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The Snow Walker (Mychael Danna and Paul Intson)

November 14, 2015


Mychael Danna & Paul Intson, 2015, Keep Moving Records
22 tracks, 50:10

Keep Moving Records has dug up a lovely score from 2003. It’s Mychael Danna and Paul Intson’s “The Snow Walker”.

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

Written and directed by Charles Martin Smith, “The Snow Walker” is based on the fiction of Canadian author and environmental activist Farley Mowat (of “Never Cry Wolf” fame). The story follows the trials of veteran bush pilot Charlie Halliday (Barry Pepper) and Kanaalaq (Annabella Piugattuk), a sick Inuit girl who needs medical attention. When they crash land in the middle of the wild, the tables turn and Kanaalaq becomes the one who provides help and gives survival tips to her companion, going as far as sacrificing herself in the process… *

The original score is written by Mychael Danna and long-time collaborator Paul Intson. It actually dates back to 2003, but has only now found its way onto CD. It was written around the time of “Ararat”, “Being Julia” and “Vanity Fair”… a very strong period in Danna’s career.

What does it sound like?

The album opens with “The End Begins”, a somewhat atmospheric cue for strings and woodwinds. At this point, it has something Christopher Youngish about it. One of the score’s key themes is presented in “Charlie’s Theme”. It’s a beautiful, lush theme, here arranged for strings and trumpet. It’s upbeat, a little noble, a little playful. I’ve got to say, it’s quickly become one of my favorite Danna themes.

That theme receives the adventurous treatment in “Life is Funny/Plane Crash”, where it’s performed by the brass section, accompanied by percussive hits and high-pitched string ostinati. This is where you might hear some stylistic resemblances to Danna’s “Ride with the Devil”. A much more subdued rendition of the main theme appears in “Charlie in the Wilderness”. Elsewhere, “False Hope” is a dramatic cue for strings, winds and brass that is derived from the main theme.

“War Flashback/Mosquitos” features lively percussion and vocal effects; and the score continues to alternate between rich, orchestral cues and lively ethnic ones. The score is co-composed by Paul Intson who has worked with Danna on numerous occasions. At first glance it may be tempting to believe that Danna wrote all the orchestral parts, and that Intson was brought onboard for the ethnic cues, but that’s only partially true. Intson actually also composed the aforementioned “Life is Funny/Plane Crash”, as well as “New Boots/Trek to the Plane” and “Kanaalaq’s Burial/Out of the Wilderness”. I initially vastly underestimated Intson’s contribution to this score; and I wish to thank the composer for getting in touch to clarify this.

“New Boots/Trek to the Plane”, features another wonderful performance of the main theme, performed by brass with playful strings and winds in the background. The album concludes with “Kanaalaq’s Burial/Out of the Wilderness”, which itself opens with a slow and distorted variation on the main theme, before building towards a gorgeous ending.

Is it any good?

Mychael Danna and Paul Intson’s “The Snow Walker” is a wonderfully lyrical, symphonic score that stylistically harkens back to the early 90s (particularly to scores like “Iron Will” and “White Fang”). It’s a strong entry in both the composers’ careers, though maybe not quite a inspirational as “Ararat”, and maybe not quite as light on its feet as “Vanity Fair” or “Being Julia”, three scores that surround this one. Danna offers a beautiful main theme that serves as the backbone for the score, and appears in many variations. Intson provides exciting ethnic cues, as well as several stirring orchestral ones . There are many heartfelt passages, often with oboe or clarinet taking the lead; though admittedly the score shines at its brightest when the main theme comes to the fore.

Rating [4/5]


01. The End Begins (1:54)
02. Charlie’s Theme (1:00)
03. Ivory For Human Cargo (0:31)
04. Life Is Funny / Plane Crash (2:23)
05. Charlie In The Wilderness (4:47)
06. War Flashback / Mosquitos (2:06)
07. Kanaalaq’s Touch (2:42)
08. Trapping Time Lapse (1:06)
09. Hunting & Fishing (1:03)
10. Charlie’s Compassion (1:30)
11. A Plane Overhead (0:57)
12. New Boots / Trek To The Plane (3:17)
13. A Crashed Plane (1:48)
14. A Hunter’s Tools (2:13)
15. False Hope (1:33)
16. Charlie’s Flashback (0:41)
17. Caribou Hunt / A Fresh Meal (3:46)
18. Charlie’s War Reflection (2:33)
19. Winter Preparation (1:48)
20. Hope For Survival (2:17)
21. Charlie’s Eulogy / Kanaalaq Disappears (5:34)
22. Kanaalaq’s Burial / Out Of The Wilderness (4:06)


For more information visit Keep Moving Records‘ website.
* Synopsis by Keep Moving Records.

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