Top 10 Scores of 2013

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Even for a confirmed pessimist like myself, I was surprised at how much the state of film music depressed me throughout most of 2013. Perhaps more than any year previous, I was struck at how bombast and rhythm were the key words in today’s film scores. Film music today wants to be loud, part of the sound design and in a state of perpetual motion. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of these qualities—either alone or in combination. What is wrong is the lack of individual musical voices. One score bleeds into…

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9 Favorite Main Titles

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Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, movies used to have main titles that were scored. For two minutes, the composer laid the musical groundwork and set the tone for the film to follow. Then along came main title songs, sometimes written by the score composers, sometimes not. If not, the composer usually weaved that song melody (a la “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing,” “Three Coins in the Fountain,” etc.) into the fabric of the score. Come the ’80s and ’90s, it was all about marketing the soundtrack…

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9 Purple Cows of Film Music

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In his excellent 2002 book, Purple Cow: Transform Your Business By Being Remarkable, Seth Godin tells the story of a trip he took to France with his family. He describes driving around the French countryside, “enchanted by the hundreds of storybook cows grazing on picturesque pastures…For dozens of kilometers, we all gazed out the windows, marveling about how beautiful everything was.” But after the first 20 minutes, he started ignoring the cows. “The new cows were just like the old cows, and what once was amazing was now common. Worse than…

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9 Favorite FSM CDs

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With the release of Jerry Fielding’s THE WILD BUNCH last month, it’s the end of the line for the Film Score Monthly label. With a roster of 250 releases since 1996, FSM filled a very important void in the soundtrack business. With its primary concentration on the MGM library (which later incorporated other studios), producer Lukas Kendall had access to one of the richest veins of Silver and Golden Age film music. FSM had its share of heavy-hitters—the Newman’s, Goldsmith’s, Williams’s, Barry’s, Morricone’s, North’s, Waxman’s, Herrmann’s, Bernstein’s, and basically the…

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It’s a Great Day for the Oscars!

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It’s been a little over a month since this year’s Academy Awards, and how many people have already forgotten that Mychael Danna won for LIFE OF PI? Our collective memories seem to be “like sands through the hour glass” as we go through the days of our lives, especially when it comes to awards shows. Perhaps that is how it should be. For all my year-round Oscar prognosticating, even I have trouble sometimes remembering recent winners. And yet occasionally a single awards day can reveal a veritable cornucopia of film music…

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9 Most Influential Film Composers

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Every film composer brings his or her talent to a project. They carve out a career path for themselves in which they (hopefully) can make a living through the art and craft of creating music. But some film composers change the face of the art form. In the course of doing their jobs, they leave a lasting impression on the industry that reaches far beyond a fan’s favorite score or film. The list below contains an alphabetized list of what I consider to be the most influential film composers. These…

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9 Tired Topics in Film Music

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We film music fans sure do love to argue. No matter the topic or time of day—on Facebook and Twitter, over brunch and over cocktails, in person or hiding behind some lame screen name—we love to air our opinions. I’m all for passion. It’s sure a helluva lot better than apathy. But some of the arguments surrounding film music have been going on for so long they’ve completely lost their effectiveness, if they ever had any to begin with. I wish message boards and comments came with an expiration date because…

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Tall Tales

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THE ADVENTURES OF MARK TWAIN is exactly what the title suggests: an episodic, highly entertaining (and highly fictionalized) “biography” of the celebrated author through his childhood, riverboating on the Mississippi River, his books and legendary lecture tour. Fredric March is a delight as—and the spitting image of—Twain, and even though much of the film contains barely a kernel of truth, it plants enough seeds to potentially inspire further investigation into the “real” story. MARK TWAIN was originally filmed in 1942 but wasn’t released until 1944, as a morale booster for…

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2012 Oscar Nominations for Music

on October 19, 2009 in Santa Clarita, California.

The Oscars are arguably the most derided award in film music. Why? Because it has the farthest reach and the biggest impact on the general public at large. Film music fans get all bent out of shape when a particular score is not nominated (me included) and will bitch and moan on message boards about how little the Oscars matter. In the great scheme of life, perhaps that is true. But their ability to shine the spotlight on film music for even a few minutes should be applauded, no matter…

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The Ten Commandments of Film Music

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Holy Moses! Ten items in a “9 on the 9th” post? I decided to shake things up a bit in the new year. I have the utmost respect for the Bible—at least as source material for entertaining, pompous 1950s costume dramas—but something within me urged me to adapt these into something hopefully we all can understand. (Some may argue it was the work of Satan, which might be appropriate given my love for THE OMEN.) If I were to write MY personal ten commandments, it would be a very different…

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