"If I weren't a director, I would want to be a film composer."
Steven Spielberg

Most films have music. Some films could not be what they are without their music. Film music can be great music. What’s more, it can elevate a potentially ordinary film to greatness. But audiences often don't really notice it.

Cinema Sounds presents a series of films that succeed in large part through their music. Richard Guérin, who has produced many recordings of great film music (and much besides), will join us for prescreening examinations of the art and craft of film scoring, as we feature some of the greatest musical scores in the history of cinema. Richard has worked for many years with award-winning composers of film music such as Philip Glass (Candyman, The Truman Show, The Hours) and Elliot Goldenthal (Batman Forever, Interview with a Vampire, Alien 3).

Join us for these cinematic and musical adventures.

Thursday, Aug. 10, 7 pm - STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN - Tickets

Composed by James Horner
Directed by Nicholas Meyer

James Horner is best known for his two Oscar-winning scores: TITANIC and AVATAR. (He also wrote the Oscar-winning song from TITANIC, "My Heart Will Go On.") And he claims many other memorable scores as well, including FIELD OF DREAMS, GLORY, APOLLO 13 and A BEAUTIFUL MIND. Before any of those, however, Horner scored THE WRATH OF KHAN, his first big Hollywood film. Meyer, the film's director, said Horner was hired because they couldn't afford Jerry Goldsmith, who had scored the first Star Trek film. But soon Horner also became a budget-busting choice for all but the biggest films. In addition to being hailed as a superb film composer, he was also known for "borrowing" the music of other composers. Some called it outright plaigarism; others echoed the words from Film Score Monthly, suggesting he was "skilled in the adaptation of existing music into films with just enough variation to avoid legal troubles." In either case, Horner's name is attached to some magnificent film music.

Thursday, Sept. 7 - E.T. - Tickets

Composed by John Williams
Directed by Stephen Spielberg

John Williams is unquestionably one of the greatest film composers of all time, and E.T. is unquestionably one of his greatest scores. In fact, some consider E.T. to be the greatest film score ever. Period.

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Previous Cinema Sounds Programs



Composed by Jerry Goldsmith
Directed by Joe Dante

Jerry Goldsmith is one of the most admired, ingenious and prolific composers ever to write for film, and GREMLINS is one of his most imaginative scores. After cutting his teeth in the 1950s writing music for CBS radio and TV shows, he went on to create hundreds of scores for film and television during a career that spanned five decades. The diversity of his output is staggering, including PLANET OF THE APES, CHINATOWN, PATTON, LOGAN'S RUN, L.A.CONFIDENTIAL, THE MUMMY and five STAR TREK movies. He received 18 Oscar nominations, making him one of the most nominated composers in the history of the awards, but he only won once, for THE OMEN. (That score is not generally considered one of his best.) Goldsmith is also famous for writing marvelous music for really bad movies. Happily, GREMLINS isn't one of those.



Music by Danny Elfman
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld

Danny Elfman has been one of the most prolific and acclaimed film composers in the business for several decades. He broke through as a big-time Hollywood composer through a longtime collaboration with director Tim Burton on films such as BATMAN, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS and MARS ATTACKS. And he's done plenty of good work with other directors as well. MEN IN BLACK (1998) is just one example. It was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Original Musical or Comedy Score category. The same year his score for GOOD WILL HUNTING was nominated for Best Original Dramatic Score. However, Elfman believes he'll be best remembered for writing the theme for the TV series The Simpsons, which he composed in a day.



Music by Alan Silvestri
Directed by Robert Zemeckis

When Robert Zemeckis asked Alan Silvestri to start working on a score for BACK TO THE FUTURE, producer Steven Spielberg wasn't keen on hiring him. The composer hadn't established much of a track record, and it was mostly in TV. Not until Zemeckis surreptitiously slipped some of Silvestri's score into the temp track (temporary music used in editing the film) did Spielberg agree. The rest is history. This score is universally admired and cited by many as one of the greatest ever.



Music by Don Davis
Directed by The Wachowskis

Don Davis has been writing music for television and film since the late 1970s, amassing a long list of credits. But it was THE MATRIX really put him on the map. The score is monumental, widely regarded as one of the greatest in recent memory. Combining orchestral, choral and synthesizer elements, it features a compendium of 20th century compositional techniques corralled into a distinctive individual compositional voice. The result is a seminal score that goes deeper than The Matrix itself.



Music by Elmer Bernstein
Directed by Robert Mulligan

During his 54-year career, Elmer Bernstein (no relation to Leonard) wrote some of the best known and wide-ranging music in film history. His 150-plus scores include everything from THE TEN COMMANDMENTS to THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (immortalized by the Marlboro man) to ANIMAL HOUSE and GHOSTBUSTERS.

In TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962), one of his most highly acclaimed scores and a personal favorite, he wanted the music to carry the emotions of the child narrating the story. Music, Bernstein said "can express what [the story’s characters] are not willing to express, or are unable to express."

Film composer James Newton Howard said, "Somehow, he has always been able to achieve gigantic effect with the most gentle and graceful gestures. Never has that been put to better use than in his incomparable score to ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.'”



Music by Bernard Herrmann
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

October demands horror. Fortunately, this quintessential thriller, arguably the first slasher movie ever made, has one of the great film scores by another surefire GOAT contender. It is generally acknowledged that PSYCHO owes much of its greatness to Herrmann's score.

A 2010 Wall Street Journal article  stated that “Bernard Herrmann did more than just enhance 'Psycho' with his music; he probably saved it.”

Hitchcock himself said, "Thirty-three percent of the effect of 'Psycho' was due to the music.”



Music by John Williams
Directed by Steven Spielberg

If there were a GOAT (greatest of all time) award for film composers, Williams would surely be on everyone's contender list. Williams has named this score as one of his own favorites. As seems fitting. Among other feats of cinema scoring, this film's music represents an intergalactic conversation between the human race and alien visitors. It rises to the occasion.

The film itself is great and deserves its score. Had CLOSE ENCOUNTERS not been released the same year as STAR WARS, it probably would have been the sci-fi movie of the year. Williams famously composed scores for both films, and Spielberg engaged him for CLOSE ENCOUNTERS while he was still working with George Lucas on STAR WARS. (And he lived to tell the tale.)