Fantastic Voyage (Leonard Rosenman, 1966): Leonard Rosenman provides a moody and often dissonant, but also sometimes melodic and thematic, score for the popular science fiction adventure about a team of miniaturized scientists exploring he innards of the human body. It is an unusual and experimental score, but also distinctive and effective.
The melodic aspects of the scores are primarily built around a haunting and evocative central theme. The theme is fairly short, primarily characterized by a short fanfare-type motif, although its statement usually leads to fairly dissonant and, at times, atonal material. The score finally goes fully-melodic, and becomes recognizably Rosenman’s style, during the dramatic finale cue, entitled “Optic Nerve/End Cast”.
The soundtrack CD opens very strangely, with a minute and a half “Main Title Sound Effects Suite”, which is exactly what the title suggests. It includes a variety of beeps, buzzes, clicks, and electronic hums with no melody involved. The early part of the film (up until the scientists first enter the body) was left unscored, so this sound effects suite is representative of the opening of the film.
Film Score Monthly released a CD of the score back in 1998, the first release separate from the film. This is a complete presentation with a running time of a little over 45 minutes. The CD is out-of-print and is now a bit expensive, but not difficult, to locate.
Far and Away (John Williams, 1992): While the film was not a big hit and the score isn’t extremely well-known to the mainstream public, John Williams’ music to Ron Howard’s 70mm epic Far and Away has become a favorite of film music enthusiasts and is frequently featured at Williams’ live concerts. The epic scope of the film provided Williams with an opportunity to showcase a wide range of highly-thematic material, including Irish/Celtic flavored melodies, western-tinged Americana, and rousing action cues. The result is one Williams’ richest and most diverse scores.
The film’s focus on the relationship (and romance) between Irish immigrants played by Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman made the use of Irish-influenced melodies an obvious choice that Williams certainly embraced. The first cue on the soundtrack, “County Galway, June 1892” establishes the main theme, which incorporates bagpipes along with the orchestra and is both distinctly ethnic and also an example of Williams’ strong gift for rich, thematic melody. As the film transitions into American settings, the more ethnic elements of the theme are pushed more into the background in favor of a distinctively Americana orchestral flavor.
The strength of the main theme from Far and Away, which isn’t fully dependent on the Irish arrangements, led to a very effective violin arrangement of the theme that Williams arranged for the “Cinematic Serenade” album that he did with Yo Yo Ma, and which is now a frequent showcase for the lead violin player at some of Williams’ live concerts.
The ethnic components of the score are further strengthened through the participation of the popular Irish band The Chieftains on several of the scores cues. On the soundtrack, these are the cues “The Fighting Donellys”, “Fighting for Dough” and portions of the end credits suite. Their energetic strings and percussion are expertly blended with the orchestra.
Williams provides some exuberant, orchestral action music in such cues as the rich, string-centered “Blowing Off Steam”, “Fighting for Dough”, and “The Big Match”. Williams sticks with grand, very melodic material for the action segments of the score, eventually culminating in the absolutely thrilling 5 minute cue “The Land Race”, which is one of the score’s highlights.
The score also features richly dramatic components, including the cue “Am I Beautiful”, which is highlighted by an especially effective piano rendition of the score’s central theme. Another distinctive, quietly dramatic cue is “Inside the Mansion”, where Williams mixes tender strings with bell-like piano to create an almost dreamlike quality to the music, eventually leading into another tender piano rendition of the theme. This cue then transitions into the more darkly-dramatic “Shannon is Shot”.
In addition to Williams’ music, the soundtrack album also contains the song “Book of Days”, written for the film and performed by Enya. I admit that I tend to find that Enya’s songs all sound fairly interchangeable to me, although I generally find them pleasant enough. I do like this song and it blends in fairly well with the score. The song’s presentation on the album is between the film’s finale music and Williams’ end credits suite, but it doesn’t really feel out of place.
The soundtrack album to Far and Away isn’t a complete presentation of the score and isn’t entirely chronological, but it perhaps one of the best arguments out there in favor of an album arrangement over a complete and chronological release. The listening experience on the album (which runs just under an hour and ten minutes) is simply superb, with expertly edited cues and transitions. While I would likely purchase an expanded release, I am also pretty sure that I would both retain and still frequently play the original album.
Far from Heaven (Elmer Bernstein, 2002): Far from Heaven has the bittersweet distinction of carrying Elmer Bernstein’s final score for a feature film. The film was designed to closely resemble a 1950s melodrama, meaning that Bernstein ended his career with a score that was designed to resemble the style he employed with his earliest scores. It is a fitting and distinguished ending to an impressive career.
As expected with its Golden Age roots, the score is orchestral with a lushly melodic approach. Piano greatly dominates, with the score’s main theme introduced via solo piano in the opening cue, “Autumn In Connecticut”. The full orchestra joins in later in the cue, bringing an attention-grabbing fullness to the presentation.
For some cues, Bernstein focuses on a smaller range of instruments, particularly piano and solo strings, in order to give the score a subtlety jazzy feel at times. The cue “Prowl” is a good example of this, with music that is actually fairly evocative of the cue’s title. A solo saxophone features prominently in the cue “Cathy and Raymond Dance”, another strongly jazz-influenced piece. This aspect of the score stands out next to the more lush style of the rest of the music, and does lend it a certain period authenticity.
While I find the score to be a very pleasant one that works well as a bookend to Bernstein’s career, this is a case where I haven’t seen the film itself and feel that to be something of a disadvantage to the evaluation of the score. The period nature of the score leads me to expect a lot of significance to how well it actually works in the context of the film. This is a movie I probably should try to see at some point in order to better understand what Bernstein accomplished.
Farewell My Lovely (David Shire, 1975): David Shire composed a very melodic, jazz-oriented score for this mid-70s Philip Marlowe detective film. The score is largely horn and piano centric, built around a distinctive principal melody, introduced in the soundtrack’s opening cue and incorporated liberally throughout the rest of the score.
Shire also provides some darker suspense cues as well as some lively action music, both of which are particularly well-represented in the cue “Amthor’s Place”, one of the score’s highlights. The score also includes some more song-like melodies, including the full-borne, swing-style “Mrs. Floridian Takes the Full Count” and the lively, jazzy “Three Mile Limited”, which has some great solo horn playing.
An original soundtrack LP was issued at the time of the film’s original release. The album was arranged by Shire into a very pleasing listening experience, which Film Score Monthly retained for their 2002 CD release, which also added one additional, previously-unreleased cue. Due to the relatively short (about 33 minutes) running time of the score, it is paired on the CD with Shire’s score to Monkey Shines.
The Fastest Gun Alive (André Previn, 1956): While André Previn is very well known as a composer, conductor, and songwriter, his compositions for film during the 1950s and 1960s are not as widely familiar. For the western The Fastest Gun Alive, Previn provided a robust and exciting action score.
The soundtrack opens with a “Main Title” cue that is dominated by majestic brassy fanfares lending the theme a nobly heroic quality. These form a main theme that dominates much of the score, sometimes presented in brass but also very effectively in string arrangements. The score also features a highly-melodic, string-focused love theme. Both themes have an Americana quality that fits well with the western setting.
Film Score Monthly released the score on CD in 2004, paired with Previn’s score to House of Numbers.
Father of the Bride (Alan Silvestri, 1991): While Alan Silvestri is best known for big action-adventure scores, he has also contributed a number of strong and effective scores in the comedy genre. One of the best of these was for the Steve Martin re-make of the classic romantic comedy, Father of the Bride.
The score is highly melodic, with a mix of grand, ceremonial themes, more tender, emotional segments, as well as some lively comic scoring. For the score’s most prominent theme, introduced right at the beginning in the “Main Title” cue, Silvestri deftly incorporates the initial fanfare from Mendelssohn’s familiar wedding march, transitioning into a sweeping original melody. This theme serves as the main emotional anchor to the score, reappearing in more tender arrangements in cues such as “Annie Asleep”. The excerpts from Mendelssohn’s march also appear pretty regularly in the score, particularly towards the later part of the film as the action turns to the wedding itself.
While the main theme has a classic orchestral sound, the score also includes a number of more pop and jazz oriented cues, often harking back to the electronic scores that dominated the earliest part of Silvestri’s career. Cues such as “Drive to Brunch” and “Snooping Around” prominently feature a pop styling while “Basketball Kiss” has a jazz style, including a solo saxophone.
The soundtrack album only features about 20 minutes of Silvestri’s score, with the rest of the short (under 30 minutes) album filled out by two performances of the Jerome Kern standard “The Way You Look Tonight” performed by Steve Tyrell (the song is prominently featured in the film) as well as a performance of Johann Pachelbel’s “Canon”.
Father of the Bride Part II (Alan Silvestri, 1995): The sequel to the 1991 version of Father of the Bride received a longer soundtrack album than its predecessor, but the album once again only featured a little over 20 minutes of Alan Silvestri’s score.
The rest of the album is filled in with another Steve Tyrell performance of “The Way You Look Tonight” (a different arrangement than the versions on the first soundtrack) as well as Tyrell performing “Give Me the Simple Life” and “On the Sunny Side of the Street”. The album also has familiar recordings of “At Last” by Etta James and “When the Saints Go Marching In” by Fats Domino.
Silvestri’s score revisits the main theme from the original film and introduces a major new “baby” theme, which dominates much of the new material. Although he wisely avoids the Mendelssohn excerpts (other than briefly in the end credits suite), which wouldn’t really make sense in the context of the second film, serving a similar purpose in this score are very brief bits of Brahms’ lullaby, which fits the sequel’s baby-focused plot.
At least on the album, the score’s focus is much more on the tender, melodic aspects of the original and less on the pop or jazzy elements, although those aren’t completely absent from the sequel. Particularly nice is a simple piano melody that is prominently featured during the mid-section of the cue “George Walks”, transitioning into a more fanfare oriented conclusion.
One stand-out score cue is “Remembering Annie (Basketball Montage)”, which features a wordless vocal rendition of the score’s most prominent new theme, performed by musicians Phillip Ingram and Randy Waldman. It has a wistfully nostalgic tone and is an interesting alternate take on Silvestri’s melody.
Both of the Father of the Bride scores are good ones and the available soundtrack albums are fairly satisfying releases, despite their fairly short length. I’m not really sure if there would be enough substantially different music in the films to justify expanded releases, although it might make sense to at least repackage the two scores on a single release.