Published at: Jan. 17, 2007, 10:23 a.m. CST by merrick
Greetings! ScoreKeeper here with a welcoming ear toward aught-seven and a departing hand for the many scores wrought in aught-six.
Last year was not a particular banner year for film music. It certainly can not compare to 1960, 1985 or even 1993. However, considering it was an even-numbered year, 2006 actually harvested a handful of scores that will forever nestle among the immortal classics of years past.
I was hoping to complete this article closer to the actual turn of the new year, but there were a crop of scores that remained unfamiliar to me which I wanted to remedy before concluding my list. I didn’t get to see or hear every new film of 2006, however, my impassioned efforts were not in vain. I soaked up new films like a sponge and experienced more than any previous year of my movie-loving life.
I’m a list junkie and whether compiling them on my own or reading those authored by others, it’s always a great catalyst for some hearty discussions on film music.
Here now is a reminiscing listen at what I consider to be the Top Ten Best Film Scores of 2006.
T-minus ten and counting…
10. THE ANT BULLY (2006) by John Debney - Selecting this score at number ten actually surprised me. When I saw the film earlier in the year, I was instantly attracted to the music but I wasn’t leaving the theater thinking to myself that this was one of the best scores I had heard that year (it certainly wasn’t one of the best movies). It wasn’t until I acquired the album weeks later that the infectious lyricism of the main theme began burrowing itself into my conscious brain.
Accompanied by a battery of various ethnic percussion and wind instruments, the main theme soars over the orchestra with a fervor rare in modern film music. Its unrelenting zeal can only be paralleled by its sheer elegance and emotional spirit which is far more passionate than the film deserved. It reminds me vividly of the many heralded adventure scores prevalent throughout the 1980’s.
To limit the praise of this score to one melodic phrase would certainly be an injustice. It’s not simply the fortitude of a well crafted theme that makes this score shine. The development of the main theme as well as the secondary themes, the kaleidoscopic orchestration, the vast dynamic range of emotion, and the skillful way in which Debney crafts the subtle details of the story make this one of the standout scores of the year.
9. APOCALYPTO (2006) by James Horner – I first saw this film back in September when it was a rough cut with no special effects, production sound, and a temporary score threaded from various cinematic sources. Acknowledging that it had a long way to go, I still thought it was one of the best movies I had seen all year.
Closer to the release of the film, I received a copy of the score on CD. Having seen the rough cut, I was eager to hear what direction the score took. After several listens I can’t say I was enthusiastic. The music seemed disjointed as if quilted together into a patchwork of disparagingly random sounds. It seemed to lack focus and direction. I didn’t know quite what to make of it.
Risking disappointment, I ebulliently went to see the finished film in the theater. Long story short…APOCALYPTO is my favorite film of 2006 and the score is in my top ten.
What I had perceived from the score alone to be random utterances of sound were methodically placed accents of the narrative unfolding on screen. Each peak and valley was pleasantly caressed by the music which neither saturated nor depleted the continuity of the scenes. For the majority of its life, the music remained thin and transparent careful not to interrupt the intimate flow of the story. Restricted by a limited palette, Horner was able to conjure up dynamic variances within the music from raucous action to fragile intimacy with seemingly fleeting effort.
This is an exemplar of a purely functional score which serves its film flawlessly. Separated from the narrative, the listening experience may not duplicate the theatrical experience. It sounds as if the music lacks something tangible. It relies on the images. It pines for the narrative.
For this reason it may not reside on your iPod for very long. But then again, that’s why it’s film music.
8. THE PROMISE (2005) by Klaus Badelt – Having not been particularly partial to any other Badelt authored scores prior to the release of this film, I am once again surprised to find its inclusion on my list. Whether it’s a sign of a masterful director, a proclivity toward the material, or some other divine inspiration, Badelt has elevated dramatic scoring par excellence with this single extravagant effort. He has exposed a facet of his compositional prowess that I would welcome see nurtured more often.
Badelt cleverly crafted several memorable themes for the film which are all exquisitely developed throughout this powerful and vibrantly variegated film. He’s cautious not to drown the textures with overt references to indigenous instruments nor does he wholly ignore them.
The end titles sequence, “Freedom of the Wa,” remains one of my most listened to pieces of film music for the entire year.
For ScoreKeeper’s full review of THE PROMISE (2005) by Klaus Badelt CLICK HERE!
7. LITTLE CHILDREN (2006) by Thomas Newman – I’ve always considered myself to have a founding affinity for the “less-is-more” approach in film music. Look up the phrase in the dictionary and you’ll hear examples of Thomas Newman’s music.
What Newman does with one or two instruments far impresses me more than what most do with a hundred. This score is ripe with textures so fragile you’re afraid to breathe in fear that it’ll evaporate into nothingness. Chamber strings, solo piano, Newman’s signature plucked string instruments, haunting woodwinds, and erupting percussion speckle this remarkable canvas of sound.
6. ABOMINABLE (2006) by Lalo Schifrin – This score is one of the best horror scores I’ve heard in a decade, one of the best Lalo Schifrin scores I’ve heard in two decades, and one of the seminal masterpieces of 2006.
Being a loyal disciple of horror film music, it is so refreshing to hear two endangered species, melody and harmony, return with such vigor to the horror score. By retreading the past, Schifrin has actually forged ahead toward the future by creating something classically new that I hope will fire new trends for the genre. The ear-splitting bang-filled clichés of modern horror scoring has long grown trite and Schifrin has responded with a rejuvenating injection of imagination that I hope will cure the mundane and inspire invention.
5. MONSTER HOUSE (2006) by Douglas Pipes – When I first heard this score was composed by a relative tenderfoot with no substantial feature film scoring experience my eyes rolled in apathy. It used to be that when a new name in film composition entered my awareness I would get childishly giddy at the prospect of discovering a new gem or at least a musical diamond in the rough. After several years of general disappointment those expectations have waned.
Enter Douglas Pipes. For the first time since Michael Giacchino, an unbeknownst to me composer has knocked me off my feet with a score that ignites the founding passion I have for the art form. When I hear Pipes’ music for this film, it rekindles the fanaticism lit when I was first introduced to the magical power of film music. It harbors many qualities indicative of a great film score: an innate sense of adventure, unyielding passion, excitement, memorable themes, the development of musical ideas, narrative contour, function, zesty orchestration, skyrocketing highs, and rock-bottom lows. I don't believe I got more pure enjoyment out of a film experience in 2006 than at this silver screen amusement park.
Douglas Pipes has exited the gates with a gusto provisionally gluing my ears to his work for years to come.
For ScoreKeeper’s full review of MONSTER HOUSE (2006) by Douglas Pipes CLICK HERE!
4. PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER (2006) by Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek & Reinhold Heil – When a director affiliates him or herself with composing the score for their own film, the result typically bears dysfunctional fruit ripe with amateurism. Not so in this case. Tom Tykwer, who also directed the film, spearheads a trinity of musical talent rounded out by Johnny Klimek & Reinhold Heil. This is not the first time that Tykwer, Klimek & Heil have assimilated their creative forces; however, nothing in their former collaborations could have foreshadowed the unsurpassed grandeur and magnificence of their latest effort.
A minor masterpiece, it’s one of the more purposeful and soulful scores I’ve heard in several years. The music is expressive, evocative, exploitative, and enrapturing. Jean-Baptiste Grenouille’s intoxicating fieriness towards aroma is unequivocally manifested through the olfactory imagery of the music.
One of the most intriguing characteristics about this music is the categorical translation between the aural experience into that of an olfactory experience. We can not, in any way, smell the aromas and odors Grenouille’s heart lusts for in the film, but with clever manipulation of the music we almost believe we can by subconsciously translating what we hear into that of which we desire to smell.
It should also be noted that legendary conductor Sir Simon Rattle performed all the music with the Berliner Philharmoniker. A veritable musical Einstein, you could sneeze ink on a sheet of manuscript paper upon which Rattle could turn into the most heavenly of all music. That said, one should not discount the quantifying efforts of the compositional triumvirate of Tykwer, Reinhold and Heil. Together they crafted one of the glaring milestone scores of the year, surrounded themselves with the world’s supreme performance talent, and unleashed a music upon the cinematic world that ranks among the finest the art has ever produced.
This could be one of those films that, along with its score, unintentionally slips past most audience members. Don’t let it.
3. CHARLOTTE’S WEB(2006) by Danny Elfman – Throughout the course of his illustrious career, Danny Elfman has exemplified his skill as a storyteller through music that encompasses practically every genre known to cinema. Although he is adept at scoring just about any type of film imaginable, he has particular aptitude toward films that include elements of fantasy.
CHARLOTTE’S WEB is one of those films rooted in realism that could not come to fruition without celebrating its fantastical surroundings. This also describes Danny’s music perfectly. It is as familiar to us as family the moment we hear it; however, it also crystallizes the wide-eyed, deep-breath sense of awe you feel the sheer instant that magical moment occurs. Whether it’s a message spun in a spider’s web, a flock of geese gossiping with the cows, or empathizing with Fern as she tries to rescue a runt from his demise, Elfman’s music allows us to believe in anything we’re shown on screen. He enlivens each film he composes music for and upraises the quality of all film music around us.
For ScoreKeeper’s full review of CHARLOTTE’S WEB (2006) by Danny Elfman CLICK HERE!
2. THE FOUNTAIN (2006) by Clint Mansell – I think of Darren Aronofsky and Clint Mansell as one artist. I can no easily separate Aronofsky’s images from Mansell’s music as I could the color blue from a Picasso painting. Such collaborative relationships between director and composer have occurred in the past albeit they are still a rarity.
Mansell has, through the three Aronofsky films, demonstrated unparalleled artistic growth in a relatively short amount of time. With his score for PI (1998) Mansell graduated with honors from high school. With REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (2001) he graduated summa cum laude from a prestigious university and finally with THE FOUNTAIN (2006) he’s earned a full doctorate degree.
This score is unlike the majority of those that I encounter. It functions on a completely different plane of existence. It’s deeper, more symbolic, metaphorical, metaphysical and redefines the functional role of music in film.
There is a visual and aural marriage between Aronofsky and Mansell that I hope never dissolves. If they are progressing as artists this profoundly this quickly, it’s frightening to envision what the future holds for the dynamic duo.
This film has its critics and therefore will elude many. If you favor the symbiotic power of music in a film and appreciate the lengths at which the two are entwined, then you deserve to indulge in this film and its surrealistic score.
After all, it is a singular artistic endeavor created by one artist.
1. PAN’S LABYRINTH (2006) by Javier Navarette – Of all the scores I was exposed to in 2006, this was undoubtedly my very favorite. I first became aware of this the moment the end credits scrolled at the conclusion of my first viewing. I even returned to the theater and viewed the film a second time in preparation for declaring the score my favorite of the year. My love for this film and its beloved music grows deeper with each passing second.
From a philosophical point of view, this score is a realization of what I want film music to be and what I hope it can do. It’s a philosophy rooted in a classical approach to storytelling using music as a functional entity to further advance the entirety of the narrative. It’s music that ultimately serves its film without reproach while simultaneously tantalizing the listeners’ ear with an organic balance of melody, harmony, and rhythm.
This is one of those scores. It reminds me with each listen why I love film music so much. It affirms and validates my devotion to the craft while allowing me freedom to indulge in its gift of euphoria.
As the music plays while I type this, the choice words to express my affinity for this score continue to elude me. I can only conclude by saying that this is a film you must experience for yourself. Whether you are a staunch disciple of film music, a casual listener, or just a lover of great cinema, you have to experience this film for yourself.
Somewhere deep within the curtains of the narrative, far beyond the melodic beauty of Ofelia’s theme and past the seamless orchestration of the accompaniment, you’ll find the words I’m looking for.
I hope it makes you smile as much as it does me.
Thank you to everyone in the world who composed a film score in 2006.