Posted by: Jeff | April 21, 2010

Music Wednesday

Okay. So Joe and I are not only movie geeks, we’re movie music geeks. I think we’ve established that by now. And part of being a movie music geek, at least for me, is not simply having favorite moments from various scores; it’s imagining new scenes and stories to go along with those musical moments. You know, what we’d have shot if we’d had that same score to work with for one of our films.

So here are three such moments for me, all from scores and films that run the gamut of quality. (No, I’m not going to describe the scenes/stories that play out in my imagination. But rest assured, they’re waaaay better than the scenes in the actual films.)

First up is the track “Summon the Worms,” from the miniseries Children of Dune. It aired on the Scifi Channel a while back, and I’ve actually never seen it. But it’s a decent score, and this one bit from it has enough of a wow factor to be used in the trailer for Master and Commander. (Another track from this score was used in the first moments of the Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull trailer.)

The composer is Brian Tyler. Still relatively young, he’s been working mainly in television and for some under-the-radar films. (The Greatest Game Ever Played, for example.) He hasn’t made a score to really propel him into the big leagues yet – as far as I’m aware – but I think he’s someone worth keeping an eye on. Among other things, he’ll be showing up as the composer for the approaching Stallone action flick The Expendables.

Equal parts epic heroism and raw desperation, this track conjures images of someone facing down a monstrous challenge or villain they know they can’t overcome. But they stand and face it all the same. The good stuff starts around 1:20.

Next up is “Welcome Aboard, Sir” from Air Force One. Not, by any stretch of the imagination, a good movie. But it’s got Harrison Ford as an action hero and the president, Gary Oldman chewing scenery as a Russian terrorist, and Wolfgang Peterson behind the camera. Not to mention Glenn Close, William H. Macy, Jurgen Prochnow, and the hologram dude from Quantum Leap (Dean Stockwell) filling out the supporting cast. So one of those even-when-it’s-bad-it’s-still-good situations.

I was sixteen when I saw this. I was deep in my action movie craze, and I had just recently discovered movie scores for the first time. So when the opening credits came up and the main fanfare commenced, believe me, I was grinning ear to ear.

This track is from the climax and, as used in the film, signals the passage through danger to safety; not just for the hero, but for the hero’s loved ones as well. As such, it works about as well as any big theme moment can for such an emotion.

It’s also worth mentioning that Jerry Goldsmith wrote the music for this movie – with some help from Joel McNeely – in just twelve days. Afterward, the composer vowed never to take on such a tight schedule again. No kidding. And while the extraordinarily rapid pace of writing shows in the simplicity of the score, the fact that Goldsmith still managed to pack in some good stings and a memorable main theme is a testament to the man’s talent.

Finally, we have “Escape from the Tavern” from the score to Willow, a fantastically dense and creative bit of work from James Horner. Easily one of his best scores. The accompanying film is, if not exactly quality, at least a high point in a lot of people’s childhoods.

This track is one of the score’s big action sequences, and the rather modest horse-and-cart chase that goes with it is entirely unworthy of its epic-ness. Believe me, what goes on in my head when I listen to this track is much, much better. The build-up in minor chords to the drum roll and climactic reintroduction of the main action theme, at 2:30, is one of my favorite moments in any movie score, ever.


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