18 June 2011

Friday Double: A little bit of this...

[Hey, it's still Friday in Pac-12 country.  That counts, doesn't it?]

One of the really neat things about HBO's best series is their collective attitude towards original music.  Some series, like Rome and Band of Brothers, have their own soundtracks.  Others, like The Wire and The Sopranos, use tracks only for the main and end titles; any music in between is purely incidental.

Deadwood fell somewhere in between.  It had an original opening title, and lush performances of 19th-century songs accompanied the credits.  What little soundtrack music producer David Milch saw fit to use was adapted -- and it was also very effective.  "Iguazu," a stunning 1998 guitar piece written and performed Argentinian composer Gustavo Santaolalla, backgrounded some of the series' most tense and dramatic action scenes -- including a desperate pursuit of a runaway horse that turned the entire series.  Here, it serves as the basis for a simple music video featuring some pretty desert scenery.

This is one of my favorite pieces of adapted soundtrack music, but Santaolalla has since written soundtracks of his own, including Oscar-winning scores for Brokeback Mountain and Babel and a terrific score for The Motorcycle Diaries.  He's probably best known to casual moviegoers for "The Wings," the signature theme for Brokeback.  As it turns out, I dislike "The Wings" because it fits that movie almost too well.  Had it fit any better, it would have distracted from the movie instead of enhancing it.

That particular line has been crossed, and other great film composers have committed that turnover.  Not for the first time, I present Jerry Goldsmith; and once again, it's for work he did for the Star Trek franchise.  Here's  "The Cloud" from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979).  As this music plays in the movie, the starship Enterprise is entering a vast, mysterious object that turns out to be much more than just a cloud.

The problem wasn't the music, which is gorgeous; nor was it the vast grandeur of this particular flight of the Enterprise.  Either one, taken alone, is mesmerizing.  It's the combination of the music and the visuals that caused me, and the movie, such grief.  The whole composition was so hypnotic, it put my oldest sister and at least one of her friends, with whom I saw it, to sleep -- and they were hardly alone.  Even though no one actually brought (let alone smoked) a joint into the movie room, I found myself nevertheless wondering where I could get some more of that bad-ass weed.

The moral, of course, is that soundtrack music can sometimes be too good.  Critical plot turns shouldn't become their own drinking games, but that's what Goldsmith accidentally accomplished here.

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