Thursday, November 06, 2008

Music that goes bump in the night

I'm a bit late for the Halloween season with this, so you can bookmark this for next year (or maybe I'll just repost it then). Here are some good examples of film and teevee music for your listening pleasure during the Scary Season! Here I eschewing some of the more obvious choices, like Bernard Herrmann's score to Psycho; in fact, I'm generally limiting myself to the last thirty years or so of music for film.

:: Dracula, by John Williams. He wrote this for the 1979 film starring Frank Langella as the famed count. The movie isn't highly regarded at all, but Williams's score is an underrated – in fact, almost unknown – gem from the remarkable 1977-1984 period of his career. It's a dark and brooding score with a recurring motif that dominates the action. The score makes me think of the grim things brooding in the Carpathian mountains. (Williams also scored the Brian de Palma film The Fury right around this time. I've got that score on CD, but I haven't listened to it.)

:: The Omen Trilogy, by Jerry Goldsmith. All three of these scores are superlative; in fact, Goldsmith would win the only Oscar of his career for The Omen, which is notable for his exceedingly creepy main title theme, called "Ave Satani". For The Final Conflict, Goldsmith would write some of his best apocalyptic choral writing. The movies are terrible, of course, but we're talking first-rate Goldsmith here.

:: Bram Stoker's Dracula, by Wojcech Kilar. Kilar was actually the composer I most wanted to do the Lord of the Rings movies back when those films were in pre-production; this score is why. It's lyrical, brooding, and darkly erotic throughout. Again, not a really good movie boasting a first-rate score.

:: Bless the Child, by Christopher Young. I never saw this movie, but I'm told it was generally awful. Really good score, though; another dark and heavily choral score for a movie that deals with Christian-themed horror. What's notable about this particular score as it is heard on CD is that Young arranged its cues into a suite of five long tracks, converting it into a work of symphonic power. He turns it into an oratorio, almost. It's well worth seeking out.

:: The Truth and the Light: Music from The X-Files and Millennium, by Mark Snow. Television music, which is therefore heavy on synth use, but Mark Snow was a major factor in the creation of the atmosphere of these two shows. Millennium is only available on iTunes, by the way; a few years ago a couple of readers made me copies of the music. This is very good music. Many filmscore fans deride the X-Files album because it includes dialog snippets with the music, but it works very well, for me; the dialog snippets are chosen well, and they contribute greatly to the mood of the album.

:: The Silence of the Lambs, Se7en, by Howard Shore. Before he'd come to immense fame as the Lord of the Rings composer, Howard Shore scored a lot of thrillers and dark horror films during the 1990s. These two scores are among his best in that vein. (I've heard lots of good things for his score to The Cell and for his work on David Cronenberg's movies, but I'm not familiar with them.)

:: Interview with the Vampire, by Eliot Goldenthal. Lots of avant-garde orchestral effects here; Goldenthal is a bold composer who doesn't shy away from lots of dissonance and demanding orchestrations. I actually liked this movie, and it's a good score. (Goldenthal's score to the third Alien movie is also good, although I hate the Alien movies.)

:: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Dead Again, by Patrick Doyle. Doyle does for Kenneth Branagh's overwrought literary horror epic what Kilar did for Francis Ford Coppola's overwrought literary horror epic (Bram Stoker's Dracula). Frankenstein is a very over-the-top film, and Doyle contributes a fine over-the-top score. Dead Again is more of a thriller than a horror film, but it has a strong supernatural element, and Doyle's score here is also dramatic and over-the-top.

:: LOST, by Michael Giacchino. I don't like the show, but the music is pretty good, going farther down the direction earlier explored by Mark Snow for The X-Files and Millennium.

And there you go. Blast some of this music out your windows next year on the night when the dead walk the land!


Call me Paul said...

I used to use the 17th track of the Interview With A Vampire soundtrack as demo material in selling audio equipment - back when I did that. I'd queue up the song, and preface the demonstration by saying, "this piece of music was originally described to me as something that begs to be turned up louder than you probably should..."

Sean Meade said...

have you listened to Doyle's Henry V soundtrack? it's really great. i think it might have been his first one. the repeated theme and the Non nobis are my favorites