Music on Trial: A world where rock and soundtrack collide

When you think of movie music, you probably first think of big, emotional soundtracks. You think of monumental and memorable movies like “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “The Lion King” and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. If you are interested in film scores, you even think of the names behind them: John Williams “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter”, Hans Zimmer “Inception” and “The Dark Knight” trilogy and Danny Elfman “Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Spider-Man”.

I am obsessed with film music. Anyone who knows me is familiar with my hundred-plus-song “Best of Film Soundtracks” playlist and has seen me lose myself in it multiple times a day. Most of the songs on that list are from sweeping, orchestral soundtracks, written and directed by the composers listed above and others like them. But the future of soundtracks may be changing, and that “most” may become “some” or even just “a few.”

With a 52% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, “Tron: Legacy” may not be the most successful or timely, given the 28-year gap film sequel ever produced. The soundtrack, on the other hand, received more positive reviews and even won the award for “Best Original Score for a Fantasy/Science Fiction/Horror Film” from the International Film Music Critics Association. On their list of the 50 coolest movie soundtracks, ShortList said of the album, “It might not have been full of dance floor slayers, but it certainly displayed a wondrous versatility to [Daft Punk]. One that should see them score soundtracks for years to come.” Yep, if you didn’t know, “Tron: Legacy” was scored by the famous electronic duo, Daft Punk, and as far as I’m concerned, they did a spectacular job – at least enough to earn a few spots on my prized list of movie music favorites.

This trend of pop and rock artists scoring movies is not entirely new think Cat Stevens for “Harold and Maude”, but it is picking up. Just last week, Pharrell Williams and a conglomeration of rockers were commissioned to help Hans Zimmer compose and produce the soundtrack for “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” – a significant deviation from the soundtrack for the first movie, scored alone by James Horner “Titanic” and “Avatar”.

For those thinking “Blurred Lines” and cringing, allow me put your mind at ease. While much of Pharrell Williams’ music is more along the lines of pop and hip-hop, he has been steadily and successfully easing into the cinematic music world in his work on “Despicable Me” and the 84th Academy Awards, both collaborations with Hans Zimmer.

And therein lies my point: musicians from pop, rock, dance, hip-hop and other genres are making substantial contributions to the world of film music, and there is a chance that this is the start of a new trend in composing.

Other examples of mainstream musicians going film-ward include:

-“The Social Network”: scored by Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor.

-“Requiem for a Dream”: Composer Clint Mansell was previously the guitarist, composer and lead singer for an alt-rock band in the 80s and 90s.

-“The Royal Tenenbaums”: scored by Mark Mothersbaugh, who co-founded the cult-classic New Wave group Devo.

-“The Princess Bride”: Mark Knopfler, the lead guitarist and singer of Dire Straights, wrote the score for this cult-classic.

Is there evidence that the trend will persist and flourish? Well, it isn’t as though it hasn’t been happening for some time, but with technology making production much easier and film music gaining so much attention, chances are that more and more popular music artists will consider making the leap to “scoring” over “writing.” At the very least, I believe we can expect to see a few more musicians dabbling in musical fields that are outside of their usual expertise.

About Elena Christensen

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