While Outlander fans wait with bated breath for 2017 to deliver new episodes, I can perhaps ease some “Droughtlander” anxiety with today’s release of my new soundtrack album, compiling tracks from the epic second season. The album is available today, in both digital and physical formats, in a collaborated release from Madison Gate Records and Sparks & Shadows.
“Outlander: Season 2” is without doubt my most diverse album yet, and presented a real challenge to pull together as a satisfying listening experience. The score ranges from the ornate halls of Baroque Parisian courts, to muddy Scottish battlefields during the Jacobite uprising. While I do not always feel soundtrack albums must play in sequential order, I found that this season absolutely had to be sequenced that way.
The album feels almost like two different albums played back to back. The first half presents music from Paris, beginning with the French version of the “Skye Boat Song.” Track 11, the “Jacobite” version of that same song, shifts the tone radically to music from the Scotland episodes. Some tracks don’t perfectly fit the structure, such as “Leave the Past Behind,” a score cue that is not French in any way, coming from the premiere episode before we saw Claire and Jamie arrive in France. However, it still fit the flow of the musical storytelling, so I left it at the beginning. To me, that track almost feels like an opening overture before we dive into the Parisian material.
I have so many personal favorite tracks on this record that its difficult to try to narrow down a list. “Leave the Past Behind” concludes with one of the most luscious and lyrical orchestral passages I’ve ever composed, for the sequence where the narrative transitions from Frank burning Claire’s eighteenth century clothes, to the airport in New York, and finally back to Scotland. “The Wrath of the Comte” features a delightfully mischievous viola da gamba performance, playing a theme that was actually composed by the real-life Comte himself!
Nearly every track from this Parisian section of the album features a historically accurate piece of music woven into the score. Listen for the Prelude (“Marche en Rondeau”) to Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Te Deum in Track 4, “Passacaille” from Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Armide in Track 5, “Ouverture de l’Opera d’Alcide” by Marin Marais in Track 6, Lully’s “Second Intermede” from “Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme,” in Track 7, Jean-Philippe Rameau’s “Chaconne” from “Dardanus” in Track 8, and a “Muzette and Double” from Marin Marais’s Piéces de Viole, livre IV.
When implementing this historical music, I adapted the arrangement to fit the show’s narrative needs, while doing my best to preserve the composer’s original intent. I tended to start the Parisian episodes with very faithful arrangements, changing almost nothing about Te Deum for example. As the series progressed, I became increasingly adventurous. Stringed folk instruments sneak their way into “Ouverture de l’Opera d’Alcide,” a Scottish bodhrán stealthily slithers into “Chaconne” from “Dardanus,” and I converted Marais’s “Muzette and Double” into a full-on pulsing action suspense cue!
Listening back to these tracks now, I am struck by how unique they are in comparison to my career output to date. I feel a tinge of sadness that my experience here was so brief. I wish the Paris episodes spanned even more seasons. I may never again have the chance to play around in this vast and expressive era of musical history. Still, I focus on the positive. Working on these seven episodes of television made me a better composer, and I’m grateful for them.
Leaving the music of Paris behind was bittersweet, but fortunately I had one of my favorite musical eras to look forward to next: the songs of the Jacobite uprising! The album takes a musical left turn on track 11, and returns us to the musical world of the folky sounds of the first season of Outlander, but with a distinctly more patriotic and military emphasis. For me, the stand out track is absolutely Griogair Labhruidh’s stunning performance of “Moch Sa Mhadainn,” as featured in the episode “Je Suis Prest.” This melody plays an important thematic role in many of the cues throughout the second half of the album, so I’m grateful to have Griogair’s voice to establish the melody for listeners in such an unforgettable way.
“125 Yards” and “Prestonpans” are the musical representation of a suspenseful build-up to war. In many ways, they function almost as cues from the horror genre, built from deep pulses, ambient wailing tones and clashing dissonant string textures. But, all the instruments are Scottish folk instruments! Instead of sinister orchestra, I used bagpipes, fiddles and Scottish percussion to create the sense of mounting terror. Listen to the opening of “Prestonpans” for a perfect example. This music feels like it could have come from The Walking Dead, but the low ominous pulsing sounds are the bodhrán frame drum, and the ambient textures are built from layers of small Scottish bagpipes and Uilleann pipes.
The album concludes with five selections from the epic season finale. For these cues, I brought in a larger, more traditional orchestra, and the emotional impact is pretty evident. Here, I bring back old familiar themes that have been with us ever since the first episode. The album concludes with a sweeping variation of The Stones Theme, ending with the same thematic material as the first season. (For a detailed description of each episode of Outlander, I’d recommend checking out my older blog entries, listed here.)
Even though I get a little misty-eyed listening back to all my music from this season, I am still very excited to be reminded that my journey on this series is only getting started. I can already say that there is more great music coming at you in 2017, as this show returns to explore uncharted narrative waters. I hope fans find the music of Outlander‘s second season as emotionally impactful as it is colorful. With a record this dynamic, I can’t even begin to predict which tracks will become fan favorites. So, I’m very curious to hear from you… what tracks are your favorites?