Best Music Scores Part I

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John Williams. Hans Zimmer. Danny Elfman. James Horner.

Soundtrack composers have been elevated to the status of celebrities and rock stars in their own right. Though most people might not know what John Williams looks like,  everyone, whether they know it or not, knows his music. If you ask someone who their favorite composer is, you’re likely to get Hans Zimmer as an answer.

But let’s be honest, sometimes it’s difficult sitting through an entire movie soundtrack because of all the ominous music when you’re not feeling very ominous, or majestic music when you’re not feeling very accomplished.

Or you see a movie and you think, Wow, that music is beautiful. But when you look at the track titles on the soundtrack, you have know idea which one that piece of music falls under.

Music scores inspire me, and they help jog my imagination before I sit down to write. Scores challenge me to make my fictional worlds bigger and more lively. Here’s a few soundtrack pieces from movies you might not have ever considered adding to your collection. It’s okay if you haven’t seen the movies, just take a listen to the scores and share some of your favorite movie scores with us in the comments below.

Aaron Zigman, “Into the Forrest” from Bridge to Terabithia: 

If you can’t handle highly emotional movies, stay away from this Disney/Walden Media flick. But the music composed here that takes the viewers and its characters from reality to the land of Terabithia is magical in its own right. 

Basil Poledouris and Hans Zimmer, “Main Title” from White Fang:

When I was around eight years old my family and I took an Alaskan cruise. The theater onboard the ship played – appropriately – White Fang. And up until I found this score just a couple months ago, I remembered this haunting tune all those years, often humming it when I was alone or writing without music. 

Brian Tyler, “Main Title Overture” from The Greatest Game Ever Played:

This is from a lesser known Disney movie (I know, all of these happen to be from Disney  which is actually coincidental), staring the kid from those Transformers movies. I highly recommend it if you’re like me and prefer slower, historical movies. But the theme here practically tells the story on its own, about victory in the face of adversity and hardship. A great listen if you’re feeling defeated.

Christophe Beck, “Paperman” from “Paperman”:

“Paperman” is a short cartoon put out by Disney which featured before Wreck-it-Ralph. It’s hard to admit, but this short film is better than all of Pixar’s shorts (coming close to the one with the magician and his rabbit: “Presto”). Never has a short made me feel so much emotion and made me root so hard for its protagonist. If you haven’t seen it, just Youtube Paperman. The score here is fresh, and very original. 

Michael Gore, “Theme” from Terms of Endearment:

This movie made me fall in love with Shirley McLain’s acting. But the theme here is just as good as her performance. If you look for it on iTunes, punch in “Theme from Terms of Endearment by Cincinnati Pops Orchestra” – it’s a much better version than what Youtube has here.

Post your favorite scores below, even new takes on familiar scores are welcome!

 

Country Music Part I

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I was a big fan of country music from my freshman year at high school up until about two years ago. After listening to so much of it, though, I came to the realization that they all sound pretty much the exact same. There’s just not much variety in that genre. But there are still a few country songs that I like to return to every once in a while and that actually stand out from the rest. Here are a few of my favorites:

Letter to Me by Brad Paisley – Did you know that Anne Banks from the movie Father of the Bride is married to Brad Paisley? Anyway, this song is fun and relatable for any guy who grew up as an all-American. Takes listeners through the ups and downs of adolescence as Paisley writes a letter to himself and sends it back it time to when he was seventeen. It’s also a reminder to us to appreciate what we have now, right before us.

Sweet Southern Comfort by Buddy Jewell – It’s a little more hokey than most people might care for, but the lyrics are majestic, and takes listeners back to the small town America that most of us missed. This song makes me cry over the kind of life I wish I’d lived, catching catfish on the river, playing in the mud, and sitting under weeping willows. Not that I’m not thankful for the life I did live, I guess the grass is just greener on the other side.

Have You Forgotten by Darryl Worley – Yeah, it’s’ a controversial song, and makes an unpopular political statement, but man, seriously! I think we have forgotten how it felt that day, “to see our homeland under fire and her people blown away.” Never forget. Thank you, Mr. Worley, for your courage in making this song.

My Front Porch Looking in by Lonestar – I’ve purposefully listened to this song no less than a hundred times. Another song that encourages its listeners to love and appreciate their blessings. Love, love, love this song, and always makes me thankful for my wife when I hear it.

Chicken Fried by Zac Brown Band – The only other country song I love more than “My Front Porch Looking In” is this song right here. I’m sure you’ve heard it on the radio a dozen or so times. But give it another glorious listen. Just do it. And see if you can’t sit outside in your jeans with a cold beer just once more before the winter hits. Or maybe we’re too late, but spring will be here soon. Also, I love the tribute they pay to our heroes on the front lines. After all, that’s what gets me coming back to country music every now and again.

 

Happy Music Part 1

Like any other sensible person, I absolutely love great music. I have a few favorite bands that I follow pretty closely, but I’m more on the lookout for great songs. Let’s be honest, if Justin Bieber sang a noteable song, I’d listen to it. My only requirements with songs is that they have catchy tunes, clean lyrics, and they’re not about sex. (We’re not talentless twelve-year-olds here, people.)

So, being that it’s Monday, and gloomy outside my window, I decided to share some of my favorite happy songs to get you through the day. And please, please, please share some of your favorite “happy songs” as I’m always on the lookout for new, great music. And this is a partial list. There will be many more to come.

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1. “Take on Me” by A-ha – Have you seen the newest Volkswagen commercial where the guy is sketching cartoons during a meeting? Besides the ending being very funny (and quite relatable to most of us), the song, which is a remake of an ’80s UK hit, is the heart and soul of the ad. I’ve read many comments from people who want to buy a VW because of this great commercial, and I can’t help by wonder if A-ha’s song has a lot to do with that.

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2. “Wake Me Up” by Avicci – This song has become my anthem and current favorite. I just can’t stop listening to it for the life of me. Besides the singer’s amazing voice, the song would be a great one to set as your alarm clock, as it is about being awoken from a youthful trance. It’s a coming-of-age song that inspires its listeners to grow up and find themselves where they belong.

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3. “Life’s a Happy Song” from The Muppets – Have you seen the newest Muppets movie? If not, you’re missing out big time. I’m not a Muppets fan, but Disney sure hit it out of the park with their 2011 surprise hit, The Muppets. If Rottentomatoes doesn’t convince you to watch this hysterical flick (it was at an astonishing 98% for a long time until it dropped 2 percentage points for some weird reason), then I don’t know what will. But the opening song, “Life’s a Happy Song” has probably been played over 50 times in our house, particularly when Sarabeth and I just want to dance and be goofy.

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4. “Shinin’ Down” by Austin Hartley-Leonard – You’ve got to be okay with a little bit of cheesy to enjoy this song. You’ve got to already be in a chipper mood, or on the mend from a bad attitude, or a hurt heart, or glad to wake up from a terrible night. This song about the sun shining down won’t fix all your problems, but it’ll be sure to give you a little pick-me-up, or boost, and set you down a more optimistic road.

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5. “River of Dreams” by Billy Joel – One of my fondest memories as a child was when my parents took my sister and me to Universal Studios City Walk for the first time, out in Hollywood, California. It’s one of those family memories I cherish to this day. And being a kid, I was hardly kept out late past my bedtime, but I was on that day. And this song was playing on the radio on the way home as we were all winding down,and it’s so catchy and magical that I haven’t forgotten it since. A perfect topper to a perfect day. I’m sure Billy Joel can summon some memories for many of you as well.