Saturday, April 6, 2013

Listen, Don't Watch

A long, long time ago (about 10 years) in a high school far, far away (about a mile from where I am), I wanted to be a musician. Not just any musician, I wanted to play the music of the silver screen and eventually compose said music of the silver screen. This career choice combined my two great loves: music and film.

Life obviously didn't turn out like that, and four years of political science dried up any and all creativity needed to write music, so that path isn't even a blip on my radar (even though it makes me sad that I can't think of a single female composer off the top of my head). I do however, still appreciate film scores as much as I did at the height of my musical career, which, if I remember correctly, was around age 17.

Music is one thing that I always notice when watching anything, and it can make or break a movie for me. Usually decent movies will have decent scores, but every now and then you get that gem that has a phenomenal score. Although, based on the length of the initial list I made, it might be more than every now and then. Either that or I'm not very critical. Or I only watch good film. Yeah, that's got to be it.

Because I can make arbitrary decisions like this, I'm going to keep scores heavy on the songs with words out of this list. That might be for another day.

Also I won't include anything composed by John Williams. "What?!" you ask? I know, but if I included John Williams this list would be at least twice as long and my posts are always long winded anyway. My next post will be dedicated exclusively to John Williams. Promise.

Now, for your aural pleasure, I give you examples of my favorite original scores written by someone other than John Williams.

Gone With the Wind - Tara's Theme, Max Steiner 

I've only seen this movie once. A couple years ago I was assigned to teach my fellow classmates about Histrionic Personality Disorder. While preparing my presentation, I read that Scarlet O'Hara is a perfect example of HPD. I saw a clip and decided to watch the entire thing. I had been meaning to for a very long time and watching a four hour movie was much more intriguing than homework.

I hated this movie. That being said, I'm going to watch it again because I don't think I gave it a fair chance. Listening to the music alone makes me want to watch it again, but I think when I watched it the first time I was so focused on Scarlet's HPD and how annoying she was that I missed pretty much everything else. I think I'll still find her to be a terrible person, but maybe with a bit more tenacity. After all, she rebuilds her life like eight times.

This is probably the most recognizable song from Gone With the Wind. Tara is the plantation Scarlet grows up on and eventually goes back to, and this is Tara's theme.

The Fellowship of the Ring - Lothlorien, Howard Shore

I love all three of these soundtracks. Howard Shore hadn't done any scoring like this until Peter Jackson hired him for Lord of the Rings, and I still think it was a perfect choice. Middle Earth is full of different races and cultures and different as real Earth and Shore does a fantastic job of giving each culture (not just race, but culture within a race) its own distinct sound. 

I was torn whether to post the theme for Lothlorien or Rohan here. I love both of them so much and I can never decide if I like Galadriel or Eowyn better. I go back and forth a lot when I daydream about who I would want to be. Tolkien didn't do much to promote the female gender in any race, but the two women who are actually in the story (cause let's face it, Arwen really isn't a real or memorable character in the book) are totally kick ass. Anyway, because I couldn't decide, I'm posting both. 

Braveheart - The Legend Spreads, James Horner

Ah, James Horner. Pick any memorable music score and chances are it was written by him (after excluding any John Williams music, that is). This guy did Braveheart, Willow, Apollo 13, The Wrath of Khan, and so many more that I can't think of right now. I love this guy. 

The score for Braveheart has always held a special place in my heart because I love Celtic music. Love so much. I have no idea why, but even as a kid I loved listening to the bagpipes and no kid likes that. I chose this particular piece because it not only features our hero's theme, but the uilleann pipes as well. The uilleann pipes are one of my very favorite instruments. I first noticed them when I saw Riverdance about 12 years ago and my obsession has only grown in recent years. Someday when I have a real job and I start playing music again, I'm going to buy myself a set of uilleann pipes. 

Lawrence of Arabia - Overture, Maurice Jarre

Let's just take a moment to appreciate how sexy Peter O'Toole was.

Confession, I haven't actually seen Lawrence of Arabia. At least not all the way through. I've seen bits and pieces growing up, but I never sat down and watched it from beginning to end even though I have wanted to for a very long time. Hmm. I've got time... maybe I'll do that now. 

Okay, DVD is in, Overture is playing. 

On that note, I'll let you listen too.

The Last of the Mohicans - Promentory, Trevor Jones & Randy Edelman 

This soundtrack as a whole isn't among my favorites, but it has some fantastic stand out pieces. This particular piece has been one of my favorites for as long as I can remember. As a teenager I remember going lazer tagging one evening and we were allowed to pick our own music. I can't remember who I went with, but someone chose the Last of the Mohicans soundtrack. It may have een been me for all I know. I can't remember being that scared in my life up to that point. For some reason playing lazer tag while music to wich people were slaughtered was played freaked me out. 

The Dark Knight - Why So Serious, Hans Zimmer (et al.)

Technically Hans Zimmer collaborated with others, but he kind of took the lead on this score, so I'm only going to credit him by name. Zimmer is another one of my favorites. I'd say maybe my third favorite film composer. Although maybe I only have three favorites... Anyway, he wrote all three of Nolan's Batmans, Inception, The Lion King, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Power of One, and Sherlock Holmes. 

I love all three of the Batman scores, but The Dark Knight is probably my favorite. This may or may not be related to the fact that The Dark Knight is my favorite of the trilogy. The music draws you in and is perfectly tied to any emotion we're meant to feel. I'd say this is most prevalent in the Joker's theme. That one cello note that just goes on and on makes you immediately tense and kind of hate whatever that sound is tied to. This piece goes on to become more and more chaotic and there are points where I just have no idea what is going on. It's perfect.

Amelie - La Valse D'Amelie, Yann Tiersen 

My love affair with this movie and its soundtrack has lasted far longer than any relationship I've ever had. Probably put together, actually. I can't tell you why exactly, but I love this kind of Parisian cafe music. I don't even know what to call it. It's just awesome and I have a playlist dedicated exclusively to this kind of music. Amelie was the beginning of that playlist. Even when I go years without watching the movie, I'll listen to the soundtrack a few times a month at the very least. Generally when I'm reading on the train, I'm listening to that playlist (Sounds of France, I call it) and it never fails to make me in a better mood. 

And I'll leave it there. If you're at all curious, I watched the first half of Lawrence of Arabia the other day when I typed that paragraph and I fully intend on finishing it this weekend. Yes, it's a lot of walking through the desert, but if you know that before hand, it's not bad. Plus, Peter O'Toole! 

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