Although not entirely relevant, I always think it is useful to consider the style and genre of music used in soundtracks, especially if they are composed for the film. I will post a few I find particularly interesting, just as examples of how score can be used to accentuate moments in films. The style, genre, choice of instruments, everything changes how a film is perceived, so it is important to know what tools you are working with.
The soundtrack for Akira is massively varied, but uses a lot of percussion and vocals throughout. It reflects the erratic and unstable nature of business and life in NeoTokyo.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. The soundtrack is incredibly understated and quiet, gentle. It is an unusual contrast to the usually gruesome or intense nature of the film.
Sergio Leone often worked with Ennio Morricone, who is one of the most famous film score composers I can think of. The theme used in For A Few Dollars More is incredible famous, especially for the use of a signifier as regards the watch, the theme coming in to play in order to highlight the watch itself.
When talking about Soundtracks, it would be remiss of me not to mention John Williams. The theme for Jaws acts both as a soundtrack, and as a signifier for Bruce. It is not unusual for characters to have themes associated with them, signifying their presence without even needing to mention or see them, but this is perhaps one of the most famous examples of this.
Hans Zimmer is another whose soundtracks are world reknowned. This track, from the Inception soundtrack, once again, has a slow build, very rhythmic and a structured building of layers. It seems that horns and strings are used mainly when someone wants to create drama through their music.
The theme for Requiem For A Dream has been used so much now, it is often forgotten that it is associated with this film. It is incredibly dramatic, using a string orchestra to full potential. It is very simple, with only a few notes, but the Kronos Quartet know nothing if not how to produce a lot from a little.
Thomas Newman is probably one of my favourite composers when it comes to film scores. He uses gentle, delicate melodies and is quite the contrast to the Kronos Quartet. They are often used to impart quite a different message to that of the Kronos Quartet or John Williams, for example.
Perhaps the antithesis of Thomas Newman would be Vangelis, whose electrical soundtracks are famous through many films during the 1980’s. He has a tendency to lay down one underlying track which will span the length of any song, and then layer up various melodies over the top, often mixing it up a little bit more than most composers, who will work on variations of a few themes throughout one track. Vangelis often uses stabs and strange electronic effects as artefacts throughout his music.
The Godfather Theme, by Nino Rota is another famous theme. In The Godfather, there is one melody, however each character has their own version of that melody which accompanies them, thus allowing us to identify each character through variations on a theme.
And finally, John Murphy’s soundtrack to 28 Days Later has to be up there. This scene, with the track ‘In The House/In A Heartbeat’ uses the slow build perfectly. It implies dread, foreboding, and crescendos with Jim’s rampage. It, again, has been used a lot, however I cannot hear it without associating it with thumbs in eyes.
Soundtrack can be incredibly important, but it is vital to know what you are doing and what you want to achieve from it.
I’ll finish on this; Ecstasy of Gold from ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’. The final scene lasts almost ten minutes before anything happens, with this song accompanying the drama and raising the tension. I love this track, and to me, it just encapsulates Spaghetti Westerns. This is what I think of when I think of Sergio Leone, and a way of building drama over ten minutes with almost no action.
The silence as soon as shots are fired, and the ricochet sounds just after Clint Eastwood kills Lee Van Ceef, the cicadas and the birds are the juxtaposition to the final speech and the final section of soundtrack.
It is also worth noting how the tempo changes throughout the course of the song, and what that does to the emotion. I also think it is strange how this is the main theme for The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, but it not as famous as the theme from the opening credits.