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Positive Feedback ISSUE 36


Three more soundtracks
by Roger S. Gordon


Have you noticed that film music is starting to appear in the classical concert hall? As one example amongst many, for the second year in a row, the San Diego Symphony Orchestra has programmed two film scores as part of their regular concert series. John William's Schindler's List and John Corigliano's The Red Violin are appearing on the top half of a bill with Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky (a cantata taken from the 1938 movie) . Why is film music appearing in the classical concert halls? Because the best classical music being written today is being written for films. Films are where the money is. Thus, films attract the best composers. Film music, however, is not just classical music. Film music is country western, blues, jazz, techno pop or just about any genre of music you can imagine. Reviewed here are three film scores from three different genres that may have escaped your notice.


Van Helsing - Alan Silvestri Decca B0002331-12

With the passing of Basil Poledouris, Alan Silvestri is the composer directors turn to if they want a loud, powerful, bombastic film score. Silvestri's film credits include the recently released Beowulf, plus earlier films such Night at the Museum, Polar Express, Lara Croft Tomb Raider, The Mummy Returns, Volcano and other such films. Unlike a number of film composers who rely heavily on synthetic music, Silvestri usually works with a live orchestra and chorus. Electronic music and synthesizers are usually kept to a minimum. Of the seven film scores written by Silvestri in the last five years the score for Van Helsing has been the greatest crowd pleaser. However, it is definitely not a chick-flick film score. The film score is an ideal torture-test for subwoofers. I used track eleven, "The Final Battle", as my subwoofer test track at CES 2008. Another person I ran into in the corridors at CES was using track one of Van Helsing for his subwoofer test. Most of the tracks on the CD are loud and full of heavy percussive acoustic sound. Thus, no matter which track you used you could very quickly separated the very best subwoofers from the wanna-bes. When played at a high volume on a system with excellent bass the results are spectacular.

Now CDs of people whacking on big drums is not new. However, to have the drum whacks interwoven into very interesting classical music with excellent use of chorus is new. In all of the rooms at CES in which I played "The Final Battle" I did not see a single male who was not tapping his foot, pounding his fist on his thigh, or banging his head in time to the music. Highly recommended as a example of how classical music can be used to raise the testosterone levels of the average male.


The Man in the Moon - James Newton Howard. Reprise 9 26763-2

Warning. This is a chick-flick music. No big drums here. Just blue grass music played with banjo, guitar, violin, and harmonica. This is happy, foot tapping music with the exception of one track, "The Funeral". When I play this music for my friends they close their eyes, get a big smile on their face, and their whole body relaxes. A very interesting physiological response to music and completely opposite of that created by Van Helsing. If you want some light hearted music to play for your female significant other to get her in a good mood, play this CD.


Planet Terror - Robert Rodriguez. Varese Sarabande 302 066 807

The 2007 movie Grindhouse was a tongue-in-cheek spoof of 1950 horror movies. Quentin Tarantino directed Death Proof which was the first half of a double bill contained within one movie. Planet Terror was the second half of the double bill and was directed by Robert Rodriguez. Rodriguez first step in making Planet Terror was to write the film score. Since Grindhouse was satirizing '50s horror films he wrote music that invoked memories of watching horror films at the drive-in theater. The music is very '50s in sound with an interesting added blues touch. After setting the mood for the film with the music, Rodriguez wrote the film script, directed the movie, and then married the leading lady—Rosie McGowan of MTV. Despite being a one man show, Planet Terror was actually not a bad film, if you like zombie movies.

The music ranges from small blues ensemble—acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, dirty sax, and drums—to all electronic tracks with synths and electric guitars. Some of the tracks are pretty industrial sounding. I enjoyed most of the tracks. However, I imagine most people won't. However, the few tracks on the CD which are written for the small blues ensemble are to die for. I used track ten "The Grindhouse Blues" as one of my test tracks at CES 2008. People thought it was a superbly recorded track of great blues music. If you are feeling adventuresome and like blues you should give this CD a listen.