Anima Mundi is a short, eco-documentary wildlife film and so gave Philip Glass the opportunity to write music to images, without the worry of dialogue or sound effects. His work on the cult classic Koyaanisqatsi and its sequels, which have perfect musical mirrors for their amazing (and much copied) imagery, has led to him scoring several films featuring simply images and music. An interesting and exciting opportunity for any composer.
While Koyaanisqatsi is an undeniably effective blend of music and images, the score alone can leave the listener somewhat cold. However, a few disparate tracks of Glass' music featured in The Truman Show made me pick up the far more enjoyable Anima Mundi. Glass manages to tap into a more dramatic and tribal vein which is simply thrilling from beginning to end. From the short opening, The Journey we are led into The Ark which has some hair raising choral moments. Despite being a small orchestra and chorus (the musicians are listed in the booklet), Glass is working on an epic canvas that has a much larger scope than the modest ensemble implies. The small choir do some chanting in later tracks and occasionally producing strange breathy vocals in the background.
Glass' minimalist style doesn't really lapse and so he relies largely on orchestration and wonderful harmonic shifts rather than changes in tempo for changes in dramatic tension. Some tracks have an obvious construction; The Beginning builds from a percussive base, over which the other layers are set down. Although the general tone is fresh and uplifting, Living Waters is a gorgeous, albeit bleak elegy filled with intense harmonies and mournful strings. Perpetual Motion and The Witness close proceedings in fine style with Perpetual Motion in particular featuring a superbly layered onslaught by the full orchestra and chorus.
The album presents the score as it appears in the film, both only being around half an hour in length. For those skeptical about the effectiveness of minimalist music or those wanting to try something out would do well to find this album. Within the short time frame of the disc, there is more than enough variety and the music is very accessible. For those who got their first taste of Glass through The Truman Show, Anima Mundi is more of the same, in the best possible way.