In her 2004 book Music In Film: Soundtracks And Synergy, cultural academic Pauline Reay explores how music has historically been used to promote film (all the way back to Camille Saint-Saëns’s original score for the 1908 French film L’Assassinat du duc de Guise, released separately as sheet music). Nowadays, we have access to a richer array of film soundtracks than ever, from digital libraries to lush vinyl reissues of classic scores (spanning Blaxploitation, anime, horror and beyond) – and as Brand points out, film music fans are multi-generational and increasingly savvy. He argues that contemporary family movies frequently feature the most exciting and adventurous scores. “If you really want to ‘get’ what Hans Zimmer does, go see Kung Fu Panda or Rango,” he argues. “There’s also John Powell’s magnificent scores for the How To Train Your Dragon films, and Randy Newman’s work on the Toy Story soundtracks; there is so much genuine delight and joy in the genre, and a massive surge of generosity that just reignited my love for it all.”
Great film music can reinvent icons (take Icelandic musician/composer Hildur Guðnadóttir’s extraordinary Oscar-winning score for Joker, 2019) and subvert genres (Nicholas Britell’s poignant and potent “chopped and screwed” symphonies for Moonlight, 2016), yet it can also ‘belong’ to us through an emotional core. As kids, we often make our first musical discoveries through film (and Brand argues emphatically that this should be nurtured at school); we then carry these soundtracks through our lives. Morricone has been with me everywhere; as a child, thanks to my Dad’s obsession with Western films – and as an incredibly lucky adult, taking my Dad to see Morricone (then a sprightly octogenarian) conducting his own scores at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Morricone has been played at hard rock gigs I’ve seen (Metallica use The Ecstasy Of Gold as their intro music), and even at raves – around 6am one Sunday morning, when his theme to The Mission cascaded across a sweaty dancefloor like a mass epiphany. I’m not sure what Il Maestro himself would have made of that last scene, but he proved that the greatest film music is unconventional – and it really hits you where you least expect it.
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