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Film Music isn't dying. It's dead. And it didn't die in 2011. Nor did it die in 2008. It even didn't die in 2001 with Gladiator. It died the moment movie theaters allowed live orchestras to improvise some music to the silent picture on the screen and film scores were born. Ever since its miserable nervous system has been twitching occasionally through the last 100 years. Jerry Goldsmith? A massive kick from the left leg. John Williams? A twitching kick form the right leg. James Horner? A repetitive twitch in the neck. Bernard Herrmann? Just a twitchy dick in a lifeless corpse of film music. And let's not forget Alfred Newman...the last bit of sperm from the corpse that just happened to find its way to some broad who gave us a dozen other Newmans today.

Too often, as we sit around telling stories of our fondest memories of this world of film scores, we forget the pile of shit we sifted through to create our wonderous past. Indeed, the shit was so rank, so disturbing, so horrifying, that many of us died watching these movies. Indeed, the putrid pile of dung that surrounded the gold caused men to murder their wives. Of course, all through time there have been great men willing to recognize that the world of music itself is eternally doomed. A Spanish Classical Guitarist very aptly described the state of music as filled with senseless noise created by insincere men with no appreciation for art...in 1964. He is horrified enough at the thought of electric guitars, asking with horror spewing from his eyes: if there are no Electric Cellos and Violins, why should there be electric guitars? Imagine his horror as Jerry Goldsmith raped acoustic instruments with Logan's Run. And thankfully our guitarist rested in peace long before Klaus Badelt and his electric cellos provided musical backdrop for pirates.

Mind you though, the film score collecting community of yester year was a smarter bunch than we are. Towards the end of the Holy Year of Our Supreme Composer 1977, they understood that film music was STILL dead. "There is a widespread belief among soundtrack collectors that all the really good film composers are either dead or too disgusted to write for the films of today." A realization that we here at JWFan are coming to today, almost 34 years later.

I know the newer kids on the film score collecting block all think everything was nice and great back in the day, and that today's best grossing films are now littered with shitty film scores, with good ones few and far between, unlike the heyday when every big movie released a superb score like "Star Wars" or "Star Trek The Motion Picture."

But really, take a deep breath, and prepare to see the drivel and boring scores we had to sift through to build you this beautiful retrospective...a random sampling of the top 50 best grossing pictures of a few years:

1988:

Rain Man

Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Coming to America

Big

Twins

Crocodile Dundee II

Die Hard

The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!

Cocktail

Beetlejuice

Working Girl

A Fish Called Wanda

Scrooged

Willow

Beaches

Rambo III

Oliver & Company

Bull Durham

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

The Land Before Time

Colors

Young Guns

Biloxi Blues

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

The Great Outdoors

Tequila Sunrise

Big Business

Bambi (Re-issue) (1988)

Midnight Run

The Dead Pool

Red Heat

Dangerous Liaisons

Mississippi Burning

Child's Play

The Accidental Tourist

The Accused

Shoot to Kill

Ernest Saves Christmas

Betrayed

Funny Farm

Alien Nation

Gorillas in the Mist

The Fox and the Hound (re-issue)

License to Drive

Short Circuit 2

Married to the Mob

Punchline

The Presidio

Action Jackson

Tucker: The Man and His Dream

1981:

The Empire Strikes Back

9 to 5

Stir Crazy

Airplane!

Any Which Way You Can

Private Benjamin

Coal Miner's Daughter

Smokey and the Bandit II

The Blue Lagoon

The Blues Brothers

Ordinary People

Popeye

Urban Cowboy

The Shining

Seems Like Old Times

Cheech & Chong's Next Movie

Caddyshack

Friday the 13th (1980)

Brubaker

Little Darlings

Dressed to Kill

The Jazz Singer

Flash Gordon

Lady and the Tramp (Re-issue) (1980)

The Elephant Man

Bronco Billy

Raging Bull

Xanadu

American Gigolo

My Bodyguard

The Fog

Fame (1980)

Tess

Altered States

Song of the South (Re-issue) (1980)

Cruising

The Octagon

The Aristocats (Re-issue) (1980)

Honeysuckle Rose

Herbie Goes Bananas

Rough Cut

The Final Countdown

The Hunter

Hero at Large

The Long Riders

The Island (1980)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Special Edition)

First Family

Prom Night

The Nude Bomb

1993:

Jurassic Park

Mrs. Doubtfire

The Fugitive

The Firm

Sleepless in Seattle

Indecent Proposal

In the Line of Fire

The Pelican Brief

Schindler's List

Cliffhanger

Free Willy

Philadelphia

Groundhog Day

Grumpy Old Men

Cool Runnings

Dave

Rising Sun

Demolition Man

Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit

Tombstone

The Three Musketeers (1993)

Rookie of the Year

Beethoven's 2nd

Dennis the Menace

Sommersby

Last Action Hero

Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas

Addams Family Values

Wayne's World 2

Malice

Made in America

The Good Son

The Beverly Hillbillies

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III

Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Re-issue) (1993)

Falling Down

The Piano

Hocus Pocus

What's Love Got to Do with It

Hot Shots! Part Deux

Carlito's Way

Alive

Son-in-Law

Sliver

Robin Hood: Men in Tights

Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story

The Joy Luck Club

Hard Target

The Sandlot

Though I must say...in a year that we only remember Jurassic Park and Schindler's List, it is truly sad and unthinkable that we forget such wonderfully memorable and exciting classic scores as "Grumpy Old Men" 18 years later

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So what? He still pisses over the head of the majority (if not all) contemporary film composers in terms of pure musical creativity and talent. Not to mention the understanding of film language in ter

Many men died to make the year 1993 look like this to you Chuck:

1993:

Jurassic Park

Schindler's List

Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Fugitive

What a great year that was! All four movies released in 1993 had masterpiece scores (maybe not the Fugitive). But still 4 movies and 4 great scores! That's 100% hit ratio! Those were the days.

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Brilliant thread! :lol: It's good to keep in mind that there's always been a lot of crap. But I guess the issue isn't so much the amount of crappy stuff, but the amount of non-crappy stuff. I'm sure there were dozens or hundreds of terrible scores every decade, but there was a certain tendency to also produce some cream-of-the-crop scores that were truly breathtaking. I haven't gotten that sense since...well, the early 2000s, really. There've been some highlights, and we're certainly getting some great releases of older scores, but overall, there just hasn't been that much for me to like. With Williams in partial retirement, Goldsmith dead, JNH sounding less unique and amazing, Zimmer continually morphing from one tired sound to another (as everyone else follows), Elfman repeating himself ad nauseum, Horner repeating himself repeating himself ad nauseum, and so forth, there really aren't too many shining stars left. Giacchino is an interesting case, but his music isn't to everyone's taste, and he isn't writing traditional symphonic scores.

But the great thing is that everything changes. Ten years from now, film scores won't be the same as they are now. Hopefully they'll be better - hopefully there will be some composers on the rise who really define a new era of excellence. Even if there is a lot of crap mixed in with the awesomeness. :D

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Blume must have hit his head this morning.

There is so much good music he just completely ignored in those lists. 75 to 85% of the scores in those lists are 10 times better than most of the stuff composed in the past 10 years.

You're going to list 1993 and ignore Tombstone, Cliffhanger, Sommersby and Homeward Bound II, just to name a few?

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Blume must have hit his head this morning.

There is so much good music he just completely ignored in those lists. 75 to 85% of the scores in those lists are 10 times better than most of the stuff composed in the past 10 years.

You're going to list 1993 and ignore Tombstone, Cliffhanger, Sommersby and Homeward Bound II, just to name a few?

One of those is great. For all the 8 of us that regularly listen to it. Starts with a T.

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Many men died to make the year 1993 look like this to you Chuck:...

I'm not saying that the ratio of crap to truly good scores isn't badly skewed, but that has always been true in every genre of music.

The only reason that classical music seems to be so much better is the fact that we haven't held on to the crap music that was composed back then. Classics are called "classics" for a reason. They are the few instances that have survived out of all the music ever composed, and they did so precisely because they were so much better than all the crap surrounding them.

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Well there's a problem with that kind of comparison top 1%. It's like saying how exciting is the world between 1938-1945 vs. 1990-1998.

People like Hitler or John Williams or Mother Theresa are rare outliers.

These are the people way ahead of their categories (evil villain, composer, philanthropist), and they don't spring up on the earth on a daily basis.

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Well there's a problem with that kind of comparison top 1%. It's like saying how exciting is the world between 1938-1945 vs. 1990-1998.

People like Hitler or John Williams or Mother Theresa are rare outliers.

These are the people way ahead of their categories (evil villain, composer, philanthropist), and they don't spring up on the earth on a daily basis.

Yup yup...

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The problem with comparison is that we never take chance into account. There are plenty of composers out there in the world who write excellent music, but never got this kind of opportunities that JW got. His success is, whether you like it or not, is in a sense a coincidence. He was at the right place at the right time. Statistically speaking there are few people who get this kind of exposure and it has nothing to do with talent.

Karol

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Blume's point is valid, but there is more to it than that.

I say the most important difference for film music today is how the production process has evolved. Composers used to be brought in at a certain point in post production, discuss their ideas with the director or producer (who, in general, never had a clue about music) and then do their thing. When the scoring sessions came, some points were addressed and changed on the fly, but overall, the post production process was lengthy and tedious enough that the film hadn't changed a lot while the composer was working, and there wasn't too much that could be done to the score at this late stage.

Nowadays, films are re-cut, re-arranged and completely changed up to the last minute of post production. Composers are expected to turn in accurate mockups of their work before anything gets greenlighted, plus they're brought in at a very late stage because of the ever-changing nature of the film they're supposed to score - and yet they have to re-write sizeable chunks of their music all the time because of changes to the cut.

As a result, film music is much more influenced by "outsiders" to the music world like directors, producers, editors etc., and also much more restricted by economics and time considerations.

There is the point that few film composers working today are "classically trained", and in many cases I'm sure this training, while not absolutely necessary, is what made the great composers so great. But are there less trained film composers today because music has become so lame that composers don't train anymore, or is it the production process that leaves composers so little flexibility and identity that the good ones just don't want to do it anymore - see people like Goldenthal, Davis and Williams, who are still active but have apparently pretty much left the film scoring world.

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Blume's point is valid, but there is more to it than that.

I say the most important difference for film music today is how the production process has evolved. Composers used to be brought in at a certain point in post production, discuss their ideas with the director or producer (who, in general, never had a clue about music) and then do their thing. When the scoring sessions came, some points were addressed and changed on the fly, but overall, the post production process was lengthy and tedious enough that the film hadn't changed a lot while the composer was working, and there wasn't too much that could be done to the score at this late stage.

Nowadays, films are re-cut, re-arranged and completely changed up to the last minute of post production. Composers are expected to turn in accurate mockups of their work before anything gets greenlighted, plus they're brought in at a very late stage because of the ever-changing nature of the film they're supposed to score - and yet they have to re-write sizeable chunks of their music all the time because of changes to the cut.

As a result, film music is much more influenced by "outsiders" to the music world like directors, producers, editors etc., and also much more restricted by economics and time considerations.

There is the point that few film composers working today are "classically trained", and in many cases I'm sure this training, while not absolutely necessary, is what made the great composers so great. But are there less trained film composers today because music has become so lame that composers don't train anymore, or is it the production process that leaves composers so little flexibility and identity that the good ones just don't want to do it anymore - see people like Goldenthal, Davis and Williams, who are still active but have apparently pretty much left the film scoring world.

I remember Horner talking exactly about all this in his lenghty interview from few years back and he kind of said he doesn't want to work as much anymore.

Karol

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I remember Horner talking about exactly all this in his lenghty interview from few years back and he kind of said he doesn't want to work as much anymore.

Karol

Horner is not the best example, he has never seemed content with production process, whether now or in the past..

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I don't think there's anything wrong with film music at the moment. You have most people putting in something for the money. And you have a small handful who are putting out some good material. It's not even close to dying. It's the same responses to the same thing time after time. Like the apocalypse. Everyone just wants to believe they're that special someone at "the end of" film music.

And everyone's nostalgic over better days...that really didn't exist. But the past has the benefit of having the boring bits wiped from memory.

Oh but MV is destroying music. Yeah? Really? MV is nothing new. It's an extension of the Studio machine that generated Goldsmith and Williams. The difference now is a music head a studio can't take full credit for the work of his minions by just signing off on their work for use in the film. No, the ghost writers now get credited. And most of the scores from that period sounded just as copy-catty as MV does of itself today. God knows how many of Mr. Alfred Newman's scores are his own and how many of it are the work of the studio factories he oversaw.

But those minions were writing better music then! Were they? Those talentless hacks had an easier task than the talentless hack does today (see Marian's post).

Now if you don't like the general aesthetic of the 2000s, and 2010s, that's fine. That's expected. Your taste in music is determined by what you were exposed to growing up. And someone who grew up watching Tom and Jerry is going to have very different expectations for their music than someone who grew up watching Scooby Doo. But that has no bearing on how good the quality of music is today, or how skilled the people are working now are.

Film music is alive and kicking!

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I don't think there's anything wrong with film music at the moment. You have most people putting in something for the money. And you have a small handful who are putting out some good material. It's not even close to dying. It's the same responses to the same thing time after time. Like the apocalypse. Everyone just wants to believe they're that special someone at "the end of" film music.

And everyone's nostalgic over better days...that really didn't exist. But the past has the benefit of having the boring bits wiped from memory.

Oh but MV is destroying music. Yeah? Really? MV is nothing new. It's an extension of the Studio machine that generated Goldsmith and Williams. The difference now is a music head a studio can't take full credit for the work of his minions by just signing off on their work for use in the film. No, the ghost writers now get credited. And most of the scores from that period sounded just as copy-catty as MV does of itself today. God knows how many of Mr. Alfred Newman's scores are his own and how many of it are the work of the studio factories he oversaw.

But those minions were writing better music then! Were they? Those talentless hacks had an easier task than the talentless hack does today (see Marian's post).

Now if you don't like the general aesthetic of the 2000s, and 2010s, that's fine. That's expected. Your taste in music is determined by what you were exposed to growing up. And someone who grew up watching Tom and Jerry is going to have very different expectations for their music than someone who grew up watching Scooby Doo. But that has no bearing on how good the quality of music is today, or how skilled the people are working now are.

Film music is alive and kicking!

+1

Remember those horrible atonal scores in the 1970s when it seemed to be the new thing? That's in the good years that people remember, but people choose not to remember them.

A common argument made by fans of any genre of music. As you get older you have already discovered all of the 'good' stuff. You just got to look harder to find new music that you like.

And older fans get lazier because in the old days, it was easy to get good material. Now, they actually have to put in effort...

And also the direcors and producers don't want to use film music in all its glory, so to speak.

Karol

Hans Zimmer himself said (to me) that "these people aren't idiots". I agree, it's silly to think that we know more about a director's understanding of what they want for the music than the director myself.

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The general quality of music written for film (and I am judging it as music, not how it works within the film), hasn't changed much, but the cream of the crop of the last few years is much worse now. The main hollywood composers of the 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's were much more talented than the main composers of today. I don't think that's even debatable.

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Damn, Blumenkohl, I read your first post too quickly and didn't get the satire!

I'm happy to say that I agree 100% with you. I think film music - even if you limit it to Hollywood film music (which in itself is a huge category) - has never been more vibrant, exciting and diverse as it is now. Thanks for the positive attitude...I sometimes feel this board (or FSM, for that matter) is awfully reactionary. A breath of fresh air! :)

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Blume's point is valid, but there is more to it than that.

I say the most important difference for film music today is how the production process has evolved. Composers used to be brought in at a certain point in post production, discuss their ideas with the director or producer (who, in general, never had a clue about music) and then do their thing. When the scoring sessions came, some points were addressed and changed on the fly, but overall, the post production process was lengthy and tedious enough that the film hadn't changed a lot while the composer was working, and there wasn't too much that could be done to the score at this late stage.

Nowadays, films are re-cut, re-arranged and completely changed up to the last minute of post production. Composers are expected to turn in accurate mockups of their work before anything gets greenlighted, plus they're brought in at a very late stage because of the ever-changing nature of the film they're supposed to score - and yet they have to re-write sizeable chunks of their music all the time because of changes to the cut.

As a result, film music is much more influenced by "outsiders" to the music world like directors, producers, editors etc., and also much more restricted by economics and time considerations.

There is the point that few film composers working today are "classically trained", and in many cases I'm sure this training, while not absolutely necessary, is what made the great composers so great. But are there less trained film composers today because music has become so lame that composers don't train anymore, or is it the production process that leaves composers so little flexibility and identity that the good ones just don't want to do it anymore - see people like Goldenthal, Davis and Williams, who are still active but have apparently pretty much left the film scoring world.

You hit it home.

The general quality of music written for film (and I am judging it as music, not how it works within the film), hasn't changed much, but the cream of the crop of the last few years is much worse now. The main hollywood composers of the 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's were much more talented than the main composers of today. I don't think that's even debatable.

There'll always be a Thor.

I think film music - even if you limit it to Hollywood film music (which in itself is a huge category) - has never been more vibrant, exciting and diverse as it is now.

:yes:

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I think film music - even if you limit it to Hollywood film music (which in itself is a huge category) - has never been more vibrant, exciting and diverse as it is now.

I know! We've never had so many great soundtrack releases from the likes of Intrada, LLL, FSM and VS! I wouldn't want to live in any other time.

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I don't think that's even debatable.

Oh?

Well, in the 1970s there was say Leonard Rosenman, Dave Grusin, David Shire and others. Comparatively, Korngold, Steiner and Rosza were more talented than the composers I just mentioned.

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I don't think that's even debatable.

Oh?

Well, in the 1970s there was say Leonard Rosenman, Dave Grusin, David Shire and others. Comparatively, Korngold, Steiner and Rosza were more talented than the composers I just mentioned.

Disagree strongly there, particularly with Rosenman. He was a far more versatile, and formidable a composer than Steiner and Korngold - just like Alex North. They could effortlessly juggle a 20th century expanded tonality (i.e. Respighi, Hanson, Harris, Walton, and Copeland) with jazz/pop influences, and meld that with a less easily accessible modernism.

That was one of the great triumphs of the Silver Age of film music, that likes of North, Bernstein, Rosenman - and later Goldsmith and Schifrin, successfully pioneered. You could also feasibly argue that Bernard Herrmann was the first to break the mould of the Golden Age, and combine that both worlds.

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On top of my head, some of the main composers from each decade (I'm sure I made some unforgivable omissions)

80's - Williams, Goldsmith, Horner, Morricone, Barry

70's - Williams, Goldsmith, Rosenman, Barry, Schifrin, Delerue, Morricone,

60's - Rozsa, Herrmann, Tiomkin, North, Jarre, Barry, Bernstein

50's - Rozsa, Herrmann, Waxman, Newman, Bernstein

40's - Steiner, Korngold, Rozsa, Waxman, Victor Young

Today, we would have Desplat, Powell, Zimmer, Giacchinno, Newton-Howard

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The general quality of music written for film (and I am judging it as music, not how it works within the film), hasn't changed much, but the cream of the crop of the last few years is much worse now. The main hollywood composers of the 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's were much more talented than the main composers of today. I don't think that's even debatable.

I disagree. It's very debatable. Shooting at a stationary target is something completely different than shooting at a moving one. Composers of yore generally had the wonderful benefit of writing music to locked pictures. Films were a rather linear thing up until the late 90s. Composers today have to write music to fit into a constantly changing edit in LESS time than their counterparts.

Writing film music today requires a lot more from the composer than just musical ability. It takes serious skills in design and planning beyond just the creative choices in the music itself.

Case in point: John Williams, a great artist, but he doesn't have the chops to create music in a non-linear world. See the Star Wars prequels. The music is a disaster in the films, but clearly really good on album.

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Case in point: John Williams, a great artist, but he doesn't have the chops to create music in a non-linear world. See the Star Wars prequels. The music is a disaster in the films, but clearly really good on album.

So what? He still pisses over the head of the majority (if not all) contemporary film composers in terms of pure musical creativity and talent. Not to mention the understanding of film language in terms of dramatic needs.

It's fine to like today's film music and finding reasons to believe it's as good as ever (I'm on the opposite side). But I find rather pathetic to put these reasons as a kind of overarching apology, like you're doing here.

I sometimes feel this board (or FSM, for that matter) is awfully reactionary. A breath of fresh air! :)

If preferring to listen to well-crafted, thought-out and thoroughly composed (written!) music means that I'm a reactionary, well, call me this way. Better than being a musical "progressist" only on the surface while being truly an insufferable snob deep inside.

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Writing film music today requires a lot more from the composer than just musical ability. It takes serious skills in design and planning beyond just the creative choices in the music itself.

But doesn't that exactly prove the point? Even if film composers these days are just as good as their earlier counterparts (which is debatable), the music they create for films is worse.

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If preferring to listen to well-crafted, thought-out and thoroughly composed (written!) music means that I'm a reactionary, well, call me this way. Better than being a musical "progressist" only on the surface while being truly an insufferable snob deep inside.

If it's a snob to have an open mind for all kinds of musical expressions, to avoid sweeping generalizations and to have an optimistic and positive outlook on things, well then I'll bear that description with pride! :)

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