I have many, but I’ll just name one for now: Chu Ishikawa, who collaborates on nearly everything Shinya Tsukamoto directs. He’s probably most famous for his Tetsuo score, but I own everything of his and he’s capable of much more than that mostly industrial sound. His work on Gemini and A Snake of June, for example, is quite romantic and exotic. Sadly, his CDs are almost impossible to find outside of Japan, though you can order them through the Japanese Amazon site. I highly recommend giving him a listen.
A few others worth mentioning: Philip Glass, Vangelis’s Blade Runner (an all-time fave), most of Goblin’s stuff for Dario Argento (try getting the Suspiria theme out of your head, and the opening music for Non ho sonno aka Sleepless is killer), Tomandandy (love their work on Killing Zoe), etc. etc. Oh, and I can’t forget Ennio Morricone!
I will see even the crappiest movie if Jon Brion’s name is anywhere on it.
I’ve been digging what Nick Cave and Warren Ellis have been doing. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and The Proposition scores were both great.
Can’t wait for The Road.
Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ score for The Proposition is fantastic. Bernard Herrmann, obviously, Ennio Morricone. Howard Shore. Philip Glass.
Oh, I totally forgot: Mark Mothersbaugh.
Hahn Rowe on ‘Clean, Shaven’
I like a lot of Lynch’s sound design, although Angelo Badalamenti gets …annoying, one tone… after a while. I find a lot of minimalist soundtracks (Glass, Nyman) really pissy, full of weak and generic chordal changes just for the sake of emotive effect. It’s not that I dislike minimalism per se (in the context of 20th century composition it’s very important)— it’s more that I feel it’s become a sell-out, or rather its proponents have sold out.
I’d really like to see more noise work, more improv. work, more rampant experimentalism in soundtracks generally. I loathe those moments on the back end of a DVD where the composer gets interviewed and we see yet another studio with yet another string section playing in such a high production environment that it all ends up sounding like a midi keyboard with a drop of reverb on it. Where’s the grit?
Ishikawa’s Tetsuo is great. Bernard Herrmann’s score for Taxi Driver is (still) awesome. That accelerando/rallentando drum rattle, those crashing horns in splintering chords…
Argh, how could I forget Herrmann? Shame on me. Good call on The Proposition. The Hungarian group Neo put out a terrific score for the equally terrific Kontroll. That’s a film I’d like to see on Criterion’s list. I tend to like things on the more electronic and experimental side, so the scores for films like Memento and Pi are up my alley. Kubrick always had an excellent ear for both music and sound design. So much of the music he’s used has become inextricably linked to the sequences in his films.
Oh, and in the “guilty pleasures” category, I confess to having a soft spot for some of Zimmer’s work. I’m currently listening to the truly unique and hypnotic score from Ravenous by Damon Albarn and Michael Nyman.
James Newton Howard
I have ti stop now. I absolutely love film scores.
Nino Rota, Carter Burwell, Jon Brion, Mark Mothersbaugh, Micheal Giacchino, Joe Hisaishi, Alan Menken, Goblins/Argento…
Mychael Danna has been one of my recent favourite composers that I have discovered through CBC radio 2, more specifically the program called “The Signal”.
and can’t believe that Zbigniew Preisner hasn’t been mentioned yet. He was an important collaborator with Krzysztof Kieslowski and the musical score in those films are critical to the over structure of the stories.
Jon Brion is amazing… I haven’t seen Synecdoche, NY yet, but I’ve heard some of the music and I love it. He’s the second reason why I want to see the film (the first being Charlie Kaufman).
Aside from him, Philip Glass, Bernard Herrmann, Ennio Morricone and Mark Mothersbaugh are all equally wonderful.
Absolutely agree with Mychael Danna and Zbigniew Preisner. I’m a huge Badalamenti fan too. Carter Burwell, Danny Elfman, Ry Cooder, Morricone. Jonny Greenwood’s score for There Will Be Blood was tremendous – personally I’m hoping he quits the day-job with Radiohaed.
It seems to me that, ignoring the obvious candidates, the most remarkable film scorers could potentially be the ones wherein the music either makes tolerable an otherwise worthless film, or might do perform so much of the mood-setting and dramatic work in itself as to make the film an entirely separate proposition without it. For the former, I still cannot get over the brilliance of Jean Prodromidès on Wajda’s fleshy Danton; it is a sort of an intersection of Ligetian or Pendereckian techniques, and done with unerring precision. Aside from the daring move (presumbly on Wajda’s part) to use in the first place such an unmistakable melange of distinctly and unforgivingly late-20th-century techniques in the scoring of a piece on the French Revolution (to hell with you, Marie Antoinette), the music itself is often strongly-developed and quickly-paced enough to very well stand on its own (it is, I think, one of the most endurable of all ’80’s film scores, long after the great mass of them have well-deservedly withered and died away)…and, considering the film, it seems as if it might well have been a decent decision to have let it done so in the first place. One would do well to note the score’s cacophonies more than its subtler moments (although these are often remarkable as well); the introduction of Danton himself is leant its grandness by no great contribution of either Depardieu or Wajda, but by this rising of mischords by Prodromidès; likewise, the menace of the departure from the jail to the gallows slips from the diagetic noise of metal on metal to the score’s meditation on these clashings building and, finally, breaking, and it is in this that we are given that delivery of what was and is still rightly referred to as ‘The Great Terror’.
Despite all this, I have been unable to find any other Prodromidès scores like this. Most of the films he worked on (aside from, inexplicably, Lamorisse’s Le voyage en ballon) are fairly obscure; he seems to have been used a bit by Roger Vadim, however, but for much more prosaically evil intents.
As to a composer who, in at least two early scores of his that I’m aware of, can steal away a good film in order to make it great, there is the work of Gabriel Yared. One need only listen closely to the opening minutes of Altman’s Vincent And Theo to become convinced that the sounding of a few Rowland S Howard-style guitar notes gives us all the exposition we need to properly view the rest of the film in the light Altman and Roth support them with. After that, the body of his work on 37°2 le matin can only support the same opinion, as it moves it out of the realm of the soap opera and firmly ensconces it as the epic romance it is designed to be. (Although one would then do an injustice passing up mention of Beineix’s earlier film Diva, and the very decent work done on it by Vladimir Cosma. A beautiful example of useful minimalism in the film’s early moment of detraining by a doomed woman in her nightclothes comes particularly to mind.) Sadly, it doesn’t seem as if the elements that made these earlier works of his as exciting as they were survived too long once he ended up being handed the films that would comprise his more popular and much ‘higher-profile’ work.
And having mentioned minimalism—while I prefer John Adams (who, fortunately, will probably never bother to try his hand at a film score)—and who in any case smartly moved on from this loosely-defined ‘movement’ long, long ago—as for Philip Glass, while I will be forever a die-hard defender of Einstein On The Beach and much of the rest of his operatic composition, as to his film scoring work, even his admirers must be forced to admit that, after finishing Koyaanisqatsi, he’s just been phoning it in. The 20th- and 21st century’s G. P. Telemann, he has not actually written an hundred film scores, but has merely written one film score an hundred times.
Bernard Herrmann’s scores for Alfred Hitchcock’s films are great. I’ve always wondered who composed the tune at the beginning of The 400 Blows (also featured in the Diving Bell & the Butterfly).
Both John Lurie and Tom Waits should make the cut. Also, Hahn Rowe’s score in Clean Shaven was most disturbingly awesome.
Besides the obvious: Bruno Nicolai, Zbigniew Preisner, Cliff Martinez, Tindersticks, Antoine Duhamel, Georges Delerue…
I like Delerue as well.
Others: Toru Takemitsu for his excellent work in Teshigahara’s films. I also like Nymann but not always.
John Williams (when the score doesn’t play too much to what is in frame)
Some rather household names, but they all have great bodies of work.
I’m going to add Stanley Kubrick as an honorable mention, because I feel even as a director that he deserves partial credit as a composer because almost all the music on all his films was personally chosen and mixed by himself.
There are so many good composers!
I prefer to talk about composer-director work as a tandem: Delerue-Truffaut, Herrmann-Hitchcock, Williams-Spielberg, Rota-Fellini…
Sometime ago I had the pleasure of being at the E.T. birthday at the Shrine Auditorium in L.A. with a live performance of John Williams and orchestra during all the screening. It was the highlight of my life about musical score. Not my favorite musical score, but a great experience. Great.
Morricone, Herrmann, Rota…
don’t forget Tan Dun.
Peter just reminded me of the time I got to watch a screening of Koyaanisqatsi with Philip Glass and his orchestra playing live throughout. It was mindblowing.
James Horner, Zbigniew Preisner , Mychael Danna. And I’m really hoping “There Will Be Blood” won’t be the last Jonny Greenwood score.
The discussion begins and ends with Ennio Morricone and Nino Rota.
Cliff Martinez, John Murphy’s work with Danny Boyle and Hans Zimmer’s work with James Newton Howard for the Batman films. I think everyone else’s already covered anyone else I’d name.
Miles Davis’s improvisations in Elevator to the Gallows was a genre-bending moment.
Gustavo Santaolalla is a composer to be reckoned with.
MR E 2 ME: I’m jealous!
Ennio Morricone, Susumu Hirasawa, Goblin. I also LOVE the score for amelie and Punch-Drunk Love.