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The Tourist Soundtrack - James Newton Howard

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Artist: James Newton Howard / Released: 20 Dec 2010 / Label: Varese Sarabande / Colosseum Music

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      17.08.2012 15:43
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      A fantastic musical rush job

      Film composers, 95% of the time, have to write to a very short time frame. The music is essentially one of the last stages of the film production - the film needs to be given to the composer as a final cut, although there are often some minor tweaks during and after the composition process. Directors can sometimes be particularly meticulous or indecisive, and to be fair to them, if they deliver a better end result, good on them. But music is one of the most subjective art forms, in that you can't ever expect everybody to like to same thing - there's trouble if the director doesn't like the composer for the film's music. Instead of reconvening, oftentimes, the music gets completely scrapped and a new composer brought in. Not only is this dispiriting for the composer, but it costs the film companies a bomb, what with costs for the new composer and his team, the recording musicians, studio time (which is VERY expensive) ON TOP of what was already dished out for the original score. The Tourist experienced a situation quite like the one above. Gabriel Yared, a Lebanese film composer, credited for the likes of Cold Mountain and 1408, had originally written a score for The Tourist, only for it to be scrapped. Action-adventure-romance veteran James Newton Howard (Pretty Woman, The Hunger Games, Salt, The Dark Knight) was then called in, and provided a fantastic replacement score in a very short space of time. Fusing the orchestral with the electronic, The Tourist Original Soundtrack is a great display of how to score a film fast. 1. Tracking Elise 2. Burned Letter 3. Paranoid Math Teacher 4. Arrival At Venice 5. Elise Offers A Ride 6. A Very Nice Kiss 7. Bedroom Dreams 8. Piecing It Together 9. Rooftop Run 10. Chase Through the Canals 11. Because I Kissed You 12. A Very Nice Hotel 13. Arriving At The Ball 14. Your Choice In Men 15. Sudden Departure 16. The Infinite Price 17. The Janus Safe 18. Rain of Bullets 19. Aftermath 20. Elise & Alexander 21. Personal Cheque 22. Dance in F [Gabriel Yared] Total length: 01:03:55 Many film music academics such as Mervyn Cooke believe that a film score should not be heard, per se, but rather felt; it should enhance your experience of watching a film, but not draw your attention away. I feel that those of you have very little interest in the soundtrack of a film would somewhat agree with that above belief, whereas if you're really into your film music like me, you're always listening out for it. The soundtrack to The Tourist is one of the cases where the music works as an element belonging to the forefront of the film. It isn't subtle to say the least, but the director was trying to convey a sense of richness in The Tourist. My review of the film, 'Eye Candy' (see two reviews below), notes that the aesthetics are far more dominant than the filmmaking - on the whole, this is a pretty poor film. But the beautiful landscape of Paris and Venice combined with the beauty of Angelina Jolie calls for a beautiful soundtrack, which is exactly what Newton Howard delivers. The CD of The Tourist Original Soundtrack is more or less in the order of the soundtrack of the film, except diegetic (music featured as part of the narrative) track 22 'Dance in F', which is stuck at the end as it was written by Gabriel Yared, the scrapped composer. Tracking Elise and Burned Letter flow together and can be mistaken as one track. The electronica and orchestral are used in combination to suggest the two sides of Jolie's character Elise: her secret agent status and her elegant & beauty respectively. Suspense and coolness are present in the opening two tracks. Paranoid Math Teacher, the track name relating to Johnny Depp's character Frank, opens with the film's gorgeous main theme, orchestrated lushly for a string section, while an accordion is added to suggest locale (France/Italy). The gentleness soon evolves as the electronica is reintroduced. For me, this is one of the most outstanding tracks on the album, if only for the fantastic string playing. The soundtrack is very thematic; one motif or theme or another pops up in each of the twenty-one tracks composed by Newton Howard. Arrival at Venice, despite starting in a very still nature, evolves into suspense, and one may notice at this point the prominence of the bass. James Newton Howard employs a variety of bass voices at different points within the soundtrack: the double bass section & cello section, an electronic bass guitar, synth bass and also an upright bass (which in essence is a solo double bass), which works very well. Elise Offers a Ride erases all musical signs of danger, and oozes beauty with an awesome orchestration of the main theme followed by some wonderfully soft sounds - and A Very Nice Kiss follows suit, before suspense kicks in at the end of the track. Bedroom Dreams features mostly strings and light electronica, and also a very Romantic-sounding piano break of the main theme, and what sounds like a cameo-cor anglais. The final minute of Bedroom Dreams features a highly expressive, Romantic string build-up to an interrupted climax, no dirty pun intended. While Piecing it Together returns to the suspense sounds, Rooftop Run evolves from light to dark with dissonance and Newton Howard's danger themes. Chase Through the Canals combines driving percussion and strings and brass parts to successfully create a chase sound, whereas the electronic elements by this point become a bit tiresome and grinding. Because I Kissed You is another beautiful piece, employing the string section to its wonderful potential and using piano and oboe tastefully, rather like A Very Nice Kiss. By this point in the album however, one hears a fair bit of repeated material, the reasons being twofold; James Newton Howard has employed a very detailed leitmotif (a theme or motif designated to a narrative theme or character), and he didn't have very long to compose. The following track A Very Nice Hotel rightfully quells repetition by offering a very different variation to The Tourist main theme, but the same cannot be said for the rest of the track, which revisits ideas previously heard in Paranoid Math Teacher, A Very Nice Kiss and Bedroom Dreams a bit too closely. Arriving At The Ball is refreshingly different to the previous tracks, and should be compared to Yared's fantastic Dance in F, although they are used very differently in the film. Whereas your Choice In Men takes a more subtle approach, Sudden Departure offers much of what we've already heard. The next four tracks, however, including the 7-and-a-half-minute The Infinite Price, feature a different sound. It marks the arrival of the film's villains, and the darkness and danger is conveyed well, especially in The Janus Safe, which combines dissonance with sinister synth sounds. Rain of Bullets again features some wonderful string explorations from Newton Howard, and features an earth-shatteringly effective climax. Aftermath is understated, but a great little piece. Elise & Alexander and Personal Cheque, Newton Howard's final two offerings on the album, bring the album's main voice back around, revisiting main themes and motifs and restating the films main elements: the romantic & beautiful ideas, but also the cheeky, suspense music. Overall, James Newton Howard did a particularly excellent job on The Tourist. He is an established and highly successful composer, having been nominated for eight Oscars in total (not that that comes anywhere near John Williams' 47, mind you, but that's for another time...). It's easy for a film's score to be poor and ineffective if the film itself isn't fantastic, but Newton Howard completely avoids this and delivers a blinding effort. Yes the electronic sounds become a bit grinding after a while, and repeated material becomes a bit too unvaried, but overall, The Tourist Original Soundtrack is a great blend of action, elegance and romance, but also humour, and most notable is Newton Howard's beautiful lingering themes and his exceptional use of the orchestra.

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