It's inevitable that comparisons will be made between the "Lord of the Rings" movies and "The Chronicles of Narnia". Both are based on a series of books, and the authors J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis were friends. Both stories are fantasy-based and paint a detailed picture of fictional lands. The differences are that the Narnia books are aimed more at children and rooted in reality - more of an adventure story with less attention to the complex history of the setting. These differences go some way towards explaining the differences in approach to the films' music. While Howard Shore sought to understand the musical and linguistic history of the various races of Middle Earth and use themes in an operatic way to depict the interaction of characters and concepts, in Narnia Harry Gregson-Williams has concentrated more on the story-telling. Nevertheless the results have much in common as Gregson-Williams has painted a rich musical tapestry which utilises contrasting sound pallets and a range of thematic ideas.
The initial scenes of "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" move the children swiftly from London under WWII bombing attacks to a large house in the country where their adventures begin. The Blitz, 1940 is energetic, dark and war-like (can you hear the warplanes?) while Evacuating London is more peaceful and a little sad, as the children are parted from their mother and home, the track becoming more dreamy and Enya-like. Then things start to happen in The Wardrobe with flute and harp suggesting strange almost hypnotic magical powers, the music literally stepping into a new world: Lucy meets Mr. Tumnus has a quiet ethnic lyricism of a vaguely celtic nature. Then Mr. Tumnus gets out his musical instrument to play A Narnia Lullaby and the fire dances with shapes as Lucy falls asleep, and this new world begins to seem less magical and more threatening. The White Witch takes this threat even further as the tone turns a darker shade. She seems a nice person to Edmund but is she all she seems? With all the children now in Narnia, From Western Woods to Beaversdam sees the return of some of Narnia's magical music utilising thin textures and gentle honest sounds. While the children are being pursued, there is time for a brief visit from Father Christmas hinting at Narnia's past golden age before its current troubles began.
A noble theme is introduced in To Aslan's Camp where the children find new friends. Knighting Peter has a mix of action music, some more noble music as Peter the oldest boy accepts new responsibilities, and some family music which acts as the focal point of those responsibilities. The Stone Table suggests the black magic of ritual sacrifice with its native drums and more extreme sounds, before ending on a sad note. The Battle has that epic feel of good against evil, with some dark martial elements representing the evil forces, and heroic uplifting sounds augmented with a chorus for the good side. Only the Beginning of the Adventure is the sort of warm afterglow of a battle fought and won, and the events following it as the children come to think of Narnia as their home. The whole score makes for a very satisfying listen, though the final four tracks (modern folk songs inspired by the Narnia stories) are superfluous.
The single CD soundtrack is available from : Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com, and the Special Edition Soundtrack pack (a well-packaged collector's item which includes an extra DVD with special features including the making of the movie & the music) is at these links: Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. If you want to play the CD on your computer, it runs via a software player which all works perfectly. However the "Save Album" option in its effort to prevent unauthorised copying saves the tracks in a protected Windows Media Format, but on playback this was found to "stutter" even on a very high spec machine. There is also some piano sheet music with a selection of tracks and songs from the film, available at this link: Amazon.com.