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Skilled composer finds inspiration while ‘Lost’

Rama Gottumukkala | Thursday, April 6, 2006

Hurley is not having a good day. If being marooned on an island in the South Pacific with 47 strangers isn’t enough to complain about, the batteries in his CD player have just died – right in the middle of “Delicate,” a song by Damien Rice. Such is life for the genial but hapless Latino, one of the principal characters in the hit television series “Lost.”

Poor Hurley has gone without an auditory fix ever since the show’s Feb. 23, 2005 episode “…In Translation.” Fortunately for “Lost” fans, Michael Giacchino – the show’s electric young composer – has been filling the silence on every episode since the pilot. Giacchino’s work on the show has earned him rave reviews and garnered a 2005 Emmy for Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Dramatic Underscore), beating out perennial favorites like “24” and “The Simpsons.”

Finally, almost 18 months to the day since “Lost” premiered back in 2004, Varese Records has released a compilation of Giacchino’s original works from the show’s first season. It’s been a long wait, but thankfully, a worthwhile one.

Except for the first track – the ominous, foreboding music composed by series creator J.J. Abrams that rises in pitch over the show’s title card – every segment of the CD is composed by Giacchino and lovingly brought to life by the Hollywood Studio Symphony.

When browsing through the names of the individual tracks, “Lost” fans should get a chuckle from Giacchino’s quirky titles. It’s a trend the composer carried over from his two “Alias” soundtracks. “Run Away! Run Away!” (incidentally, a common theme during the show’s first season), “World’s Worst Beach Party” and “Run Like, Um… Hell?” are three of the more memorable titles.

Organized chronologically based on the events of the first season, the soundtrack is comprised primarily of individual motifs for the show’s many characters, punctuated by sweeping, grandiose pieces designed to engage the audience’s emotions during the show’s many dramatic – and silent – segments.

Even the mysterious, unnerving island gets its own individual track. Cleverly dubbed “The Eyeland,” it remains in line with the thoughts of the “Lost” producers, who all acknowledge that the island is just as important a character in the first season as Jack, Kate, Sawyer and their fellow wayward travelers.

Giacchino breathes life into these characters through his deeply affecting themes, granting them a power that rivals the words “Lost” scribes put in their mouths every week. Actor Terry O’Quinn’s character, John Locke, merits not one but two signature tracks – “Locke’d Out Again” and “Crocodile Locke.” “Locke’d Out Again” especially wraps the listener in the same feelings of tragedy and pathos that surround the enigmatic character and permeate his backstory.

As the soundtrack reaches its conclusion, the recurring motifs reach a triumphant crescendo with “Life and Death,” “Parting Words” and “Oceanic 815.” The latter two melodies were used to stirring effect in “Exodus,” the first season’s two-part finale, and illustrate Giacchino’s impressive command over strings and soft, lingering piano notes. Any one of these three tracks could have carried the climax of a big-budget feature film with more panache than 90 percent of the watered-down Hollywood soundtracks that clutter store shelves.

Giacchino is easily one of the most versatile composers working in the entertainment industry today. He launched his career in video games, of all places, with scoring work on “The Lost World,” the eponymous Sony PlayStation game based on Steven Spielberg’s 1997 film, and the “Medal of Honor” series. Giacchino spun that work into his partnership with “Lost” and “Alias” creator Abrams, contributing orchestral scores to both those shows before making his feature film debut on Pixar’s “The Incredibles.”

But with his work on “Lost,” Giacchino demonstrates something much deeper than his formidable talent. He reminds us that even on a show as character-driven as “Lost,” all it takes is a few simple chords from a well-versed composer to overwhelm the senses and linger in your imagination.