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, April 21, 2013

April Composer of the Month is...

Mark Isham! I wanted to give him a little love today because he released a new score this month and because his score for October Sky was one of my favorites before I even knew what a score was! I watched that movie when I was pretty young, about 6 or 7, and this violin is the sound that inspired me to learn to play violin. Also, how can you not have tears in your eyes while listening to this theme? If you don't at least feel the possibility of tears coming to your eyes, you might not be human.

 Anyway, Mark Isham! He was born on September 7, 1951 in New York City. His parents were both musicians and exposed him to all kinds of music at an early age. As a child, he studied piano and violin, but his "soul" instrument, his ultimate favorite, was the trumpet. His family moved to San Francisco, where at age 15, Isham was playing his trumpet in jazz clubs AND in The Oakland and San Francisco Symphonies. Thinking about my own accomplishment at age 15 makes me feel inferior haha :)

In the late '70s/early '80s, Isham had his own band, Group 87, playing progressive rock music. Around this time, he was also releasing solo albums of his own. His music from this time reminds me of the music from nature films/old educational films/video games-it has sorta of a new age/electronic/smooth jazz feel to it, very different from his work on films. 

Speaking of his work on films, he got into the movie scoring business when film director Carroll Ballard came across his music and liked it so much that he hired him in 1983 to score a little film called Never Cry Wolf, a movie that became a HUGE success and launched Isham into Hollywood film scoring. Since then, Isham has scored over 70 films, including  Eight Below (This score makes me smile), The Cooler, A River Runs Through It (So beautiful), Blade, Nell, Miracle and The Secret Life of Bees. In his later work, he has a style that I really, really like, using strings and solo instruments a lot. His most recent scores include Warrior, Dolphin Tale, and 42 (look for a review of this one next week!) along with the ABC hit Once Upon A Time

(Side note: I tend to like TV shows more when there's a good score behind them. If only all U.S. TV shows had the kind of budget where they could hire composers and full orchestras! The Brits tend to budget for good scores, which makes me wonder if that's the reason why I like British TV so much. Of course, the content and script writing is often superior too...but that's another story!) 
In conclusion, Isham is a wonderful artist. October Sky makes me cry every time because of his music, and he's an excellent trumpeter as well as a composer. I love this quote from him on the art of film composing:  “I create emotion through music. Whether it’s high or low, anger or passion, exhilaration or death, denial or lust, motion or solitude. And when I can take a person on this journey through film or recordings, there’s nothing more satisfying.”

Isham has won Grammys for his early solo works, but Hollywood doesn't give him very much love for his scoring work, so let's all appreciate him this week and listen to his music. A lot of it is on Spotify, and I highly recommend giving him a listen at some point in your week :)  That's all I have for you today. Check back next week for a TON of score reviews and have a wonderful Sunday!

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