29 November 2007

Spine chilling film scores: Music of Christopher Young

The other night, while watching Nightmare On Elm Street 2, I couldn't help but be enthralled by the brilliant score, which was done by Christopher Young. Unlike the film score Jerry Goldsmith did for The Omen, which sometimes becomes really mushy and over sentimental (although it is still good music, I don't think it always works in the film), the scores of Christopher Young tend to blend in with the background. This morning at 3, I watched Exorcism of Emily Rose and became paranoid. Certainly it is a scary movie but it's not all that creepy, and at some point I realised the reason why I am having a panic attack is the music! I checked the blurb of the DVD and much to my delight the score was also done by Christopher Young.

A drummer by trade, mister Young graduated from Massachusetts Hampshire College with a BA in music. After this he did a post-graduate at North Texas State University studying big band writing and classical composition. He noticed a record by the great Bernard Herrmann in a record bar one day, and purchased it. The master's horror themes (Vertigo, Psycho) he did for another master, Alfred Hitchcock, struck a chord with mister Young (no pun intended, har har) and it changed the course of his life. Young started doing film scores shortly after, achieving notable success first by scoring Clive Barker's imaginative Hellraiser.

To illustrate his versatility, one can listen to the sado-masochistic violins building tension in the horror scores like Exorcism of Emily Rose and contrast it with DJ Paul Oakenfold collaborations on Swordfish. Due to his jazz/big band background, mister Young also has a fondness for what he calls the "great American song". Young even incorporated Celtic elements in the score for Shipping News. These abilities to blend in and be versatile contribute to his success as a film score composer.

Unfortunately, Christopher Young has not received a Grammy nor an Oscar for his brilliant abilities. This is not to say he is not recognised as a great film score writer. It probably alludes to the fact that genre entertainment - particularly horror - is often looked down upon as nothing but genre entertainment. Often box office sales reflect the public appreciation for these films, but the Oscar powers that be would rather have girl-next-door faces on their stage. Mister Young has thankfully been nominated for a Golden Globe. I hope he wins an Oscar soon - he certainly deserves it!

The official web site of Christopher Young
Wikipedia page on Christopher Young

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