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Despicable album; all those involved should be ashamed (not to mention prosecuted)
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2007 Warner Bros.; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
Accusations of plagiarism have been rife in film music virtually since it was invented. Whether it be the gentle interpolation of a famous piece, or even the more direct use of it throughout a score, film composers of all generations have looked to the music of the recent and distant past for inspiration. It has only been very occasional that any has been pursued through the courts as a result, and rarer still that the pursuit has been successful. Most of the time, the inspiration has come in much the same way as it has in music for centuries, the composer taking a previous tune and making it his own.
Far less common have been instances of a composer taking a recently-composed piece from one film score, which has obviously been in the temp-track, and not bothered doing anything other than re-transcribe it out for the orchestra and essentially re-record it - passing it off as his own. It is an unfortunate reality of modern film composition that "apeing the temp-track" has become the norm, but that sad practice still sees the finer film composers doing just enough skirting around it that there is still a little room for creativity. We must all hope and pray that 300 is not a sign of things to come.
The album is an hour long; the credit reads "Composed by Tyler Bates". How much composition went on here could be open to much debate. The most blatant and unforgivable example of copying that I've ever heard in a film score is here. For sure, we've all heard a lot - whether it's James Horner plundering the classics for inspiration, or massively less talented composers than him just changing a few notes in the temp-track and making the orchestration a bit different. But to just take music from one score and use it in another without giving credit - that's a new one.
Two tracks from Elliot Goldenthal's exceptional score for Titus are used here - "Victoris Titus" is relabelled as "Returns a King" and "Finale" is relabelled as "Remember Us". Now, I may be talking about only two tracks from 25 (though others use the same thematic material) - but I find it entirely impossible to get past this and therefore treat the album, and those involved with its creation, with the utmost contempt. The irony is that 300 will prove to be a far, far bigger financial success than Titus, and so its soundtrack album will probably sell more copies in a week than Titus has sold in the seven years since its release - so the person who actually wrote the music will make little money, whereas the person who is credited with it here will make a lot.
Maybe - just maybe - it would be possible to skirt around the issue if the rest of the score were up to scratch. But when it's not quoting Titus, it is generally lifting from Black Hawk Down and, amazingly, both versions of Troy - both Horner's and the rejected score by Gabriel Yared. Somebody spent a lot of time here to make sure that no effort was required in actually having to compose anything. Hey, it's a brand new way for people who can't compose to get themselves on mega-budget movies, I guess. On the rare occasions it's lifting from none of those scores, it's the kind of rock music stuff which is inevitable in this type of film these days. Any enjoyment to be gleaned from these easy-listening sections is quickly tempered by the inevitable stolen stuff just around every corner.
Apologists will say it isn't Bates's fault - he was only doing what he was told to do, and would have been fired otherwise. The issue of "fault" doesn't alter the end result, but in any case I don't think the argument holds much water - composers have been forced to copy the temp-track routinely for years now, but have done so in ways far less blatant than this. Another thing the apologists will say is that if the music was good in the scores for which it was actually written, then surely it is still good now - and that of course is true. But I, as a consumer, am being asked to buy a product which is falsely advertised. I am not buying a compilation of fine, dark film music of the last decade or so - I am buying an album billed as something original. The whole thing leaves a deeply sour taste in the mouth, and makes this listener for one extremely angry. Hence the first-ever appearance of "no stars" as a rating - and frankly, it was lucky to even get that. Shameful.