Episode 10: Batman

Today, Batman is undergoing yet another renaissance – fresh off the Dark Knight trilogy, he’s heading up a whole new Justice League. But in 1989, Batman was only starting to become the Dark Knight of popular culture – and Danny Elfman’s landmark score to the Tim Burton film helped him along the way. In this episode of Art of the Score, we take a look at the 1989 score, and pull apart its main themes, its musical influences and style, and ask the ultimate question: just where does he get those wonderful (musical) toys?

 

Episode notes:

2:50 – An intro to Danny Elfman
4:20 – Batman (1989), Tim Burton, and franchising in Hollywood
10:42 – Is this the most iconic Batman theme ever?
12:45 – Breaking down Elfman’s Batman theme
16:10 – The influence of Herrmann on Elfman
21:00 – The Dark Knight rides again
23:56 – The versatility of the Batman theme
26:00 – The Batutsi
26:55 – 6/8 versus 3/4 timing for Batman
30:20 – How does the Elfman theme fit into the history of Bat-music? The 1949 serial, the TV series, Goldenthal, and Zimmer
35:05 – Is Zimmer’s theme just the bare elements of Elfman’s? Dan says yes: https://vimeo.com/193995233
36:40 – Or is it all just building on Wagner?
38:00 – How does Prince’s music work with the score? Listen to the Love Theme and find out
42:00 – Beautiful Dreamer, the Joker’s Parlour Song
46:00 – Dancing with the Devil in the Pale Moonlight
53:44 – Waltzing to the Death (and Dan’s frustration)
58:11 – The Henchmen’s piano
1:01:35 – Alfred Hitchcock directs Batman
1:05:52 – The henchmen’s boom box
1:08:45 – It’s a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight
1:11:50 – Advertising for the Joker
1:18:30 – Nick’s favourite cue in the score
1:22:30 – Dan has a bone to pick with Batman
1:26:50 – The finale to Batman – the Light Knight?

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Episode 9: Star Wars - Part 3

In our third and final Star Wars episode, we take a look at some of the lesser known cues that round out this incredible score. We discuss the giant bantha in the room: the musical influences that inspired Williams and the temp music that helped to shape some of his artistic choices. Finally, we take a whirlwind tour of the action music, explore the groovy Cantina Band tunes and debate whether Star Wars is in fact the greatest film score of all time. Is it?

 

Episode notes:

3:20 – the music for the Jawas
5:40 – finding the downbeat in “The Little People”
7:28 – is this the highest Tuba line ever?
11:03 – the music for the Sand People
14:39 – Williams’ family relations and a link to Toto
15:28 – use of the Timpani
18:08 – a comparison with Jerry Goldsmith’s Planet of the Apes
20:26 – discussing the Bantha in the room: the musical influences on Star Wars
26:05 – The Dune Sea of Tatooine vs Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring
30:17 – The Rebel Blockade Runner vs Holst’s The Planets
32:02 – Some Bernard Herrmann references in Star Wars
36:56 – The Throne Room vs Dvorak and Elgar
42:21 – The Throne Room’s reappearance in Return of the Jedi
44:55 – rude trumpets and the performance/recording of the score
47:03 – the musicians who made contributions to Star Wars
48:53 – the action music of Star Wars and Williams’ hip grooves
53:11 – Dan’s dissapointment in Star Wars’ lack of musical numbers
56:15 – The Battle of Yavin vs The Battle of Britain
1:02:35 – The Cantina Band, is it jazz or jizz?
1:06:20 –Sing Sing Sing as temp music
1:08:48 – the 2nd Cantina Band song
1:11:18 – the original Star Wars trailer music and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons
1:15:46 – the studio’s woeful attempt at marketing Star Wars
1:17:42 – is Star Wars the greatest film score of all time?

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Episode 8: Star Wars - Part 2

In our second Star Wars episode, marking the fortieth anniversary of the film, we complete our exploration of the themes for this landmark film and score from 1977. We take on the franchise’s most defining melody: the Force Theme, and also throw in the Rebel Fanfare, Vader’s motif, and the Death Star, before ending on that eternal question: what links Star Wars and Metallica?

 

Episode notes:

2:15 – The Force Theme (or Ben Kenobi’s theme)
2:50 – Binary Sunset
7:25 – the Alternate Binary Sunset cue
12:30 – the Burning Homestead cue
14:50 – Rogue One: The Master Switch cue
17:10 – the first encounter with Ben Kenobi
18:55 – development with Kenobi, Tales of a Jedi Knight
22:45 – The Force Theme as anxious suspense
24:50 – Luke mourns Ben
26:30 – the martial Force Theme at the Battle of Yavin
28:30 – Use the Force, Luke
32:10 – The Force Theme in Superman?
34:40 – The Rebel fanfare motif
37:21 – The Blockade Runner and Imperial Attack, combining the Rebel and Imperial motifs
42:10 – Rebel fanfare as dramatic relief after the destruction of the Death Star
43:49 – Darth Vader’s motif
49:00 – development in Imperial Attack
55:00 – Ben’s recollections of Vader for solo clarinet
57:50 – Is Vader’s theme really Metallica in disguise?
1:01:11 – the Death Star motif
1:03:00 – Burning Homestead as a theme showcase

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Episode 7: Star Wars - Part 1

Forty years ago today, in 1977, the film universe was turned upside down by a galaxy far, far away. Star Wars may have changed the film industry forever, but John Williams’ score might just be as influential for the film music landscape. In this episode, our first of three on Star Wars, we take a look at the influence of John Williams’ music, and two of its major themes: the Main Theme (or Luke’s Theme) and Princess Leia’s theme.

 

Episode notes:

2:30 – The influence of Star Wars, the music, the film
4:30 – How Star Wars changed film history and the film school generation
8:00 – Star Wars and nostalgia
11:20 – Was there anticipation for Star Wars?
13:40 – This was not what films were supposed to sound like at the time
15:00 – Before the main titles: the 20th Century Fox fanfare
16:20 – The main Star Wars theme (Luke’s theme)
18:50 – The orchestration of the main theme
20:45 – The jazz-inspired harmony of the main theme
23:33 – “War drums in space”
25:03 – Development of Luke’s theme – first playing
26:55 – Luke’s theme begins to mature with the hero’s journey
32:00 – Luke’s theme on the Death Star
34:44 – The shootout on the Death Star, Luke’s “boy’s own adventure” moment
39:15 – Influences on Luke’s theme: Ivanhoe and King’s Row
50:06 – The uses of Luke’s theme in the final Death Star dogfight
53:15 – The (mis)uses of the main theme (?) in Rogue One
54:45 – Leia’s theme and the development of ‘concert versions’
1:01:10 – John Williams and the romantic major sixth
1:03:14 – The first time we hear Leia’s theme
1:05:18 – Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope
1:07:38 – The full Leia’s message
1:10:10 – Luke meets Leia for the first time
1:11:30 – The Death of Obi-Wan and the abandonment of leitmotif
1:15:30 – High romance in the Leia concert suite
1:17:45 – The Star Wars NPR Radio Serials

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Episode 6: Dances With Wolves

In 1990, Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves set the film world alight, and won seven Academy Awards in the process. But what about the score? In this episode, we take a look at the music of John Barry – who, although best known for his Bond scores, here manages to create something at once completely Barry-esque and wholly unique for a film about the flawed myth at the heart of American cinema’s greatest genre: the Western.

 

Episode notes:

2:58 – Dances With Wolves as a Western
6:00 – An indie production and adaptation
9:30 – John Barry
10:21 – Basil Poledouris’s near miss with Dances With Wolves
12:40 – The John Dunbar theme, and comparisons with Lonesome Dove and Legends of the Fall
14:30 – The John Barry ‘mythic’ mode, comparison with Out of Africa and Chaplin
18:30 – The ‘breathing’ nature of the John Dunbar theme, and his pop music origins
21:50 – Solo trumpet version of the Dunbar theme, comparison with Legends of the Fall
24:00 – Dunbar theme on harmonica, and the use of harmonica in Barry’s work
26:11 – The threatening, solo flute version of the Dunbar theme
28:24 – Mournful version of the Dunbar theme for the slaughtered Buffalo
30:35 – The ‘album version’ of the Dunbar theme during the hunt, with comparison to Barry’s 007 theme
34:15 – The ‘film version’ of the hunt theme, with comparison to The Big Country
37:25 – The love theme
41:35 – The ‘Two Socks’ wolf theme
44:37 – Comparison with A View To A Kill
46:33 – The Sioux motif
49:50 – Traditional musical representations of Native American clichés, comparison with The Searchers
52:10 – The Pawnee motif
55:00 – Development of Pawnee motif with threatening children’s themes
59:23 – Brusque French Horn performance of the Pawnee theme
1:00:25 – Comparison with The Living Daylights
1:02:33 – Leaving Fort Sedgewick and the travelling music
1:06:22 – The Buffalo motif, and comparison with The Living Daylights
1:10:10 – Andrew’s argument that the music represents the film’s geography
1:11:25 – The fire dance by Peter Buffett
1:14:05 – Barry’s compositional style and his legacy

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Episode 5: Star Trek (TV)

Star Trek is one of the most enduring television series of all time, with more than 700 episodes over 30 seasons. Even disregarding the films, it’s also seen some great composers: Alexander Courage, Jerry Goldsmith, Dennis McCarthy, and Jay Chattaway. In our fifth episode of Art of the Score, we’re shifting to the small screen as we take a look at how the music of Star Trek has defined the final frontier over 50 years.

 

Episode notes:

2:40 – Overview of the Star Trek series and how each series changed
8:50 – The original series theme by Alexander Courage
11:30 – The three elements of the main theme and its optimism
13:45 – The beguine rhythm
17:00 – The jazz harmonies underpinning the original theme
19:00 – Lost in Space comparison
21:10 – ‘Amok Time’, Season 2 Episode 5 by Gerald Fried
25:30 – ‘The Doomsday Machine’, Season 2 Episode 6 by Sol Kaplan
28:00 – Emphasis on action music in the original series
29:33 – The Next Generation theme by Jerry Goldsmith
32:00 – Differences between minor sevenths and major sevenths for the fanfare
33:45 – ‘The Best of Both Worlds, Part One’, Season 3, Episode 26 by Ron Jones
38:33 – ‘The Inner Light’, Season 5, Episode 26, Jay Chattaway
46:06 – Deep Space Nine theme by Dennis McCarthy
51:20 – Fanfare for the Common Man by Aaron Copland
54:50 – ‘The Changing Face of Evil’, Season 7, Episode 20, Jay Chattaway
59:57 – Voyager theme by Jerry Goldsmith
1:06:00 – ‘The Year of Hell’, Season 4, Episode 9, Dennis McCarthy
1:08:00 – Drama versus action in Star Trek scoring
1:10:29 – Enterprise theme by Diane Warren
1:17:17 – Archer’s Theme by Dennis McCarthy
1:21:05 – Andrew’s favourite Star Trek moment

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Episode 4: Vertigo

For our fourth episode, we’re moving to a different great director-composer collaboration from a different era. It’s Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann with perhaps their greatest work: 1958’s Vertigo. This film recently dethroned Citizen Kane as the greatest of all time according to the American Film Insitute – but how good is Herrmann’s score, and how does it work? Join us as we take a look at the central musical ideas at work here – and how Bernard Herrmann creates a musical landscape of the subconscious.

 

Episode Notes:

3:25 – Historical context for the film and the Hitchcock-Herrmann relationship
5:00 – Why did people dislike Vertigo at the time?
8:10 – Herrmann’s compositional style
9:30 – The musical landscapes of Hitchcock-Herrmann films
11:00 – Nick on conducting Psycho live in concert,
13:10 – The Vertigo main titles
16:20 – The ‘Hitchcock chord’
20:15 – Musical spirals in Vertigo reflecting visual and thematic spirals
26:30 – The love theme
29:40 – The sad romance of the love theme
31:35 – Nick blows our minds by revealing that the love theme is hidden in the Prelude
32:50 – Similarities to Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde and the inability for the music to truly resolve
37:25 – Close analysis of the Scene D’Amour
39:40 – Discussion of Ludovic Bource’s score for The Artist
42:25  – Did Herrmann reference and develop this musical idea in other Hitchcock films?
46:10 – Is Herrmann developing a musical language or is he self-plagiarising?
47:10 – Torn Curtain
50:35 – The Ostinato motif in Vertigo
52:40 – The Habañera rhythm
55:45 – A link to Ravel
58:20 – The development of the Herrmann-Hitchcock ostinato across other films
1:03:00 – The Hitchcock style versus the Herrmann style?
1:05:05 – Alternating polychords in the tower sequence and similarities to The Matrix
1:06:45 – Danny Elfman’s inspiration from Herrmann
1:08:13 – Source music and Mozart in Vertigo
1:12:10 – The musical resolution at the beach
1:14:00 – The film’s finale and musical conclusion – is Herrmann’s music less ambiguous than the images?
1:17:20 – Hitchcock crediting Herrmann with the quality of Vertigo

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Episode 3: Jurassic Park

For our third episode, we look at another great Williams-Spielberg collaboration with the 1993 score to Jurassic Park. This landmark film redefined special effects and Hollywood itself, but what did it do for film music? Join us as we take a look at the main themes for the score and the hidden gems – and go from gospel, to jazz, to hymns along the way.

 

Episode Notes:

2:30 – Notes on Jurassic Park as a Spielberg film and its place in film history
7:10 – Theme From Jurassic Park
10:00 – The main theme as a hymn
15:00 – The structure of the main theme
17:20 – The end credits version of the theme
21:00 – The ‘Journey to the Island’ theme
23:30 – Comparison with ‘Summon the Heroes’
26:00 – The ‘sheen’ to the thematic orchestration
29:56 – The ‘panic’ theme
31:45 – Comparison with Dies Irae
41:10 – Comparison with later John Williams ‘suspense’ music
43:45 – Petticoat Lane
47:00 – Comparison with other John Williams celeste writing
49:00 – Triceratops music
53:32 – Dennis’s music and comparison with JFK
55:40 – Williams’ jazz influences
57:15 – The development of the action music
1:00:25 – The raptor motif
1:01:00 – The animation jazz and comparison with Gershwin
1:03:30 – Williams’ use of synth
1:08:50 – ‘Incident at Isla Nublar’
1:12:00 – Comparison with 1990s synth action music

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Episode 2: Raiders of the Lost Ark - Part 2

In the second episode of Art of the Score, we’re going even deeper into John Williams’ 1981 score for Raiders of the Lost Ark.

In the previous episode, we looked at the main themes for the score – in this episode, we’ll uncover the hidden moments and orchestrational genius that makes Raiders a film score for the ages.

 

Episode Notes:

2:50 – The opening cue of the film – ‘In the Jungle’
9:40 – Indiana Jones’ introduction in the film, both musical and visual
11:45 – ‘The Idol Temple’ and the spider pizzicato
16:40 – Comparison with the restless strings in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and Bernard Herrmann’s Psycho
20:45 – The stealing of the Idol
23:40 – The rolling boulder, killer trumpet triplets, and Williams’ respect for sound effects
28:40 – The development of Marion’s theme across the score, from wistful, to tragic, to overblown romance
36:50 – The development of the Indiana Jones theme across the score, starting with its introduction
41:20 – Indiana Jones the sad and lonely professor, played on clarinet
44:00 – Indiana Jones the action star
47:15 – Our favourite performance of the Indiana Jones theme: the swim to the submarine
49:00 – Comparison with The Sea Hawk (Korngold)
52:00 – The travelling and map sequences of the film, ‘To Nepal’ and ‘Flight to Cairo’
1:00:00 – The action cues of Raiders
1:01:55 – ‘The Basket Game’ and melodies in action sequences
1:06:15 – ‘The Fist Fight / The Flying Wing’
1:09:00 – ‘Desert Chase’ and the trials of the orchestra
1:12:40 – John Williams does the Macarena
1:14:00 – The unscored bar fight
1:15:50 – The religious moments in the score
1:16:30 – ‘The Map Room: Dawn’ and turning religious awe into musical certainty
1:22:50 – Comparison with ‘The Lighting of the Beacons’ from Howard Shore’s Return of the King
1:25:50 – ‘The Medallion’ theme (or is it the Ark’s B theme?)
1:29:10 – ‘The Miracle of the Ark’ and the power of the Ark
1:31:40 – Williams’ use of horror music and slapsticks for the terror of the Ark
1:35:14 – The final cue of the film, and ending on the Ark theme

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Episode 1: Raiders of the Lost Ark - Part 1

In Art of the Score, we dissect the greats of film music from top to bottom. For our first two episodes, we’re starting with John Williams’ 1981 score for Raiders of the Lost Ark, one of the most iconic collaborations between Williams and Spielberg.

In episode one, we take a look at the themes of Raiders in detail – how they work, why they’re perfect for their characters, and the blueprint that they set up for the film.

 

Episode Notes:

3:05 – Where Raiders of the Lost Ark sits in film history, why it was made, and how
8:00 – The visual look of Raiders
10:00 – John Williams’ musical style in context
13:52 – An introduction to leitmotif
16:42 – The Raiders March (Indiana’s Theme)
27:40 – Marion’s Theme (and what is Raiders about, anyway?)
37:10 – John Williams and the major sixth in romantic contexts
45:20 – The Ark Theme
50:30 – Comparison with the Grail Theme from The Last Crusade
55:30 – The Nazi theme and comparison with Imperial Music from Star Wars
59:35 – Comparison with the Nazi theme from The Last Crusade

Join us for Episode Two as we go even deeper into the score, uncovering the hidden moments and orchestrational genius that makes Raiders a film score for the ages.

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