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THE BUREAU OF MAGICAL THINGS – Brett Aplin

February 11, 2022 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Christopher Garner

The Bureau of Magical Things is an Australian television series for tweens and teens about a girl named Kyra, who is transformed by a magical book. She discovers a whole world of magical spells, objects, and creatures hidden amid the world she’s always known. She joins a colorful cast of young elves and fairies who are in training to join the Department of Magical Intervention (DMI), whose job it is to keep the magical world a secret. Kyra joins these magic students to save the world from a burgeoning threat. Elements of the show are clearly inspired by Harry Potter. The show was created by Jonathan M. Schiff, a titan of Australian television whose productions have launched the careers of no less than Liam Hemsworth and Margot Robbie. The first season of The Bureau of Magical Things aired in Australia in 2018 and then in the US on the Nickelodeon network. The second season aired in 2021, and the score was released in December.

For the score, Schiff turned to Brett Aplin, with whom he’d worked previously on the Mako Mermaids tv series. Aplin had a unique career path to film- and tv-scoring, earning a PhD in immunology before making his way to the career he’d really always wanted. His opportunity came when he got the chance to work with Mike Post on Law and Order: SVU starting in 2000. Since then he’s amassed another 54 credits on IMDB, many of which are television series. Recently he’s been busy scoring TV shows like Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries and The Gloaming.

For the Bureau of Magical Things, Aplin has created a fun orchestral score. His music is generally twinkly and magical-sounding (lots of trills and percussion), frequently darker and dramatic, and has a variety of themes that clearly live in the same sonic world. I must admit that I personally found some of his more light-hearted music a little insubstantial, but I am impressed with his melodies and orchestral choices.

The album begins with the main theme in “The Bureau of Magical Things.” The theme is light-hearted and childlike, and appears frequently throughout the score. That playful sound continues through the next several cues, featuring a lot of trills and tinkling percussion. The first half of “The Book, and Meeting Lily” contains a darker tone (introduced by a muted trumpet and some strings see-sawing in minor intervals), before returning to that light bouncy sound, which continues in “Lily’s Mind Wipe Fail” and “The Throne of Kai Kavus.” “Magic Book Battle” gives us our first taste of action music. The cue ends with a sinister minor key variation on the main theme.

“Peter Wins Ruksy Over” introduces us to the theme for the innocent relationship between the characters Peter and Ruksy. The theme is a close cousin to the main theme. It appears first on flute at the beginning of the cue, and then gets repeated on glockenspiel and then harp. The strings add a nice warmth to the theme. “Dragonflies vs. Gazelles” takes us back to that carefree and happy sound (with lots of triangle!). Then “Peter IS Romeo” sounds like it came right out of a Renaissance fair, with medieval harp, renaissance flute, and a recorder that sounds like it’s about to launch into James Horner’s melody from “My Heart Will Go On” when it starts.

“Maxwell Reaches Out to Kyra” begins with a waterphone and creepy minor variation on the main theme. About halfway through it introduces a new theme, one representing the teacher-student relationship between Kyra and her mentor Maxwell, heard first on harp, then woodwinds, then piano. There’s a bit of mystery to it at first, but by the time the piano plays it at the end of the track it seems more positive. “Sally and Her Tooth,” sees a couple more renditions of the Peter/Ruksy theme on harp, as well as some orchestrational choices that reminded me of Mark McKenzie’s Blizzard a few times (which is high praise).

The next several cues offer a departure from the sound that dominates most of what has come before. “DMI HQ” introduces a very officious and administrative tone for the mysterious and slightly quirky Department of Magical Intervention, with chugging strings and soft snare drums under a theme for the DMI performed on clarinet. That theme reappears at the end of “The DMI Get Involved” (though it’s much slower), and again at the beginning of “Ruksy Confronts the Others.” We get some bigger orchestral action music at the end of “The Armour Attacks” and a more threatening sound in “Orb Magic Revealed,” which quietly introduces another theme, this one for an enchanted object called the Orb of Lemuria. It is again very similar to the main theme, though it becomes darker and more threatening as the score progresses.

The playful tone of earlier cues returns with “Peter Has His Mind Wiped.” “Steve is Disappointed,” contains a new theme with piano and soft strings, representing the relationship between Kyra and her step-father, Steve. “The Last Moments of the Match,” has a quicker tempo, with driving strings. “The Mission and Giselle” introduces yet another theme, this time for the relationships between the kids’ teacher Maxwell and his lost love, Giselle. It is also similar to the main theme in structure, though not in feel, as it is presented very wistfully here.

“The Orb of Lemuria” brings back the theme for the orb, this time in a minor key, accompanied by an expansive choir that gives the piece a sense of mystery and ancient power. Things continue in a darker tone in “Devastated by the News,” which contains tragic strings and a melody that reminds me a bit of Nino Rota’s love theme from Romeo and Juliet. “Kyra Summons the Orb” sees the orb theme return. At first the theme is ominous, warning of impending danger, but the tone of the cue changes abruptly presenting ,a grand major key variation on the orb theme at its conclusion.

“Throwing the Game,” sounds like it could have come from an inspirational sports film, the snare drums and chopping strings giving the cue a driving energy. “Peter’s Crazy Theories,” begins as another light-hearted cue, gets darker in the middle, and then features a circus organ scaling down and back up that sounds even zanier than it otherwise would because of how the sound rolls around a set of surround speakers. “Orla Uses Shadow Cloud,” is menacing and contains probably the scariest music in the score. “Mysteries and Deceptions” continues in that same vein, as does “Memory Restored,” which provides a dramatic conclusion to the conflict of the series (to this point anyway).

“The Birth of the Bureau” is a hopeful cue, providing a nice emotional denouement for the album, repeating several of the themes from the score. “The Bureau of Magical Things (Credits)” contains another nice rendition of the main theme.

Aplin’s score for The Bureau of Magical Things seems like a real labor of love. It’s clear to me that he invested himself into this score, imbuing it with a multitude of themes and an expansive sound ranging from light-hearted fun to grave darkness. The more time I spent with it the more it impressed me. Being unfamiliar with the series itself made it difficult for me to identify some of the themes and understand all the meaning behind them, but overall I am impressed. I can’t imagine music on this scale being written for a tween/teen series in the U.S.

Buy the Bureau of Magical Things soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • The Bureau of Magical Things (0:49)
  • The Book, and Meeting Lily (2:59)
  • Lily’s Mind Wipe Fail (2:02)
  • The Throne of Kai Kavus (2:12)
  • Magic Book Battle (1:41)
  • Peter Wins Ruksy Over (2:06)
  • Dragonflies vs Gazelles (2:02)
  • Peter IS Romeo (2:57)
  • Maxwell Reaches Out to Kyra (2:21)
  • Sally and Her Tooth (2:21)
  • DMI HQ (2:03)
  • The DMI Get Involved (1:37)
  • Ruksy Confronts the Others (1:20)
  • The Armour Attacks (2:10)
  • Orb Magic Revealed (2:25)
  • Peter Has His Mind Wiped (2:14)
  • Not Giving Up (1:23)
  • Steve Is Disappointed (1:12)
  • The last Moments of the Match (2:41)
  • The Mission and Giselle (2:35)
  • The Orb of Lemuria (2:25)
  • Devastated by the News (2:18)
  • Kyra Summons the Orb (2:12)
  • Throwing the Game (1:10)
  • Peter’s Crazy Theories (1:24)
  • Orla Uses Shadow Cloud (1:53)
  • Mysteries and Deceptions (1:35)
  • Memory Restored (2:18)
  • The Birth of the Bureau (3:57)
  • The Bureau of Magical Things (Credits) (1:19)

Running Time: 61 minutes 58 seconds

Brett Aplin Music (2021)

Music composed by Brett Aplin. Conducted by XXXX. Orchestrations by Ricky Edwards. Recorded and mixed by XXXX. Edited by XXXX. Album produced by Brett Aplin.

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