First of all, a link: The Twelve Days of Christmas, Twin Peaks style
(via Cinematical.) Oddly disturbing.
Earlier I twittered
about James Horner being a hack, and columbina
said he hadn't ever heard anything bad about Horner before, but actually if you Google "James Horner is a hack" you find a number of opinions agreeing with me, interestingly. (This came up because Horner did the Avatar
soundtrack, if you're wondering.) I stumbled onto this several years ago because somebody told me that Horner had basically stolen the Field of Dreams
soundtrack - which I loved - from Aaron Copland's old score for "Our Town" - and when I finally heard Copland's Our Town piece, I was stunned. It's not the entire score or anything, but bits and pieces are definitely lifted wholesale. I know it's problematic since film scoring is the fine art of sounding familiar without actually quite stealing, and Copland in particular is a favorite target - but there's a line and this was over it, that's all that I can say. (Horner is actually much more famous for stealing from himself
than stealing from other people, though.)
I love film scores, actually. It's all about themes and variations, which is something I've always liked, anyway. Some scores I've always liked a lot are - to name the first couple that pop into my head - The Shawshank Redemption
, which is by Thomas Newman, and Howard Shore's Lord of the Rings
soundtrack. (I know neither of those is a particularly edgy choice, but oh well.) The LOTR soundtrack was particularly interesting because I never thought Howard Shore's work before that was particularly outstanding. Well - I mean, he wrote the Silence of the Lambs
soundtrack, which was a really good soundtrack in its way, but it wasn't something that made you sit up and notice it. It just struck the mood it was supposed to strike without really calling attention to itself. You could make a case for that being the definition of a perfect soundtrack, actually, or at least, I think some people would. But I didn't think at the time that it was a particularly groundbreaking soundtrack, or anything like that. (We saw Silence of the Lambs
several times when it first came out, and I remember becoming aware of the soundtrack after several viewings. But it took that long to notice it, for me.) So what I'm saying is that Shore's previous work just did not prepare me for this huge, sweeping, grandiose thing (but mostly in a good way) that was the LOTR soundtrack. It has some gorgeous, gorgeous themes, and it sustains them across all three movies without getting old*, which has to have been a hard thing to do. In particular, there's a Gondor theme that's first heard in the first movie (in the scene in Lorien where Boromir is talking about Minas Tirith), shows up a bit in the second movie in some Faramir bits, I think, but doesn't really get developed fully until the third movie when the action moves to Gondor. That took some forethought - although I'm guessing he had seen dailies of a good bit of the movie by the time the first one was released, so maybe it wasn't as difficult as you'd think. And I'm going from memory here because I haven't watched the movies lately. Hmm, I need to do that.
Back to Horner - if you have iTunes, you can pull up a bit from the Avatar theme song, which is by Leona Lewis. (I'm sure there are ways of getting hold of it without having iTunes as well. Amazon, maybe? or the movie website...) Just in the 30-second clip that's up as a sample, I seriously thought she was going to break into "My Heart Will Go On" - it's the bit in the latter song that has the lyrics "Near, far" if you know what I mean. And that makes me disgusted that I even know the lyrics to that song. But that's a whole 'nother subject.)
Also, I have nothing much to say about the Shawshank Redemption
soundtrack offhand, but did you know that Thomas Newman
is from a famous film-scoring family? (Of all the weird family occupations...) Randy Newman is his cousin, and Lionel Newman (who wrote the How to Marry a Millionaire
soundtrack, among many other famous ones) was his uncle. Just some film-soundtrack trivia.
*Except maybe for the hobbit theme. I thought that one got a bit old - but I would be inclined to blame that on Peter Jackson rather than on Shore, anyway. The super-cutesie way he treated the hobbits in general grated on me.