Score Reviews‎ > ‎

The Dovekeepers by Jeff Beal (Review)

posted Apr 22, 2015, 5:07 PM by Koray Savas

The Dovekeepers is a CBS miniseries based on Alice Hoffman's historical novel about the siege of Masada. This siege is an important and controversial event in history, during which 960 Jewish rebels committed mass suicide in retaliation to Roman oppression. It is a gritty incident that is probably not best suited for a glossed over and network friendly miniseries, but it is also not the first one. Peter O'Toole and Peter Strauss starred in Masada, a 1981 ABC miniseries chronicling the same battle. Jerry Goldsmith and Morton Stevens wrote the music then, while now we have Jeff Beal's musical interpretation of the proceedings.

This score is two and a half hours long, more or less matching the amount of music Goldsmith and Stevens wrote, but how that time is utilized vastly differs between the two. Beal bases the score in the expected ethnic instrumentation, but rarely rises above that generic sound to create a satisfying musical journey. The score has no character to make it stand above similar ventures, and the lack of a cohesive structure renders a lot of the music as filler. There is the occasional spark of melody and energy that gives The Dovekeepers a burst of momentum and form, but they are too few to keep the whopping 150 minutes worthwhile. Skipping around and picking up the pieces that work definitely helps shape this epic into something more digestible, as the main theme and somber tone work well to establish the mood of the narrative. For example, "Life In Jerusalem" is a wonderful 7-minute cue with the right pacing and development that the rest of the score lacks. A single disc release may have been the right choice for this one, but listeners tend to prefer to have more to choose from than have a highlight left off the album.

Jeff Beal has a great musical voice and a unique taste for instrumentation, but his jazzy style works best for smaller and more intimate productions. The scope and nature of The Dovekeepers stretches those ideals too thin, and what is left is not worth the time to dig through and closely explore. A nuanced and streamlined approach would have been preferable to the large swaths of musical colors and ideas presented here.