Music in Film – Part II

I hope you didn’t think I abandoned the Music in Film series.  I promised you multiple parts, and I’m determined to not let all that research go to waste.

When I was on this kick following the Academy Awards, I asked many people what their favorite scores were.  And while a couple of unique suggestions popped up, I mostly got a list of the usual suspects.

I’ve decided to dedicate this entry to those individuals.  My initial impulse was to skip over them completely (sometimes I have hipster tendencies – “I only want to write about the people you haven’t heard of!”), and then I realized that it was completely ludicrous to skip them entirely.  Seemed wrong to not acknowledge the impact they have had on score composition.

Let’s start with John Williams.  If you know one and only one film composer’s name, there’s a good chance it’s his.  And who could blame you?  His scores have become completely ingrained in our culture – from the two note warning that Jaws is approaching to the fact that high school bands love playing his tunes at halftime.  Best known for the themes from Star Wars, Jaws, Indiana Jones, and Jurassic Park – the man has 21 Golden Globe nominations, 59 Grammy nominations and 45 Academy Award nominations to his name.  He has more Academy Award Nominations than any other living person – and overall is tied with fellow composer Alfred Newman. The only person to have more nominations is Walt Disney himself.

BUT – did you know that John Williams also composed the Olympic Fanfare and theme?  I didn’t.  I love that theme.  Makes me want to challenge someone to a foot race.

Hans Zimmer – he’s scored over a 100 films, and of those 50 have received award nominations.  That’s kind of a ridiculous success rate.  You probably know him from the Lion King soundtrack.  Or perhaps Gladiator.  In a undergraduate class entitled “Intro to Fine Arts” we were charged with bringing in a song and doing a presentation about the emotional elements of the song.  I strangely brought in “The Battle” from the Gladiator soundtrack.  It now seems like a very weird choice to me, but I think it was probably my rebellion against all the crap pop my fellow classmates were making us listen to.  I probably also wanted to make them sit through a 10 minute song.  What a meanie. In honor of this memory…

The third “usual suspect” is James Horner.  Mr. Horner has the distinct honor of having the best selling orchestral film soundtrack of all time.  That film – Titanic.  I apologize if you now have Celine Dion in your head.  He also did one of my favorite soundtracks during my teenage “soundtracks are the greatest” phase – Braveheart.  I loved that film when it came out, and a large part of that was the music.  Of course my love of bagpipes, men in kilts, and pre-crazy Mel Gibson also helped.  More recently, he reunited with James Cameron for Avatar.

So, there you have it.  An introduction, or reintroduction, to some of the bigger names in modern film scores.  Music in Film – Part III will have some of my favorites.  Please leave a comment sharing some of yours.

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