sights/sounds of our time

Recently I have taken to listening to regular, band produced albums less and becoming more and more enamoured with soundtracks.
This can be partly blamed on the video game soundtracks I am currently undertaking and partly, by what seems to be, the new idiom growing amongst the film industry of understanding just how important an interesting and cohesive soundtrack is to the over-arching nature of film as an experience. 
So I wanted to share with you my views on the changing shape of film scores and highlight some of the greatest of late.

One of the most iconic and well noted tracks used in cinema history is the first on our list.
It has become so synonymous with Stanley Kubrick's seminal collaboration with writer Arthur C Clarke that most cannot name it by title.

Also Sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss

It is of course taken from the opening sequence to 1968's "2001: A space Odessey" in which Kubrick uses long, slow sweeping pieces of time honoured classical music to highlight the grace and function of space exploration.
By using music that was well known to the public ear and making it identifiable with a genre as far removed as science fiction and making it such a pivotal  feature in the film began a whole new approach the way scores were used.
Progressives use of soundtrack became a standard for many of Kubrick's films, in 1971 he comissioned synthesist Wendy Carlos to score the now infamous "A clockwork orange".  
Playing on Carlos' penchant for recreating classical tracks using synthesisers, Beethoven provided one of the films most memorable aural moments.

Sinfonie in D-Moll, 4. Satz, Op. 125 by Wendy Carlos

This approach was something of an inspiration for director David Fincher when he visualised the boat race scene from his 2010 film "The social network". After already securing the musical aide of Nine inch nails Trent Reznor and 12 Rounds Atticus Ross he very nearly lost the duo in asking them to recreate Carlos' style for the Edvard Grieg piece "In the hall of the mountain king".When questioned on the track Rezor noted;

"And then the fun began. I was almost divorced over that one. It was like: "If I hear that fuckin' song one more time..That one took us a good four weeks. The Wendy Carlos thing threw me for a loop, so I came up with probably the most unsexy-sounding version of the song." [source]

Judge it for yourself here;
In the Hall of the Mountain King by Trent reznor & Atticus Ross

Ross had only recentley worked on the soundtrack for "Book of Eli" creating vast sonic soundscapes to match the empty wilderness portrayed in the film.

Panoramic by Atticus Ross

The collaboration paid off with "The social network" taking home the oscar for best original score. the soundtrack itself (classical covers aside) is a combination of fast paced, Kraftwerkian blips and morose melodies over humming static, the perfect compliment to a film about the formation of facebook.

Hand Covers Bruise by Trent reznor & Atticus Ross

Fincher, like Kubrick, is no newcomer to featuring inspired, intriguing and interesting music as a backing to his films. 1999's adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's novel "Fight club" saw blastbeat dance act Dust brothers take on full scoring duties with little influence from the regular orchestral score.
The album and film buzzed with sleazy samples and juxtaposed musical genres which underpinned the very nature of the characters Fincher was conveying.

Car Crash by Dust Brothers

This seemingly pulled back the red curtain to regular musicans, as band-based scores came thick and fast. One of the most noted last year was Daft Punk's almost-too-perfect score to the long awaited sequel "Tron: Legacy".
Without thinking about it, the collaboration of the Tron canon and the music of Daft Punk would seem fortuitous, look / listen again and it's almost as if the band have been waiting their entire career to be asked to score the film. Taking from Wendy Carlos' musical lead for the original 1982 "Tron", the legacy score is a sublime fusion of large orchestral stirring and hard techno beats one would expect from Daft Punk, creating in its way an awe inspiring backdrop to a visually stunning movie. 

The Grid by Daft Punk

Collaboration became the key as bands were given more and more freedom within the realm of cinematic score. Securing Underworld to score his classic feeling bitish sci-fi epic 'Sunshine' has lead to director Danny Boyle claiming the Romford two piece for the hypnotic sound design to his adaptation of 'Frankenstein' for the national theatre.
The piece below is one of many glorious soaring moment given life by the soundtrack which act as the voice of the god-sun within the film.

Capa Meets the Sun (To Heal) by Underworld

Modern movie scoring would not be worth discussing one of the most successful band-to-composer figures in the industry today. Beginning his career with electropunk outfit Pop will eat itself, Clint Mansell has come to create some of the most stirring and often reused pieces from modern cinema. From one of his many collaborations with director Darren Aronofsky, 'The fountain' allowed him to bring Glaswegian post rock act Mogwai into the fold with the gifted Kronos Quartet to produce some of the most beautiful music to one of Aronofsky's most beautiful films.

Death is the road to awe by Clint Mansell, Mogwai & Kronos Quartet

Previous projects with Aronofsky have netted Mansell one of his most signature tunes, which has appeared in almost any hypnotic trailer worth its mettle. From 2000's 'Requiem for a dream' see if you dont tell yourself "Oh, thats what its called"

Lux Aeterna by Clint Mansell

Mr Mansell also brings us full circle to the idea of reinterpretting classical scores in his most recent outing with Aronofsky 'Black swan'. The tale of obssession and career upsurption is underpinned by Mansell never stepping away from the original music to the opera in question Pytor Tchaikovsky's 'Swan lake'.

Other very recent soundtracks of note are also to be given praise for their progrogressive nature and extreme catchiness. Paul Leonard-Morgan's score for the mind bending 'Limitless' gives amazing credence to the juxtoposition of awe and claustrophobia present in the film and is reminicent of more modern rock and electronica tracks than the usual composer fayre.

Gennady drop in by Paul Leonard-Morgan

Of course all this is not to say that there is no space in the world for a classic, stirring more traditionally orchestrated approach. After the sad passing of John Barry it seemed there was little hope for the once proud traditions of Bond themes until David Arnold stood up to be counted. His modern takes on the classic, belting scores of older Bond have give the franchise one more reason to continue.
His 1998 rehash of many well known Bond theme's in 'Shaken and stirred' showed his cards early as to how he felt modern bond should sound, bringing the suave spy back to the forefront of fantasy cinema.
Sadly missing from the album and following his teaming with Björk on her track 'Play dead', below is an amazing retelling of a much loved theme.
You only live twice by David Arnold & Björk

But to close this blog there can only be one true mastery of cinematic score which has stood out so proudly and so successfully since it first scratched into our brains in 2008's 'The Dark Knight'.
'Why so serious?' is a glorious 9 minute cacophany of orchestral tradition turned on its head using punk rock ideals. Made simultaneously to glare and subdue the unnerving and erractic anture of Batmans nemesis The Joker, the piece hold high the tradtion through broken plateglass and barbed wire. I would suggest headphones and a darkened room.
Why so serious? by Hans Zimmer

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