Saturday, July 9, 2011

Movie soundtracks

Movie soundtracks are always something I have had a general interest in.
Musical score is something that is always much more complex than your standard four-chords-pop-album structure. It's deeper than auto-tune and more whole than any album of angry white boy music.
A soundtrack or score is actually the musical equivalent of the film's plot - it is designed as an emotive amplifier so that the audience also gets to be excited or afraid or victorious along with the characters.

One of the interesting things about soundtracks is that the newer ones integrate almost seamlessly with the film's feeling. I had to watch some movies from the 30's in school and the soundtrack is always more prominent in them - Laurence Olivier's rendition of Wuthering Heights was full of whistles and wailing violins, while the absence of ambiance in Twelve Angry Men was painfully obvious. That film was so. incredibly. slow.

My preamble over with, I would like to talk a little more about a few of my favourite soundtracks and why they are awesome. Or odd. Or something in between.

I'll start with saying that Hans Zimmer is a genius.

Zimmer is a bit like the Red Dorito packet at a party. His work turns up frequently, but that doesn't detract from his level of awesome.

I'm not entirely sure how Mr Zimmer feels about being compared to corn chips. But if it were me, I don't think I'd mind. 'Cheese Supreme' happens to be my favourite flavour of Dorito.

Zimmer is immediately recognisable as a composer, not in terms of a particular instrument, but in method application. There's this little hook of awesome that happens somewhere in the film and it makes everything amazing.

I'm pretty sure everyone knows how the Pirates of the Carribbean theme goes. If not, play this and imagine Captain Jack Sparrow being awesome.

One of Zimmer's other trademarks is his naming of the score pieces using lines from the movie.
I brought up Zimmer not just because of Pirates, but also because he made the score for one of my favourite movies - Sherlock Holmes.

This soundtrack uses the fiddle and string quartet predominantly to capture the feeling of 19th Century London - Incorporating drama and swagger whilst presenting the 'attractively soot-smeared face' 

(You know, the one where there's two, maybe three smears - one on the forehead and the others on the cheek - it says 'I'm able to look dirty and attractive without getting grease everywhere like a person who was actually working with grease would. This reasoning is suddenly seeming circular. Give me a sec.

Hopefully that makes it clear.)

Where was I? Sherlock. Right.
The album has track names like 'He's killed the dog again' and 'Catatonic'. 'Discombobulate' is the theme and hook of awesome, while 'Psychological Recovery...Six Months' was the longest track on my iPod at 18 minutes.

I say 'was' because I bought it and then I had a series of events (Computer died and lost files, iPod got accidentally reformatted and lost all files) that ended in 'I don't have this album anymore'. Slight rage. I mean, losing Sherlock? It's like losing the emergency spare set of keys. I've lost Sherlock. How the heck am I going to find the rest of the files?!


Moving along.

The next soundtrack I want to talk to you guys about is the one for Amelie.

This movie was one that I saw the front cover of, and decided that I wanted to see after reading the blurb. Unfortunately, I wasn't immediately able to get my hands on it and instead I found the soundtrack at the Library. This was an odd experience because I associated the first theme with a Wheel of Time book instead of the movie. Weird and funny. The soundtrack, like the movie is distinctly arty and distinctly French.

The composer, Yann Tiersen, uses the accordian and piano mostly. I really liked the film - actually, I found it hilarious. The title character is rather eccentric, and gets up to quite a few interesting activities during the film. I'd recommend it as long as you don't mind the subtitles (Like I said, it is a French movie) and the occasional joke about coitus.

The main theme is called 'La Valse d'Amelie' (If I could ever manage to spell correctly). That would be 'Amelie's waltz'. Prue and I are figuring how to play it as a duet on Ukelele. It sounds really cool.

The other soundtrack I really wanted to bring up is this one.

The Big Blue is one of Mum and Dad's favourite films. It was made in 1988 and along with the VHS, Dad bought the soundtrack.

Family fact funtime!

Years and years and years back, when I asked Mum about our names (so, about the same time I found out that I may have been Brontë instead of Brooke) she mentioned that her and Dad had named Jack (my little brother) after the main character in this film - the free-diver Jacques Mayol.

So that's how much Mum and Dad loved this movie.

Anyway, the long and short of it is that ever since I can remember, we have listened to this album. It's a good album and is very ambient. I actually realised recently that a lot of the bells that you hear in the film were recorded underwater, further adding to the water-themes in the film.

So, I've spent as far back as my memory can span listening to this album.

Guess what film we watched last night?

The experience was really really different from any film I'd seen before, simply because my siblings and I resonated with the music more. Every time a piece of music came on, we were aware of it. The soundtrack wasn't integrating with the movie - I think we rather got an inversion of the process and had the movie integrate with the soundtrack. 

It was like, instead of going "I'm watching dolphins and oh, there's a couple bells playing."
It was more like "I"M LISTENING TO BELLS and there are dolphins."

Seriously weird, but seriously cool.

The process would probably take a long time, but if you've got maybe a fifteen-year-plan you want to take up on the side, I'd suggest giving it a go.

I mean, with this movie the plot was a bit everywhere anyway. I think Enzo might have been the McGuffin.

The one on the left is Jacques and the one on the right is Enzo.

But yeah. Listen up for the soundtrack next time you watch a movie, hey? It really deepens the experience of the story and every other bit that happens that you aren't conscious of.

I think it's kinda cool.

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