Monday, December 10, 2007

Generic Soundtrack, Or Just A Sound Alike?

What does the music from 'I Am Legend' (James Newton Howard) and 'Sunshine' (Underworld) have in common? Both have harmonic simplicity -- they're almost stripped of any melodic complexity -- favoring dramatic primitive rhythms instead. Both begin with an ostinato pattern in the upper strings accompanied by a pulsing staccato in the lower strings. The only real difference between the two is that Howard chose a syncopated guttural vocal sting to accent his music while Underworld's guttural vocal sting is on the beat. In both, the repeated notes remain within a very restricted range.

Both have a melody which holds the first note for four beats before ascending two steps in a modal scale, holding each note for two (or so) beats before returning to the original pitch (or another lower pitch). This pattern repeats and escalates. The music for both is in the same key. Underworld choose a more refined sound for 'Sunshine', keeping the melody in the strings, possibly to suggest the purity of space or the presence of the divine, while Howard went with a much more grinding, almost brutal, sound for 'I Am Legend', especially in the very close dissonance of the choral work, possibly to suggest the anger and fear the protagonist lives with and the monstrous beings he hides from.

I've watched these trailers gobs. At first I was sure the same composer had worked on both movies. Then I was sure one of these guys will sue the other. See if you can't hear the similarities. The music in the 'Sunshine' trailer starts about 48 seconds in. The music in the 'I Am Legend' trailer starts almost immediately. Enjoy. They're good trailers.

I Am Legend. Music by James Newton Howard (music starts immediately)

Sunshine. Music by Underworld (music starts at 48 seconds)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Actually, I'm pretty sure the music used in the trailer for "Sunshine" is the music from "Requiem for a Dream", and the music in the trailer for "I Am Legend" is just a slightly modified version.

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