John Barry: Out of Africa


By 1985, John Barry was already a very well-established film score composer. His work in the James Bond franchise was legendary, and his huge output of film music speaks for itself. One of his most beloved scores came from the 1985 film Out of Africa. With a soundtrack consisting of a real variety of pieces, the iconic love theme remains to be one of Barry’s finest compositions. 

Barry’s soundtrack for Out of Africa won him an Oscar for ‘Best Original Score’. It has also been ranked in the top 20 of the American Film Institute’s list of Top American Film Scores.The soundtrack as a whole is not the longest, but is full of heartfelt moments, plus some outside works like Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A. The title track has been the stand out of the soundtrack since its inception and still grasps audiences today.


The Music

As with many of Barry’s film scores, his rich orchestral style is once again showcased in Out of Africa. Opening with quiet strings that slowly grow as the horns enter with a snapshot of theme, the blossoming score begins to open up. The heroic sound of the horns adds luxury to the timbre here and the rich and sonorous string section after the introduction follows suit. The warm brass chorale that accompanies the strings balances that it is not intrusive on the theme, more that it supports it. 

The strings take over the main theme and with each repetition the music becomes richer in texture – something signature to Barry’s style of writing. A solo flute is heart, accompanied by strings and harp. The strings and horn then take over again as the music begins to build to the next climactic section. A quick timpani roll leads the orchestra into the most richly scored section as the ensemble unites to play the theme one more time. The brass are slightly more pertinent here, which also brings the dynamic up too. The theme ends quietly with a sustained note from the strings. 


Final Thoughts

John Barry’s score for Out of Africa remains one his most treasured. From his experimental use of African drumming, to his own richly scored love theme and more, the soundtrack is a real gem. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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