Electronic Music at the Movies
by Philip Sherburne | May 6, 2013
Given how profoundly M83's Anthony Gonzalez has been inspired by film scores, it seems entirely fitting that he should now get his own chance to write for the silver screen. The soundtrack to Oblivion, the new Tom Cruise sci-fi flick, was composed by Gonzalez working alongside Joseph Trapanese, who also worked with Daft Punk on 2010's Tron reboot. Fans of M83's more overtly electronic music may be disappointed; for a film about the future, its soundtrack largely sticks to the swelling strings so favored by big-budget pictures.
Still, it got us thinking about great electronic-music scores and soundtracks. There aren't nearly as many as you'd think there ought to be, given that Louis and Bebe Barron recorded an all-electronic soundtrack to Forbidden Planet way back in 1956. Still, electronic producers have played a key role in classic film scores, from Giorgio Moroder's Midnight Express to Air's The Virgin Suicides. More recently, Basement Jaxx and Trent Reznor have been establishing parallel careers as film composers, while the soundtrack superstar Cliff Martinez has been making his own work sound more and more like ambient techno.
As always, the line delineating "electronic" music is blurry. We've left out scads of Hollywood scores that rely on computers to recreate more traditional, orchestral sounds, but we've included hybrid works like Simon Fisher Turner's gorgeous I'll Sleep When I'm Dead, which fleshes out jazzy acoustic jams with tape loops and ambient artifice. And of course, we've kept Vangelis' Blade Runner and Chariots of Fire in the mix, no matter how schlocky they can be.