Monthly Archives: October 2012

Helen San’s Top 50 Movie Scores from the 80’s

I like soundtracks and I listen to The Soundcast podcast quite often. I recently listened to a podcast where the usual cast discussed the top movie scores from the 80’s. As usual, they had an entertaining discussion about lots of movie scores; many of which I had never heard, or considered checking out.

One of the regulars on The Soundcast is Helen San, who happens to like my favourite animated TV series “Avatar: The Last Airbender“, and recommended one of my favourite scores of all time “Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas“. The music for Avatar actually started my resurgence of interest in soundtracks. Helen has put a list of her top 50 80’s scores on YouTube, and I have transcribed it here for reference (with lots of useful links).

  1. Conan The Barbarian (1982) – Basil Poledouris
  2. The Mission (1986) – Ennio Morricone
  3. Batman – Danny Elfman
  4. Krull (1983) – James Horner
  5. Beverly Hills Cop (1984) – Harold Faltermeyer
  6. Back to the Future (1985) – Alan Silvestri
  7. Glory (1989) – James Horner
  8. High Road to China (1983) – John Barry
  9. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) – John Williams
  10. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) –  John Williams
  11. The Last Starfighter (1984) – Craig Safan
  12. The Untouchables (1987) –  Ennio Morricone
  13. Cherry 2000 (1987) –  Basil Poledouris
  14. Farewell to the King (1989) – Basil Poledouris
  15. Goonies (1985) – Dave Grusin / Cyndi Lauper
  16. Black Rain (1989) – Hanz Zimmer
  17. The Blue Lagoon (1980) –  Basil Poledouris
  18. Out of Africa (1985) –  John Barry
  19. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan –  James Horner
  20. An American Tail –  James Horner
  21. Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) – John Williams
  22. Star Wars VI: The Return Of The Jedi (1983) –  John Williams
  23. Something wicked this way comes (1983) –  James Horner
  24. The Little Mermaid (1989) – Alan Menken
  25. Rambo: First Blood (1982) – Jerry Goldsmith
  26. The Terminator (1984) – Brad Fiedel
  27. The Princess Bride (1987)- Mark Knopfler
  28. Big (1988) – Howard Shore
  29. The Fly (1986) – Howard Shore
  30. The Beastmaster (1982) – Lee Holdridge
  31. RoboCop (1987) – Basil Poledouris
  32. Flesh & Blood (1985) – Basil Poledouris
  33. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) – James Horner
  34. Red Dawn (1984) – Basil Poledouris
  35. Willow (1988) –  James Horner
  36. Rain Man (1988) – Hanz Zimmer
  37. Born on Fourth of July (1989)  John Williams
  38. The Big Blue (1988) – Bill Conti
  39. Scrooged (1988) – Danny Elfman
  40. The ‘Burbs (1989) – Jerry Goldsmith
  41. Amazons (1984) – Basil Poledouris
  42. Splash (1984) – Lee Holdridge
  43. Cocoon (1985) – James Horner
  44. Gorky Park (1983) – James Horner
  45. Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985) – Craig Safan
  46. Hoosiers (1986) – Jerry Goldsmith
  47. The Dark Crystal (1982) – Trevor Jones
  48. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) – Jerry Goldsmith
  49. Tron (1982) – Wendy Carlos
  50. Beetlejuice (1988) – Danny Elfman

If I only had time to check these out…

Coffee Cup Bass

I wrote a song that needed an upright bass.

I was quite pleased with it. I didn’t have an expensive sample library with the Upright Bass sound in it, so I grabbed a coffee cup, a pencil, a paperclip, some sticky tape, a rubber band, and a pocket knife.

After calculating the correct hole size using a formula related to a helmholtz resonator and cutting it out with the pocket knife, I had the instrument I needed.

Here is a picture.

Unfortunately, the Coffee Cup Bass is almost impossible to play. So I sampled it and played through a MIDI keyboard.

Cosmic Radiation Sound Effect Construction

I had the idea to write a theme for The Great A’Tuin, the turtle that supports the four elephants which support Discworld from the novels of Terry Pratchett. As part of this I was after a kind of “cosmic noise” effect in the background which kind sounds like a bunch of pops of static as if cosmic rays were bombarding the recording equipment. Something like the effect in the music for this awesome timelapse taken from the International Space Station is what I was after.

White and Gausian noise sounds terrible.

This article about the colours of noise is particularly interesting.

I tried Gausian noise taken to the power of 3, hoping that the effect exagerate some rare peaks as pops. But no.

After playing with some of the built in effects in Reaper, I settled on using a pink noise generator and passing the noise through a noise gate so that only very large values pass through. The attack and decay times were set short and produced the kind of sound that is good enough.

I didn’t even have to crank up SciLab to generate my own from scratch.

I used the cosmic noise in the background to this tune.