What got you into film scores?

SIMON SWEETMAN
Last updated 10:14 13/01/2014

I watched the movie Disconnect the other day - a pretty good film. Well, I liked it. And one of the parts I liked - a lot - was the soundtrack. In fact I was off to hunt out the soundtrack straight away after and you can read my review of the movie's score also. Sure, my ears had pricked up ready because I'd seen the name Max Richter in the credits. It's a bit like seeing the name Cliff Martinez - I mean, recently, I enjoyed Richter's score for the film Last Days on Mars and I can't tell you I really have any intention of ever seeing that film. So, like Martinez (with the Solaris soundtrack, in particular) Richter is now a go-to guy for me in the world of soundtrack composing, so much so, that the movie is secondary. Unless I've had the good fortune, as was the case with Disconnect, of wanting to see the film anyone and then discovering the score was from someone whose work I admired too.

A strange comment from a film critic recently had me quite perplexed. He told me that he never notices the music in films because his theory is that if he's noticing the music it's because the film is bad; every other aspect of it is clearly unremarkable if he's stooped to noticing the music. A sad comment for the film composers of the world I'm sure - but I just couldn't quite see where he was coming from. Sure, I could see that as a person writing about film he wanted to highlight the visual aspects - but often those scenes, the vivid moments we recall, are framed by the music. Its job is to heighten the emotional impact, to help burn the scene into the memory. That's what Richter does so well, for me anyway, in his Disconnect score.

He does it in his other soundtracks too.

Martinez and Richter are the two I think of straight away as composers I will always want to hear - and hear about - even if they're working on movies that don't take my interest.

In fact they're the two that have kept me interested in film scores.

What I realised, only recently - or at least it came blurting out the other day, perhaps I've always known it on some level - is the guy that got me interested in film scores is Mark Knopfler. I posted a clip from his score to Local Hero the other day on Facebook and someone asked me if I was a fan of the album. Of course, I replied. In fact, it's what got me into soundtracks.

And it's true. I wrote about Local Hero a while ago - it was part of my fascination with Dire Straits but when that faded for a bit there was still the soundtrack work of Mark Knopfler, something that sits to the side of his work as a solo artist and his Dire Straits material.

Thoughtful, elegant, wistful, wise, engaging, endearing - the soundtracks Knopfler created in the 1980s in particular, I love the Last Exit To Brooklyn one, the score for Cal and The Princess Bride - were the reason I got hooked on listening out for the score, on collecting film soundtrack work; on listening to it outside and away from the film.

But Local Hero is the one that started it for me. In the case of Cal and Last Exit To Brooklyn the music made me want to see the film and both were movies I enjoyed. Same with Local Hero - in fact it was years before I got around to seeing what is a quirky and charming wee film. The Princess Bride, well, I already knew the book and the film is a huge hit regardless of the music - but that score is still an evocative piece for me. And it was part of the puzzle in piecing together the worth of Knopfler as a musician outside and away from just the guy with the wrist bands, ugly, twisted finger-picking style and dinosaur rock band.

If I was new to movies - something that is of course hard to imagine now - it would be Max Richter and Cliff Martinez that would have sold me on the film score as a standalone piece; an album, an experience to have outside from the film even when forever linked.

But in those early days - for all the iconic moments from soundtracks, the Jaws music, the Star Wars music, horror films, the whimsy from cartoons, the appropriation of classical music - it was the music of Mark Knopfler the film composer that sold me in the film score as something to take away and study, to enjoy without the pictures.

How about you? Was there one film composer's work that tempted you to study the music away from the pictures? Or do you agree with the film critic I spoke to. Do you never notice the music? I still find that odd, and frankly troubling...that's not really experiencing the whole film if you ask me.

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