Notes 59.1 (2002) 128-130
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Digital Media Reviews
Film Music Web Sites
The printed literature of film music, though not extensive, is characterized by ambitious, serious works of considerable scholarly heft. These books seek to penetrate the mysterious alchemy that results when film and music are combined, and use terms likely to intimidate the casual reader (the word "diegetic" is probably the most notorious of these). Film music information on the Internet is, not surprisingly, a quite different affair; the Web is the domain of the film music fan. Most film music Web sites are the work of amateurs—and it bears repeating that "amateur" is derived from the Latin word for love—and in at least one case, a fan site has matured into a truly professional enterprise. Film music fans who construct Web sites are driven by an intense and thorough passion for their chosen musical world, and that energy has resulted in some sources of remarkable depth, containing information that one can find nowhere else.
SoundtrackNet: The Art of Film and Television Music. Dan Goldwasser, editor in chief; David A. Koran, webmaster. http://www.soundtrack.net
SoundtrackNet is probably the oldest comprehensive film music site on the Web, if one takes its entire genealogy into account. The site's banner proudly proclaims "5th Anniversary, 1997-2002," but in fact its origins can be traced to 1996, when Ellen Edgerton founded filmmusic.com, the first Web site to attempt an all-inclusive view of the film music world, rather than concentrate on soundtrack album collecting or a single composer. SoundtrackNet was created in 1997 and eventually absorbed the contents of filmmusic.com, thus creating a megasite of surprising breadth. (The domains soundtrack.net and filmmusic.com are now functionally equivalent.)
Certainly the highlight of SoundtrackNet is the soundtracks database, probably the most valuable element inherited from filmmusic.com. One of the most common reference questions about film music is, "Does a soundtrack album exist for this film?" SoundtrackNet features a searchable database of film music on compact disc that surpasses any printed discography yet available. One can perform a keyword search of this database from anywhere in SoundtrackNet; a search entry box is present in the top banner of every page. One can also browse alphabetical lists by author and title. The full record displays offer an impressive level of detail, typically including concise bibliographic descriptions, track lists with timings, estimated monetary value (a useful benchmark for anyone contemplating a foray into the vast soundtrack listings on the eBay online auction site), a container image, links to retail sources, the appropriate All-Music Guide (www.allmusic.com) entry, and a link to the Gist television schedule database (www.gist.com) if one wishes to experience the music in its original cinematic context.
Many of the database entries include reviews, which are also accessible through a separate "Reviews" menu. Many of these reviews are written by site editor Dan Goldwasser, although there seem to be a multitude of other contributors. These are not, of course, professionally-written reviews, and many of the amateur critics are severely handicapped, sometimes embarrassingly so, by a relatively narrow musical frame of reference. To cite one particularly egregious example, Josh Wisch's review of Don Davis's The Matrix (1999) ignores the score's obvious stylistic roots in John Adams's late-1980s orchestral works (such as Harmonielehre), and suggests, absurdly, that Davis is mimicking Danny Elfman's score for Batman (1989). [End Page 128]
SoundtrackNet also offers an online biographical dictionary of film composers. Although the entries are generally sparse and limited to a few bits of biographical data and a filmography, some do offer photos and contact information, both of which are often quite difficult to find elsewhere. The site also includes some other notable tidbits, including a list of films available in DVD format with isolated music tracks (thus offering the ability to hear the complete score of a film without intrusion from dialogue and sound effects); a guide to music heard in "trailers" or previews of films (trailers are typically assembled before a film is...