Dark Shadows (Danny Elfman)

Final Musings: Dark Shadows is an effective combination of the previously established sounds for Sleepy Hollow and The Wolfman. The level of thought put into this score is rather admirable with well executed orchestrations and themes. But the lack of accessibility in the harsh electronic effects and the overbearing dissonance play to the score’s downfall. Nonetheless, with repeated listens, this score can offer a rewarding experience.

Dark Shadows is definitely one of the stranger things to have aired on daytime television back in the 60s. The gothic soap opera made quite the impression on its cult following with its bizarre supernatural elements and the memorable character of the 200 year-old vampire Barnabas Collins. Director Tim Burton was quite the fan himself so it wasn’t long before he would take premise under his wing for his own take on it. As with most Burton films, the film features great visuals and top-notch acting. But where the film really fails is the schizophrenic nature of the storyline and direction. Dark Shadows often varies between gothic fantasy, dark horror and outright comedy as it knows very little about what it wants to be. Luckily, Burton’s long time collaborator, Danny Elfman didn’t partake in this crisis. The composer wisely chose to keep the film grounded by scoring it as a straightforward Burton film of the horror fantasy genre. The resulting product is a rather effective score with far more direction than the film itself.

Dark Shadows has a rather well crafted score that has a fair amount of thought put into it. Firstly, it’s pretty clear that Elfman wanted to provide the movie with a dramatic musical atmosphere akin to Robert Cobert’s own work for the source material. Consequently, at several moments the score effectively emulates the sound of a soap opera, and in this regard, the orchestrations are executed with exquisite precision. The alto flute is used capably as a throwback to its popular status in the early 70s. It’s often utilized with echoing descending phrases as heard consistently throughout the work (developed in cues like “More the End?”).To go on, Elfman also expertly uses various electronic effects (often abrasive in nature) that include slurring electronic pitches and cackling sound effects to reflect the outlandish nature of this particular soap. The intention could not be clearer in moments like 1:04 in “The End?” (the bass in enhanced in a menacing melodramatic fashion so common in many of these melodramas) or 0:24 in “Barnabas Comes Home”. There are also other little nods like the emphasis on the vibraphones. And so its hard to deny that attention to detail in such retrospect is quite admirable. Read the rest of this entry »


The Avengers (Alan Silvestri)

Final Musings: Fans expecting the Alan Silvestri of yesteryear will ultimately be leaving this score disappointed. While the score offers rather entertaining highlights in its peak, it falls more along the lines of a rather generic entry in the composer’s career. The score falls short with the main theme and the lack of inspiration consequently makes this score a wearisome listening experience. Regardless, it still stands above the drivel that accompanies most modern blockbusters these days and for that perhaps there ought to be some gratitude.

Marvel’s long term cinematic plan finally came to be fulfilled with 2012’s The Avengers. Over the course of many years, the popular comic book studio has worked hard to unleash productions of their most formidable heroes so that they may be gathered to make the penultimate blockbuster, making millions on the way of course. There were high expectations riding on this film, and it did not disappoint. Financially, the film already broke several records in its opening weekend, having surpassed even the final Harry Potter film with its opening weekend grossing. It also served as a strong entry in television director Josh Whedon’s career as it managed to please critics with its intelligent dialogue and charismatic crew.

Now the Marvel films have always been rather colourful in terms of musical style. The scores for these ventures have ranged from mundane Remote Control Production clones for the Iron Man franchise to the symphonic heights of the Spiderman films. Hired for this assignment was action veteran Alan Silvestri. In a world where the Hans Zimmer/Remote Control methodology seems to be forced upon the most respectable of composers, even in the superhero genre (as recently shown by Patrick Doyle’s Thor), Silvestri seems to be a man who can be counted on to provide a more traditional, orchestral score. His recent work for Captain America: The First Avenger proved that the composer was still capable of his rhythmic force and bold themes.

Considering the nature of the film, Silvestri approaches the film more with the stylistic flavour of his disappointing effort for G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. So the unreasonable folks expecting the return to the soundscape of Back to the Future and Judge Dredd are bound to be disappointed. The score is exactly one might expect for a film like this. The snare-ripping action, the dissonance for suspense, and the brassy thematic statements common to Silvestri’s career are all there. Electronic accents are also heard throughout the score to attune to the setting and personality of the movie (as heard in moments like 1:36 in “Assemble”). Stylistically speaking, there isn’t anything new this score has to offer. But perhaps this thought is exactly what fans are looking for considering the radically changing trends in today’s film music. Read the rest of this entry »


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