10 Composers, 1 Score

Over at the Film Score Monthly message board, Thor recently started an interesting thread called “10 Composers, 1 Score” in which a friend of his asked him to recommend 10 score albums by 10 different film composers. Because message board threads tend to drive me nuts, I’m “borrowing” the topic and amending the rules to suit my own taste. My apologies to Thor for hijacking the topic for my own personal use. And my thanks for the inspiration as well.

Here’s my scenario. (Feel free to set your own parameters.) Pick a friend, any friend, that is totally clueless about film music. (C’mon, you know you have more than one.) Let’s say I want to give them a nice general overview of film music. Pick 10 composers and 10 different albums. The amended “rules” are as follows:

  1. Pick one soundtrack ALBUM each for 10 of your favorite composers. It doesn’t have to be your “Top 10” composers, nor do your score choices have to be the “best,” just your personal representation of that composer.
  2. Preferably no compilations or combo albums. You can, however, choose a particular score out of a combo album.
  3. Feel free to add a sentence about why you’ve chosen that score.
  4. You want your friend to connect with the music itself (i.e., film music as a stand alone listening experience), not necessarily how it’s used in the film or whether or not the film is any good in the first place…at least not yet.

I picked the first 10 composers that I thought of off the top of my head and listed them alphabetically. Again, set your own parameters.

Now go…


“Main Title” from A PATCH OF BLUE

Delicate and lovely, and a superb example of how orchestration affects the mood of a score.


“Ample Make This Bed” from SOPHIE’S CHOICE

Every list needs at least one tear-jerker, and few scores turn on the waterworks like this one.


“Prelude and Rooftop” from VERTIGO

Love, loss, and heartache, all in one haunting score.



Spanish rhythms and harmonies come together in one exciting musical package.


“Knock The Cover Off The Ball” from THE NATURAL

Because it’s been used in countless television and commercials trailers, I bet my friends know more film music than they think they do.


“Fronds Like These” from FINDING NEMO

A score that goes way beyond mere Mickey-Mousing and arguably the most musically complex animated score ever written.


“Main Titles” from EMMA

Beautiful melodies for those quiet moments.


“Main Title” from GONE WITH THE WIND

The granddaddy of all epic scores gets the full-blown Golden Age treatment, and every film score list needs one purely recognizable “tune”.


“Chase And Mansion/An Aging Actress” from SUNSET BOULEVARD

Because it’s one of my favorites.


“Main Title” from THE FURY

When you want to scare the s*** out of your friend, few scores are creepier.

What are your choices for “10 Composers, 1 Score”?

  1. Hah! This is catching on. Put up a similar thread on Soundtrack Fans here: http://soundtrackfans.ning.com/forum/topics/10-composers-1-score-each
    Surprised by a few of your choices, well.. maybe not. The Fury? Really? And not The Omen from Goldsmith?

    I will copy and paste my 10 :)

    James Horner: The Perfect Storm
    It’s not only the perfect storm, but the perfect score. I think this one represents my taste in music pretty well. It has a wonderful touching theme and long sweeping cues that goes from low to high and it always, ALWAYS touches me emotionally.

    Klaus Badelt: Wu Ji (The Promise)
    I fell in love with this score ever since I heard the love theme from it. It’s a simple theme, but it hits my heartstrings. This score has a lot of depth if you listen to the whole thing and it gets me on a
    emotional high.

    Debbie Wiseman: Lesbian Vampire Killers
    this one came out of nowhere and hit me in the brain. A fantastic score that is totally fitting for the
    movie even though it shouldn’t. I love the themes and the epicness of it all.

    Vangelis: 1492: Conquest of Paradise
    My first ever score and the reason I became a soundtrack geek in the first place. Was and still is a wonderful score.

    Michael Giacchino: Star Trek
    I didn’t expect it, but he went into warp 9.5 and boldly went where no Star Trek score has gone before and I loved it. From the bombastic themes that ranged from the heroic to the dark with Nero’s

    Alexandre Desplat: Twilight: New Moon
    I’ve always felt Desplat’s work has been lacking fun and excitement. New Moon was like a breath of fresh air and the energy that the score gave was nothing I have ever heard from Desplat before.

    Dario Marianelli: Agora
    Like Desplat, Marianelli has mostly not hit a home run with me (a few exceptions of course). Agora
    was grand, Greek and epic all at once.

    Danny Elfman: The Wolfman
    Yes I know he has written scores like Batman and Edward Scissorhandsm but this one… I gave it a 10 but now I have to consider the whole Geek Score scale. It grows on me like a beast, like a Wolfman run riot. I LOVE IT!

    Christophe Beck: Buffy The Vampire Slayer
    A entertaining and funny show deserves a great score and it got exactly that. From the incredibly
    adventurous and lush soundscapes he created for the speechless episode Hush to the Angel & Buffy
    love theme that still has me in tears every time I hear it. The best TV score of all time? It just
    might be.

    Angelo Badalamenti: Twin Peaks
    The second score I bought. I bought it just because of the main theme, but damn this score is fantastic fun. The jazzy and frankly weird and scary themes like the dream scenes with the weird little man is simply amazing.
    .-= Jørn´s last blog ..It’s Official: Soundtrackfans.com Will Soon Be A Paid Service =-.

    1. To supplement your Twin Peaks, do you have any of Julee Cruise’s releases? I still love Floating into the Night, from which originally came the Twin Peaks theme.
      .-= That Neil Guy´s last blog ..Ching Ching =-.

      1. Of course I have Julee Cruise. Floating in the Night is great. Also have the music from Season 2 which isn’t as good as season 1, but still a great piece of emotional candy for me.
        .-= Jørn´s last blog ..It’s Official: Soundtrackfans.com Will Soon Be A Paid Service =-.

    2. Yes, I know the lack of OMEN in mine may surprise some people. But, remember, mine came from the first 10 composers that came into my head. And then I tried to give the choices an overall arc with a wide, listenable appeal, not my favorites. That would have been a totally different list. And since a lot of my favorites wouldn’t mean s*** to a lot of people (and can be tough to listen to in some cases), I wanted to turn my “friend” ON to film music, not off. LOL

      Everyone will have different parameters for the way they do their list. I just chose a scenario around mine so that I didn’t wind up with a list that pretty much anyone who knows me even slightly could predict.

      Thanks for the link over to your version. I’ll check it out. Maybe even do a whole new list. ;)

      1. Ah yes that explains it. I was clearly doing my favorites and nothing else :) Wow, you mean your favorites list is even weirder than this? I think the world is not ready Jim. You made the right choice ;)
        .-= Jørn´s last blog ..It’s Official: Soundtrackfans.com Will Soon Be A Paid Service =-.

  2. 1….King Kong/Max Steiner
    2….Scott of the Antarctic/RVW
    3….Best Years Of Our Lives/Hugo Friedhofer
    4….Sunset Blvd/Franz Waxman
    5….Road To Perdition/Thomas Newman
    6….Signs/James Newton Howard
    7….Big Country/Jerome Moross
    8….The Red Pony/Aaron Copland
    9….Spellbound/Miklos Rozsa
    10..Victory At Sea/Richard Rodgers

    We agree on 1 out of 10 and almost 2. I thought about Nemo and then decided on Perdiion. I know I know but remember I have golden ears and I just had the wax cleaned out of them.

    1. All great choices, Thomas. And I think PERDITION is a wonderful score for a sadly underrated film. SUNSET BOULEVARD and especially BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES would definitely find a place on my favorites. BYOOL would be mighty high. An absolutely glorious work of art.

  3. Here’s what I came up with, in no particular/alphabetical order:

    John Barry – Dances with Wolves
    Philip Glass – The illusionist
    Jerry Goldsmith – Alien
    Bernard Herrmann – North by North-West
    Erich Wolfgang Korngold – The Adventures of Robin Hood
    Clint Mansell – Requiem for a Dream
    Ennio Morricone – Cinema Paradiso
    Alan Silvestri – Back to the Future
    Dimitri Tiomkin – The Alamo
    John Williams – Close Encounters of the Third Kind

    I’ve gone for a spread of styles and genres, mostly with a wide and immediate appeal but some a little bit challenging. Most are large orchestral scores but some a little more “intimate” in nature.

    1. Interesting, worthy choices, Jim. ILLUSIONIST was a different choice for Glass. Would have probably forgot that one. I adore CINEMA PARADISO. I can’t get into REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, possibly because I think the film is pretentious crap. Maybe if somebody played it for me and didn’t tell me what it was… :) As for the Golden Age stuff and particularly CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, you have good taste.

        1. Then again, the friend is fictional. I gave up on converting all of mine ages ago. LOL He/she/it is only being used for the purposes of this post.

  4. JOHN BARRY – Dances With Wolves
    ELMER BERNSTEIN – The Deep End of the Ocean
    GEORGES DELERUE – Rich in Love
    JERRY GOLDSMITH – Basic Instinct
    BERNARD HERRMANN – North by Northwest
    MICHAEL KAMEN – Mr. Holland’s Opus
    ERICH WOLFGANG KORNGOLD – The Adventures of Robin Hood
    ALAN SILVESTRI – The Mummy Returns
    FRANZ WAXMAN – Sunset Boulevard

    1. The clear winner is Sunset Boulevard. Three of us have chosen this incredible score

      1. Runners-up so far would be NORTH BY NORTHWEST and THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (if I’d actually had Herrmann and Korngold on my list). Two of my favorite scores.

    2. Interesting that you picked RICH IN LOVE, not one of Delerue’s more well-known scores. I’ll have to give MR. HOLLAND’S OPUS another chance. The film icked me out so much that I never properly gave the score a try and have never heard it outside of the one-and-only time I will ever sit through that film.

      I love this! More listening suggestions.

      1. “Rich in Love” is Delerue’s love letter to music. As the director of the film says in the liner notes, it’s as if Delerue knew that his time with us was coming to an end, and he was saying goodbye to the orchestra by featuring a different solo instrument in each cue.

        “Mr. Holland’s Opus” is probably the most autobiographical score that a film composer has ever written. Using the concert suite titles as a guide, this is the way I believe the score relates to Michael Kamen’s life:

        Iris: The love (passion, even) that Kamen had for his wife, Sandra.
        Cole’s Tune: His children, Sasha and Zoe
        Marking Homework: The joy he had for his work
        Rowena: Mentoring young composers
        Finale: His passion for life

        1. I’ll have to go back and re-listen to RICH IN LOVE. It’s been years. And like I said, I haven’t heard MHO since I saw the movie. The music didn’t make an impression on me at the time. I guess it’s time for a re-evaluation…without the film. ;)

  5. Some off-the-wall pleasures for my friends:

    George DUNING – PICNIC (as romantic as you’d ever need a score to be – what a theme!)

    Johnny MANDEL – THE SANDPIPER (The Shadow of Your Smile – just as beautiful as Big Sur and Liz Taylor put together!)

    Richard Rodney BENNETT – FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD (Perfection – music that’s the emotional core of the film)

    Franz WAXMAN – PEYTON PLACE (Melodic Americana)

    Lalo SCHIFRIN – BULLIT (Ageless soundtrack coolness)

    Phillippe SARDE – QUEST FOR FIRE (Integral, powerful symphonic scoring that would make Stravinsky jealous)

    Burt BACHARACH – CASINO ROYALE (The epitome of movie pop)

    Les BAXTER – GOLIATH AND THE BARBARIANS (Thundering action score with loads of exotica – a textbook example)

    Neal HEFTI – HOW TO MURDER YOUR WIFE (Amazing amounts of melody for a single movie)

    Henry MANCINI – HATARI! (always the right touch!)

    1. Some interesting picks, Gary. I particularly applaud (not that it matters, but you know what I mean) PICNIC and PEYTON PLACE, two of my favorites. The Hefti is so much fun! I’ve never heard QUEST FOR FIRE except when I saw the film when it first came out in ’82. Time to give that a spin.

    2. Wow, thank you for reminding me about Quest for Fire. I need to dig that and Altered States out of storage and break out the peyote!

  6. OK, touch call, but here goes…

    ENNIO MORRICONE – A Fistful of Dynamite
    LALO SCHIFRIN – Cool Hand Luke
    JOHN BARRY – The Lion in Winter
    JERRY FIELDING – The Outlaw Josey Wales
    THOMAS NEWMAN – Road to Perdition
    HUGO FRIEDHOFER – Never So Few
    JOHNNY MANDEL -The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea
    PIERO PICCIONI – More Than A Miracle
    BERNARD HERRMANN – Fahrenheit 451
    MICHAEL KAMEN – Highlander

    I kind of chose these “from the hip”, as in I didn’t want to over-analyse my choices, I just went from the heart. Some strange choices I’ll admit, but each of these scores touch me in many different and profound ways, and I think their inherent richness and diversity would translate well to “newbies”!
    .-= Stteve Saragossi´s last blog ..Rollerball =-.

    1. Happy to see FAHRENHEIT 451 on there. Was trying to watch the film yesterday. Still can’t get through it. No quibbles about THE LION IN WINTER. I know I fell in love with it when I first heard it. I’d like to think that other newbies would too. COOL HAND LUKE and JOSEY WALES are two of my favorites of Schifrin and Fielding, arguably two of their most accessible. I have never heard SAILOR, MORE THAN A MIRACLE or HIGHLANDER. Will definitely check those out.

  7. Road to Perdition is getting a lot of attention, and quite rightly so, its a quietly brilliant score.
    .-= Steve Saragossi´s last blog ..Rollerball =-.

  8. I hope I got the rules right- i just picked scores I know that my friends would like if they gave it a chance…

    John Williams – Empire Strikes Back
    Howard Shore – The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
    Danny Elfman – Batman
    Yann Tiersen – Amelie
    Jerry Goldsmith – Star Trek
    Michael Gianchinno – Up
    Thomas Newman – Road to Perdition
    Elmer Bernstein – Far From Heaven
    John Powell – How to Train your Dragon
    Alan Menken – Huncback of Notre Dame

    1. Fantastic choices, Pedro. Can’t quibble about any of them. LOL Nice to see AMELIE and FAR FROM HEAVEN gettin’ some love.

    2. I have just started getting into film score music, and I have to say, John Powell’s How To Train Your Dragon is what started it all. It may not be the most complex, but if you want to get someone into the scene, that’ll bring ’em in and keep ’em hooked!

      1. Hi Mavis! Thanks for commenting and welcome to the wide, wide world of film music. I have to agree with you. DRAGON is an excellent choice to set anyone down the path to discovering more film scores. You obviously have excellent taste. :)

  9. Okay. I am going to pretend that my friend Joey JoJo Junior Shabadoo has expressed to me a passing interest in finding out more about this “crazy movie music” I like so much.

    I, therefore, am going to lend him the following 10 cds.

    Vic Mizzy – Suites & Themes. I know this violates the rules right away, but this is the only Mizzy I own and it is such an infectiously joyous collection (save, of course, for a very few dark mood pieces) that if it doesn’t put a smile on your face and get your toes tapping, you are dead. Dead, I tell you. Dead. Or at least dead to me.

    Jerry Goldsmith – Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Very possibly the greatest. Soundtrack. Ever.

    John Barry – Somewhere in Time. So hard to pick a Barry, because you’ve got Bondiana versus Mr. Lush Strings, but for the purposes of converting the unfaithful, I go with this, which contains possibly Barry’s most gorgeous and recognizable romantic theme.

    John Williams – Star Wars. Duh. Of course I prefer Empire, but to the novice, this practically defines soundtrack music, so why not go with the classics.

    Danny Elfman – Black Beauty. SInce I can’t give him another collection (that would include the Beetlejuice theme and Batman theme and Mars Attacks theme), I’d go with this utterly spare and gorgeous score.

    Jamie Horner – The first one I grab out of the drawer. They’re all the same. Zing!

    Zimmer. See Horner. I kid! I kid because I love. And, actually, ZImmer’s not really in my top ten of composers, so I wouldn’t include anything by him. I just added this for the laugh line. I am SO DAMNED FUNNY. And actually, I don’t know that I really have a list of ten favorite composers. I could come up with three or four maybe. It’s really more about individual scores for me. It’s not like Mizzy is one of my favorite composers, but I think that album is a great representation of one aspect of why I love film music. So really, I’d probably actually pick several Goldsmiths of different genres and probably two Barrys and, well, hmmm…

    Philip Glass – Koyaanisqatsi. This is what brought me to Glass, so if it worked on me, maybe it’ll work on Joey JoJo.

    David Arnold – Tomorrow Never Dies. This will give Joey JoJo a taste of Bond and a sense of something more contemporary (if 1997 is really contemporary anymore). Actually, in reality, I’d give him OHMSS by Barry instead, but that violates the rules of the game so we’ll pretend I give him this one.

    That’s actually probably plenty for now. I’ll just stop. I’m already worried that he won’t return all my CDs to me in a timely manner…
    .-= That Neil Guy´s last blog ..Ching Ching =-.

    1. Loan out CDs?! Unthinkable! That’s what “mixed tapes” are for. (God, I feel old.)

      Okay, Neil, I’ll overlook the breaking of the “rules” since they weren’t really rules anyway. Gotta love that Vic Mizzy is in there. And if they don’t like–or recognize–STAR TREK, then they’ve been living under a rock. SOMEWHERE IN TIME should be very accessible for the film music-challenged. And if you don’t like KOYAANISQATSI, then you won’t like anything like Glass.

  10. Mix tapes, if only we still had tape players to play our mix tapes in. However, try a play list in i Tunes instead of a mix tape, it is nearly the same and won’t get eaten by a bad car stereo system.
    So my list is:
    Max Steiner – King Kong
    Eric Wolfgang Korngold – The Adventures of Robin Hood
    Alex North – Spartacus
    Bernard Herrmann – Psycho
    Danny Elfman – Beetlejuice
    John Williams – Memoirs of a Geisha
    Howard Shore – The Aviator
    Jerry Goldsmith – Chinatown
    Michael Giacchinno – Up
    Alan Silvestri – Back to the Future

      1. i love playlists far more than mix tapes. I started a film score playlist years ago but somehow I started a seperate John Williams playlist- so far its up to 167 songs…

  11. Now I feel bad I left out Waxman (Rebecca), Desplat (The Queen), Carter Burwell (Fargo), Mancini (Hatari), Thomas Newman (Wall-E) and Nino Rota (La Dolce Vita), John Barry (Lion in Winter), Elmer Bernstein (Far from Heaven), Maurice Jarre (Lawrence of Arabia) and Hans Zimmer (Muppet Treasure Island). That last one was ironic, in case you did not spot that like Neil, Zimmer is not on my list. If he had to be on the lust then I would choose Muppet Treasure Island, no kid.

    1. Hey, not fair! Two lists?! Well, when they have two of my favorites, LION IN WINTER and FAR FROM HEAVEN, in there, I can’t complain. And I bet MUPPET TREASURE ISLAND is on somebody’s list somewhere.

      1. “Loan out CDs?! Unthinkable! That’s what “mixed tapes” are for. (God, I feel old.)”

        LOL I hear you, Jim!

        1. Alexander Nevsky – Sergei Prokofiev
        Because my ‘friend’ will later need to understand where so many others’ styles came from.

        2. Close Encounters of the Third Kind – John Williams
        The emotions of this one bridge the gap between childhood & adulthood using a sense of wonder.

        3. Poltergeist – Jerry Goldsmith
        Because I still have a hard time listening to it alone in the dark and want others to be freaked out by it too.

        4. The Black Stallion – Carmine Copolla
        From abandonment, to friendship and heroism, you can hear it all even without the movie.

        5. The Last Temptation of Christ – Peter Gabriel
        I love the mix of ancient, organic instruments with synth. It just works so well.

        6. Body Heat – John Barry
        The whole score practically drips with sweat & sex.

        7. The Usual Suspects – John Ottman
        Bad guys get all the great themes.

        8. Signs – James Newton Howard
        A respectful nod to Hermann, with a modern sensibility.

        9. POTC – At World’s End – Hans Zimmer
        The well incorporated themes are a great example of why I fell in love with film music to begin with.

        10. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer – Tom Tykwer, Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek
        Chills every time.

        1. Now those are some interesting choices, Byron. And there’s four on there I’ve never heard. But at least I get to discover them anew!

        2. These are really good choices. CE3K is possibly Williams’ most fully rounded score, and is just packed to the rafters with memorable cues.

          Perfume was such bolt from the blue as a score. I had given up thinking such rich, lush music was ever going to be written for film again, its a magnificent soundtrack.

          And Last Temptation, along with Birdy are incredible listening experiences. Gabriel’s use of percussion is mesmerizing and timeless.
          .-= Steve Saragossi´s last blog ..Rollerball =-.

  12. 1. Gottfried Huppertz – Metropolis
    This is my all time favorite movie score and it is something everyone should hear. It has the makings of today’s movie scores in it, yet it progresses like a romantic period symphony. It’s perfectly suited for the epic 1927 masterpiece.

    2. Bernard Herrmann – Vertigo
    Right from the first 30 seconds its clear that this is no ordinary film score. This is one of my favorites of Herrmann’s, with Taxi Driver and Fahrenheit 451 following closely behind. Vertigo is the perfect mix of ominous and beautiful.

    3. Michael Giacchino – John Carter
    Say what you will about the movie, but the score is simply amazing. It has lush melodies and has an air of classic sci fi in it. It is the perfect introduction to Giacchino’s scores as well, because it brings together both his skills at creating melodies and orchestrating them.

    4. Danny Elfman – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
    This is the score that got me into film music, and is one of my favorites, because it showcases just how much fun Elfman has composing. It has musical numbers as well as a nice, slightly retro score that reflects the weird world of Willy Wonka. Plus its a good gateway into his scores.

    5. John Williams – A.I. Artificial Intelligence
    In my opinion, the most beautiful of John Williams’ scores. It plays exactly how it should in the context of the movie: like a futuristic fairytale.

    6. John Powell – How to Train Your Dragon
    The most well done of Powell’s scores, and pure fun.

    7. Joe Hisaishi – Spirited Away
    Quite frankly its hard to pick just one of Hisaishi’s scores, but Spirited Away is probably the most accessible. Others to check out are Howl’s Moving Castle and Princess Mononoke. His distinct style shines in all of these scores.

    8. Sherlock Holmes – Hans Zimmer
    Zimmer outdid himself with the Sherlock Holmes score, breaking free from the monotony that often plagues his many scores and reminding us why he is as successful as he is. The creativity he brought to the music is phenomenal.

    9. Cliff Martinez – Contagion
    Putting an electronic score in for good measure. Cliff Martinez is a successful composer of electronic music for film, working largely in the background and recently coming into the public eye for his scores for Contagion and Drive. Contagion is the most accessible, cohesive and enjoyable by far.

    10. Alexandre Desplat – The Painted Veil
    Desplat has proven himself to be invaluable in the movie world recently, however his earlier score for the Painted Veil is magnificent and true art and shouldn’t be overlooked.

  13. First of all, thanks for this great site.
    So… Hard to choose…

    1. Chinatown – Jerry Goldsmith
    Perfect music for a perfect movie.

    2. Vertigo – Bernard Herrmann
    So powerful.

    3. The Incredibles – Michael Giacchino
    Wonderful tribute to John Barry.

    4. The Pink Panther – Henry Mancini

    5. The Ghost Writer – Alexandre Desplat
    I love Alexandre Desplat’s work but if I should pick one, I’ll take this one without hesitation …

    6. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind – John Williams
    Best partition of this great composer.

    7. Pan’s Labyrinth – Javier Navarrete

    8. The Straight Story – Angelo Badalamenti
    The music embraces the rhythm and emotion of the film perfectly.

    9. The Village – James Newton Howard
    I don’t like the movie but the music is incredible.

    10. Aliens – James Horner
    After the brilliant score by Goldsmith, Horner gives an epic music to the sequel.

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