And the Oscar Goes To…? The Best Film Score From a Varied Nominee List This Year
The last year has seen some remarkable achievements in the world of film score music.
The continued development of recording techniques and technology, combined with the ability to access a near limitless palette of sonic combinations, has opened the floodgates to musical creativity.
There is a blurring of the line between sound design and composition, further allowing composers new freedoms while building upon the traditions of the craft created by Bernard Herrmann, Elmer Bernstein, Max Steiner and others.
This year’s nominees for “Best Original Score” include two films previously profiled on Sound of Life, the luminous, hypnotic, and mind-bending spectacle of Everything, Everywhere All At Once and the brooding, tragic-comedy of The Banshees Of Inisherin.
However, three more recent films released in the last few months have made the nominees list too.
They include Volker Bertelmann’s Led Zeppelin-inspired take on All Quiet On The Western Front, the triumphant return of John Williams with the Steven Spielberg pseudo-biopic The Fabelmans, and Justin Hurwitz’s down-and-dirty interpretation and mash-up of EDM and electronic music with 1920’s-style jazz inn Babylon.
Quite a varied list of unique and compelling scores! Let’s take a little preview.
‘ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT’
Credit: Reiner Bajo/Netflix
Bertelmann is a composer and pianist originally from Kreuztal, Germany. He performs under the moniker Hauschka and has been an active composer of creative concert music as well as scores for film, television, and documentaries for years.
All Quiet On The Western Front is Bertelmann’s fifth collaboration with director Edward Berger and the pair have developed a strong working relationship.
Bertelmann sought to avoid many of the cliches and stereotypical musical tropes of war films for this one.
Instead, he relied on a three-note motif played on an old harmonium he later processed, twisted and distorted so it sounds like something Led Zeppelin might have dreamed up in a haze of 1970s full-stack amplifiers.
The combination of churning, machine-like sounds, this three note heavy metal riff, and delicate, poignant string orchestra writing form an extremely compelling and intriguing work.
Credit: UIP Malaysia
Hurwitz, the composer behind the Academy Award winning score for La-La-Land, has returned with director-collaborator Damien Chazelle for an updated take on the debaucherous lifestyles of 1920s Hollywood in Babylon.
The pair originally met while they were roommates at Harvard University and have subsequently worked on five films together.
Babylon follows the story of Hollywood on the brink of a major transformation, out of the silent film era and into the world of sound. As such, music plays an immense role in the film, providing the backdrop and setting up much of the scene and environment.
Hurwitz took nearly three years to compose the score, producing over two hours of original music for the film.
One particularly stand-out cue is “Manny And Nellie’s Theme”.
This happens to be a lilting, jazzy-pop tune performed on a trio of pianos to give the recording a wobbly, out-of-tune character that could simultaneously fit in the dirtiest of gilded-age bars or be some relic recording pulled from your great-grandmother’s record collection.
Credit: UIP Malaysia
Williams has defined an era of film scoring and given us some of the most memorable pieces of cinematic music in history.
Now, at 90 years old he gives us the touching and deceptively deep score for the pseudo-biopic of his long-time friend and collaborator, Steven Spielberg, The Fablemans.
The title track, “The Fabelmans” is a prime example of Williams’ piano writing. Lush, nostalgic without being overtly melancholic, and richly melodic, the piece is yet another beautiful theme from arguably the most influential film composer in history.
‘THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN’
Credit: Searchlight Pictures
Carter Burwell’s score for The Banshees of Inisherin blends elements of lush orchestral writing and Irish-folk melodies into an elegant and fitting accompaniment for the tragic-comedy about the falling out of two life-long friends on a remote island off the coast of Ireland.
The cue “Night Falls On Inisherin” is a great example of Burwell’s work throughout the film.
The cue opens with an arpeggiated figure on a harp or similar string instrument. A melody quickly joins the harp, first performed on a bell, then shortly thereafter joined with a flute. The melody has a modal, folk-like feel to it. Burwell keeps the orchestration simple and effective.
‘EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE’
Another mammoth, monolithic work, Son Lux’s score for the kaleidoscopic fantasy Everything Everywhere All At Once took years to compose and is comprised of over two hours of music, clocking in at nearly 50 tracks on the official soundtrack release.
The work is unique among this year’s nominees in that it is the only score composed collaboratively between members of a band.
Directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert explicitly requested that the band score the film collectively and individually, helping bring to life the film’s depth and re-iterations of character and setting.
Son Lux also has also been nominated for “Best Original Song” this year.
“This Is A Life”, their collaborative effort between David Lynch, Mitski, and the band is a the centrepiece of the film and the first track on the soundtrack.
Blending elements of orchestral fanfare, comedy and absurdity, the song eventually becomes just that – a great song that captures the essence of a chaotic film performed by some great musicians.
A TRUE VARIETY
This year’s Academy Award nominees for “Best Original Score” offer a wide range of style, approach, technique and tone.
There are beautiful, poetic moments that truly encapsulate why we love film music.
Not to forget, raw displays of power that show the unmatched expressive strength of cinematic music, as well as fresh, intriguing blends of digital and analog technologies that make us ever more excited for the future of this wonderful, captivating and endlessly-inspiring art form.
For more film scores:
- 10 Movie Soundtracks Worth Checking Out
- Off the Beaten Musical Track: Under-heard Film Scores from 2022
- 10 Unfortgettable Film Scores of The 21st Century
Cover: A Paper Creative
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Writer | Edward Bond
Edward Bond is a multi-instrumentalist composer, performer, and writer currently bouncing between Trondheim and Berlin. He apparently has the eyes of the devil, enjoys leopard prints, and will read your tarot, but not your future.