Oscar-Nominated Scores: 'Pride and Prejudice' A three-part series on the musical scores nominated for the Academy Award wraps up with a look at Pride and Prejudice, a recap of the other nominees and a prediction for which composer will win.
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Oscar-Nominated Scores: 'Pride and Prejudice'

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Oscar-Nominated Scores: 'Pride and Prejudice'

Oscar-Nominated Scores: 'Pride and Prejudice'

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For the past two weeks, we've been listening to the music nominated in the Best Original Score category. Our guide is Andy Trudeau, who's with us now to wrap things up. Welcome back, Andy.

ANDY TRUDEAU reporting:

Hey, Liane.

HANSEN: Well, we've been going alphabetically by picture, so this years' nominations are Brokeback Mountain by Gustavo Santaolalla, The Constant Gardener by Alberto Iglesias, Memoirs of a Geisha by John Williams, Munich, also by John Williams, and Pride and Prejudice by Dario Marianelli. And Andy, Marianelli's score is the only one that we haven't heard yet, so why don't you start us off?

TRUDEAU: Well, Liane, you know, anyone who listens to a lot of film music knows that there are, all them sub-genres; they're types of films that have their own guidelines and styles, and the music generally follows in that. Westerns, film noir, sci-fi epics. I'm going to claim there's a Jane Austin sub-genre, and typically we're going to hear these scores a classical elegance. There will often be dramatic, dark undercurrents and rustic backgrounds. Dario Marianelli's score to Pride and Prejudice is really solidly right in that tradition.

He's an Italian composer who's gotten most of his work in Great Britain. He's been scoring films since '94. I'm guessing that some of your listeners would have heard his work on the Terry Gilliam fantasy The Brothers Grimm, which he scored. To my ears, Jane Austen scores have three basic elements and they're all in this score.

The first one is going to give us something of an English countryside sound, and here's how Marianelli does that.

(Soundbite of music from Pride & Prejudice)

TRUDEAU: Now we'll add some strings. Let's get the whole band in the room. That's the folk element that I think you'll find in all Jane Austen scores. Another one we're going to find is what I'm calling classical elegance, and Marianelli doesn't disappoint us here either. He did cue, and bless him, because it's often that composers will borrow from regular classical composers but never credit it. But in a cue he called A Postcard to Henry Purcell, he plays with a tune that I think some of your listeners will recognize as the same one Benjamin Britain used in his famous work, A Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra.

(Soundbite of music)

TRUDEAU: Very conventional scoring, viola, string section. In addition to folk elements and a classical elegance, if you will, the third element that's in every Jane Austen score is the dramatic underscoring. And this is where the composer really can add those modern touches. Now Dario Marianelli said he had the sound of Beethoven's early piano sonatas in his ear when he came to write some of the character scenes for this movie. And that resulted in a sound that combines, I think, a very contemporary tunefulness with a chamber orchestra that is very classical in its context. This is one of the more charming of the themes that he's created.

(Soundbite of music)

TRUDEAU: And he uses the classical pianist John Yves Touboudate(ph) to play it.

(Soundbite of music)

TRUDEAU: Very modern contemporary sort of melody here.

(Soundbite of music)

TRUDEAU: Now we'll go to the whole orchestra.

(Soundbite of music)

TRUDEAU: A very nice classical close to the cue.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: Some of the music from Dario Marianelli's score for the film Pride & Prejudice, which is up for an Oscar this evening. Andy, let's run through all the nominees, and then we'll, as we always do, get your pick. First, Brokeback Mountain by Gustavo Santaolalla.

(Soundbite of music from Brokeback Mountain)

TRUDEAU: This is a soundtrack who, to my ears, its ambiguity is its message. It's music very much in search of an identity. The soundtrack recording contains just 13 minutes of original soundtrack music on it. The rest are songs that are heard in different guises in the movie. It's a transparent, simple scoring, spotlights solo guitar played by the composer, handful of supporting instruments, slide guitar, strings. This is a score that is atmospheric as much as anything else.

HANSEN: The next contender for the golden statuette is another composer who is at the Oscar party for the first time, Alberto Iglesias and the music he wrote for The Constant Gardner.

(Soundbite of music from The Constant Gardner)

TRUDEAU: This is a film set in Africa and it's a score very much influenced by World Music. This is an experienced composer. He's been working in Spain since the mid-1980s. He doesn't as much blend African and European styles but he puts them in the same room together and lets them have fun together. One of the results is the cue we just heard in which African flutes are mingled with an American baritone saxophone.

HANSEN: Now the first of two Academy Award nominations for the man who's Hollywood's most recognized and busiest composers, John Williams. This is from the score for Memoirs of a Geisha.

(Soundbite of music of Memoirs of a Geisha)

TRUDEAU: This is a very mainstream approach that blends indigenous Japanese instruments and melodic lines within very classical molds. Part of what makes Williams such a great composer is his ability to think in several dimensions. Often you'll hear a melody with just the music underneath just supporting it. But in a Williams' score what's going on underneath is often as interesting as what's going on above it. And sometimes there's even a third melodic line thrown in there.

This is a generally low key score and it's expertly pieced together.

HANSEN: The second nomination for John Williams this year is for his collaboration with director Steven Spielberg for the film Munich.

(Soundbite of music from Munich)

TRUDEAU: This is another dramatic score. Like Memoirs of a Geisha, it is very mainstream in its orchestration and approach. Williams had two other scores completed this year. This has been an incredible year for John Williams. He had the last of the Star Wars scores, and he had War of the Worlds also done this year.

Another strongly thematic score. This is something that Williams likes to do. The melody for the character Avner gets a lot of workouts in this score, including the one we're just listening to.

Williams is really so good at what he does that I think we tend to take it for granted. It's just all so easy sounding. And I don't think it's an accident that we've had John Williams with us on these talks every year we've had these chats except for one year and that was the year that John Williams wrote no film scores.

HANSEN: Alberto Iglesias, Dario Marianelli, Gustavo Santaolalla and John Williams twice. Now it's time for your pick. One.

TRUDEAU: Liane, let me start with a brief editorial. I really feel that this year the Academy let us down by nominating two John Williams scores. Now don't get me wrong. Each is a fine score, but I don't think either one is so overwhelming that it knocks out all the other competition.

I think John Williams would've been as well served and as well honored as he should be with either one nominated. And then we would've had another composer in the running, another completely different approach in style to listen to, which I think would've made it a more challenging competition. And which scores do I think should've gotten that fifth slot. Well, Patrick Doyle for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Danny Elfman, a composer we've had here many times before, for The Corpse Bride. Thomas Newman, another favorite, Cinderella Man. Howard Shore, whom you've spoken with, A History of Violence. Harry Gregson Williams, The Chronicles of Narnia. And I have to throw in my guilty pleasure, which is James Newton Howard's score to King Kong.

That said, I'll say that my goal is to pick a score that has the musical values that I believe will reward listening in the years to come. I think great film music is not of the moment but is for longer times, and the really great film scores exist beyond the movie they underscore. And therefore I'm trying to pick a score that I think in a few years I'll put it in the CD player and enjoy it as music.

All that said, I think the expert weaving of East and West, John Williams' Memoirs of a Geisha would be my vote for this year's Oscar.

HANSEN: Andy Trudeau has been our guide to Oscar nominated film music for the past 10 years. If he keeps this up, he'll get a Lifetime Achievement Award. It's always a pleasure to talk to you. I'll talk to you next year. Andy, thanks a lot.

TRUDEAU: Thanks, Liane.

HANSEN: There's more music from the nominated movies at our website NPR.org. You can also review Andy's analysis of Oscar nominated film scores from years past, and view a list of his top ten film scores of all time. This is NPR's WEEKEND EDITION.

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