It’s rather unfortunate that Brad Fidel’s stepped away from active film scoring, because he’s one of the main pioneers of industrial synth music blended with classical orchestral scoring from the eighties and nineties, and one wonders what he would’ve brought to a large-scale production such as Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) or Terminator Salvation (2009) with his knack for melody, rhythm, and industrial sounds.
His earliest work includes multiple TV movies (Popeye Doyle, Hostage), series themes (Midnight Caller being an instant classic of sleek jazz and synthetic lounge), and the odd feature film (The Serpent and the Rainbow), but the original Terminator was the film that singled him out as a new voice on the scoring scene.
The leanness of that score consisted of a rare love theme nestled between synthetic steel hits, rapping pulses, and spiraling fugues, and Fiedel’s approach was a perfect match for James Cameron’s tight sci-fi drama where the arrival of a killing machine from the future sets in motion one long extended chase scene, as well as an impossible romance between victim and savior.
Because that film concluded with a woman being pushed into the role of a heroine for humankind, Fiedel’s music for T2 had several important roles: score the requisite action, follow the progression of Sarah Connor as a trained, driven savior, and periodically remind audiences what she’s lost in her quest to pro-actively train her son for a nuclear future.
Action highlights include the pulsing “Sarah on the Run” where Fiedel mimics flanging metal sounds with pneumatic, echo-processed pulses; and the kinetic “SWAT Team Attacks,” in which the composer focuses on a simple group of motifs – rapping textures, brass emulations, and deep bass notes – but demarcates their range to very specific areas so bass notes, for example, startle the listener and match specific highpoints in the battle.
The same approach was used in the elliptical “Helicopter Chase,” and the brilliantly conceived “Tanker Chase,” where Fiedel takes his arsenal of industrial sounds and matches the already intense rhythm of Cameron’s chase montages.
The Terminator theme is naturally quoted in the film’s “Main Title” sequence, but Fiedel’s variations include the metallic percussion line supporting brief synthetic brass lamentations, the more melodic variation “John & Dyson Into the Vault” with light synth pulses; and the stripped-down rhythmic version with no melodic content in “Hasta La Vista, Baby.”
In his liner notes, Fiedel expresses his continuing surprise that fans and composers are inspired by a score largely composed with two big Fairlight machines, and Ross Levine’s electric violin (used in the first Terminator score, as well as the Midnight Caller theme).
Perhaps it’s a case of audiences evolving with soundtracks, being more attracted to the blend of score and sound design, but Fiedel’s music demonstrates how the simplest of sounds are more affective than a soup of swirling digital samples. T2 does have a vintage sound, but its impeccable mastering have preserved the delicate nuances which Fiedel applied to his theme and industrial rhythmic variations.
© 2010 Mark R. Hasan