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  • Writer's pictureArashk Azizi

All about the soundtrack

Can we categorize a movie's original soundtrack as a musical genre?

The soundtrack is defined as the music that accompanies a movie. It can be either a soundtrack or an OST. but can we define a soundtrack as a musical genre?

The original soundtrack that is used in Hollywood movies has such an impact on the audience that many have accepted the original soundtrack as a music genre. While soundtrack in its definition is just the music that accompanies a motion picture, the similarity between today's Hollywood OST is so much that we can actually categorize them as a genre.

Some of the qualities that can define a piece of music as the soundtrack are as follows:

  • Orchestral music or orchestral accompaniment to a solo instrument.

  • Big percussion section in the orchestra.

  • Epic-sounding music.

  • Powerful rhythms.

  • Music which is based on motives and riffs, not on melodies.

  • No form in the music, because it basically follows the form of the movie and most of the time does not have its own musical form.

Not all the soundtracks and OSTs have these elements, therefore they can't all be considered in the genre of the soundtrack. Just because a piece of music is accompanying a movie does not mean that its genre is the soundtrack. They can be categorized as classical music, jazz, pop, rock, electronic, or any other genres. But when we hear music that has the elements above, the best way to categorize them is to just put them in the soundtrack section.

Film music composers

There are a lot of composers whose compositions can be considered soundtrack music. Among the most famous film composers we can name:

  • Hans Zimmer

  • Ramin Djawadi

  • Alexandre Desplat

  • Alan Silvestri

  • Michael Giacchino

  • James Newton Howard

  • Carter Burwell

  • Harry Gregson-Williams

  • John Powell

  • Clint Mansell

  • Patrick Doyle

  • Elliot Goldenthal

  • James Horner

  • Hildur Gounadottir

There are many film composers whose compositions are closer to classical pieces than to what we just defined as the soundtrack genre. Among them we can name:

  • John Williams

  • Ennio Morricone

  • Nino Rota

  • Howard Shore

  • Bernard Herrmann

  • Jerry Goldsmith

  • Leonard Bernstein

  • Thomas Newman

  • Maurice Jarre

  • Wendy Carlos

  • Rachel Portman

  • Eleni Karaindrou

  • Lisa Gerrard

Of course, the lists given are more of a familiarization with the general sounding of the compositions of these great film composers. It doesn’t mean that some of them just compose in the classical genre and some just compose in the soundtrack genre. All of them are amazing composers and capable of composing in different genres when needed.

In conclusion, a soundtrack can be used to define a genre of music. A genre that we talked about is its quality in previous paragraphs. It also can be used as a style of music, especially in orchestral music.

Soundtrack Vs. OST

Original soundtrack or OST is usually the instrumental piece composed especially for the movie, while soundtrack refers to all the music in a movie.

The soundtrack can be a cover song or a recreation of a classical piece, it is literally the track of sound (music in this case) that runs with the movie. An original score sometimes also called OST is the original music composed for that film.

Even when the movies were silent, there was a piano player accompanying the silent black and white movie live in the cinema. By our definition, even that music should be considered a soundtrack. And if the piano player would play some original works of his own, or started to accompany the movie with improvisation, that should be considered as OST or original score.

Time passed and a “soundtrack” was added to the movie rail. Now we could hear the voice of actors and actresses, the sound effect of whatever was happening on the screen, and pre-recorded music accompanying all of them. So the music was being played from a track beside the pictures in the movie rail, thus we had a soundtrack, especially for music. And the soundtrack came into existence.

Many great classical composers like Aaron Copland and Sergei Prokofiev composed original music for the movies. And many great composers like Ennio Morricone never composed anything except for the movies.

The twentieth century was the age of popular music, cinema saved classical music from extinction. Many classical pieces are recreated and re-performed for movies. Beethoven's 7th symphony has been in a lot of movies. Chopin’s music was revived several times by movies. All of these are soundtracks. There are also a lot of original scores in the same genre being composed of the movies. The OST of the trilogy “Lord of The Rings” can be considered a very serious classical composition as well as a very brilliant original soundtrack.

We can also refer to a certain type of music as the genre of the soundtrack. That is a different subject than what we had studied here.

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