Monday, October 5, 2009

The Legends of Film Composition

Music is the only sound effect that has been with film since its inception. It is an integral part to a film. The music to a scene tells us how to think, how to feel; whether we should be sad, happy, or excited.

At the end of the day I do not consider myself a music aficionado; my musical interests are very slim. One of the few things I do listen to are film scores. I love the music that accompanies films. Whenever I listen to the music to my favorite films, I'm able to recall the images within my mind's eye.

I decided, as a fun excursion, to count down my top 10 favorite film composers of all-time. I will briefly describe why I think the film composer is one of the best, and then share a sample of their music which I think represents them at the top of their game.

This was a tough list to make. While it was pretty clear as to who should be on here, I debated a long time as to where each member upon the list should fall. I think I have finally locked the top 10 in their rightful spots. Here we go:

10. Alan Silvestri - Best known from his collaborations with director Robert Zemeckis, his scores for Back to the Future and Forrest Gump are iconic. He is a genuine force in film composition, still rolling along today. I love the theme to Back to the Future, it just makes me happy each and every time when it gets into full swing.

9. Michael Giacchino - Of this current wave of film composers, he is probably the most prominent. He has an immense range, from the swing-style utilized within films like The Incredibles and Ratatouille, to the big-John Williams-style in this past summer's Star Trek, Giacchino can do it all. While I love his work involving the string section in stuff like LOST, I can't help but favor the brassiness of something like The Incredibles.

8. Danny Elfman - The guy I consider to be the master of superhero composition, having written two of the more memorable superhero film scores of all-time, Batman and Spider-Man. While I'm not too terribly crazy about his work with Tim Burton, I am a fan of much of his other material, and I think that there is none better than the original Batman from 1989.

7. Jerry Goldsmith - One of those legends when it comes to film composition. While his work isn't as broad as some of the others on this list, when he is on top of his game he can't be beat. His best work coming probably in the late '70s when he did the music to a little film called Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

6. Howard Shore - A major force in modern day film composition, dabbling in all types of films, from comedy, to drama, to big epic blockbusters. His ability to balance the music appropriately to the situation and the genre is one of his greatest talents. Just compare his work in Mrs. Doubtfire to his best work yet, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

5. Nino Rota - While I am not his biggest fan, he is a legend when it comes to film composition, working with everyone from Francis Ford Coppola to Fellini, and there are not many film scores that are as iconic as the one he wrote for The Godfather.

4. Ennio Moriccone - This man is probably more synonymous with the Western genre than either John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. Whenever you think of Westerns you think of his music. His music embodies the Western genre, and will continue to forever. He gave the man with no name a personality. Just listen to some The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.

3. Bernard Herman - When it comes to old school film composition, no one was better than Bernard Herman. He composed music for films as diverse as Citizen Kane and Taxi Driver. His scores all had unique styles and are still to this day very exciting to listen to. Of course it's because of his collaborations with Hitchcock that makes me love his music so much, and he was never better than he was with North by Northwest.

2. Joe Hisaishi - Not a name heard by many here in the States. Over in Japan he is the man when it comes to film composition. His collaborations with Hayao Miyazaki are simply magical, and his work in films like Departures is poignant and beautiful. Hisaishi's tasteful use of string music is unparalleled by any other film composer. Enjoy the sounds of Joe Hisaishi from what I believe to be his best work, Departures.

1. John Williams - No other film composer can truly come close to John Williams. Mr. Williams has composed majority of the greatest film scores of all-time through his collaborations with the likes of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. His music is magical and truly makes you believe a man can fly (and yes that is a pun). Just enjoy the magic of John Williams at his finest.

And that does it. I hope you enjoyed this excursion as much as I did.

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