Favorite Score Moments
My favorite tracks from my exceedingly humble collection of film scores. These are the musical moments that move me the most, the ones I'll listen to as stand-alone pieces, as opposed to listening to the whole score. In the order they came up on my iPod:
“The Mecha World” – John Williams, A.I.
Mirroring the odd but remarkable effective blend of Spielberg's warmth and Kubrick's coldness evident in the film, Williams gives us a theme that combines his own Romantic melodic sensibility with the incessant pulse of Philip Glass' minimalism. Shouldn't work. But it does.
“Batman Theme” – Danny Elfman – Batman
One of the great pure superhero themes. I understand that James Newton Howard deliberately didn't introduce a "theme" for Batman in the new film, wanting to hold off until the second film, when the character has earned a theme. I like the logic, but have trouble imagining a new theme worthy of this one.
“A Kaleidoscope of Mathematics” – James Horner – A Beautiful Mind
The clashing, metronomic pianos do a superb job of evoking Nash's fractured genius.
“The Secret Wedding” - James Horner – Braveheart
One of Horner's most melodic and beautiful pieces. A great stand-alone concert piece.
“Saying Goodbye” – John Williams – E.T.
The finale of E.T. is one of the most generous of Williams' contributions to film music. Appropriately for the moment and context, he doesn't restrain himself at all, giving in to the lushest, most over-the-top Romanticism of his career, capping it off with a fanfare from the horns and booming tympani. Completely earned and awesome.
“A Call to Arms” - James Horner – Glory
The Harlem Boys choir gets a lot of work, but I've never heard them used as effectively as they are here.
“Burning the Town of Darien” - James Horner – Glory
Tragic and heart-wrenching music with some wonderfully effective harmonic moments.
“Prologue” – John Williams – Harry Potter
A lot of Williams' Potter work was tired and pro forma, but true to form he delivered the absolutely perfect theme for the Potter universe.
“Locke’d Out Again” – Michael Giacchino – Lost
Giacchino's Lost work continually astonishes me. This moment, scored to Locke's betrayal by his father in Season One, is among his best, an emotional gut punch.
“Parting Words” - Michael Giacchino – Lost
From the Season One finale, as Michael, Jin, and Sawyer successfully cast off on their homemade boat. Triumphant without being pat or easy.
“Win One for the Reaper” - Michael Giacchino – Lost
The central, delicate theme of loss, used very effectively at Boone's funeral.
“The Raider’s March” – John Williams – Raiders of the Lost Ark
Iconic, isn't it? Williams can nail an identifiable theme better than pretty much anyone.
“Theme from Schindler’s List” – John Williams – Schindler’s List
A haunting piece of music, expertly assayed by Itzhac Perlman.
“Shawshank Prison (Stoic Theme)” - Thomas Newman – The Shawshank Redemption
We hear this as the bus arrives with Andy at the beginning of the movie, and it's a great piece of work. Simple in structure and yet so effective in execution.
“Shawshank Redemption” – Thomas Newman – The Shawshank Redemption
Andy escapes. What I absolutely love about this piece is how Newman takes a pretty stock movie/musical moment - the hero triumphs after much adversity and the score signals with a triumphant crescendo, replete with plenty of brass - and plays with it. The triumphant crescendo is there, but immediately following it a sad, defeated twinkly figure plays underneath the aftermath, reminding us of the true cost, of the loss Andy has experienced, of those eighteen years lost.
“Duel of the Fates” – John Williams – Star Wars Episode I
Bringing chorus into his Star Wars music quiver was an inspired decision, and this instantly-iconic track proves it.
“Across the Stars” - John Williams – Star Wars Episode II
The sad, lonely love theme from the second film is old-school Hollywood, and a neat little twist on Luke's theme from the original film.
“Battle of the Heroes” - John Williams – Star Wars Episode III
Williams final big Star Wars theme is one of his best, capturing the tragic betrayal at the heart of the Obi-Wan/Anakin relationship perfectly.
“Main Title/Rebel Blockade” - John Williams – Star Wars Episode IV
The touchstone. Lucas' original decision not to go with an actual classical music score will rank as one of his best.
“Tales of a Jedi Night/Learn the Force” - John Williams – Star Wars Episode IV
That moody, wistful minor-key Force theme is a marvel of economic writing.
“Sanctuary!” – Alan Menken – The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The great unappreciated Disney animated film from the 90s renaissance, and largely die to Menken's most accomplished piece of writing. This rack is my favorite, with some big, dramatic organ and choir climaxes near the end.