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El Jefe, October 13, 2010
Posted October 13, 2010
Alien resurrection (John Frizzell, La-La Land 2CD release)
This was a nice treat, and there is some great music, especially the End Credits, that was not on the OST CD.
Very enjoyable, and sounding great to my ears.
Harry Potter and the Golden Footwarmer
Taking Giacchino's complete Star Trek for yet another spin. Fun stuff.
Absolutely. It still gets a LOT of play time from me.
Giacchino's Star Trek also gets get a lot of play time from me as well.
It's still fairly regular listening for me too.
Lets hear it for Giacchino's Trek
Unfortunately it hasn't gotten much play from me, at all. I think I listened to it about 3-4 times. Same with the OST. There's something about the score that just doesn't grab me like Giacchino's other works.
Posted October 14, 2010
Thank god, I thought I was the only one! It's certainly a decent score, but it feels uninspired, like someone was imitating his style rather than he himself composing it.
I don't like Giacchino Star Trek.
I listened to it on a mini road trip the other day. I like it, I just think it lacks depth in a lot of ways. More fun than anything.
Other than that, I've been exclusively "Philosopher's Stone" for days.
I've said before how the Giacchino Trek main theme just drives me nuts. I find it completely obnoxious.
I've been listening mostly to bits and pieces of the MOH franchise, with heavy emphasis on Frontline. Since I never owned Frontline until recently, I never really gave it the attention it deserves. It's just as good as the original and Underground.
Unite the three and you probably have the greatest trilogy of scores ever (Cue Star Wars and LOTR responses).
As I've no doubt mentioned before, I have the same reaction to MOH that you do to Star Trek, Koray. Just doesn't grab me, although the main theme is VERY good and I'm in love with how Giacchino adapted the sub theme for LOST.
How can you not be grabbed by this? It oozes awesomeness and genius.
It's got some good parts, but to my ear, it suffers from the same two things that plague much of the MOH stuff I've heard: it gets too cutesy, and it's neither a well-structured concert suite nor a film score cue that syncs to specific onscreen changes. Just doesn't really do it for me. I think Giacchino does better work when he's writing for a medium that involves the challenge of syncing.
Yeah, that cutesy style is what bothers me about Giacchino's video game work. It never catches me
Well there's your problem. It's not supposed to be a concert suite and it's not a film score. Also, when was the last time a film score truly synched up to the film? It's called mickey mousing, and is usually detrimental IMO, because then it can't stand on its own. As for it being cutesy, I think I vaguely understand what you mean. I'd say sweeping action adventure is a better term.
Ever since last spring or so I've come to regard the whole Giacchino MoH series as one fabulous body of work.
Well there's your problem. It's not supposed to be a concert suite and it's not a film score.
Yes, that is exactly my problem! It's video game music, and unless I have an existing emotional attachment to the game itself, I usually don't care for it.
Also, when was the last time a film score truly synched up to the film? It's called mickey mousing, and is usually detrimental IMO, because then it can't stand on its own.
99% of film scores are written to sync with the film in a VERY precise way. In fact, that's one of the first steps the composer takes when writing music for a specific scene. You decide on a tempo (or series of tempi) and then map out each and every measure, figuring out time signatures and determining exactly where specific cue points will fall in the music, often down to hundredths of a second. The composer has to take into account changes of tone, scenery, and whatnot, capturing the dramatic flow of the scene in a way that accentuates and augments the action onscreen without actually interfering. In other words, for most parts of most cues of most scores, the composer literally knows exactly when each beat is supposed to take place within a fraction of a second. And it all has to mirror the changes in the film.
Mickey Mousing is more about style than process. That's when you write the music so that it literally follows every single specific action that's happening, in an almost onomatopoetic way, like in old cartoons. It's usually frowned upon just because it gets silly and obnoxious when it's overused. But film music still has to sync very precisely to what's happening on the screen, even if you're not accentuating every punch with a musical sound effect. And I really like that, because when it's done well, the result is music that has an organic flow to it. It sounds sort of like real life. Stuff changes. Moods change. Settings change. There are surprises. And the music describes all of this.
But video game music comes in loops (cutscenes excluded). There may be a lot of different things happening in the game, but because they're interactive and dependent on the behavior of the gamer, there's no way anyone could write music to sync up with that. Instead, it just has to establish a tone for a specific setting and/or activity. There'll be a cue for when you're fighting a specific boss, or for when you're exploring a certain environment, or whatever. The results are a lot more static and unchanging because they have to just keep looping in the background for as long as you're doing that same thing. Nothing to sync to. No change. And that tends to bore me. Again, unless I have a sentimental attachment to the game - or unless it has structure kind of like a good concert suite.
As for it being cutesy, I think I vaguely understand what you mean. I'd say sweeping action adventure is a better term.
I think "cutesy" fits better.
Giacchino described his game music in a recent interview, don't remember which, so maybe you should just read that. I just don't understand the need to have something else going in your mind than just the music itself. I know there are different ways people listen to music. I'm not thinking about the movie/show/game when I'm listening, at least most of the time.
Well...although I do tend to somewhat keep track of onscreen occurrences as I listen, that's not totally crucial to my enjoyment. For example, I can enjoy a cue that wasn't used in the film, or even a whole score to a film I've never seen. I just like what happens to the music itself when it's being written to follow a narrative. I like the sound of music that tells a story, even if I don't know what that specific story is. (Another good example of this would be Stravinsky's "The Firebird" - I've never seen the ballet and probably never will, nor do I really care what it's about. But the music is so clearly involved in a narrative - and so GOOD - that I can't help loving it.) By nature, video game music is devoid of that sort of narrative. It has to be in order to do its job well.
By nature, maybe a decade ago. Game music has changed BIG time, and Giacchino was ahead of his time in that department. His scores aren't infinite loops that fade in and out, there's structure.
Sure, and if it had the type of structure I like - and if the music itself weren't so cutesy - then it could appeal to me in the way that a Williams concert suite does. But something about it just doesn't do it for me on that level, either. It's a multifaceted issue.
Anyway, I'm totally not trying to invalidate your enjoyment of these scores. You're certainly not the only one who likes 'em. They're just not really my cup of tea, with some delightful exceptions.
I know. Giacchino has a very consistent and fluid body of work IMO. I just find it hard to be able to like one of his scores and not another. But to each their own! Now let's just go listen to some LOST
As for it being cutesy, I think I vaguely understand what you mean. I'd say sweeping action adventure is a better term.I think "cutesy" fits better.
I know. Giacchino has a very consistent and fluid body of work IMO. I just find it hard to be able to like one of his scores and not another.
I find his work on MOH to be very, very different from most of his other work. At times, it almost sounds like it was written by another composer. Besides, there are even some Williams scores I don't really care for, and he's easily my favorite. Goodness, why can't we agree on anything, Koray?
There's plenty of structure in the music that was composed as "infinite loops". Listen to some early Uematsu or Kondo and try to tell me these guys didn't have some serious compositional and orchestral chops.
I know. Giacchino has a very consistent and fluid body of work IMO. I just find it hard to be able to like one of his scores and not another.I find his work on MOH to be very, very different from most of his other work. At times, it almost sounds like it was written by another composer. Besides, there are even some Williams scores I don't really care for, and he's easily my favorite. Goodness, why can't we agree on anything, Koray?
Data you are the official "Thor" of videogame music discussion.
Medal of Honor Frontline
I'm also the official "Thor" of TOD-hating. I'm useful for many things!
Quick, let's use him as a psychological case study!
How does this make you feel?
The first one is brilliant. Love it. It works on that concert suite level for me, and it doesn't have much of that "cutesiness." I wouldn't put it on the level of Williams' works in the same sort of genre, but I definitely like it. The second one is pretty cool, too.
That's better! Do you have these scores in full?
Nope, the only MOH score I've listened to in full is the original. I'm not really looking for a test drive at the moment, though, in case anyone gets any ideas. Maybe someday.
Well neither of those are MOH. They're Secret Weapons Over Normandy and Small Soldiers, respectively. I thought it was apparent by the video titles
I couldn't remember if the former was a MOH score or not. But yes, I knew that about the latter.
Ya Small Soldiers had a video game tie in as well as the film. Of course the music for the film was done non other than Jerry Goldsmith. Speaking of Jerry's score for that, it would be nice if the labels released the full score it some day. I've got an expanded score with the cue "Chip's Orders" which has the Patton reprise music. It's actually a cool score and deserves an expanded release.
The Music of America John Williams: For a long time John Williams fan this compilation treads much of the familiar territory but there are a couple of nice exceptions, namely the Air and Simple Gifts and Suite from Memoirs of a Geisha for Cello and Orchestra. Those alone were for me worth the price of this set. The selection is a combination of Williams celebratory pieces, concert works and film scores, all conducted by the Maestro himself but as I said the material has been released before on many different CDs by the Sony Classical label. For those who are only beginning to get to know Williams' wide reportoire and range as a composer this would be an ideal starting point. And it offers a nice listening experiece for those who already know his works and indeed own most of this music on other releases. I was once again reminded of how powerful and dynamic Summon the Heroes is, practically putting you in the Olympic mood the instant you hear the opening salvo of brass. The wonderful Song for World Peace that begins tenderly and meditatively on noble horns and strings passing the motivic phrase around the orchestra and then growing into this heartwarming soaring and indeed ennobling finale. The majesty and mystery of the Five Sacred Trees concerto and the collection of some of the most brilliant and emotional film music ever written, performed by the world class orchestras here. Even though it sounds quite satisfying and magnificent I wish Sony would focus on releasing all new recordings on single or multiple CD releases instead of re-selling the same performances over and over no matter how good they are and adding two or three new pieces as a carrot for the people who have most of the music already.
Empire of the Sun by John Williams: The score for Spielberg's first drama is a genuine gem of a score that in my opinion deserves a complete release. It is an interesting piece of music as it is both typical and atypical for Williams. It is thematic but very subtly so. And on the other hand most of the album presentation is built upon individual setpiece tracks with very few whisps of themes appearing to tie them together. And what's more interesting is how deeply this music is ingrained into the psychology of the film, offering the main character's view of the world in all its nuances. Nearly every track of the album seems to reflect Jim's reactions or view of the world crumbling around him as his happy innocent schoolboy life if transformed into a nightmarish journey of survival that finally leads him to his parents and safety.
In prototypical fashion Williams crafts a wonderful main theme for the movie that reflects Jim's dreams and spiritual life. It can be most prominently heard in Cadillac of the Skies which underscores Jim's exsultant reaction to an American fighter plane while he is in captitivy of a Japanese concentration camp. This same theme appears in Toy Planes, Home and Hearth and No Road Home/Seeing the Bomb on the album. Williams reserves it for the most important scenes in the film from Jim's point of view. And I have to mention the concert version of this theme which Williams recorded several years later with Boston Pops (the Spielberg/Williams Collaboration album) is a stunning piece, incidentally found on the above mentioned The Music of a America set, titled also Cadillac of the Skies but it further develops the thematic material to a heavenly orchestral and choral piece.
The score is also curious in that it develops or references source material in almost thematic fashion. The piece opening the OST album, Suo Gan a traditional Welsh lullaby, becomes a sort of symbol of hearth and home and especially mother and safety in the film as it opens and closes the film respectively. Similarly the character of Jim's mother is musically depicted by the classical piano pieces as they are the enduring memory that Jim carries around with him, his mother playing the piano. This often ghostly piano music is featured on the OST album on two tracks Toy Planes, Home and Hearth and The Return to the City but in the film there are a couple of other instances that these musical references can be heard.
And the most noticeable musical element in the whole score is the choir and more precisely a boys' choir. The film infact opens with Jim at a church, singing Suo Gan as a soloist in a such choir. Williams has translated this into writing for boys' choir as he depicts Jim's experiences as if the music is springing from the boy's mind, from his experience and musical world. The score is littered with choral moments and the most beautiful sections of it feature the choir. It sings the amazement, joy, horror, anguish and sadness of this boy thrust suddenly into a completely unfamiliar, foreign and hostile world where he still finds his way through his childish optimism. It becomes a thematic element of its own besides the main theme which utilizes the choir. This music culminates in Jim finding his parents and on the OST album Williams presents first the Liberation: Exsultate Justi a short burst of jubilant choral chanting as American soldiers free the camp the boy is living in and then finally expands this idea in the end credits which is called Exsultate Justi on the album. The Latin choral piece celebrates the end of Jim's ordeal and his return home to his parents. I think Williams still illustrates Jim's musical world here, perhaps Jim has sung this kind of music with his choir and this is what he literally hears in his head when he is rescued. More than anything the choir illustrates Jim's spirit in different ways as can be heard in e.g. Imaginary Air Battle, The Return to the City and The Streets of Shanghai.
The individual setpieces are superb scoring and work very well on their own to evoke different moods and emotions. Lost in the Crowd is filled with tension, back and forth tugging orchestral forces just like a heaving mass of a panicking crowd, the music depicting Jim's fear and the horror of being separated from his parents, escalating until forceful jabs from the brass underscored by the cymbals cut clear the musical mass and flow into an uncomfortable drone.
Jim's New Life presents a wonderful optimistic scherzo for the main character who seemingly unaware of his prison camp surroundings hurries through the barrack grounds running errands.
The Streets of Shanghai is the only actual action cue of the whole movie where panicked Jim is running from a Chinese boy through the sidestreets of Shanghai. The music is precursor to Williams' action style of the 90's and is somewhere between Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Jurassic Park. It begins with a choir passage but suddenly builds to a furious full orchestral dash peppered by percussion and low register piano.
The Pheasant Hunt is one of the few ethnic cues from the film, atmospheric, featuring percussion and shakuhachi flute interspersed with few orchestral passages mainly adding tension and lending Japanese colour to the scene where Jim goes on a hunting trip beyond the prison camp fence.
The Empire of the Sun is a wonderful and nuanced score and might be less hummable or immediately accessible than Williams' classic efforts but still I rank it very high amoung my favourites. It contains some of the most beautiful choral passages the composer has ever created and despite claims that it is a disconnected listening experience I think it forms a wonderful musical world of its own.
The Music of America John Williams
Inspiring enough for 294 words.
Empire of the Sun by John Williams
*crickets chirping offscreen*
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