After a string of big-budget series focusing on the planet’s most spectacular natural spectacles, the BBC Wild islands it’s kind of like a homecoming.
That’s because, for once, audiences won’t be transported to the African savannah, the South American rainforest or the depths of the South Pacific, but to the forests, waters, wildlife and wonders of our very own United Kingdom.
The five-part series presented by Sir David Attenboroughlaunched last Sunday night on BBC One and with its spectacular footage of everything from eagles to killer whalesit already proves that you don’t have to travel that far to witness some truly amazing flora and fauna.
Who composed the music for Wild islands?
It’s a homecoming for the series’ composer, too. George Fenton is a veteran of natural history soundtracks, having composed the music for some of the BBC’s finest documentaries over the past few decades, from The trials of life to the original series of The blue planet, planet Earth and The frozen planet. And it was a return of Oscar-nominated composer was only too happy to embrace it, not least because it meant he would be working with the BBC Concert Orchestra again, he told me.
“I love doing them because it’s so different from film work, and musically it’s different. I don’t wish I had made them all the time – I’m glad I had a long hiatus from making them, but I was glad to go back and make one.
Not least because in the old days when I worked at The blue planet and stuff, I did all the recordings with the BBC Concert Orchestra and I did this with them as well. It was so good to see them regularly, for the five episodes, and now they are a great orchestra; they are really really good, really fast and just amazing.”
Wild Islands music
Fenton wrote over three hours of music for Wild Islands, most of it being orchestral. Although, as he explains, sometimes the natural world needs the odd unnatural sound to help it…
“I used some electronics in certain sections because one of the challenges of natural history is that virtually nothing moves at the speed it really does. You know, everything is either just a little slowed down, or really slowed down, or sped up. Sometimes, rhythmically, when you look at it that way, it really seems like my answer is a lot more about beats and pulsations and electronic stuff than it is about an orchestra.’
It is certainly a joy to have George Fenton back on our screens, writing about the very real drama and occasional humor found in the natural world. The last few series, continuations of some of those originally written by the composer, featured themes from a Hollywood giant Hans Zimmer and a team of talented composers from Bleeding Fingers Music. The blockbuster feel of people like The Blue Planet II and Planet Earth II inspired by suitably epic music, but with George Fenton at the helm Wild islandsaudiences are treated to original music with a little more grace, class and character.
As always, Fenton found the experience inspiring, he says.
“The overall pleasure for me, and I think for the audience, is realizing the scale and variety of wildlife we have in the UK. There’s a highlight that’s been really fun to write about that’s coming up on Sunday in the “The Woodlands episode. We all know that trees talk to each other, but there is a remarkable consistency to how mushrooms not only communicate with each other, but also help others, and that the trees use the mushroom’s lines of communication! It was great to score.
“The other one that really stood out for me was a very simple sequence from the episode ‘Pastures’. There’s a wonderful sequence towards the end about the wader, which is a bird that was almost extinct and came back because they stopped poaching it and so on.
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“It’s a series where he’s just doing what he does best, which is flying, and these things, these very simple things, speak to you in a way that makes it all worthwhile. You just think “what a joyous thing it is to write music for that” and it was.
Where can I listen to music for Wild Islands?
Listeners don’t have to wait for a soundtrack album because each episode has a special digital album release available at the same time each episode airs. Music from episode one, Our Precious Isles, is now available to stream from the usual venues, and music from episode two will be released at 7pm on Sunday (March 19), followed by the rest each week until the end of the series.
Wild Isles airs on BBC One on Sunday nights at 7pm and is available to stream on BBC iPlayer in the UK.
Photos: Puffin (BBC) / George Fenton (Getty Images)