Musings: Music for Thought

I think people underestimate the impact music has when it has been married to a narrative or strong set of visual imagery. In my ever so humble opinion, the greatest artistic achievement in this realm is Walt Disney's Fantasia, which was a fantastic commercial failure when it was first released. This fact does nothing to diminish the raw power and beauty of the film. While the visual imagery of Fantasia is art by itself, it takes on a whole new life of its own when married to the powerful orchestral and choral pieces selected for the film. With the exceptions of the pieces selected from the Nutcracker Suite, the music heard in Fantasia will forever be associated with the images and stories that Disney produced for Fantasia.

Most movie sound tracks are subtle affairs, however, not nearly as memorable or powerful as the sound track for Fantasia (which was really a series of films developed around the music). There are, however, cases where the music outshines the film. Vangelis' sound tracks are consistently more memorable than the films they're attached to: Chariots of Fire, Bladerunner, and 1492: The Conquest of Paradise.

Then there are pieces that take on a life of their own: Craig Armstrong's "Escape", originally scored for Plunkett & Macleane, has come to be used by the BBC program Top Gear as the default 'EPIC MOMENT' music. If you can find the movie, it's worth watching to see how precisely timed the editing is between the visuals and the music.

Lastly there are places where popular music combined with strong story and image hits like a freight train. City of Angels does this in the final scenes with I Grieve by Peter Gabriel.
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