I’m a fan of motion pictures for more than one single reason. The emotional pull of some movies, the adrenaline rush of others, the stunning visuals of even more all fascinate me and keep me coming back for more. When it comes to emotions felt while viewing films however, a large part of that feeling comes from the music. Now I’m a fan of “vocal” music just as much as the next person, but there are times when I truly enjoy immersing myself in a completely instrumental experience.
If you hear the name John Williams, what do you think of? If you’re a fan of the Star Wars movies, I would imagine that one of the first things that comes to mind is his “Imperial March” song. You may not even know the name of it, but when the opening chords start up, you recognize it.
What about Alan Sylvestri, Thomas Newman, Hans Zimmer, Henry Jackman, Howard Shore, James Horner, Jerry Goldsmith, Lalo Schifrin, Michael Kamen, Clint Mansell? Nothing? That’s alright if you don’t know. They are the musical men behind the scenes in quite a few movies. The music that you hear enhancing your favorite scene in a film can be attributed to the composers I’ve listed (among countless others, too many to discuss here).
Remember the feather’s wind-blown journey in Forrest Gump? Alan Sylvestri’s beautiful piano music leads us along as the feather jumps from spot to spot. Although that theme is one of my personal favorites, Sylvestri has contributed scores to the Back To The Future Series, Predator, and more recently The Avengers and Captain America too.
Remember the peaceful and happy sounds playing as we see the hobbits tending to their gardens and little ones in the Shire or the crescendo of the orchestra when Frodo, Sam, Gandalf, and the rest of The Fellowship arrive at Durin’s Bridge? Howard Shore’s composition is what you were hearing. Although most famous for his collaborations on Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films, Shore has done plenty of other films, to include Silence of the Lambs, Seven, and Mrs Doubtfire.
The first time I recall hearing the multiple award nominated Thomas Newman was in the film American Beauty. His ethereal, dreamlike musical score blew me away, beginning with “Any Other Name”. I loved the style of music in that film and I went to the store and purchased his score (along with the actual lyric-filled soundtrack as well, since it was a favorite film at the time). Newman also did the score to the Pixar film Wall-e, and it’s beautiful as well. The Green Mile, Shawshank Redemption, Road To Perdition, Skyfall, and Saving Mr Banks have all reaped the benefits of Newman’s music as well. I haven’t necessarily seen all the films listed in his filmography, but when I see his name listed in the credits, I know I’m in for a musical treat.
How about Jerry Goldsmith? His musical riff is universally recognizable as the theme to just about every single Star Trek incarnation to hit the screens.
Lalo Schifrin, most popular for the theme music to Mission Impossible, did other music as well but that specific theme has been played millions, dare I say, BILLIONS of times since it’s initial composition, both in spoofs, “reboots” of the original series, and even more so in your own head as you perform what you may consider a “mission” of your own.
Michael Kamen is another one to enjoy as the composer behind Robin Hood:Prince of Thieves, and, more recently, HBO’s Band of Brothers excellent miniseries.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly theme? Ennio Morricone, ladies and gentlemen.
James Horner has been behind Braveheart and Titanic. (“For The Love Of A Princess” is one of my all-time favorite musical numbers).
Clint Mansell’s “Lux Aeterna” from Requiem For A Dream is one that has entered plenty of people’s minds, even though the name usually escapes them (we don’t usually speak Latin to each other now, do we? By the way, “Lux Aeterna” translates to “Eternal Light”).
Hans Zimmer is the composer of Gladiator and Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy (Co-scored with James Newton Howard) along with his dream-within-a-dream film Inception.
If you are already a fan of musical scores and were fully aware of the names I just listed, then I’ve been preaching to the choir for the last few minutes. You may have even noticed that I’ve omitted your own favorite composer, if you have one. Trust me when I say this is not on purpose. The music in the background (and sometimes even in the foreground of a quiet scene) is one of my favorite things to pay attention while watching a movie and there are a ton of folks involved in said music. Unfortunately, there are too many to list here and I have only mentioned a handful that I am fond of.
Listed below are several of my favorite instrumental movie songs; there are several that, due to copyright restrictions, will not play on this page. Please head over to Youtube and listen to the song in its original location.
Howard Shore – The Bridge of Khazad Dum
Alan Sylvestri – Forrest Gump Main Theme
Thomas Newman – Any Other Name (American Beauty)
Thomas Newman – Define Dancing (Wall-E)
John Williams – Imperial March
Lalo Schifrin – Mission Impossible Theme
Clint Mansell – Lux Aeterna (Requiem For A Dream)
Michael Kamen – Band of Brothers Main Theme
James Horner – For The Love Of A Princess (Braveheart)
Hans Zimmer – Now We Are Free (Gladiator)
Hans Zimmer – Rise (Dark Knight Rises)
Ennio Morricone – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Theme
Henry Jackman – First Class (X-Men:First Class)