Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Silver Screen Scores (or Curses! Foiled Again!)

As I've been writing this blog, it occurs to me that more than anything I'm using these anecdotes and essays to describe what makes me, as a person, tick. 

I've talked about my various fandoms, the fact that I love video games, and that science-fiction/fantasy runs through my veins. But, if I were to point at a single thing that shapes who I am as a person, it is music. It has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. We listened to various types of music in the house while I was growing up, mainly classic rock and soft rock, but interspersed with more eclectic selections at times. While it did form the basis of my taste in music as I got older, as I was more and more involved in music in school, the more my interests expanded to more choral and instrumental styles of music. By the time I made it through high school, I was listening as much to classical music as I was popular music, with a bit of new age instrumental for good measure.

There is one genre of music that, while I had enjoyed for a very long time, I didn't really start to concentrate on until I got into college: movie soundtracks, scores specifically.

From Star Wars to Star Trek to The Last Starfighter to Tron, while the spectacle and awesomeness of the action and special effects brought the people into the theater seats, the musical scores for these movies help the viewers' brains interpret the emotion of the scene on the screen. And, while I was very aware of what I was listening to as I watched these and other movies, it wasn't something that I necessarily listened to outside of the context of that movie, with the exception of pieces that made it into the popular stream, like the Star Wars opening fanfare, or the theme from Jaws.

Fast-forward to freshman year of college. One of the activities that I was involved with was the college radio station. Once I got my FCC license, I was given an over-night DJ shift. The fact that I was the only person in the station for most of this time gave me a lot of opportunity to check out the library of music that the radio station owned. Among the classic rock and alternative music was a small collection of movie scores. Between times on the mic announcing the next song, I listened to these albums, and I realized what I had been missing all this time: the ability to watch a movie again, in my mind, as I listened to the score. Not long after that, I began to collect recording of these movie scores. At first, just the movies that I truly loved, like the Star Wars trilogy and the Star Trek movies. But soon I branched out into other movies and genres, and discovered a number of composers that have since become some of my absolute favorites.

John Williams has been, and will likely be for some time, the ruler by which movie composers are measured, and for good reason. His catalog is absolutely massive, with each and every one a mini masterpiece in its own right. Even his lesser-known scores are a joy to behold. And while you could fill your library with his work and have a truly eclectic collection, there's so much more out there. Here are some of my all-time favorites:

The Last Starfighter - The movie is known primarily for two things: it was the first movie to use CGI instead of traditional models and miniatures for its space battles, and it was the last movie that the great actor Robert Preston worked on. But, as important as those are, its score is a great listen. Craig Safan composed a rousing march-inspired score, with a memorable theme. It gives a great sense of weight to a movie that is often dismissed due to the lack-luster box office performance.

Battle Beyond the Stars - This cult-classic movie was released in the wake of the success of Star Wars, and was the first major film project for a young James Horner. The notoriety he gained from this project propelled his career, leading to scoring Star Trek movies, Braveheart, Titanic, and numerous other blockbuster hits. Roger Corman liked it so much that he reused the score for two additional movies. This score definitely shouldn't be missed.

Lost in Space - Not to be confused with the techno/house soundtrack also released. When discussing movie scores, I often refer to this film when I want to emphasize the importance of a good score. The movie, which attempted to reboot the classic television series (which a young Johnny Williams scored) was a massive failure on many levels. But composer Bruce Broughton elevates the movie to watchable status with his amazing score. Personally, I think Broughton believed that he was scoring a much better film when writing it, because it deserved much better than it got.

These composers, and others such as Jerry Goldsmith, Hans Zimmer, and Danny Elfman, have all influenced my musical tastes and my own composing style.

I wonder who I would choose to score Furble...

Strip 99/166 - Jenga gone very wrong

I gave myself a chance to do some more practice with drawing 3-D shapes. Not too bad. 

I wish I would have removed the divider between the third and fourth panes here, so the "CRASH!" was less obstructed. It still works, I think.

Strip 100/166 - Those rentals will get you every time

I do find it amusing that I decided to make his predilection to save a buck by renting everything his true nemesis, not necessarily Furble, who hardly ever interacts with him, giving the Admiral no true reason to be angry with him.

Strip 101/166 - There's always a rule

Once again, Furble and FC slip through the Admiral's hands/tentacles/protuberances. And, while the Admiral has been denied his quarry, our favorite duo is probably not out of trouble just yet.

Strip 102/166 - When I say don't touch anything...

Off they go, ready to face whatever may come as they careen through space and time on new adventures. TV box time machines can be fickle.

Put on a good soundtrack, kick back for the long weekend ahead, and I'll see you next week!

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