Summer has hardly begun, but the summer movie season is already in full swing. Every year, a parade of blockbuster films compete with each other for the millions of dollars moviegoers will spend in search of a journey into the magic of the movies. For the music enthusiast, however, this season of film after film brings another art form into the spotlight: the soundtrack.
Some people can watch an entire film and never truly hear a note of the soundtrack, but there’s no doubt every viewer would miss the intricate underscore if the filmmakers left it out. From the winsome, pastoral flute of the Shire theme in Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings scores to the driving electronica that intermixes with the works of Hans Zimmer, film soundtracks set the mood and the pace of the story in a visceral way the viewer may not be able to verbalize, but feels nonetheless.
This summer promises to offer yet another constellation of musical themes. Most of the names soundtrack enthusiasts know will be present at the box office this year, including Danny Elfman on Men in Black III, Alan Silvestri on the already wildly successful The Avengers, James Horner with The Amazing Spiderman, Hans Zimmer in The Dark Night Rises. Patrick Doyle, noted for his past work on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire as well as Thor will offer his talents to the score of Disney/Pixar’s Brave.
Aside from entertainment value, cinematic soundtracks bear a greater burden of artistic value than they may seem to carry on the surface. Michael Story, editor and arranger for Alfred Music Publishing, underscores cinematic music’s relevance and value: “For many people, movie music is the ‘new’ classical music. Many symphony orchestras now present concerts that include movie music as part of their repertoire — partially because it is a way to get new people to the concerts, but also, and just as important, because so much of it is so good. Howard Shore’s successful ‘Lord of the Rings Symphony’ tour a few years back is a great example of this.”
In a time when a baseball team can sell out four seasons of games in a row while in the same city a world-class orchestra files for bankruptcy, clearly the task of generating current and future audiences for orchestral music is an urgent concern.
A love for serious repertoire is something the music educators of today have the unique privilege of cultivating in young people while their attitudes are open to the exposure. Coming soon, in a second part to this discussion, learn how school music directors can utilize movie soundtracks to plant seeds of appreciation of classical music in their students and community.