Soundtracks are Life! (lots of links directly to music)

…well maybe not “life” as in biological life, but certainly in films and TV series. The music of a show enhances, and I think can make or break, a film or TV series. I was watching Dollhouse (another SciFi venture that deserves more love)  last night. The series has Lissie’s “Everywhere I Go” playing over the final scene, though slightly altered from its original version.


Version used on Dollhouse:

You can tell how just slowing the tempo and stripping down the instrumentation changes the mood to suit one of the oddest “happily ever afters” in TV history. Whedon has always loved soundtracks and used them very well  (including one of the saddest pieces of music ever put on TV), even going do far as to write an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a musical and writing an entire musical: Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along. But Dollhouse was the first time he used popular music so extensively in one of his shows.

Popular music has always been used in TV, but CSI (Vegas) really kicked off a modern movement of using it heavily in TV series. This has been a wonderful thing since shows like House and Scrubs (especially Scrubs) have given artists international exposure they would not get in mainstream radio media.

Though there are TONS of great songs on Scrubs, my favorite remains this accoustic version of “Overkill.”

The soundtrack is a powerful item in the director’s toolkit. I don’t think Gladiator would be as well regarded as it was without Han Zimmer‘s amazing orchestral work. And of course, who isn’t familiar with the PotC theme? Inception would lose much of its emotional impact without his compositions. I have not been able to work myself up to watching 12 Years a Slave (I know it’s going to be one of those where I just want to stick my head in an oven), but he also did the soundtrack for that. In fact, he reused some themes from Inception for it. But then, I think he lifted a bit of Holst suite of The Planets for Gladiator‘s battle sequences.

But he is hardly the first to swipe from other sources. John Williams has been accused of lifting from Holst, Stravinsky and Dvořák. But so what when the result is some of the most iconic music in the modern age? (My sister’s brides’ groomsman, yes she had a guy in her wedding retinue, suggested using the Imperial March as her processional. It was nixed.) I read an article once that said the most recognized piece of music in the world was the theme of Indiana Jones, with Beethoven’s 9th following a close second. And then there is Schindler’s List. Can anyone hear Ithzak Pearlman‘s violin and not be moved?

Howard Shore is most famous for his work on Peter Jackson’s LotR trilogy, and I was so glad they got him back for The Hobbit trilogy. It would have simply been too divorced from the first trilogy to have felt like the same world. He also brought dread and an unusual sadness to The Silence of the Lambs soundtrack, and has a long working relationship with David Cronenberg, scoring most of his films including A History of Violence. (Which at points does sound like another Viggo Mortensen project he has worked on. 😉  )

Another one of my favorites is the Master and Commander soundtrack, which is a combination of Iva Davies amazing score and selection of baroque and classical pieces popular in the era. This was perfect for fans of the books as music is what drew Stephen and Jack together in the first place, despite their vast differences. (Seriously, Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin is one of the greatest friendships in literature.)

Ennio Morricone‘s spectacular soundtrack for The Mission (another head-in-the-oven film for me) has practically outlived the film, combining orchestral, choral and indigenous language elements. He has a long career in films, notably spaghetti westerns, including the most iconic western theme ever. But also The Untouchables and Cinema Paradiso. Quentin Tarantino is fond of raiding his work and most recently it can be heard on the soundtrack for Django Unchained.

So what do you think? Any noteworthy names you think should be added to the list?


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