Home > Reviews > EARTH TO ECHO – Joseph Trapanese

EARTH TO ECHO – Joseph Trapanese

earthtoechoOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Essentially a remake of E.T. for the current youngest generation, Earth to Echo is a children’s sci-fi adventure directed by David Green and starring Teo Halm, Brian Bradley and Reese Hartwig as three young friends in suburban America. Two days before they are scheduled to separate – their neighborhood is being destroyed by a highway construction project – the boys begin receiving a strange series of signals on their cell phones. Convinced that something bigger is going on, they team up with another school friend, Emma, and set out to look for the source of their phone signals, filming their adventures on a hand-held video camera as they go. Much to their astonishment, the friends come face to face with a small alien who has become stranded on Earth, and quickly find themselves in a race against time to send their new friend home.

The score for Earth to Echo is by the young hotshot composer Joseph Trapanese, whose work with Daft Punk on Tron: Legacy, as well as his own scores for the Tom Cruise vehicle Oblivion and the popular Indonesian action Raid movies, had made him a talent to watch on the film scoring circuit. It’s nice to see emerging composers like Trapanese being given opportunities like this, on fairly high-profile movies with the scope for decent music, so from that point of view I’m happy Earth to Echo is out there. Unfortunately, from a purely musical standpoint, the score is a significant step down from the music he has been writing elsewhere.

The score, much like the film it accompanies, is generally inoffensive; similarly, much like the film it accompanies, it is unlikely to be remembered for long after it leaves multiplexes, destined as it is for the $5.99 DVD bin in Best Buy. Trapanese’s music is a hybrid of sorts, blending orchestra with synths, an occasional solo piano, and adding in a modern percussion section with electric guitars (you know, for the kids), but it suffers from a curious lack of ambition and scope. Children’s films, especially ones with a science fiction and adventure element, usually provide fertile ground in which a composer can experiment; the list of outstanding scores written for films like this is extensive. Children’s emotions are more easily manipulated – often necessarily so, as they need guidance on what the film’s themes and lessons are – and so their scores often have heightened emotional content to match, guiding and allowing the child to feel and empathize with the characters. Earth to Echo, oddly, seems to be much more about subtlety and texture than it is about overt emotion. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, from a technical and compositional point of view, but the music never quite feels right.

Cues like “Just Kids”, “The Move” and the conclusive “Not Kids Anymore” feature the guitars prominently, presumably as an attempt to capture the urban setting of the film, while “Miles from Home” and “What is It?” have a more apparent sense of urgency and suspense, through the inclusion of a more insistent electronic pulse and tremolo strings.

There are some pretty woodwind textures to be found in the aforementioned “What is It?”, as well as “In the Barn”, ensuring that the mystery of Echo’s true nature never becomes too scary (although the string pulses in this cue, a little distractingly, remind me of the music under the Dos Equis ‘Most Interesting Man in the World’ beer commercials). There are also some quite interesting electronic textures, notably towards the end of “You Understood Us” and in “Your Name is Echo”, “Mannequin Girl” and “Munch to the Rescue” which could best be described as ‘Tron Lite’, but which never come close to recapturing the effortless excellence or rhythmic intensity of that score.

“Looking Home” is a cool, if brief, little action cue, and “Fallen Star” makes use of con legno string textures to underpin the blended orchestra and add a sense of urgency, but the most memorable pieces are probably the finale trio, “Here It Goes”, “The Way Home” and “Echo”, during which Trapanese allows his orchestra to rise to its loudest and most prominent in the entire score. The electronics are still present, of course, but the live instruments do get their moments to shine, and there are some especially lively and florid woodwinds textures to be heard here.

One further thing lacking from the film is a real thematic presence in any of the cues. It’s clear that there are thematic markers captured by certain instrumental ideas – the guitars for the friendship of the kids, the electronic elements for Echo himself, the warmer orchestral parts for the relationship between Echo and is his helpers – but these never really translate into recurring, identifiable melodies. The textures are as times really lovely, but you’re not going to walk out of a movie theater humming a pleasant string chord.

The end credits song, “Worlds Away”, features the bland indie-rock vocals of Dia Frampton, who finished as runner-up on the NBC music show The Voice in 2011, and is nice enough, but unlikely to be of much interest to score fans, despite Trapanese’s involvement in the song’s orchestral arrangements. And really, that’s the score for Earth to Echo in a nutshell: nice enough, but unlikely to be of much interest to score fans, unless simple orchestral textures, homely guitar chords, and light electronic pulses push all your musical buttons. I’m glad Joseph Trapanese is getting work, but for me there’s very little to call home about.

Buy the Earth to Echo soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Just Kids (2:13)
  • The Move (1:33
  • Miles From Home (2:59)
  • What Is It? (3:44)
  • In the Barn (2:35)
  • You Understood Us (2:34)
  • Your Name is Echo (4:44)
  • Mannequin Girl (1:24)
  • Looking Home (2:12)
  • The Key (1:38)
  • Munch to the Rescue (0:49)
  • Night Lights (3:25)
  • Fallen Star (2:18)
  • Here It Goes (1:38)
  • The Way Home (5:17)
  • Echo (2:34)
  • Not Kids Anymore (3:23)
  • Worlds Away (written by Joseph Trapanese and Dia Frampton, performed by Dia Frampton) (4:07)

Running Time: 49 minutes 13 seconds

Relativity Music Group (2014)

Music composed and conducted by Joseph Trapanese. Orchestrations by Jason Lazarus. Recorded and mixed by Satoshi Mark Noguchi. Edited by Bryan Lawson and Andrew Silver. Album produced by Joseph Trapanese.

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