certain cinematic emotions simply hadnít come into practice yet." He solved this problem by taking "the period instruments and graft them on to contemporary cinematic and classical sounds. I started with period instruments, but framed them in newer sounds. The orchestra, string quartet, percussion and synthesis give the score weight, a bottom-heavy heft."
The resulting sound is a dramatically unique musical score well-suited for the series. Upon listening to the score, it is immediately apparent that Leonardo Da Vinci's early years were filled with conflict, both internal and external. Florentine was at war with Rome, the Vatican seeing the people of Florentine as upstarts that could threaten the Church's powerbase. Da Vinci's inventions for Lorenzo de Medici are awe-inspiring, but also incredibly dangerous. His inner demons surrounding his need for his father's approval, his sexuality, etc. also come into play here. Thus, there are moments when the score is rather dark and very complex (A Deep Vision, Miseries Omnium, Camera Obscura, Red in the River). McCreary drew inspiration from Da Vinci's art and composed moments in the soundtrack backwards to add another unique flavor to the score. Choir pieces are added in to supply dramatic flares. Performed in Latin, these pieces give the listener the idea that something dramatic is taking place involving the Vatican and perhaps Pope Sixtus (Assassination in Milan, Prayer to Saint Michael). But some of the most dramatic...and somewhat eerie moments...surround Da Vinci's lover Lucrezia Donati. There's an ethereal quality to the music (Lucrezia Donati, The Lullaby, Visions of Lecrezia) that is both beautiful and unsettling. We get the feeling that Lucrezia brings Da Vinci great pleasure, but is also the source of great inner conflict and danger.
Containing thirty-eight tracks and just about two hours worth of unique and dramatic music, the collector's edition of the Da Vinci's Demons Soundtrack is well-worth the $20.00US price tag. At times soft in nature and other times adrenaline-pumping, the soundtrack has just the right amounts of drama and suspense mixed with intrigue and desire, creating a music experience that tells the story of the demons hiding inside the tortured soul that was Leonardo Da Vinci. Bear McCreary has done it again!