Popular music has always been a staple of cinema, with early musicals of the 1920s and 30s nothing more than compilations of popular tunes of the day. It is only recently that major directors have been turning to music artists such as Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor, Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood and Daft Punk to fulfil scoring duties. With many of the great modern composers such as John Williams, Hans Zimmer and Thomas Newman taking on fewer projects, these artists have provided a original and unusual texture to the medium, sometimes radically different and highly influential.
With the release this week of 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo', scored by NIN Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, we take a look at a few significant artists that have contributed to film scores recently.
Nick Cave & Warren Ellis
Nick Cave has been involved in film for many years as a screenwriter, notably ‘Ghosts of the Civil Dead’ and ‘The Proposition’, and with fellow Grinderman, Warren Ellis, has a number of notable credits as composer. Their major collaborations from the past decade include director John Hillcoat with ‘The Proposition’ (2005) and ‘The Road’ (2009), and Andrew Dominik with ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford’ (2006). Cave and Ellis lend a ghostly, atmospheric quality, often without definitive themes. While ‘The Road’ is the closest they get to conventional film scoring, their greatest work is in ‘Jesse James’, a score that works as both an accompaniment to the film and a terrific listening experience on its own.
All three scores are easily available, as well an excellent compilation of their film work, the double album ‘White Lunar’.
Radiohead’s lead guitarist shook the cinema to its core with his magnificent score to Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘There Will Be Blood’ (2006). A sparse, unnerving listening experience, Greenwood perfectly captured the claustrophobia of the film, crafting one of the greatest scores ever composed. Its influence has been seen in both film and television, but through a bizarre loophole, this masterpiece was deemed ineligible for an Oscar. Since then, Greenwood has provided equally impressive scores for ‘Norwegian Wood’ (2010) and ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ (2011), and is set to score Anderson’s next film, ‘The Master’. Greenwood is undoubtedly one of the most important artists working in film today.
While ‘There Will Be Blood’ and ‘Norwegian Wood’ are available, the score for ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ is yet to be released.
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
Nine Inch Nails’ Reznor and Ross were an unusual choice to score David Fincher’s acclaimed ‘The Social Network’ (2010), but their collaboration resulted in one of the most acclaimed scores of recent times, winning them an Oscar. Held together by a haunting central theme, their pulsing electronics rocket through the film. Their score alone is a masterpiece. They have continued their collaboration with Fincher, with ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ (2011), turning out a three-hour opus almost as impressive as their work on ‘The Social Network’. Reznor and Ross have pushed the boundaries of electronic music in film, and have found in Fincher as exciting a collaboration as Spielberg and John Williams.
Both scores are available, with their music label, Null Corporation, offering special editions of both. For free samples, visit their website (www.nullco.com). Also worth a listen is their NIN album ‘Ghosts’, an instrumental symphony that lays the groundwork for their film work.
The enigmatic dance duo made a huge impact with their epic score for ‘TRON: Legacy’ (2010). Rather than rejecting the rules of the traditional film score, they embraced them wholly, combining their electronic synth with a full orchestra. The result is a truly magnificent score, sweeping and thundering, that is often more memorable than the film itself. For unknown reasons, the score received very little awards attention, despite garnering much critical acclaim and becoming a bestseller.
The score is available in a number of physical and electronic editions, all offering various bonus tracks. A remix album, ‘TRON: Legacy Reconfigured’ is also available.
The Chemical Brothers
Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons have already received a number of awards for their work on Joe Wright’s ‘Hanna’ (2010), including the Las Angeles Film Critics Award. A playful, anarchic score with a killer theme, its release was seen as an event even bigger than the film itself. Come Oscar season, expect to see it getting a nod.
The score is easily available.
The work of Icelandic band Sigur Ros has always been dubbed ‘cinematic’, so it was no surprise when Cameron Crowe convinced leader singer and guitarist Jon Thor Birgisson (Jonsi) to score his recent film ‘I Bought A Zoo’ (2011). The result is a beautifully whimsical score, an emotional antithesis to Jonny Greenwood’s work. Jonsi also contributed the terrific track ‘Sticks and Stones’ for ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ (2010), and is collaborating on the upcoming stage show.
The score for ‘I Bought A Zoo’ is now available.