Film Music Today
As we all know, cinema is both visual and auditory medium, and especially now with technology taking the upper hand and driving the filmmaking process, new age films are moving beyond the 4th wall and breaking the 5th wall as well. Yes, Bandersnatch. But these inherent elements or building blocks have remained the same. Sound being one of the biggest and the brightest. Since the beginning of sound cinema there has been a massive progress in the way sound is perceived, or even designed.
A motion picture soundtrack is like the perfectly stitched seam of an expensive garment. We are in a day and age where creativity and scope are abounding, films are that one art form which cater to most of our senses and sensibilities on a whole. Perfectly made movies make you forget that they are fundamentally different bits; artistic and technical put together, of which the score is that element which holds everything together.
We talk a lot about the visual aspects in cinema such as direction, cinematography but hardly ever notice or talk about the background score unless the pounding guitars add more meaning to John Wick’s suave movements. They are a beautiful and wonderful thing to exist. They help to build the narrative, provide depth to actions, aid in providing meaning to something which is probably not visually possible.
A motion picture soundtrack can be arbitrated on two criteria, firstly, how well it fits as a score and secondly as an autonomous album.
So here I am writing and not analysing a few of my favourite scores which mostly are brilliant albums in themselves. Old classics and canons aside, I would like to talk about film scores from 2010 onwards which I love listening to and love the movies equally.
The Social Network – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Directed by none other than David Fincher and starring Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield, The Social Network’s soundtrack was and is a widely appreciated score of recent times. You must be wondering why this movie out of all the other Fincher movies out there, but this one is a gem and scored by none other than half of Nine Inch Nails! I would have written Gone Girl, but I think I appreciate this score more. This soundtrack is everything industrial, dark and ambient and most of all as synth-y as it can get. ‘In Motion’ is a club banger with typical blips and bleeps layered under a steady beat which will make you want to get up and get work done. I hope Bombay traffic listens to this. ‘A Familiar Taste’ hands down sounds like a Nine Inch Nails’ song with eerie notes and occasional glitches, all very industrial sounding. The score has its ambient moments, especially in ‘Hand Covers Bruise’, a piano piece accompanied with an ominous sounding drone at the back and downtempo piano notes which are dark and gloomy and provide the sense of urgency to Mark’s life.
This score is certainly entertaining and stands out as an album. What is even more exciting about it is that it strengthens the anxieties of a boy (Mark Zuckerberg played by Jesse Eisenberg) wanting decent and lasting social relationships and not merely about the birth of Facebook.
Top Tracks: Intriguing Possibilities, In Motion, Painted Sun in Abstract.
Also check out: Gone Girl, Before the Flood
Annihilation – Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury
The 2018 movie starring Natalie Portman, Gina Rodriguez, Oscar Issac and directed by Alex Garland (Ex Machina, 28 Weeks Later) was not talked much about after its release but is not a sci-fi movie to miss and certainly not the typical at-the-worlds-end type. Garland also took his Ex Machina collaborators, Geoff Barrow (Portishead) and Ben Salisbury on board for this score which is orchestral, lingering and not as synth heavy (as Ex Machina.)
The sound has emulated the films psychedelic insanity with the use of waterphones and guitars which linger around keeping you at the edge of your seat. It has infrequent melodies but are certainly haunting. Every track enhances the mood of the moment which most of the times is fear and uncertainty, coupled with beauty. The very first track ‘What Do You Know’ is a great mood cue has an unsettling guitar notes that are used throughout the film. ‘The Alien’ a lengthy twelve-minute track which is a part of the ending sequence builds up slowly and steadily, making it gloomier by the minute and guide us through the entire sequence where Lena meets the eerie metallic version of herself. With synthetic and heavy vocal chorus, ‘The Body’ is yet another of the uncomfortable sounding piece. This score as minimal as it is, certainly cues the mood but also provides room for the emotions and questions to flow throughout.
Top Tracks: What Do you Know, The Alien, Ambulance
Also check out: Hanna (prime video), Ex Machina
Suspiria – Thom Yorke
Hands down one of the best pieces of music ever written by musician Thom Yorke of Radiohead This chef-d’oeuvre by Luca Guadagnino is remake of the Dario Argento’s Suspiria, a classic like no other. The original movie soundtrack was written by italian progressive outfit Goblin and was gaudy (in a good way, unlike the fake blood In Argento’s version), almost metal and nothing short of haunting. The film has its charm and is quite different from the original and contains a few what-on-earth moments (yes, Mother and the breaking bones), but the movie is wonderfully shot, and every track and sound is highly relevant for the film.
‘Suspirium’ a waltz in 3/3 makes an occasional appearance throughout the film and is disquieting like most of the songs in the film and album. As for ‘Volk’, I cannot listen to this at night and on earphones which proves that this disputatious song has served its purpose. Yorke’s delightful and moody falsetto makes a comeback in ‘Unmade’ and is tragic at its best. The thing about the soundtrack is that it has given horror a new perspective. It is not just about women laughing, couple of minor keyboard melodies put together and “surprise, the ghost is behind you” sounds. Extremely unpredictable yet perfectly defined, thanks to Thom’s ability to create lingering soundscapes.
Top Tracks: Unmade, Volk, Suspirium, Open Again, Volga’s Destruction
Also check out: Anima
The world of background scores and OSTs are endless and once you delve into it, there is no turning back. They help in defining emotions as well as give a completely different perspective to the audience and push the narrative forward, which relates auditory and visual in the most symbiotic fashion.
Film scores aside, the world of possibilities is more enhanced with series scores. They are a whole different game altogether, but for now let’s stick to film scores.
A few more scores worth listening to – John Wick and the Punisher OST by Tyler Bates, Arrival OST by Johann Johannsson, 28 Days Later by John Murphy and Clint Mansell’s Requiem for a Dream.
About The Author
Priya is a 20 something yoga instructor and avid beverage enthusiast who is fueled on coffee and loves taking pictures on her 35mm and secretly believes that she is as badass as The Punisher. She is also a tree hugger, a lover of noisy music and is extremely awkward when it comes to getting her pictures clicked.