Mark Isham – Once Upon A Time *Review In English*

“This is the score with pretty much of emotional cues to enjoy and I say it in the name of the guy who is new to the show.”

Soundtrack Label: Intrada

From Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz; the creators of LOST, ONCE UPON A TIME is a fairy-tale-crafted series based on the concept that there is an alternate universe where every classic fairy tale character exists in the real world. Due to the fact that I have not seen the show yet, I’m not going to talk much about the plot in case there is something more complex than what I might have known. But with such a concept, a list of cast as well as interesting characters, and importantly a magical score which brings me here, I will try not to miss it.

To let you know first, I’m not a big fan of Mark Isham but I do have gone through many of his scores and it seems that he has got to deal with the electronics and small-sized orchestra so frequent (probably because of the low budget of the projects he has been involved with). Even though I admit that his scores rarely top up on my list of most notable scores, some of them deliver a good listening experience as well as films’ identities. For example, the flourishing A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT from his early age, a film noir’s darkly jazzy score THE BLACK DAHLIA, and the dramatic THE CONSPIRATOR plus WARRIOR which stand out among plenty of his average works lately (THE MIST which I have already reviewed, though effectively creepy, is also one of them). For ONCE UPON A TIME; though it is not a big screen motion picture, it is as far as I know the latest triumph from him in recent years.

In this case, Isham gathers the orchestra with synthetic elements which is not really out of place due to the fact that the show is also set in the modern world. As the composer is still himself, the overall soundscape seems minimized but the sense of romance and epicness is yet strong. Furthermore, I think this kind of result will help listeners focus more on the instrumental tactics and be moved by what they are represented in either particular moments or the overall as musical journey to the show’s basis.

The opening Once Upon A Time Orchestral Suite sets the tune with darkly threatening low-key strings and synthesized beats, switched at the middle by sweeping strings and heartfelt piano. Moreover, this track is enhanced by sparkling music box effects which, undoubtedly, later serve the entire score very well.

According to the suite, more good things can be expected from the latter beautiful 5-note motif which seems so right to be called as the score’s main theme. This theme’s progress can be found as either highlighting it for some sensational impacts or under developing along with some dark materials so that some new melodies can have their moments. The previous case includes the 5-star tracks that impress me such as the first three quarters of the depressing Unhappy Endings and the gradually uplifting Hope Will Return.

Next, the latter case also appears to be no less than melodic gratification with handful performance and rightly harmonious sounds. Most of the tracks simply achieve being a series of music that I can go through without feeling much of boredom but emotional pleasure. Besides, some of them are likely to define the characters and provide with some minor themes or motifs as well. My recommended track goes to the easy-listening Jiminy Cricket, the fairy-tale-alike tones of Belle’s Story and Cinderella, the waltz of Wedding Dance, some sneaky and fun rhythms in Dwarves, and the tender but deeply epic The Road To True Love.

Then for the ominous segment, there are also the evil atmosphere of The Queen’s CurseDealing With Rumplestiltskin which brings back the beats, the emphatic The Huntsman with partly ethnic approach, the tempting The Siren, the hauntingly desolating Rumplestiltskin In Love with an effective use of mournful female vocal, and the crescendo of aggression in Burn The Witch.

In conclusion, this is the score with pretty much of emotional cues to enjoy and I say it in the name of the guy who is new to the show. This release by Intrada contains about 60 minutes of enchanting music which complements the previously adequate EP release as it is supposed to. If you are already the fan, I don’t see how you won’t like it anyway. By the way, I hope that the creators will keep Mark Isham as series’ regular composer like how they have kept Michael Giacchino for LOST so that the score can grow (some existing thematic materials here deserve more progressive actions) and Isham can eventually declare his masterful work because ONCE UPON A TIME has that potential!


01. Once Upon A Time Orchestral Suite (*****)

02. Henry’s Proposal (****)

03. The Queen’s Curse (****)

04. Jiminy Cricket (****)

05. Dealing With Rumplestiltskin (****)

06. Belle’s Story (*****)

07. Dwarves (*****)

08. The Huntsman (*****)

09. Things Are Changing In Storybrooke (****)

10. Cinderella (****)

11. Wedding Dance (****)

12. Advising Ashley (****)

13. If The Shoe Fits (****)

14. Unhappy Endings (*****)

15. Emma And Henry (****)

16. The Siren (*****)

17. The Man With The Wooden Box (****)

18. Hope Will Return (*****)

19. Rumplestiltskin In Love (*****)

20. The Genie’s Wishes (****)

21. The Road To True Love (*****)

22. The Family Compass (****)

23. Burn The Witch (****)

24. What The Queen Loves Most (****)

25. The Clock Moves (****)

Grade: B

Buy It @Amazon


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