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Greatest Film Melodies
Last post Fri, Dec 07 2007 by William, 33 replies.
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Posted on Fri, Oct 12 2007 02:08
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5726

O.K., here is another silly "list"  thread.  I admit it means nothing but nevertheless I like doing these.  I was thinking about what are the greatest melodies ever composed for film.

Please write in your own, because I want to know what you guys think, and here are mine (at least at the current moment) :

1) All-time Greatest Melody ever written for a movie:

Somewhere in Time

by John Barry.  He is a supreme melodist, and in this particular film score created a melody that Tchaikovsky would drool over!

2) Star Trek The Motion Picture

by Jerry Goldsmith

The most powerful heroic melody ever composed for a film. It somehow seems to encapsulate adventure, heroism and William Shatner all at once.

3) Star Wars Jedi March

by John Williams

The one heard in the original film at the end.  A great march melody, with a stern, heroic quality.

4) Fahrenheit 451

by Bernard Herrmann

Though he was always called a "non-melody" composer, the melody heard at the end of this great film score is incredibly beautiful and something that Ravel would eat his heart out to do.

5) Walkabout

by John Barry (again)

Another rapturous melody for violins with second violin accompaniment.

6) Bride of Frankenstein

by Franz Waxman

Another great march during the "Parade of the Monster" scene.  Though a brief element in the film the march melody is more memorable that most classical ones including Verdi and Wagner.

7) Robin Hood

By Erich Korngold

The tournament scene, which features a tremendous fanfare melodic accompaniment.

8) Sea Hawk

By Erich Korngold (again)

The Shores of Dover chorus. No explanation needed for anyone who has seen and heard the film.

 9) The Tenant

by Phillip Sarde

A brilliant melody that captures the paranoia of the Polanski film.

10) Don't Look now

by Pino Donnagio

The morbid baroque melody of the "molto espressivo" composer that de Palma later used,  in this great film is reminiscent of Albinoni and the other Italian baroque composers, in their more melancholy mood.

11) Double Life of Veronique

by Zbignieu Preisner

A film with a great minor-key melody in the concert scene.

Tags: Movie Score
Posted on Fri, Oct 12 2007 10:40
by fcw
Joined on Wed, May 11 2005, UK, Posts 153

I like a good tune, me.

 

Off the top of my head, I'll throw in:

'20th Century Fox fanfare' by Alfred Newman, which is still unbeaten as logo music.

'Romance' from 'The Gadfly' by Dmitri Shostakovich, a wonderful violin piece that's sadly often played in a "simplified" form that omits the double-stopping, and sometimes is even transposed into D for those amateur violinists who can't cope with C major.

Main theme from 'Dragonheart' by Randy Edelman.

Main theme from 'North by Northwest' by Bernard Herrman.

'American Beauty' from 'American Beauty' by Thomas Newman.


'I met Doris blind' from 'The Man Who Wasn't There' by Carter Burwell, which is a terrible tease, because it stops just as it's getting really good.

'True Romance' by Hans Zimmer.

'Troika' from 'Lieutenant Kije' by Sergei Prokofiev

Entire score (all seven minutes of it) to 'Blue cat blues' by Scott Bradley

'La valse d'Amelie' by Yann Tiersen (from 'Amelie') 

Theme from 'Schindler's list' by John Williams 

'Our Heroes' from 'Evolution' by John Powell, one of the many pieces of data suggesting that he's the real tunesmith in the Powell/Gregson-Williams partnership that gave us the great scores for 'Shrek' and 'Chicken Run'. 

Michael Giacchino's end titles for 'The Incredibles', which give me hope that he's the right guy to write the next Trek score. 

Bill Conti wrote a great theme for 'The Right Stuff'; unfortunately,
I think Tchaikovsky wrote most of it first in his Violin Concerto in D, with maybe Glazunov writing most of the rest of it in his 'Seasons'.


And James Horner takes the credit for a decent theme to 'The Rocketeer', despite its similarities to the 'Wabash Cannonball'.

And a few from the dozens of good tunes by Jerry: 

Theme from 'The Shadow'; I think this manages to combine adventure, romance, intrigue and weird, sinister orientalism.

Theme from 'Supergirl'.

'My Land' from 'Bad Girls'. 

End titles from "The 'Burbs", which actually contains several good tunes.

Theme from 'Star Trek: First Contact', which I think gives John Barry a run for his money in the romantic strings stakes.

And my current mobile phone ring tone, the insane presidential phone ring from 'Our Man Flint'. 

Posted on Fri, Oct 12 2007 18:20
by PaulR
Joined on Mon, Dec 22 2003, England, Posts 2371


The Third Man by Anton Karas.................... Not sure if North by North West can be classed as a melody.
Posted on Fri, Oct 12 2007 20:02
by fcw
Joined on Wed, May 11 2005, UK, Posts 153

PaulR wrote:
Not sure if North by North West can be classed as a melody.
 

Well, I count anything I can hum as a melody, and I can certainly hum NbNW (although I'm likely to start percussing on a nearby surface too, if I'm sufficiently carried away with it). 

Posted on Sat, Oct 13 2007 17:51
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5726

"percussing on a nearby surface..."

I do that too and once started percussing on a window a little too hard.

Posted on Sun, Oct 14 2007 17:41
by PaulR
Joined on Mon, Dec 22 2003, England, Posts 2371
fcw wrote:

PaulR wrote:
Not sure if North by North West can be classed as a melody.
 

 

Well, I count anything I can hum as a melody, and I can certainly hum NbNW (although I'm likely to start percussing on a nearby surface too, if I'm sufficiently carried away with it). 

 

 



In that case - Vertigo and Psycho by Bernard Herrmann.
Posted on Sun, Oct 14 2007 17:42
by PaulR
Joined on Mon, Dec 22 2003, England, Posts 2371

Ooops - this forum is weird.
Posted on Mon, Oct 15 2007 23:23
by dpcon
Joined on Sat, Oct 12 2002, Los Angeles, Posts 1646
I consider the theme in Patton not only the greatest American patriotic tune in a film but one of the great tunes in the country's history. I mean Sousa would have flipped for it.
Dave Connor
Posted on Tue, Oct 16 2007 02:36
by DamonB
Joined on Wed, Jan 29 2003, Myrtle Beach, SC, Posts 106

 Another vote for "Schindlers List" by J.W.

Posted on Tue, Oct 16 2007 10:30
by PaulR
Joined on Mon, Dec 22 2003, England, Posts 2371
dpcon wrote:
I consider the theme in Patton not only the greatest American patriotic tune in a film but one of the great tunes in the country's history. I mean Sousa would have flipped for it.


The Patton filmscore is very good and I remember Jerry Goldsmith's echoing brass throughout, which was quite new to me at the time. He would do that every now and again throughout his career - but none so effectively as in Alien with the echoing strings.

Schindler's List is great and in D minor I believe - but the Starwars track Bill mentions is unbelievably good. I also like the main Jurassic Park theme immensely - great writing.

I watched The Quiller Memorandum yesterday and that reminds me of John Barry. The Ipcress File is one of my favourite opening filmscores.

For an opening filmscore title work to be memorable - it has to be just that, in other words, the second you hear it, you know immediately what the film is. Ergo, The Third Man.

Other greats for me would be The Magnificent Seven by Elmer Bernstein and The Big Country by Herrmann's school friend, Jerome Moross. Also, not so much a melody, but easily recognizable to me at least throughout the film would be the music to Predator.
Posted on Tue, Oct 16 2007 13:01
by bluejay
Joined on Fri, Jul 07 2006, UK, Posts 49

All great choices here. I'm currently writing a pastiche of Jurassic Park's main theme for an assignment (academic not work) and JW's melodies are really quite something.

Two quick questions: -

Anyone know what the temp score track was for that march at the end of Star Wars? I think it was by William Walton but I could be mistaken.

Wasn't Star Trek: First Contact's main theme written by Joel Goldsmith? I know Jerry is credited with the score but Joel's name is given on the soundtrack album for that particular track.

James
Posted on Tue, Oct 16 2007 14:49
by fcw
Joined on Wed, May 11 2005, UK, Posts 153
bluejay wrote:

Wasn't Star Trek: First Contact's main theme written by Joel Goldsmith? I know Jerry is credited with the score but Joel's name is given on the soundtrack album for that particular track.

 

As far as I know, Joel took on the job of doing some of the Borg music, into which the main titles music segues. So, on my copy of the soundtrack album, track 1 is listed as "Main titles/Locutus", with a little dagger after 'Main titles', and an asterisk after 'Locutus'; the dagger means 'Includes theme from 'Star Trek' by Alexander Courage', and asterisk means 'composed by Joel Goldsmith'. I interpret this to mean only 'Locutus' was Joel's work, and this is consistent with the asterisking of the other Borg tracks on the album.

Posted on Tue, Oct 16 2007 15:08
by dpcon
Joined on Sat, Oct 12 2002, Los Angeles, Posts 1646
No question John Williams has written some great themes. Even so I don't know if he would be called a great melodist in the traditional sense. Schindler is indeed a wonderful heart rending melody but if you think about he doesn't have a lot of those. It's not a knock cause the man is just great. I think he's a great thematic writer is my point. The same could be said for many film composers. Korngold and North are great melodists I would say. Raksin's Laura is certainly a great melody and we shouldn't forget Smile which he co-wrote with Charlie Chaplin and is one of the great melodies of all time.

Widening the concept of melody to include theme or even melodic movement (which film seems to require more than beautiful tunes) you have Herrmann hitting home runs in every direction whether it's Citizen Kane, Jason and the Argonauts, Day The Earth Stood Still, Psycho or Taxi Driver. All these and so many other's have tunes you can hang your hat on in the sense that they are memorable and seemlessly a part of the picture.

Good call on Bernstein's Magnificent Seven Paul which has entered the American lexicon of great home grown melodies and is in fact far more popular than the Goldsmith Patton tune I cited here.
Dave Connor
Posted on Tue, Oct 16 2007 15:51
by PaulR
Joined on Mon, Dec 22 2003, England, Posts 2371


The thing about themes like The Big Country and Mag7 is that the melodies or themes are actually quite easy - easy in the sense you still have to write them. But they are not complicated which makes them easy to remember. It's the stuff going on underneath that's the brilliant bit. The rhythmical elements and other embellishments are the key to writing good melodies............................ Another memorable theme to a film, at least over here, would be Get Carter by Roy Budd. The instrumentation is basically piano, harpsichord, electric piano, bass and drums. But everyone knows it.
Posted on Tue, Oct 16 2007 17:08
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5726

Those are great suggestions.  Maybe I wrote this thread to be reminded of those themes - Patton and Magnificent Seven I completely agree with.  Paul notes the underlying things going on in them, and both have rhythmic contrapuntal figures that frame another melody.  Patton starts off as a little sturdy woodwind march, and then the noble brass countermelody comes in almost like Bach.  Magnificent Seven may be the greatest film melody ever composed. It has such a huge sweeping quality and the contrast built into it is perfection.  Elmer Bernstein is definitely one of the great melodists.  There is no way to cobble together a tune like that. It is real inspiration.  Laura is another great one. A long melody with rather complex harmony.  It captures the mood so well there is almost no other music in the movie! 

Posted on Tue, Oct 16 2007 22:51
by PaulR
Joined on Mon, Dec 22 2003, England, Posts 2371
I asked my wife about this instantly recognizable film title melody this evening and she immediately came up with North by North West. I said yes - but for God's sake, you can't sing it. She said no, but she could hear in her head. I gave up. Naturally, one of the most instantly recognizable film titles anytime is of course The Pink Panther by Henry Mancini. The first bar - and it's instant. What is great about that piece is the way it's orchestrated. It is such a distinctive sound - Fantastic! The Odd Couple is another - which for some crazy reason I always thought was by Mancini. Keeping the British flag flying I always thought You Only Live Twice by John Barry and surprisingly brilliantly sung by Nancy Sinatra was a great one. The strings in that are tremendously good and sooooo 60's romantic. Other greats and instantly known would naturally include The Good, the Bad and the Ugly by Ennio Morricone.
Posted on Wed, Oct 17 2007 02:32
by ColinThomson
Joined on Sun, Mar 25 2007, Posts 242

Personally I think that the Darth Vader theme by John Williams is one of the best character themes. What is amazing is that everyone can hum it, yet it is actually quite chromatic. It has a simple rhythm, and so sounds simple. Somehow John Williams turned a chromatic scale into such a hummable melody to go with the rhythm.

Another great John Williams theme would be Across the Stars from episode 2 of the prequels. No matter what you think of the movie, that is one great melody.

By the way, William, I don't know if you are aware of this or not, but the march you refer to in the end of the first Star Wars (commonly called the 'Force Theme' among John Williams fans) is actually probably the most used theme in all of Star Wars. You might be surprised to find out how much it underscores. Even in the prequels, which do not reprise all the themes at all, it is there very strongly. On every episode it has a very strong position.

Now, so that I don't appear to be too much of a John Williams fan (which I am not) or a Star Wars fan (which I am not) or a Star Wars music fan (which I might be), I will give my non-Star Wars theme: Gods and Generals theme by John Frizzell. It is really not complicated orchestrally or compositionally (I don't think), yet it perfectly sums up the feeling of the movie (or perhaps how the movie should have been). Even if you didn't like Gods and Generals, it is very worth getting the soundtrack, if only for that track.

Colin Thomson

Colin Thomson
Posted on Wed, Oct 17 2007 04:39
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5726

Colin, yes, John Williams used the theme of the Jedi as a leitmotif throughout all those scores.   However I meant that it finds its fullest expression as a real piece of music and a complete little march melody in that "awards ceremony" or whatever at the end of the first movie.

Mancini - of course Paul!  Great suggestion. 

I notice how often John Barry comes up when melodies are mentioned.  Though he can't match John Williams for pure "efficiency" at film scoring (can anyone?)  nevertheless I tend to agree with Dave that Williams does not quite match Goldsmith or John Barry in the invention of melodies. Though they are all great composers, of course.  It is more that Williams has a focus on overall, "symphonic" scoring, which favors motival construction, whereas Barry uses long, highly developed melodies.  Though Goldsmith could do either.  Come to think of it, Goldsmith could do anything. He seems limitless as a composer, though he worked strictly in film music. 

Posted on Mon, Oct 29 2007 07:22
by mplaster
Joined on Fri, Jan 12 2007, phoenix | az | usa, Posts 217

dpcon wrote:
No question John Williams has written some great themes. Even so I don't know if he would be called a great melodist in the traditional sense. Schindler is indeed a wonderful heart rending melody but if you think about he doesn't have a lot of those. It's not a knock cause the man is just great. I think he's a great thematic writer is my point.
 

i agree. although i approach music from much more of an emotional perspective rather than traditional "classical" sense. Therefore, i am much more drawn into those thematic soundtracks, especially ones of a heart rending nature. Sure, anything from Star Wars may be written with much more intricacy and fascinating depth than the simpler ones... but like i said, i'll take feeling over fanciness anyday.

Personally, i think the soundtrack to Artificial Intelligence is just flat out amazing. (well, most of it). There's a definite theme that runs throughout it which, for me, finds a perfect balance between classical beauty and modern composition. It is very delicate and melodic in places, yet still manages to get that grandiose drive in the right places. But overall i love the simple piano theme ("The Reunion," "Where dreams are Born," etc.)

Im just a sucker for the heart-tugging stuff.

and on a completely unrelated, non-orchestral note, the soundtrack to 21 Grams also fits this "theme" theme.... beautiful pieces reprised throughout the film. Although this one is very modern and sparse... but hey... i like what i like. 

>michael 

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Posted on Fri, Nov 02 2007 00:58
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5726

These are very interesting posts on this topic.  So I would state that, no matter what specific scores you want to mention, the greatest film melody composers are:

1 John Barry

2 John Williams

3 Erich Korngold

4 Jerry Goldsmith

5 - ?????????

 I know the first 4, but after that it gets more questionable.  Those first 4 guys are probably inarguable though.

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