Scoring a film is much like capturing it. It takes arrangement and execution.
It’s not an uncommon practice to bolster a film’s visuals with a barrage of orchestral strings and powerful brass. A good film score increases tension and targets emotion, feats that grandiose classical ensembles easily achieve.
But for some directors, violins are not enough. Several famed filmmakers have strayed from the Hans Zimmers and Danny Elfmans of the world in favor of a less conventional sound: post-rock.
Columnist Luke Furman argues how despite going through changes of sound and subjects, folk has retained its original intention and purpose.
Post-rock, a mostly instrumental rock derivative that focuses on creating longer, more complex compositions than traditional rock, works in a similar fashion to classical film scores. Both take time to establish fine-tuned textures, build suspense, convey intensity or triumph and both sound amazingly rich at loud volumes.
One of the most popular post-rock bands, Explosions in the Sky, scored two critically successful Peter Berg films: Friday Night Lights (2004) and Lone Survivor (2013). Berg described the appeal of the band as having “an emotional, tender quality to their music, even when it gets aggressive.” In addition to these, the quartet also crafted soundtracks to Prince Avalanche (2013) starring Paul Rudd and Manglehorn (2014) starring Al Pacino. But they are hardly the only band of this style to cash in on this art form with dual film and soundtrack revenues.
The films Moneyball (2011) and Room (2015) both feature “The Mighty Rio Grande,” an 11 minute wordless ode by Texas post-rock band This Will Destroy You. Moneyball almost uses it to a point of motif. The band also lent its song “Villa Del Refugio” to the Brad Pitt zombie thriller World War Z (2013).
Scottish genre band Mogwai scored Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain (2006) and the French TV show known in America as The Returned. And even further back, Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s song “East Hastings” appeared in Danny Boyle’s apocalyptic 28 Days Later in 2003, which might have even set the precedent for the use of post-rock in place of traditional scores.
Boyle told The Guardian he used Godspeed’s album F#A# Infinity as inspiration for the atmosphere of the film, saying “The whole film was cut to Godspeed in my head.”
So whether it’s stirring moodiness or feelings buried underneath layers of reverb, something about post-rock makes for a perfect complement to any tense or meaningful film sequence. It’s what Beethoven or Bach might have made if they had some effects pedals and rolling papers lying around the house.
And ultimately, when two passion-driven art forms like film and post-rock collide, something memorable is bound to emerge in its radiating aftermath.
Luke Furman is a sophomore studying journalism and a reporter for The Post. Can you think of another movie with a great post-rock soundtrack? Tweet him @LukeFurmanOU or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.