For no reason other than I can, I'm going to talk about soundtracks today.
Since their a big part of my everyday life (I'm known for ALWAYS having my earphones on, at least around my neck) I want to start writing about them more often (similar to Mike's comic updates).
To start off with 90-95% of the music I listen too is orchestral, and typically from a movie. I don't enjoy lyrics in a song unless the words really speak to me. Since this is rare, orchestral is the way to be if you ask me.
Many people who've gotten to know me throughout the years suspect my none stop imagination could be a direct byproduct of listening to nothing but eventful music. There is probably something to that. I usually have 1-5 great ideas (which mostly get forgotten by the next day) whilst listening to soundtracks.
So how do I pick the music that I listen too?
One of my major criteria in buying a soundtrack is usually seeing a movie, and gauging the impact its music had on me during the experience. However there are a few composers who consistently write music of superb enough quality that I now often buy their scores without referencing the films themselves.
These would be my favourite artists. My version of my top bands...
James Newton Howard
In the summer of 2001, while on a weekend break from summer camp I HAD to get some new music or I'd go bonkers. The problem was that I hadn't seen any new movies with must get music. In desperation at the CD store I picked up the soundtrack to Disney's Atlantis by James Newton Howard without having seen the film or been overly aware of this composer (at the time). I was blown away, and it still ranks as one of my favourite albums of all time.
It was with Mr. Howard's scores that I began this habit of non-scouting film music, and he has rarely let me down._
Overall I'd say he is my overall favourite composer due to his varied range, and lack of easily identifiable
style (up until the last couple years). Often with many composers I can identify their music with just a tiny sampling. Howard does have some stylistic trademarks, but he varies his genre and orchestra (you'd be surprised how many composers stick with their comfort range of instruments
... I'm looking at you WILLIAMS!) so that you have to listen hard to figure out it is a Howard movie.
Howard's other talent, that definitely
fire my imagination cylinders, is for awe music. As in music for things that are extra-ordinary or not of the real world. No one does them like Howard, and he typically
has at LEAST one per album.
July 21st 2004 was a day that had a bit of an impact on me. It was like a really good friend died, even if I'd never met the man. At the same time he had been (and still is) a constant companion through his music. This man was Jerry Goldsmith. The most amazing composer there has ever been.
Now I don't say that in a over the top fanboy
way. I mean it simply in his impact on my musical world. I have been listening to Goldsmith music since I was around 5 or 6, and without fail I've listened to him up until the present.
Out of the two greats, himself and John Williams, Jerry never got stuck in a great era. He was just always good. Which I'll admit. Sure his stuff isn't as famous or recognizable as Williams' classics, but unlike Williams, Goldsmith produced great music his whole career. Which is several more decades than Williams.
Harry Gregson Williams
Is a much newer addition to my buy without question list. I'd been buying his music since he went "solo" from being a ghost writer for Hans Zimmer
and on to jobs where his name appeared in the credits. As of my purchase of his collaborative
effort with John Powell (below) Chicken Run they both made the list.Gregson
Williams' talent lies in his ability to steer immense power from an orchestra and hammer home any theme he develops. Which is the other thing about his music I like. There are lots of repeating and catchy themes. If there is something I like in an album is several variations of a good theme.
Same story as Gregson
Williams above, had been liking his music in movies and buying his stuff. As of Chicken Run (which I will do a tribute post too soon) I was buying his stuff off the self. Though of all composers on this list, I've been having trouble keeping up with this albums. Not cause their bad (though he does produce more let downs than the others, but the reason is) it is just he does music for SO many movies now a year!
I love Powell's energy and light heartedness. His music taps into my inner child, and was the formative sound for a lot of Traumador's early days as a character (Chicken Run in particular, but other Powell only albums as backup).
The new kid on the block, Brian Tyler only just recent made buy before view status, and so far I'm enjoying his stuff very much. One of the immediate things that attracted me to his music was that it had a very Jerry Goldsmith feel to it (and in the wake of Mr. Goldsmith's passing this was most welcome). This was just last year taken to an extreme when Tyler took over the reigns for the Rambo franchise (fun fact despite owning all the Rambo soundtracks, I have NEVER seen a Rambo movie from start to finish!). It was astoundingly true to form.
Which has proven to be Tyler's incredible gift. Thus far many of his mainstream scoring gigs have been for existing franchises, and he slips into their musical skin so effortlessly you'd think he was the original films composer. In particular Alien vs. Predator 2 was a flawless blend of the scores of both original films (and they are not very compatible if you just threw their songs onto your mp3 player and hit shuffle).
Yet I will note at moment he is the weakest of the five. Not due to talent. More cause I'm jonesing for more of his greatest track of all time. His secondary theme from Timeline is one of the most hauntingly beautiful and addictive 45 seconds ever recorded. I have seriously listened to it on loop for hours and hours in a row, it is that good. So much like the junkie Tyler's later efforts have never given me that same fix.
Sadly like so many things in my life, I have outgrown some composers. Which is sad, I wish sometimes I could rewind time to the point I was 12 again.
Not that I hate these composers by any means. Many of their early works are still among my favourites. Their just sadly oldies, and the new material these guys do is not up to the cut.
There was a time where this man was god of music to me. In fact I owe my soundtrack addiction to this man. My father bought me the Star Wars: A New Hope soundtrack on LP when I was 3 or 4. I have vivid memories of sitting transfixed sitting in a chair with huge headphones on listening (which as a little guy with ADD was very rare as I'm sure my parents will attest). His work throughout my childhood was amazing, and still top notch music I'll listen too over many modern scores.
Yet the good times ended. John Williams lost the spark. I'm not sure exactly where, I think it was more a gradual dimming than the spark just going out. Yet beyond the JP:Lost World/Schindler's List scores his music grew less and less compelling, and tended to recycle itself.
This is evident in the new Star Wars movies. Phantom Menace had a few really listenable original themes and tracks (I personally LOVE the spaceship fight music. It is better than the imperial march, and I love the march!), and then it is reuse of Indiana Jones 3. However Attack of the Clowns... oh sorry Clones had only a great love theme and uh than lots of Phantom Menace (aka Indy 3) and Indy 3 reuse. By Revenge of the Sith, Williams was not just out of steam he was stealing from other composers. One track on that album is directly from Howard Shores the Lord of the Rings (elven music if you're wondering).
I rant about this, because so many people in the Soundtrack community have such fond memories of his earlier music that they still worship the ground he walks on. This is so bad that War of the Worlds, which is literally just random instruments playing random notes at random moments, the worst thing John Williams' has ever written got a mere 3/5 at my favourite review site. Compared to Williams' nearly unbroken streak of 4-5 out of 5's this was a harsh review, but the hero worship still crept in. "Interspersed with these walls of noise" he starts, and than in a long winded manner tells us this is brilliantly put together noise...
John Williams was brilliant at putting together incredibly memorable and appropriate themes for films, and they are among the most famous to this day (likely will be for decades to come). Yet he had a weakness that would dampen the spark. He relied on the same orchestrations. Sure you could argue he'd throw in the odd ethnic or genre instrument, but under that it was always the same general Williams instruments. Also undermining him, his underscores were all fairly the same. Apart from Jaws and Star Wars, most of his underscore sounds similar (coming to a head as of Indy 3... which you may have noticed as a tangent of mine).
Some of James Horner's
earlier works are master pieces equal to John Williams or Jerry Goldsmith, and are terrific albums. Yet they were to be his only. For the problem with Horner
, as he himself will admit, all his music is these same early scores over and over again. What I can appreciate about this though, is that Mr. Horner
will tell you up front that he writes music the way he thinks music should sound. Fair enough. It was good back than, but I'd like something new now as well...
So there is an intro to (some of) the artists who have a big impact on me on a daily basis. Sometime down the road I'll probably start looking at genres of score and a few highlight tracks and albums.