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Nathan Allen Pinard

Review: The 300 Soundtrack

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You know, in the film scoring world I usually despise the music critics. Usually because half the time they aren't musicians or just are not GOOD musicians. Often times they don't even listen to the score half the time and just bash the composer because of their reputation. Or they did listen to the soundtrack, but maybe the first 5 minutes of it. Maybe their points were valid, but they don’t' usually do it in a constructive way.

So in this review I'm going to give you a more in-depth perspective as best as I can

I also won't be reviewing the soundtrack as a single entity. Because after seeing the movie, the soundtrack didn't get a fair deal because of the capacity of a compact disc, and the choices of whoever it is that was responsible for picking what tracks are on that disc.

This soundtrack says one thing to me: Chaos

The Technique:

Tyler Bates creates a chaotic sense with sound effects overlapping each other, synth pads, vocals and other sound effects along with a slight musical ambience entwined within the mass wall of sound you hear usually through some of the tough battle scenes. But he does change it throughout the film so the audience doesn't get bored with it. With style and genre of this film, not to mention just the type of filming they do and the mood they set, this style of music couldn't be more perfect.

The Theme:

In the scene where he returns from his journey after killing the wolf, you hear probably what was deemed the main theme of the film. A big powerful choir sounds his return, which is highly appropriate and sounds operatic and almost roman. More so Tyler decided to stick with the time period and incorporate some old percussion styles such as the roman sounding horns and the clashing sheets of metal and gongs together. Then he tops it off with a heavy orchestra presence. Now I kept telling myself "give it more from the orchestra" such as him actually changing chords and maybe incorporating some harmonies, which he rarely did through the film. But at that point in the film, it seemed to make sense. Since in those times there was music, but it wasn't evolved so much as today. So usually from what I've noticed in films such as this, the composer tries to retain that style of music by writing simpler passages. Still it left me hanging on a thread making me want him to move elsewhere with the music. But perhaps that was his goal...

The Battle:

Most composer mistakes in battle music are to try to overtake the scene and just smother it in music. There are cases however, where some presence is required (such as Gladiator) however most films I've never been overly impressed with the battle music. Battle music is meant not to add to the clash and bang of sword and shield, but to ENHANCE it. Tyler does this well adding sound effects that don’t' clash with the SFX so much such layering ambience in the background, and then the classic "war drum" effect that is so popular throughout epic films like this.

But then he does something unexpected...he adds electric guitar. Now some people wouldn't have associated this film with electric guitar at all but it makes sense. He also did a good job of hiding it in the mix to where it wasn't too dominant (that of course is credited to the engineer however) He uses E Guitar throughout the film, however in one of the last battle scenes he makes it more dominant and noticeable.

There is also a point where he gives the audience a relief and brings back a traditional orchestral approach to the battle.

The Message:

I thought the most noticeable and worthy piece in this film is when he sends the message back home. As he looks in that wide view of the valley you hear a piece that isn't even on the soundtrack CD. It definitely gives the sense of patriotism but in a different way. The message to the Queen music was also moving with the ethereal vocals that have always captured us in films.

The bottom line of this soundtrack is that it's very different for a film like this, but very well done. Although I really wanted him to move into a more harmonic style of writing at times he didn't for a long time in the film, but then he satisfied that want at the scene where he sends the message back home. It still just didn't hit me though. Not as hard as it should've in an emotional sense. I also still believe this soundtrack was missing one thing, and that's a reprisal of the theme throughout the film and I didn't hear that as much as I wanted to. It's not required, but most people can relate to that style of writing. I mean, how many times have you left a film humming the theme? I dont' see that happening with this film.

So what was actually real in this film?

In the scenes where various sound effects and musical instruments are overlapped with each other I believe he used mostly virtual instruments. Most of the battle music I believe was also virtual. The Electric Guitar had to be virtual, unless he deemed it necessary to hire a real guitarist. But I don’t believe it was present enough in this film to justify that.

All SFX and Ethnic percussion was most likely virtual as well.

However, in some of the scenes where you hear bigger orchestra dominance, that is a live recording of the orchestra. Also, the ethereal vocals used on some tracks are also real as well. They are probably the only two things in this film that were hired for recording.

But of course, I could be wrong. :)

Edited by Sonrise

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Interesting POV Nathan. Thanks for giving us the scoring musician's take on the soundtrack.

I'm no professional, but I am loving listening to this soundtrack! When I found myself this weekend driving 70 mph on a winding two lane road while listening to the soundtrack, I realized that indeed this was a soundtrack to match the movie's kick-a$$ subject matter! I became a kick-a$$ no apologies Spartan Queen behind the wheel! I had to rein myself in for safety's sake. :embarassed:

:thankyou: Nathan!

:hugs:

Katie

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Great review, Nathan!

You sure know your stuff, and every GAL on this board is praying that someday, you will have your chance to score a film like this.

For myself, I like the music while *watching* the film, but it is not a sound track I would purchase just to listen to the music, for the very reasons Nathan stated.

I prefer my "listening" music to have stronger melodic themes, but I agree with Nathan... overall, the music was perfect for the film.

I loved the driving electric guitars.

Swannie

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Great review, Nathan!

You sure know your stuff, and every GAL on this board is praying that someday, you will have your chance to score a film like this.

For myself, I like the music while *watching* the film, but it is not a sound track I would purchase just to listen to the music, for the very reasons Nathan stated.

I prefer my "listening" music to have stronger melodic themes, but I agree with Nathan... overall, the music was perfect for the film.

I loved the driving electric guitars.

Swannie

I have to say, that if I were to be given the same exact film. I might've done something similar. Thinking of Zimmer, Revell, Horner, James Newton Howard, etc. scoring this film just doesn't make sense as much as this style that was picked. Though Zimmer could pull it off like he's suprised me in some films. But Bates did a good job.

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I enjoyed your review, Nathan - it is interesting to read a musician's point of view. Thank you.

I love the music in the movie, but I haven't actually listened to the soundtrack yet (I have it, not out of the box yet). I especially like the parts where the chorale of voices are predominant, and I love when it goes heavy metal in that battle scene - I start bouncing in my seat. I'll have to open the soundtrack and see how it plays as music without the visuals attached to it (though after 5 viewings I should pretty much know the visuals in my head).

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Nathan,

Really nice review.You say the "Message to the Queen" isn't on the standard cd?I got the special additon and it has 25 tracks in all, including "Message to the Queen" It is very beautiful.

Guess what Nathan?I was one of the first 500 to preorder the special rdition cd, so I recieved an autographed booklet from Tyler Bates.

Someday I'd love to have one that you did for a movie and have you autograph.

Edited by redroseblackribbon

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Nathan,

Really nice review.You say the "Message to the Queen" isn't on the standard cd?I got the special additon and it has 25 tracks in all, including "Message to the Queen" It is very beautiful.

Guess what Nathan?I was one of the first 500 to preorder the special rdition cd, so I recieved an autographed booklet from Tyler Bates.

Someday I'd love to have one that you did for a movie and have you autograph.

Actually I meant the music right before he sends the messenger TO the queen. Not when the queen gets the message.

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Thanks for that Nathan.

I have to add that I loved the heavy metal style during the battle scenes and couldn't keep my head from starting a head bang. I kept it small, however, I didn't want my hair flying in my face and obstructing my view :dance:

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Nathan,

Thank you for a wonderful review. I like hearing it from a musician's viewpoint, because you pointed out so much that I did not catch on to or understand. *I'm definitely not a musician*

I've only seen the movie twice, so I expect after I've seen it a few more times that I too will be able to visualize the action while listening to the music and will also be able to hear all the things you told us about the music.

I do think the music for the battle scenes was perfect, but I also like to hear the theme replayed in a movie. It seems to hit home and hang in my mind more readily when it is repeated. I want to walk out of the theater with it humming in my mind, but so far it is mostly the images that are constantly appearing in my mind, not the music. I love the scene where he returns home as the young king, sends his final message to the council and queen, and says his final words.

I must see this movie a few more times, before all of what I heard and saw coalesces into one beautiful, lasting image.

Beachie

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I'm so happy I found this forum!! I was just now listening to some of the tracks from the soundtrack on Itunes.

Maybe it's just me but I hear the same sounds as on the "Titanic" soundtrack. Especially, "Message for the Queen" and "Tonite We Dine in Hell"...anyone else hear it the same way? :confused: Haunting and very emotional (but then I was emotional watching "300")

JUDE

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But of course, I could be wrong. :)

:p perhaps

Chaos may not be the right word to describe it though. I agree however that there was a lot ((maybe too much)) happening in this score. I think the lack of "emotion" in the film score was key since the story revolved around the Spartan's code: Honor, Duty, and Glory. There are a few tracks I really don't care for, but for the most part I enjoyed Bates' composition.

Katie, the first day I got my soundtrack. . .I swear I had THE worst road rage for a day. I was a madwoman on wheels lol. . .especially when listening to The Hot Gates. . .A-Ooo

Di

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I think the lack of "emotion" in the film score was key since the story revolved around the Spartan's code: Honor, Duty, and Glory.

If there was ever a part that demanded emotion, it was during his last breaths in the battle. That is where Tyler should've hit people hard with some great music. Personally, whenever I watch a film it's the music that makes the tears drop, NOT the screen. Not to say it didn't work, but I think it could've been better.

However, I'm not trying to be a know-it-all. There are many things that are factored into scoring. For one, it's the last thing that usually happens with the film.

For all we know he could've had a two week deadline to write the entire thing. Therefore, hindering his efforts a bit in the score.

I was a madwoman on wheels lol. . .

When are you NOT a madwoman on wheels?

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