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‘Score: A Film Music Documentary’ (review)

Produced By Jonathan Willbanks, Robert Kraft,
Trevor Thompson, Nate Gold,
Kenny Holmes, Crystal Chavarria
Written and Directed by Matt Schrader
Featuring Hans Zimmer, James Cameron,
Danny Elfman, John Williams, Randy Newman,
Howard Shore, James Horner, Bear McCreary,
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross,
Junkie XL, Leonard Maltin, Quincy Jones


Matt Schrader’s Score: A Film Music Documentary is catnip for fans of movie soundtracks. An overview of the use of original music in film from the silent era to the present, Score features interviews with composers Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, Trent Reznor, Quincy Jones and many more.

Score opens with a fascinating bit as composer Marco Beltrami (Scream, Snowpiercer, Logan) experiments with a “wind piano” in an attempt to record some unique sounds.

We then backtrack to silent film houses, wherein theater owners would hire organists to play along with the movies.

Soon, studios were commissioning composers to create permanent scores for their films; Score provides a concise history of film composing and its trends through the decades.

There are some interesting examinations of composers – like Beltrami – who’ve utilized unusual instruments in their compositions, such as Jerry Goldsmith’s use of cooking pots for his seminal score for the original Planet of The Apes.

Goldsmith, who passed away in 2004 (and who received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame ONLY SEVERAL WEEKS AGO!), is given his due in a relatively lengthy appreciation here.

Goldsmith is – if you put a gun to my head – my favorite film composer overall. It’s nearly impossible to choose between him, Ennio Morricone, Bernard Herrman, etc. etc. But if it were possible to keep a log of which composer’s soundtracks play most often in my head, JG would likely win. A particular favorite is his score for Capricorn One, one of my absolute favorite escapist soundtracks.

We are privy to snippets of an actual recording of a big-budget film’s soundtrack. I was quite surprised to learn that the musicians-for-hire amount to a sight-reading orchestra. That is, they show up, tune their instruments, plop the heretofore unseen sheet music on their stands, and play the music flawlessly.  As someone who struggled to achieve barely acceptable competency on various instruments (piano, tenor sax, bass guitar) throughout my youth, I was blown away by this level of expertise.

If this absolutely terrific doc has a flaw, it is that is arguably too short, at least for ravenous film freaks like myself.  I feel the same way about other docs focused on specific aspects of filmmaking, Tales From The Script, Visions of Light, The Cutting Edge;  I completely understand that the filmmakers want to reach as wide an audience as possible, but it would be nice if longer cuts were available to those more than willing to lap them up.

Overall, great stuff. And – spoiler alert, I guess? – if you’re a James Horner fan and by film’s end feel he gets no respect, make certain to sit through the end credits.

Score: A Film Music Documentary arrives on June 16th
and is available for pre-order on iTunes.
For more details, visit


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