The Tillman Story

Musical Score By: Philip Sheppard

Distributed by: Lakeshore Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            It was a hero’s story.  A celebrated football player leaving his career to join the military after the events of 9/11.  Giving up his professional football career to join the Army Rangers in 2002, Pat Tillman became the symbol of patriotism.  His death in April 2004 shocked the nation, but what was even more shocking was the government cover-up of the events leading to his death.  The Tillman Story is a documentary that explores the cover-up of Pat Tillman’s death and his family’s tireless crusade to uncover the truth.

            The musical score of The Tillman Story was created by Philip Sheppard.  Known as a composer and musician and an early pioneer of the electric cello, Philip Sheppard trained in Cello and Musical Composition at the Royal Academy of Music in England.  He eventually became a senior lecturer at the conservatory.  While a student, he performed with various other musicians, but eventually began to concentrate on musical composition.  He ahs appeared as an improvising soloist on the soundtracks of such films as Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Hotel Rwanda.  Recent works include In the Shadow of the Moon, Henry Mind of a Tyrant, Sergio and Inside the Milky Way.

            According to Philip Sheppard, “In writing documentary music I believe it is the composer's job to lead the viewer to a place where they can think, but not to tell them what to feel, so in a sense the music has to act as a clean slate, a tabula rasa.”  Be that as it may, I found the soundtrack to be incredibly morose.  Perhaps without meaning to, Sheppard did tell the viewers what to feel by creating such a terribly melancholy musical score. 

            There is a beauty to the melody performed by an orchestra of cellos, violins, violas, and double bass with solos performed on the piano, violin, trumpet, cello and electric cello.  Nevertheless, there is a haunting feeling that pervades this soundtrack, perfectly reflecting the haunting of the Tillman family as they struggle to uncover the truth about Pat Tillman’s death.  I found the music performed by the electric cello to be reflective of this struggle.

            Incredibly long and morose, I feel that The Tillman Story Soundtrack perhaps only works with the visuals of The Tillman Story documentary.  As a standalone soundtrack, this musical score is incredibly depressing and therefore painful to endure.  Philip Sheppard has created the perfect background music to this profoundly sad story, but as a standalone album, his composition will push listeners away.  On store shelves, this album will be piled heavy with dust before long.


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