Paperhouse: On Film Scores

A film score can make or break a movie. Before the advent of talkies, most movies completely relied on their scores to build suspense, create drama, and serve as an audible link from the images on the screen to the viewer; yet the rise of talkies saw a seismic shift in emphasis, from cinematography and music to acting and the voice.

In recent years, film music has been a lackadaisical affair. There is a small group of greats — composers Hans Zimmer, Thomas Newman, Howard Shore, and John Williams — that are responsible for most Hollywood blockbusters. The process has become mechanical: The lead composer writes a theme, which is often a small alteration from a past film and a group of assistants writes the variations. This method can work quite well: The score for The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a perfect example. But often this results in the same sounds being put into multiple films.

Fortunately, there are exceptions to this process. Every once in a while, a newcomer will come to the scene and create something quite memorable. In 2011’s Drive, the score featured the ethereal, ’80s sounding, synthesizer Europop sounds of Cliff Martinez. Apologies to Ryan Gosling fans, but the dreamlike score of Drive is definitely the film’s strongest element.

Film music, like any sort of music, is a mixed affair filled with highs and lows. Perhaps more interesting is how the elements of the score permeate into the rest of the music world. Most recently, Johnny Jewel, the person who everyone thought would score Drive, released the album Themes For an Imaginary Film, which, like Drive, featured arpeggiating synths, dramatic sweeps, and brittle drum machines. The term “cinematic music” is thrown around a lot, but rarely does this term truly imply a cinematic experience. The two hours of music contained on Themes For an Imaginary Film, however, is able to emulate the experience of watching a film. All you have to do is close your eyes and be drawn into your imagination.


For the week of April 24, 2012

  1. TRST: TRST
  2. The Asteroids Galaxy Tour: Out of Frequency
  3. Bonobo: Black Sands Remixed
  4. Delta Spirit: Delta Spirit
  5. Pink Floyd: The Wall
  6. Grimes: Visions
  7. High On Fire: De Vermis Mysteriis
  8. Bassnectar: Viva Voom
  9. feedtime: The Aberrant Years Sampler
  10. Mati Zundel: Amazonico Gravitante

Paperhouse: On Emotion

Think of your favorite song. Regardless of whether it has lyrics or not, it probably elicits some sort of emotional response from you. Then again, even if a song isn’t your favorite, it is still most likely tied to a set of emotions and feelings. Can music even exist apart from a connection to the human condition? While this may seem impossible, I would urge you to consider the music of Monolake as a possible contender for completely soulless music.

Robert Henke, the man behind Monolake, has boldly produced music that severs itself from any emotional connection. This year, Henke released the album Ghosts, a sonically dense album that utilizes numerous simultaneous polyrhythmic melodies within a single track. The album features vocal samples of computer voices and, according to Henke, is based on a series of short stories he wrote; however, unlike most of his other work as Monolake, no sort of emotional connection is created.Ghosts recalls the sounds of IDM, garage, minimal techno, and dubstep, but these sounds are manifested as skeletal ghosts that bar themselves from human touch.

The idea of soulless and emotionless music may be alarming to some, but it is truly a remarkable achievement. I have never heard an album so meticulously crafted and mastered. The fact that each sound makes a statement solely based on its compositional strength and relationship to form, rather than its perceived emotional connection to the listener, forces the listener to pay attention to the physical effect each sound has on the body. When performing live, Monolake treats its audience to a multi-channel surround-sound experience complete with a spellbinding visual accompaniment. While witnessing this spectacle, listeners feel no thoughts of anger, darkness, love, happiness, or any other sort of emotion; rather, they are completely entranced by the physical effect the sound has on the body.


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