Bruno Coulais is a chameleon, but a chameleon in the word he scores all kinds of documentaries and nature like films. And in that regard, he is well known in European circles. One of his lesser known scores is Himalaya: The Rearing of a Chief (1999) and is besides Microcosmos, Vidocq, Winged Migration and Les Choristes one of his more widespread releases on CD. And as little I know of him, Himalaya is like Winged Migration a score that takes vocals seriously in the sense he uses them as soothing instrument, vocal beauty and colorful accompaniment, and the score alone works as a nice soothing background soundtrack. In case you do want to see it as a film score or instrumental score and investigate it more at the forefront you come to realize that much might seem the same, but still there are differences that take a small notion to distinguish it from the rest. As said Winged Migration used vocals like it, and occasionally you might hear the same rhythm or ideas but altogether, this CD is still slightly different in that it uses the more spiritual vocals of the inhabitants, namely the Tibetan. And while Coulais didnt want to imitate the music, he wanted to transpose the impressions of that music. And besides a string section and occasional brass players, Coulais utilized specific instruments and especially vocalist Tsering Lodoe to mirror the ancient mystical touch with the Western world, and succeeded he has. The score is mostly a vocal led journey through Tibet, and The Death of Lhakpa starts with throat singing, before the female vocalist starts a relaxing 45 minutes of music in which a certain theme unfolds itself. Tinle & the Child has surprisingly an added sense of emotion through the piano which is enticing while The Crossing is one of the few sole instrumental pieces on the disc, in which cello and brief brass grows on a secondary theme.
While most might sound and feel the same, small differences are noticed, either in instrumentation or vocal use, The Night has Chinese violin with vocals over a lovely statement of the theme, a more bouncy comical song is heard in The Walk while a guitar led song is spotted in The Songs. Some of the best moments are heard during the middle with Karma which is a soothing song with lovely accompaniment and The Lake takes the step forward towards actual film music, with bells and church humming, before Tsering Lodoe, strings and brass guide the theme to its best performance. The theme receives its vocal accompaniment during tracks as Karmas Anger and The Exhaustion while Pémas Tears is unique with strings growing to a dissonant feel, the first ever on this CD something like this is achieved. The Caravan has nice ideas, violins and brass is noticed, vocals during those, it all brings a nice flowing motion that perhaps is not new anymore, but it feels as refreshing the moment it began this CD. Tinlés Death is a little bit darker with low voices, but when the strings add emotion to the 2 themes its really captivating while Opéra is the closer of the CD with again the vocal and rhythmic delight of the beginning. Bruno Coulais is only now beginning to make a name for himself in the American film music world (mostly due to Winged Migration and his hit Les Choristes), and while these will remain examples not reaching the standard of his American colleagues, its refreshing style and relaxing mood is enough to offer a breather between the more orchestral power packs of the recent year. Himalaya: The Rearing of a Chief is a score that takes several nice ideas and mixes it in a soothing vocal led journey where heart and spiritualism speaks more then just words, it breathes music.