Monday, July 15, 2013

Action, music, and muscle

“Anderton’s Great Escape” by John Williams
From “Minority Report” (2002)
It is absolutely astounding the way John Williams has continued to operate at the peak of his creative powers throughout the 2000s. Not only has the maestro shown no drop off in his legendary composing skills, he has continued to thrive and grow as an artist creating several undeniable masterworks along the way including; “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” (2001), “Memoirs of a Geisha” (2005), that amazing double shot of 2011, the epic “Warhorse” and the jazzy, propulsive “The Adventures of Tintin”.
Even at the age of eighty-one John Williams is still the best living composer of action music, and arguably the second greatest of all time behind Jerry Goldsmith. “Anderton’s Great Escape” is a wickedly exciting cue with explosive moments expertly weaved in and out of a frenetic,  flawlessly constructed musical piece with vertical energy and a roller-coaster motion that never stops. This rousing, show stopper of a cue is in many ways a highlight reel of every John Williams action cue ever composed.

“Clever Girl” by Jerry Goldsmith
From “Total Recall” (1990)
An avante-guard, innovative blend of bold, brassy, percussive action cues and mind expanding electronics, Goldsmith’s wickedly exciting music breathes extra life into every scene it touches. Perhaps the best example is this cue, a rousing piece of musical adrenaline that rockets the excitement of both the film.
This thunderous brass-dominated cue propels the action forward at a relentless, pounding pace. It is a true musical masterwork that takes action scoring to an entire new level of artistic triumph. Arguably the greatest action score of all time and a rush of euphoric bliss guaranteed to make any soundtrack fan’s heart pound with excitement.

“Beth & Nick” by Jerry Goldsmith
From “Basic Instinct” (1992)
Something about director Paul Verhoeven brought out the best in Jerry Goldsmith.
“Basic Instinct” is built around a swirling, spooky, hypnotic main theme introduced in track one, “Main Theme”. It is a haunting and fluid musical texture that immediately draws the listener in to a symphony of dark wonders. The theme is layered in and out of the score at multiple points and on various cues at different tempos of urgency, reminding us of the forbidden femme fatale character who is always in control at every turn. But what makes this classic masterpiece really standout is the innovative and avant-garde action music.
“Beth & Nick” is a furious, explosive, tension filled cue used to score the film’s rough sex scene between Michael Douglas’s and Jeanne Triplehorn’s characters. Like the scene, this arousing cue is wickedly intense, exciting as hell, and pushes the envelope as it leaves us breathless and on the edge of our seat.

“Gotham’s Reckoning” by Hans Zimmer
From "The Dark Knight Rises" (2012)
There can be no denying that the composer with the greatest influence on modern action music scoring, and arguably film music in general of the past two decades, is Hans Zimmer. Brooding, melancholy, and ultra-cool, when Zimmer is on his game he is as good as anybody in the current generation of composers.
Track three on the soundtrack album “Gotham’s Reckoning” introduces us to the main thrust of action material and Bane’s theme, a riveting blast of percussive and brass fury backed by a chanting choir. There is a glorious, escalating rhythm of primitive fury to this cue that, at least structurally, is reminiscent of John William's exciting action theme for General Grevious from “Revenge of the Sith”.

“Elevator Chase” by Harry Gregson-Williams
From "Total Recall" (2012)
When it game to scoring the picture, it would have been futile to even try to create a score in the mode of Goldsmith’s original. No living composer outside of John Williams has that level of talent and craftsmanship. Wiseman took a different approach, one that was needed to match the brooding chase picture they had created and hired Harry Gregson-Williams to compose a techno-flavored soundtrack. And you know what? It works too.
“Elevator Chase” is an exciting action cue that uses old school influences such as Goldsmith style percussive metering and temp changes and fuses them with a pop oriented throbbing techno set piece. Even for old school soundtrack fans, the “Total Recall” remake offers an album packed with cool action music that makes for terrific workout or driving music.

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