Saturday, January 22, 2011

The New Phase In Movie Scores and Soundtracks

Javi here:

With the recent news that Dan Deacon would be teaming up with Francis Ford Coppolla on the director's newest film, TWIXT NOW AND SUNRISE, now felt like a good time to share some thoughts about this recent trend of contemporary artists creating movie soundtracks and scores.

Movies and rock artists have been coming together for some time already. Off the top of my head, my favorite is The Beatles' A HARD DAY'S NIGHT.  The album and the movie are just as iconic together as they are separate. While you can see how that the movie was just an excuse to see The Beatles running around and cracking jokes, it nevertheless produced a great soundtrack. Same goes for Simon & Garfunkel's contribution to THE GRADUATE soundtrack which are now iconic in cinema culture.  Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and others classic artists have all made a contribution to movie music, but they have always just been songs from their catalog and nothing original.

Even though there could be some argument, it really felt like the ever-popular GARDEN STATE soundtrack might have been the catalyst for creating the importance of how movie music and soundtracks are treated nowadays.  What director Zach Braff did by making the music in the movie not just a highlight but almost the focus, he showed not only artists but the ever-desperate music industry a way to further monetize in a time when downloading and pirating was at an all time-high. While we can always point to other soundtracks where artists are featured heavily, Garden State was one of the first ones in the past decade where the album sold millions of copies (it is now certified as Gold status), and its influence could be felt.  The catchy combination brought renewed fame to bands like Zero 7, Frou Frou, and directly influenced the rise of The Shins.

The next set of soundtracks seemed to be made along the lines of the Garden State formula.  Movies such as THE LAST KISS, NICK AND NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST, and (500) DAYS OF SUMMER all had quite an emphasis on music, even to the point of making music a part of the plot. All these soundtracks had a style that was mixed contemporary artists such as Vampire Weekend with older acts like Hall & Oates.  Even the TWILIGHT movies have  featured unexpected artists such as St. Vincent, Bon Iver, Beck, and Grizzly Bear in their soundtracks as a potentially genius marketing scheme.

ONCE is the best example of bridging the gap between GARDEN STATE (songs that were the forefront in the movie) to something like THE SOCIAL NETWORK (where a rock artist is the one composing the soundtrack).  Lead actor Glen Hansard created many of these songs that were seen in the movie, all awhile in his then-former-band, The Frames, and while also writing some new songs along with co-star Marketa Irglova.  The effect of this movie was not only winning the duo an Oscar for their wonderful song "Falling Slowly" (FACT: Jonesy and I bonded over this band/movie), but it also helping with the career of The Swell Season, the group that Hansard and Irglova formed after the movie.

In 2007, we had Radiohead guitarist, Jonny Greenwood, scoring THERE WILL BE BLOOD soundtrack to much acclaim. Arcade Fire worked together with Spike Jonze on a short film, which will be released at the Berlin Film Festival.   Grizzly Bear was actually going to contribute original material to the BLUE VALENTINE soundtrack, but due to scheduling conflicts, they were only able to contribute instrumental tracks to the movie.  In my opinion, their music actually helped with the mood of the movie in a way I did not expect.  
As some people have stated rather sarcastically, Daft Punk's TRON: LEGACY was the best part of the movie.  Finally, we have learned recently that Trent Reznor will continue his working relationship with director David Fincher with THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, and with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' win for The Social Network at the Golden Globes, I have a feeling that more and more artists will be scoring movies

This new trend is one I hope that continues, and I hope it creates great working relationships between artists and directors. Not only is it beneficial for the bands, but also, in a time when famed composers like Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, and Howard Shore are all starting to plagiarize from themselves, the competition might challenge these more traditional composers to create better scores.  Either way, the outcome can only mean a more rich aural experience for the viewers.

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