Sep 21

This soundtrack rocks!

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Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood shows off his composing chops in “The Master”

Will all the controversy surrounding “The Master,” Paul Thomas Anderson’s drama about a charismatic intellectual (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who becomes a cult leader, you might have missed the discussion about the movie’s superb soundtrack.

Jonathan “Jonny” Greenwood, best known as Radiohead’s lead guitarist, wrote the avant-garde music for “The Master.” He previously composed the Grammy Award-nominated soundtrack to 2007′s “There Will Be Blood,” Anderson’s chilling exploration of greed and ambition in the oilfields of California, as well as two 2010 dramas, “Norwegian Wood” and “We Need to Talk About Kevin.”

Of course, Greenwood isn’t the only musician to successfully make the transition from rock star to movie composer.

Take eight-time Oscar nominee James Newton Howard, who toured with Elton John and Crosby, Stills & Nash before becoming the movie composer behind “The Fugitive,” “Pretty Woman,” “The Prince of Tides” and “The Sixth Sense.” What about Howard’s sometime collaborator, former New Wave rocker Hans Zimmer, whose soundtrack credits include “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Gladiator” and “The Lion King”?

Below is a sampling of the many pop and rock musicians who have found fame as film composers.


Stewart Copeland

Only a few years after founding English rock band The Police with Sting, drummer Stewart Copeland launched his film composition career with 1984′s “Rumble Fish.” His soundtrack credits over the past few decades include “Wall Street,” “She’s Having a Baby” and “Very Bad Things.”

Danny Elfman

Aside from Johnny Depp, the former Oingo Boingo frontman might be director Tim Burton’s most frequent collaborator. He’s worked on nearly every movie Burton has done, from classics including “Batman,” “Beetlejuice” and “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” to more recent projects such as “Alice in Wonderland,” “Dark Shadows” and “Frankenweenie.”

Elfman’s former Oingo Boingo bandmates have also had success as film and television composers. Keyboardist Richard Gibbs scored “Fatal Instinct” and “Queen of the Damned,” as well more family-friendly fare such as “Dr. Doolittle,” “Like Mike” and “Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer.” Meanwhile, lead guitarist Steve Bartek had supplemented his soundtrack work (“Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion,” “Snow Day”) by working with Elfman as an orchestrator.

Clint Mansell

Speaking of dream teams, Clint Mansell — the former lead singer and guitarist of alternative rock band Pop Will Eat Itself– is mostly closely associated with his work with director Darren Aronofsky.

Mansell made his film composing debut in 1998′s “Pi,” following up that effort with “Requiem For A Dream,” “The Fountain,” “The Wrestler” and “Black Swan.” His music can also be heard on the soundtracks for “Moon” and “Smokin’ Aces.”

Mark Mothersbaugh

No doubt about it, Mark Mothersbaugh loves composing for the movies.

Best known for his sparkling scores for the films of Wes Anderson, including “Rushmore,” “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” the multitalented co-founder of Devo has worked everything from “Dumb and Dumber” to “Drop Dead Gorgeous.” His most recent projects include “21 Jump Street,” “Hotel Transylvania” and “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”

Randy Newman

Who would have guessed that the acerbic singer-songwriter had a heart of gold?

Although Randy Newman’s pop songs often have a satirical edge, his film scores ring with sincerity. The Oscar winner’s heartwarming work for Pixar includes “A Bug’s Life,” “Cars,” the “Monsters Inc.” movies and the “Toy Story” trilogy.

Trevor Rabin

After spending roughly a decade as a vocalist, guitarist and songwriter with progressive rock band Yes, Trevor Rabin started a new career as a Hollywood composer — working on such high-profile blockbusters as “Con Air,” “Armageddon” and “Enemy of the State” in the late 1990s.

More recently, he composed the music for “Race to Witch Mountain,” “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and “I Am Number Four.”

Trent Reznor

The first time director David Fincher approached Trent Reznor with the idea of composing the soundtrack for “The Social Network,” the Nine Inch Nails frontman balked. Then he read the script.

Fincher, Reznor and Reznor’s frequent collaborator, Atticus Ross, followed up their well=received “Facebook movie” with a remake of Sweden’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

Honorable mention:

  • Brian Eno: Once a member of glam rock band Roxy Music, Eno’s ambient sound was a perfect fit for the fantasy-tinged drama “The Lovely Bones.”
  • Phil Collins: The Genesis drummer composed the soundtracks for two cute kids’ movies, “Brother Bear” and “Tarzan.”
  • Peter Gabriel: Another Genesis member, the popular pop singer composed the soundtracks for “Birdy,” “The Last Temptation of Christ” and “Rabbit-Proof Fence.”
  • Karen O: The lead singer of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Karen O lent her unique voice to “Where the Wild Things Are,” directed by then-boyfriend Spike Jonze.
  • Eddie Vedder: The Pearl Jam frontman composed the soundtrack for “Into the Wild.”
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