Dave’s Top 5 Film Scores of 2013

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I think one sign of a film score’s success is how well it stands apart from its film. While the relationship should always be symbiotic, I’m always on the lookout for film scores I can add to my listening rotation. This year, there were a bunch of tracks that moved me deeply and/or received a ton of play either on my computer or through my headphones. The art of film music remains alive, well, and encouragingly diverse.

After the jump, check out my top 5 film scores of 2013, as well as a few great Honorable Mentions that barely missed the cut. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments below.
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Peter Jackson in The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug Production Diary 14

As eye-popping as the glittering gold piles, sinister dragon eyes, and deep, dark forests of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug are, they wouldn’t be quite as impressive without an appropriate soundtrack. That’s where Howard Shore comes in.

The Canadian composer has scored every installment of Peter Jackson‘s J.R.R. Tolkien franchise to date. For his trouble, Shore has won three Oscars — Best Original Score for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, plus Best Original Song for Return of the King‘s “Into the West.” Now he and his music are the focus of the final Hobbit production diary of 2013, which you can watch after the jump.

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Video: The Art Of IMAX Sound Featuring Hans Zimmer

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These days, IMAX doesn’t just mean a giant screen. It means giant sound too. I’ve had multiple occasions to talk to executives for the innovative company and time and time again they stress what makes IMAX special isn’t just the possibility of a larger than life screen. It’s a a sound mix that’s unique, loud and second to none.

IMAX has released a new video that explains a bit of what makes IMAX sound so special, and even got composer Hans Zimmer to talk about it. Check out the video below. Read More »

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Typically it can be considered a slightly spoilerish endeavor to listen to a film’s score before the movie opens. But most of us are so familiar with what Howard Shore has done for Peter Jackson and Middle-Earth that a new batch of music is more like an extension of what has gone before than an entirely new set of cues. That said, the first Hobbit film was fairly distinct from the Lord of the Rings films, and some of the music for the second movie has it’s own character, too, even as familiar themes and concepts keep it grounded in Middle-Earth.

So while it is a couple weeks yet before the December 13 opening of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, you can spend the Thanksgiving holiday listening to 45 minutes from the score, as an embed has landed online. Read More »

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The band Broken Bells, aka Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton and James “the Shins” Mercer, makes very cinematic music. For a video to accompany new material the pair had a great idea. Burton took a story concept to Jacob Gentry (The Signal, My Super Psycho Sweet 16) and gave him the freedom to make an extended pair of shorts that effectively act as a music video for the album, rather than for any one song. (Gentry had previously done an earlier video for the band.)

The result is a two-part sci-fi romance starring Kate Mara (House of Cards) and Anton Yelchin (Star Trek, Only Lovers Left Alive), which uses music from the Broken Bells record ‘After the Disco,’ along with some material that is exclusive to these videos, as the score for the whole story. There are some classic sci-fi influences here, a nice little twist, and an emotionally affecting arc to it all. Check out both parts below. Read More »

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Hopefully you’ve got 90 minutes of free time in the next couple days, and assuming that you do, bookmark this long talk about the emotional effect of music when paired with image.

“Art Of The Score” was put together by the World Science Festival and the New York Philharmonic, and is hosted by Alec Baldwin. He’s joined by Ethan and Joel Coen, their frequent collaborator Carter Burwell, and neuroscientist Aniruddh Patel. The topic in general is music and film scores, and the ways in which they create an emotional response in the audience.

The talk begins with the example of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the fact that Alex North’s original score was shelved in favor of music that Kubrick had used as the temp track, including the well-known Richard Strauss composition ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra.’ But it goes a good bit deeper than that over the course of the hour-plus talk, from the neurological response to music, to the ways that musical influences can shape the direction or gestation of a film, and the ideas behind choosing music that conflicts with the image or scene, rather than directly complimenting it. Watch below. Read More »

Inside Llewyn Davis - Oscar Isaac and Justin Timberlake

All movies have soundtracks. Some of them have really good soundtracks. Very few of them have soundtracks so exceptional, they’re able to inspire a concert and a subsequent documentary of their own. But leave it to the Coen Brothers to be that exception.

Their latest film Inside Llewyn Davis centers on a musician (Oscar Isaac) struggling to make it on the folk scene in ’60s New York. To complement that premise, T Bone Burnett has produced a killer soundtrack filled with performances by Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, Marcus Mumford, Punch Brothers, and more.

All of them plus a few more famous friends (including Joan Baez, Colin Meloy, Patti Smith, and Jack White) got together for a benefit show in New York City this fall, and Showtime is now releasing that one-night-only concert as a documentary. After the jump, check out a trailer for the network’s Another Day, Another Time, plus another new clip from the movie itself.

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Stream the ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ Soundtrack

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T Bone Burnett has worked with Joel and Ethan Coen on the musical component to the brothers’ films a few times, starting as a “musical archivist” for The Big Lebowski, and most notably acting as producer for the O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack. That album became a hit in its own right, and there’s reason to expect that Burnett’s contribution to the Coens’ new film, Inside Llewyn Davis, will find a similarly warm reception.

The film is out on December 6, but you can listen to the soundtrack now. I’d understand wanting to wait to hear the music until the film opens, especially for the songs performed by star Oscar Isaac, but in reality the record stands on its own. There’s a mix of folk songs and traditional tunes here, and it’s a lovely set of tunes.  Read More »

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