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SONIC DEATH MONKEY: Soundtrack Reviews- Danny Elfman & the Batman Tracks-- Part I: The Batman Score

Holy Sonic Death Monkey Batman!
by Marc Kandel

Of the many and varied soundtracks Danny Elfman has provided, the original score to "Batman", and the stunning follow up of the "Batman Returns" suite, which took an established work of brilliance and breathed into it an entirely new visceral, emotional life, stand as his creative highlights. Breaking down the tracks in detail can take a bit of prose, so this article will begin with the original “Batman” and take up “Batman Returns” in a second part. Also keep in mind my musical knowledge of what instrument does what is pretty limited, so this is the POV from a fan who really enjoys the hell out of the music and gets strong impressions from it, but might be a little off on the technical side of things.

What did Elfman bring to the table? Simple. His is the hand that makes the first film, and to some degree the second true pieces of art worth being remembered and revisited even as superior Batman films begin to overthrow the original work. Elfman backs his director up, orchestrating a throat clenching, fingers into fists introduction to Bruce Wayne’s world and charges full speed into Bruce Wayne’s war. It’s better opera than drama in the end, heavy on spectacle, embarrassingly light on plot, but everyone remembers those exciting days of anticipation, and the payoff everyone got that June evening in 89’ as we got a front row seat to this magical, surprisingly musical war of the freaks. Through this review concerns itself with the film's music its surprising how often commentary on the film crops up- it's Elfman’s genius that so expertly interweaves sound with Burton’s imagery, and it’s almost impossible to discuss the music alone without treading into the events of the film.

Elfman rivets us with the darkness of Gotham immediately in soft horns and light bells, a low, steaming city with the occasional sparkles of light piercing the grey, emphasized by rising and falling soft-plucked strings we now take for granted as Elfman’s trademark. The music is gentle but thick, the atmosphere subdued; the storm is coming, and this is the briefest calm. Help is needed, if not wanted. There is a build with muted but threatening percussion, and then the pronouncement of the presence that will scour this fouled village, a chugging engine of sound- blaring, proud horns set to a marched cadence as we scan the alleyways and dark corners of Gotham knowing that something is now present in this bad place. This reoccuring theme will now be referenced as the "Bat Fanfare".

Elfman tops his intro off with a faint prelude to the Scandalous theme (the Prince contribution), and then speeds it up into a dangerous tango; punctuating horns and a sexy flurry of drums pushing us into the streets, into the center stage. We are now in Gotham.

And before we can even catch our breath (in the soundtrack, not the movie), we have the Rooftop Fight, a prickling, stabbing thrill as justice visits two grime-ridden thugs unprepared for what waits for them in the shadows. Strings capture the panic of the prey while cymbals and grating horns rise and fall pinpointing their failure to take down their seemingly invulnerable tormentor. Elfman’s use of the tribal drumbeats comes into play for the first time, lending the hunt a rapid, desperate beat. The music dies down momentarily as the punks are brutally subdued.

There is silence, a crash of hard drums and that rattling brass and organ engine as Batman announces his presence and intent to his enemies. As the shadow vigilante returns to the night, Elfman’s strings and flutes have the criminals lying broken in their pool of fear even as one of the thugs begins to sob on the screen. I still smile from that scene. It’s not a funny smile but lord am I having fun.

First Confrontation is a beautifully orchestrated track that distinguishes itself from the rest as a magnificent cat and mouse piece musically illustrating the face off at Axis Chemical, ending with the “death” of Jack Napier. The piece starts low with base strings breathing warning and intrigue, adding horns for tension, and then bringing in the lighter strings as the standoff between police and thugs escalate. There is not a little tribute to one of Elfman’s inspirations, Bernard Herrmann (Psycho, Vertigo), with his repeated brass riffs and flaring outbursts, always upping the stakes and mood of the visual information.

The Bat Fanfare is more personified here, much like the shark in “Jaws”, where the music signifies the character’s manifestations. It's a beautiful thing, an intricate furtive ballet of hunting and stalking, punctuated with wonder as the Batman makes his presence felt, each of his attacks upping the tempo of the music, culminating in screaming horns as the situation becomes uncontrollable, ending in Napier’s fall from the catwalk, and settling down with muted fanfare as the Batman makes a signature smoke obscured exit, ending with shrill notes letting us know that though we have seen the last of Jack Napier, we are far from done with this individual.

The Kitchen, Flowers and Surgery tracks are brief trips through more quiet moments in the film, namely the Wayne/Vale Romance where we have the softened Batman Fanfare used to denote tenderness, then a brief piece which follows Bruce into Crime Alley where a low tune of mystery then gives us the first hints of anguish we will come to know later in the work when we discover what past horrors the alley holds. We then drift into another Hermanesque high stringed, tightrope where the music is substituted for what can only be an agonizing backroom surgery, building into frenzied pained reveal as a new creature is birthed in Gotham, culminating in a magnificent cymbal-revealed entrance as a joyous waltz underscores the Joker’s grand entrance and cathartic, hilarious disposal of Jack Napier’s betraying boss Carl Grissom. The waltz has a large resonant bass drum punctuating the beat, reminiscent of a circus drum under the big top, a brilliant meld of seductive evil and clownish idiocy – it's the highlight of these blended pieces, and certainly an exciting cap to this string of understated background music. I’m also always a big fan of sadistic violence done under the cover of happy, cheerful music.

Clown Attack uses low piano and sinister violins to twist the light street antics of mimes into a stylized gang hit- the piano builds as the distraction of the henchman gives way to the Joker’s entrance, and blaring trumpets accentuate his flamboyant killing of his mob rival while we have a light, distressed flute reprisal of the Bat Fanfare coloring Bruce Wayne’s reaction to the violence erupting around him and a promise of retribution from his alter-ego.

And so we come to my hands down favorite overall piece of the entire set, the not so subtly titled Batman to the Rescue; a bold, searing mammoth track moving through war in the streets and ambushes in the alleys with impeccable style. Fast light flutes are answered with speeding low horns and then wooden percussive sounds and a flat horn tick down to the introduction to the Batmobile- made into an actual character by Burton and given voice by Elfman.

An explosion of Bat Fanfare combusts in our faces as the Batmobile roars to life and claims the streets of Gotham. What follows is a snarling reprisal of the Bat Fanfare with all the stops pulled out- Loud, Fast, Bold, it is a nickel and brass hate letter to metropolitan traffic, as this black metal beast tears through the garbage strewn, oil soaked streets claiming its territory, irritated by the Joker’s gaudy gnats pursuing it, cowing the pedestrians and obstacles of the road. There are more climactic reprisals and remixes of the Bat Fanfare to come, but this first use of it in all of its unrestrained up tempo glory remains my favorite. Justice comes to the streets of Gotham- it is Batman’s first ostentatious reveal to the citizens of Gotham and Elfman imbues it with the momentous energy and wonder it deserves.

The music tapers briefly as the vehicle grinds to a halt, and transforms into a footrace boasting the Congo beats which mark a tried and true Elfman score. The jungle drums and light clacking percussion give momentum and tension to the chase through Gotham’s alleys, but in a truly innovative move, Elfman also uses these beats to allow us inside the workings of The Batman’s mind for the briefest of moments as he begins his calculations on how best to get Vicki Vale out of harms way- we can actually hear the tumblers and gears inside his mind at work, calculating, measuring, plotting. The execution is a bold reprise of the Bat Fanfare coming right out of a dizzying rise and fall of horns as Batman and his charge skyrocket into the night.

The piece continues, backing up the hand to hand combat between the Joker’s soldiers and their enemy. Again, tightly paced brass flourishes punctuate the furious jungle beat rhythms as each of the thugs is dispatched it turn, particular emphasis placed on the machete fight and its outcome- High Low, High Low, the music is quick and unrelenting underscoring the brutal death that awaits the vigilante should he make one wrong move, with a blaring crescendo trumpeting the defeat of Batman’s pursuers. Elfman finishes the piece off with a nice throwback to the days of Looney Tunes with a quick violin mimicking Batman goading the last thug standing to make his move, and the cowardly criminal’s panicked retreat. I promise, even if you are a stranger to the ways of jogging, pop this on and it’s good for at least one if not two miles- the excitement rings through your body like a cool welcome blast of autumn wind.

The next pieces, Roasted Dude/Photos/Beautiful Dreamer provide a break in the action, a moment to catch our breath and let the audience hear the dark reverberating low sounds and sharp, bizarrely insect-like clicks and clacks in the Joker’s head, culminating in a brief, blackly humorous use of Stephen Foster’s “Beautiful Dreamer”, subverting the sweet strains with the mere malignant presence of the Joker. More at home with the film than on its own, it is a solid accompaniment to this segment of the picture, and a nice foil to the precise tumblers and clean sounds we are provided in the brief glimpses into Batman’s mind through Elfman’s music.

Elfman’s versatility and inventiveness rework the Bat Fanfare with Wagnerian purpose in Descent Into Mystery, uplifted by soprano choral strains and clear horns, after a tantalizing string/choral buildup. The imagery the music suspends as the Batmobile streaks through the misted asphalt roads and thickly shrouded forests surrounding the Wayne estate bring the palpable awareness of the city and its titular gothic presence into this quiet, sinister setting, the almost willful darkness of Gotham inhabiting even the empty, lonesome, overgrown paths not stamped in brick and steel.

There is no dialogue during this segment of the film allowing the music to speak volumes. The Batmobile again is given personality through the melody, as a metal beast stealthily prowling its domain, uncaring of any unseen danger in its surroundings, proof against any obstacle or impediment, hungry and unstoppable. The grand horns subside for moments as we have an interior shot of Vicki Vale trying to pierce Batman’s cowl with perhaps a hint of recognition, backed by strings, but this peace is not allowed as hard brass and chorus stampede outward as the vehicle reaches its lair, and the theme now becomes fanfare for a new character, The Batcave- trumpets sound at its grandeur, low tubas remind us of the unseen in the dark, the chorus echoes off the damp walls, and the triumphant crescendo (which we will hear again very soon in an even more frenetic piece) bleeds into one last blast of Bat Fanfare as the charge ends and the Batmobile comes to rest in its cradle.

The Cave is a quiet mood piece more to allow dialogue between Batman and Vale even as it successfully conveys the awe of the seething darkness and frightening wonder of Batman’s sophisticated lair steeped in a terrible buried isolation. Soft bells and light flutes ping off the cavernous space, occasionally joined by distant brass and woodwinds which never overstay their welcome. Again, Elfman complements the visuals and motivations of the scene, and while it is not a memorable piece, it is well-crafted and does its intended atmospheric job.

And now we come to some truly amazing musical moments, brief but memorable. Joker’s Poem evokes the innocence and comfort of a music box’s lullaby, tragic and heartrending. The piece itself is lovely on its own, but set against the Joker’s faux-heartbreak as he bids Vicki Vale farewell, leaving behind a fantastically sick gag puts it square in genius territory as scoring moments go.

In this short piece we can see very clearly the chemistry between Elfman and Burton, and why it works as well as it does. Elfman has always been able to convert Burton’s subversive world view and distrust of things that are supposedly “Happy” and “Safe” into beautiful notes of wry humor and sinister intent, yet never does he lose the playfulness of his music, and oftentimes, he can capture an undercurrent of terrible loneliness and sadness amid even the most jovial of arrangements; this particular collaborative style will be further expounded on in Elfman’s colossal follow up score for Batman Returns, but for now, it's a sweet hint of things to come. There’s also a wonderful flatulent horn blat that sees the Joker off that is simply hilarious.

The next piece, Childhood Remembered settles into an appropriately sustained string and soprano chorus denoting the searing, high pitched pain and horror of Bruce’s tragedy and the moment of The Batman’s spiritual if not physical creation. Desperately high strings bring to mind stinging, bitter tears and the chorus evokes mournful loss and devastating horror; its acceptable background to the flashback scene, but the truly astounding piece of music is what happens just before this fade into the past.

The scene begins with simple low piano keys with a strain of soft, soft horn as Bruce Wayne stares incredulously and seethes at the frozen idiot grin of his opponent on a screen. We’ve heard the dialogue and seen the images, but it is the music here that lets us know that not only has the gauntlet been thrown, but picked up. We know beyond a doubt this battle will be brutal and personal and only one will walk away. I would love a full track just based on these notes alone- there is so much conveyed here. It is a tune with such determination and dignity, the likes of which I have never heard, especially from Elfman, whose style is not easily recognized in these few notes. There is a line in Batman Begins about picking oneself up after a fall; this all too brief orchestration is the melodic representation to that statement, spoken over a decade after the perfect music for this line was written.

The flashback music blends quietly into Love Theme while the film pisses on the shoes of Batfans everywhere by having Vicki Vale unceremoniously escorted into the Batcave by Alfred. Again, this is a soft, romantic reworking of the Bat Fanfare, a subdued tempo with base strings and piano, and credit should be given to the fact that even as a theme for love, there is an underlying melody of sadness and heartbreak. The tune is a perfect romantic theme for Batman, because as touching and appropriate as it is to illustrate warmth, sex and closeness, at the same time the softened Bat Fanfare becomes an echo of unrequited need and knowledge that this relationship is doomed to fail because there are promises yet unkept. The piece is romantic to be sure, but there is a sorrowful element to it as well that makes the listener keenly aware that though there are moments of comfort, ultimately this man will walk alone.

Charge of the Batmobile is perhaps the most famous, identifiable track in the score, even to the most casual listener. It is a perfect, abrupt end to the quiet moments that have preceded it, and a magnificent call to arms. It is also one of the most famous and imitated “Hero Shot” music pieces in the spectrum of superhero movies where we see the character in his full backlit glory, ready for the challenge. The soft strains of the Love Theme are shattered by a resounding hit to the base drum, followed with four quickly building beats, a rising base violin stoking the fire with the Bat Fanfare, joined by trumpets, then full strings and horns, and finally, cymbals and chorus into a crescendo of glory.

And then its time for grim business. Elfman allows the briefest dance on a pinhead as a pause before conducting a new horn-led reprisal of Bat Fanfare adding repetition between notes with a steady driving beat punctuated by chorus, and re-bolstered by trombones and tuba, all the instruments in Elfman’s arsenal put into play working together, as Batman executes a systematic assault on the Joker’s arsenal, army, and person.

Words failed to adequately describe the power and effectiveness of the Bat Fanfare prior to this track. Upon hearing it, one word easily, immediately, and appropriately springs to mind: Relentless. Elfman has created the music of a man that will never stop, a man solely dedicated to one pure purpose that will never cease, never come to rest, never step down, never give up. The theme is a slap in the face to corruption, bullying, loutishness, evil. It's a theme I would happily play kicking in the doors and driving sticks, fists and boots into the grinning mobs, the ghoulish punks, the idiot gangs, the limp, coward terrorists, in Gotham, in any city worth cleaning up, anywhere. This is the strength and power of the Batman theme refined to a pure, thundering reckoning.

Amazingly, as much as Elfman utilizes the Bat Fanfare, he never runs out of places to go with it. The steady, driving beat perfectly accompanies the heavy armor attack on Axis Chemicals- the Batmobile explodes through obstacles, mows down opponents, shrugs off explosives and projectiles. The weight of the vehicle, its inexorable power easily painted in brass and drumskin. Relentless. This is the culmination of Elfman’s hard work, and even now he can still bring his identifiable traits to the forefront, never losing his demonic whimsy as he brings the bullet train of action to a halt, titillating us with yet another Loony Tunes cue of a small ineffectual string pluck denoting the small object harmlessly plopping off the Batmobile, another cartoon plink as it bounces twice… Then silence.

And now as Axis Chemical ignites into a fireball annihilating a pit of corruption and the birthing crèche for a monster, low strings give way to triumphant, sustained horns pealing out victory- we have heard this specific fanfare once when the Batmobile first entered the Batcave, but here all the stops are pulled out. Triumph doesn’t even begin to do this melody justice. It is gripping snarling, celebration, a fevered dance on the grave of an enemy, an exaltation of purest joy at the destruction of one’s foe. The beauty of this music is unquestionable, awesome. The best part? It’s also false. Batman’s work this night has not even begun. The music grinds to a muted end with strings almost running into each other as we realize the disease has spread to Gotham proper, and Axis Chemical is but one branch of the spoiled tree.

The wild ride begins all over again. Base and Elfman-signature high strings sound, flavors of Bernard Hermann, tweaking the back of one’s neck as the streets of Gotham come closer and closer to chaos and death. The buildup is terrific- low horns are answered by high, rippling jazzy, vulgar trumpet flares; its almost a blaring gangster tune from some James Cagney movie, the stylish yet garish sensibilities of the Joker, the greed of the moronic masses oblivious to the obvious threat hanging over their heads, the frantic upward spiral as events move towards absolute anarchy and massacre- in short, perfect accompaniment to the Joker’s master plan moments from achieving fruition…

Attack of the Batwing then charges full force as the iconic unveiling of Batman’s air support screams across Gotham's skies. What follows is the most visceral, bellowing reprisal of the Bat Fanfare we have ever and will ever hear as horns fire the theme with machine gun speed and precision capturing the majesty and glorious rapid puissance of the Batwing. It is loud, it is fast, it is perfect- the music fills us with the cold screaming air coming off the skyscrapers and glancing off the wings of the craft, the defiance of the spilled-over cesspool of Gotham as our skin ripples with gooseflesh at the overwhelming excitement, terror and joy the charged symphony evokes. The drums sound a cadence of war once again, and make no mistake, this is no longer sidewalk vigilantism- this is indeed a war for Gotham, and there are even some piping flutes giving the Batwing’s run a period feel, as if this is now a World War Flying Ace film. Elfman once again floors us with his ability to mold the Bat Fanfare into whatever the moment calls for, whatever piece of Batman’s arsenal needs musical representation. Glorious.

What follows is an inspired scoring of not one, not two, but three surgical passes by the Batwing to excise the disease pulsing through Gotham. The first pass has the more flourishing music for the Batwing as Batman surveys the situation, taking command of the crowds and diverting the Joker’s attention using the grandeur of the Batwing’s presence which again uses the snare cadence and full horns, and then high flutes and brass punctuated by trumpets have the Batwing come in for the second sortie to remove the immediate threat of the Joker’s poison filled balloons- the music settles into a moment by moment high pitched, melodic story as the balloons are collected, dispersed, and then we have a thrill of bells as the Wing breaks the clouds and silhouettes against the moon, heavy on the cheese perhaps, but for its time, a fun moment.

The music comes down for but a second and then a triumphant flourish of Bat Fanfare heavy on the trumpets rouses us for a third and final pass punctuated with the most unlikely of sounds, the low ominous whistle of a locomotive as the Batwing comes about for its final run to cut the cancer out of the heart of the city. Elfman’s strings take it from here, sharp, threatening, with sinister low horns and scattered bells coloring the preparations on the ground from the Joker, now resolved to meet Batman’s volley matching science and technology with random lunacy and toys. The Bat Fanfare becomes preparatory music, as once again we visit the insides of Bruce’s mind as he methodically preps his final run, locks his targets, and sets course, juxtaposed against the clanging bells and flaring brass of the Joker’s insane refusal to stand down, relying on his ridiculous luck and brash, loud evil to keep him safe, confident that his ideology of madness and chaos will provide for his survival.

My knuckles never fail to grip white as we see the bullets and missiles fly while the Bat Fanfare reaches a new level of wide-eyed, screaming intensity, played in the highest, fastest tempo it will ever reach, augmented by high loud flutes, screaming out a cathartic explosion of music as the city combusts in all out warfare. The horns continue fast and true with the fanfare but the momentum is gone, the attack failed, the fanfare becomes a warning, an alarm, a sustained rise as the Joker reveals his last trick, and the subsequent retaliatory strike, and then the bells toll as the fatally injured Batwing begins its slow, dreamlike terminal descent amid cathedral bells and desperate strings then replaced with dueling trumpets upping the stakes and finally finishing with a brass flourish as the craft crashes at the base of Gotham Cathedral.

The next piece Up the Cathedral is a dizzying spiral of notes as an injured Batman ascends the tower hot on the heels of the Joker and his hostage. On its own the music can become quite monotonous, but there is no denying how appropriate the piece is in conjunction with the film, filling every moment of the perilous, frightening pursuit. The strings rising and falling with some obvious nods to “Vertigo” give us all the hints we need of the dangerous heights involved, the low horns serve as the weight of age on the ancient staircase threatening to give way, and Batman’s fatigue at the same time. In addition, there are some lively instances of high, piping, mischievous music as the Joker puts a few obstacles in his pursuer’s path. It is a lengthy atmospheric piece heavy on intrigue, and sinister, prolonged notes. It is excellent background music that refuses to stay in the background scoring every movement of the characters and capturing the feel of the broken edifice they must scale.

Short spurts of low woodwinds and perhaps a tuba (Does my lack of musical knowledge begin to really show through at this point?), followed by scattered flutes and threatening base drum with rising horn rip us out of the long journey our climb to the top has dealt us, and we are built up and refreshed by an absolutely charming Waltz to the Death. The Joker’s Waltz is reprised with full bells and whistles, a mad Merry-Go-Round with a robust, jaunty theme which is almost enough to cover the marginal fight choreography onscreen, which seems less important than the opportunity for a few one-liners from the Joker as he dances cheerfully with Vicki amid the violence surrounding them. The fun piece is a wonderful foil to the hand to hand combat, even rising to an excellent musical climax that actually becomes a comedic crescendo in Batman’s favor as he turns the tables on his combatants, finishing with some rapid falling music as the last of his opponents are dispatched. Meanwhile the Waltz quietly plays on for a bit, as the Joker does not realize he has lost his backup, and then things turn dark again and the music runs to low brass sounds as a shadow falls across the Joker’s back…

A rush of violins takes us perilously to the edge of the tower, as Elfman’s delicate strings crawl up giving us a sense of the horrifying heights we dangle over in The Final Confrontation a piece designed not only to emphasize the dreadful fall the characters may take with one misstep but also some of the best musical cues the Joker receives in the film as blatting horns and thrilled violas underscore his deadly stand up routine over the precariously perched Batman and Vicki Vale. The horns grow in a cacophony of horrific absurdity as the Joker dances over his victims, as xylophones clop up and down like so much falling pebbles. In addition, a new element of time is added, as low, clean horns denote the approach of the Joker’s helicopter, offering an escape route for the villain if Batman cannot act soon. The bells intensify, the percussion gallops, and then we are treated to a hilarious can-can trumpet flare as the Joker does Rockettes kicks over the head of his nemesis. The Hermann strings begin their flesh prickling dance again as the Joker grows tired of the game and prepares to leave the scene, but not before finishing his wild work. Adding to the tense strings now, a ray of hope as a dazzling, reliant Bat Fanfare begins to work its way through the noise letting us know that the Batman is not quite as helpless as he seems, another reprise of the fanfare confirms it triumphantly as the Joker has the tables turned.

Elfman now gives us loud spectacle. The horns act as the searchlights scanning the skies, echoing of the canyons of Gotham, as high strings squeal the desperation of a madman at the end of his rope. The music draws out, tantalizing us, teasing us, the Joker trying to scramble for purchase and then fast, fast falling music pulls him into the dark below as the protagonists enjoy one violin’s moment of piece before a burst of trumpets sends them speeding down the abyss, only to have a last second save bring us back to the calming violins again and something else… a music box crooning gentle tunes over a sight of frozen horror.

Finale (which I think should be re-titled “He Gave Us A Signal”) lets us know that Elfman’s bag of tricks is far from empty as he ingeniously refits the Bat Fanfare once again to introduce yet another character, in the form of the Bat Signal, a rousing, exuberant victory anthem of light piercing the dark. We draw back to the “Scandalous/Love Theme” for but a moment as Vicki ponders the future of her relationship, and then a quick, quiet string Bat Fanfare reprise tells us it will be a difficult road ahead for romance because that aspect of Bruce Wayne’s life will always be there. The music builds as strings trickle down the sides of the buildings and horns lift us over the skyline still victorious, still joyous, this time a cleaner joy than that of Charge of the Batmobile- this is not glee over the death of others, Elfman actually uses the Bat Fanfare here to capture the essence of hope for a city- the man’s ingenuity is astounding. We are left with one final fully fleshed victory note complete with cathedral bells clanging away as we clear the twisted metal and stone of Gotham and reach the night skies with a mighty sound as all the instruments bellow a sustained high note of triumph into the night, even as we see the dark shadow and wings flapping as a protector ponders what will come next- and of course the ominous low Bat Fanfare tells us that there is still much work to do.

Batman Theme Reprise/End Credits is a surprisingly competent goodbye as we have four staggered starts to the music, low base, middle strings, woodwinds and low brass and then hard brass trumpets all joining together to punch through an up tempo reprise of the opening Batman Theme. Elfman could have written this one off easy, but you see the work continue here, even as a simple reprise of the opening suite. The end credit music is an exciting wrap up, but Elfman plays it just right to give us a promise of more to come as well. The adventure isn’t over.

Batman is one of my hands down favorite orchestral soundtracks. As a Super Hero soundtrack, nobody’s topping John William’s Superman score, but this goes in such a different direction, evoking such contrasting feelings, that it’s hard to put these two against each other for comparison, though the overall goals of the works are very similar. Both are prime examples of the right way of scoring films of this genre- there is great fun, but absolute respect and sincerity.

My enthusiasm for Batman’s signature pieces and many of the secondary tracks has yet to dim over the years, and though I feel there are and will be better Batman movies to be seen, I don’t believe we will ever see a thrilling, mammoth soundtrack of this magnitude backing them up ever again. This is the work to beat, the one by which anything else he does will be measured, followed closely by his work on the sequel. Edward Scissorhands holds that distinction for many, but I find the work done on the Batman film much more varied and prolific in its movements and ideas whereas ...Scissorhands stays pretty close to home in its poignant, effective central tune.

Interestingly enough though, I find the sequel to have more to offer in every single track, while here I find myself skipping over more than a few of the slower, more atmospheric offerings of the original. Even so, this is a solid joy for the ear, and worth having as a stand-alone bit of music for your car, your treadmill, or your private dispensation of the street justice.

Part II Batman Returns will be posted on July 18th. Thanks for your patience and attention. Anyone wants to correct me on any of the instruments utilized as I can only write the words trumpets and strings so often, feel free and I’ll happily amend my statements. As I said, this is more of a layman’s look at some truly inspiring, riveting music by a man at the absolute top of his game, so you music practicioners will have to forgive my technical gaffes.

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originally posted: 07/06/06 07:21:09
last updated: 02/21/07 06:53:14
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