August 5th, 2012
Tonight, the Mars Science Laboratory rover is landing on the surface of the red planet at about 1:31 EDT. The mission is a huge undertaking, and will be nothing short of a modern miracle if they can pull it off.
This seemed as good of an occasion as any to share one of my favorite Bowie tracks today, the appropriately titled ‘Life On Mars?‘.
‘Life On Mars?’
[ mp3 ♫ ]
The song has a funny little history, originating as a Bowie-penned lyrical re-working of a french song ‘Comme d’habitude’ that never came to be anything. When Frank Sinatra did the same thing, it became his mega-hit ‘My Way’. In response, Bowie wrote and recorded ‘Life On Mars?’ for Hunky Dory.
It’s truly epic in its composition, and the lyrics weave in and out of comprehension. You can’t help but belt the chorus though. Give it a spin, and when you’re through go ahead and tune in to watch the amazing team at NASA do their stuff later on tonight:
May 31st, 2011
You just keep on trying till you run out of cake
And the Science gets done
And you make a neat gun
For the people who are still alive...
So I spent all of this weekend playing the single-player campaigns of Portal and Portal 2. They are fantastic games that I’ve become quite taken by recently.
I can probably disclose without spoiling much that at the end of each game, you are treated to a little musical number by GLaDOS, the computer mainframe who serves as the antagonist for the game.
After tearing her to pieces and burning them in an incinerator at the end of the first game, the final cinematic plays, and over the credits ‘Still Alive‘ plays.
[ mp3 ♫ ]
The song is sung by the voice actress portraying GLaDOS, but the actual music is written by Jonathan Coulton, who I thought I’d never heard of before, until a little reading revealed he’s also the artist behind the really catchy song ‘Shop Vac’, which I found via Wondermark‘s post on fantastic video:
But I’m digressing.
These songs are catchy, and even in spite of the gimmick of GLaDOS singing, hold up pretty well. I need to find a name for the genre of music that isn’t outright comedy, a-la Weird Al, but still has the humor as a defining component. Iit’s a little telling that we (see:I) seem to think funny songs aren’t “real” music.
My recent discovery of the Wombats, along with these Coultan tracks, seems to be further evidence that the line is a lot blurrier than I’d previously thought.
The closing theme from Portal 2 is titled ‘Want You Gone‘.
‘Want You Gone’
[ mp3 ♫ ]
It’s worth noting, while we’re talking about these songs, that the National, one of my favorites as of recent, also recorded a track for Portal 2. Beyond that even, the soundtrack is being released for free, so if you like moody, industrial techno, give it a shot.
And if you haven’t played the game, for heaven’s sake, get to it!
May 28th, 2011
I’ll be attending this year’s WordCamp Boston! I’m really excited to go and see what a WordCamp convention is like. I’ve never been before, and it will be fun to see what other people are doing with the platform.
Anything interesting will undoubtedly be reported back here, so stay tuned!
January 7th, 2011
Since early this past summer the internet music community has been pretty excited to hear the new TRON: Legacy score from Daft Punk. The almost bi-monthly appearance of fakes only piqued interest further.
A handful sample tracks finally dropped a few weeks in advance, but until I had the whole hour’s worth of music in my hands, I wasn’t satisfied. Even then, on the train ride home, I was worried that there was no way the actual product could live up to expectations.
As it turns out, my concerns were unfounded: Daft Punk delivered in full on this score. Before we get there though, I wanted to take a quick moment to talk about the film to which this music forms the soundtrack. And to do that, we really need to talk about the original for a second.
The original TRON film is pretty stupid. And that’s not to say I don’t love it, I do, and maybe ‘stupid’ is a little harsh… but it’s silly by today’s standards. The irony being, it’s only looks stupid today because it kick-started the age of CGI effects itself. Its cult-status stems from the cutting edge visuals, and a story just engaging enough to justify them.
The music for the original TRON, composed by “electro-acoustic pioneer” Wendy Carlos, is similarly interesting for how progressive it was at the time, both in composition and instrumentation. Below is a decent sample of what it had to offer, encapsulated in the film’s credits sequence:
[ mp3 ♫ ]
So it’s with that tidbit of history that we talk about the new film, TRON: Legacy. Almost universally praised for its visuals, the film is truly a spectacle. Though the story is not as clear or complex as some may have liked, it is a truly logical successor from its counterpart, which is a feat given the time between the production of the two films.
But we’re here to talk about the music: I had never heard a Daft Punk album before hearing this score, so I felt pretty lucky to go into it with no prejudices or expectations. The work as a whole is fantastically tight and cohesive. I like some tracks better than others, but none are weak, and every single one is evocative of the other-worldly visuals which they accompany.
The easiest influence to spot is Hans Zimmer’s Inception score’s signature brass (as well as the shout-out in the liner notes!). It pops up at climactic points, mixed at an unignorable volume, and accomplishes a similar end.
A more subtle connection I drew is to Phillip Glass’s Koyaanisqatsi score, with TRON: Legacy’s ‘The Game Has Changed‘ containing a fairly strong allusion to Glass’s ‘Pruit Igoe‘, a fantastic and interesting track in its own right.
[ mp3 ♫ ]
Koyaanisqatsi was a film about the consequences of living in our increasingly industrialized world, and even featured a track called ‘The Grid,’ so I’ve got to give style-points to the Daft Punk folks if that was in fact the work they were referencing!
‘The Game Has Changed’
[ mp3 ♫ ]
There’s a great many more stand-out tracks as well. ‘The Grid’ on Legacy is notable for having Bridges’ narration over it, and serves as a pretty cool little expositional point at the start of the album. I like ‘Outlands’ because it has some of the most triumphant overtures in the entire work (most tracks are dark or aggressive).
‘Adagio for Tron’ (where ad agio is an Italian term meaning ‘at ease’, indicating the song is to be played slowly) and ‘Nocturne’ comprise the soundtrack for the flashback wherein Flynn relates how his perfect system became corrupted. If you’re familiar with the characters from the original, this is a reasonably emotional point in the film, and the music is fitting.
This segues into the best scene in the film. The events at the End of Line club are the most polished of anything else in the movie. Michael Sheen’s performance of Castor was a delightful surprise, and maybe the only fun character in the film. Couple this with the solid action sequence interrupted by the deity-like arrival of Flynn, and this ended up being my favorite part.
‘End of Line’
[ mp3 ♫ ]
The tracks ‘End of Line‘, the infectious ‘Derezzed’, and ‘Fall’ offer a great triffecta to accompany the above. ‘Disk Wars’ has another glipse of Zimmer-esque build (think The Dark Knight score), while ‘C.L.U.’ covers the last battle.
‘Arrival’, ‘Finale’ and ‘Flynn Lives’ set the tone for the conclusion, offering maybe the greatest nod that the original score was going to see in the new soundtrack, and ‘Tron Legacy (End Titles)’ is a electronic version of the same idea to go over the credits.
It’s a monumental piece of work. Without context of their earlier work, I can’t recommend that Daft Punk quit their day jobs, but if there was ever someone who could do so with impunity, it would be these guys. Pairing the duo to TRON: Legacy was a clever risk that paid off big. The outstanding question then becomes: does Daft Punk still have more to offer the world in terms of film scores?
Additionally, a hilarious bonus (featured in the new film):
April 10th, 2010
And by ‘jetpacks’ I of course mean Scotish rockers We Were Promised Jetpacks. Listen carefully, and you can here a favorite here at Schrödinger’s Blog ‘Keep Warm’ playing over the first 25 seconds:
I’m not 100% positive, and the song isn’t on the soundtrack, but I’m fairly certain I recognize the song. Kick-Ass is in theaters April 16th, and the comic book was fantastic, so expect good things!