The Firefly soundtrack doesn't have the same cinematic, awe-inspiring musical grandeur of the score for a Star Wars or Star Trek film. Instead, it yields the familiar sensations all too common in Firefly ... the sense of coming home, and the sense of something great once held, then lost.
The songs are as rich and textured as the series that spawned them. It's got the western twangs you'd expect, mixed in with the mystical Oriental strings, and occasionally torn by horrific riffs reflecting horrors confronted and bested. Or run screaming from.
You Can't Take the Sky From Me
The CD opens with the familiar lines of the Firefly theme song, which easily ranks as one of my all-time favorites for science fiction shows. It perfectly sums up the entire life view of Serenity's captain, Malcom Reynolds, with its lines "take my love, take my land, take me to where I can not stand / I don't care, I'm still free / You can't take the sky from me..." Hell, I get shivers just writing the words, let alone hearing them.
Most of the soundtrack is given over to the friendly, hat-tip and nod stylings that typified the show, making it an easy, enjoyable listen, typified by tracks like "Cows / New Drews / My Crew". This isn't the sort of music you listen to to get your blood pumping; it's the sort of thing you listen to when writing, or coding, or getting ready to run that d20 western game you've been fancying.
And then there are those darker tracks, like "Burgess Kills / Captain & Ship" and "Saved / Isn't Home? / Reavers" which turn up the base and the tension, evoking dark corridors ands cramped quarters. "Reavers Chase Serenity" intensifies the drama, with industrial drums and long, drawn out notes that crash into faster-paced, guitar punctuated sprints.
"Big Bar Fight" is quintessential western Firefly, while "Heart of Gold Montage" demonstrates car of its Far Eastern and Indian influences, with a little drama mixed in. It's one of the few truly Eastern-sounding tracks on the album. While the series often played up the Anglo-Sino alliance, in truth the music from the series relies heavily on western influences, either through the twangy frontier sounds, or its more classical string and piano pieces. This track makes for a nice change.
Having listened to the soundtrack a few times over, none of the individual tracks stood out, at least not the way that tracks on a soundtrack for Star Wars or Star Trek might. Instead, what the soundtrack successfully does is recreate the auditory feel of the series -- after an hour of listening to it, you just might find your speech tinged by Mal's comfortable drawl.
Gaming on the Frontier
From a gaming standpoint, it's a hard soundtrack to use. Tracks tend to combine multiple musical themes -- for example "River's Perception / Saffron" runs from dreamy to tension-filled in the space of a few notes. That kind of mish-mash makes for an intriguing listen, but its hard enough for a GM to key up a musical track, let alone specific time frames within a track.
That having been said, I think it makes for great opening music any science fiction themed game, and if you're running the Serenity RPG, how could you not not have this soundtrack on hand?
The Firefly soundtrack is best appreciated by fans, who will enjoy returning to its short-lived audio vistas. Its value comes from good times remembered, and those who are interested in it would do well to watch the series DVD before picking up the soundtrack.