Daft Punk’s orchestral score for ‘Tron: Legacy’ reveals a new side
I know this is not conducting related, but nice score for once from Hollywood. Do this concert to get some new folks into the concert hall.
Times staff writer Chris Lee, who landed a rare interview with Daft Punk, writes about the French electronic music duo who scored “Tron: Legacy.” Today, Pop & Hiss presents Part 1 of Lee’s story, which delves into how the duo came to be involved with the project. Part 2 will follow this weekend.
Played in the denouement to a gripping shootout between digital warriors on rocket-propelled hang-gliders, the musical passage “Adagio for Tron” arrives about two-thirds through the $170-million sci-fi thriller “Tron: Legacy” (which hit multiplexes Dec. 17). It’s an elegiac movement recorded by a symphony orchestra that features desolate violins swelling around a barely there synthesizer pulse.
Scoring aces such as Hans Zimmer (“The Dark Knight,” “Pirates of the Caribbean”) and John Williams (the “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter” franchises) have become global brands for creating similar emotionally pregnant soundscapes for film — the kind of music that isn’t shy about pushing viewers’ buttons or providing an emotional context for what’s on-screen.
But while “Adagio for Tron” — for that matter, most of the tracks on the soundtrack — shows a mastery of orchestral music and fluency for deploying every symphonic resource from timpani to Wagner tuben, the musicians responsible for the score are better known for a sound that can be characterized as anything but classical.
That would be Daft Punk. In a startling departure from the kind of techno-disco-heavy metal mash-ups and bombastic dance music that propelled them into international superstardom, the Grammy-winning French electronica duo back-burnered what they do best and went on hiatus from a lucrative touring schedule for nearly two years to compose and produce the “Tron: Legacy” soundtrack.
In its first week of release, the CD landed at No. 10 on the national album chart, scanning over 70,000 units according to Nielsen SoundScan; it has sold more than 118,000 units to date. Critically hailed as a game-changer for the group (even while a certain quadrant of the blognoscenti decries its commerciality), the soundtrack is the first film score to chart that high in half a decade and Daft Punk’s highest-charting album to date.
But hiring the group to score one of Disney’s tent-pole films of 2010 was hardly a no-brainer for studio brass. Moreover, it took the members of Daft Punk, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, over a year to commit to the project after being initially approached by “Tron: Legacy” director Joseph Kosinski. And when the duo finally set to work with an 85-piece orchestra,
they shocked the filmmakers by shelving Daft’s signature four-on-the-floor sound in favor of a more classical direction that little in the duo’s musical oeuvre suggested they were qualified to produce.