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Westerns are films set primarily in the latter half of the 19th century in the American Old West. Some of the most beautiful music scores had been inspired by these movies.

 

“Will, I think you’d better go while there’s still time. It’s better for you, and it’s better for us” (High Noon, 1952)

A town Marshall is personally compelled to face a returning deadly enemy, while his own town refuses to help him. Dimiti Tiomkin can probably be considered the father of western film score. His memorable score for this magnificent western adds to the suspense that builds up as Will Kane awaits Frank Miller, who is arriving on the noon train.

 

“We deal in lead, friend”  (The Magnificent Seven, 1960)

Based on the Japanese legendary film The Seven Samurai, it tells the story of Mexican peasant villagers oppressed by bandits that decide to hire a group of seven gunfighters to defend them. The epic score composed by Elmer Bernstein gives me a sense of euphoric excitement, followed by a relaxing sense of inner peace. It is like riding a horse at full speed in a wide-open prairie, then going across a turbulent blue-white river, and finally reaching a nice green meadow.

 

“Every gun makes its own tune” (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, 1966)

Ennio Morricone composed the score for the ultimate Spaghetti Western film. Three gunmen set out to find a hidden fortune during the American Civil War. The inimitable music is very thrilling, and the background of hallucinatory chanting voices is exhilarating. It makes me feel like an outlaw galloping in a western desert with dusty winds and rolling tumbleweeds, while being chased by vicious bounty hunters. The “man with no name” also rode to the tune of magnificent scores in the first two films of the Sergio Leone’s trilogy.

 

“I had never really known who John Dunbar was. Perhaps because the name itself had no meaning. But as I heard my Sioux name being called over and over, I knew for the first time who I really was” (Dances with Wolves, 1990)

The maestro John Barry wrote a melancholic, romantic, and incredibly beautiful score for the exiled military man who befriends wolves and Indians. The majestic and melodic “John Dunbar Theme” is an essential element in this transcendent, endearing, and breathtaking film.

 

“Should we distrust the man because his manners are not our manners, and that his skin is dark?” (The Last of the Mohicans, 1992)

Three trappers in the midst of the French and Indian War protect a British Colonel’s daughters. Trevor Jones composed a passionate orchestral composition that turned out to be one of the most popular and acclaimed scores of the nineties. Due to minor music cue contributions by Randy Edelman, the score was unfortunately not eligible for Oscar consideration.

 

From Stagecoach (1939) to True Grit (2010), we has been blessed with numerous western score masterpieces. I just have scratched the surface of this treasure trove. Get your shovels ready and dig deeper. You will not be disappointed.

 

Western Good-Bad-Ugly

Notable Western Scores

 

Stagecoach (1939) – Richard Hageman, Frank Harling, John Leipold, Leo Shuken, Louis Gruenberg, and Gerard Carbonara

The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948) – Max Steiner

Fort Apache (1948)- Richard Hageman

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) – Richard Hageman

Lone Ranger  (TV Series 1949) – “William Tell Overture” by Gioachino Rossini

Rio Grande (1950) – Victor Young

High Noon (1952) – Dimitri Tiomkin “The Ballad of High Noon”

Shane (1953) – Victor Young

The Man from Laramie (1955) – George Duning

Friendly Persuation (1956) – Dimitri Tiomkin

Searchers (1956) – Danny Knight

3:10 to Yuma (1957) – George Duning

Cowboy (1958) – George Duning

The Big Country (1958)– Jerome Moross

Rifleman (TV Series 1958) – Herschel Burke Gilbert

Rawhide (TV Series 1959) – Dimitri Tiomkin

Bonanza (TV Series 1959) – David Rose

Rio Bravo (1959) – Dimitri Tiomkin

Horse Soldiers (1959) – David Buttolph

The Alamo (1960) – Dimitri Tiomkin

Magnificent Seven (1960) – Elmer Bernstein

How the West Was Won (1962) – Alfred Newman

A Fistful of Dollars (1964) – Ennio Morricone

For a Few Dollars More (1965) – Ennio Morricone

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) – Ennio Morricone

Return of the Seven (1966) – Elmer Bernstein

Once Upon a Time in the West  (1968) – Ennio Morricone

Hang ‘Em High (1968) – Dominic Frontiere

The Wild Bunch (1969) – Jerry Fielding

Two Mules for Sister Sarah (1970) – Ennio Morricone, Stanley Wilson

Duck You Sucker (1971) – Ennio Morricone

The Cowboys (1972) – John Williams

My Name is Nobody (1973) – Ennio Morricone

High Plains Drifter (1973) – Dee Barton

The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) – Jerry Fielding

Silverado (1985) – Bruce Broughton

Glory (1989) – James Horner

Lonesome Dove (TV Miniseries1989) – Basil Poledouris

Dances with Wolves (1990) – John Barry

The Last of the Mohicans (1992) – Trevor Jones

Unforgiven (1992) – Lennie Niehaus, Clint Eastwood

Gettysburg (1993) – Randy Edelman

Maverick (1994) – Randy Newman

Wyatt Earp (1994) – James Newton Howard

Legends of the Fall (1995) – James Horner

Deadwood (TV Series 2004) – David Schwartz

The Proposition (2005) – Nick Cave. Warren Ellis

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) – Nick Cave. Warren Ellis

3:10 to Yuma (2007) – Marco Beltrami

True Grit (2010) – Carter Burwell

 

 

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There is an incredibly rich tradition of sport inspired and related music deeply ingrained in our collective psyche. Let’s eat “some peanuts and Cracker Jack” (Take Me Out to the Ball Game by Jack Norworth, 1908) while we celebrate magnificent tunes from outstanding sport related films.

 

“You’re gonna eat lightnin’ and you’re gonna crap thunder!” (Rocky, 1976)

The greatest underdog sports movie triumphs at multiple levels. A true hero fighting for love and honor emerges with glory from a valiant defeat to inspire a nation. Bill Conti’s “Gonna Fly Now” is an extraordinarily powerful anthem and one of the most recognizable film themes ever. Like Rocky Balboa, the inspirational and very moving score is a bona fide champion and a genuine winner.

 

“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” (Chariots of Fire, 1981)

The genial synthesizer composer Vangelis crafted one of the most memorable soundtracks of all time for this heroic and transcendent racing drama. The composition is passionate, riveting, stimulating and extraordinarily moving. His music for this film bested steep competition (On Golden Pond, Raiders of the Lost Ark) and won the Academy Award for best original score.

 

“Well you’re better than any player I ever had. And you’re the best God damn hitter I ever saw. Suit up.” (The Natural, 1984)

The movie tells the story of Roy Hobbs, a man with incredible raw talent who is struck down in his prime, but gets a second chance to fulfill his dream of athletic glory through determination and integrity. The music by Randy Newman is sweetly nostalgic, and truly inspirational. It transports us to simpler and better time. Aaron Copeland would have considered it a Grand Slam.

 

“If you put your effort and concentration into playing to your potential, to be the best that you can be, I don’t care what the scoreboard says at the end of the game, in my book we’re gonna be winners.” (Hoosiers, 1986)

Considered by many the greatest sports film of all time, it is the story of Coach Norman Dale and his underdog basketball team rising to the challenge, and beating the odds. It highlights finding redemption, second chance at success, love for basketball, innocence of youth, and majestic rural Americana. The heartfelt and stirring score by Jerry Goldsmith has a beautiful and sublime melody. Prepared to be inspired, uplifted, touched and enlightened, while you try in vain to hold back your tears.

 

“If you build it, he will come.” (Field of Dreams, 1989)

A struggling Iowa farmer transforms a cornfield into a baseball diamond and a spiritual portal. Nostalgia for baseball’s Golden Age drives multitude of fans to visit the field where Shoeless Joe Jackson’s ghost comes to play the greatest game ever invented. James Horner’s subtle but mesmerizing music lift our hearts and spirits. It is the perfect companion for this beautiful, enchanting and heartbreakingly charming baseball fantasy.

 

“The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering.” (Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, 1993)

The film is a celebration of the live and myth of the kung fu film star, an inspired man who through great effort and self-confidence would become martial-arts most enduring legend.  The moving score by Randy Edelman is powerful and captivating, an emotional tour de force and an instant classic.

 

As eloquently stated by master composer John Williams, sport tunes are intended to musically represent “the spirit of cooperation, of heroic achievement, all the striving and preparation that go before the events and all the applause that comes after them.” (In reference to his composition Olympic Fanfare and Theme, 1984)

 

Sport Hoosiers

Notable Sport Film Tunes

Brian’s Song (1971 TV Movie) – Michel Legrand “The Hands of Time”

Rocky (1976) – Bill Conty “Gonna Fly Now”

Ice Castles (1978)-Marvin Hamlisch

The Champ (1979) – Dave Grusin

Victory (1981)- Bill Conti

Chariots of Fire (1981) – Vangelis

The Natural (1984) – Randy Newman

Hoosiers (1986) – Jerry Goldsmith

Lucas (1986) – Dave Grusin

Field of Dreams (1989) – James Horner

A League of Their Own (1992) – Hans Zimmer

Dragon : The Bruce Lee Story  (1993) – Randy Edelman “The Dragon’s Heartbeat”

Rudy (1993)– Jerry Goldsmith

Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993) – James Horner

Cobb (1995) – Elliot Goldenthal

Space Jam (1996) – James Newton Howard

Finding Forrester (2000) – Israel Kamakwiwo’ole “Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World”

61* (2001 TV Movie) – Marc Shaiman

The Rookie (2002) – Carter Burwell

Seabiscuit (2003)- Randy Newman

Miracle (2004) – Mark Isham

Million Dollar Baby (2005) – Clint Eastwood

Speed Racer (2008) –  Michael Giacchino

Moneyball (2011) – Michael Danna

Soul Surfer (2011) – Marco Beltrami

Warrior (2011) – Mark Isham

 

“Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way” (George S. Patton Jr.)

“There is no glory in battle worth the blood it costs” (Dwight D. Eisenhower)

War films range from patriotic and heroic fighting stories designed to celebrate unity and self-sacrifice for love of country, to anti-war films that depict war crimes, the disillusion of the public towards the horrors of warfare, and the negative effects war injuries and psychological stress on soldiers and returning veterans.

“We can teach these barbarians a lesson in Western methods and efficiency that will put them to shame. We’ll show them what the British soldier is capable of doing…It’s going to be a proper bridge” (The Bridge on the River Kwai, 1957)

While in a prisoner of war camp, British Col. Nicholson co-operates to oversee his men’s construction of a railway bridge for their Japanese captors. Sir Malcolm Arnold incorporated in his score for the film the march Colonel Bogey, originally written in 1914 by Kenneth J. Alford (The British March King). British prisoners whistled unaccompanied the theme several times as they marched into the prison camp. Colonel Bogey inspired Arnold’s original “River Kwai March.” He won an Academy Award for the film’s score.

“I assure you I had no intention of being either harsh or cruel in my treatment of the soldier in question. My sole purpose was to try and to restore him some appreciation of his obligation as a man, and as a soldier” (Patton, 1970)

The film narrates the actions of controversial war hero General Patton during World War II. Jerry Goldsmith composed a memorable, gripping and emotional score full of high-flying marches and reverberating trumpets.

“Well, that might not be living, but it sure as hell ain’t dying. And dying’s what these white boys been doin’ for going on three years now, dying by the thousands! Dying for you, fool! I know, ‘cuz I dug the graves” (Glory, 1989)

The tragic Civil War epic inspires a stunning and very moving score from James Horner. The music is full of honor, courage, tension, and mournful melancholia. As the film, the music is very emotionally charged and uplifting.

“What are you doing? These are mine. These are my workers. They should be on my train” (Schindler’s List, 1993)

German entrepreneur Oskar Schindler saves the lives of over one thousand Polish Jews during the Holocaust. Itzhak Perlman‘s violin solos are one of the best examples of how much beauty can be contained in profoundly sad music.  This score is without doubt one of John Williams’ finest and most inspiring masterpieces.

“Captain Ramsey, under operating procedures governing the release of nuclear weapons we cannot launch our missiles unless both you, and I agree” (Crimson Tide, 1995)

A film about a young Navy Executive Officer who thinks and acts in preventing his submarine captain from launching nuclear missiles before confirming his uncertain orders to do so. “Roll Tide” is a wonderful march full of bravura and defiance. The gifted composer Hans Zimmer confidently used a large orchestra and an all male choir to gradually builds a victorious climax full of tension and thunder.

We may all have different feelings about war and its aftermath, but it is quite clear that in one way or another armed conflict will be with us forever. As the Greek philosopher Plato said, “only the dead have seen the end of war.”

War Bridge River Kwai

Notable War Film Tunes

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) – Hugo Friedhofer

Twelve O’Clock High (1949) – Alfred Newman

Halls of Montezuma (1950) – “The Marine Hymn” (1919) by L. Z. Philips – based on the Gendarmes’ Duet from Jacques Offenbach’s opera Genevieve de Brabant

Stars and Stripes Forever (1952) is a biographical film about late composer John Philip Sousa (The American March King). He crafted some of the most famous military marches including “The Washington Post”, “The Liberty Bell” (later used as theme for Monty Python’s Flying Circus TV series) “The Thunderer”, “El Capitan”, “Semper Fidelis” (Official March of the United States Marine Corps), and “The Stars and Stripes Forever” (National March of the United States of America).

Victory at Sea (TV Documentary originally broadcast in 1952–1953, it was condensed into a film in 1954) – Richard Rodgers & Robert Russell Bennett, includes “Guadalcanal March” by Robert Russell Bennet

The Dambusters (1955) – Leighton Lucas (based on the “Dambusters March”

by Eric Coates)

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) – Malcolm Arnold

Paths of Glory (1957) “La Marseillaise” (1792) by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle

The Guns of Navarone (1961) – Dimitri Tiomkin

Combat! (1962 TV Series) – Leonard Rosenman

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) “The Voice of the Guns” (1917) by Kenneth J. Alford

The Great Escape (1963) – Elmer Bernstein

633 Squadron (1964) – Ron Goodwin

Operation Crossbow (1965) – Ron Goodwin

Hogan’s Heroes (1965 TV Series) – Jerry Fielding

The Sand Pebbles (1966) – Jerry Goldsmith

The Rat Patrol (1966 TV Series)

Where Eagles Dare (1968) – Ron Goodwin

Devil’s Brigade (1968) – Alex North

Battle of Britain (1969) – Ron Goodwin & William Walton “Aces High March” “The Battle in the Air” (Walton’s music was composed with considerable help from Malcolm Arnold, who was responsible for producing the orchestrations)

Patton (1970) – Jerry Goldsmith

M*A*S*H (1970) – Johnny Mandel

Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) – Jerry Goldsmith

Kelly’s Heroes (1970) – Lalo Schifrin

The Longest Day (1972) – Maurice Jarre

The Deer Hunter (1978) – Stanley Myers “Cavatina”

1941 (1979) – John Williams

Apocalypse Now (1979) – “Ride of the Valkyries” by Richard Wagner

A-Team (1983 TV Series) – Mike Post

Platoon (1986) – “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber

Empire of the Sun (1987) – John Williams

Full Metal Jacket (1987) – “The Marines Hymn” by Jacques Offenbach from “Geneviève de Brabant”

Glory (1989) – James Horner

The Hunt For Red October (1990) – Basil Poledouris

Schindler’s List (1993) – John Williams

Crimson Tide (1995) – Hans Zimmer

Saving Private Ryan (1998) – John Williams

The Thin Red Line (1999) – Hans Zimmer

Medal of Honor (1999 Video Game) – Michael Giacchino

Gettysburg (2000) – Randy Edelman

The Patriot (2000) – John Williams

Pearl Harbor (2001) – Hans Zimmer

Band of Brothers (2002 TV Series) – Michael Kamen

Defiance (2008) – James Newton Howard

The Pacific (2010 TV Series) – Hans Zimmer, Blake Neely, Geoff Zanelli

War Horse (2011) – John Williams

“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy . . . but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” (To Kill a Mockingbird, 1962)

Harper Lee’s uplifting and magnificent story, including the damaged (but pure-hearted) Arthur “Boo” Radley saving the children from Bob Ewel, and Atticus’ moral imperative to defend the vulnerable are all priceless gifts that give humanity some hope.  The utterly moving music created by the inspired maestro Elmer Bernstein catapults the film to heartbreakingly beautiful heights.

“I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.” (Godfather, 1972)

The great film composer Nino Rota’s score is truly an offer no one can refuse. Prepare to be captivated by Italian folk themes, amazing instrumentation, and emotionally charged melodies that capture the amazingly complex moods of one of the best films of all time. Without doubt, it stands as one of the most beautiful and inspired instrumental scores ever written.

“Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.” (Chinatown, 1974)

Roman Polanski’s neo-noir is a stylish depiction of evil, greed, and corruption connected to land dealings and water rights’ disputes in California. The mysteriously haunting score composed by Jerry Goldsmith in only ten days is a perfect match for the film. Considered by many as one best scores of all time in great part due to the memorable mournful trumpet solos.

“You talkin’ to me?” (Taxi Driver, 1976)

Bernard Herrmann’s last film score was for Martin Scorsese’s brilliant portrait of urban alienation and decadence. The unforgettable jazzy and orchestral music is dark and ominous, strange and ethereal, subliminal and dissonant. It is the perfect companion for Travis Bickle descent into a nightmarish world of madness, delusion and violence.

“I tell you those voices soared, higher and farther than anybody in a grey place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made these walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free (The Shawshank Redemption, 1994)

‘Red’ (Morgan Freeman) and the other residents of Shawshank were unchained by the ‘Italian ladies’ singing “Canzonetta sull’ aria” (Mozart, “Le Nozze di Figaro”). Prepared to also fall in love with the haunting, dark and dramatic original piano music composed by Thomas Newman. The score is truly inspirational and a central element of this brilliant and miraculous story.

“The weed of crime bears bitter fruit. Crime does not pay!” (Radio Show The Shadow, 1930). James Cagney would reply “that’s for yaps and small-timers on shoestrings” (Angels with Dirty Faces, 1938). As far as musical inspiration for great film composers go, the weed of crime does pay indeed.

Crime

Notable Crime Tunes

On the Waterfront (1954) – Leonard Bernstein

Perry Mason (1957 TV Series) – Fred Steiner

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) – Elmer Bernstein

Dr. No (1962) “James Bond Theme” – Monty Norman, arranged by John Barry

The Pink Panther (1963) – Henry Mancini

Mission: Impossible (1966 TV series) – Lalo Schifrin

Wait Until Dark (1967) – Elmer Bernstein

Cool Hand Luke (1967) – Lalo Schifrin

Ironside (1967 TV series) – Quincy Jones

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) – Michel Legrand

The French Connection (1971) – Don Ellis

Dirty Harry (1971) – Lalo Schifrin

Klute (1971) – Michael Small

The Godfather (1972) – Nino Rota

Papillon (1973) – Jerry Goldsmith

Serpico (1973) – Mikis Theodorakis

The Sting (1973) – Marvin Hamlisch and Scott Joplin

Chinatown (1974) – Jerry Goldsmith

The Godfather: Part II (1974) – Nino Rota, Carmine Coppola

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) – David Shire

Night Moves – (1975) – Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band

Midnight Express (1978) – Giorgio Moroder, “Chase”

Dressed to Kill, 1980 – Pino Donaggio

Body Heat (1981) – John Barrry

Blade Runner (1982) – Vangelis

Once Upon a Time in America (1984) – Ennio Morricone

Beverly Hills Cop (1984) – Harold Faltermeyer, “Axel F.”

Blue Velvet (1986) – Angelo Bedalamenti

Miller’s Crossing (1990) – Carter Burwell

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) – Howard Shore

Basic Instinct (1992) – Jerry Goldsmith

The Shawshank Redemption (1994) – Thomas Newman

Se7en – (1995) – Howard Shore

The Usual Suspects (1995) – John Ottman

Fargo (1996)  – Carter Burwell

Hamlet (1996) – Patrick Doyle

L.A. Confidential (1997) – Jerry Goldsmith

Dark City (1998) – Trevor Jones

Mulholland Drive (2001) – Angelo Badalamenti

Road to Perdition (2002) – Thomas Newman

Mystic River (2003) – Clint Eastwood

Sin City (2005) – Robert Rodriguez, assisted by John Debney & Graeme Revell

Zodiac (2007) – David Shire

Sherlock Holmes (2009) – Hans Zimmer, “Discombobulate”

The Town (2010) – Harry Gregson-Williams, David Buckley

Sherlock (2010 TV Series) – David Arnold

Drive (2011) – Cliff Martinez

“It’s A Bird… It’s A Plane… It’s Superman”

Superheros are characters that need no introduction. We are exposed to the iconic crime fighters and protectors of the people through comics, TV series, and flicks since we are little kids. We all dreamed of possessing their extraordinary superpowers, and dressed up like them for Halloween and other costume parties.

 

Wonder Woman’s lasso and bracelets, Iron Man’s powered armor suits, Thor’s hammer, and Green Lantern’s power ring are no match for John Williams’ brilliant heroic march (Superman, 1978). The first major superhero film featuring Christopher Reeve lives in our memories and in our hearts. Get ready to be propelled into space, and fly into a fantastic and melodic journey.

 

The Joker, the Riddler, Two-Face, Poison Ivy and other psychotic criminals at the Arkham Asylum are probably asking themselves “Can somebody tell me what kind of a world do we live in, where a man dressed as a bat gets all of my press?” (Batman, 1989) The Penguin, Catwoman, and Mr. Freeze will probably tell them that is hard to compete with Bruce Wayne alter ego when he is driving the Batmobile with Danny Elfman’s “The Batman Theme” soaring in the background. The dark, gothic, powerful and mysterious superhero score is truly awesome and highly memorable.

 

The Dark Knight again landed a great musical score in the film Batman Begins (2005). Composers Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard collaboration is the second best example of how two composers can complement each other (sorry Lennon and McCartney still win). The music evokes feelings of sadness, mourning, terror, tension, and provides powerful driving music for the action scenes. “Molossus” and “Antrozous” are my favorite tracks.

 

“In a stunning turn of events, a superhero is being sued for saving someone who, apparently, didn’t want to be saved” (The Incredibles, 2004). Michael Giacchino’s score for the animated superhero movie features lots of brass, saxophone, and 1960’s spy film nostalgia. “The Glory Days” is a perfect blend of big band jazz and classic John Barry-esque music. “The Incredits” is the best superhero score for closing credits since an amazing piano piece was used for the impulsive alter ego of Dr. Bruce Banner (“The Lonely Man Theme” by Joe Harnell from The Incredible Hulk TV series, 1977).

 

“Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can.” The theme song of the 1967 cartoon (re-recorded by Michael Bublé in 2002) still remains the most memorable tune for Peter Parker, despite two excellent scores penned by legendary composers Danny Elfman (Spider-Man, 2002) and James Horner (The Amazing Spider-Man, 2012).

I will also like to highlight two recent fine compositions in the Marvel superhero universe:  the great epic action romp “Driving With the Top Down” by Ramin Djawadi (Iron Man, 2008), and the soaring “Captain America March” by Alan Silvestri (Captain America: The First Avenger, 2011).

 

Finally, let’s close with the extremely memorable “Flight of the Bumblebee” (Green Hornet TV Series, 1966), arranged by Billy May from an original composition of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. It features an amazing solo by Al Hirt, a true trumpet superhero.

 

Superhero Superman

Notable Superhero Scores

 

Adventures of Superman (TV series 1952) – Leon Klatzkin “Superman March”

Batman (TV series) 1966) – Neal Hefti “Batman Theme”

Green Hornet (TV Series 1966) – Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov “Flight of the Bumblebee”

Wonder Woman (TV series 1975) – Charles Fox (music) and Norman Gimbel (lyrics)

Incredible Hulk (TV series 1977) – Joe Harnell “The Lonely Man Theme”

Superman (1978) – John Williams

Superman II (1980) – Ken Thorne

Flash (1980) – Queen

The Greatest American Hero (TV Series 1981) – Joey Scarbury

Supergirl (1984) – Jerry Goldsmith “Overture”

Robocop (1987) – Basil Poledouris

Batman (1989) – Danny Elfman “The Batman Theme”

The Punisher (1989) – Dennis Dreith

The Flash (TV Series 1990) – Danny Elfman

The Rocketeer (1991) – James Horner “To the Rescue”

Batman Returns (1992) – Danny Elfman

Batman: The Animated Series (TV Series 1992) – Shirley Walker

Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (TV Series 1993) – Jay Gruska (the son in-law of John Williams)

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (TV Series 1993) – Ron Wasserman “Go Go Power Rangers”

The Crow (1994) – Graeme Revell

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV Series 1994) – Nerf Herder

Superman: The Animated Series (TV Series 1996) – Shirley Walker

Batman & Robin (1997) – Elliot Goldenthal “A Batman Overture”

Spawn (1997) – Filter and the Crystal Method “(Can’t You) Trip Like I Do”

Blade (1998) – Mark Isham

Batman Beyond (TV Series 1999) – Shirley Walker

X-Men (2000) – Michael Kamen

Unbreakable (2000) – James Newton Howard “Visions”

Smallville (TV Series 2001) – Remy Zero “Save Me”

Spider-Man (2002) – Danny Elfman “Main Titles”

Blade II (2002) – Marco Beltrami

Daredevil (2003) – Graeme Revell “Daredevil Theme”

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) – Trevor Jones

Hulk (2003) – Danny Elfman

X2: X-Men United (2003) – John Ottman “Suite from X2”

Spider-Man 2 (2004) – Danny Elfman “Main Title”

Blade: Trinity (2004) – RZA

Catwoman (2004) – Klaus Badelt

Hellboy (2004) – Marco Beltrami “Main Title”, “Fathers Funeral”

The Punisher (2004) – Carlo Siliotto

The Incredibles (2004) – Michael Giacchino

Batman Begins (2005) – Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard

Fantastic Four (2005) – John Ottman

Elektra (2005) – Christophe Beck (from Buffy and Angel TV Series)

Superman Returns (2006) – John Ottman “Main Titles”

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) – John Powell

TMNT (2007) – Klaus Badelt

Spider-Man 3 (2007) – Christopher Young

Ghost Rider (2007) – Christopher Young

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) – John Ottman “Silver Surfer Theme”

Iron Man (2008) – Ramin Djawadi “ Driving With the Top Down”

The Incredible Hulk (2008) – Craig Armstrong

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) – Danny Elfman

The Dark Knight (2008) – Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard “Aggressive Expansion”

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) – Harry Gregson-Williams

Watchmen (2009) – Tyler Bates “Rescue Mission”

Iron Man 2 (2011) – John Debney “I Am Iron Man”

The Green Hornet (2011) – James Newton Howard

Green Lantern (2011) – James Newton Howard “We’re Going To Fly Now”

X-Men: First Class (2011) – Henry Jackman “Magneto”

Thor (2011) – Patrick Doyle “Sons of Odin”

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – Alan Silvestri “Captain America March”

The Avengers (2012) – Alan Silvestri “The Avengers”

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – Hans Zimmer “Rise”

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) – James Horner “Main Title – Young Peter”, “Saving New York”

Man of Steel (2013) – Hans Zimmer

Star Trek depicts a balanced human society where technology is mainly used to enhance their quality of life.  The opposite is true in a large portion of the sci-fi universe known as dystopian futures. The evolution toward excessive “optimization” of societies that dominate every aspect of human life, sentient technology or rapid advances in non-sentient technology may lead to radical changes in the social order, dehumanization, totalitarian governments, environmental disaster or other cataclysmic events.

 

A dystopia is a community or society that is in some fundamental way undesirable or frightening.  In order to continue to be human and not a robot, the individual needs to preserve certain degree of unattached intricacy essential to his different biosocial rank. Loss of our emotional depth, independent thought and power to choose freely will lead to the destruction of our humanity. Lower standards of living, or pleasure-packed but emotionally barren lives will result (“Lots of love-making, but no love”).

 

“You Maniacs! You Blew It Up! Oh, Dawn You! Goddawn You All To Hell!”

 

At the top of this list one have to place the truly original, shocking, visceral, chaotic, modern-primitive and utterly unpredictable score of Planet of the Apes (1967). Composed by the genial chameleon Jerry Goldsmith, it is full of thunderous odd percussion, piercing strings, and animal-like sounds. It constitutes a true landmark and a turning point in movie score history.

 

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. [laughs] Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like [coughs] tears in rain. Time to die.” (speech improvised by Rutger Hauer, the actor who plays the replicant Roy Batty).

 

The ultimate “cyberpunk” cult film Blade Runner (1982) has one of the most evocative, haunting, and thought-provoking scores. “Tears in Rain”, the last track of the official score for the film by Vangelis, will always be an integral part of  “the most moving death soliloquy in cinematic history” (The Philosopher at the End of the Universe). Unfortunately, due to creative disputes, the true Vangelis score has never been released. All the different commercially available incarnations are “replicant” scores. There is no written score of the music, and trying to reversed engineer the music has proven to be a haunting task, given the improvisational nature of the score and the use of vintage electronic technology and synthesizers.

 

“Human decisions are removed from strategic defense. Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware. In a panic, they try to pull the plug. Skynet fights back.”

 

The eerie and bizarre Brad Fiedel’s score is as much a character of the Terminator 2 (1991) as the shape-shifting mimetic polyalloy T-1000.

 

“What is “real”? How do you define “real”?”

 

Nightmarish, strangely intense and very thrilling, the minimalist score composed by Don Davis is definitely a big contributor to the excitement of The Matrix (1999).

 

The groundbreaking and exhilarating scores of these films catapult them to otherwise unachievable cinematic heights. These compositions recall Igor Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” and Bela Bartok’s “Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta”. Devoid of recognizable melodies and classical-like orchestration, these dystopian scores stand opposite to Romantic-like scores like Star Wars (John Williams) and Star Trek (Jerry Goldsmith).

 

The astronaut Taylor, the replicant Roy Batty, the living tissue over a metal endoskeleton Terminator, and the captain of the Nebuchadnezzar should all be proud of the incredible body of musical work created for their dystopian futures.

 

Dystopian Bladerunner

Notable dystopian futures, time travel and “mind-bending plot” film scores:

 

Twilight Zone (1959 TV Series, s1/s2) – Bernard Herrmann/ Marius Constant

The Outer Limits (1963 TV Series) – Dominic Frontiere

HG Wells’ The Time Machine (1960) – Russell Garcia

The Time Tunnel (1966 TV Series) – John Williams

Planet of the Apes (1968) – Jerry Goldsmith

Logan’s Run (1976) – Jerry Goldsmith

Logan’s Run: TV Series (1977) – Bruce Broughton, Laurence Rosenthal

Back to the Future (1985) – Alan Silvestri

Brazil (1985) – Michael Kamen

Highlander (1986) – Queen

RoboCop (1987) – Basil Poledouris

Quantum Leap (1989 TV Series) – Velton Ray Bunch and Mike Post

The X-Files (1993 TV Series) – Mark Snow

Twelve Monkeys (1995) – Paul Buckmaster

The City of Lost Children (1995) – Angelo Badalamenti

Gattaca (1997) – Michael Nyman

Dark City (1998) – Trevor Jones

Being John Malkovich (1999)- Carter Burwell

Dark Angel (2000 TV Series) – Joel McNeely

Memento (2000) – David Julyan

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) – John Williams

Minority Report (2002) – John Williams

28 Days Later (2002) – John Murphy

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) – Jon Brion

Lost (2004 TV Series) – Michael Giacchino

Battlestar Galactica (2004 TV Series) – Bear McCreary

V for Vendetta (2006) – Dario Marianelli

WALL·E (2008) – Thomas Newman

Fringe (2008 TV Series) – Michael Giacchino

Inception (2010) – Hans Zimmer

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) – Patrick Doyle

Prometheus (2012)- Marc Streitenfeld & Harry Gregson-Williams

A slasher is a horror film involving a mysterious killer stalking and killing a sequence of victims usually in a graphically violent manner. Serial killers may be psychopaths, cannibals, “explorers” of carnal experience (cenobites), or reanimated mindless corpses (zombies). Paranormal entities (ghosts, demons), or iconic monsters (vampires, werewolves, aliens), had already been discussed in my two previous horror tune blogs.

Important forerunners to the slasher genre include Peeping Tom (1960), Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), and the Italian horror and psychological thrillers known as “giallo” (yellow). The name pays homage to the cheap paperback mystery novels with trademark yellow covers that served as inspiration for the films. Besides being very influential in the genre, these films also helped to set a new level of tolerability for violence and deviant behavior in movies.

Splatter films came to life in the early sixties with the film Blood Feast (1963). Director Herschell Gordon Lewis, who up to that point was producing low-budget nudie films, was searching for a new exploitative angle. He settled on graphic portrayals of gore and graphic violence, a niche that virtually no one had explored.

“You can’t kill the boogeyman!” (Halloween, 1978)

The slasher film subgenre reached its peak in the early eighties. The famous trio of psychopathic killers Michael Myers (Halloween), Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th) and Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare on Elm Street) cemented their fame and horror franchises around that time. The “master of terror” John Carpenter created a perfectly simple, tense, creepy, terror-filled, stalking, synthesizer-based theme song that has been chilling us with a disturbing sense of impending doom every Halloween ever since.

“I told you not to hang up on me” (Scream, 1996)

In the mid 1990s, slasher films experienced a revival with satirical-suspenseful storylines, more developed-clever characters, and less focus on gore. Ghostface and The Fisherman “put to good use” a hunting knife and a meat hook to become pop culture horror symbols. “Sidney’s Lament” a brilliant, pretty scary composition by Marco Beltrami fills us with intense fear. Although I know that “the flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long” (Lao Tzu), I still wish it was a little longer.

“You kids shouldn’t have messed with that little girl. You brought this all on yourself” (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 2003)

Producer Michael Bay revamped the 1973 original film, and gave Leatherface and the slasher genre new life. Using a blank sheet music “made of human skin,” chainsaw wielding composer Steve Jablonsky conjured a sinister, creepy, and disturbing score. It will leave even cold-blooded killers panic-stricken.

“When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth”  (Dawn of the Dead, 1978).

The term “splatter cinema” was first use by George A. Romero to describe “one of the best horror films ever made” (Roger Ebert). This rather complex gem was a sequel for the Night of the Living Dead (1968), where Romero has attempted to replicate on film the atmosphere and gore of EC’s horror comics like Tales from the Crypt. Dawn of the Dead has been attributed higher meaning, as it relates to the destruction of modern society by solitude and greed. Besides it is also somewhat exploitative for its own sake, and its over-the-top gore involving evisceration can turned out to be very comical (“splatstick”). Dario Argento’s cut of Zombi: Dawn of the Dead features a versatile terror soundtrack by the Italian progressive rock band Goblin. They combined Mellotron, twin guitars, funk bass to produce a wide variety of pieces ranging from slow jam, techno-jazz, and pseudo-country, to violent tribal-disco.

“He doesn’t want us to cut through our chains. He wants us to cut through our feet” (Saw, 2004)

A new breed of splatter films labeled “torture porn” (or “gorno”) surface at the dawn of the new millennia. These movies were characterized by graphic depictions of extreme violence, nudity, torture, mutilation and sadism. Nathan Barr masterfully composed dark, epic, heart-racing music for Saw. The dramatic “Hello Zepp” makes you feel like the music is starring at you with murderous intent.

As the very successful recent TV series Dexter (2006) and The Walking Dead (2010) demonstrate, slasher and splatter have made it into our living rooms. The music themes by Rolfe Kent and Bear McCreary hook us to our flat screens, take us on a roller coaster ride, and haunt us in our dreams. Let’s put our bladed gloves on and continue to celebrate Halloween on Elm Street and Camp Crystal Lake to the scary tunes of our favorite mass murderers.

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Notable slasher/splatter music scores

Suspiria (1977) – Goblin

Friday the 13th (1980) – Harry Manfredini

Halloween II (1981) – John Carpenter

The Funhouse (1981) – John Beal

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) – Charles Bernstein

Re-Animator (1985) – Richard Band

Hellraiser (1987) – Christopher Young

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) – Christopher Young

They Live (1988) – John Carpenter

Village of the Damned (1995) – John Carpenter “March of the Children”

I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998) – John Frizzell “Julie’s Theme”

Final Destination (2000 – Shirley Walker

28 Days Later (2002) – John Murphy “In the House – In a Heartbeat”

Dawn of the Dead (2004) – Tyler Bates

The Amityville Horror (2005) – Steve Jablonsky

Hostel (2005) – Nathan Barr

The Devil’s Rejects (2005) – Tyler Bates

House of Wax (2005) – John Ottman

The Hills Have Eyes (2006) – Tomandandy

Black Christmas (2006) – Shirley Walker

Halloween I & II (2007 & 2009) – Tyler Bates

The Final Destination (2009) – Brian Tyler

My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009) – Michael Wandmacher “Buried Alive”

Friday the 13th (2009)  – Steve Jablonsky

The Crazies (2010) – Mark Isham

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) – Steve Jablonsky