In the last two decades, musicians have not only continuously challenged their boundaries in making new music, but also the possibility of making film scores. The results have been eclectic and allowed artists to work on pieces that touch the heart of filmgoing audiences.
Throughout the years, there have been musicians from pop, rock, electronic to jazz who crossed over to compose music for movies. Sometimes, these works helped catapult these musicians into the public arena where they were once not so well-known to the public. Here are some musicians who became film composers and found success in it.
Mark Knopfler helped his band The Dire Straits in producing some of their best albums such as “Brothers in Arms”. But he decided to step away in pursuit of composing film music.
But it wasn’t the big film franchises that he was after. What attracted him was Bruce Forsyth’s “Local Hero”, which led to smaller-scale projects such as “Cal” and “Wag the Dog”. His work for Rob Reiner’s “The Princess Bride” was groundbreaking. He created a score with a warm glow of synths, percussion, and plucked acoustic guitar.
Although the impeccable story may get the majority of moviegoers’ attention, it was the end credits tune “Storybook Love” that showed how Knopfler was fully immersed with Reiner’s vision.
Jocelyn Pook clocked her hours as a composer, pianist, and viola player from her education at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama before embarking on a music career with a number of dance-pop and rock groups. She spent three years with the Jimmy Somerville fronted band The Communards, the Electra Strings and collaborated with the likes of PJ Harvey, Peter Gabriel, and Nick Cave.
Pook made the jump to film composing by making contributions to Derek Jarman’s “Caravaggio” in 1986. In 1999, her talents caught the ears of Stanley Kubrick when he was preparing his final film “Eyes Wide Shut” starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.
In the narrative about a hellish journey of a man’s temptations toward adultery, Kubrick found a composer to match the vibe when his choreographer, Yolanda Smith, used Pook’s song “Backwards Priest” to rehearse the film’s central orgy scene. Kubrick then called Pook to ask if she had other similar tracks like it and she ended up providing some original music and a reworked version of “Masked Ball” for the film.
The French electro-pop band Air surprised their fans after the success of their debut album “Moon Safari” by creating music with hazy 70s’ influence in the film “The Virgin Suicides”.
Sofia Coppola, the film director enlisted the help of Brian Reitzell in selecting music cures that reminded audiences of growing up in the mid-1970s. Then she connected with Air’s Nicolas Godin and Jean Benoit Dunckel, whom Reitzell had drummed with during the duo’s “Moon Safari” tour. Coppola penned the movie script while listening deeply to Air’s debut EP “Premiers Symptomes” and so it was with a specific awareness of the group’s sound that she approached them to score the film.
Coppola said that the movie wasn’t set in the 1970s but it’s a memory reflected many years later and Air is the masters of a specific kind of melancholy that could help support the film’s narrative. Tracks like “Playground Love” and “Cemetery Party” definitely evoke Pink Fody or David Bowie in their melodies and approach and it was what Coppola wanted with Air’s score.