It’s rare that we talk about movie soundtracks on this blog, specifically those created by a single composer, as opposed to some compilation of singles by a select group of “top 40” (or not) musicians.
As a filmmaker, I’m not a fan of relying too much on music to help create mood, or emphasis setting or add an exclamation mark to a point. I instead prefer to let the writing and acting do that, and use music to compliment – which, for me, means, very sparsely.
Although I have my eclectic wish-list of artists whom I’d like to work with some day, in producing a soundtrack for future films I direct, and, to inspire some conversation around movie soundtracks, I thought I’d start by listing those musicians that, as a filmmaker, are on my short list of preferred composers.
Here they are:
1 – Her Bitter album is one of the few I own that I can listen to from beginning to end, without skipping a single track. Songstress Meshell N’Degeocello is one of those genuine musicians, with varied talents (she sings, raps, plays instruments, etc, and does them all quite well) who refuses to be categorized, or relegated to one specific genre. She incorporates a variety of styles and musical elements quite effectively, from one album to the next, creating often rich, thoughtful and moving tracks. She doesn’t quite get the attention and the radio play that I believe she deserves. But, we can say that about a lot of other artists, I suppose. So it goes…
2 – Cliff Martinez: His ethereal work with long-time collaborator, filmmaker, Steven Soderbergh, is inspiring – notably the soundtracks he composed for both Traffic and Solaris; and also his work in the film that put Joe Carnahan in Hollywood’s sights, Narc. Whenever I’m writing anything that can be categorized as science fiction, I often have something by Cliff Martinez playing in the background for inspiration.
3 – Jonny Greenwood: My introduction to his work was the soundtrack for Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood. I’m not even quite sure how to categorize the sounds he created/composed for the soundtrack of that film. Maybe that’s a good thing. He’s described as a multi-instrumentalist; Many will know him as guitarist and keyboard player for alternative rock group Radiohead! He and P.T. Anderson worked so well together that first time, that they collaborated again on The Master, and are doing so as well on Anderson’s next, Inherent Vice. But I’ve listened to the entire There Will Be Blood soundtrack countless times. I love its somewhat dark, brooding nature.
4 – Jon Brion: Speaking of P.T. Anderson… Brion scored 3 of his films: Hard Eight, Magnolia and Punch Drunk Love (so Anderson and I seem to have similar likes when it comes to composers). But the Brion composition I love the most is the work he did for Michel Gondry in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, one of my favorite films of this century. For that off-kilter, unconventional rom-com, Brion is your man.
5 – Last on my short but evolving list is Michael Nyman, the English composer, pianist, librettist and musicologist, perhaps best known for the many films whose scores he composed during his lengthy collaboration with one of my favorite filmmakers, Peter Greenaway – The Draughtman’s Contract, Drowning By Numbers, and, of course, one of my all-time favorite films, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover – all highly recommended viewing, by the way. I’m not quite sure where he fits on my list of future directorial effort soundtrack composers, but I’ll find something eventually.
So… for you filmmakers reading this, who is at the top of your wishlist of musicians you’d like to work with in creating soundtracks for your films? And for you non-filmmakers, who are some of your favorite composers, or what are some of your favorite movie soundtracks? I’m always on the hunt for new music and musicians to check out, so, I’m looking forward to seeing your selections.