Music Composed and Performed by Evan H. Chen
Vocals Performed by Evan H. Chen and Way M. Spurr-Chen
Music Engineered by Paul Wight
Recorded at What The Hale Music, Los Angeles, California
Studio Assistant: Johnathan Merritt
Photo of Evan H. Chen by Rachel Spurr
Different Isn't Always Better
What a wild ride Evan H. Chen's music for the television mini-series, Crusade, is. The first and last tracks are the
most traditional… and it is a stretch to say that. The rest of the score might be summed up by saying that it is
really out there. A baptism of electronic rhythms and synths await the listener, so take heed. One might not
anticipate such music for another space epic, but as an offshoot of the Babylon 5 series, one shouldn't be too
surprised at its unique approach. Christopher Franke, composer of the sibling-series, Babylon 5, was bypassed
in order to bring a fresh approach to the musical component of the new series. Evan H. Chen, a classically
instructed pianist from Shanghai, certainly brings a unique sound to the digital canvas. Chen was given full
license to experiment. The end result is, to say the least, different.
Of all the tracks the first and last are the most enjoyable, as they are the closest things to distinguishable
themes. The "Main Title," like the rest of the tracks, seems to be built layer upon layer of synthesized
instruments, drum machines, and sound effects. This track has somewhat of a nice rhythm, but the actual theme
is not easily discerned unless one listens to it at least two times. The music builds and builds but then ends
very abruptly. The "Main Title" earns the highest rating of the CD with 3 stars (***). Rather than a heroic
atmosphere being established though the theme, one of other-worldly-schizophrenia is constructed instead.
"Hyperspace," track 2, seems to tip its hat to Alexander Courage's theme for Star Trek in the first couple of notes.
Intentional or not, I say, "Nice touch!" However from there it falls into the dark regions of electronic pulses,
sizzles, and warped instrumentation. At times there seems be some sort of chanting in the background. If there
were sound in space, I suppose this is what most people would think they might hear. At about two minutes
things change with a little more cohesion as established by more electronic rhythms.
"Future Pleasure," track 3, certainly reminds one of Serra's work for The Fifth Element. This is a rather aggressive
rhythm with tons of electronic clicks, crashes, and diddies- sort of like Pee Wee's Playhouse goes to Warp 9.
One of the more identifiable tracks comes in track 4, "Elizabeth." A simple piano comprises the majority of this
piece, with synths fading in and out from time to time. As the track progresses, the flute returns. This track
would qualify as the subtlest.
This is a difficult score to rate. While immensely different and creative, most of the tracks are not easy to listen
to. There is little in the human experience that score reflects- maybe such music will reflect the human
experience in centuries to come. As techno, not to mention chaotic, as our society is and is becoming, only a
small selection would find this sort of music easy to identify with. The score for Crusade was a huge opportunity
for Chen and hopefully will open further doors for him to demonstrate his talent. He may have even more to offer
in a more traditional setting. The producers decided to roll the dice on this one. For continuity's sake, going with
Christopher Franke might not have been such a bad idea; afterall, the Jerry Goldsmith-Star Trek relationship has
seemed to work.
November 14, 1999
About a small ship exploring space to find the cure for a plague, Crusade is the limited spin-off television series
from the sci-fi cult favorite, Babylon 5. Surprisingly, a newcomer from Shanghai, Evan Chen, was chosen to
score the series instead of Babylon 5's Christopher Franke. The liner notes explain "a new show must have a new
and totally different sound." Crusade delivers a new sound indeed, but with a certain dark-space moodiness that
Babylon 5 fans should be familiar with.
Musically, Crusade presents an interesting twist. Whereas film music is often observed to sound much better
with images and within the medium for which it was intended to be heard, Crusade actually has more value on CD
than on screen. Watching the series (which incidentally has a good number of very entertaining episodes), I
couldn't help noticing that the music was completely inappropriate for the images on film. On screen, the score
was a bland, ambient sound that meandered listlessly without any regard to story's emotional content, plot, or
dramatic intent. Although there is some inspiration drawn from the ambient mood of the Babylon 5 world, any
supporting value of the music ends there. The music remains monotonous and without affect from beginning to
end, whether the story is funny, threatening, or sad. Moreover, Chen provides no themes, no memorable
signatures that allow attachment to the film. The truth be told, the series would have been better without music
than the distracting detachment of the background noise.
On CD however, the music actually has some value as an abstract artistic effort. If the listening experience is
divorced from the any relationship with the story, the music sounds like an avant-garde New Age piece that
combines outer-space imaginations with Chinese accents and unusual sound effects (like babies laughing in
"My Way"). It can be seen as a creative work of pure individual expression which defies conventional boundaries
of music, which could be of interest to people who like the unorthodox. It is just too bad it has nothing to do with
the story for which it is named.
November 16, 1999
Extraordinary Sounds For An Extraordinary Show
While some folks loved the music and others despised it, nearly everyone had an opinion about the unusual
melodies heard on the Babylon 5 spin-off series Crusade. Yet few could argue that the controversial tunes,
generated by composer Evan H. Chen, failed to contribute highly eccentric sounds to the program. Although
behind-the-scenes production conflicts led to the premature cancellation of the show, a new album provides
diehard fans with an opportunity to hear 16 works culled from the short-lived but still talked about adventure.
The Crusade CD opens with the "Main Title" cue. This track begins with mysterious, murmuring ambient tones that,
over a span of just 90 seconds, build to a rhythmic crescendo. Longer compositions like "Sorrow," "Alwyn's
Story" and "Visitors"--each of which lasts at least six minutes--combine soft samples and processed noises with
various electronic effects, showcasing an expansive range of emotions and motifs. Meanwhile, succinct
selections such as "Elizabeth," with its quiet keyboards, or "Battlestation," which presents a menacing martial
atmosphere, reveal a more traditional thematic approach. The disc concludes with the brief "End Credits,"
although just prior to that number there's an unexpectedly whimsical cut titled "My Way" that features snippets of
a babbling baby coupled with a scratchy, buoyant beat.
The liner notes contain numerous photos from the program, along with a concise commentary on the music from
series creator J. Michael Straczynski and a short biography of Chen. The text also includes an extensive list of
acknowledgments to family, friends and colleagues of the grateful composer.
When Chen's music debuted in A Call to Arms, the made-for-television movie that essentially launched the
Crusade saga, many longtime B5 buffs expressed dismay at the score's minimalist and sporadically atonal
structure. However, as Straczynski bluntly declares in the liner notes, "A new show must have a new and totally
different sound." These daring melodies unquestionably achieved that goal.
"Galen's Wrath" clearly exhibits Chen's extraordinary range. Well-defined notes--vaguely reminiscent of those
heard during the closing credits of The Twilight Zone--come and go throughout the piece, intermingled with
sampled orchestral noises and eerie chimes. Combining odd electronic elements with unusual classical and jazz
idioms, the cut cleverly hints at the disquieting fury of the powerful technomage. Chen also draws inspiration from
other sources, occasionally blending Far Eastern musical traditions in works such as "Patterns of Soul," or
incorporating indistinct but expressive ethnic chants on cues like "Rainbow." These multicultural components
ingeniously echo the show's overall story arc (finding the cure for a plague threatening everyone on Earth) while
simultaneously suggesting the exotic civilizations encountered by the characters during their interstellar quest.
In his observations, Straczynski accurately states that "Chen created a sonic imprint unlike anything used on
any previous science fiction TV series." The inventive recipe may not appeal to everyone, and in fact a couple of
selections, including a cheeky number titled "Future Pleasure," are somewhat substandard. But SF fans seeking
original, uncompromising compositions that undeniably differ from run-of-the-mill soundtrack fare should find the
Crusade CD to be a genuinely enlightening experience.
Although lots of people have griped about Chen's music, one person who's definitely a fan is resident B5
composer Christopher Franke. His company (Sonic Images) not only released this album, but will also be issuing
the full-length score to A Call to Arms early next year.
Sci Fi Weekly
November 30, 1999
Thank you Sonic Images for releasing the musical score to the spin-off of J. Michael Straczynski's Hugo Award
winning space opera, "Babylon 5," with the recent Compact Audio Disc release of CRUSADE composed by Evan
H. Chen. CRUSADE is quite a remarkable CD.
Upon first hearing Mr. Chen's music when the final "Babylon 5" TV movie, "A Call To Arms" aired, I must admit that
I had missed "Babylon 5" composer Christopher Franke's epic musical score, but as I watched the thirteen
completed episodes of CRUSADE, I found that Chen's distinctive style, rhythms, and beat grew on me.
Now fans of CRUSADE can enjoy Evan H. Chen's wonderful atmospheric blend of Asian mystical and atmospheric
scales with an almost archetypal style. The music is wonderful on two levels because it gives viewers of the
series a chance to enjoy Mr. Chen's music without the dialogue and effects of the actual television series and the
CD actually works very well as a new age meditation compact disc. So one does not even have to be familiar with
CRUSADE on any level to enjoy this wonderful music. Of course it does not hurt to be familiar with both shows,
but it is definitely not necessary.
The CD sound itself is magnificent. The smallest nuances can be hard spreading about from one speaker to the
other and it is really quite mesmerizing. Mr. Chen is inventive in his approach as well. For example, track six
"Sorrow" starts out with this sound reminds one of whales' songs or a Tibetan Monk blowing into a large horn
across a vast valley below the mountains. Chen gets playful too with track three, "Future Pleasure," and even
lends vocal sound effects on track seven, "Shanghai Tan," and track 15, "My Way." The series "Main Title" theme
and "End Credits" music serve as bookends for the 14 musical tracks that make up this 16 chapter Musical
The CD itself is a bit odd looking because the CRUSADE title is horizontal across a white background while the
Warner Bros. and Babylonian Productions logo are vertical with a grayscale background that I just could not make
out what it was. The Sonic Images logo is placed between the two backgrounds that reminded me a bit of the Yin
and Yang image.
The CD jewel case features a background of the Mars Colony behind the CD's cradle and an image of a green
world with space above it on the back. The front contains a booklet with the CRUSADE logo in the front and a
rather lengthy set of thank you notes from Mr. Chen himself as well as a dozen photos from the show. There are
also a few words by "Babylon 5" and CRUSADE creator J. Michael Straczynski and a bio of Mr. Chen's career. A
picture of Mr. Chen is on the backside of the booklet.
At the time of this review, the CRUSADE CD is only available through on and off line credit card or mail in money
orders directly to Sonic Images. Samples of all sixteen tracks can be found at the Sonic Images website at
http://www.sonicimages.com. Orders can be placed there directly and there are instructions for off line credit card
orders or money order snail mail requests.
If you are a fan, this is a must get collector's item. If not, the CRUSADE Soundtrack CD composed by Evan H.
Chen is still a fantastic and mystical score to listen to that will both rivet and relax your heart through your ears.
Mark A. Rivera
Genre Guide to Home Video Entertainment
January 10, 2000
For the follow-up series to the "Babylon 5" saga, CRUSADE, instead of turning again to Christopher Franke, who
did such an admirable job on the former, Shanghai-born composer Evan H. Chen was selected to provide the
musical landscape. Chen, a piano and vocal student of Shanghai Teacher's College and a subsequent
composition student of William Kraft in the U.S., produces a perhaps somewhat expected East-meets-West
approach, different than Franke's electronic/percussive approach, though similar in some respects. There is
indeed much atmospheric synth work, but also some inventive vocalisation by the composer, and even his baby
son on the strange "My Way." Despite the otherworldly feel of the music, there is nearly always a rhythmic
element to it, at times realised by unusual and exotic percussion.
Film Music Bulletin
The synth music of Crusade is certainly more atonal than what one might find in the average television show. Evan
H. Chen is able to sustain a degree of harmonic interest, but he does so through an uncomfortable, labored
atonality. Atonality doesn't exist simply to alleviate the pressures of having to conform to expected tonal
resolutions. It requires structure of its own in order to hold up as music. Chen's atonality sounds out of control
(as in "Invasion") all too often. His synthesized sounds don't help the issue, as tonal lines are hard enough to
follow on sweeping, swelling patches.
The synths (and melodic writing style) of Crusade conjure up Showtime's dreadful Outer Limits music. Though the
drones are hypnotic (which can be confused with boring), the percussion is so washed in reverb that it loses most
of its edge. One of the general problems with Chen's sound is that there's nothing sharp enough to break up the
soft monotony of the synth patches. These ethereal textures (as in "Hyperspace") would have been helped
immeasurably by the addition of but one or two acoustic instruments--not to mention live percussion. The real
vocals of "Rainbow" and the baby giggles in "My Way" are the highlights of this album. There's very little rhythmic
interest to bolster the poor sounds (except in the rhythm section itself)--another trademark problem almost
inherent in synth writing. The pieces driven by rhythmic devices (like sections of "Future Pleasure" or "Mars
Dome") hold up better than the rest.
This is not a CD designed to be listened to from start to finish. It's long and the sounds are overbearing even
before their constant repetition becomes evident. But despite the limitations of Chen's synthesizers, he shows
some promise with Crusade. There are several competent, fake piano-driven action interludes in "Galen's Wrath,"
and the synthesized sighs, whale-like noises, and crystalline textures of "Sorrow" stand above the other drone
Chen is as limited by his synthesizers as is the next man, but he also needs to work on clarifying his atonal
vocabulary--especially if he's writing for a medium where he is supposed to get his point across within a given time
frame and be done with it (without requiring repeat listenings). On a brighter note, Chen's moving liner notes
thanks scores of people for their artistic guidance. Rating: **1/2.
Film Score Monthly Online
February 8, 2000
While this "Babylon 5" spin-off was basically cancelled before it ever premiered (only 13 episodes actually aired),
the show's devotees continue to debate Evan H. Chen's unusual score. And now, to further add fuel to the
controversy surrounding the compositions, a recording featuring the music is finally available. From the enigmatic
atmosphere of "Galen's Wath" to the mysterious, menacing "Mars Dome," all sixteen cues are appropriately
evocative of the ambitious though regrettably short-lived series. Quirky classical and jazz idoms merge with
unusual samples and sounds, generating a melodious milieu that's as thought-provoking and promising as the
TV show itself.
Two more recent TV series have spawned new discs from Sonic Images, which are available from specialist
retailers and the company's website. The first is from the short-lived "Babylon 5" spin-off "Crusade," which
features Evan Chen's controversial electronic music. Not for the fainthearted, Chen's music is a peculiar blend of
the oriental and occidental: J. Michael Straczynski wanted a "different sound for the new series," and Chen
Sonic Images has also released a bountiful disc of Micky Erbe and Maribeth Solomon's music from EARTH: FINAL
CONFLICT, which contains a number of appealing, mainly ambient tracks created to enhance the series' wide-
reaching storylines. The disc contains a heady blend of electronic scoring and orchestral passages, frequently
enhanced by contributions from angelic solo vocalist Leah Erbe.
In his introduction to the soundtrack album for "Crusade," series creator J. Michael Straczynski outlines the
philosophy behind the music of "Babylon 5"'s first spin-off show. 'For this new series,' he explains, 'we wanted a
very particular sound, something I hadn't heard before.' There can be no doubt that Evan H. Chen fulfilled
Straczynski's demand for a daring and original musical score. As composer of "Crusade"'s main and
incidental themes, Chen not only eschewed the symphonic splendour of "Babylon 5," but successfully unveiled a
series of innovative tunes which are completely unlike anything to ever grace the small screen. The "Crusade"
soundtrack album offers an excellent demonstration of Chen's groundbreaking work on the SF drama series.
Fittingly released by B5 composer Christopher Franke's Sonic Images Records label, the 68-minute CD
comprises 14 striking episodic tracks together with "Crusade"'s opening and closing themes. To its credit, this
extraordinary collection of synthesised tunes runs a wild gamut of musical styles and rhythms, and deftly
encompasses traditional Western motifs, Eastern sensibilities, New Age chic and industrial techno beats.
"Crusade"'s Main Title sets the scene for the bold musical journey which lies ahead. After an extremely subtle
opening segment, the track slowly develops an unusual and seemingly confused rhythm before reaching a
powerful and moving crescendo. Like many of Chen's "Crusade" melodies, Main Title takes a bit of getting use to,
but its brilliance swiftly becomes apparent after repeated listening. Once the Main Title has unrolled, Chen's
episodic compositions proceed to take "Crusade" into even more unusual and unpredictable territory. While the
likes of Battlestation, Hyperspace and Elizabeth allow the composer to give familiar musical conventions a new
slant, Chen's real triumphs come with his most challenging and experimental offerings, Future Pleasure, Shanghai
Tan, Galen's Wrath and My Way. The latter track in particular showcase Chen's gift for employing unusual
rhythms, sounds and vocals; where else but on "Crusade"'s My Way would you find a gurgling baby providing the
There's no denying that the "Crusade" score functions perfectly well away from the series' visuals and easily
makes for stand-alone - if seldom easy - listening. "Crusade"'s 13-episode run clearly allowed Evan H. Chen to
create a unique musical legacy. Provided your palette can make the initial adjustment, you'll soon come to
savour this incredibly exotic tour of the cosmos.
"Babylon 5" Magazine