Music’s been a part of cinema longer than speech. It plays a huge part in getting a reaction from an audience. It creates the context for the action: it’s the river the words ride. Watch the final scene of Toy Story 3 without Randy Newman’s score and see if you cry so many tears.
2013’s already a great year for film soundtracks; four months in and there are already four albums clogging up Spotify playlists that’d give anything from 2012 a run for its money. They show heart, knowledge and nous. Some are original compositions: some are old friends who’ve found gainful new employment. Some are drawn from Broadway: some from BurgerTime.
It sold over 55,000 copies in its first two weeks, a full-length deluxe edition has already been announced, and the highlights filled a few stockings on Mother’s Day. And it managed all this despite Rolling Stone calling it “tune-starved and ridiculous” – but those indy-haired, Rebecca Black botherers aren’t exactly the target audience. The score’s glorious. Uplifting and affirming in the way only a truly depressing film can be. Even Russell Crowe’s not that bad.
Quentin Tarantino can’t have enjoyed being lambasted by one of his heroes. Ennio Morricone may since have played down the level of criticism intended when he said the director “places music in his films without coherence,” but there’s no doubt Tarantino’s portmanteau style is divisive. The Django Unchained soundtrack, however, is fantastic: a blend of genres that reinterprets Spaghetti Westerns for the gangsta generation. Put on “Freedom”, strap on your spurs and go for a swagger.
Decades will decide if Tom Tykwer’s “The Cloud Atlas Sextet” – variations of which recur throughout the film’s six narratives, across hundreds of years – is as timeless as the movie demands For now, be content that it is in turns wistful, tragic, urgent and triumphant. More importantly, enjoy how it convinces as a great work – in the same way a gifted actor can give the performance of a great statesman, even if he can’t actually go out and lead the free world.
Jump over to YouTube and you’ll find no shortage of nostalgia for video game music, but Henry Jackman’s score has more than the mere novelty value of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” emulated in 16-bit. Like the film it accompanies, the
soundtrack recognises the art of the arcade, just as it passes into memory. Like black-and-white film, technical restrictions of bleeps and bloops led to new forms of expression: melody conveyed with haiku simplicity.