Also Sprach Zarathustra, by Richard Strauss: a Song Review

General Information:

-Album Title: 2001: A Space Odyssey

-Artist: Richard Strauss

-Release Year: 1968

-Song Length: …on the above album about 1:49… in the original context around 30 minutes

-Genre: Orchestral Tonal Poem

-How to Listen: Spotify (linked below), or look for it at your local library!

-Page of Reference in RPO: 107

Some Background:

Since this is an Orchestral piece there aren’t any lyrics to discuss so I felt like some history on this piece and its larger composition was important.

For this I will only be reviewing the first piece made vastly popular by the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. This section called “Sunrise” is one of the most recognizable pieces of orchestral music in cinematic history particularly on the science-fiction circuit.

This Tonal Poem was written and conducted by Richard Strauss in the late 1800s and was based off of a book written by Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra.  Strauss wrote the full composition to be played in succession with only three distinctive pauses.  The piece follows Zarathustra’s philosophical journey, mirroring what he experienced in the novel of the same name.

There is scholarly debate about the ending of the composition.  It ends in two keys with a unfinished finality.  Some speculate this is because Strauss didn’t appreciate Nietzsche’s ending for Zarathustra.

The full composition has been recorded many times over the years first in 1935.  Many orchestras have performed the piece but it is most well known for the Berliner Philharmoniker’s performance for the soundtrack of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Review:

There isn’t a lot to say about this piece other than I learned something from looking up more information about it to get a better sense of it on it’s own.

Honestly I feel that you need the context of the piece within the film or in the grander scheme of it’s full composition to fully appreciate the depth and story that it tells.

I’ve never been a huge fan of orchestral music on its own.  I am a visual person and I work in film, TV and theatre.  I find that orchestral music on its own while beautiful often feels empty to me without the visual context of how it is used.  Basically you won’t find me sitting in a concert for an orchestra…which really is my loss in the end since I know how incredible those shows can be.

Overall, a beautiful composition but when viewed without the context of the film… or the rest of the music that follows I feel like this piece is just what it is.

The most well known and recognizable piece of science-fiction orchestral music in the world…and really nothing more.

Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

(would be higher in the full context of the visual in 2001: A Space Odyssey or withing the full composition…)

The Music of Star Wars- John Williams: a Composer’s review

General Information:

-Album Title: varies by soundtrack, score, and media type

-Artist: Composed by John Williams

-Release Year: varies by soundtrack and score from 1977 to the present

-Song/Album Length: varies by soundtrack and score

-Genre: Soundtracks and Scores

-How to Listen: Spotify (with subscription), Apple Music (with subscription), iTunes (for purchase), CD, or look for it at your local library

-Page of Reference in RP1: not explicitly listed but Star Wars and George Lucas are mentioned throughout the book

Lyrics:

TYPICALLY, NONE

MOST Star Wars Soundtracks and Scores are instrumental compositions created by John Williams

Some contain a chorus of around 10-120 voices but most of his music is orchestral for around 80 to 120 players

Review:

Film scores and soundtracks are so essential to the production of movies.  The same can be said of other media such as video games but most of my experience comes from the world of film.

John Williams is one of the most prolific and well-known composers in the industry.  His name is synonymous with Star Wars and Lucasfilm in general.  He has composed for the Star Wars universe since the first film in 1977 and to this day creates compositions for the latest television shows like The Clone Wars animated series and The Mandalorian as well as for the newest video games that are coming out centered around the universe of Star Wars.

His scores pull from a variety of different inspirations.  From the romantic leanings of Richard Strauss to the big band and full orchestral sounds of old Hollywood Williams ability to weave the fantasy elements of Star Wars with the epic narratives of the writing and action are unmatched by anyone else.

Williams and Lucas focused on the swelling orchestral score for the first film Star Wars: A New Hope.  They drew inspiration from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The ups and downs of the music composed for that film are often considered one of the first of its kind…music that enhanced the actions of the film rather than just accompanied it.

When the pair were figuring out how the film should be approached it was Williams who brought up the idea that the score should be a series of repeating themes that built upon each other.  As you listen to the soundtrack as a whole you can hear this throughout the music.  Often times the score is the same music repeated, overlaid with other music, with instruments added or subtracted to enhance the action on screen. It is a unique way of creating depth to a world that takes place mostly in the vast reached of the vacuum of space.

Williams played on these ideas throughout the movies and games he has scored.  You will find so often the same ideas played in different ways from single instruments joined by others to huge orchestral renditions of the same pieces.  The ups and downs, orchestrations as well as the swells and falls of the music is just astounding on its own.  Yet when paired with the visuals of the film you feel completely emersed in the entire world.

And while this review is for the Star Wars Franchise Williams is famous for so many other scores that you may be familiar with (and many that will be reviewed on this blog) such as E. T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Home Alone, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park I & II, Schindler’s List, Jaws and even some of the Harry Potter films.

He works closely with George Lucas and Lucasfilms and Steven Spielberg, in addition to making appearances amongst some of the most epically scored movies of all time.  He has won Academy Awards, BAFTA nominations, Golden Globes, and even Grammys for his work.  And it is all well-deserved in my opinion.

My favorite place to experience his music for the Star Wars Universe is out in nature.  When Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland and Disney World brought the planet of Batuu to life Williams was brought in to compose the main theme to the world.  As you wander amongst the people, shop in the small stores, dodge Stormtoopers, eat at Oga’s or anywhere else…even wait in line to help the resistance (and the smugglers) fight the Imperial forces… you are emersed in the musical score of the great John Williams.

He is a legend in his own right but his hand in building the world of Star Wars not only added depth to the story but a heart and soul to the galaxy far, far away.

Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Ladyhawke: The Motion Picture Soundtrack, by Andrew Powell: a Album review

General Information:

-Album Title: Ladyhawke

-Artist: Andrew Powell

-Release Year: 1985

-Album Length:

-Genre: Instrumental Film Score, Medieval Dark Fantasy

-How to Listen: Spotify (with subscription), Apple Music (with subscription), iTunes (for purchase), CD, or look for it at your local library

-Page of Reference in RP1: 106

Lyrics:

NONE…all instrumental

Song Titles:

  1. Main Title
  2. Phillipe’s Escape
  3. The Search for Phillipe
  4. Tavern Fight (Phillipe)
  5. Tavern Fight (Navarre)
  6. Phillipe Describes Isabeau
  7. Navarre’s Ambush
  8. The Chase, the Fall & the Transformation
  9. “She Was Sad at First…”
  10. Navarre Returns to Aquila
  11. Narvarre’s and Marquet’s Duel
  12. Marquet’s Death
  13. Bishop’s Death
  14. End Title

Review:

This is a beautiful soundtrack.  It is one that plays throughout the background of the film and adds an incredible depth to the storyline.  The majority of the music seems to have medieval themes throughout it and many of the moments feel truly like what I imagine life in this time period would have been like (if you had the ability to carry music with you always).

The ups and downs of the score follow the action in ways that enhance, not detract from the story and the action that is going on upon the screen.

This is one of the few scores I can listen to that helps me focus.  Usually I need talking or singing to stimulate my brain well enough to focus but the depth here is just so beautiful that it is easy to listen to in the background.

Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.