I am very pleased to announce that Pandora now hosts “Composer” stations. I use up my 40 hours a month listening to Pandora at work, often choosing stations based on my mood or what’s come out recently in the music world. However, when I’m working at home, I prefer to listen to film scores. The instrumental music helps me focus and the artistic genius of the composers inspire me to write well. I jumped at the chance to start up “Dario Marianello Radio,” and was sooo proud of myself for knowing six of the first seven songs played. Over the course of the day, that ratio fell: a few of the song choices were my all time favorites, and a few were just vaguely familiar. So I’ve decided to describe a few of my favorite purely instrumental soundtracks. (Don’t even get me started on non-instrumental soundtracks… that’s a whooole other post.)
Jan A.P. Kazcmarek wrote the music that accompanies Finding Neverland. I wrote an entire paper for my Music Supervision class based on the music in this movie and how it steers the emotional and visual aspects of the film. The critics thought as well of it as I do: Kaczmarek won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2004. I listen to this album when I’m looking for deliverance from writer’s block.
Pearl Jam’s frontman Eddie Vedder tried his hand at composing a film score with Into the Wild and quit successfully, I might add. The ambiance and sparseness of this music works to mold the themes of isolation and periphery. I absolutely fell in love with the Krakauer’s book, and I think the music helped me to separate the book and the movie (which I sometimes have trouble doing) and into accepting as a success in its own right.
Hans Zimmer, bless him, has like 7 million awesome scores under his belt already, but I choose to highlight this one in particular because it seems so utterly polar from his previous work. The music is tinny and mechanical, eerie and foreign. I love the extreme dynamics and depth of the light and dark tones throughout. I never would have made such odd choices – clanging and booming, sharps and flats – but it’s incredibly fitting… ingenious, even. Zimmer is best known for Crimson Tide, Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Dark Knight, and Inception.
Somewhere in Time is a movie I fell in love with at a very young age. It was one of the only VHS’s in my house growing up that wasn’t a kids movie. I guess my parents didn’t watch many movies, but this was an exception, and I watched it hundreds of times. The music is poignant and deeply felt. I think I was attracted to the piano parts as a girl, but I watch it now and hear orchestras. I think this music has become an iconic moment in its era of film, but John Barry is also well known for Lion in Winter, King Kong, 11 of the first 14 James Bond films (including the infamous theme song), Out of Africa, and Dances with Wolves, almost all of which he won awards for.
Dario Marianelli is one of my favorite composers these days. I know best his work in Pride and Prejudice and Atonement (both of which earned Academy Award nominations and a win in the case of Atonement), but he’s done V for Vendetta, The Soloist, and Eat Pray Love since then. His work is pure and blithe, feathery and wistful.. lots of piano and violin work (two of my favorite instruments). The subtleties and atmosphere of his music are new to me every time I listen. I play this soundtrack often in the early mornings.
Howard Shore is unbelievable. Taking on the Lord of the Rings Trilogy basically makes him a legend. The music was as epic as the films themselves, and probably span the widest ranges of extremes I’ve ever heard. Shore accompanies love scenes and orc battles, hobbit simplicity and pure evil with grace and gravity. He won plenty of awards for his work on LOTR, but he’s also composed scores for High Fidelity (before LOTR fame), Gangs of New York, and The Aviator (after), among many others.