my favorite composers #6 – Bernard Herrmann

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Elmer Bernstein was going to be the next composer featured in this series, but I watched ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ (1959) yesterday and, well, Bernard Herrmann knocked that score out of the park.  So I had to write this post about him.

Bernard Herrmann is probably best known for scoring Hitchcock films – ‘The Trouble With Harry’, ‘The Wrong Man’, ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ (1956 version), ‘Vertigo’, ‘North By Northwest’, ‘Psycho’…and the list goes on.  In fact, he scored almost every major Hitchcock film of the 50’s and 60’s.  It’s no wonder, then, that whenever I see Herrmann’s name in a film’s credits, I expect something atmospheric, a little creepy, and definitely intriguing.

Like this:

But aside from Hitchcock’s films, Herrmann also did excellent work with other genres and film makers.  His first film credit was ‘Citizen Kane’ – a fact that speaks for itself.  I also love his work in ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ (1951) as I mentioned in this post.  Probably the first Herrmann score I heard was, as I talked about earlier, ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’.  It’s not a great movie, but it’s a fun one, and the music is ingrained in my brain.

Just to give you a taste…

So, do you enjoy Bernard Herrmann’s work?  Have you seen ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ (1959 version)?



my favorite composers #5 – James Newton Howard

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James Newton Howard is the composer with whom I have the longest ‘history’.  I think he’s the first composer who I actually noticed, the one whose name I remembered instead of simply enjoying his music.  It was 2012 or 2013 and I was determined to write the next big dystopian series.  I hadn’t read or watched The Hunger Games yet but I listened to the first movie’s soundtrack approximately one million times while writing that series.  And the soundtrack for ‘Catching Fire’ once it came out.  Those two soundtracks informed my dystopian series and, since I hadn’t actually watched the movies, I came up with all kinds of weird ideas about them based on the track titles.

Anyway, I think James Newton Howard is pretty close to a genius.  He wasn’t the original composer for The Hunger Games series and had to create the score for the first movie on very short notice, but he delivered.  And continued to deliver throughout all four movies. (Personally, I think the soundtrack for ‘Catching Fire’ is the best, though the last three soundtracks rely heavily on the same themes and musical cues.)

Howard also composed music for Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.  He scored all the parts with Bruce Wayne (Hans Zimmer scored Batman’s scenes) and I adore the melancholy, poignant atmosphere he brings to Bruce’s scenes.  My favorite cue in the soundtrack for ‘Batman Begins’ is the bit that plays as young Bruce and his parents ride the train to the opera.  (It can be found in the track “Macrotus” and begins around 1:07.)

I also dig Howard’s scores for ‘The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep’ (sooooo much) and ‘Treasure Planet’ (ASOIOIWIEFWJOLSID). 

While not prolific as some of the other composers covered in this series so far, James Newton Howard is my second favorite movie composer (after Michael Giacchino).  Have you listened to any of his scores?  Which is your favorite?


P.S. While I was proofreading this post and researching Howard, I discovered that he replaced Danny Elfman as composer for ‘The Hunger Games’.  And now I’m intrigued because Elfman does great work – it would have been interesting to see how he handled scoring the Games.

my favorite composers #4 – Hans Zimmer

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There isn’t a Hans Zimmer score that I don’t love.

Of course, there are loads that I haven’t listened to but he’s a musical genius so I don’t expect my opinion will change even if I listen to ALL of his soundtracks.  The main thing that prompted this post (besides the fact that I’m overdue to write another favorite composer thingy) is that I watched some of ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ and his score was the bomb.  Really unique for his style (based on the music of his that I’ve heard so far) and very, very fun.  At this point, I can’t over-listen to it!

Besides creating some of my favorite soundtracks, Hans Zimmer has also scored some of my favorite movies – ‘Prince of Egypt’, ‘Rain Man’, ‘Gladiator’, ‘Batman Begins’ (with James Newton Howard; Zimmer scored the Batman scenes and Howard did Bruce Wayne’s parts which I think is so COOL, the way they split it up), the Kung Fu Panda franchise, ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’…and then there are other soundtracks of his that I enjoy even if I haven’t watch the movies.  Like the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

(I will point out that quite a few of Zimmer’s scores are collabs with him and at least one other composer.  But he is still a great composer in his own right.)

Definitely check out Hans Zimmer’s soundtracks on Youtube or Spotify – you won’t be disappointed!


my favorite composers #3 – Dimitri Tiomkin

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Whenever I watch the opening credits to a movie and see that Dimitri Tiomkin did the music, I grin to myself because I know that I’m in for a treat, soundtrack-wise.  Even if the movie is garbage, his score is sure to be wonderful. 

Tiomkin composed the music for some of my favorite classic films.  I believe his best-known work was what he did for ‘High Noon’ (1952).  Love how he reworks the main theme to fit a variety of moods, situations, and scenes; listen to the soundtrack suite and you’ll see what I mean.

Two other favorite movies of mine are ‘Rio Bravo’ (1959) and ‘Friendly Persuasion’ (1956) and Tiomkin outdid himself on the scores for both.  ‘Rio Bravo’ has a particularly chilling bit of music called ‘El Degüello’ – according to the film it’s the song that the Mexicans played day and night as they laid seige to the Alamo.  According to Wikipedia, the song used in ‘Rio Bravo’ wasn’t the actual song played at the Alamo (instead, it was composed by Tiomkin) but it’s still chillingly well-employed within the film’s context.

And then there’s ‘Friendly Persuasion’, which has some toe-tapping dance music that I love. (I couldn’t find a video on Youtube so you’ll just have to take my word for it.)

Have you heard of Dimitri Tiomkin (or heard any of his work)?  Let me know in the comments!


P.S. The reason there was no read-along post for The Outsiders yesterday was because I always write the post on Saturday and schedule it for Sunday but last Saturday was turned upside-down because of some plumbing issues in our home.  So…yeah.  This coming Sunday will have a read-along post, though.

my favorite composers #2 – John Williams

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John Williams is Iconic.  He’s scored several of the most famous, highly acclaimed, top-the-favorites-list-every-time movies.  ‘Star Wars’ (all the major movies except ‘Rogue One’ and ‘Solo’, I believe?), ‘Jurassic Park’, ‘Indiana Jones’ (all four movies and hopefully the fifth), ‘Jaws’, ‘Schindler’s List’…I could go on. (I’m always mildly surprised when I remember that he didn’t score ‘Back to the Future’ but I don’t know why.)

So. Favorite soundtracks/tracks.

Basically, I love anything Williams puts out.  I’ve been listening quite a bit to his soundtrack for ‘The Book Thief’ because the wistful melancholy of that music works well for the novel I’m writing.  And one soundtrack of his that’s not very well known but that I absolutely LOVE is ‘The Adventures of Tintin’.  My siblings and I enjoy the graphic novels and I think John Williams did a great job of capturing the tone of the stories and translating it into a fun, lively score.  Listen!

The iconic ‘Raiders March’ was what made me fall in love with Indy/the world of those films.  I remember that moment so clearly – my brother, Noah, had previously seen all the Indiana Jones films and borrowed ‘The Last Crusade’ from the library for us to watch together (why that one and not the first, I don’t know).  I thought it wouldn’t be My Thing (silly me) and was only barely interested until that scene where Indy and Henry burst out of those crates on the motorcycles and the music blared triumphantly and I was like “OKAY THIS IS EPIC IN THE EXTREME”.  So, yep, John Williams made me fall in love with Indiana Jones.

(The Piano Guys’ version because why not?)

Recently, I watched ‘Jurassic Park’ for the first time and the music made everything so much more amazing (and that’s saying something, because it’s golden even without the music).  I also really, really dig the main theme for Star Wars and the Force theme and what Williams did for ‘The Patriot’ and ‘War Horse’. 

I could link to sooooo many tracks here, but I won’t. (Except for this one.)  Just go play Spotify’s John Williams radio or a playlist on Youtube.  Lose yourself in the grandness.


my favorite composers #1 – Michael Giacchino

(I tried to embed Youtube videos for the soundtracks I discuss, but it did something wonky to this post, so that was out.  Sorry for any inconvenience.)

For a while I thought about writing a blog post listing my top ten favorite movie soundtracks but I eventually gave up on that.  The thing is, there’s not too many soundtracks that I listen to all the way through so it would be hard to write about them and pinpoint favorite tracks and so on.  But there are loads of composers whose work I love and I thought spotlighting each one was a pretty good way of talking about my favorite soundtracks.

So, first up…Michael Giacchino!

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Now, I won’t say he’s my favorite composer of all time.  I just decided to start the series off by talking about him because I’ve been listening to quite a few of his scores lately.  He’s composed the music for some of my favorite movies: ‘The Incredibles’, ‘Sky High’, ‘Tomorrowland’, ‘Inside Out’, ‘Rogue One’, ‘Coco’, etc.  I think you can see from that list that he’s a made a pretty big name for himself working on Disney films. 🙂

I first began to notice Michael Giacchino’s work when I listened to one of the tracks from ‘Rogue One’ – “Your Father Would Be Proud”.  It’s such an achingly beautiful, emotional piece of scoring.  So I listened to more of the soundtrack for ‘Rogue One’ and, yep, it blew me away.

Image result for rogue one your father would be proud scene

Then there’s ‘The Incredibles’, an epic movie made even better by its epic soundtrack.  Apparently, Giacchino was inspired by the spy movies of the 60’s and I can definitely hear that influence, especially in the track “Lava in the Afternoon”.  Another one of my favorite pieces of music from Michael Giacchino is from a movie I haven’t even seen – ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’ – and that track is, of course, “London Calling”.

Lastly, I really love the fun, yet sometimes bittersweet vibe of the soundtrack for ‘Coco’.  Not going to link to any specific piece here – they’re all really great and definitely worth a listen or two.

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Anyway, I’ll leave my gushing here for the day.  Who are some of your favorite composers?  Do you appreciate Michael Giacchino’s awesomeness? 😉


my top ten favorite disney songs

After spending the last few days immersing myself in the brilliant song-writing skills of Alan Menken (thanks to Tangled and Enchanted) I felt like sharing a few of my favorite Disney songs with all of you.  Of course, this list represents only a tiny fraction of all the Disney (and Pixar!) tunes I love – and don’t get me started on instrumental scores.  Basically, if it’s Disney (and especially if it’s Menken or the Sherman brothers) chances are I’m going to love it.

10. ‘Be Our Guest’ – Beauty and the Beast

This song truly makes me feel welcome, if that makes any sense, and it never fails to put a smile on my face.

9. ‘Reflection’ – Mulan

The first time I watched Mulan, I shook my head inwardly at ‘Reflection’ and categorized it as “just another Disney princess song”.  But Lea Salonga’s impassioned singing and the words themselves now tug at my heartstrings.  Just a little bit.

8. ‘Once Upon a Dream’ – Sleeping Beauty

A sweet moment in the film and one of Disney’s most iconic love songs.

7. ‘How Far I’ll Go’ – Moana

I haven’t seen Moana yet, but this song always gets to me.  The melody, Moana’s voice, the quiet (though building) desperation…Disney’s “I want” songs might be cliched, but they can also be wonderful.

6. ‘I’ll Make a Man Out of You’ – Mulan

LISTEN to this song.  Isn’t it just about the most epic thing you’ve ever heard???

5. ‘A Whole New World’ – Aladdin

My mom said that this song was the ‘Let It Go’ of the 90’s and I can believe it.  And it is a beautiful Disney love song, one of their best.

4. ‘Something There’ – Beauty and the Beast

Weird opinion here: I like this song better than ‘Beauty and the Beast’.  It’s feelsy and, y’know, beautiful and such a good example of how a relationship can realistically develop (instead of insta-love).

3. ‘Feed the Birds’ – Mary Poppins

The only song on this list from a live-action Disney film.  This one always makes me cry, mostly from the incredibly emotional connections to Saving Mr. Banks.  And apparently it was Walt Disney’s favorite song. ❤

2. ‘I See the Light’ – Tangled

I just watched Tangled last night and just…YES.  It blew me away all over again.  In my opinion, Eugene and Rapunzel are Disney’s best couple and ‘I See the Light’ is the most romantic Disney song/moment ever.  I love everything about it so much.

1. ‘Go the Distance’ – Hercules

Though I don’t much care for the movie as a whole, this song is my favorite Disney song.  It’s inspiring and all-around awesome.

So, there’s my list.  What are some of your favorite Disney songs?