What makes a score to a WWII movie or tv show have that distinctive "sound" to it?
February 15, 2008 7:15 PM   Subscribe

What makes a score to an American WWII movie or tv show have that distinctive "sound" to it?

I'm sure I'll do a terrible job of explaining what I mean, but I've been watching Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan recently and there's just something about the soundtracks that just scream "This is a WWII-related program!" What is it about those scores that evoke that feeling? Trumpets? Did any of the classical composers make songs similar to those, or is it only a more recent John Williams and Hans Zimmer-esque thing?

In a related question, which soundtracks with that theme/feeling/sound are the best?
posted by educatedslacker to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe the style of drumming? For a WWII short that I worked on, the composer put a rat-a-tat-tat (not to be confused with rump-a-pum-pum) in the background music, and it evoked a very WWII feel to me.
posted by jsmith77 at 7:59 PM on February 15, 2008

The mawkish French horn that makes the soundtrack sound solemn and holy?
posted by kuujjuarapik at 8:16 PM on February 15, 2008

Often when I hear a score for a WWII movie or TV miniseries, etc., I find it to be derivative of Jerry Goldsmith's score for Patton (1969). (1, 2.)
posted by Prospero at 10:36 PM on February 15, 2008

I apologize for not hot having a definitive answer. I bring another example of the sound/style presented: Hogan's Heroes.
posted by bonobo at 11:40 PM on February 15, 2008

Marching-band-sounding music played in any context other than a high school/college football game?
posted by Afroblanco at 1:11 AM on February 16, 2008

+1 on the French Horn, but there's more.

Listen to Michael Giacchino's score for Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (which is the work that got him all his JJ Abrams jobs.) It's practically an homage to WW2 movie music. It's got all the ingredients on display.

A lot of swelling horns in the mid-low register, along with soaring strings, and interludes of a lone flute, and that damned bell. Plus, of course, the military drum cadence.
posted by Doctor Suarez at 7:26 AM on February 16, 2008

Everyone is on the right track. Brass and percussion (timpani, snare, and bass drum) are important. In terms of the origins of the style, I'd say a lot of it goes back to Aaron Copeland, one of the most significant classical composers in establishing the sound of American music. In particular, listen to Fanfare for the Common Man, which you've probably heard. Note the major key, use of timpani and bass drum, and the reliance on perfect intervals in the brass. Wikipedia says:
Copland, in his autobiography, wrote of the request: "Eugene Goossens, conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, had written to me at the end of August about an idea he wanted to put into action for the 1942-43 concert season. During World War I he had asked British composers for a fanfare to begin each orchestral concert. It had been so successful that he thought to repeat the procedure in World War II with American composers".
posted by ludwig_van at 4:16 PM on February 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

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