07.08.2008

Contact Soundtrack, Alan Silvestri

Posted by AJ Harbison at 4:44 am

Over Subway sandwiches on an evening a few months back, my brother and father and I watched Robert Zemeckis’ film Contact, an excellent sci-fi film from 1997 starring Jodie Foster. The score is by Alan Silvestri, with 102 film scores to his credit (IMDB.com), including Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Back To The Future parts II and III, The Polar Express, Night At The Museum and most recently Beowulf, the sex-blood-and-guts animated version. He also has composed scores for “family” films such as FernGully: The Last Rainforest, Lilo & Stitch, and Stuart Little; but his most well-known score is that for Forrest Gump, for which he was nominated for an Oscar. It would seem he tends to specialize in simple, childlike and fantastic scores, and Contact is no exception. There’s not too much music in the film, and apart from the “excitement” theme when the message from outer space is first discovered, the music serves two main purposes. The first is poignancy, when one character (usually Foster) is looking wistfully out into space, which is accomplished primarily by soft chordal piano passages not unlike those I wrote about in Scent Of A Woman, except not quite as original or interesting. The second is the simple, childlike fantasy theme, recalling Foster’s character’s simple passion for science as a child, which goes something like this:

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(Whadda ya know? All those ear-training and dictation classes from my music degree come in handy–if only for a “Figure 1” on my blog. The key of G is arbitrary; I don’t know what key[s] it appeared in in the movie. G just fit nicely on the staff.)

Simple stepwise movement with conservative leaps, all diatonic and based around the tonic triad, simple tune, easily remembered–very folk-ish and childlike. Not particularly original or interesting, either, but it works and certainly serves its purpose. The movie is very well-made, but it is about science after all, and art (in this case the score) is used mainly in a strictly practical manner. But that could of course be as much a reflection on the director, in the end, as on the composer.

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