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(Soundbite of music)

LIANE HANSEN, host:

That music, by Alexandre Desplat, was composed for "The Queen." It's one of five film scores that a panel of music professionals decided was good enough to win an Oscar nomination. The votes are being cast and next Sunday we'll find out who will take home the golden statuette.

Last week we began our own countdown to the Academy Awards by listening to two of the nominees for Best Original Score. Today we add two more. And our guide, as always, is Andy Trudeau.

Welcome back, Andy.

ANDY TRUDEAU: Liane, hi.

HANSEN: I noticed on the list some hardy perennials in this category, and old friends in our Oscar conversations are missing.

TRUDEAU: Yeah, number one, John Williams, who, by the way, had a birthday earlier this month, February 8th, turned 75; we had him twice last year: "Munich" and "Memoirs of a Geisha." This is a case where if you don't write it, they don't nominate you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

TRUDEAU: He didn't have any scores for pictures released in 2006. The rumors I'm reading indicates he's working on a project with Steven Spielberg having to do with Abraham Lincoln. But he did write the theme for the NBC Sunday Night Football.

And, by the way, another of those perennials, James Horner; he's now in with Katie Couric writing the theme for the CBS Evening News.

HANSEN: But no movies at all that would be eligible.

TRUDEAU: Yeah, he had some eligible ones, yes.

HANSEN: But they just didn't get the nomination.

TRUDEAU: Didn't get the nomination.

HANSEN: All right. To recap this year's race; last week we played selections from "Babel" by Gustavo Santaolalla, and "The Queen" by Alexandre Desplat. Alphabetically we're left with "The Good German" by Thomas Newman, "Notes on a Scandal" by Philip Glass, and "Pan's Labyrinth" by Javier Navarette. And you're the guest. Pick two.

TRUDEAU: Well, we'll start with music where the name on the score is Newman. First name, Thomas. It sounds like Newman, all right, first name, Alfred.

(Soundbite of music)

ANDY TRUDEAU: Thomas Newman's no stranger to the Oscar lineup. We've had him over the years. Just a couple that came to mind quickly: "American Beauty" and "Road to Perdition," which were two, I think, excellent scores that he did. Those previous scores were distinctive in an odd sort of way. They had a mix of popular currents in them. They were often classical in impact, and throughout them you could count on finding some very quirky orchestrations.

This is a complete change of pace, if you will. "The Good German" is a period film using period elements - I think he used real 1940s lenses and cameras. Well, Newman wrote a 1940s score, although since he is a younger guy, it's not going to be an exact pastiche.

Yet it's still filled with those kinds of gestures. One of those grand gestures of the Golden Age score is that sweet solo violin that rises over the orchestra, and he does that here.

(Soundbite of music)

TRUDEAU: Now, the string harmonies that are going to sit underneath are just a little off-base for 1946.

(Soundbite of music)

TRUDEAU: This is a darkly colored score that's more than a pastiche of an older style, and in fact there are cues that are clearly from 2006, not 1946. This is one atmospheric section. This is pure dissonance in a style that you would never have gotten away with if you were writing this in 1946.

(Soundbite of music)

TRUDEAU: The thing about film music, if you cast the scene right for the music, no one's going to notice the fact that we've gone from tonality to atonality.

(Soundbite of music)

TRUDEAU: Given the setting of these films, you can bet there's going to be a march or two kicking around, and there is. What I like about the way Newman does it - a typical march, you think of that long melody arching over the rhythm. He does it in dots rather than in a single line, and you'll hear it in the strings as they dot out the melody. There's no doubt this is a march, but it's very distinctively done.

(Soundbite of music)

TRUDEAU: Now listen to the strings.

(Soundbite of music)

Follow the dots.

(Soundbite of music)

TRUDEAU: A little Mahler at the end there, I think. There's another section of martial music that he writes that mixes that kind of sound with a very distinctive Thomas Newman touch or two. So we'll start out with the martial theme and listen to that wailing oboe that sits underneath it.

(Soundbite of music)

TRUDEAU: Listen to the way he varies the choirs. There's no real material here. He's just varying the texture.

(Soundbite of music)

Now listen to the lowest strings and how he rolls it along.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: Music by Thomas Newman for the Steven Soderbergh picture "The Good German." It is interesting how he kind of channels Alfred Newman in this period piece. That soundtrack was good enough to be nominated this year to win the Oscar for Best Original Score.

And sharing the honor of a nomination is the score for a very dark fantasy set in Franco's Spain at the end of the Spanish Civil War. The film is "Pan's Labyrinth." It was directed by Guillermo Del Toro, and the music was written by Javier Navarette.

TRUDEAU: And the music makes clear right away that this is a story of innocence and evil.

(Soundbite of music)

TRUDEAU: All right for the innocence.

HANSEN: Here comes the evil.

(Soundbite of music)

TRUDEAU: You can hear the transparency in the scoring. All the little pieces are very clear.

(Soundbite of music)

TRUDEAU: Navarette's a new name for me. He's been working in Spain for 20 years. Most of his films have been limited to a European release, a Spanish release. This is a wonderfully textured, very moody score. In notes he wrote for the album, the composer tells us he was responding to the innocence, drama and compassion of the visuals. A little girl's fantasy is at the heart of the story, and a lullaby is at the heart of Navarette's score.

(Soundbite of music)

TRUDEAU: Very simple accompaniment.

(Soundbite of music)

TRUDEAU: This is one of those scores that has an organic quality to it. There are transformations that occur in the musical elements, certainly in the principal themes, from the beginning to the end of the score, and by the time you reach the end of the score, that lullaby comes back much richer in orchestration and, one could argue, much more impassioned in its expression.

(Soundbite of music)

TRUDEAU: This is a film steeped in Spanish culture, but interestingly, the musical references to Spain are very subtle. In one little excerpt, the composer calls the melody of this waltz a nostalgic Spanish tune.

(Soundbite of music)

TRUDEAU: Get your waltz shoes on, please.

(Soundbite of music)

TRUDEAU: All strings.

(Soundbite of music)

TRUDEAU: This is a full orchestral score that rarely has everyone playing at the same time, but I often feel that one of the ways you can measure the quality of a score is to have the composer let it all hang out. Let everybody blast away, and this is one of those dramatic moments where the composer pulls out all the stops.

(Soundbite of music)

TRUDEAU: He's just going to pile it on here.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: Music, dramatic music from the score to Guillermo Del Toro's picture "Pan's Labyrinth." The soundtrack's composer, Javier Navarette, is one of five nominees for the Best Original Score Oscar.

We started off our Academy Award preview of the Best Original Score category with selections from the Thomas Newman score. Last week, we heard some of Gustavo Santaolalla's music for "Babel" and selections from "The Queen" by Alexandre Desplat, leaving us with...

TRUDEAU: Another composer who's knocked on our door before, Philip Glass. We'll hear selections from "Notes on a Scandal."

HANSEN: And you'll cast your vote for the Oscar. Andy Trudeau talks Oscar film music with us every year at this time. Andy, thanks a lot.

TRUDEAU: My pleasure, Liane.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: You can hear selections from "The Good German" and "Pan's Labyrinth" on our Web site, npr.org.

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