The Grammy awards take place this Sunday night. Here’s a look at the nominees in an orchestral category embraced by the public that often goes unnoticed by classical music enthusiasts: Soundtracks.
Alice in Wonderland, Danny Elfman
Elfman’s work on Alice in Wonderland continues a longstanding relationship between the composer and director, Tim Burton. The two have collaborated on a number of projects in the past, including, among others, the 1989 Batman, Nightmare Before Christmas, and the 2005 Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. This year’s Grammy nomination is Elfman’s twelfth. Here’s a fantastical track from the score, featuring a children’s chorus:
Avatar, James Horner
The composition of the score for Avatar presented an unusual challenge to composer James Horner, namely its inherent need for music that depicted the film’s alien culture, the Na’vi. Horner set lyrics in the Na’vi’s language, which was designed specifically for the movie. And in his attempt to invent a unique musical aesthetic for the Na’vi, Horner consulted ethnomusicologist Wanda Bryant, who advised him on instruments and techniques to incorporate into the score.
Inception, Hans Zimmer
Hanz Zimmer has made a name for himself in film composition over the past twenty years with his work on the scores of The Lion King, Gladiator, and Pirates of The Caribbean. He won a Grammy in 2009 for the soundtrack for The Dark Knight, another of his collaborations with Inception director Christopher Nolan. This year’s nominations for Inception and Sherlock Holmes are his 8th and 9th Grammy bids.
Sherlock Holmes, Hans Zimmer
Benefiting from a luxury special to soundtracks, the score to Sherlock Holmes will have its second chance at a major award after it – along with Avatar – lost to Up in the original score category for the Academy Awards last March. The unusual instrumentation, which includes banjo, accordion, and other gypsy-flavored sounds, gives the score a different feel from others by Zimmer, though certain elements of his style remain, such as a driving pulse and heavy use of brass and percussion.
Toy Story 3, Randy Newman
The music for Toy Story 3 contains a diverse range of styles from light, Americana orchestral writing to rock/pop songs (including a version of the original Toy Story’s “You’ve Got A Friend in Me,” that plays when Buzz gets set to Spanish mode), all written, conducted, and performed by Newman. The score evokes an optimistic, sentimental mood seemingly appropriate for the last installment of a kids’-movie trilogy whose original target audience is just getting old enough to know nostalgia. Here’s a taste of the orchestral writing: