Scores and Soundtracks

No, they are not the same thing.

I’m not going to go into any detail about the difference between the two. This website does a good job at explaining it (even though it does use Twilight as an example) -> http://www.examiner.com/article/soundtracks-101-what-is-the-difference-between-a-soundtrack-and-a-score.

Basically, soundtracks are usually a collection of songs done by bands or artists and are often featured in specific scenes in a movie. Some of the songs are written specifically for the film or are inspired by the film, and some of the songs predate the movie and are used by the director because they fit a particular scene.

Scores are usually instrumental (meaning without lyrics) and are often done by a composer and orchestra. This music is played as sort of background music during the movie. It’s used to enhance the mood and tone of what is occurring on screen. You never hear songs from a movie’s score on the radio.

A good example of a soundtrack song would be “Skyfall” by Adele.

A good example of a score song would be the James Bond Theme Song.

What I want to talk about is how much I’ve come to love movie scores.  Most people don’t pay any attention to a movie score, and that makes me sad because there are some really amazing songs out there. I could sit here for months and just post links to film scores that I love. Even if you don’t like orchestra music, there are lots of other styles of movie scores out there. Trent Reznor won an Oscar for his score for the movie The Social Network, and it consisted of sort of minimalist electronica. Marilyn Manson was hired to do the score to the first Resident Evil movie, and he created a score full of industrial metal creepiness. There are a lot of big name musicians who have recently dabbled in writing scores, and it’s fascinating to hear what they come up with. The majority of them say that it’s very different than writing a song for an album or something, because the music has to go along with what’s happening on the screen. Some of the tracks end up being fairly brief and some are quite lengthy, depending on what’s occurring on screen. A long action sequence might need to have a long, energetic song to accompany it. You can see how it might be difficult for someone not used to writing music that way.

It makes me happy when professional score composers get their name recognized, as their work is often overlooked and unappreciated by moviegoers. Some examples of really good composers and their work are:

  • Danny Elfman – The Simpsons theme, Beetlejuice, Chicago, Good Will Hunting, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Batman (1989), just about every Tim Burton movie ever, etc.
  • Howard Shore – The Lord of The Rings trilogy, The Hobbit, Hugo, Gangs of New York, Dogma, Silence of the Lambs, etc.
  • Klaus Badelt – Pirates of the Caribbean, Equilibrium, Constantine, etc.
  • John Williams – Star Wars, Jaws, E.T., Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Harry Potter 1-3, Superman (1978), etc.
  • Hans Zimmer – Rain Man, Twister, Driving Miss Daisy, Thelma & Louise, The Lion King, Gladiator, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Inception, Sherlock Holmes, Man of Steel, etc.

Hans Zimmer is my favourite. He’s done a LOT. He’s one of the reasons I really wanted to make this blog in the first place. Know his name, people! I honestly enjoy just sitting down and listening to movie scores, and Hans has done some of my absolute favourites. Now We Are Free from the Gladiator score is such a beautiful song. I find his work on the Inception soundtrack to be sheer genius. Check out this video called Inception Music Comparison to get an idea about what I mean. I didn’t notice this when I first watched the movie, and then I saw that video and thought it was brilliant. It blew my mind. I personally think that the whole Inception movie is genius, but I’ll rant about that at a later time.

He was nominated for an Oscar for that, but he lost out to Trent Reznor’s The Social Network score. I love Trent to death, but in my opinion, Hans should have won. I know he got some flack for this score from critics who claim he just took an already existing song and simply slowed it down and that’s all he did, but I disagree completely. He did so much more than that. Also, there’s the other songs from the score which don’t borrow from Edith Piaf’s song (i.e. Mombassa, One Simple Idea, and my favourite, Time). I listen to the Inception score all the time. 

Another thing I wanted to talk about is Hans Zimmer’s score from the movie Mission: Impossible II. Yeah, I know. It wasn’t all that good of a movie, but the score is really good. I love the spanish guitars in the song “Nyah“, but the song I really want to talk about is “Injection“. I don’t know if I’m the only person who feels this way or whether this was an intentional aspect of the song, but, to me, this song feels as though it has a subtle, quick tick-tick tick-tick feel to it, similar to that of a stopwatch, which is completely appropriate considering what is happening in the movie at the time. Let me set the scene for you. Also, spoilers (even though this movie came out over 10 years ago).

So, Tom Cruise breaks into the secret lab to destroy all the supervirus samples before the bad guy arrives and steals them. He’s about to destroy the last one when the bad guy shows up with the love interest, Nyah, as his hostage. It’s about here that the song starts. Bad guy gets Nyah to go get the virus from Tom Cruise and bring it back to him because he knows Tom won’t shoot the girl. The part of the song I was referring to as having a ticking clock feel starts at around the 1:35 mark when Nyah foils bad guy’s plan by injecting herself with the virus and a surprised Tom starts his stopwatch to keep track of how long Nyah has to live. Then gunfire and actiony stuff happens, all the while a sense of a countdown is playing subtly in the background. Around the 3:32 mark there is a break in the gunfire, giving Tom and Nyah a moment to discuss how she just gave herself a death sentence. It is here that the Spanish guitars of Nyah’s theme are repeated. I don’t know if I’m the only one who’s getting this ticking clock feeling from this song. I probably am. The more I listen to this song, the more I believe that the ticking is there and is intentional. Also, I can hear it quietly at the beginning of the song as well, which could be an instance of foreshadowing. Am I reading too much into this? Probably, but it’s things like these that I love to talk about and discuss with other people.

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