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|FSM Forum: Defending Silvestri|
|Posted By: Jonathan Kaplan on August 31, 2004 - 10:00 PM|
FSM Forum: Defending Silvestri
...continued from last week's forum:
Jon Kaplan: I want to talk
about how you dislike Van Helsing…
Al Kaplan: Yeah!
Jon Kaplan: …while it remains
warm in our hearts.
Doug Adams: I can't say I
dislike it or like it because I don't know it well enough. I didn't see
the movie and I don't own the album. I just heard the CD yesterday.
JK: Now do not bring up the
bass drum in this discussion!
AK: No, I think that should be
DA: Jon hates my criticism of
the bass drum.
AK: No, I think that should be
in there. I think Doug should be able to bring up the bass drum.
JK: Okay, you can bring up the
bass drum, but you have to have other criticisms.
DA: Alright, well my main
criticism was the first reaction I had to it -- which was that it feels
like it's written in four- to-eight-bar phrases and just cuts between
JK: Okay, we were able to
DA: I'm not saying that there
was no reason for doing that. He was basically asked to do that.
AK: Talk about the reckless
JK: Wait, before we move to
reckless brass writing, a lot of it feels like these little eight-bar
segments that you could plug wherever you need them. And at the
session, that's what we saw him having to do -- having to replace the
theme here, having to cut to something more urgent from later in a cue,
slide it back in. And it functions.
DA: I don't fault him at all
for doing that. That was the assignment.
AK: The soft cues are different.
DA: I did like the cello cue.
AK: Yes, the waltz.
DA: I just wish he'd done
something more with the accompaniment.
JK: It's a bad album that could
have been fixed with two or three cues. Just spacing it and making it
DA: Well, how do you feel
about those short phrases being puzzled together?
JK: Sometimes it's annoying.
AK: At its most blatant, it's
DA: If the score is supposed to
bring some sort of its own preexisting shape to the film... well,
didn't they just create the Avid of film scoring there?
JK: Yes, yes, that's what
DA: What does it bring to it
JK: To the film or to the CD?
DA: To the film. I mean, he may
as well just been given 80 ten-second shots, scored them all, and then
they could cut them all together. And you probably would have gotten
the same effect. Everything is at quarter note equals 120, and here we
JK: We're blowing it out of
proportion a little bit.
DA: Yeah, I know. And I haven't
seen it. Devil's advocate.
JK: There are segments of it
that are exactly that. And they're annoying. But in some of the
sections that are like that, when you've got the sounds effects blaring
-- and there are plenty of them -- you don't literally feel 8 bars, 8
bars, 8 bars. Because we're not talking about wild shifts of an action
theme and a love theme and then something quiet. The thing is pieced
together like it's one cue. It's not shifting a meter every 8 bars or
DA: One of the things that gets
me about Silvestri, and I do have to say that, by and large, I think he
does a good job, but to me it sounds like, if someone had to make a
very general film composer stereotype, it would sound like Alan
Silvestri. It has that rawness and raucousness and obnoxiousness to it.
That's not necessarily bad, mind you. But if you had to do a parody of
film music, it would probably sound a lot like Silvestri's music.
JK: But it would be a good
DA: Yes! It's executed very,
very well. But it doesn't have the stylish elegance to it that a
Williams has. Williams is a different tier, yeah, I know.
JK: I don't think anyone would
compare elegance levels of Williams to Silvestri.
AK: [They'd compare]
DA: Yes. And Shore, to me, does
have that type of elegance.
AK: I think the elegance is
there with Shore.
DA: …Williams is just such a
craftsman that he can't destroy anything. He transcends.
JK: Shore is elegant in his
DA: Shore has a type of
understated elegance. Williams has a…
JK: …flowery elegance.
DA: Williams has an opulent
sense of elegance. It's gilded this and baroque trills that. It's like
the frame someone would be selling at a garage sale because it was too
fancy for his little four-room house.
JK: No one will believe that
you're using metaphors, so I'll vouch for the fact that you said that
and didn't just write it.
DA: It didn't make sense anyway.
JK: Do you know how reviled we
would be if anybody ever read any of this? "Those creatures, so full of
themselves thinking anybody cares what they think talking to each
other!" Let's see how angry…
DA: This is how we talk when
we aren't taping, so…
JK: I know, I know.
AK: [Jokingly] I want to get back to
insulting Alan Silvestri, that's what I want.
DA: No, I don't mean to insult
him. If Williams is this kind erudite gentleman -- or his music is --
Silvestri's is the beer-and-chips-watching-football-yelling-at-the-refs
JK: I think that serves its
purpose. Tell me some of the things you like about Silvestri.
DA: I like his woodwind writing
a lot. I think the Doc stuff in Back
to the Future is really strong. Clever orchestrations.
AK: But do you think that
generally his orchestrations have gotten better over the years?
DA: I do, yes. Do you disagree?
AK: Oh, I don't know. I think
the older stuff is better.
JK: It's always been good.
DA: The brass and string
orchestration in Back to the Future
bothers me sometimes. And I love the Back
to the Future scores so don't get me wrong. Now, let's make the
Kaplans really mad at me.
AK: Oh my…
DA: You know what Silvestri
score I don't care for at all and I've tried?
AK / JK: Roger Rabbit!?
DA: No, I like Roger Rabbit.
AK / JK: Predator!
AK: That's okay.
DA: I don't know why. I like
the film. I find the score effective in the film.
JK: Does the mixed meter bother
DA: It's just so repetitive and
AK: The problem is a lot of it
is tracked in the movie.
DA: But I've got the CD.
AK: Okay. Then there's no
excuse then. No excuse.
DA: And that [sings the synth part], that synth
lick that comes back a thousand times and sounds like he can't get his
car to start.
AK: Oh, I like that. I think
that's very eerie.
DA: It sounds like old Roland
out of the box samples.
AK: It is.
JK: What's your problem with
AK: I think that's a very
interesting thumbprint that he put on that movie.
DA: I just can't get into that.
I've tried so many times to get into that. And even that opening cue
where you're out in outer space…
AK: It's like a Saturday
afternoon adventure score. I don't mind that explosion of brass.
JK: I like the repetition of a
lot of the motive. I can't argue that it can drive you crazy. But it
just doesn't drive me crazy.
DA: It's another case where I
don't think he did anything wrong with it. Just for whatever reason it
doesn't appeal to me. I can't say, "Well, you know, what you should
have done is you should have put this in the strings instead of the
trombones, and it would have been a good score." It's not the
mechanics, it's the aesthetic. He did what he wanted to do with it.
JK: The true secret is nothing
can be proven.
DA: All art is subjective.
JK: That's right. All you can
do is say what you like about something and what you don't like about
DA: I once got a huge angry
email from a reader. He was arguing with me that criticism is not
subjective, that there are absolute truths in art, and that I was wrong
about them somehow.
AK: Really? Do you remember
what you were wrong about?
DA: Um, I believe it was about Amistad if I remember right. But I
could be wrong.
JK: Well, do you think it's an
absolute truth that The Lord of the
Rings has themes in it?
DA: [Laughs] I think we could say that
JK: You just can't prove that
the themes are good.
DA: Right. I think the job of
the critic is to be there enough that someone knows your taste. Find
the critic that's closest to your taste and see what they have to say.
JK: Exactly! And Roger Ebert
serves that purpose too, because you know that he is always wrong, so
if he likes something you know to avoid it.
DA: [Laughs] Ah, yeah, I guess so.
Anyway, I don't hate Van Helsing.
It's just a little over testosterone-laden for my tastes.
JK: That's another thing where
we can't entire blame Silvestri. And do you blame Silvestri?
DA: No. That's a great point.
Here's something everybody should have to learn about any sort of
criticism, whether they're talking about film music or whatever… I
can't say that Van Helsing is
a bad score because I can't dig what he was doing on it. That's saying,
"Okay Alan, come to me. Come to my tastes and appeal to me." Well no.
He was doing the style that he was doing. And within that style, he
executed it very, very well. I hate it when people do that. "Van Helsing sucks because it sounds
macho!" Well it's supposed to sound macho.
JK: That's right.
DA: I don't particularly like
it, but that's what it's supposed to sound like.
JK: That's why I do like it!
DA: That's great. I can't say,
"Alan, you failed." He did what he wanted to. And within the guidelines
of the style he was operating in, he did a great job.
JK: I have to say, I think that
you would have like it a lot more if you heard his originals.
AK: Oh, you mean before…
JK: Yes, before Stephen Sommers
came in and said double this in four different octaves, which we saw
DA: Does he specifically say
double this or just make it louder?
JK: No, I'm just saying what
they actually did. His complaints led to the doubling in octaves.
DA: What were his complaints
that these were the solutions to?
JK: "That part needs to be a
lot bigger there." Just random stuff. "The drums aren't loud enough
DA: [Laughs] I bet he said that a lot!
JK: "You know how I said you
can go bigger there?" Literally bit-by-bit, with very simple comments,
the whole thing got tremendous. You're talking about a bass drum
hitting essentially every beat on some of those cues. Bigger is the
word of the movie.
DA: There's too much of that
going on in film music, and that's when it's tough. I want to criticize
that, but it's the same thing where I can't say, "Well, appeal to my
sensibilities." But I can get through a Van Helsing in a summer where
you've got two Williams scores and a good Elfman score and things like
that because then there's something opposing it. If this were Van Helsing that came out in a
field of 12 Zimmer scores, it would drive me up the wall. I'd lose my
mind. Because it does sound partially like Alan doing a Zimmer type-of
DA: It's giant tom toms, and
octaves, and filling every chord tone…
JK: I don't think it's really
the writing that sounds like Zimmer. I think it's the scoring session
additions of filling in the entire orchestra at Sommers' request.
AK: Having everyone playing.
DA: Yeah, but see these are
things that we know about. The public at large is just going to hear
the final product.
DA: I mean, that's the score to
Van Helsing, whether it was
originally or wasn't… the same as that's the score to Spider-man 2. We might get to hear
what Danny wrote at some point, but the score to Spider-man 2 is what's in the film.
The score to Troy -- you know
who wrote the score to Troy?
JK: Van Helsing has wonderful things: Lord of the Rings-type development
of themes. Where the love theme doubles as the holy mythic theme for
Faramir. And you never know what you're going to get.
AK: What's he talking about?
JK: None of that is on the
album, Doug, so…
DA: Oh that explains it…
JK: …you can raise your
eyebrows all you want.
DA: Sorry, my eyebrows get…
JK: It's okay. I'm going to
stand up for the work that Alan Silvestri put into that score that has
now been disguised by Stephen Sommers.
AK: The score that's been
JK: Plus, in the movie -- I
bet you'd like it a lot more if you saw the movie. Because it's got
such a sense of fun. The movie is such a nightmare. I sat through it
twice, smiling almost the whole movie just because of how present the
music was and how it was just blaring through everything.
DA: I think you guys have been
dialing down what big fans you were of this just because you didn't
want to upset me!
JK: I didn't want to upset
you! No, the football [-style] music you were talking about, the
"Transylvanian Horses" music, that's in it so many times. Whenever
they're going anywhere, whenever you see a map like in Indiana Jones, it's that music
blaring. And it's fun as traveling music. But it's even better in the
very first scene of [the character of] Van Helsing in the movie. It's
London in the middle of the night, Hugh Jackman is creeping around and
he finds a body. It's obviously shot like it's going to have an
atmospheric cue that's going to lead into this fight with Mr. Hyde. And
instead of the mysterious atmospheric cue as a prelude to the fight,
you get that music, that traveling music for him walking down the
street and leaning over this body. The camera slowly tilts up to reveal
[Jackman's] face for the first time and the chorus comes in. It's one
the most exciting film music moments that I've experienced in the last
10 years. It's the way Morricone would have scored that thing in an old
western. A ridiculous, raucous main theme.
AK: I'd like to play devil's
advocate. Having that gigantic thing there for him in this creepy
misterioso scene -- what about what John Debney did on Spider-man 2? Playing that opening
JK: Because this is clearly
supposed to be funny!
DA: I think the pizza delivery
was supposed to be funny on some level too, wasn't it?
JK: I don't know, I don't know.
AK: Yeah, what if he was just
playing against it? It was a simple pizza delivery and he's scoring it
like the climax of the movie for a joke?
JK: It didn't come across as a
joke. Did it to you?
AK: No, I hate that and I love Van Helsing.
DA: Well, in Spider-man it came out of that
beautiful main title. Everybody that loved Van Helsing said the same thing as
you. It's so insanely over the top that's it's good because of it. I
didn't see it and I probably should before I really make any more
JK: It knows exactly what it's
doing. And the kind of things he got away with there, spotting-wise, it
even seems like Sommers was in on the joke. I don't know. But certainly
[Silvestri] was. I find the end very moving when Kate Beckinsale…
DA: Ah, don't tell me the end!
JK: You shouldn't even care!
Join in the fun!
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