Rising Phoenix – Daniel Pemberton

Documentaries are not something I like to watch, but after Daniel Pemberton had been hyping his music for Rising Phoenix on Twitter, I had to watch it anyways. Rising Phoenix is a documentary on Netflix about sportsmen and women who have participated in the Paralympics, and I was very curious to see how the creators approached this story and to experience what music Pemberton had come up with.

Within seconds I was drawn into the show with the introduction of the athletes, accompanied by the magnificent heroes theme of Pemberton in the background. It can be heard in “Superheroes (Rising Phoenix),” with a powerful foundation of synth sounds and a hefty sounding melody line layered on top. The theme comes to a sudden halt in the middle of the track, to make room for a gorgeous new theme on the piano, which I will call the tragedy theme, before the heroes theme picks up again in full force with the addition of percussion. This theme reflects what the track title suggests: these athletes are superheroes. There are a couple of tracks with ‘Rising Phoenix’ in the title, all containing a version of this superb theme. 

The tragedy theme can also be heard a couple of times. The melody is played on a violin in
“Ludwig Guttman (Berlin 1936)” and on the piano at the end of “Refugees.” “Rome 1960, The First Paralympics” starts with the tragedy theme, but whereas it sounds a bit sad in other versions, here it quickly transforms into something else. It begins with the foundation of the synths from the heroes theme, but with an uplifting version of the tragedy theme played over it, blending both themes together in a brilliant way.

Many tracks on the album are clearly meant to have a supporting role, using simple ambient synth melodies and additional other instruments. In “Bebe,” for example, you hear a soprano singing wonderfully over some ambient lines. In “Under The Water I” you hear ambient sounds together with a sad emotional melody on the piano. But some tracks also have the ability to swell, to appear more in the foreground to highlight the athletes’ strength and determination. The track “Inspire The World (London 2012)” is a perfect example of that with its broad-sounding finale. Another highlight of the score is “Peacock Vs. Pistorius,” which has a fantastic middle part that also uses the foundation of the heroes theme, but this time it supports a different melody.

The two themes are definitely a few of the highlights of the album, but the most impressive feat about this score is Pemberton’s creative mind and thought process for the music. When he saw parts of the documentary, with the sportsmen and women being so amazing and achieving things even a nondisabled person cannot do, he knew he had to achieve the same goal for the music. That is why all the music you hear on the album, except for the parts Pemberton has done himself, are performed by musicians who have a disability, with all of them having similar stories as the athletes in the documentary. This also includes the fantastic rap song “Rising Phoenix” at the end of the score, performed by three Krip Hop artists over Pemberton’s Heroes theme. 

Most of the time when I like a certain soundtrack, I recommend that you listen to it, but for this one I recommend watching the documentary on Netflix to see the impressive feats of the athletes in combination with the music performed by Pemberton and his ensemble of fantastic musicians. Daniel Pemberton keeps impressing me with every new innovative score he creates.

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The highlights are in bold.

  1. Superheroes (Rising Phoenix) (2:39)
  2. Inspire The World (London 2012) (2:54)
  3. Bebe (2:11)
  4. Preparation (2:00)
  5. Victus (2:26)
  6. The Starting Blocks (Rising Phoenix) (2:58)
  7. Under The Water I (4:23)
  8. Ludwig Guttmann (Berlin 1936) (3:22)
  9. Walk Again (2:34)
  10. Peacock Vs Pistorius (2:52)
  11. Tatyana Fields (3:36)
  12. Ghost Bell (2:00)
  13. The Olympic Stadium (Rising Phoenix) (2:53)
  14. Rome 1960, The First Paralympics (1:58)
  15. Refugees (1:06)
  16. A Simple Idea (2:27)
  17. Winds Of Change (1:49)
  18. Discrimination (3:04)
  19. Running For My People (2:30)
  20. Rio 2016 (Rising Phoenix) (1:44)
  21. Under The Water II (4:18)
  22. A Minutes Silence (2:10)
  23. Final Point (5:18)
  24. Rise From The Ashes (Rising Phoenix) (3:55)
  25. Rising Phoenix (feat. Toni Hickman, Georgetragic and Keith Jones) (3:53)

Total length: 1 hour and 11 minutes
1812 Recordings (2020)

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