Incidental Music

Incidental Music: def. (noun)- music used in a film as a background to create or enhance a particular atmosphere, otherwise known as a score

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter! Here's some score reviews :)

Hey everyone! Happy Easter! I hope you're all having a wonderful day filled with family fun and candy and love and praising Jesus :) I have a couple score reviews for you today so let's get going!

Olympus Has Fallen, by Trevor Morris-4/10
Did it fit the movie? Yep-action movie, driving beats, lots of percussion, horns, electronic sounds, etc. The main titles/theme of the movie also sounded very "presidential," something I'd expect from a movie about Washington D.C.
Did it make me feel something? Not really. Two tracks did, and those two are the only two songs I kinda liked on the entire soundtrack. Land of the Free gave me that feeling of awe and respect-how I imagine it feels to be there when the president walks in and Hail to the Chief plays. Rocky Road Ice Cream was very slow and heartfelt-I wish there had been more tracks like that!
Was it original? Um, no, and here's my number one reason why: Listen to the opening phrase of this song and then the opening lines of this song. Same melody, different key.
Did I like it? No, not at all. To be honest, most of it just wasn't my style, and I didn't really find it to be original at all.

Stoker, by Clint Mansell-8.75/10
Did it fit the movie? Yes, I believe so. Mansell uses his typical style of piano accompanied by orchestra and synth to create an ethereal, other worldly, creepy mood that completely fits the psychological thriller/horror movie that Stoker is.
Did it make me feel something? Yes, definitely. Since some tracks were very long, I felt a broad range of emotions over the entire track, which I love! For example, I give you a play by play of my reactions to one track-Becoming: It begins fast paced-I feel rushed, out of breath. It makes me think of someone running away. Then, the melody twists and becomes dissonant-I feel scared, caught. That running person is now caught and trapped in a corner. The music fades and then swells briefly, then disappears and changes completely. A solo piano begins playing a very slow, beautiful melody, strings play lightly in the background. This brings me down, I feel sad. Then the strings get louder and an orchestra begins playing. I feel overcome with emotion. The orchestra disappears, then reappears, this time with a chorus. The emotion is hard to define here. I think it's sadness and anguish, while at the same time, exultation. It feels sad yet triumphant. Such a strange track. I think I would have to see the scene it accompanies in the movie to make sense of it all!
Was it original? Yes, it was. I haven't heard a score quite like this one in a while. It felt like a blend of Dario Marianelli's score for Atonement and Thomas Newman's score for American Beauty or Side Effects. 
Did I like it? Yes, it just worked for me! I loved what Mansell did with piano here. He showcased it, and brought in other instruments/electronic sounds to enhance the feeling. He aso took advantage of the dissonance that can be achieved on the piano-I heard lots of intriguing chords that I really liked a lot :) Purchasing suggestion? I would go ahead and buy the whole thing/listen to it on Spotify over and over again!  It flows really well together as a score. My favorite tracks are The Hunter and the Game, Becoming (see above), and Happy Birthday. There are some tracks that aren't part of the score that are awesome, like Becomes the Color and Summer Wine.

That's all for today! Check back next week for some more reviews and a preview of April scores :)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Family Friendly Score Reviews for March!

Hi everyone! Due to the high volume of scores released this month, I"m going to release my March reviews in two parts. Today, I'm reviewing the scores from this month's family movies. Let's go! 

Oz the Great and Powerful, by Danny Elfman-7/10
Did it fit the movie? Yes, definitely. It had that fantastical quality that Elfman lends wonderfully to all his scores. I hear that specifically in his use of choral voices, harp, and xylophone.
Did it make me feel something? Yes, at parts. I really liked the tracks with a lilting waltz/dance feel to them-A Serious Talk, Where Am I/Schmooze-a-Witch, and Fireside Dance were all tracks tha made me feel happy :) Glinda Revealed was lovely as well, evoking feelings of safety and peace. Some tracks were loud and a little bit frightening, such as Destruction and Oz Revealed, but none of them really "scared" me. I find this strange, because usually Elfman's scores have at least one track that terrifies me.
Was it original? Interestingly, I didn't think that this score was very original. Every time I hear an Elfman score, it seems as if he borrows from himself. I heard things in this score that reminded me of Nightmare Before Christmas, Spiderman,  and especially Alice in Wonderland. The one thing about this score that did make it different is that it felt less...creepy...than Elfman's other work. It was more gentle and sweet than scary. I kinda liked that. Also, I heard the opening lines to the Canadian national anthem in the main theme. Listen to Main Titles and you'll see what I mean.
Did I like it?  The more I listened to it, the more I liked it! It grew on me. Purchasing suggestion? Buy the tracks you like! (From what I've heard, I think the score is probably better than the movie, so give Elfman some love for his work). 

The Croods, by Alan Silvestri-8.5/10
Did it fit the movie? Completely. It made me think of family and fun and adventure and discovery. Silvestri used a mix of full orchestra and solo guitar for this score, along with several unique instruments that were reminiscent of tribal music. 
Did it make me feel something? Yes! Happiness! Many of the tracks were light and fluffy and just made me smile. I could totally see the Crood family discovering a new world accompanied by this music.
Was it original? Yes, I think it was! Silvestri used bongo drums and marimbas that I haven't heard in awhile, and he blended those tribal sounded with a full orchestra very well. He implemented other styles as well! There were also a couple of tracks that sounded randomly jazzy and those were really fun. On one track, Smash and Grab, he used the USC marching band to blare out a march! 
 Did I like it? I really liked it, because I thought it was adorable :) All the music just made me feel so good about life. Even the tracks that were probably supposed evoke "danger" ended up sounding happy in the end, just as they should in a family movie. I think Silvestri  was very aware of the younger audience that this movie targeted and therefore composed his music to entrance that audience. Purchasing suggestion? Buy the tracks you like, and if you're feeling particularly in the mood for light, happy music, buy the whole thing! My favorite tracks are The Croods Family Theme, Prologue, and Going Guy's Way.

Jack the Giant Slayer, by John Ottman-6/10
Did it fit the movie? Yes, it did. It had the feel of an epic adventure movie-full orchestra used pretty much the whole time with heavy emphasis on strings. I hadn't heard of Mr. Ottman before, so it was nice to hear from a new composer! He definitely got the genre right in terms of the sound of his score. His style on this film sounds very much like Harry Gregson-Williams work on the Chronicles of Narnia.
Did it make me feel something? Yes, it did. I  liked the Jack and Isabelle theme-it made me want to go on an adventure. Logo Mania had the same effect, with its invigorating rhythms and driving beat.  To Cloister and How Do You Do were really sweet and gentle, and First Kiss had a gorgeous, moving string section. Many of the tracks were just too loud and intrusive for me to really like them, which makes sense if you think about the movie itself. Giants are loud and intrusive :) 
Was it original? In the sense that the melodies were original, yes it was. But as far as orchestration goes, it sounded very similar to other fantasy films.
Did I like it? As a whole, no. Listening to it in context of the film might make it better, but when I simply listened to the score, it was just too loud for easy listening or as background for doing homework. However, I think that means that Ottman definitely did his job right! This movie was about slaying some giants so obviously the score couldn't be soft and gentle! Purchasing suggestion? Listen on Spotify or YouTube, and if you want, buy a couple tracks, but maybe not the whole thing.

And that's all for today, folks! Please listen to these scores and see what you think, and then come back later this week for the second batch of reviews from slightly less family friendly movies

Friday, March 8, 2013

Morricone: The March Composer of the Month

Hey everyone! Our composer of the month for March is the legend-wait for it-ary Ennio Morricone, arguably the most prolific film composer of all time! Since the beginning of his career, he's scored over 500 films! That's crazy! He's responsible for the music from timeless and iconic movies such as The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly and The Untouchables, and he's a giant in the composing world-many composers working in Hollywood today cite him as one of the people who influenced them in their own journey to work in the film industry. Let's all take a few minutes and learn about this awesome guy!

Ennio Morricone was born in Rome on November 10, 1928. His father was a trumpet player and taught him to read music and play instruments from a very young age. Morricone started writing his own music when he was only 6 years old, and when he was 9,  he entered the National Academy of Santa Cecilia to study trumpet. At the age of 12, he began to study at a music conservatory and proceeded to complete four years worth of course work in about a year. He also has degrees in both Trumpet Performance and Composition. Basically, Morricone is a musical prodigy.

By 1947, Morricone was working as composer for theatre music. In the 1950s, he began to score for radio shows and television as well, and his career as a film music composer started in 1961 with the film Il Federale directed by Luciano Salce. He rose to fame after his many collaborations with director Sergio Leone. These were good, ol' fashioned American Westerns-A Fistful Of Dollars (1964), For A Few Dollars More (1965), The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly (1966), Once Upon A Time In The West (1968), A Fistful Of Dynamite (1971), and My Name is Nobody (1973). Don't those just sound like cowboy movies? :) After his work with Leone made him popular, the rest, as we say, is history.

I'm pretty sure Morricone has composed for every single film genre known to man-everything from comedies (Bulworth, La Cage aux Follesto romances (Days of Heaven) to horror (The Thing) to science fiction (Mission to Mars). All in all, he's worked in Hollywood and in the European film industry for 52 years. Yep, that's right. He's 84 right now and still composing for film and television, although he hasn't worked on an American film since 2002. Morricone has won two Grammy Awards, two Golden Globes and  five BAFTAs. He has also been nominated for five Oscars, but shockingly has never actually won! Thankfully, the Academy recognized that this was an issue so they gave him the Academy Honorary Award in 2007 for his contributions to the film music world.  Personally, I think he's amazing. The sheer number of scores he's composed astounds me. My favorite Morricone work is his score for The Mission. The main theme has such a beautiful and haunting oboe melody, and I love the fact that he uses a harpsichord. Such an under used instrument these days. 

Let's all take a moment today to celebrate Mr. Morricone for his work. All of his music is on Spotify so go listen! He definitely has a distinct style-he likes to use the strings a lot, and I also notice a lot of woodwinds, timpani, snare, and xylophone. Comment below and let me know what you think of his music! I'll be back next week with the first round of reviews for March :)  Have a wonderful day!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Welcome to March!

2013 Best Motion Picture Score!
Hi everyone! It's March already! Jeez, how did that happen? This year is already flying by. Today I have a list of scores to look out for this month, but before that, I need to address a couple things! First, the Oscars. Sigh. I really wanted Alexandre Desplat to win Best Score for Argo, but alas, that honor went to Mychael Danna for Life of Pi. Even though it was probably my least favorite out of the 5 nominated, it was still a beautiful score, so congrats, Mr. Danna! I'm glad your work was recognized :) Second, if you've been following along with me, you may be asking where the reviews for Escape From Planet Earth and Side Effects are? Well, the Side Effects score doesn't come out until March 5, even though the movie's already out! So, I'll be reviewing that one this month instead of February. As for Escape from Planet Earth....

Escape From Planet Earth, by Aaron Zigman-6.5/10
Did it fit the movie? Yep, definitely. Space adventure + kids movie = lots of high brass, tons of percussion, and a strong epic melody line that keeps coming up over and over again. In certain areas, it sounds VERY similar to the score for the 2009 Star Trek movie, although there were some strange things I heard that I didn't expect, like harmonicas and heavy metal guitar.
Did it make me feel something? At some parts, yes, some parts no. I had a hard time relating to the main melody because it sounded like every other space adventure/kids movie theme I've ever heard. There were moments, however. Zigman's use of piano and strings is one of the things I really like about him. He'll have this grand, loud melody playing with a bazillion things going on, and then suddenly,  there'll be nothing left but a delicate piano line and strings. This happened all the time on his score for Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium (where he collaborated with Alexandre Desplat), another children's film. I hear that same style again here, and every time it happens, my heart melts :) See tracks like "Let's Go Home" or "Scorch Goes to the Dark Planet." Also, the "Family Theme" is absolutely beautiful.
Was it original? Hm. Yes and no. The harmonica use, the heavy metal guitar, and the piano definitely made this score Zigman's own, but I couldn't shake the feeling that this score sounded like Star Trek.
Did I like it? Again, yes and no. No because of the weird Star Trek deja vu. Yes, because I love piano and strings and surprise instruments and strong melodies, and this score contains all of those things. Purchasing suggestion? Listen on Spotify or Youtube before buying any tracks. The 1:30 preview iTunes or Amazon gives you is definitely not enough to show you everything that's going on in the track, because it could change super quickly! So listen, then if you love, then buy! Support these artists!

Now, scores for March! Because Oscar season is over, we have quite a few!
-Jack the Giant Slayer, by John Ottman
-Stoker, by Clint Mansell
-The Croods, by Alan Silvestri
Olympus has Fallen
by Trevor Morris
The Host, by Antonio Pinto
Oz the Great and Powerful, by Danny Elfman 
(I totally guessed Elfman was going to score this movie btw-definitely fits with his style)

There would be even more on this list if I included movies that come out in March, but have score releases in April!  I guess I've got a lot of listening to do this month!

That's all I have for you this week-check back next week for Composer of the Month. I have NO idea who I'll pick yet, so I should probably get on that :) Comment below with your thoughts on the Oscars and if you thought the right composer won or not!