How to Train Your Dragon to have kick ass music!

Last week I got the score to How to Train Your Dragon (iTunes Link), written by John Powell.

This is the score I didn’t know I was waiting for. I knew that I’d been craving a score that was a little epic and full of brass and percussion, with themes that are quite heartwarming. I didn’t realize that this movie’s score would provide that.

This isn’t Powell’s first animated movie venture; he’s also composed Shrek (with Harry Gregson-Williams, Ice Age, Kung Fu Panda (with Hans Zimmer), and Robots to name a few, and I think that an animated sound can be heard through the music, at least a Powell animated sound can be heard. Because of this I expected a score that was lovable and quirky. And although this score does provide that, it is also so much more.

The story (from what I’ve gathered from the trailers) is about a boy living in a Viking society who befriends a dragon much to the chagrin of his elders. I would be willing to say that the musical arc on this album imitates that.

Right away, the score opens with a slow brass motive that becomes the woodwind quirkiness I hinted at earlier. It then quickly morphs into a large orchestral gesture with pounding percussion and brassy fanfare playing through a main motif. Very fun and epic, especially when you add in the chorus.

Other cues on the score really help the overall sounds and feelings of what (I imagine (from the cue names)) they’re underscoring onscreen. For instance “Dragon Battle” starts with a very weighty and ominous sound in the brass and percussion. Eventually more layers are added on and it becomes very huge in scope.

But there are also songs like “Forbidden Friendship” which use instruments that are not necessarily normal, like tibetan prayer bowls and steel drums, and aren’t epic, but very sparse. This cue is also one of the heartwarming ones where you can feel the relationship between the boy and the dragon begin to grow and blossom.

Powell also does a great job of blending very folky tunes into the full orchestral sound he’s delivering. Some are downright influenced by the instrumentation, whether it be bagpipes, or flute, or a great fiddle passage. This seems a great technique for really bringing this score into the world the characters are in.

Through it all, the sound is very John Powell. The sweeping themes and orchestrations are very similar to styles he has composed before. Whether it reminds me of older scores of his like Paycheck, or bits of Shrek, I don’t really mind, because I feel this score is really awesome, and fun!

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