News / Arts & Entertainment

Music to Oscar's Ears

This image released by 20th Century Fox, April 9, 2013, shows Geoffrey Rush, left, and Sophie Nélisse in a scene from "The Book Thief," about a girl who loves books.
This image released by 20th Century Fox, April 9, 2013, shows Geoffrey Rush, left, and Sophie Nélisse in a scene from "The Book Thief," about a girl who loves books.
Adam Phillips
Sunday is Oscars Night in Hollywood.  And while the Oscar nominated actors and actresses have the larger fan base, insiders also will be paying attention to the five film composers whose work has garnered them nominations for Best Score.

The opening music for The Book Thief is just one small part of the varied and complex score John Williams composed for the film about a German family that hides a Jewish man in its home during World War II. The 82-year-old Williams has been nominated for an Academy Award 49 times, but his most recent win was 20 years ago for Schindler’s List.

Hollywood veteran Dan Carlin, who chairs the Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television program at the University of Southern California, thought a Best Score Oscar for The Book Thief would be well deserved. He pointed to one musical sequence called "Revealing the Secret," in which the main character, a young girl who has been saved from the death camps, told her best friend about the Jewish man her family was protecting.

"It just grabs your heart and rips it out.  It’s a very emotional cue.  And John can do that probably better than anyone else.  He’s amazing," he said.

Carlin added that the reason Williams remained "the most sought after film composer on this planet" was easily understood while listening to The Book Thief score.  "I've talked to some composers and they say, 'I can't listen to John's scores anymore because 'when I do, I just want to chop my fingers off.'  How does he do it?  And a range of stuff too - from jazz scores to action adventures to futuristic stuff to this. It's just extraordinary!'"

For the sixth time in eight years, the French film composer Alexandre Desplat has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Score - this time for Philomena.  It's a drama about an elderly Irish woman and a journalist searching for the son who was taken from her as an unwed teenage mother and put up for adoption.

Carlin called the score complex and sophisticated, yet accessible.  He was curious about a carousel-like melody that was very prominent near the beginning of the film. 

"And I wonder if he had in mind the fact that they go around in circles, these two lead characters, when they are trying to solve this mystery, when they are trying to track down her son.  You never know if composers think about this stuff consciously, but it winds up being very effective," said Carlin.

William Butler and Owen Pallet Warner, two composers better known for their work with the Canadian indie rock band "Arcade Fire," got an Oscar nod for Her.  The film is about a man in the near future who develops a romantic relationship with a computer program with a woman’s voice and personality.

Carlin said the mix of high-tech electronic music with romantic melody mirrored the relationship humans were developing with technology.

"You have the sweetness of the melody and the theme trying to tell a love story, but at the same time you’ve got technology coming in and trying to get in the way of it.  It’s a very interesting notion," he said.

Carlin is not a great fan of electronic music, but admires the way veteran film composer Tom Newman combined it with traditional orchestral writing in Saving Mr. Banks.  The drama recounts the two weeks that Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers spent in Los Angeles in 1961 being wooed by Walt Disney, who wanted the screen rights to her book.

"But the Academy has not embraced this film," he said.  "Walt Disney remains a controversial figure in Hollywood and is not generally beloved and that backlash may hurt Tom’s chances of finally receiving an Oscar," adding, "but the score is really superb."

The film Gravity, which takes place entirely in outer space, features perhaps the most unusual score among this year’s nominees.  Because there are no "earthly" sounds out there, composer Steven Price combined music with raw audio effects.

"It’s a scrubbing percussive type of sound that is not rhythmic," Carlin observed.  "He’s made that part of the soundtrack what he's created.  That’s not an easy thing to do.  So that may work in his favor and also that this was a huge box office film."

Dan Carlin wouldn't say which score he will be rooting for on Sunday night, but opined that Gravity may have the most weight going in.  Like these composers themselves, Oscar Night’s tens of millions of TV viewers will just have to wait for the name that follows the three words, "the envelope, please..."

You May Like

VOA Exclusive: Interview With Myanmar President Thein Sein

Thein Sein calls allegations that minority Muslim Rohingya are fleeing alleged torture in Rakhine state a media fabrication More

New Yellow Fever Research May Lead to Improved Treatment

Researchers identify features of disease that may lead to more effective treatment More

UN Rights Commission Investigates Eritrea

Three-member commission will start collecting first-hand information from victims and other witnesses in Switzerland and Italy next week More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concernsi
X
November 19, 2014 11:39 PM
The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.
Video

Video What Jon Stewart Learned About Iran From 'Rosewater'

Jon Stewart, host of the satirical news program "The Daily Show" talks with Saman Arbabi of Voice of America's Persian service about Stewart's directorial debut, "Rosewater."
Video

Video Lebanese Winemakers Thrive Despite War Next Door

In some of the most volatile parts of Lebanon, where a constant flow of refugees crosses the border from Syria, one industry continues to flourish against the odds. Lebanese winemakers say after surviving a brutal civil war in the 1970s and 80s, they can survive anything. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Video

Video China's Rise Closely Watched

China’s role as APEC host this week allowed a rare opportunity for Beijing to showcase its vision for the global economy and the region. But as China’s stature grows, so have tensions with other countries, including the United States. VOA’s Bill Ide in Beijing reports on how China’s rise as a global power is seen among Chinese and Americans.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

Trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis and his father, pianist Ellis Marsalis, perform with their quartet at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club in Bethesda, Maryland. They also sit down with "Beyond Category" host Eric Felten to talk about their hometown, New Orleans, and the music on their new recording, “The Last Southern Gentleman.”