by Michael Collins
Everybody's favourite garbage compacting, solar powered, Mac computer start up sounding, enviro campaigning, movie loving, lonely and emoting waste extractor is on the loose. Let's look at the soundtrack and see what the composer of American Beauty, Thomas Newman, has done to convey the, 'feelings,' of this big eyed bot.
The opening music of WALL•E drives straight in with a sudden attention grabbing chord. It’s like we’re about sit through something from the golden age of musicals or maybe Phantom of the Opera. Which is fitting since the opening is all down to Michael Crawford. The opening reveals WALL•E’s penchant for old time musicals - His particular preference being for, Hello, Dolly, which he plays on an old VCR player. Most of the soundtrack though is down to Thomas Newman contributions.
Newman would have a harder than usual task for the scoring of this film because of its minimal dialogue. Newman had a lot more of the story telling process set upon his shoulders. Perhaps because of that, the soundtrack album is dominated by short sharp tracks. They’re aural scenes really.
Because of that you get a grand total of 38, count ‘em, 38 tracks on the album. Excluding the sung tracks of Crawford and others, the longest of the instrumental track barely make it over two minutes. So you are in and out and fast, so you can concentrate on the flow of the music.
Louis Armstrong interrupts Newman’s flow with a performance of La vie en rose. It’s barely an interruption though. The music fits in perfectly with the rest of the soundtrack. It’s a big orchestral arrangement with some singing from Armstrong as well as the obligatory trumpet from the jazz great.
Another variation is First Date which sounds like some sort of 1970s easy listening bliss out track. The advertising jingle to BNL has a similar feel, if not with a disturbing undertone.
The music that accompanies Eve’s entrance to the film is foreboding and dramatic. Not unlike the track 2815 A.D. which accompanies the sequence that reveals the true nature of the setting of the film after the pleasantries of Crawford’s opening title performance.
Some of the scenes in WALL•E, had a façade of happiness, but had an undercurrent of danger to them. To convey this Newman has made his music dreamlike. This is best heard on, 72 Degrees and Sunny, where there is an almost floating feel to the music, which is more than appropriate for the scenes that the music is from. Define Dancing, is equally beguiling. This track reminds me of Newman’s brilliant work with American Beauty.
This is a soundtrack that will work well just playing in the background. The dramatic portions are not too overblown to disrupt the listener’s mood. Newman has long been brilliant with his restraint. And even with the added burden of story telling and emotion conveyance, he does an expert job in assigning different moods while not haphazardly jumping from one state to the next.
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originally posted: 07/10/08 00:40:36