May 2nd 2008
8 hours ago
AboutThe opinions, interviews, and commentary expressed herein are not necessarily those of the author. (Last updated: April 4, 2013)
First, some incidentals. I am a 30 year old Mormon living in Southern Nevada, USA, teaching religion for a living. My wife is a stay-at-home mom and an soon-to-be published author, and we have three wonderful children. I play the piano quite well, collect PEZ dispensers, love artichokes, and own an owl made of sunflower seeds. I earned a BA in history, master's in human development/family relations, and am currently working on a doctorate in education. I once had a warrant out for my arrest on a speeding ticket I had already paid twice. If I were stuck on a desert island and could have only one beverage, it would be orange juice. I have never ridden in a helicopter. I served a mission for my church for two years in the mean streets and dangerous ghettos of Lansing and Grand Rapids, Michigan. I learned Spanish so that I could converse with the millions of Latinos who live there.
As for our shared passion, it was Braveheart that got me into film scores. My art teacher used to play that score almost every day. At first I didn't really notice it, but after a while I realized that I really liked it. When I saw it at a used CD store, I picked it up and have literally worn it out. The last two tracks won't even play anymore Shortly after buying that, I saw Glory on TV. Greatly impressed by the music, I sought it out. Then I saw Apollo 13 and was blown away by the launch music. Somehow I had bought these three CDs without even paying attention to who the composer was. Imagine my shock when I realized they were all by the same guy! "Is he the only film composer besides John Williams?" I wondered.
Since then I have expanded my collection to about 300 scores (quality over quantity y’all), and I remain almost entirely ignorant of film music before the 1980s. I love beautiful, melodious film scores above all, and find most action-heavy scores a chore to listen to. I think Mark McKenzie is wonderful and I wish he got the attention he deserves from studios and directors. I forgive Horner for stealing from himself so often as the themes he steals are so darn good. I also like Philippe Rombi, Patrick Doyle, Georges Delerue, Debbie Wiseman, James Newton Howard, John Powell, and sometimes Jerry Goldsmith, Thomas Newman, Danny Elfman, and Ennio Morricone. I’ve yet to register much with Alexandre Desplat's or Brian Tyler’s music. John Corigliano and Elliot Goldenthal’s music is too smart for me. I haven’t met an Alan Silvestri score that I genuinely liked. I have really enjoyed everything I've heard from Abel Korzeniowski. He's got a great mix of minimalism and gorgeous melody.
And now, the moment you've all been waiting for....my 10 favorite scores!
Warning: the following section is full of hyperbole and a giddy preponderance of exclamation points. Anyone with an aversion to wild overgenerlization should slowly back away from this profile now, without looking it directly in the eyes.
Warning #2: as stated above this is my list of favorite scores. I don't think they are the best scores ever written (who could possibly tell you what are?), or the most original, influential, ground-breaking, or technically complex scores ever written. They simply provide me with more utility over their various running times than any other scores I’ve heard (economics rules!). In other words, I LOVE these scores.
1. Glory – James Horner
This has been my favorite score for over a decade. I just love it. I know it's mono-thematic, but I love that theme! Just try to find four consecutive tracks better than the last four of this score. You can’t. I know it. And before you start to tell me that "Charging Fort Wagner" is Carmina Burana, I know. And Horner’s track is better than the source material. Take that.
2. Braveheart – James Horner
This is where it all started for me. I love the themes of this score, the bagpipes, the fact that nearly any track on this album would be the highlight track of any other. I love that penultimate track that is as good as its name is long. Just listen to the climax of that track as two of the themes Horner has been weaving throughout the score finally play simultaneously – one by a massive-sounding orchestra and the other by a whole clan of bagpipers. That may be the single greatest moment of film music I’ve ever heard.
3. Durango – Mark McKenzie
If you like Irish music, multiple wonderful themes, beautiful melodies, or perfect orchestration, you’d better pick this one up. Just listen to the suite! Find me a score written in the last 10 years that has more or better themes than that single track! (if you actually can you’d better email me). If you don't own this, pick it up and enjoy one of, if not the, finest scores by Hollywood’s most underappreciated musician.
4. Legends of the Fall - James Horner
Ok, this list is a little Horner heavy. I can't help it if he writes the best music, can I? I don't have to say much about this one. It has several gorgeous long-lined themes and narry a dull moment. Wonderful stuff. If I hadn't fallen in love with Braveheart first I might like this one better.
5. Meet Joe Black - Thomas Newman
"That Next Place" is my favorite piece of music. That alone earns this score a high spot on the list. The rest of the score is no slouch either!
6. Un Homme et son Chien - Philippe Rombi
This score is pure gorgeousness from start to finish. I love it more and more every time I listen to it. I keep hoping Rombi will write another score as gorgeous as this.
7. Cutthroat Island - John Debney
While I don't normally go for the more bombastic stuff, this score is the one bright exception. I love this thing - even the whole extended version, though I rarely have time to sit through the whole thing. It's got so much greatness in it! Listening to any other Debney score I have to wonder how he had this in him.
8. Merry Christmas - Philippe Rombi
I know how to say the French title, but I can't spell it, so.... This is another excellent Rombi album with over an hour of music that I really like. Such a strong album with so much beauty!
9. Love, Actually – Craig Armstrong
I feel kind of bad ranking such a short and mostly unreleased score so highly, but man, have you heard it?! It’s short, but it’s so full of glorious and triumphant music! I love the sound of this score, and if you ever run into a score as wonderful, happy, and inspiring as this one is, please pm right away, for I must have it!
10. Rich in Love – George Delerue
Frequently, it seems, Delerue would write a wonderful theme for a film and almost nothing else that moves me to fill out the rest of the score. What you get is an album containing few very welcome appearances of that excellent theme and a whole bunch of music that is downright boring. For examples of this, see Man Trouble, Agnes of God (oh, I went there), Memories of Me, etc. To enjoy those scores, all you need is a Delerue compilation album. Rich in Love is not one of those scores. It swells with deeply poignant, wistful, bitter-sweet melancholy from beginning to end. Its several themes are heard on one solo instrument after another (from flute, to guitar, to clarinet…or maybe it’s an oboe (why can’t I ever tell the difference?)). It is almost as though Delerue knew his time was over and he wanted to compose a score that would be a perfect send off.
For now, the rest of my top 25 are:
11. Ladies in Lavender - Nigel Hess
12. Schindler's List - John Williams
13. Wilde - Debbie Wiseman
14. Rudy - Jerry Goldsmith
15. The Lost Child - Mark McKenzie
16. Iron Will - Joel McNeely
17. The Greatest Miracle - Mark McKenzie
18. How to Train Your Dragon - John Powell
19. LOTR: Return of the King - Howard Shore
20. Gladiator - Hans Zimmer
21. W.E. - Abel Korzeniowski
22. LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring - Howard Shore
23. Blizzard - Mark McKenzie
24. Tours du Monde, Tours du Ciel - Georges Delerue
25. The Cider House Rules - Rachel Portman
I can now die a happy man knowing that the two of you who have read this profile know what my favorite scores are.