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Lux Aeterna
March 10, 2012 7:06 PM   Subscribe

Does the success of Trent Reznor, Clint Mansell and others suggest an end to the dominance of the traditional orchestral soundtrack?
posted by Artw (62 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
I hope not.
posted by Trurl at 7:17 PM on March 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


If anything, I hope it means a widening of what is considered "valid soundtrack material" and allows much more creative expression for a greater range of artists and filmmakers working together.

But will orchestral soundtracks go away? No. It's too much part of the DNA of hollywood filmmaking, going back to the days of silent film.
posted by hippybear at 7:19 PM on March 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


Speaking of which, Battleship Potemkin with the Pet Shop Boys score is a must-see. It's orchestral, but it's also PSB to the core.
posted by hippybear at 7:22 PM on March 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Does the past success of folks like Vangelis, John Carpenter (as composer), Danny Elfman, Lalo Schifrin, Giorgio Moroder, Ennio Morriconne (sometimes), Hans Zimmer (sometimes), Carter Burwell and many others mean nothing to Mr. Godfrey?
posted by Doleful Creature at 7:22 PM on March 10, 2012 [16 favorites]


I really, really hope so. Orchestral soundtracks (with very few exceptions) are essentially a trope to me. There are countless thousands of different music styles and genres, and yet one of the most popular forms of entertainment is saddled with what is basically elevator musak versions of Holst pieces.

(t is mostly John Williams' fault.)
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:27 PM on March 10, 2012 [10 favorites]


A (kind of) related article on Pitchfork recently. Related in the sense that I can see any of these artists (Sufjan Stevens already has actually) could very well make interesting soundtrack music.
posted by holdkris99 at 7:35 PM on March 10, 2012


Orchestral scores aren't that traditional, are they? I thought in the early film days they were typically accompanied by a live organist or pianist.
posted by Hither at 7:36 PM on March 10, 2012


Ex-Dickies, Weirdos, and Chili Peppers drummer, Cliff Martinez, has quite the Hollywood resume too.
posted by cazoo at 7:39 PM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


This non-orchestral scoring thing is not a new phenomenon in the slightest.

If there is any threat to orchestral scores, it's the jukebox soundtrack, but that too has been around for a good 50 years.

Meh.

What's more, orchestral scores have been invading television in recent years. Family Guy, for example, has a house orchestra.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:40 PM on March 10, 2012


Don't blame the orchestra, blame the composers.

That mass of instruments can make far more interesting sounds than they're ever asked to by the likes of Williams and Horner, though they both have their place (full disclosure; Clear and Present Danger is my favourite soundtrack). As Threeway Handshake says, it's a trope; it's what is expected, like white tablecloths in an overpriced French-American bistro.

So don't even blame the composers, who are likely just as sick of the Wagnerian overtures, leitmotifs and recapitulations as the rest of us.

Blame the executive producers and the studio heads, who are responsible for all the rest of the countless other blandishments whose net effect is simply... blandness.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:47 PM on March 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


No.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 7:52 PM on March 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Orchestral scores aren't that traditional, are they? I thought in the early film days they were typically accompanied by a live organist or pianist.

No, original scores were composed for silent movies going very far back, and organists and pianists were mainly used in smaller theater houses. Even then, it wasn't uncommon for even solo accompanists to movies to be provided with keyboard reductions of orchestral scores meant to go with the film. Wikipedia has a good (albeit very broad) overview on the topic.
posted by hippybear at 8:05 PM on March 10, 2012


In fact, a lot of silent movie scores have been uncovered just in the past year, "many including the full parts for small orchestras of between seven and 11 players, not just a pianist."
posted by hippybear at 8:08 PM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey metabuddies, ever seen Dondi?

Made in 1961. Except for three songs sung by Patti Page, the entire musical score consists of solo harmonica.
 
posted by Herodios at 8:10 PM on March 10, 2012


I’ve never noticed orchestral works have a monopoly on film soundtracks. Is this one of those things where the writer thinks something new is happening because of their lack of knowledge?

How about Ennio Morricone?
posted by bongo_x at 8:19 PM on March 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


DOES THE SUCCESS OF HENRI MANCINI AND ENNIO MORRICONE AND JOHN CARPENTER SUGGEST ORCHESTRAS WILL BE GROUND UP ALIVE INTO DOG KIBBLE?
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:26 PM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ennio Morricone is a god. The soundtrack to The Mission is my housework music, turned up loud enough to drown out the vacuum cleaner and make the picture window tremble in fear.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 8:30 PM on March 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hrm. Not enough of it is actually online for me to make an FPP about it, but a good portion of the PSB score for Battleship Potemkin synched with the film can be viewed online.

In seven parts (so far...) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

(part 7 is the famous Odessa Steps sequence)
posted by hippybear at 8:47 PM on March 10, 2012


Does the success of The Third Man mean that all movie soundtracks will be played on the zither?
posted by kenko at 8:58 PM on March 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


Wikipedia: Kubrick had actually commissioned a score for 2001 from noted Hollywood composer Alex North ... However, during post-production, Kubrick chose to abandon North's music in favor of the now-familiar classical music pieces he had earlier chosen as "guide pieces" for the soundtrack....
posted by ovvl at 8:58 PM on March 10, 2012


I fear that the move away from orchestral scores is going to lead to more of the shows and movies I see lately that seem to be transforming into music videos. There seems to be loud music playing over every scene lately; almost as though they're writing scenes specifically to suit whatever pop song they got to use. Also I'm old and kids these days with their music
posted by Hoopo at 9:00 PM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or the success of Dario Argento and Goblin, or something like that.
posted by kenko at 9:00 PM on March 10, 2012


Or Herzog and Popol Vuh!
posted by kenko at 9:01 PM on March 10, 2012


Or Polanski and The Third Ear Band!
posted by ovvl at 9:15 PM on March 10, 2012


This is the same article everyone wrote after The Graduate.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:19 PM on March 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


Family Guy, for example, has a house orchestra.

Well, Family Guy has Walter Murphy as their composer. The man can pretty much do whatever he wants.

I don't think we'll really see an end to orchestral scores. They are, if nothing else, likely to feel the most timeless with everything else equal.

But then, think about how often you hear voice-over narration in trailers anymore. Remember how every comedy for twenty years had to have some pablum song in the opening or closing credits that was clearly written for the movie itself (e.g. My Cousin Vinny or Groundhog Day, and seemingly coming to an end with Men in Black and Wild Wild West)

Things do change, even things which have been around forever.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:13 PM on March 10, 2012


If anything, I hope it means a widening of what is considered "valid soundtrack material" and allows much more creative expression for a greater range of artists and filmmakers working together.

Speaking as someone who both loves orchestral / string based score as well as alternate methods of scoring, I hope this is the case. I've also worked on movies as sound designer and additional composer...rather, I've created additional "musical score"... composed of synth tones, guitar feedback, and other forms of audio montage. Several of these films have seen soundtrack releases of the scores - and never do the labels putting out the releases even want to approach the idea of putting any of the (what I would consider essential to the film's score) non-string material on the albums. It drives me nuts.

And yet just to re-iterate, I love orchestral / string based score. When it works it works beautifully. No reason it should be the only thing we define as score, though.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 10:20 PM on March 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, a brilliant example of the Trent Reznor / Clint Mansell vibe working perfectly hand in hand with a giant orchestral score (by Angelo Badalamenti) is Lost Highway. (which... makes sense since Reznor worked on it as well).
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 10:26 PM on March 10, 2012


I was actually really disappointed with the Tron soundtrack because there were so many generic orchestral strings in it. I don't understand why Daft Punk went that way at all.

But I mean, we've had non-orchestral soundtracks for ever, haven't we? Tangerine Dream did Risky Business way back in the 80s. (Which, btw, sounds way more futuristic than the Tron soundtrack to me)
posted by empath at 10:37 PM on March 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


More movies need to follow the lead of Picnic at Hanging Rock - pan pipes and church organ
posted by iotic at 11:39 PM on March 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I want Tim Hecker to do a film soundtrack, but partially because I'd love to see the film that would need a Tim Hecker soundtrack.
posted by palidor at 12:46 AM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I want Tim Hecker to do a film soundtrack, but partially because I'd love to see the film that would need a Tim Hecker soundtrack.

Shots of a lake at night. Partially clouded, windy, some drizzle. It's very gloomy and scary. Nothing happens.
posted by palbo at 1:11 AM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Those John Williams-esque soundtracks are the sonic equivalent of emotional subtitles: "Feel sad here." "Oh look they're falling in love." "It looks like we're done for.. but wait! Here comes the cavalry!" Which is fine once in a while but tiresome when repeated predictably at each beat.

So more alternative to that the better.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 1:12 AM on March 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


There are less full orchestra scores than they were in the golden age of Hollywood obviously but I can't see them going away entirely, even if just for a certain type of prestigious oscar-baity film.

As an aside, BBC Radio 4's The Film Program has an interesting long running regular feature on dissecting and analysing film scores. They recently did Hammer films - I didn't know that due to the contacts of their main music guy they were able to bring in a lot of, at the time, pretty prestigious clasisical composers to produced the atonal music that became the house style for their soundtracks.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:54 AM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Quite often I find myself wishing there was no soundtrack whatsoever. I think this is because I also often find that the soundtrack is being used as a crutch, to impart an emotion that the director/actor/editor/etc. failed to convey...or simply to distract the viewer from a film that is completely crap.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:46 AM on March 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I know a film composer who is in the position to pick and chose his projects. He'll give preference to any movie that has budgeted for an orchestra, (usually at least $250K), just because he doesn't get the chance to score and conduct one otherwise.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:27 AM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think this is because I also often find that the soundtrack is being used as a crutch, to impart an emotion that the director/actor/editor/etc. failed to convey...

That composer I mentioned was tasked by Ivan Reitman to take a scene showing an ordinary ride in an elevator and make it funny. Surprising, the extent to which it could be done. He decided never to work with Reitman again after that.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:31 AM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, I wish more scores were like the one Mark Mothersbaugh did for Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. This is my favourite part, but it's mostly blippier and bloopier than that scene.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 6:57 AM on March 11, 2012


That mass of instruments can make far more interesting sounds than they're ever asked to by the likes of Williams and Horner

The prosecution asks that these be marked as Exhibits A and B: Elliot Goldenthal's soundtracks for Alien 3 or Final Fantasy: The Spirts Within
posted by Trurl at 8:17 AM on March 11, 2012


During the 80's there seemed to be a real shift towards synthy soundtracks (thanks Vangelis!) but the 90's and it's need for massive blockbusters with big-hero-moments(tm) means big ol' symphony scores needed to come back.
posted by PenDevil at 8:21 AM on March 11, 2012


I want Tim Hecker to do a film soundtrack, but partially because I'd love to see the film that would need a Tim Hecker soundtrack.

I read this as saying 'Tim Heidecker' at first. I'd endorse that.
posted by painquale at 8:26 AM on March 11, 2012


Symphony scores are great, but too many of them are John Williams-esque cliches plastered onto each other. On the other hand, the kind of movie that gets that treatment usually deserves it.
posted by thelonius at 8:35 AM on March 11, 2012


Maybe I'm cynical here, but isn't possible that rock and synth soundtracks will be the wave of the future, because Hollywood doesn't want to pay any more orchestral musicians than it has to?
posted by jonp72 at 8:38 AM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


More movies need to follow the lead of Picnic at Hanging Rock - pan pipes and church organ

...and also heavy use of Beethoven's Piano Concerto #5 (Emporer), second movement!
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 8:44 AM on March 11, 2012


I remain a big fan of Trevor Jones' rock-esque soundtrack work on films such as Labyrinth and Runaway Train. Always thought it was a shame that he didn't do more in that vein.
posted by hippybear at 8:49 AM on March 11, 2012


Those John Williams-esque soundtracks are the sonic equivalent of emotional subtitles: "Feel sad here." "Oh look they're falling in love."

HERE ARE SOME OBOES, THEY REPRESENT EMOTIONAL DEPTH AND LEARNING
posted by en forme de poire at 9:14 AM on March 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


HERE ARE SOME OBOES, THEY REPRESENT EMOTIONAL DEPTH AND LEARNING

Or Jawas.
posted by hippybear at 9:25 AM on March 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I know a young oboist who decided she wanted to learn a cool instrument. She wound up in a pawn shop and bought, on impulse, a banjo.

Imagine her surprise.

Did you hear about the banjo player who left her banjo in an unlocked car overnight? She came back in the morning and there were five.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:31 AM on March 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Uh, the oboe is a cool instrument. I mean, it's no bassoon, sure, but you've got genuine oboe rockstars. Who are you going to look up to if you play the bassoon, Michel Berckmans? Lindsay Cooper? (Actually both good choices.)
posted by kenko at 9:43 AM on March 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


In terms of TV scoring, one my current peeves is the replacement of the heavily synthed-up versions of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop theme for Doctor Who with all this Murray Gold stuff. One of the things that boggles me about modern Who when I watch it interspersed with the classic show is how much orchestral music it has (frequently with the FEEL ALL THE FEELS sense people upthread were mentioning). Sometimes I wonder whether it's a plot to get the Whovians to go to the Proms, because IMO it's a downcheck musically.

To bring it back to the article, I agree with those who say it's a trend thing and we're coming out of a heavy symphonic phase. I'm really grooving on some of the "modern" soundtracks, particularly one that I don't think has been mentioned yet: the Chemical Brothers' sountrack to Hanna, which convinced me to see the film.
posted by immlass at 10:04 AM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ah yes the Who scores... I find a lot Nu Who is totally drowned out by the music (and when I played the games a little bit, oh boy where those repeated stings annoying after a very short while). Then again some of the original series stuff... lots of horrible plinky plonky electronic stuff during Pertwee's time I've noticed (and there's a particularly awful honking effort for Silurians where they used a crum horn because it was old to go with the primeval theme or something). But that's nothing compared to dying days of the show and the McCoy era where they tried to do 'full orchestra' with a cheap-o synth.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:02 AM on March 11, 2012


I have no problem with the Who music that couldn't be fixed by there being less of it mixed lower. I swear at times they turn it up to make sure thedialogue doesn't drown it out.
posted by Artw at 11:16 AM on March 11, 2012


Why does the success of one thing in a given space have to mean the death of something else? Can't we just have some of each, please?
posted by PuppyCat at 11:19 AM on March 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Uh, the oboe is a cool instrument. I mean, it's no bassoon, sure, but you've got genuine oboe rockstars. Who are you going to look up to if you play the bassoon, Michel Berckmans? Lindsay Cooper?

Burleigh Drummond, Ron Wood, Brian Gulland.

Still: The difference between a dead bassoonist and a dead skunk on the side of the road?







There's a possibility the skunk was on the way to a gig.
 
posted by Herodios at 11:24 AM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bassoons work exceptionally well with fuzz guitar, FWIW. Example!

Oboes, however, -- and, even worse, English horns -- make everything shitty. Especially movies.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:28 PM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oboes, however, -- and, even worse, English horns -- make everything shitty.

I think the first two Dream Academy albums prove this to be false.
posted by hippybear at 12:51 PM on March 11, 2012


Hrm. Not enough of it is actually online for me to make an FPP about it, but a good portion of the PSB score for Battleship Potemkin synched with the film can be viewed online.

The score that was released was edited down to fit the length of a CD, with more repetitive passages deleted. Apparently, there was a rights wrangle around getting the full score released on a DVD/Blu-Ray with the film, but that never panned out.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 1:27 PM on March 11, 2012


Why does the success of one thing in a given space have to mean the death of something else? Can't we just have some of each, please?

Sorry, winner-take-all-fuck-everyone-else is the preferred way of thinking in the US.
posted by palbo at 1:31 PM on March 11, 2012


The score that was released was edited down to fit the length of a CD, with more repetitive passages deleted.

Actually, from what I can tell, there's one entire section of the score which was removed, and what is on the CD is otherwise intact.

I have a pirate cut of the movie with that small section of it removed that is synched with the CD release of the score, and it works just fine. That section is pretty close to the beginning of the film, and I guess has mostly to do with how miserable life is on the ship. I'd have to watch the original cut and the edit for the PSB score back to back to see exactly what was cut out, but it wasn't enough to effect the flow or effect of the movie.
posted by hippybear at 1:39 PM on March 11, 2012


I think the first two Dream Academy albums prove this to be false.

Funny, I think they prove the opposite. YMMV, I guess.

That said, their muzak Smiths cover worked well in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and is a lot of the reason I love that movie. Of course, most of that has to do with, "Oh, hey, I recognize this muzak, and, oh, it makes this scene very significant, but not in a too-on-the-nose way that using the original version would," and nothing to do with the double-reeded flaccidity of that abominable instrument.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:12 PM on March 11, 2012


one my current peeves is the replacement of the heavily synthed-up versions of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop theme for Doctor Who with all this Murray Gold stuff

I'll say. Of all the NuWho stuff that gets people routinely slagging it, most of which I can deal with, I can't handle the sonic assault that buries half the dialog in music or effects. My hearing is fine for a guy in his 40s. My nearly-deaf mother would be fine with watching Who if she could hear half the friggin' dialog, but she simply can't.
posted by dhartung at 5:22 PM on March 11, 2012


Bassoons work exceptionally well with fuzz guitar, FWIW. Example! ...
posted by Sys Rq


Nice! and since we're sharing, bass harmonica and accordion are an exceptionally poignant secret sauce, as well.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:27 PM on March 14, 2012


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