Arachnophonia: “Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard’s The Dark Knight: A Film Score Guide”

Editor’s note: Arachnophonia is a regular feature on our blog where members of the UR community can share their thoughts about items in the Parsons Music Library‘s collection. All links included in these posts will take you to either the library catalog record for the item in question or to additional relevant information from around the web.

Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by Music Library student worker, Abby (class of 2021) and features an analysis of the score from the 2008 film The Dark Knight. Thanks, Abby!
Han Zimmer and James Newton Howard’s The Dark Knight : A Film Score Guide by Vasco Hexel

Are you a fan of Batman? Do you love learning about how movie soundtracks impact movies, even having the power to completely change emotion and perception? Or maybe you’re taking a music theory class and want to read something that won’t put you to sleep on the first page? Then this, my friend, is the book for you: Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard’s The Dark Knight: A Film Score Guide by Vasco Hexel. It’s a long title but hear me out. This book tracks Zimmer’s process in the making of The Dark Night film score, as the name suggests. But not only that, it provides in depth analysis of the characters Batman and the Joker, describing how the music was designed to reflect the psychology of each character.

For mega-fans and theorists, it’s a musical, analytical wonderland. And for those who need help in figuring out how to make a Grammy award-winning soundtrack, or who just need a break from Beethoven, this is the place to start!

Arachnophonia: Adele “21”

Editor’s note: Arachnophonia is a regular feature on our blog where members of the UR community can share their thoughts about items in the Parsons Music Library‘s collection. All links included in these posts will take you to either the library catalog record for the item in question or to additional relevant information from around the web.

Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by Music Library student worker, Diego (class of 2021) and features English singer-songwriter Adele’s 2011 studio album 21. Thanks, Diego!

Adele

21

Valentine’s Day was this month, and with that there are usually two types of people, those who have reason to celebrate the holiday, and those who celebrate the day afterwards, when all the candy is marked 50 percent off at the store. That being said, I think we can all agree on the fact that there is music that can be listened to in order to enjoy the holiday to its finest. It is hard to call out a certain artist for making love songs, as there are a lot, a lot, A LOT of love songs that have been made throughout history, just like there are a lot for us lonely people as well. However, without any regret, we can take a look at Adele for the sake of love/breakup songs. Specifically, we can look at 21, one of her most famous albums to date.

Released in 2011, 21 was a way for Adele to tell her story about an unsuccessful relationship that she experienced. Having released 19 just two years prior, Adele had already begun to build a very devoted fan base that rushed to pre-order and buy her album. Little did anyone know that this would be one of the best sold albums in history. The album itself was widely praised both by professional critics and the general population. It peaked at number 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and had singles that remained on the US album charts for 24 weeks. 21 ended up becoming the bestselling album of both 2011 and 2012.

Adele 21

Moving on to the songs on the album, as you listen to some of the songs, you notice that she seems to go through all of the themes everyone attributes to after a breakup, from anger to loneliness, regrets, and finally the acceptance of what has happened. For example, the song “Rumor Has It” is in response to all the rumors that surrounded the breakup of Adele and her partner at the time. “Rolling in the Deep” was written to insult Adele’s ex-lover for making negative remarks about her after the break-up. As a whole, her entire album tells different aspects of Adele’s relationship, and its subsequent failure. While it does give off a solemn vibe, the album as a whole makes it sound like the opening of a new door in Adele’s life, and after taking the hard road of coping with the breakup, and the fallout from it, she is ready to move on to someone new. The song “Someone Like You” is one of the last songs in the album, a song which Adele describes as one that made her feel free and liberated.

I had to write it to feel OK with myself and OK with the two years I spent with him. And when I did it, I felt so freed.

And that’s what this album is about! It is about being able to make it past a breakup and coming out stronger because of it, it is about learning to forgive those who have hurt you, and it is about cherishing what you have before it’s gone. Adele’s 21 isn’t just for those who have gone through a bitter breakup, or those who miss what they once had, but instead it’s a reminder that there is a such thing as happiness out there, and maybe you already have it, or maybe it’s out there looking for you.

Adele - Rolling in the Deep music video still

Arachnophonia: Death Cab For Cutie “Transatlanticism”

Editor’s note: Arachnophonia is a regular feature on our blog where members of the UR community can share their thoughts about items in the Parsons Music Library‘s collection. All links included in these posts will take you to either the library catalog record for the item in question or to additional relevant information from around the web.

Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by Music Library student worker Cole (class of 2021) and features Transatlanticism the fourth studio album by indie rock band Death Cab For Cutie originally released in 2003. Thanks, Cole!

Death Cab For Cutie

Transatlanticism

Death Cab For Cutie - Transatlanticism

“So this is the New Year
And I don’t feel any different”

So begins Death Cab for Cutie’s 2003 album Transatlanticism, and so too begins another calendar year. I mentioned this record in my previous Arachnophonia post, so I found it fitting to further detail it for my first submission of 2018. Written entirely by front man Ben Gibbard and recorded at the same time as The Postal Service’s Give Up, Transatlanticism offers a darker and more personal rumination on love than the synth-pop optimism of Gibbard’s collaboration with Jimmy Tamborello. Whereas Give Up dwells on relationships past, it ultimately is a celebration of those experiences. Transatlanticism is principally about the distances from others–physical and otherwise – that prevent us from being happy. It condemns, rather than celebrates, past failures.

Gibbard’s obsession with destructive distance is evident from the first moments of the album, and indeed the record’s name itself. The aforementioned intro track “The New Year” finds him mocking the inane celebration of the New Year’s holiday. Eventually, the song drops its cynical façade and ends with an honest rumination about the first type of distance addressed in the album – geographic:

“I wish the world was flat like the old days
Then I could travel just by folding a map
No more airplanes, or speed trains, or freeways
There’d be no distance that can hold us back”

Gibbard has become disillusioned about the “magic” of the New Year. Rather than celebrating with his friends the progression of time, he chooses instead to lament about “the old days” when the world was flat, senselessly believing that this would somehow allow him to be closer to his estranged lover.

Further on, numerous songs wrestle with an entirely different form of distance – temporal. In “We Looked Like Giants,” the second to last track of the album, Gibbard reminisces over the novelty of first love.

“I’ve become what I always hated when I was with you then
We looked like giants in the back of my grey subcompact
Fumbling to make contact as the others slept inside”

He notes the irony of how much he’s changed in the days since his high school affair and views the entire experience with an acute awareness of their naïveté. Unlike most other songs from Transatlanticism, Gibbard doesn’t pine for anything here. “We Looked Like Giants” reminisces but doesn’t dwell. It examines an old flame for what it was, not what it might have been, and in doing so provides the closest thing to a sense of closure found on the album.

Contrarily, “Title and Registration” recounts a personal experience of Ben Gibbard, stumbling across pictures of an ex-lover he “tried to forget” while searching for a legal document in the glove compartment of his car. He reminisces about this love lost thus:

“There’s no blame
For how our love did slowly fade
And now that it’s gone
It’s like it wasn’t there at all
And here I rest
Where disappointment and regret collide
Lying awake at night”

Gibbard takes an intriguing stance in this verse, first asserting that there’s “no blame” for the end of the relationship, but still expresses “disappointment and regret.” He takes issue not with the ending of the affair, but with how both parties allowed their love to extinguish with whimper. It’s only now, since distance has developed from the ending of the relationship, that Gibbard is tormented by his failure.

The final form of distance addressed in Transatlanticism, and indeed the most crucial, is emotional. As suggested in “Title and Registration,” Gibbard’s deepest wounds are delivered not by betrayal, but the slow division that sedates love into apathy. In “Expo ’86,” he critiques the very pursuit of love itself:

“Sometimes I think this cycle never ends
We slide from top to bottom then we turn and climb again
And it seems by the time that I have figured what it’s worth
The squeaking of our skin against the steel has gotten worse
But if I move my place in line, I’ll lose
And I have waited, the anticipation’s got me glued
I am waiting for something to go wrong
I am waiting for familiar resolve”

Like Sisyphus eternally rolling his boulder up a hill, only for it to roll back once he’s reached the top, Ben Gibbard feels trapped in a never-ending cycle of relationships. He desperately wants more than anything to just finish. This fixation with repetition prevents him from truly engaging in any meaningful way. Instead, he’s just “waiting for something to go wrong.”

Death Cab For Cutie

This dissociation from romantic endeavors is what drives Gibbard in “Tiny Vessels.” Here, he confesses to his emotional detachment, painting himself in a selfish and potentially even misogynistic light:

“So one last touch, and then you’ll go
And we’ll pretend that it meant something so much more
But it was vile, and it was cheap
And you are beautiful
But you don’t mean a thing to me”

Heartbreak after heartbreak has driven Gibbard from seeking passionate love to purely physical stimulation – the very transformation he despises. While “Tiny Vessels” proves to be a moral recession, it exists to embolden the revelation of the next song, the title track “Transatlanticism.”

Just shy of eight minutes long, “Transatlanticism” stands as the focal point of the album. In many ways it proves to be antithetical to every other song on the record. Rather than a cynical dismissing of past relationships, the title track is a heartbreakingly honest plea for true love. While the song is literally about a man being separated from his lover by the birth of the Atlantic Ocean, in truth it details the death of a relationship at the hands of a widening emotional disconnect.

“Most people were overjoyed
They took to their boats
I thought it less like a lake
And more like a moat”

Gibbard makes use of all three forms of distance – physical, temporal, and emotional, – and in doing so, produces the most genuine and stunning track of the album. Unlike “Title and Registration,” in “Transatlanticism” the speaker hasn’t resigned to simply regret the death of his relationship, because a fragment of it still remains. Rather than accept the slow death, he fights tooth and nail to preserve the love that’s slipping through his fingers. The song crescendos with a simple refrain – “I need you so much closer” – repeated twelve times, and then finally climaxes with the outro:

“So come on, come on
So come on, come on
So come on, come on
So come on, come on”

In my personal opinion, this is Ben Gibbard at his absolute best. Sparse, honest, and absolutely agonizing.

Since its release, Transatlanticism has been near-universally accepted as Death Cab for Cutie’s greatest work, and a seminal album of indie rock. While the band’s fan base consistently ridicules them for their more recent, upbeat outputs (fans often ironically lament how they want Ben Gibbard to be miserable again), Gibbard himself remains realistic about the band’s necessity for evolution. In a 2015 interview with Medium, Gibbard offered this:

“I cannot be the 25-year-old who wrote Transatlanticism as much as the fan can’t be the 19-year-old college student going through a break-up again.”

So I implore you, while you have the opportunity to be that 19-or-20-or-however-old-college-student-going-through-a-break-up-or-whatever-else, listen to Transatlanticism and be it.

Death Cab For Cutie

Arachnophonia: Simon & Garfunkel “Bridge Over Troubled Water”

Editor’s note: Arachnophonia is a regular feature on our blog where members of the UR community can share their thoughts about items in the Parsons Music Library‘s collection. All links included in these posts will take you to either the library catalog record for the item in question or to additional relevant information from around the web.

Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by Music Library student worker Colin (class of 2021) and features Bridge Over Troubled Water a classic Simon & Garfunkel album first released in January 1970. Thanks, Colin!

Simon & Garfunkel

Bridge Over Troubled Water

Bridge Over Troubled Water

Bridge Over Troubled Water is Simon & Garfunkel’s fifth and final studio album and widely regarded as their best work. Bridge Over Troubled Water hit number 1 on the Billboard 200 in March 1970 and remained there for 10 weeks, sold over 8 million records in the United States, and also earned a Grammy award for Album of the Year in 1971.

Bridge Over Troubled Water is described as the duo’s “‘most effortless album and their most ambitious.’” The album is an eclectic mix of multiple genres, such as rock, jazz, R&B, and gospel, which formed a unique “individual” sound that was met with both acclaim and criticism. Riding the enormous success of their previous album, Bookends, Simon & Garfunkel established themselves as one of the greatest rock duos in the world at the time, before splitting up shortly after the album’s release.

Baby Driver / The Boxer 45

The album has two notable songs that I particularly like and recommend. “The Boxer” is a folk rock selection, and is a narrative, first-person lament that outlines the character of a boxer. The song describes the singer’s struggle to overcome poverty and loneliness, before crafting the boxer character as a metaphor for his life, exhibited in the lyrics “I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains.” “The Boxer” was popularized in the instrumental world due to Drum Corps International’s premier corps, the Bluecoats, and their 2008 production entitled “The Knockout,” in which the corps plays and sings excerpts of “The Boxer.” The Bluecoats’s interpretation of the song is widely recognized as one of the most popular segments of any DCI show in history, and is frequently performed by the corps while they tour over the summer.

The second song I recommend is entitled “Baby Driver.” This song played no part in the naming of 2017’s hit movie Baby Driver, but it was featured in the film. The song features an upbeat, rock vibe that sounds quite similar to The Beach Boys, and “Baby Driver” is sure to stick in your head hours after listening to it.