Houdini: Volumes 1 & 2

Composed By: John Debney

Distributed by: Lakeshore Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                The two-part miniseries, Houdini, explores the life of escape artist and illusionist Harry Houdini.  Starring Adrien Brody in the title role, the series explores Houdini's humble beginnings at circus sideshows to his sold-out concert hall performances, his life with wife Bess Houdini (Kristen Connolly), his tour as a spy, the loss of his mother and his ever increasing frustrations with spiritualists who can not bring her essence back to him, his vision regarding magic and stunts and more. 

                The musical score of Houdini was created by award-winning American composer John Debney.   As son of Disney Studios producer Louis Debney, John Debney seemed destined for a career in film.  Learning to play the guitar at an early age, Debney performed in rock bands in college, but it was after college that his music career got the ultimate boost - working with famed television composer Mike Post and Hanna-Barbera composer Hoyt Curtin.  Venturing into television scoring first, Debney scored such notable television series as Star Trek: The Next Generation, A Pup Named Scooby-Doo and Sea Quest DSV.  His first feature length film score was for Hocus Pocus and he never looked back composing film scores for such notable films as The Passion of Christ, The Princess Diaries 1 and 2, Sin City, Evan Almighty, Valentine's Day, Predators, No Strings Attached, Stonehearst Asylum and more.

                The music of the Houdini miniseries was released in two volumes, with each volume containing over 25 tracks of music totaling over an hour of listening apiece.  When I began listening to this soundtrack, a smile immediately spread across my face.  I love being surprised by a musical score and John Debney's scoring of Houdini was definitely a pleasant surprise.  I was expecting a score that would more accurately reflect the music of Houdini's time period of the late 1800s/early 1900s.  What I got was an adrenaline pumping electronic score.  According to Debney, "All of the score is in the main electronic, with the addition of a solo gypsy violin and cello. Lots of Zither and other stringed instruments were also used.  Early discussions on tone centered around the idea of giving Houdini a very edgy and contemporary sound while always grounding the music with period splashes of style."

                If Houdini could have used this music to accompany his act, he would have achieved even greater popularity and success than he already had.  The edgy Industrial Rock-like score provides an intensity and mystique that adds to that nail-biting fear...that possibility that Houdini may not be able to pull this stunt off.  This is not to say that the entire score is upbeat and action-packed.  There are some sad moments, like the death of his mother and the resultant change in Houdini's demeanor, that are represented by soft, slow violin solos.  These sad violin moments are also found in the beginning of the first volume, interspersed with the rocking adrenaline-filled tracks, but, not having seen the miniseries, I am only left to wonder if there was an inner sadness being touched upon here.  Could it be that Houdini had some sort of feeling that he was inferior or that what he was doing was never challenging or shocking enough?

                Houdini: Volumes 1 and 2 will make any fan of the miniseries extremely happy.  I am now inspired to check out this miniseries.  I would really like to see how the music enhances the quality of each scene.  As stand alone albums, Houdini Volumes 1 and 2 comprise two hours of extremely enjoyable music that never seems to be repetitive or boring despite the fact that the two volumes together consist of over fifty tracks of music.  Debney's musical score for Houdini is definitely something that music aficionados are going to want to check out.


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