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Topic: The purpose of a soundtrack album, Thoughts on Mike's two soundtrack albums< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
Wanderer Offline




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Posted: Feb. 22 2003, 20:30

Mike's two soundtrack albums, "The Killing Fields" and "Tes Lunas" have come in for quite a bit of flack in fan circles.

It is here I must state a personal belief when it comes to evaluating soundtracks...

I personally do not believe the primary purpose of a soundtrack album is to make catchy tunes. As far as I am concerned, the primary purpose of a soundtrack album is to compliment the imagery and create the right sense of atmosphere for the film/game.

There are soundtracks out there - like Peter Gabriel's soundtrack to "Rabbit Proof Fence" or Bernard Hermann's soundtrack to "Psycho" - that would be dreadful to listen to, but nevertheless work wonderfully with the imagery they were designed for.

Likewise, there are other soundtracks - for instance "Vanilla Sky" - which contain a myriad assortment of great tunes that feel intrusive when placed in the context of the actual film.

Of course, the best soundtracks work both with the film and as standalone music.

In my opinion Mike's two soundtracks don't really stand alone from the imagery they were designed for. But I don't think that constitutes a failure on his part...

"Evacuation", "Execution" and "Capture" are just a few of the tracks on "The Killing Fields" that are too bombastic and fragmented to work as standalone music. But coupled with the devastating violence in the film they work brilliantly and help to build up a considerably amount of suspense.

As for "Tres Lunas", many of the pieces are quite repetitive and simplistic - but people seem to forget this was designed as the soundtrack to a computer game... "No Man's Land" in and of itself is a distinctly average piece of work, but it suits the scene of roller-skating through space remarkably well... likewise the "Firefly" sequences. And possibly the ultimate coupling and mating of music and imagery is in "Return To The Origin" accompanying the birth of the supreme being.

That's the thing about soundtracks I think. They are one part of a whole package and I think to truly understand them ya have to experience the whole package.
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tubularbills Offline




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Posted: Feb. 23 2003, 13:20

Another good example of a great soundtrack is "The Matrix". all the songs on there fit with the movie, yet also stand alone just as well. I wish if it MO was to do a soundtrack it would be for an awesome blockbuster movie such as the Matrix

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Wanderer Offline




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Posted: Feb. 23 2003, 19:32

I would like to see that too...

I was somewhat surprised that after the success of "The Killing Fields" he did not pursue more soundtrack work. It could have proved quite a lucrative sideline for Mike, so he wouldn't have to rehash "Tubular Bells" every time he needed a quick buck. Also, the success of the movie could serve to expose his music to a wider audience.

One movie that he almost got attached to was Ridley Scott's "Legend"... I believe he was approached when the producers wanted someone to replace Jerry Goldsmith's score. Apparently Mike had begun to compose some tunes but pulled out because of "creative differences" with the producers, and because he held the original score in high regard. As it turned out the producers commissioned Tangerine Dream, who contributed a ghastly score, whilst Mike's compositions ended up as B sides for "Pictures In The Dark".
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TimHighfield Offline




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Posted: Feb. 23 2003, 23:21

Quote (Wanderer @ Feb. 23 2003, 08:30)
There are soundtracks out there - like Peter Gabriel's soundtrack to "Rabbit Proof Fence" or Bernard Hermann's soundtrack to "Psycho" - that would be dreadful to listen to, but nevertheless work wonderfully with the imagery they were designed for.


I understand the point being made here, but I don't really agree with the examples used - personally I've found the Peter Gabriel soundtrack for "Rabbit Proof Fence" to stand alone as some marvellous music without necessarily requiring the film to make it effective. It's definitely not 'dreadful' to listen to, indeed there are some astonishingly beautiful moments like the piece called 'Cloudless' on the soundtrack album. However, I don't listen to a great many soundtracks, and indeed have not heard much of either "The Killing Fields" or "Tres Lunas" yet, so I can't really comment on the Oldfield scores.

Do you think Mike has considered scoring imaginary films? As in, coming up with an idea or style for a film, then creating themes to fit the idea without having to work with producers who want exactly this or exactly that...
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Wanderer
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Posted: Feb. 28 2003, 11:13

TO TIM HIGHFIELD:

With regards to Peter Gabriel and "Rabbit Proof Fence"...

"Cloudless" and "Stealing The Children" are indeed affecting pieces of music that standalone from the film. However, a lot of the soundtrack consists simply of electronically distorted sound effects. I feel Gabriel could have done a lot better if he'd used more real instruments... but then, to each his own...
Still, I loved Gabriel's work on "Last Temptation Of Christ".

I do think Mike probably comes up with mini-movies in his mind whilst composing... certainly his titles are very evocative ("Hergest Ridge", "Conflict")

Plus, "Songs Of Distant Earth" has gotta be the soundtrack to the greatest science fiction movie never made.
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lazeeladuk Offline




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Posted: Feb. 28 2003, 11:29

i agree with wanderer about Songs Of Distant Earth........what a soundtrack?  and as for KF & TL, I prefare KF, I don't like the idea of soudtracks to games. The soundtrack can be listened to and your can see the story in your mind, but theres no real story to the game, so i only listen to the cd as a normal cd and not as a soundtrack, but thats just me  :)
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raven4x4x Offline




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Posted: Mar. 07 2003, 21:41

In many ways, the Killing Fields soundtrack is more of a traditional 'soundtrack album' than Tres Lunas. TL is really marketed as an album, not as a soundtrack: nowhere on the cover does it say "soundtrack to MusicVR" or anything similar, where on Killing Fields you are instantly aware that it is a soundtrack to the movie. The pieces from Tres Lunas, I believe, have been edited and changed to make them stand alone better as an album, while Killing Fields seems mostly to be straight from the movie. Tres Lunas really is more of an album and less of a soundtrack, so don't be surprised if people judge it as such.

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maria Offline




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Posted: Mar. 10 2003, 06:16

i’m quite of the view that the aim of a soundtrack is not mainly to get catchy tunes but to give the right background to the images and the moods of the film and highlight them as far as possible. there may be exceptions though,  it could happen that the music’s got for some reason its ‘own soul’ in the film, that’s what happens with alan parker’s  ‘commitments’ in which it could seem that it was the imaginery what came in second place, in this it’s true the music stands alone, but it’s imo necessary since the theme of the film is the birth of a band. in this, the music isn’t just the background but the issue of the story, it’s a story about music told using music as the main language…  in most other cases when listening to a soundtrack i usually have the feeling of missing something… i’m just recalling another film i quite liked for a while, ‘le grand blue’, eric serra’s music made me got hold of the story there but when i got the soundtrack i short listened to it… it was a bit empty… to enjoy the music completely it was better to listen to it melt with the film and i’d say the same for ‘matrix’ or ‘blade’ or ‘the mission’ and even for ‘killing fields’.

on the matter of tr3s lunas being a soundtrack and comparing it with killing fields (and might be also compared with his soundtrack for ‘the space movie’), i see a main difference between them… in killing fields m.o. was in the role of musician composing the soundtrack (and if i remember correctly, in the case of ‘the space movie’ it was that his already composed music was used as background for the images from nasa archives), in both cases the story was given, worked by a director, not himself, however, tr3s lunas’ music and images are born in the same place… his creativity worked out the two different aspects, don’t really know how he did, don’t know what came first, but it would seem music and landscapes were born feeding one each other, being reason one for the other indistinctly, both are part of a whole that is tr3s lunas project, music and images are both the main issues of the thing, that’s why i’ve said in some other forum here that imho is not very fair to judge it avoiding mvr.
i can understand when someone criticise it just regarding the tracks in the music disc… maybe  it was marketed in a wrong way, i agree that  if one went looking for a conventional album could get confused when discovered that the centre of the thing was kind’a computer game…and so, one could think the music is a soundtrack for the images but what i think is that  in fact  it’s something like an odd hybrid of different things and to make a complete review of it, may be necessary to consider its different aspects, for sure one can compare tr3s lunas music with tsode or whatever, but imho this comparison wouldn’t be complete. tr3s lunas is a new concept, an experiment for something. i wouldn’t call it just a ‘soundtrack’, but either just a ‘conventional album’, or just a ‘computer game’ with a determined soundtrack.  imho, for the moment it can’t be properly compared as a whole with his other works. if at last a second episode for this were released, then we could compare the different aspects in both of them.

ps. btw. i still wonder whether we’ll receive soon any news about tubular world vr… hope it hasn’t become a filed matter…


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Korgscrew Offline




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Posted: Mar. 10 2003, 10:24

I think it's certainly true to say that the music fed the images of Music VR, and the images fed the music, and taking one away from the other is going to result in something being missing.
It's important to note however, that Mike doesn't feel that this is the case with Tres Lunas, with him believing that the amount of reworking he gave to the music being enough to allow it to stand on its own. To paraphrase, he says in the Tres Lunas promo video that "The music from the album doesn't work with the game, there's too much going on in it".

I actually feel that it does stand up as an album, but it's not the second Amarok that many fans are looking for. I think he would have pleased more fans had he taken advantage of the way some themes are repeated in different forms throughout the game, and used those to create a more flowing whole, along the lines of TSODE. But, he chose not to, so there's not too much point spending time going over might-have-beens...
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MO fan Offline




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Posted: Mar. 10 2003, 11:43

Quote (Guest @ Feb. 28 2003, 11:13)
Plus, "Songs Of Distant Earth" has gotta be the soundtrack to the greatest science fiction movie never made.

Ah! but they are making at this moment the 'Rendezvous with Rama' film, AC Clarks other brilliant Si-fi book.

see www.rendezvouswithrama.com, should be out next year.

Cheers, MO fan :D
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TOBY Offline




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Posted: Mar. 10 2003, 14:06

I agree with Korgscrew's point completely and would also add that if you are considering TL as a soundtrack album then under much the same idea you would have to include The Wind Chimes, Mont Saint Michel, TSODE, and The Mellenium Bell. You could even extend the list to include stuff like The Lake and other tracks that were written as the 'soundtrack' to a specific place, even Hergest Ridge. To my mind Mike has only written one 'soundtrack' and thats The Killing Fields. I've never considered TL to be a soundtrack album any more than I've considered TSODE to be one because in the conventional sence they're something very different.
Despite what some fans may think The Killing Fields is a superb soundtrack, real genius I wish he'd consider doing more.
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Wanderer
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Posted: Mar. 16 2003, 22:33

"The Killing Fields" is indeed a good album...

However, it is no more a "pure" soundtrack album than "Tres Lunas" is.

Many pieces of music featured prominently in the film were left off the album completely (such as the music for the darkroom scene, the music for Pran's last night in the city, all of the non-Oldfield pieces...) whilst others appear in abbreviated or remixed form ("Worksite", "The Year Zero", "Bloodsucking", "The Year Zero 2", "Pran's Escape", "The Killing Fields").

If one is to make the case that "Tres Lunas" isn't a proper soundtrack because the music was tinkered with after the fact... then that means "The Killing Fields" isn't a proper soundtrack either.

This is not uncommon practice with soundtrack albums... it's why a lot of them nowadays carry the label "music from and inspired by the motion picture".
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TOBY Offline




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Posted: Mar. 17 2003, 14:10

The Killing Fields is a proper movie score in the traditional sence of the phrase. Yes the music on TL was written largely for the game but remember some of it wasn't, personaly I don't view it as a musical score anymore than I view TSODE or certainaly The Wind Chimes as musical scores (as I said above). I really don't know why you're so keen for it to be seen as such, regarding it as a soundtrack album still wouldn't save it in anyway from being what it is - a very, very mediocre  MO album.
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maria Offline




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Posted: Mar. 17 2003, 19:14

summarizing what i said above the difference i find between killing fields and tr3s lunas is that  in the first he worked out the music for a story created by others and he did what he had to do, create music that highlights the story and mood of the moments along the film, it’s a proper and correct soundtrack but as most of the soundtracks doesn’t stand well without images, i’d say the only track that does it is tarrega’s cover,  ‘etude and for me it’s obvious why since it’s a piece of music composed to stand alone with the feelings and images tárrega could have had when composing it.
tr3s lunas is a different kind of work, even having him worked lately the music to stand alone as an album as korgscrew pointed, (and indeed it’s got some beautiful tracks that get that) the music’s part of the landscapes and the landscapes are part of the music, they’ve got the same source that is in the same author’s mind. i see there something like the different pieces of music in tr3s lunas are also colours or shapes of the whole… not just a background for the visuals (and i’m aware that there has been an interesting discussion about the different status of painting and music but that’s the way i regard it and don’t find a better way to describe it…) that’s why i think the two albums are different things. the only soundtrack feature i find in tr3s lunas is the fact that while looking at the visuals one listens to the music but this isn’t enough to consider it just a soundtrack.


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Wanderer
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Posted: Mar. 18 2003, 17:25

TO TOBY:
In response to your comments...

Well, I like "Tres Lunas". A lot of the time it seems I am the only one on these fan forums who actually LIKES Mike's current output in addition to the fruits of his glorious past. I should add that I prefer a mediocre MO album to half the critically acclaimed crap in the charts at the moment..."Britney" was actually nominated for a Grammy(?)... this fact, coupled with George Bush's grandstanding of late is as sure a sign as any of the impending armageddon... hence I intend to enjoy my MO albums whilst I still can.

No, "Tres Lunas" is not a soundtrack in the traditional sense... but it is still a soundtrack...

I would put it on the same shelf as "Passion" by Peter Gabriel. Have you heard of it? In 1987 Gabriel was commissioned to do the soundtrack to a film called "The Last Temptation Of Christ", directed by Martin Scorsese. When the project was nearing completion it became apparent that there wasn't enough material for an album-length presentation of music. So, some new pieces were recorded especially for the album and some of the old ones presented in an extended format. Because it was so drastically altered Gabriel chose to release the album under the film's working title... "Passion". He later did the same in 2002 with "Long Walk Home" which was the soundtrack to "Rabbit Proof Fence".

Hence Mike's album has the title "Tres Lunas", instead of "Music VR: Original Soundtrack". Still, all the music bar "To Be Free" has its roots somewhere in the game so I don't think it's unfair to call "Tres Lunas" a soundtrack in the "Passion" mould. I urge you to play the game sometime, it's fun to uncover all the tunes and playwise, it's a bit like "Myst".

As for "The Killing Fields", I urge you to see the film and then you'll see how drastically altered some of the music on the album is from that featured in the movie. Certainly I think maybe "The Killing Fields" shoulda had a qualifying title like "Tres Lunas" did. I listened to it and was kinda disappointed that it didn't have some of my favourite bits. Still, it has since become one of my favourites.

As for what you've said - that there is no reason to be lenient on certain pieces of music just cause they were designed for soundtracks - consider this...

Rent out Alfred Hitch's "Psycho" sometime (but not the evil 98 remake, Gus Van Sant is Satan...), listen to the soundtrack. Swirling, cacophanous orchestal arrangements punctuated by disonant, screeching string effects. Can't imagine the shower scene with any other kinda accompaniament it is that powerful. But without Hitch's powerful imagery the music itself is rendered disjointed and bombastic. The two need each other, unquestionably. But when it's put together the results are simply marvellous.
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TOBY Offline




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Posted: Mar. 19 2003, 13:29

Yeah and to add to your last point take the music from Jaws and try listening to it without picturing a large shark comming to get you - very difficult. But the point is this, all these pieces of music including The Killing Fields are movie scores and movie scores work very differently to pieces of music designed for a computer game.

I know the point you are generaly trying to make and agree sofar as saying that the music of TL was designed with a specific purpose in mind. I've been playing MVR since more or less the day it was put on the web and yes I do know how it works and what Mike's intent on how the music goes with it works, if you know what I mean. However the music on the album was re-designed and edited to to stand up on its own as individual tracks with almost every track having a very obvious beginning, middle and end, something which a lot of movie score music doesn't have, including SOME of the music on PG's Passion of which I am a huge fan.

Yes TL is a sort of soundtrack but I don't take that into consideration when I'm listening to it, like I don't when I'm listening to TSODE or The Wind Chimes.

ps I must confess that even though I do regard it as a pretty mediocre MO album it's never been to far from my stereo in the past year which is more than can be said for a lot of Mike's recent output. I went hiking round the Canandian rockies last August and TL and the other MVR music was pretty much continuously in my minidisc player. It was a good soundtrack to my holiday but I still feel the whole album could have been so much better put together, there was a lot of good music written for TL it just wasn't well presented I feel.
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