Four of the Best Sco...

In talking about the success of Spielberg’s films, it’s impossible not to mention his career-long partnership with John Williams, who scored all but two of Spielberg’s movies to date. Their collaboration produced such memorable themes as Jaws, Indiana Jones, and Jurassic Park, which most of...

The Art of the Score: Star Trek & Michael Gia...

It was pouring rain, and we had lawn seats. I had neglected to bring a poncho, an umbrella, or even a towel, so my friend and I sat in the car for a moment before heading into the deluge. The box office was a quarter mile away. “Ready?” she asked. “Let’s do it, “ I said, and opened the door into the rain. Ten minutes later, we arrived dripping at the ticket window, soaked through, rain running in rivulets down our hair and into our eyes, shirts hanging heavy with water. “We’d like to upgrade to covered seats, please,” we said, stating the obvious. Laughing, we took our new tickets and bought wine in plastic cups. We huddled under an awning...

Get Excited About The Force Awakens Score

38 years ago, Star Wars was released for the first time, and so began a long and enduring fandom that has stretched across decades. Through these 38 years, John Williams, who wrote the score for the first Star Wars film, has built upon his original themes and created an unprecedented musical legacy, consisting of a collection of film scoring for one single movie franchise, spanning a composer’s entire career. True Star Wars fans, eagerly awaiting the release of The Force Awakens this week, will tell you that their excitement for the music is second only to their excitement for the film itself. Earlier this week, fans got a preview of some...

The Art of the Score: Klaus Badelt

Do you remember when Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl came out? Before they sequeled the idea to death? Well, I remember it clearly — and I remember seeing it twice, each time having just plain fun at the theater, and leaving with the Black Pearl theme playing in my head (as well as the image of Orlando Bloom, but that’s another post entirely). As a senior in college, I heard the same motif playing on the “Pirates of the Caribbean”-themed excursion I forced my family to take while on a cruise. A year later, at college, I sat in a derelict high school gymnasium, playing the piece with a local youth orchestra as the...

Composer Spotlight: Danny Elfman

Danny Elfman is one of those people who, if I am foolish enough to begin comparing my creative career to his, makes me want to give up entirely because some people are just born with it (and I am not one of that class). A self-taught musician with no real formal training in composition, no music degree, no dues-paying stints as the conductor of a plucky but not very polished community orchestra, Danny Elfman is proof that some people just don’t need school. Some people can flout all expectations and find their own path to success. Raised in Los Angeles, Danny led your average American life: went to school, started a band, etc. Then, while...

Five Alternate Best Original Song Nominees

Best Original Song nominees typically don’t get much more interesting than they did last year when Alone Yet Not Alone, a film which, to my knowledge, has still not been released, mysteriously got a nod for its title track. Turns out, the head of the Academy’s music branch had some ties to the film, and it was disqualified. This boring bit of awards intrigue is a perfect match to the boring songs often populate the category. Sure, “Glory” and “Everything Is Awesome” are great, but here are some alternate choices worth considering. “Hate the Sport” – We Are The Best! This song is as delightful an expression of unfocused angst as the...

Your Primer on 2014’s Best Original Song Osc...

If you, like me, haven’t been able to get out much this past year, you probably haven’t heard the Oscar nominees for “Best Original Song” from a 2014 film. Conveniently for you, you can view the Oscars without leaving your home or paying a sitter, AND I’ve listened to (and judged) this year’s songs for you, saving you time and effort. All you have to do is sit back, watch the Oscars, and feel comfortably superior when my/your favorite wins, or indignant when it does not. First, we have “Everything is Awesome,” written by Shawn Patterson and performed by Tegan and Sara, from LEGO Movie. This pop electronica song with a disco beat is fun and...

The Best Movie Music Moments of the 2000s

This one was a struggle. In the 2000s the soundtrack style of the 80s and 90s was being replaced with movies that featured soundtracks made up of songs from other decades or pop songs that already existed prior to the movie. The dedicated soundtrack song was still kicking in the early years (Eminem’s Lose Yourself in 2002) but by 2009 it was much less popular. With that in mind, this article will not list the best soundtracks of this decade; instead I’ll talk about the best movie music moments from that period (even if a majority of the songs are from different periods). Almost Famous: Tiny Dancer by Elton John A fantastic road movie, music...

The Five Best Soundtracks from 1990s Films

Born in 1984, I am what Buzzfeed calls a 90s kid. I have also at some point erased most 90s pop culture from my brain ala Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, so don’t find myself awash with nostalgia when someone says the words Tamagotchi or Saved by the Bell. With that in mind I pushed down my natural urge for cynicism, rolled up my sleeves, and dived into the 90s headfirst. First thing that struck me was the use of love ballads for movies that probably shouldn’t have love ballads as their signature song. Armageddon, an awful Michael Bay turd with a murderer’s row of great actors, probably needs a rock song for its plot of drillers going...

The Seven (and a bit) Best Soundtracks from 1980s ...

The 80s are a big turning point for movie soundtracks and this can be attributed to one thing: In 1981 MTV premiered and studios realised that if their movies came with a signature song then MTV would play it in rotation and they would get free advertising. Seemingly every movie released in this decade has a song that comes with it and some are awful (that shitty Karate Kid song) and some are amazing. We’re going to talk about the amazing ones. Purple Rain “Dearly beloved…” this album begins with one of the best Prince tracks, Let’s Go Crazy, and it is a mission statement. This album is crazy. It veers between funky dance tracks (Let’s Go...

Howard Shore and the Music of Middle Earth

This week, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies hits theaters. It’s Peter Jackson’s sixth and final film of Middle Earth (assuming he doesn’t tackle The Silmarillion). For those who have been along for the journey since it began in 2001, almost as familiar as Bilbo himself is the score composed by Howard Shore. Prior to his Lord of the Rings work, which earned him much acclaim along with three Academy Awards, Shore was known for his working relationship with director David Cronenberg and his scores for movies such as The Fly and Naked Lunch. And, prior to his film scoring career, he helped found a late night sketch comedy show...

The Five Best Soundtracks from 1970s Films

Musically and in cinema, the 70s were pretty amazing. Geo-politically, not super good, but the music and the movies being created at the that time would set the tone for the future. There are tons of movies being released now where the directors will say that they were going for a 70s aesthetic (I’m looking at you Winter Soldier) in an effect to recapture the most exciting period of cinema history. 1. Superfly Superfly by Curtis Mayfield asks and answers an interesting question: Can a soundtrack tell the movie’s story better than the movie? In Superfly’s case, yes. Superfly could stand alone without the movie it comes with,  and it  has...

The Five Best Soundtracks from 1960s Films

A good soundtrack can give a movie a much longer life. If you find a movie you like with a soundtrack you like then the movie is there with you in your iPod all the time. For this feature I have chosen the top five soundtracks of the last five decades and this year. I have only looked at albums featuring predominantly songs (forgoing albums of scores for a future feature). The 1960s 1. Easy Rider The opening lines of this album are “I’ve smoked a lot of grass…” and that pretty much sets the tone. This album is split between songs to ride motorcycles to (Born to be Wild) and songs to smoke weed to (Don’t Bogart Me), which is perfect for a...

Film Composer: John Williams

John Williams Born: 1932 Education: UCLA, Julliard Total number of films scored: >100 (and counting) In introducing contemporary film composers, John Williams must be the place to start. His influence on American culture over the past fifty years is so great that it is unlikely there is one person over the age of ten who is not familiar with his music, and his prodigious career overshadows that of every other current film composer. John Williams was born in New York to a musical family, and moved with them to LA in 1948. He attended UCLA before going into the Air Force, and then returned to New York where he studied at Juilliard. He...

The Art of the Score: Introduction

On weekends, I participate in a local community orchestra, in an attempt to remain connected to the musical community and keep my skills sharp. I also just enjoy playing. This semester, we are preparing a concert of movie music and show tunes – my favorite kind of concert to give – and although I am enjoying our rehearsals and our repertoire, rehearsing with this small orchestra of devoted amateurs is only a shadow of the experience of playing music from Broadway and film with my college symphony to a full concert hall years ago. Nevertheless, I don’t want the semester to end, because sometimes, as we rehearse tunes from Showboat, I...