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The 2016 Oscars: Nominees for Best Original Score

With the 88th Academy Awards ceremony coming up this Sunday, let’s finish the week with some film music. Here are this year’s nominees for “Best Original Score,” along with a few audio samples:

“Carol” (Carter Burwell)

This atmospheric score seems to pay homage to the musical language of Philip Glass. This passage contains all of the hallmarks of Glass’ vocabulary: a simple melody that grows out of repeating, undulating piano lines, triad-laden voicing, and subtle shifts in the rhythmic groove between a feeling of 6/8 and 6/4 time. Brief, repeating fragments of music surface throughout the film, creating the circular sense of time flowing through music. (Listen to the electronically sensuous Taxi and To Carol’s) Composer Carter Burwell talks about the music and its relationship to the characters here and here.

Here is the music that concludes the film:

“Sicario” (Jóhann Jóhannsson)

Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score for the action crime thriller Sicario exhibits a different kind of minimalism. Menacing primal drum beats meet icy, static string sonorities. As with the Carol soundtrack, this music is rooted in electronic, processed sound. The recording and mixing is as important as the player’s vibrato or sense of dynamics. Here is what Jóhannsson said about the score in a recent interview:

I wanted to create music that had an underlying tension and a sense of coming from below the earth, like a throbbing pulse that resonates from underground or the pounding heartbeat of a wild beast that is charging at you. I also wanted to evoke the sadness and melancholy of the border, the border fences and the tragedy of the drug war.

Here is a compilation of music from the score:

“The Hateful Eight” (Ennio Morricone)

Following the scoring of the 2012 film Django Unchained, 87-year-old Italian film composer Ennio Morricone complained that Quentin Tarantino used the music “without coherence,” adding that he “wouldn’t like to work with him again, on anything.” But Morricone and Tarantino collaborated again on The Hateful Eight, an American Western/mystery film in which eight strangers are stranded together during a blizzard.

“Bridge of Spies” (Thomas Newman)

Thomas Newman, who entered the film scoring world as a protégé of John Williams (he orchestrated Darth Vader’s death scene in Return of the Jedi), provides a lush, symphonic score for Steven Spielberg’s historical drama-thriller Bridge of Spies. The score’s Homecoming track evokes the warmth and simplicity of the American folk song…an idealized “American” sound reminiscent of the music of Virgil Thomson:

“Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens” (John Williams)

In his long, distinguished career, John Williams has received forty-five Oscar nominations. I shared a few thoughts about the newest Star Wars score in this December Listeners’ Club post. Williams talks about the recurring leitmotifs in Star Wars here.

Here is Rey’s Theme from Episode VII:

Recordings

  • Carol (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), Carter Burwell: iTunes
  • Sicario (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), Jóhann Jóhannsson: iTunes
  • The Hateful Eight (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), Ennio Morricone: iTunes
  • Bridge of Spies (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), Thomas Newman: iTunes
  • Star Wars: Episode VII-The Force Awakens (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), John Williams: iTunes

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