Saturday, June 23, 2007

My 20 favourite pieces of music composed for a film, ever.

In conjunction with Damian's excellent Film Music Blogathon at Windmills of My Mind.

One Zummer once said, “Film is a predominantly visual medium, which means the general purpose of a music score is to capture and reinforce the essence of a film, generally without drawing attention to itself.” Well, I’m sorry, but I disagree. Being a musician myself, I feel that music is one of the principal, if not the principal element to telling a story, and if the score ends up being so beautiful it outdoes the film itself, then so be it. Today, I’ve chosen my 20 favourite pieces of music ever composed for film, and invite you to listen to their mastery. (Some you can enjoy in the form of YouTube vids, others through downloads.) And note - quite a lot of Newman on here, because, he's kind of my favourite composer. Ever. Ever. Ever!!!!!!

01. The Heart Asks Pleasure First (Michael Nyman, The Piano)

Take from the words of poet Emily Dickinson, this is my choice for favourite, most haunting, and best piece of music ever composed for film. This piano piece enhances the ethereal, raw emotions felt by Ada in the movie, and also just happens to be a case of darn good music, Nyman's execution of this score is nothing less than perfect, and the playing blew me away.

02. First Day (Thomas Newman, Finding Nemo)

I thought I may have quite a lot of Newman (my favourite film composer) on this list, et voila, I was right! Finding Nemo is my favourite film score, and it was so hard to pick a favourite from the list, but finally, I settled for First Day, which is played early on in the film over the shot of Marlin taking Nemo to his first day at school. With pizzicati and orchestra, Newman captures the vast nature of the ocean, and hints at the playfulness and peril to follow. It’s just exquisite.

03. Comptine d'un autre été: L'après midi (Yann Tiersen, Amélie)
So good, that Tiersen ripped himself off and re-used it in Goodbye Lenin, this gorgeously sad piece that encompasses both the beauty of Paris and the joie de vivre of the film. A true example of how music can lift one’s soul into Heaven.

04. Prologue (Alexandre Desplat, Birth)
Along with Newman, Desplat is the most talented working composer of today, and his work on Birth epitomizes this fact. Although difficult to choose a favourite of his, I went for Prologue from Birth, simply for the eerily scary way it suited the images, and set the tone for the rest of the movie.

05. Love Theme (Ennio Morricone, Cinema Paradiso)

06. The Wings (Gustavo Santaolalla, Brokeback Mountain)

It's brief, but it's also undersated, heartbreaking, and utterly brilliant. Santaolalla deservedly won the Oscar for his work here.

07. Dead Already (Thomas Newman, American Beauty)

08. Theme from Schindler’s List (John Williams, Schindler’s List)
To be honest, there's nothing to say here that I haven't covered in my review of the score, but I'll just say it again - I had the pleasure of learning this stunning track for my grade 7 violin, and unlike most of my violin pieces that I learn, studying this simply enhanced my adoration for the piece. It meanders through octaves, with elegance and grace, with heartbreakingly simple harmonic progressions that truly touch the soul. Possibly one of the most recognisable pieces of music composed, and rightly so.
09. First Snow (Clint Mansell, The Fountain)
Sadly, I don't have my iPod with me (I left it at school, I'm an idiot, I know) , so I can't upload this genius of composition, but another track on the Fountain score that I loved to pieces was Death is the Road to Awe, which, despite its quasi-emo title, is utterly beautiful.

10. Drive Away (Thomas Newman, Lemony Snicket)
Showing that there is no end to his talent, this idiosyncratic electric-guitar led piece somewhat recalls Newman's work on the Erin Brockovich score, but here, it is jazzy and snazzy piece, and much more unforgettable than that of anything on the Brockovich score. As I said in my review of the soundtrack, it is a true eargasm.

11. Balcony Scene (Craig Armstrong, Romeo + Juliet)
12. Road to Chicago (Thomas Newman, Road to Perdition)
13. Your Hands are Cold (Dario Marianelli, Pride & Prejudice)
14. The Necklace and the Return and Finale (Bernard Herrmann, Vertigo)
15. Soy Marco (Alberto Iglesias, Hable con Ella)
16. And that Right Soon (Thomas Newman, The Shawshank Redemption)
17. Hedwig’s Theme (John Williams, Harry Potter)
18. Gabriel’s Oboe (Ennio Morricone, The Mission)
19. Camera Obscura (Alexandre Desplat, Girl with a Pearl Earring)
20. Filter Attempt (Thomas Newman, Finding Nemo)

Thank you for reading, now...

If you liked that...

Bear with the blog, and here are a few of my older posts that I recommend:

My review of Brokeback Mountain - my 6th favourite film of all time, and the best review that I've ever written. Enjoy.

My favourite screenplay of all time - a nice lil' look at my favourite script, to my favourite movie.

The day I met Sophie Kinsella/Madeleine Wickham


Unknown said...

hello :rolleyes:

Emma said...

Hello. :doesn'trolleyes:

Who will you support between Poland and Holland today?

Unknown said...


Dunno, Holland I suppose, can't be having some trampy country win. Need I ask you?

Emma said...


I don't know why the Hell I wrote Poland just now. Actually, I do, I was watching a Catherine Tate clip, which mentioned that country. And we were discussing Poland in Economics.

So my favourite countries probably go:
01. England.
02. China.
03. Holland.

And least favourites are probably J and P.

Unknown said...

Mine I'd say go


Emma said...

Interesting list. Canada's pretty OK.

I want to do Maths with a year in Europe soooooooooo much!

Unknown said...

I don't see why you need to go Europe to learn maths.

Bottom countries


Anonymous said...

No music from Rocky or Lord of thr Rings then?

At least throw some In the Mood for Love in there! :P

I'm going on holiday to Portugal this year.

Anonymous said...

Great list.

I'd add Theme from Good, the Bad and Ugly, Chi Mai, and L'Arena.

Emma said...

Are you going with your missus? 'Cos loadsa girls in my form were planning holidays with their boyfriends, and sleeping arrangements, itc.

And what the frick is Lord of thr Rings, dear??

Anonymous said...

Fantastic as usual, Emma (I love that piece in Amelie), and thanks for the free samples as well!

Unknown said...

Were you jealous Emma? Maybe Ed will take you away.

Emma said...

I'm not jealous!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If I was jealous of anything about Martin, it would be that he has a shot at Cambridge and I don't.

OK???? I'm not jealous that he's going to Portugal!

I'm not!


I'M NOT!!!!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Emma said...

That was Zummering below the belt. I'd rather Zummering marry Shed!

Unknown said...

You wish Martin was taking you to Portugal so you could see all the hot playboys.

Emma said...

Martin just said something worse than that just now, so you haven't and won't piss me off, dear. :P

Unknown said...

Won't I my Japanese friend?

Emma said...

That doesn't piss me off, because I know I'm Chinese. If you're gonna try and get me where it hurts, at least target an area where I'm insecure!

Anonymous said...

brokeback mountain was for fags and the music was shit

Emma said...

@ Craig - check Haven PMs.
@ anonymous loser - check brain.

Unknown said...

But if I picked on something that you were insecure about you would be hurt and I wouldn't want that.

Anonymous said...

Good list.
Here's mine:

1. Theme from King Kong (Max Steiner)
2. Twisted Nerve (Bernard Herrman)
3. Love Theme (Ennio Morricone)
4. Bonding (John Williams)

Anonymous said...

hi Emma

I prefer the Opening Theme and Snow from Brokeback Mountain to The Wings, although they are all beautiful

Joe Baker said...

So nice to see you list Desplat's score from "Birth". Not only is that a hugely underrated movie, but an even more marginalized soundtrack. Good stuff.

raymond said...

--first comment--

--i guess that means something...?--

Wow, ya, alot of Newman there. :) I like him too! "Drive Away" is my favorite composition of his.

People don't understand how important the element of music is in film. It's underrated.

Excellent choices, especially Amelie, The Fountain, and The Mission. Gotta love the oboe solo. One of my professors played it for one of his classes last semester. It was so beautiful live, better than on the CD, if you can imagine that...


Kayleigh said...

Wow ive just finished listening to the music from The wa sso beautiful...must watch that film, thanks for that...and the entire score to BrokeBack Mountain was stupendous, just listening to the music in the trailer makes me cry!

J.D. said...

I'm probably a person to lean towards "Twilight & Shadow" or "The Legend Comes To Life" or "The Echo Game" or "King of Pride Rock" as my favorite.

Geoffrey Burrows said...

I'd have to include the piece "Gortoz a Ran" in my list of favourites. It's at the end of Blackhawk Down.

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