Music Muse Awards 2011

2011 was a quite a strong year in film scores, easily surpassing the last 3 years in consistency and quality. Of course, there was little doubt of that to begin with. Film score fans everywhere were eagerly the comeback of the long absent maestro, John Williams and boy he did not disappoint! Along with that, the year was ripe full of emotional, with Mark McKenzie’s touching religious tones and Marianelli’s heartbreaking classicism. Moreover, 2011 was a year for many foreign composers like Kolja Erdmann with the fantastic Russland, Ludovic Bource with the nostalgic The Artist along with the return of rising stars like Arnau Bataller, Abel Korzeniowski and Qigang Chen. It was extremely hard deciding and compiling all these favourites and disappointments and I hope there is something for you to take out of it. Enjoy (or despair!).

Top 10 of the Year

1)   War Horse (John Williams)

Deciding the score to take position number one was difficult and ultimately a very close competition, but War Horse takes the cup in the end. Its lyrical beauty is very powerful and moving. Williams has his melodious talent pour through the gorgeous flute solos in the score, and his dense action material are all packaged into an extraordinary score!

2)   The Adventures of Tintin (John Williams)

Its been a long time since we’ve heard an adventure score of such heights. Its Williams back in his A-game with a sense of enthusiasm and energy that was kind of missing from his previous score for the fourth Indiana Jones film. The action here is brilliant and the fantastic themes are all weaved into a stunningly complex intellectual tapestry of music. A classic  adventure score of such integrity definitely gets a spot in the top 3 (and very close to being the best score of the year, it was a tough choice between this and War Horse).

3)   Russland (Kolja Erdmann)

A score that blew me away when I first heard it. Yes, there are some Zimmer-isms in it, and some of the influences of the music is clear, but the sheer power and force of the orchestra and the choir is stunning. And the themes are absolutely gorgeous with many of their applications combining to create a fantastic final product.

4)   Jane Eyre (Dario Marianelli)

It takes time to for this score to grow on you (it sure did with me). When I first heard it, I thought it was a good score and I put it away for a couple of months. But coming back to it in my traditional 2011 score marathon at the end of the year, I was absolutely blown away and hooked to it for an entire week. The emotional nuances of this score are beautiful and Marianelli’s gorgeous writing for the violin is an absolute heartbreaker.

5)   The Great Miracle (Mark McKenzie)

Sometimes I get the sense that the hype behind this score might not exactly be reasonable. But when listening to the score, none of that ever crosses your mind, the beauty of McKenzie’s theme clearly show his passion for the project and the innocence of the themes are touching. Yes, the progressions of the score aren’t exactly groundbreaking, but it’s a beautiful score regardless.

6)   Kung Fu Panda 2 (John Powell/Hans Zimmer)

Both composers  struck the perfect balance with this score (although its primarily John Powell). This score is extremely contagious in its enthusiasm. The action is invigorating with its newly featured rhythm being addictive. The new themes are very successfully blended in with the old and there is still that genuine sense of awe that makes this fantastic entry.

7)   La Herencia Valdemar 2: La Sombra Prohibida (Arnau Bataller)

Bataller comes back with his dark and rich gothic sound for the first La Herencia Valdemar score. The gothic beauty and the dark tones of this score make it a highlight that did not seem to catch the attention of many of the listeners. It’s a fantastic score that stands a must-listen to any fan of film scores. And who doesn’t love that awesome Cthulhu track?!

8)   Hugo (Howard Shore)

There is a certain infectious charm to this score that is missing in many scores these days. The innocence of the main theme is absolutely delightful. To go on, the interweaving of the many themes and motifs is an impressive feature that seems to show Shore prepping for the Hobbit. I just can’t help but fall in love with this score.

9)   The Artist (Ludovic Bource)

I was not very fond of this score upon my first listen. Yes, I admired its quality and the role it serves in film, but it seemed to be a work of art to appreciate more than enjoy. But the more I listen to this, the more I’m starting to change my mind. It’s a great score that will win the hearts of the lovers of the Golden Age. The score would stand higher in my books if it were not for the necessary outdated compositional techniques that this score takes on, but still, it’s quite a good score.

10)  Black Gold (James Horner)

Had this not received such a late release, I’m sure it would have been on more top 10 lists. Yes, it has its fair share of Hornerisms and the album presentation isn’t quite perfect, but the epic scope of this score just makes it deserving of a spot in my top 10. The theme is powerful, the vocals are haunting, and the action is exhilarating! This is one of the sides of Horner I love, he always seems to be in top shape with ethnic dramas!


11)  Camelot (Jeff and Mychael Danna)

I tried so very hard to squeeze this into the top 10, but failed. It’s a truly beautiful score with some very haunting choral work. There will be several moments that will send the child down your spine as it harkens to Shore’s work for LOTR. And the themes are great and lyrical in all their forms.

12) Dream House (John Debney)

This deserves a top 10 spot as well because of the fantastic 5 star material.  The simply rising theme in its pounding variations really strikes gold and the more lyrical work is quite beautiful. With a combination of beautiful lyricism and emotional intrigue, this score only falls short of a place in the top 10 due to the suspense material.

Notable Works: (in no particular order)

Priest ( Christopher Young)

Soul Surfer ( Marco Beltrami)

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (Marco Beltrami)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (Alexandre Desplat)

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Alexandre Desplat)

The Wind Gods (Pinar Toprak)

La Ligne Droite (Patrick Doyle)

Iris (Danny Elfman)

The Flowers of War (Qigang Chen)

W.E. (Abel Korzeniowski)


Composer of the Year

1) John Williams

Very few composers have ever achieved the kind of comeback that Williams had this year. He produced two outstanding scores of top notch quality. The passion in War Horse and the enthusiasm in Tintin are qualities to marvel at and easily put Williams as the composer of the year!

2) Patrick Doyle

Wow, what a year for Mr. Doyle. We’ve had the pleasure of getting many scores from the ever talented Doyle and its been a delight for Doyle fans such as myself. While Thor and Rise of the Planet of the Apes may not have been up to Doyle’s usual high quality and style of writing (although the latter was particularly enjoyed by myself), Doyle still showed off his significant talent for his small ensemble score in La Ligne Droite and his fun score for Jig. Impressive year indeed!

3) Marco Beltrami

Beltrami has also had a great year with 2011. Soul Surfer was clearly a work of passion that is quite effective and quite creative with the Hawaiian chanting. Beltrami also produced a fantastic and exhilarating horror score for Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (love the Hermannesque main titles!). To go on, while The Thing may not be a very well rounded score, it most certainly has some great moments. A well deserved nomination.

4) Alexandre Desplat

Desplat as usual has been quite the busy bee, but this year, the quality appears to be greater and more consistent. Going back through his work, while he has had a couple of weak scores, his strong entries are very strong. His final score to Harry Potter might just be my favourite Desplat score and his work for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close can be quite touching. I nominated him last year and I do again, this time, with greater enthusiasm.

5) Arnau Bataller

A relatively new composer to the Western world who introduced himself with a bang by composing his first score for the La Herencia Valdemar series. His sequel score is equally strong and does a fine job of showing of his talent. But moreover, there remains his unreleased score for Ermessenda which judging from the suite, is truly gorgeous. Someone needs to get that score released!


Themes of the Year

Another great feature of 2011 is how it was a year full of fantastic melodies. And in honour of this year full of great themes, I decided to introduce this new category. Unfortunately, it turned out to be one of the most difficult categories to complete. The list really misses out on a lot of fantastic themes (look, theres not a single theme from Williams’ thematic powerhouse for Tintin!), but I’m not turning back now, so here they are:

1)   The Nature Theme/Dartmoor Theme (War Horse)

I simply cannot decide between the two. They’re both fantastic, so a tie it is! The former is the gorgeous theme often led by the flute interludes to signify the pastoral beauty of nature. And the latter is a soaring theme for the locale of Dartmoor itself. Both are very beautiful in their prime.

2)   The Nature Theme (Russland)

Yes, another nature theme! This theme can be found in cues like Der Baikalsee for those who have no idea about what I’m talking about. A lyrical theme that is quite scenic in a sense. One of my favourites of the year.

3)   Love Theme (The Flowers of War)

The Flowers of War remain as one of the unheralded scores of 2011, reaching out to few ears. It’s a shame, because this is a score of great beauty (except for the cringe-worthy nasal vocal renditions of the Qin Huai Legend theme…shudders). The love theme however was the big highlight for me. What a beautiful theme! Go get this score for that theme alone if you have not already done so.

4)   Main Theme (Camelot)

The poignant beauty of this theme was a big winner for me. I found it majestic from the first listen And when choir or the soprano takes on the theme, its quite beautiful.

5)   Hugo’s Theme (Hugo)

I honestly love this theme, and maybe because of the fantastic song at the end (Coeur Volant), but its such a great theme! It perfectly captures the innocence of Hugo and the spirit of French culture in such a way that drags you along in Scorecese’s adventure. And the fact that Shore really knows how to manipulate the theme helps too 🙂

Runner- Ups:

Main theme  (Black Gold)

Main theme (Jane Eyre)

Surprise of the Year

1)   Russland (Kolja Erdmann)

This score sort of came out of the blue for me. A few people made some recommendations and I purchased it on that basis, but never did I expect a score of such impressive scope and power. Unfortunately, the score has seen little attention, something that must be changed soon!

2)   The Great Miracle (Mark Mckenzie)

Everyone expected Mckenzie to deliever a good score because he always does in the rare times he gives a score to relish. But I did not expect anything to the magnitude of The Great Miracle. Its religious beauty was definitely something that took me by surprise from the moment I started playing the score.

3)   Iris (Danny Elfman)

A delightful surprise by Elfman. He packages all his great compositional ideas into this wonderful “score” for the circus. Very well done and a very entertaining experience.

4)   The Flowers of War (Qigang Chen)

Not unlike Erdmann, I knew next to nothing about this score until a few recommendations were made. The beauty (wow, I’ve used that word a lot, haven’t I?) of this score is a surprising quality that I’ve come to love.

5)   Soul Surfer (Marco Beltrami)

In my defense, the film looked terrible (still haven’t watched it), and honestly, all I was expecting was some generic “feel-good” music that typically plays for these kind of flicks. Boy was I proven wrong by Beltrami. The passionate creativity that can be found in the score made this a very refreshing listen. Sure, I find it a tad bit overrated in its heaps of praise, but it certainly is a very lovely score.

Disappointments of the Year

1)   On Stranger’s Tides (Hans Zimmer)

God, you have no idea how much I was expecting from Zimmer for this score. Being the fan I am of At World’s End, I felt that Zimmer would again deliver and prove his critics wrong in these dark times. But wow! I’m not sure I could have been even more disappointed. Urgh…I can’t go on.

2)   Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows (Hans Zimmer)

Zimmer’s first score for Sherlock Holmes was completely refreshing in its creativity! I was really hoping that Zimmer would channel that same flavor for this score…once again, terribly disappointing. I can’t express my disappointment with any mortal tongue, I apologize…aweoihta;wirhety3;oi4h;oaihsdg;iohwr;gh;iohrgw asiagi;jge jiagjiegjaiw djgdjigdji.

3)   Green Lantern (James Newton Howard)

I was expecting an awesome heroic score from James Newton Howard considering how he delivered my favourite score of 2010 with The Last Airbender. But clearly that’s not what we got.

4)   Thor (Patrick Doyle)

Patrick Doyle has often delivered fantastic action scores, but I never expected the RC mannerisms we ended up with. The score was loud and noisy with its obnoxious percussion and the Doyle style I really loved wasn’t very apparent. It wasn’t a very bad score, but disappointing indeed.

5)   Captain America (Alan Silvestri)

Again, not a bad score and it has several great highlights! But overall, I thought the album presentation is pretty poor and disappointing in a sense. Still, a pretty solid score though.

Best Cues of the Year

A strong year full of strong compositions will inevitably lead to one hell of a list of best cues. Last year, I listed 10 cues, this year, we’ll have this year’s 25 best cues and many tracks still got left out. The clear winner in the end however is obviously Sir Francis and the Unicorn. It was a fantastic throwback to Williams’ great action of the 80s with glorious statements of the Unicorn theme and the great pirate music of the score. There were many scores that featured great standout pieces. W.E. is a prime example of this. John Debney’s work for Dream House comes close to Sir Fracis and the Unicorn, especially Little Girls Die which may be his most dramatic piece of music since Mary Goes to Jesus in The Passion of the Christ. War Horse also features great material. In terms of action, Williams takes the lead with some truly invigorating and energetic material in Pursuit of the Falcon and No Man’s Land. This is followed by Desplat and Bataller leads with the epic stylings of Cthulhu and Dragon Flight. In the end, this is a fantastic year for standout cues and it sure was tough coming up with this list.

Six Hours – W.E. (Abel Korzeniowski)

Abdication – W.E. (Abel Korzeniowski)

Dragon Flight – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (Alexandre Desplat)

Cthulhu – La Herencia Valdemar 2: La Sombria Prohibida (Arnau Bataller)

Main Titles- Source Code (Chris Bacon)

A World Without End – Priest (Christopher Young)

Final Round – Real Steel (Danny Elfman)

IRIS Finale and Bows – IRIS (Danny Elfman)

Awaken – Jane Eyre (Dario Marianelli)

A Battle in the Fields – Black Gold (James Horner)

A Kingdom of Oil – Black Gold (James Horner)

Little Girls Die – Dream House (John Debney)

Peter Saves Ann/Redemption – Dream House (John Debney)

End Credits – Dream House (John Debney)

Zen Ball Master – Kung Fu Panda 2 (John Powell/Hans Zimmer)

Sir Francis and the Unicorn – The Adventures of Tintin (John Williams)

Pursuit of the Falcon – The Adventures of Tintin (John Williams)

Plowing – War Horse (John Williams)

No Man’s Land – War Horse (John Williams)

Main Titles – Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (Marco Beltrami)

Bethany’s Wave – Soul Surfer (Marco Beltrami)

Angels, Demons and Prayer – The Great Miracle (Mark McKenzie)

Letting Go – Super 8 (Michael Giacchino)

The Race – La Ligne Droite (Patrick Doyle)

Thor Kills the Destroyer – Thor (Patrick Doyle)

And there you go! They year 2011 as I saw it, summed up in about 3000 words 😀

3 Comments on “Music Muse Awards 2011”

  1. Thomas Allen says:

    I’m glad to see Jane Eyre so high on your list, as it did not crack many of the lists on the scoreboard.

  2. Beyond El Mar says:

    Loved your year end wrap-up.

    What I most took out of it was that I need to buy Russland!

    Thanks KK, keep up the great writing!

  3. Joel G says:

    Great stuff Kalaisan, really enjoyed reading through this thoughtful list. Don’t totally agree with every choice of course, but that’s perfectly natural. I still really need to listen to Russland and Flowers of War (have only listened to suites of them on youtube). But overall, a tremendous year in summary, with lots of surprises and delights!

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