Long-time Spielberg collaborator John Williams has a history of composing some of the most iconic scores in film history; Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jaws, Superman, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone were all brought to life by his incredible music. In his old age, Williams has slowed down a bit, but his scores to the 2011 films War Horse and The Adventures of Tintin were just as excellent as always. With War Horse, he took a more minimal approach than he typically has in the past, relying on gorgeous strings and warm brass to bring a feeling of intimacy to the film that fit the tone of the film. He uses this same approach with Lincoln, and the result is breathtaking.
The music in Lincoln perfectly embodies the American spirit. There is grandeur, there is majesty, there is conflict and resolution, there is emotion…Williams has captured it all. Much of this album is more solo-oriented, which helps with that intimacy that I mentioned before. The first track, “The People’s House,” opens with a single clarinet melody, low and calm, evoking visions of long hours spent in the Oval Office making decisions for the better of the country. Throughout the soundtrack, we are treated to solos from clarinet (“The People’s House,” “Equality Under the Law”), trumpet (“The Purpose of the Amendment,” “The American Process”), horn (“The Southern Delegation and the Dream,” “Father and Son”), and piano (“The Blue and Grey,” “Remembering Willie”). Each solo instrument brings forth a different emotion, enabling Williams to exploit these associations to accentuate the feelings in a particular scene. These emotions are made even more powerful once the solo instrument is joined by the full orchestra; the strings bring a warmth that reminds me of family and responsibility.
“The Blue and Grey” (obviously referring to the uniform of the Confederate Army) is a somber sort of track that hints at the tension between the Union and the Confederacy, while “With Malice Toward None” conveys Lincoln’s sense of duty to his country. “Father and Son” goes on to highlight Lincoln’s tentative relationship with his son in the midst of his presidential responsibilities, a sentiment that is continued in “Remembering Willie,” a terribly emotional track that echoes the grief felt by a distraught mother and her empathetic husband. “Appomattox, April 9, 1865” captures a grand moment in history with the timidity appropriate for such a solemn occasion, and it also expertly uses a choir to represent the almost spiritual element of the occasion.
Just on a quick aside, there is a short motive heard throughout the film that sounds nearly identical to a similar motive from Randy Newman’s score to the Disney/Pixar film A Bug’s Life. Compare this from “The American Process” to this excerpt from “Flik Leaves” on the soundtrack album for A Bug’s Life. Also, considering the fact that Abraham Lincoln is buried in Illinois, I thought it to be a nice touch that this score was appropriately recorded by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
I could go on and on and on some more about this soundtrack, but I digress. It should be obvious that I think quite highly of Mr. Williams and his music for Lincoln. I think that it perfectly represents all of the complicated aspects of one of America’s most celebrated presidents: his dedication to his country, his love for his family, his moral dilemma in doing the right thing. John Williams’ score to Lincoln is film scoring at its very finest, proving that, even at 83, he’s still got it.
Rating: 5 (out of 5)
1. “The People’s House” 3:43
2. “The Purpose of the Amendment” 3:07
3. “Getting Out the Vote” 2:49
4. “The American Process” 3:57
5. “The Blue and Grey” 3:00
6. “With Malice Toward None” 1:51
7. “Call to Muster and Battle Cry of Freedom” 2:17
8. “The Southern Delegation and the Dream” 4:43
9. “Father and Son” 1:42
10. “The Race to the House” 2:42
11. “Equality Under the Law” 3:12
12. “Freedom’s Call” 6:08
13. “Elegy” 2:35
14. “Remembering Willie” 1:51
15. “Appomattox, April 9, 1865” 2:38
16. “The Peterson House and Finale” 11:00
17. “With Malice Toward None (Piano Solo)” 1:31
Total Length: app. 59 min.
iTunes Album Link
P.S. – Read my review of this film here!
2 Comments | tags: 1865, A Bug's Life, appomattox, april 9, chicago symphony orchestra, confederacy, confederate army, confederate states of america, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, equality under the law, father and son, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Jaws, John Williams, Jurassic Park, Lincoln, oval office, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Randy Newman, remembering willie, Star Wars, Steven Spielberg, Superman, The Adventures of Tintin, the american process, the blue and grey, the people's house, the purpose of the amendment, the southern delegation and the dream, union, union army, War Horse, with malice toward none | posted in 5, Entertainment, Film, Movies, Music, Scores, Soundtrack Reviews
2011 was a great year because, after a four-year wait, we got not one but two new film scores by John Williams. The first of these was The Adventures of Tintin, which, along with Williams’ score to War Horse, was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Score.
While War Horse‘s score was decidedly more dramatic, The Adventures of Tintin‘s score is whimsical and fun, as well as quite reminiscent – in a good way – of Williams’ earlier scores. For example, “The Secret of the Scrolls” features a mysterious theme that reminds me of both “The Map Room” from the original Raiders of the Lost Ark score and the latter portion of “Diagon Alley and the Gringotts Vault” from Williams’ score to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone; all three have a simplicity to them that promotes thought and emanates a sense of wonder and magic.
The title track, “The Adventures of Tintin”, is catchy and sleuthy…at least, that’s the way I hear it. It’s heavily influenced by jazz, which is a bit different from the typical John Williams stuff but entirely welcome and refreshing. In contrast with this new style, Williams returns in full force with his leitmotifs – a musical phrase that represents a specific character/event/place; there are specific themes written for Snowy, the Thompsons, and other characters, including Tintin, but my favorite has to be the leitmotif representing Captain Haddock. First introduced in “Captain Haddock Takes the Oars”, Haddock’s theme begins as a sloppy, drunken low wind melody, but it transforms along with the character into something sturdy and impressive, as heard in “The Clash of the Cranes”.
Williams combines all of these elements – jazz, simplicity, references, and leitmotifs – to create something adventurous in the old-fashioned sense of the word and, overall, truly amazing. Despite the fact that it’s an animated film, The Adventures of Tintin boasts a score that could make just about any action/adventure film jealous. Though its themes may not be as instantly iconic as those now associated with Star Wars, Indiana Jones, or Superman, it takes turns in paying homage to each of these classic film scores in a way that is fresh and new. At 80 years old, John Williams has “still got it”.
Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
1. “The Adventures of Tintin” 3:07
2. “Snowy’s Theme” 2:09
3. “The Secret of the Scrolls” 3:12
4. “Introducing the Thompsons and Snowy’s Chase” 4:08
5. “Marlinspike Hall” 3:58
6. “Escape from the Karaboudjan” 3:20
7. “Sir Francis and the Unicorn” 5:05
8. “Captain Haddock Takes the Oars” 2:17
9. “Red Rackham’s Curse and the Treasure” 6:10
10. “Capturing Mr. Silk” 2:57
11. “The Flight to Bagghar” 3:33
12. “The Milanese Nightingale” 1:29
13. “Presenting Bianca Castafiore” 3:27
14. “The Pursuit of the Falcon” 5:43
15. “The Captain’s Counsel” 2:10
16. “The Clash of the Cranes” 3:48
17. “The Return to Marlinspike Hall and Finale” 5:51
18. “The Adventure Continues” 2:58
Total Length: app. 66 min.
iTunes Album Link
P.S. – I didn’t want to taint the body of the review with something like this, but I have to mention it: there is a moment in “Presenting Bianca Castafiore/Renee Fleming” when the soprano hits a high sustained note and breaks glass…loudly…ON THE ALBUM. And I absolutely despise it.
Leave a comment | tags: Academy Award, best original score, Diagon Alley, Gringotts, Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Indiana Jones, John Williams, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, Superman, The Adventures of Tintin, The Sorcerer's Stone, War Horse | posted in 4.5, Entertainment, Film, Movies, Music, Scores, Soundtrack Reviews
I saw The Help in theaters back in September ’11 and really enjoyed it, so I decided to read the book that it was based on earlier this summer, by Kathryn Stockett. I also purchased Thomas Newman’s score to the film to listen to as I read. In addition to being good reading music, it’s a really great film score.
Thomas Newman is the master of small, light, and fun film scores, and The Help, despite being a film about a serious subject, is all of these; though I’m a huge fan of John Williams, James Horner, and Michael Giacchino, who all use really big orchestral sounds in their scores, it’s refreshing to inject yourself with some Thomas Newman every once in a while. “Upside-Down Cake” and “Deviled Eggs” are light and playful, “Them Fools” and “Amen” are light and beautiful, and “Celia Digs” and “Ain’t You Tired (End Title)” are light and emotional.
Of course, you could argue that every single track on this album is emotional. Each track twangs on the heartstrings of the listener, which is no small feat for small orchestration. Tracks like “Jim Crow”, which features an aggressive acoustic guitar riff, blend in to the setting of the film, giving everything a Southern vibe that brings the message all too close to home.
I own several Thomas Newman scores, and none of them disappoint, including The Help. Newman’s score should have been at least nominated for an Academy Award, but, since it is less-theme based (though there are a few beautiful themes floating around throughout), it didn’t stand a chance against Williams, Shore, and Bource. That being said, if you’re at all a Thomas Newman fan, you should buy this. Also, if you’re not a Thomas Newman fan, you should buy this.
Rating: 4 (out of 5)
1. “Aibilene” 3:07
2. “Them Fools” 2:49
3. “Upside-Down Cake” 1:22
4. “Mississippi” 3:49
5. “Heart Palpitations” 1:43
6. “The Help” 2:18
7. “Jim Crow” 1:45
8. “Skeeter” 1:03
9. “Miss Hilly” 1:13
10. “Write That Down” 1:37
11. “Bottom Of The List” 3:23
12. “Deviled Eggs” 2:03
13. “First White Baby” 2:00
14. “Celia Digs” 2:06
15. “November 22” 1:11
16. “Not To Die” 1:28
17. “My Son” 2:50
18. “Trash On The Road” 1:37
19. “The Terrible Awful” 2:56
20. “Constantine” 4:08
21. “Gripping Testimonials” 1:32
22. “Sugar” 1:49
23. “Amen” 3:06
24. “Mile High Meringue” 2:00
25. “Ain’t You Tired (End Title)” 6:29
Total Length: app. 60 min.
iTunes Album Link
1 Comment | tags: Academy Award, acoustic, acoustic guitar, chad hopkins, chadadada, chadlikesmovies, composer, Emma Stone, emotional, guitar, Howard Shore, Hugo, James Horner, Jim Crow, John Williams, Kathryn Stockett, Ludovic Bource, Michael Giacchino, Octavia Spencer, orchestra, Oscars, sotd, Soundtrack of the Day, soundtrackoftheday, Southern, The Adventures of Tintin, The Artist, The Help, Thomas Newman, tin tin, tintin, upside down cake, vibe, Viola Davis, War Horse | posted in 4, Entertainment, Film, Movies, Music, Scores, Soundtrack Reviews