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Like The Soundtracks For These Oscar-Nominated Films? Look Up These Artists and Classical Composers

Chris Pizzello
AP Photo
Oscar statues stand off of Hollywood Boulevard in preparation for Sunday's 92nd Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, in Los Angeles.

Hollywood produced some truly incredible movies in 2019 with some truly incredible soundtracks. If after watching some of these movies you find yourself thinking “wow, I wish I knew where to find more music like that,” here are some recommendations based on movies that are nominated for "best soundtrack" at this year’s Academy Awards. 

Hildur Guðnadóttir - Joker

Icelandic cellist Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score for Joker is haunting and fitting for watching Arthur Flecks’ slow descent into madness. The soundtrack has a heavy use of strings, especially in the lower register. She wrote it solely off of the script before any shooting began.

If you liked the music from Joker, check out:

  • Thom Yorke or Radiohead, specifically the album A Moon Shaped Pool.
  • Any works from the late Jóhann Jóhannsson, who was a fellow Icelandic composer whom Hildur Guðnadóttir worked with frequently.
Alexandre Desplat - Little Women

Raised in Paris, Alexandre Desplat grew up listening to well-known French composers like Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy. He has also traveled to work with Brazilian musician Carlinhos Brown, and Congolese musician Ray Lema. Despite his travel, the soundtrack for Little Women leans toward the classical and French impressionism portion of his wide range of expertise. Desplat decided he wanted to work in film after hearing the well-known score of Star Wars by John Williams. 

If you liked the music from Little Women, check out:

  • Maurice Ravel, who lived from 1875 – 1937, was well known for innovation on traditional musical forms in interesting ways like repetition. Ravel is best known for his piece “Boléro,” which shows this repetition.
  • Claude Debussy, French composer preceding Ravel and living from 1862 – 1918, is most known for his piano works, particularly “Clair De Lune.”
  • Dominique Lemonnier, violinist and wife of Alexandre Desplat, whom he has said inspired his compositional style.

Randy Newman - Marriage Story

Randy Newman is one of the 6 well-known composers from the Newman family, all of whom are film composers. Randy Newman is also famous for his rock n' roll music career and the comedy he has incorporated into it. He grew up listening to R&B on the radio and cites artists like Ray Charles and Lavern Baker as influences. You can hear these influences in the soundtrack for Marriage Story, but the soundtrack itself seems more reminiscent of classical piano works by composers such as Claude Debussy and Frédéric Chopin.

If you liked the music from Marriage Story, check out:

  • Any of the many nocturnes written by Frédéric Chopin and piano works from Claude Debussy.
  • R&B classic artists like Ottis Redding, Ray Charles, and Lavern Baker, among many others.

Thomas Newman - 1917

Unlike his cousin Randy, Thomas Newman tends to take after the family’s more orchestral style of film composition. His father is the famed Alfred Newman, who composed many film scores in the mid-1900s. Probably Thomas Newman’s biggest mentor when developing his musical style was Stephen Sondheim, who is famous for musicals like Sweeny Todd and Into the Woods.

If you liked the music from 1917, check out:

  • Anyone from the Newman family, most notably Alfred Newman, Thomas’s father.
  • Musicals from Stephen Sondheim, who is still composing for musicals.
  • For 1917 in particular, try other film scores like ones written by Hans Zimmer.

John Williams - Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

We all know and love John Williams’ music, which is among the most recognizable in the history of film scores. He’s known for his work on things such as the 1984 Olympics theme, Harry Potter, Superman, and of course Star Wars. Williams has not been shy about saying where he pulled his inspiration from for Star Wars, so to save everyone from reading an entire book, here are three examples.

If you liked the music from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, then check out:

  • Film music from Erich Korngold, particularly the theme from Kings Row, in which you can practically hear the main theme of Star Wars.
  • The Planets from Gustav Holst is another place Williams pulled inspiration from, particularly “Mars,” whose name comes from the Roman god of war. Which makes sense because “Mars’” driving march-like beat is reminiscent in the Imperial March otherwise known as Darth Vader’s theme.
  • Probably the backbone of the Star Wars score is the idea of leitmotif, or certain musical themes or melodic lines being associated with certain characters. This term comes from descriptions of Richard Wagner’s famous set of Operas known as The Ring Cycle.