Audio: On the Score with Mark Isham

By • April 8, 2013

ON THE SCORE is sponsored by La-La Land Records

A great football player might make the winning pass, a hoopster the big throw or a baseball star a home-run hit. But when it comes to movies, perhaps the most valuable MVP is the composer on the behind-the-scenes bench. They’re usually mild-mannered sorts, but nevertheless possess the mad melodic skills to generate the lion’s share of suspense, can-do exhilaration and triumphantly soaring crescendos that charts seemingly every big screen game from the seeming agony of defeat to the impossible victory that sends American heroes into the halls of fame.

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But while most musicians from Jerry Goldsmith to Randy Newman have turned mortal men into the stuff of sports legend, Mark Isham has often found himself with the double duty of playing “sports” scores as a bigger competition, with the ultimate goal being human dignity. Starting out in the jazz leagues as an trumpeter, Isham quickly moved into a whole other Hollywood discipline as one of the town’s most stylistically diverse players, with a particular talent for using an orchestra to convey a nobly lush, and rhythmic sense of Americana in such acclaimed soundtracks as “A River Runs Through It” and “Nell.” That stirring ability would serve Isham well in taking on the symphonic sound of the country’s favorite past times with “Varsity Blues,” “Miracle” and “Invincible.” While Isham conveyed the players’ heartfelt struggles to victory against such mighty opponents as the Russian Olympic hockey team and ageism, his music took on a new dimension of dramatic impact when fighting for racial injustice, whether it was on the field for the black college football player of “The Express.” That sense of melodically stirring importance could also be heard well of the field for “Crash”’s inter-connected urban realm, or even under the water for the first African-American navy diver in “Men of Honor.”

Now with “42,” Mark Isham’s innate sense of musical bravery soars to truly iconic heights in telling the story of Jackie Robinson, the Brooklyn Dodgers player who shattered the color barrier of “The White Man’s Game” with his unswerving bravery and ability on and away from the diamond. Not only does Isham’s brassily soaring music beautifully capture every play a score, or movie fan expects at the big screen stadium, but it most importantly embodies Jackie Robinson’s unbreakable optimism and courage in the face of contempt over the shade of his skin. Thematic nobility is the name of Isham’s winning game, from rhythmic strings that move with Robinson’s base-stealing agility to the melancholy hurt he desperately keeps inside himself, powerhouse emotions that are conveyed with enormously affecting subtlety. Isham is a true star player in making “42”an “inspirational” sports film of the best sort, right down to the rousing trumpets and a gigantically symphonic home run that also stands for one man’s victory lap for his long suppressed people.

Now on a new episode of On the Score, Mark Isham discusses what might be his biggest, and most important hit yet in the Americana arena of sports scoring with “42.”

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Click above to Listen Now or Click Here to Download

a Buy the Soundtrack: 42
a Buy the Soundtrack: THE EXPRESS
a Buy the Soundtrack: MIRACLE
a Buy the Soundtrack: MEN OF HONOR
a Visit Mark Isham’s website

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