Friday's End Note: Film Scores

I am first and foremost a moviegoer. I keep this blog because I have a great passion for music, but my first love will always go to film and the making of them. You've got a writer who writes a screenplay, who then shops it around until a director finds some interest, looking for a producer to help bring the screenplay to full reality and then going through a production schedule that's as hectic and painstaking but remarkably creative. It comes to post-production where the editing takes place and the sound is mixed, and once finalized it is marketed and screened in front of audiences the world over.

Of course I'm really simplifying the process, but you get the idea. You sit down in a crowded theater, the lights go down, and BOOM. A sweep of lush strings and brass surrounds you. Maybe some electronics kick it into high gear, or there's some very simple piano that pervades the credits over black. This music is film score, and it is so integral to the filmmaking process that it may easily fly over the heads of most moviegoers. It's what I consider a whole other experience in music listening that lets you understand the amount of mood or feeling and take you places you've only imagined or seen, well, on the big screen. Two composers stand out as my most loved film composers - not because they create great music, but because their music fully realizes the intent of the art to the point that your moods are as seamless with the events occurring on screen.

John Williams

Have you ever seen Star Wars? Indiana Jones? Jurassic Park? Anything made by film director Steven Spielberg? Then you've heard the grand spectacular work of John Williams. His 40+ years of work often consists of everything big and everything there, usually including themes that revolve around a particular character or setting. He's been nominated for so many Academy Awards I can't even tell you how many. In any event, he has opened up the world of film music to allow meaning and subtext that let the images speak for themselves instead of just being moving pictures. E.T., while still standing as one of Spielberg's best films, remains as poignant as ever with Williams' score, and it makes us soar on every listen.

John Williams - "E.T. - Flying Theme"

Thomas Newman

Thomas Newman is simply fascinating. Like Williams, Newman allows the freedom to really connect with the subtext of the story and characters, but on a much more simplistic scale. Implements of vibraphones, small piano chords or swift strings really help to elevate the much more subtler moments in the films he scores, such as American Beauty, The Shawshank Redemption, Road to Perdition, and even Wall-E. He may not be as purely well-known as Williams either, but Newman has created such a distinctive sound for himself that he becomes very recognizable and very pure. He's a wonderfully talented individual that helps us dive into the lives of others often like ourselves and takes us into deeper territories one might not have pictured on first arrival.

Thomas Newman - "The Bright Young Man" from Revolutionary Road


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