COMPOSER UNDER THE RADAR #3: DAVID ARNOLD

Seriously, why isn’t this guy scoring movies anymore? His scores are huge, epic, orchestral, beautiful, awesome! Well, this world is strange, really …

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Being a Bond composer later on, British composer David Arnold already knew at the age of seven that he wanted to become a film composer by watching “You Only Live Twice”. After his first feature film, “The Young Americans”, he spectacularly emerged into the film music scene in the mid-1990s by writing rousing orchestral music for “Independence Day” (definitely on my “Great Moments of Film Scoring” list…), “Stargate” and “Tomorrow Never Dies”. This made him one of Hollywood’s most beloved composers also providing music for “Godzilla” and four more Bond movies in the years to follow, the best one being “Casino Royale (although he’s not that good at avoiding spoilers – I mean, “Death of Vesper”, are you kidding me?).

However, his last big scoring assignment has been the wonderfully melodic “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” back in 2010 for which he composed an amazing sequel score based on Harry  Gregson-Williams’s pre-existing themes. Since then, it’s been exeptionally quiet around him. Yes, he’s co-scoring BBC’s “Sherlock” with Michael Price, but apart from that, he’s only doing arrangements in pop and rock music and some concerts featuring music from his most popular scores.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like this will change within the next few years. For some reason that is completely incomprehensible to me, he is unable to get attached to high profile pictures like it has been the case in the 1990s and the early 2000s. Even Roland Emmerich with whom he’s worked on successful films such as “ID4” and “Godzilla” turned to different composers for the last entries in his filmography (just imagine what Arnold could have done with “Independence Day: Resurgence” !). Meanwhile, it is actually quite funny to quote the “ID4” producer saying that it was a British composer who is responsible for “some of the most rousing and patriotic music in the history of American cinema.”

 

David Arnold’s music not only profits from Nicholas Dodd’s intelligent orchestrations (now that’s what I call an amazing orchestrator), but from Arnold’s outstandig musical abilities as well as his sense for melody and dense/fun action writing, with him almost always creating a real workout for the brass section. Just listen to the wonderful “End Credits” from “Independence Day”: It’s so energetic, it’s simply wonderful to be able to listen to joyous orchestral music like this that you rarely find in Hollywood blockbusters nowadays.

Maybe that’s one of the reasons why he doesn’t get to score A-list movies anymore: He’s just too good. In modern cinema, producers want to hear action scores full of string ostinati and electronica – something that some people might describe as a typical RCP product -, it’s not about creating a piece of art but rather copying the temp track or writing a stereotypical piece of music without a real theme that ultimately lacks a true musical identity.

Arnold is one of those composers who definitely has the skills and the talent to create an interesting musical soundscape for a movie – and it is just sad that he’s not allowed anymore to be able to prove what a great composer he is. Maybe he’s scoring the next Bond movies as Mendes has already announced his desire to leave the project (which could mean that Thomas Newman, great composer by the way, is also leaving) – and maybe, really maybe, he could be back in the game again. David Arnold, 007, we miss you!

 

 

 

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