The Case for Knowing the Scores

Join us this week as we discuss movie music!


In preparation for this episode, Robin created a playlist of film music for Adam and Marci to listen to. You can find the list (along with some other examples) Here.

We covered a lot of ground in this episode because it is such a broad topic. We did not discuss everyone and everything that we wanted to, so expect a part II in the future. But for now, sit back and enjoy the music!

A Brief history of film music:

  • Before sound was introduced to movies, theatres provided music for films. This could be played live or a recording.
  • The first original film score was written by composer Camille Saint-Saens for The Assassination of the Duke of Guise
  • After the ability to synchronize sound to film, film scoring became the norm
  • In the 1930s-1950s, movie scores had a large European influence and came from composers well-versed in concert music
  • Leitmotif: Attributed to Richard Wagner, this is the principle of using a specific instrument or theme for a character or event. Max Steiner, also known as the father of film music, was known for using this. Unfortunately we did not mention Steiner or the other founding composers of the golden age of film. But, there is always next time!
  • After the golden age of film, movie music broke a little from European influence and began using newer musical concepts like Jazz and electronic music
  • High Noon (1952) featured a commercially successful original song. This inspired studios to ask composers to write original songs for movies to play on the radio and convince listeners to buy albums.
  • This concept continued through later years as many films have original songs associated with them. For example: “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr for the 1984 film of the same name

So, let’s start talking about the composers!

  • Alfred Newman
    • Score Mentioned
      • How the West Was Won (1962)
    • An iconic composer from the golden age of film, he composed over 250 scores and is the father of David and Thomas Newman
  • John Williams
    • Scores Mentioned
      • Witches of Eastwick (1987)
      • ET (1982)
      • Indiana Jones (1981)
      • Jurassic Park (1993)
      • Star Wars (1977)
    • We mentioned his work with Steven Spielberg, though he has worked with many other directors
    • Well-known for creating iconic melodies and for being the most nominated living person in Oscar history with 51 nominations
  • Wendy Carlos
    • Scores Mentioned
      • Tron (1982)
      • A Clockwork Orange (1971)
      • The Shining (1980)
    • A groundbreaking composer in electronic and synth music, Wendy Carlos introduced the Vocoder in her score for A Clockwork Orange (1971.) The Vocoder is a device that synthesizes human voices.
  • Mark Mothersbaugh
    • Score Mentioned
      • Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
    • Has worked with Wes Anderson several times on films: Rushmore (1998) Royal Tenenbaums (2001) and more
    • Known for writing music for Rugrats (1990-2006)
    • Also a founding member of the band Devo
  • Jerry Goldsmith
    • Scores mentioned
      • Mulan (1998)
      • Rudy (1993)
      • The Ghost and the Darkness (1996)
    • Robin mentions an NPR piece which you can listen to here.
    • Goldsmith was a pioneering composer well-known for integrating ethnic sounds into his scores as well as electronic samples with a full orchestra
  • Hans Zimmer
    • Scores Mentioned
      • The Lion King (1994)
      • Interstellar (2014)
      • The Dark Knight (2008)
      • Inception (2010)
      • Pirates of the Caribbean (2003)
      • Gladiator (2000)
    • One of the most well-known composers working today, Hans Zimmer has become a household name and has even played Coachella
  • Danny Elfman
    • Scores Mentioned
      • Batman (1989)
      • Edward Scissorhands (1990)
      • Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
      • Corpse Bride (2005)
    • Elfman was in the band “Oingo Boingo” 1974-1995
    • He was the singing voice for Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas
    • He also sang “Remains of the Day” in The Corpse Bride (2005) as Bone Jangles
  • James Horner
    • Scores Mentioned
      • The Pagemaster (1994)
      • Casper (1995)
      • An American Tale (1986)
      • Titanic (1997)
    • Wrote “Sarah’s Theme” or “Come Little Children” for Hocus Pocus (1993)
    • Frequently worked on films with James Cameron Titanic (1997) Aliens (1986)
  • Elmer Bernstein
    • Scores Mentioned
      • The Magnificent Seven (1960)
      • The Great Escape (1963)
      • Ghostbusters (1984)
    • Known for writing some of the most recognizable themes in movie history, he composed over 150 original movie scores
  • Thomas Newman
    • Scores mentioned
      • Finding Nemo (2003)
      • The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
      • A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)
    • Son of Alfred Newman, Thomas Newman has made a name for himself by scoring many films for Pixar and other studios
    • He got his start working in the music department for Return of the Jedi (1983)
  • Randy Edelman
    • Scores Mentioned
      • The Chipmunk Adventure (1987)
      • Dragonheart (1996)
      • Angels in the Outfield (1994)
    • Pieces of his uplifting scores have been used many times in film trailers and television promotions
  • Rachel Portman
    • Scores Mentioned
      • The Cider House Rules (1999)
      • Only You (1994)
      • One Day (2011)
      • Emma (1996)
    • Originally from the UK, Rachel Portman is known for being the first woman to win an Oscar in the scoring category
    • She began scoring at age 14 and had scored her first major motion picture at 22 years old
    • Her music has often been described as uplifting and romantic
  • Alexandre Desplat
    • Scores Mentioned
      • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011)
      • The King’s Speech (2010)
      • Isle of Dogs (2018)
    • A talented French composer, Desplat was inspired to write for film after hearing John Williams’ score for Star Wars (1977)


Film Music 101: The First Film Score

2 thoughts on “The Case for Knowing the Scores

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