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Soundtrack Review: Super 8

August 4, 2011

By Erin V.

How do you describe music in words?  It’s an impossible task I’ve tried to take up again and again – trying to describe something that is a sound, a feeling.  Music is crescendo and decrescendo.  Accelerando and ritardando.  It is emotion described without words.  And to try to describe it in words always seems to cause a loss in translation.  Sometimes you just know what makes a soundtrack great.  It’s letting others be able to understand why you feel that way that is the challenge.  A magical score, Super 8 is one of those soundtracks.

The score for Super 8 is a mix of strings, wind, and percussion instruments, performed by The Hollywood Studio Symphony.  Giacchino uses lots of strings as the basis for the score, with harp and piano at times adding to the mystical feel while bringing in the main themes.

As composer Michael Giacchino frequently utilizes recurring themes for characters – something I really like composers doing when it’s done well – ten of the tracks on this soundtrack are under a minute long.  These short tracks all work, often profiling the various leitmotifs throughout.  Track 7 for example gives us one of the main themes of the film.  Giacchino has a knack for creating memorable simple motifs and weaving them into a score that tells a story.  I find they are used enough here for memorability, without becoming overbearing.

One of the tracks I’d like to mention here was not used in the film (Track 16), although it uses themes that are.  I’m glad it is included on the CD because it is a beautiful little quiet piece.  Speaking of beauty, the string theme in the last minute of track 29 really takes on a new level too.  Another thing to note is that the last track on the disc, track 33, is the music from the film the kids are making in Super 8 (this short film that plays over the end credits).

The longest track on the whole disc is track 30, at ten minutes long.  It starts as a slow piece with a lead-up into a climax.  This is an amazing piece that speeds up then falls to a slow theme just as quickly.  Although one of the most ‘action’ oriented pieces on the score at times, it retains a magical quality by just under three minutes from the end putting in a couple of beautiful glissandos, finally leading into the quiet piano and string theme from the film just over a minute from the end.

Tracks 30, 31, and 32 are all beautiful melodic realizations of everything leading up to them before.  The Super 8 Suite, which is track 32 and is just under six minutes long is a wonderful compilation of the themes – a final farewell to the story we have just witnessed on screen, just heard in a darkened theatre.  Somehow the themes just soar with a wondrous curiosity.

I was actually pleasantly surprised at how long this soundtrack is.  For some it might not be their thing, but I am glad to be able to listen to almost 80 minutes of straight score – especially one like this.  Giacchino’s use of counterpoint at times to bring tension (tracks 26 and 31 for example) is one of the trademarks I’ve noticed in his music, that gives it an interesting sound, but also makes his music an inviting challenge to play (that and sudden key and time signature changes).  I want to play this music.  I hope there’ll be a piano solo book out soon…

Super 8 as a film had something special.  It felt genuine.  Capturing the feeling of that point between childhood and adolescence and the feelings that come with it.  This was a true adventure movie that wasn’t afraid to slow down and get to know its characters first and foremost like the classic films of the ‘80’s, and the music here is not afraid to do the exact same thing.  It is mysterious, it is reflective, and it manages what only the best scores do.  It provides the perfect emotional connection between us and the experiences of the characters.  This is one of the best scores of the year in my opinion – I would definitely recommend adding it to your collection.

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The Super 8 soundtrack was released by Varèse Sarabande into stores August 2nd, 2011.

The soundtrack has 33 tracks and runs for 1 hour, 17 minutes, 43 seconds.  The original score is composed by Michael Giacchino.

You can read out reviews of Super 8 here.

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