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

At International AIDS Conference One Goal, Many Paths

The 12,000 delegates attending 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne have vastly different visions about how to eradicate disease More

Disasters May Doom Malaysia’s Flag Carrier

Even before loss of two jets loaded with passengers on international flights, company had been operating in red for three years, accumulating deficit of $1.3 billion More

Afghan Presidential Vote Audit Continues Despite Glitches

Process has been marred by walkouts by representatives of two competing candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani 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.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

New Orleans-based Water Seed joins Shawna Renee inside the "Soul Lounge" where they introduce listeners to their latest album, a wonderful fusion of jazz, soul and rhythm & blues. The group also explains how the heart of New Orleans influences each of them as musicians and songwriters.