Life On Earth: That Wonderful Music

A true cinematic pleasure that is neither fictional nor a big screen blockbuster. And like all great movies, we need magical music to captivate us.

I first watched David Attenborough’s 1979 Life On Earth series in quite restrictive circumstances – on a portable, monochrome television. As a nine year old I was only half interested and a little squeamish about close-ups of wriggling insects. My mother always insisted that we watch science shows together (see also Tomorrow’s World), so I had little choice in the matter. However, I am eternally grateful for the exposure to popular science from an early age. It has shaped my naturalistic view of the world.

I’ve been re-watching the original series, my first time in high definition colour. The photography is a work of art. This first dawn of Attenborough’s Life series comes fully formed and way ahead of its time. The newest revelation for me is the wonderful music by Edward Williams, mixing orchestra with early synthesisers.

YouTube video

The Life On Earth soundtrack is gloriously cinematic for a natural history programme. Of course, all the drama we experience in movies has it’s roots in the natural world and the real life version is perhaps more compelling.

Back in 1979, I was developing a fandom with electric guitar bands like The Police, so I’d have hardly noticed William’s enchanting music that soundtracked Attenborough’s narrations, albeit with poor sound quality.

Now we can all enjoy the splendour of the music. The official soundtrack was released by Trunk Records in 2009 and the original Life On Earth series is on BBC iPlayer.