Archive for composers

Play It Again, Sam.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on June 16, 2009 by babydylan

For the first time on babydylan, Alex and Eugene have roped good friend and fellow blogger Jamie (check out his Learning the Lingo blog) into contirubting a little somthingsomething for their humble site. Hopefully to be the first of many additions, inspiring us to get our arses into gear, Jamie talks of his love to SCORE!Firstly, we know that’s not the actual quote from Casablanca. I believe Miss Bergman said “Play it, Sam. Play “As Time Goes By””. But this is not a post about mis-quoted movie quotables. This is about my love for film composers. It has only been in the last few years where I realised the difference a score can make – turning a good film into a brilliant one.

 

My awakening occurred with Philip Glass’ score of The Hours. This was just some kind of symphony that, for me, came out of nowhere. I’d never heard anything like it in a film, where the music was literally striking a chord within me. His orchestrations were as critically important to the story, as were David Hare’s adapted words from Michael Cunningham’s amazing novel. I still play the CD of his score to this day, and “Morning Passages” is the deepest way there is too wake up in the morning.

If the cast wasnt enough to inspire SQUEEING, the score is sure to make you do so.

If the cast wasn't enough to inspire SQUEEING, the score is sure to make you do so.

Soon this pattern started emerging in more films that I watched. I’d be taking mental notes of who was composing what, and before I knew it, I’d be eagerly anticipating who would win Best Score at the Oscars instead of the Acting categories.

And it’s not just me who sees the significance of music in film. Recently I stumbled across some interesting quotes on the Sight and Sound website where many influential directors had been asked how music influences film. Cameron Crowe notes that the best music just bypasses your mind and transports you into another world. Sidney Lumet says that music should be treated as a character that can reveal something that the movie does not explicitly deal with. Fernando Meirelles sees music (or its absence) as the soul of a film. For more amazing quotes click here.

I could (would and should) literally spend hours writing about ALL of the films that tickle my fancy regarding film scores that changed my life, but alas, I doubt I have the amazing talent as a writer to pull one’s imagination for the length of a mini thesis. So here are some mini snippets of film composers I love.

PHILIP GLASS – As evidenced by the reasons mentioned above. Also, his whole career is worthy of a check out, but do see Notes on a Scandal, not just because Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett want to make you rip off your clothes in a self sacrificial “I’m not worthy” stance, but because this sometimes over bearing score is still a must see/listen experience.

Phillip Glass

Phillip Glass

THOMAS NEWMAN – Not only is he one of the most sought after film composers, but he did the amazing theme for Six Feet Under!!!! (where the main titles were made around his score – can you tell I kinda like the show?) Newman has composed many amazing scores (Road to Perdition, HBO’s Angels in America, The Green Mile) but it is the score of American Beauty that stands out in my mind as well as probably every other cinephile.

ROLFE KENT – A composer to many of Alexander Payne’s films (as well as Nurse Betty, Thank You for Smoking and Mean Girls), my favourite Kent score is 1999’s Election. It’s the perfect combination of quirkiness and humour that is required, with that little bit of pathos on the side.

GUSTAVO SANTAOLALLA – his Oscar winning score is that made Brokeback Mountain simply unforgettable to me. The piece “Wings” would not leave my head for weeks, even after many listens. The mark of a great artist. His score in Babel also won him an Oscar, and his next score will be on Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s latest work Biutiful.

ALEXANDRE DESPLAT – It was Stephen Frear’s The Queen that made me realise that Desplat is a gem among 21st Century cinephiles everywhere. Since then he did the score of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and many more will follow. Also, see his scores in Birth and The Upside of Anger.

Alexandre Desplat

Alexandre Desplat

HANS ZIMMER – Three words The Lion King. Four more words. The Thin Red Line. If you haven’t seen either of these films, or the scores do not ring a bell, then do yourself a favour (as well as the karma gods and cinephiles everywhere) and buy the hell outta these films.

It’s also interesting to note the directors that use certain composers time and time again, such as the aforementioned Santaolalla with Innarritu, Kent with Payne, and other teams of Burton and Elfman, Spielberg and Williams, Badalamenti and Lynch, Eastwood with Eastwood (with a side of Eastwood). The list is endless.

Now, maybe you’re wondering where John Williams is in this. Don’t get me wrong, he is amazing and a living legend in film composer movie world. But while he is almost in another league compared to these dudes here, I still haven’t had the amazing connection to his film scores. They are more like themes. The most amazing and recognizable themes out there. It’s just a different league.

Also worthy of honourable mention goes to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue heard in Woody Allen’s Manhattan. So this is not a piece of music written specifically for the film, but when you see the sequence in the film, (besides jizzing your pants over the black and white wonderment that is Woody Allen and the island of Manhattan) something so indescribably moving, haunting and evocative of pure beauty is merged with the classical composition and the film that looks like a black and white postcard.

Woody Allen and his island

Woody Allen and his island

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