Metropolis turns 85 years old in January. It’s still an incredible work of movie magic and film art with special effects, sets, and sequences that are astonishing even today. The movie is propelled not just by Fritz Lang’s vision, but by the music, which was originally composed by Gottfried Huppertz.
Over the years, various composers and musicians have created their own accompaniment for Metropolis. Gabriel Thibaudeau created a new score last year, for instance, and played it live at a screening with a 13-piece orchestra. Polish composer Abel Korzeniowski also did his own score in 2008, which featured a 90-piece orchestra, a 60-member choir, and two solo vocalists. In 2000, Jeff Mills did a techno soundtrack for the film, also released as an album.
Maybe the most famous rescored Metropolis is the Giorgio Moroder version from 1984, which featured music by Freddie Mercury, Pat Benatar, Adam Ant, and others. (The Moroder version had a brief theatrical re-release not too long ago and is available to stream on Netflix.)
The news about Air’s score for A Trip to the Moon got me thinking about bands or musicians I’d like to see doing their own take on Metropolis. Here are just 13 of my personal picks.
Michael Nyman has done a lot of great music in his career, including the scores for Gattaca, many of Peter Greenaway’s films, and Man on Wire (which is basically a compilation of Nyman music). While compiling clips and looking up info for this list, I found a video of Metropolis by davidbavguita that incorporates Nyman’s music into clips from the film.
Whether you liked or disliked Tron: Legacy is immaterial — Daft Punk’s soundtrack was fantastic. Period. And Metropolis fits well within the group’s stage look. If they performed the score live, maybe they could get someone dressed as the Maschinenmensch to help out.
Clint Mansell’s work on Darren Aronofsky’s films has been diverse, which could make for an interesting score for Metropolis. He could get the Kronos Quartet to come in for some portions, maybe reteam with post-rockers Mogwai for others, reinterpret the original Huppertz work when needed, and also throw in some electronic music a la Pi.
One of the highlights of many Dario Argento movies is the music by Goblin (or sometimes just by Goblin frontman Claudio Simonetti). They can do big booming scores like in Inferno, eerie like in Suspiria, haunting like in Opera, and electronic music as in Tenebre (sampled by Justice for the song “Phantom”). I just picked the above piece from Deep Red because it’s nutty.
Amanda Palmer could bring a crazed cabaret-like quality (or, dare I say, Brechtian punk quality) to Metropolis if she rescored the film and wrote some original songs for it. This would also give her a chance to play with various sounds and musical personae, perhaps even doing a unified series of compositions by Amanda Palmer the solo artist, the Dresden Dolls, and Evelyn Evelyn.
Explosions in the Sky
Explosions in the Sky is one of the more famous post-rock bands out there. (Incidentally, writing “post-rock” makes you feel a little silly.) It’d be interesting to see a full score from them. Though as with other post-rock acts I considered for this list (Godspeed You Black Emperor, Do Make Say Think, I Like Trains), I wonder if the need to stick to the film’s action would be detrimental to their songwriting.
Kind of a gimme he’d be on this list since it’s Philip Glass. His music is haunting and he’s done great film work over the years, such as the Quatsi trilogy, Candyman, and The Hours. But okay, enough about him. You know who else would be good that’s not Philip Glass? Guitar Wolf.
Kraftwerk just makes sense. The German pioneers of electronic music have basically left their fingerprints on so many acts that came after them, so why not give them a go at one of the great works of German film that still influences filmmakers all over the world.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, BWAAAAAAAAAM BWAAAAAAAAAM. (Nuh-nunnuh.) BWAAAAAAAAAM BWAAAAAAAAAM. (Nuh-nunnuh.) BWOOOOOHM BWWOOOOHM. (Nuh-nunnuh.) BWUUUUUHM BWUUUUUUUHM. (Nuh-nunnuh.) The defense rests.
David Bowie and Brian Eno
David Bowie and Brian Eno collaborated together on the Berlin Trilogy back in the late 1970s — Low, “Heroes”, and Lodger — each of which is a masterpiece in a decade of Bowie masterpieces. Eno’s solo work is remarkable in its own right (Here Come the Warm Jets and Another Green World are great), not to mention his contributions to Roxy Music and his work as a producer. Biographer Paul Trynka claimed in August that Bowie was essentially retired from music and would only return if he could “deliver something seismic.” This would be seismic.
Nathan Johnson’s score for The Brothers Bloom is one of my favorite scores of the last few years. There’s just something about that main theme and Penelope’s theme that hits me right and can’t be explained. I’d be interested to hear Johnson tackle something this large in scope, possibly with an orchestra at his disposal.
Some friends and I saw Sxip Shirey perform at The Way Station, a bar that’s geeky in the best possible way (the bathroom is a TARDIS). Shirey produced some incredible sounds with glass bowls and marbles, penny whistles, harmonicas, and a Sxipensiel (a brass candelabra mounted with tricycle bells) which he got from Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman. He would have to perform his score live for full effect, though both he and the audience would need to be hospitalized afterwards for bewildered exhaustion.
This would be a massive undertaking of sampling, collaging, and mashing together from multiple sources. If Gregg Gillis did try this, I’d love it if he occasionally pulled pieces from the Huppertz score and used that as a backdrop for a two-and-a-half hour music-and-movie jam.
Whose original Metropolis music would you like to hear?