The Soundtrack


By • Mar 1st, 2005 •

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Firstly, many congratulations to JOHN BARRY for being given a Fellowship of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts at the recent BAFTAs. About bloody time!

Well done mate.

Original Score by Howard Shore

It’s good to see Howard Shore has managed to shake off all those LOTR themes and characters and has come up with a score that doesn’t even bear a passing resemblance to that magnificent work; not an easy task when you’ve been composing for Hobbits, Dwarves, Elves, Ringwraithes and Wizards for what, four-five years? But maybe he was trying a little too hard to shed that particular skin.

His score to reflect the world of Howard Hughes between 1927-47 is appropriately industrious disciplined and troubled – not unlike the film’s central character himself, but sadly I found it a hard album to listen to more than once. Unlike LOTR this was definitely music to accompany a movie and not be listened to in isolation. I would have liked some original themes that captured the glitz, glamour and period of the film, but there are none. There’s passion, but no romance. The only thing that comes close is track 13, Long Beach Harbour 1947, where we hear an archive recording of James McNamara’s commentary from aboard the ‘Spruce Goose’ on it’s maiden (and only) flight, backed by excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 Pathetique Movement 1 and a mellow arrangement, presumably by Shore, of Hoagy Carmichael’s Stardust. I could have done with more of this kind of thing to make it a stand-alone album – without it, audibly the period just simply isn’t evoked and it’s a cold and soulless affair.

Ironically the phrases ‘passion but no romance’ and ‘cold and soulless affair’ may possibly allude to Howard Hughes’ lifestyle, but they don’t make for a satisfying listening experience.

(Music from the period, and used in the movie, is available on Sony’s own (and inevitable cash-in) AVIATOR album, which includes already readily available tracks by Rufus Wainwright, The Original Memphis Five, Bing Crosby, Benny Goodman, Django Reinhardt, Artie Shaw, The Ink Spots, Martha Wainwright, Harry James and Glenn Miller, but here considerately gathered together for your listening pleasure. Phooey.)

Also see Victoria Alexander’s movie review.

Label: Decca
Running time: 47:30
Rating: Disappointing

Original Score by Jan A. P. Kaczmarek

This Oscar nominated score to accompany the fictionalised biography of Peter Pan creator J. M. Barrie (Johnny Depp) is a concoction of playful, wistful and melancholic themes. There’s also a great variety of musical tools at work here: strings; children’s chorus; accordion; balalaika (I think); flute; solo piano (one particular oft repeated motif though did start to get on my nerves and when it suddenly struck me that it reminded me of the CHARLIE’S ANGELS TV theme it made it all the worse) and more, all of which serve to try and capture the world, more importantly worlds, of Barrie and the children, and very effective and workmanlike it is too, without being the slushy over-sentimental score that might have materialised had one of the more familiar composers been handed the job.

Kaczmarek (THE THIRD MIRACLE, LOST SOULS, WASHINGTON SQUARE, TOTAL ECLIPSE, UNFAITHFUL) provides us with a score that, although being pleasant enough, rarely provides us with anything new. It does however have a good running time, probably helped by the inclusion of solo piano versions (not used in the actual film) of various themes from the film.

Also see Victoria Alexander’s movie review.

Label: Decca
Running time: 58:35
Rating: Adequate

Original Score by Angelo Badalamenti

And a very long album. At least it seems so when you’re listening to it. After 47 minutes and 34 seconds, with hardly a major chord in sight (yes, okay, I know that’s a silly thing to say when we’re talking about sound, but hey, this is prose…), this offering from Angelo Badalamenti (TWIN PEAKS, THE BEACH, BLUE VELVET) makes you feel like taking a blade to your wrists to put you out of it’s misery. I’m sure it’s all well and good in the context of what is an excellent film (see Bobby Cramer’s movie review), which of course is it’s primary function, but to just sit and listen to the music is a sacrifice to be made only by those wishing to squander their time indulging themselves in the remorse and self-pity of unrequited love or anything else you may be feeling desperately sorry for yourself for at the time (and if it helps you get over it, that’s fine).

Out of it’s cinematic context the music is only slightly compositionally better than that trotted off for all those dreary afternoon TV movies where a war-widowed mother has terminal leukaemia and is struggling against time and bureaucracy trying to find suitable replacement parents for her two cute blonde kids or some-such. And then the family dog gets run over, but at least the previously steel-hearted mother-in-law, who couldn’t understand why her son married this loser of a woman in the first place, has finally realised where her priorities lie etc, etc. You get my drift (not that I watch them of course). It’s slow, ponderous, derivative and basically goes through the emotional motions. If anything it’s reminiscent, not just of TWIN PEAKS, but of Barber’s Adagio for Strings, used in THE ELEPHANT MAN, except it goes on (and on) for over three-quarters of an hour. And we can’t even blame David Lynch this time.

If misery is your bag then this is the album for you.

Label: Nonesuch
Running time: 47:34
Rating: Dreary

Original Music by Bruno Coulais

This modestly budgeted and simple story of troubled pupils at a boarding school in post-war France who are won over by an inspirational music teacher unexpectedly broke all box-office records in it’s native France last year and it’s soundtrack album became a million-seller. Performed by the young boys and girls of Les Petits Chanteurs de Saint-Marc in Lyon and the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra, the score has already won the British BAFTA and French Cesar Awards and the song Vois Sur Ton Chemin (Look To Your Path) is nominated as Best Song at this year’s Oscars, and I for one would be delighted if it won as it, and the rest of the score, is truly deserving of these accolades. The music is serene and the voices of the youthful choir make your spine tingle with their crystal clarity, especially the voice of the soloist Jean-Baptiste Maunier, a 13 year-old boy soprano who also plays the youthful protagonist of the film. Some brief passages capture the haunting feel of Danny Elfman’s EDWARD SCISSORHANDS score yet are in no way derivative.

The film, written and directed by Christophe Barratier, rivals CINEMA PARADISO, and IL POSTINO, and is one of those rare occurrences of serendipity where everything works. If you tried to plan it you would fail miserably.

Both film and score are superb.

Label: Nonesuch
Running time: 38.40
Rating: Magnifique


Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score):

Finding Neverland (Miramax) Jan A.P. Kaczmarek
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Warner Bros.) John Williams
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (Paramount and DreamWorks) Thomas Newman
The Passion of the Christ (Icon and Newmarket ) John Debney
The Village ( Buena Vista ) James Newton Howard

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song):

Accidentally In Love from SHREK 2 (DreamWorks)
Music by Adam Duritz, Charles Gillingham, Jim Bogios, David Immergluck, Matthew Malley and David Bryson
Lyric by Adam Duritz and Daniel Vickrey
Al Otro Lado Del Río from THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES (Focus Features and Film Four)
Music and Lyric by Jorge Drexler
Believe from THE POLAR EXPRESS (Warner Bros.)
Music and Lyric by Glen Ballard and Alan Silvestri
Learn To Be Lonely from THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (Warner Bros.)
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyric by Charles Hart
Look To Your Path (Vois Sur Ton Chemin) from THE CHORUS (LES CHORISTES) (Miramax)
Music by Bruno Coulais
Lyric by Christophe Barratier

My money’s on The Passion of the Christ for Best Score and, though I would love Look To Your Path or Al Otro Lado Del Río to win best song, it will probably go to Accidentally In Love or Believe. Please, please, please don’t give it to PHANTOM!

For those of you interested these are the official rules from the Academy’s Music Branch, as found on the AMPAS website:

Special Rules for The Music Awards
I. Original Score:
An original score is a substantial body of music in the form of dramatic underscoring written specifically for the film by the submitting composer.
II. Original Song:
An original song consists of words and music, both of which are original and written specifically for the film. There must be a clearly audible, intelligible, substantive rendition (not necessarily visually presented) of both lyric and melody, used in the body of the film or as the first music cue in the end credits.
III. Original Musical
An original musical consists of not fewer than five original songs (as defined in A.II above) by the same writer or team of writers either used as voice-overs or visually performed. Each of these songs must be substantively rendered, clearly audible, intelligible, and must further the storyline. What is simply an arbitrary group of songs unessential to the storyline of the film will not be considered eligible. The adapter (if any) or the composer of the instrumental score may be considered eligible – in this category only – if his or her contribution is deemed relevant and substantial.
1. The work must be specifically created for the eligible feature-length motion picture.
2. The work must be the result of a creative interaction between the film maker(s) and the composer(s) or songwriter(s) who have been engaged to work directly on the film.
3. The measure of the work’s qualification shall be its effectiveness, craftsmanship, creative substance and relevance to the dramatic whole.
4. The work must be recorded for use in the film prior to any other usage including public performance or exploitation through any of the media whatsoever.
5. Only the principal composer(s) or song writer(s) responsible for the conception and execution of the work as a whole shall be eligible for an award. This expressly excludes from eligibility all of the following:
(a) supervisors
(b) partial contributors (e.g., any writer not responsible for the over-all design of the work)
(c) contributors working on speculation
(d) scores diluted by the use of tracked or pre-existing music
(e) scores diminished in impact by the predominant use of songs
(f) scores assembled from the music of more than one composer.
6. The Executive Committee shall resolve all rules interpretations and all questions of eligibility.
7. It is within the sole and confidential discretion of the Board of Governors to determine what awards, if any, shall be given.
1. For an achievement to be eligible for nomination in any of the three music categories, an OFFICIAL SUBMISSION FORM, obtainable from the Academy, must be requested personally by the principal writer(s) who alone may make the submission.
2. The submission form must be accompanied by a complete Music Cue Sheet (listing all music cues), Vocal Lead Sheets (in the Original Song and Original Musical categories), and the signatures of all submitting writers.
3. Submissions may be made prior to the qualifying Los Angeles release opening, but must be made no later than sixty days after such opening, or Tuesday, December 1, 2004, whichever comes first.
4. The Executive Committee has the right, but not the obligation, to initiate submissions in all three categories, but must do so no later than noon of December 31, 2004.
1. A reminder list of works submitted in each category shall be sent with a nominations ballot to all members of the Academy Music Branch who shall vote in the order of their preference for not more than five achievements in each category.
2. The five achievements in each category receiving the highest number of votes will become the nominations for final voting for the Music Awards.
3. If there are 25 or fewer qualified works submitted in any category, the Executive Committee may recommend to the Board of Governors that nominations be limited to three. If there are four or fewer qualifying works submitted in any category, the Executive Committee may recommend to the Board of Governors that no award be given in that category this year.
4. The entire active and life Academy membership shall vote for final selections in each category:
Rule B5e means that, for example, Craig Armstrong’s Ray score could easily be considered ineligible, since the songs of a certain Ray Charles Robinson so clearly dominate the film that the Music Branch wouldn’t want the voters-at-large to give Armstrong an Oscar based on Mr. Robinson’s work. And though the For Your Consideration ads list James Newton Howard’s contribution to Collateral, the fact that both Antonio Pinto and Tom Rothrock contributed original cues (which are even featured on the soundtrack CD) suggests that Howard will probably be ultimately ineligible.

See you after the Oscars with Part 2.

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