Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Giacchino's Rogue One: A Soundtrack Story

Many people were understandably upset (myself included) when we learned that John Williams would not score Rogue One, though he thankfully remains committed to Episode VIII, and we assume, IX. After all, there has never been a Star Wars installment without Williams, from the familiar fanfare to the trademark themes and leitmotifs. But Rogue One always set out to be something different, not part of the trilogy proper, but an addendum, showing us the behind-the-scenes work that led to the heroics of Luke, Han, and Leia. To add to our collective confusion, the composer tapped to provide this installment, Alexandre Desplat, was replaced at the last minute with the uber-busy film composer, Michael Giacchino, fresh off his magnificent score for Doctor Strange. If we believe the press, Giacchino had a mere four weeks to score the entire film—no laughing matter for an epic that spans over two hours of screen time. However, I wonder whether or not that was simply to lower expectations for the score and deflect criticism of a non-Williams work? Either way, what we hear in the film—and on disc or MP3—are simply the notes, no matter how they were composed. After all, Mozart wrote the famous overture to Don Giovanni in the hours before its first performance, and his even more famous Symphony No.36 in a week. So why not a film score in four? 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

A Musical Mount Everest: 36 Hours and 104 Symphonies With Joseph Haydn

One of the most daunting tasks in classical music is navigating the symphonic output of Joseph Haydn, the so-called “father” of the symphony. For most composers, the symphony is the most august, serious, philosophical statement one can make in music. A symphony is like a four-act play, with each act/movement capturing something of the struggle of being human, or of contemplating the divine. Even a light-hearted symphony is written ‘big,’ for the gargantuan modern symphony orchestra (often over one hundred players strong) and made to sound like the entire universe is singing. For this reason, many composers wait until middle-age to tackle a symphony, if only because the greatest composers are in their rear-view mirror, seeming hoarding the best themes, structures, and innovations.