I didn’t label this clip in the “Awesomeness” category, mostly because I haven’t actually seen The Green Lantern movie. But this cue sort of turns a lot of the conventional epic action cue cliches on their side a bit.
What you usually hear these days are string ostinatos, but this one puts the ostinato on the brass right from the start. Huh.
Then there is this low-brass rhythmic figure – da-dah, da-dah – sounds like a cimbasso. Very prominent in the mix. It’s brash and unusual, almost so aggressive I would think it risks taking the audience out of the scene. Again, I haven’t seen it, and if it works, wow, that’s a cool original sound. Check it out:
What is remarkable about this cue is how musical it is for a combat cue. Lots of combat music is a confusion of changing time signatures and disjointed figures.
John William’s Battle of the Heroes is 2 basic ideas which we hear right up front – a fast string ostinato, and a horn playing the battle motif. There’s not much else aside from punctuations between statements of this theme.
We hear the motif with a chorus singing unison, then the chorus harmonizes, then the horns play it as an ensemble. We hear it at half-speed around the climactic moment of the cue, and towards the end, as a canon.
With each restatement, John Williams adds variations and development. It is decorated with many of his trademark Star Wars musical textures – rapid triplet horn lines, harp runs, xylophone doubling the strings, all with a grandeur that softens the idea of combat and makes it something operatic.
This one cue from Up was probably what won Giacchino the Oscar. Everyone was crying their eyes out in the theater during this scene when I went, the montage showing the married life of Carl and Ellie.
Listening again I’ve noticed how the piece uses orchestration to tell the story.
The melody is carried by sounds from the 40s – muted trumpet and solo violin. Later we hear vibes, probably suggesting domestic life in the 50s. Notice how the pizzicato strings are used in a way that sounds like the 50s.
What we never hear is a sweeping section of violins carrying the melody. This is no John Barry score from Out of Africa. That’s because Carl and Ellie never got to have their travel adventures. Flourishes of strings are limited to transitional effects and counter melodies.
This restraint keeps the cue focused on the relationship of Carl and Ellie and sets up Carl’s motivations to fly to South America.
By the time we hear the solo piano at the end (and everyone is bawling), we’ve heard the hook 8 or 12 times, showing there is nothing wrong with a lot of repetition.
OK, this is only based on perusing the web site (they are playing at Typhoon in Santa Monica on Monday November 7th). Just load the web page and put on your headphones, that is a damned impressive track on the web site. Nice arranging, I like the voicing, the didgeridoo, and the players are together and in tune (not so easy!)
This performance video ain’t bad either. Live videos really tell you a lot about a band (as opposed to studio recordings, where Pro Tools can hide a lot of things).