Writer’s Music: Daft Punk

Tron_Legacy_SoundtrackAll the failings of Disney’s Tron: Legacy cannot tarnish two major achievements: the re-captured look of The Grid, and the score by Daft Punk.

Now when I say “the look,” I am not referring to Jeff Bridges’ animated face or any of the programs (represented by people on The Grid). I’m talkin’ light-cycles, disc wars, those enormous enemy ships, etc. I felt like The Grid had aged as it should from the 80s original: slick colors, startling clarity, eerily real.

Daft Punk must have at least known the original film, as touches of the original’s themes arise and fall in all the right places. I even tried to see if the two were noted fans of the original; I couldn’t find anything about their fan status, but I did discover that their score for Tron: Legacy won them some awards for Best Original Score.

I’m often skeptical of the electronic/orchestra mixture. One so often overwhelms the other, making the sound, and therefore the atmosphere, lopsided and ineffective. This never happens with Daft Punk, not once in the whole score. They knew when to hold off on the electronic element, such as in “Overture,” an amazing piece of brass that builds very, very slowly, both in volume and depth, until the last minute, where strings and electronic step in, giving us an epic aura of a world synthetic and real. I love this track so much that I gave it to Dorjan when I first created him for a WIP.

“Adagio for Tron” uses almost no electronic at all, either; indeed, the duo followed the classic form with strings to create a heart-breaking atmosphere for viewers who see the beloved Tron character of the original captured and transformed into a servant for the big baddie. It sounds like something written for a string quartet, with electronic compliments so subdued you almost miss them in the dramatic brass of the last movement.

Who needs a movie when you have music? Daft Punk’s Tron: Legacy tells the narrative beautifully all on its own. Honestly, I could write the praises of every track. “Outlands” proves basses and cellos kick ass when escaping the enemy; electronic elements don’t make a note in this track at all, not once, and it’s a brilliant choice on Daft Punk’s part, especially as the visuals show the protagonist driving through a storm-ridden wasteland that looks nothing like the orderly Grid.

Then you have “Derezzed,” a fight scene in a Grid night club (UGH, what a plot point), which employs not one note from the orchestra. This, too, fits perfectly with the situation at hand. (The video I found for this song is actually a music video, but it’s just too damn cool not to use.)

“Fall” uses both electronic and orchestra as equal forces sending the characters into a free-fall.

But if I had to pick one more track to show why I love this score so much, it’d have to be “Disc Wars.” It achieves perfect tension in the first second with the resounding drums, then ever-moving strings countering the long notes of the electronic. The cycle of harmonies escalate while the drums remain constant. And then, a new melody of synth that moves as the strings but with a different harmony. Another wave of synth to counter the orchestral drums. Another wave to quicken the rhythm. Another wave of harmony created by strings and electronic together. And then more strings to descant and counter the long notes of the synth. And then, and then, and then–

The violins and synth of the beginning.

It’s one of the most perfect layerings of countering melodies I’ve ever heard: masterful in its drama, intense in its craft, if you ever need help as your hero faces the villain, this is your song. All of Tron: Legacy, really, could guide you through the hero’s journey, from crossing the threshold to homecoming. Feel the other-wordliness, know the battle drums, fly from death, face your foes, and return, changed and glorious.

You have but to listen, and know.

 

 

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31 thoughts on “Writer’s Music: Daft Punk

  1. I completely agree, ‘One so often overwhelms the other, making the sound, and therefore the atmosphere, lopsided and ineffective’. It needn’t be that way as with the software that exists the electronic can become the whole orchestra. It’s not easy to disguise an orchestra but it is possible. I think the art of it is to accept that a real orchestra is conscious, and to nail it the electronic composition has to have consciousness – not just sound more or less the same. You’ve got me very interested though. I’m taking a food break from work at the moment but I will listen to these pieces tonight. Thank you for the audio. It helps a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Each track you chose has a medieval feel about it – not a Disney feel at all. Each track captures/paints pictures of a mood or a ‘power’ perfectly. I see an 85-piece orchestra was used. The slow build – a stereotypical thing since the concept of a classical orchestra came into being – on the first track you put up was perfection. Slow builds must be just that – slow climbers that do actually reach the top. They nailed it. The combination Electronic and ‘real’ musicians is more proof – if more proof was needed, that the pair are made for each other. Electronic orchestral imitation is a mode I sometimes work in – not being able to afford a full orchestra – and the scope for that imitation can, done well, fool the inexperienced listener, yet the bottom line remains the combination is best by far. As to the track I liked the most, it has to be the first, pretty much for the reasons you’ve given, save for the fact I’m not sceptical about mixing both genres – but that’s just personal preference that’s come from my training. Next, I’d choose “Adagio for Tron” simply because it’s beautifully structured classic classical. If I had the time – which sadly I don’t for the next few weeks as I’m behind schedule and catching up on a major music project – I’d like to do “Adagio for Tron” 100% electronically and see where you found – and you would find without a doubt – the differences.

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      • Yes, thank you! That first track is beautiful, it really is. That’s one of the themes from the original film; pretty sure from the climax? It’s been a while.
        That would be a fascinating experiment, George. You’ve got me totally intrigued now. I’m trying to remember the score that annoyed me with its off-balance, and you know, it might have been one of those Disney Pirate scores…wait, no. Darnit! I tend to grab random soundtracks from the library to see what grabs my attention. Just yesterday I got a hold of TRON: LEGACY RECONFIGURED (I refuse to insert all the numbers into “reconfigured”) and was woefully disappointed, but not surprised, either. These were various other artists trying to over-tech what had been perfectly balanced, and just mucked’em all up. Rather like me trying to make my grandmother’s date bars…(shudders) When a chef gets it right, don’t bloody f*** up the recipe! (To be clear, I still dig the concept of your experiment because it isn’t about shredding the original sound. Seriously, look up that reconfigured album. You’ll give yourself a headache.)

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      • Too many electronic artists think only of beats and forget percussion (if that makes sense) as well as the fact that with electronic music there are no boundaries. If ever I could live in a world where I had bags of time and didn’t have to care about earning money I think I could really explore electronic possibilities beyond anything I’ve ever done so far.

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    • Curious what crosses and doesn’t cross the oceans! I heard dimly of Daft Punk when I was in college thanks to my kid brother (aren’t they French? I think they’re French.), and then I forgot about them completely until Disney Tron sequel.
      The original Tron film of the 80s was one of those quirky scifi things taped off of TV and played often in my house, alongside Star Trek, Dr. Who, and The Last Starfighter. It wasn’t the story that appealed to me, or the characters. It was the imagination of it all: of another universe living inside ours, one that we both control and submit to. I suppose that’s why I can still stomach the sequel despite all its faults: a sort of Return to Oz, as it were.

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  2. Very glad to know you know Dr Who. Here’s a tip/secret. Poor John hates dancing and fancy dress parties. I worked for an advertising agency that loved both, as well as unusual theme parties. Luckily, Poor John stumbled upon the idea to go to any fancy dress party as the time-travelling Dr Who—a coat, hat and scarf were all he needed. I did not dress as his voluptuous assistant. 🙂

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  3. I have one of the Daft Punk Tron tracks uploaded as it is used at our local cinema – but didn’t think to investigate the CD further – and now I’m definitely going to be getting hold of this. As you say, the music is full of drama and fabulous mood music. Thank you for sharing, Jean:).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for listening! I don’t usually like sharing so much of an album at once, but it really does cover the hero’s journey too well not to. I can think of one other album that achieves this…hmm, should maybe do a post on that one, too…

      Like

  4. it really is a great sound track. It’s nice to be reminded just how great- my kids went through a long obsessive period with it and I’ll admit, it got a little stale. Thanks for the analysis to freshen it up again.
    There was a Tron cartoon (Tron: Uprising) on one of those myriad Disney channels that one of our friends had us over to watch and he made us a cd of that soundtrack for it- not Daft Punk by any means, (more hard hitting, less subtle) but it was still pretty fun (and the story line was, I thought, much better than the movie once you got past the pilot.)

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    • I know what you mean. Bo got one of those video game live albums; that and Weird Al are ALL the kids will listen to. The orchestrations are neat, but a choir dramatically singing “SEGA!” just gets old after a while.
      I was wondering about that movie! Do you recommend I hunt it up at the library?

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      • If they actually have it yes! – it was a series. It took a little time to get used to the animation style and the first episode kinda felt like the same old premise – “everyman has a tragic catalyst that pits him against oppressive tyranny” -a good premise but difficult to make it feel fresh;) BUT they did a great job of expanding the universe as it went on and creating some memorable characters. I liked it better than either of the movies. And some of the new light vehicles etc looked pretty sweet.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Okay, you sold me on light vehicles and the possibility of decent characters.
        But mainly the vehicles. Light vehicles RULE!
        BUGGER they don’t have it! Bet Family Video will, though….

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  5. What a great sum up. Sounds like another great soundtrack to write to. And in addition to being an amazing writer, how do you know so much about music? Def sounds like you’ve been classically trained. :0)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh gosh, no, not trained. I mean, I took lessons for a bunch o’ years on piano, and clarinet, and violin, and organ, and choir…well…um…so I’ve done a lot, but never really *studied* a lot. There. Um. Difference? Yes. I guess.
      Thank you! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s outstanding! I took about four guitar lessons and quit, sadly, because it was to slow a process, the learning, that is, and my dad would make fun of me when I practiced (in a funny way) but it made me not want to stick with it. I made all three of my kids play an instrument and they achieved some degree of proficiency and then promptly gave it up when they hit 16. My youngest still plays piano but track and diving and just about everything else seems more important. She’s already told me she’ll stop when high school is done. She loves her teacher. I commend your spirit for learning all you did, Jean.❤️

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  6. In another life, my friend, I think you were a composer!!!
    Daft Punk would be so happy to read this post – you could send them the link for the heck of it.
    Go here:

    http://daftpunk.sandbaguk.com/support/solutions/folders/2100029179

    I dare you!

    When I tweeted this post on Ye Olde Twitter, I noted my childhood best friend’s dad was an animator who worked on the original “Tron” and I was always very impressed by that fact. (Sorry for that ridiculously long run-on sentence. When I re-read it I cringed, but I’m too lazy to fix it!)

    I was playing the “Disc Wars” track when Craig popped into the room. He wondered why I was listening to sophisticated music instead of my typical 80’s pop. I wish you could have seen the bewildered look on his face,

    I’m all over the place here – forgive me! I had one of those icky nights. Woke up at 1:30 AM. Read a very disturbing, un-put-downable book (Whoops! And yes, “un-put-downable” is a word!!!) until 4:00 a.m.

    Today I could be an extra in a remake of “Dawn of the Dead” or a murder victim in “Midsomer Murders” – how fun would that be??? Perhaps a bit boring, but still….I’d love a go.

    The girls are occupied, they aren’t fighting for once, (Praise Be!!!), and I’m off to attempt to take a glorious nap!

    Have a wonderful Easter tomorrow!
    Sending you lots of love!

    Your devoted friend,
    SpyDy

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ooooooooooooooo, I WILL share this with them! I was actually debating if I should look them up like I did John Powell that one time, so you know what–I’m gonna do this!
      HAPPY BELATED EASTER! Ugh, I hate teaching over the holidays, everything gets so muddled and behind.
      HA! Bo has those moments with me, too. “Why are you asking about…” Shoot, who was I looking up….Charlie Chaplin? Might’ve been. I have no patience for silent films, so for me to be studying him–I still can’t remember why, maybe a reference Blondie made to something–really threw him off. And hey, considering my memory right now, and I wasn’t up at 1:30am–oy, I’m in for a Monday! Hope that nap helped you recover! 🙂
      But I hope your Easter was a nice one. We went to the in-laws (sigh) but, but I should say this, the kids had a really nice time, and that’s what counts. That, and we didn’t have to cook. 😛
      Can’t wait to catch up on your blog today, Lovely One! Your Also-Devoted Friend, Java Jean xxxxxxxxx

      Liked by 1 person

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