Pop Goes The Movies - TRON: LEGACY

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Christopher Morley spins a disc of Tron.


A glance at the cinema listings nowadays often reveals a positive glut of belated sequel. But approaching this often tricky business with a trained ear often reveals a degree of musical interplay - and in scoring Tron: Legacy, French duo Daft Punk - perhaps best known for the annoyingly catchy likes of Get Lucky & Around The World - proved themselves keen students of Wendy Carlos, who had of course done much to advance the cause of electronic music as film score on the original Tron film as well as A Clockwork Orange.



Thomas Bangalter & Guy De Homem-Christo were approached to, in a sense, build on her work by director Joseph Kosinski, who had had them in mind from the very start. As he succinctly put it,
"How could you not at least go to those guys?"
How indeed! Their first two records, Homework & Discovery can't have hurt in sealing the deal. Collaboration with an orchestra may well have also influenced them later on during the recording of Random Access Memories, which fuses electronics & the full power of such an ensemble. As Tron: Legacy's score arranger Joseph Trapanese, who is also a fan of these daftest of punks, put it,
"It seems complicated at the end of the day, but it’s actually quite simple. I was locked in a room with robots for almost two years and it was simply a lot of hard work.

We were just together working throughout the whole process and there was never a point where the orchestra was not in their minds and the electronics were not in my mind. It was a continual translation between the two worlds and hopefully we put something together that will be something different because of that."


While he & Bangalter maintained a healthy respect for Carlos, who they credit as an inspiration to their first film score, De Homem-Christo sought to distance their work from the sort of approach taken on the original music.
"We knew from the start that there was no way we were going to do this film score with two synthesizers and a drum machine."
Which begs the question of how Wendy laid the building blocks with practically just those! She had been a key figure in the development of the Moog synthesizer, popularising the instrument following the release of Switched-On Bach in 1968. The treatment of some of Johann Sebastian's best-known works brought her to the attention of Stanley Kubrick two years later, leading to their work together on both A Clockwork Orange & The Shining.



But the man who came up with the Moog famously initially thought little of it, as Moog Foundation revealed....
"At first, Bob Moog didn’t think of his synthesizer as a total solution for the musician. He once famously said, “There was never a notion that a synthesizer would be used by itself for anything.” He pictured it as another piece of equipment in the traditional electronic music studio."
And as machines of a different nature & the virtual realities they offered began to fascinate the sort of audience who would come to respect Tron, one of Daft Punk's abiding artistic concerns may have informed their take on the score. As Bangalter told the Hollywood Reporter,
"We were interested in the relationship between society and technology, and how the place of technology in the world had changed so much. The first movie in 1982 was a very colourful, hopeful, naive look at technology, and the power of the computer.

Thirty years later, this new movie would be a dark and not-innocent look at technology. It was in common with how we feel about technology, which is this love-hate relationship with it. It can be wonderful and terrifying."
Just like the various technological fads which have come & gone since its release, Disney Records saw fit to needlessly enhance what had gone before in releasing Tron: Legacy - Reconfigured just a year after the original soundtrack had premièred!



As Daft Punk's manager at the time, Pedro Winter, wrote in an open letter to Disney,
"Of course some of it is nice, and you know there are some of my friends on this CD. But this is not enough! [...] I am sad to discover the A&R at Disney records is apparently buying most of his electronic music in airports stores."
Tron: Legacy was not their first dabble in cinema, mind. That honour goes to Electroma, a 2006 piece written by the pair depicting the quest of two robots to become human. Life imitating art, some may say....



Andrew Pulver of the Guardian didn't know quite what to make of it,
"It's a dialogue-free riff on the same metal-to-flesh mullarkey that fuelled their most recent release, Human After All. It has to be said that the Punks have an eye for an arresting image: their simple tale of two robots who make themselves human faces out of wax is beautifully filmed, and occasionally very funny.

But they have not quite worked out the importance of having a narrative: an incredibly dull mid-section in which our two electric pals stumble metronomically through the desert had the audience fleeing in droves."
De Homem-Christo saw it as a natural continuation.
"We never planned for it to happen, but after we directed the videos for our last album we decided to keep on working. We were in the shooting dynamic, so the movie came naturally.

We didn't think too much. Whether it's making music or directing a video, whatever we do we do it quickly. When we have a good work dynamic we don't need to ask too many questions of each other."
Alex Rayner, also for the Guardian, seemed a little baffled!
"You can only imagine the confused faces in the boardroom when the pitch came in. Two French disco producers want to make a film about robots driving through south-west America, on a mission to have their heads transformed into human ones with liquid latex.

The proposed feature is 70 minutes long, has no talking and, although neither have any experience in cinematography, the disco producers want to shoot and direct it themselves. Transformers, this ain't."
It did at least provide a lead-in to Tron, Clash Music making a compelling case for this match made in heaven.
"The resulting music is a studiously solid offering that has all the grandeur and dystopian trajectory of acclaimed godfather of cinematic scores Vangelis (Blade Runner) but with the odd cheeky electronic bed from which their sonic structures can twist and grow.

Disney naturally takes any audience through the full gamut of human emotions thus we find ‘Recogniser’ and ‘Arena’ are all pulsating, decaying strings with explosive brass that intimates a towering horizon of an event."


"After the action there’s a fading melancholia of strings on ‘Adagio’, regret through descending scales on ‘Nocturne’, fear through the massive looming kettle drums and chiming but muddied melodies on ‘End Of Line’, whilst ‘Rectifier’ and ‘Disc Wars’ do everything to evoke disturbing and unsettling emotions of combat as the audience no doubt clutch sweaty popcorn on the sleeve of a new lover."

"As a debut attempt at writing music for an orchestra it’s an epic success. As a stand-alone album, what Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter have created won’t sate the disco heads screaming for more club material, however as an accomplished score it can only make a legendary film yet more cherished. Refreshingly good homework."
Top of the class, though?

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