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10 Film Scores That Should Be Performed Live

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Earlier this week, Radiohead guitarist and composer Jonny Greenwood announced that he’d perform his critically acclaimed score to Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood for two nights at London’s Roundhouse. What’s more, he’ll be joined by a 50-piece orchestra, and it’ll mark the score’s live debut. Because we’re Twizzler-loving cinephiles at heart, the announcement sparked our inner fanboy and we quickly pulled together 10 other scores we want to hear live. Hell, we went further and even imagined an ideal location for each performance — from Austin City Limits to Chicago’s Music Box Theatre. The one condition was that the film’s original composer must be alive, which surprisingly didn’t help us much in narrowing this down. So, microwave some popcorn, turn on your noggin, and let the silver screen into your ears.

10. Under the Skin

Mica Levi


Ideal Location: Hell, probably

Mica Levi – a.k.a. Micachu, frontwoman of Micachu and the Shapes – has a remarkable handle on what human fear sounds like. Her anxiety-inducing score for Under the Skin fits together dissonant compositions into something appropriately otherworldly and truly nightmarish. And once you see it in the context of Jonathan Glazer’s film, Levi’s mélange of twitching strings, bleak tones, and nauseous swells of indeterminate sound will forever be tied to some of the scariest stuff you’ll see on a movie screen this decade. –Dominick Mayer

9. The Raid: Redemption

Mike Shinoda and Joseph Trapanese


Ideal Location: That weird latex nightclub from The Matrix Revolutions.

By far the best work of Mike Shinoda’s career (this coming from a recovered Linkin Park obsessive), the score for The Raid: Redemption is the sort of aggro-crunch, pulse-pounding electronica that bled into so much of nu-metal’s apex of popularity. But, you know, done to excellence. It’s impressive given how deceptively tricky Shinoda’s job is: write a score so aggressively quick, sharp, and riveting that it can keep up with Iko Uwais’ arms and legs. YouTube “The Raid hallway scene” and you’ll understand how much of an accomplishment this really is. Or, just watch below. –Dominick Mayer

8. Thief

Tangerine Dream

thief tangerine dream 10 Film Scores That Should Be Performed Live

Ideal Location: Chicago’s The Green Mill. Watch the film and you’ll know why.

Chicago has long been considered a sprawling urban wasteland to most of America. Yet Michael Mann’s 1981 neo-noir masterpiece, Thief, captured the city’s industrial beauty by focusing on its sleepy late nights. With ambient support from Tangerine Dream, the film’s multiple heists, picturesque establishing shots, and fortysomething angst are all elevated to works of art. Given that the German outfit revisited their score for William Friedkin’s Sorcerer at a recent Los Angeles screening, it’s very likely they’d dust off this gem. To actually hear the jubilant swagger of “San Diego Beach” or the Floyd-esque guitar work of “Final Confrontation” would be quite surreal. Quite. Maybe for the film’s 35th anniversary in 2016? –Michael Roffman

7. Her

Arcade Fire

her arcade fire owen pallett 10 Film Scores That Should Be Performed Live

Ideal Location: In the comfort of every attendant’s own home, via uncanny hologram

Arcade Fire’s Oscar-nominated score for Her (feels good to say that, doesn’t it?) is all dreamy, muted pop, the perfect backdrop for a film about pastel colors and profound existential loneliness. With assists from Owen Pallett and Karen O on the also-nominated “The Moon Song”, Arcade Fire manage to capture the most gently childlike aspects of their sound and distill them into a score that constantly aches with longing and a need for some kind, any kind of deeper human contact. –Dominick Mayer

6. Halloween

John Carpenter via Alan Howarth

john carpenter

Ideal Location: There is no Haddonfield, Illinois, but Chicago’s Music Box Theatre will do the trick.

Imagine it’s fall in Chicago. Well, what little fall we have before the snow blows away the dead leaves on our dirty ground. But who cares? Inside our movie house awaits John Carpenter, who is about to present his 1978 horror classic, which will feature keyboard accompaniment by Carpenter’s co-hort Alan Howarth. Carpenter’s opening statement ends and the curtain rises. The audience sits in silence, waiting for those orange letters to appear on the screen, waiting for Howarth’s piano to set the mood and bring about applause. He came home… –Justin Gerber

5. Inception

Hans Zimmer and Johnny Marr

inception score

Ideal Location: Primavera Sound, or somewhere both a.) European and b.) along the coast.

Technically, this already happened. Four years ago, at one of the premieres for Christopher Nolan’s Oscar-nominated sci-fi nail-biter, Hans Zimmer and Johnny Marr hit the stage with a full orchestra and performed selections of the score. Okay, but what about the general population? Nearly half a decade later, the soundtrack’s menacing waves of brass (“Dream Is Collapsing”) and sweeping closing hymn (“Time”) remain influential aural constructs to composers all over, its DNA having crept into this past year’s crop of Oscar nominees (see: Captain Phillips). In under 45 minutes, the soundtrack captures the film’s warped narrative, which makes for a rather operatic listen. So, if they performed it in full, preferably outdoors as the sun’s setting in the distance, it’d be the stuff of dreams. And yet, isn’t that the point? –Michael Roffman

4. Friday Night Lights

Explosions in the Sky

explosions in the sky

Ideal Location: Austin City Limits. Saturday night. Evening set.

Considering each set by Explosions in the Sky typically includes tracks off 2003’s The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place, an agreeable selection of the Friday Night Lights “score” has been covered live. Still, a rousing hometown performance — y’know, where the film and television series was lensed — would be enough to send shivers down the angriest coach or linebacker. Imagine them opening with “From West Texas” while a string section forms behind them as they segue straight into “Your Hand in Mine”. The score’s original selections, namely “The Sky Above, the Field Below”, “To West Texas”, and “A Slow Dance”, would make for savory deep cuts the Austin instrumentalists haven’t tapped in some time. Too bad C3 didn’t book them; after all, this October is the film’s 10th anniversary. Maybe a secret one-off at Stubb’s? –Michael Roffman

3. Tron and Tron: Legacy

Wendy Carlos feat. Daft Punk

Tron Soundtrack Album

Ideal Location: A packed Wembley Stadium, decked out with a laser light show that would make a Skrillex gig look like a kid playing with those dumbass gloves with lights on the fingertips.

There are very few films with pure electronic scores, and even fewer that actually work. How insane is it then that two impeccable pieces of music could come from the same Disney franchise and spaced out by 30 years? Although she hasn’t worked in the industry for decades, Wendy Carlos has as many incredible scores to her name as Daft Punk has incredible albums, having worked on music for Tron, The Shining, and A Clockwork Orange. Seeing the 74-year-old composer unite with the world renown French duo onstage to bring Tron to life would be an envious spectacle for the electronic scene, and one sight to behold. It’s a melding of two generations of style and substance that could revive Carlos in the way Daft Punk brought Giorgio Moroder back to life with their latest album. –Pat Levy

2. Scarface

Giorgio Moroder


Ideal Location: Miami Beach. Or Marlins Park in lieu of official Miami Marlins game.

“Buenvenidos a Miami!” Ah, Miami. With its infinite summers, retirees, basketball stars, and one alleged Major League Baseball team. A perfect setting for a revived Giorgio Moroder to play the Scarface score on its famous beach. Coke will sponsor the event (the soda company, obviously), which would feature special guest Paul Engemann at the halfway mark to revive his “classic” hit, “Scarface (Push It to the Limit)”. If you close your eyes hard enough, you’ll be able to hear machines counting money, as well as rappers throughout time nailing the film’s poster in hallway walls leading to their game parlors. Palladia will broadcast the event live. –Justin Gerber

1. Blade Runner


blade runner

Ideal Location: Los Angeles, preferably in 2019. Maybe at an event like the LA Film Fest, where he could score the film live on a stage decked out in rusted metal and fire-belching smokestacks.

Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner presented a vision of the future so shocking and pervasive in its grit, grime, and neon that it marked a new epoch in the sci-fi landscape. Vangelis’ score is an inseparable part of that vision, matching the physical landscape with a haunting sonic terrain. You can’t even think of the film without hearing it first. Whereas Scott influenced countless other filmmakers and novelists, Vangelis’ score has taken root in every synth player that’s come since. Try and find a single synth aficionado that hasn’t tried to replicate the iconic brass drone of the main titles. It’s way past time that Vangelis bring his synths to the stage for the ultimate Blade Runner experience. –Cap Blackard

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