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Independence Day in Full Score (David Arnold)

January 5, 2022

It was the highest grossing movie of 1996; and the second highest of all time at that time. It cost $75 million to make and made it back more than ten-fold. It won over 20 awards and was nominated for at least twenty more. The original score was performed by a 90-piece orchestra and a 46-piece choir. It won David Arnold a Grammy; and catapulted him into stardom (even more so than Stargate had already done).

Now you can study the full score… all 46 cues and 324 pages of it, courtesy of Chris Siddall Music Publishing.

Twenty-five years after Roland Emmerich’s mega-blockbuster Independence Day was released in cinema, Chris Siddall Music Publishing releases the full orchestral score, transcribed from the original manuscripts orchestrated by Nicholas Dodd. It’s Siddall’s third book in his maiden year (as a publisher of full scores) after James Horner’s Aliens and Michael Kamen’s The Iron Giant.

ID4 is a behemoth, far exceeding the 210 and 228 pages of Aliens and The Iron Giant respectively. The ID4 book contains 324 pages (the original manuscripts came close to 600), 2,308 bars and over 165,000 notes. That’s a whole lotta music! The book is printed on 9×12 white paper, with an average of 19 staves and 6 bars per page.

In terms of its presentation, ID4 follows the same neat format that Siddall applied to his previous releases. When you take it out of its bubble-wrap, you are greeted with a stylish cover image of the moment Russell Casse drives his jet fighter into an alien spaceship, thereby destroying it and saving the world (sorry, I should’ve warned for spoilers). The original font and ID4 logo are used where-ever is practical to do so (cover pages and cue titles); and Siddall includes one image of the original manuscript (of cue 13m2) to illustrate what he’s been working with. It seems a relatively neat, hand-written script, though it would take a trained eye and heaps of perseverance to work through hundreds of pages of it.

Example of hitpoints at the start of “1M2A The Moon”.

Before I even go into the music, there’s one incredibly neat touch I need to point out. The manuscript is littered with hit-points: notes describing what’s happening on screen at any given moment and typically something that a composer has to musically acknowledge. Sometimes these are brief description’s like “Russell dodges two attackers” and sometimes they are quotes like “Son of a b—- did it!” Siddall has painstakingly incorporated them into his book. And there are loads of them! In some cues there’s one above every bar! This is a great addition, not just because it’s extremely entertaining at times, but also because it really helps you follow the music. You can quickly match what you’re hearing with what you’re reading and what’s occurring on screen. It enables you to study not only how this score was written from a purely musical point of view, but also how it supports the movie as it moves from one hit-point to the next.

The presentation of the score itself is tidy. If you follow Siddall on YouTube you may be familiar with his way of working and his attention to detail. Inevitably with these books, the print is fairly small, but it’s perfectly read-able even during the ‘busier’ passages (though reading glasses may come in handy after a certain age). It’s a beautiful presentation of this classic ’90s score.

There are 46 cues in this book. That’s the full score as written for the film, in film order. You may remember the original soundtrack album (RCA Records) contained 14 tracks; and in 2010 La La Land released a 2CD complete edition with 42 tracks, though some of those are alternate recordings (e.g. with or without choir). If you want to listen and read at the same time, you’re best off with the La La Land release, though it is sadly no longer commercially available. Also, the album cue titles aren’t always the same as those on the score sheets (that’s quite common), but it doesn’t take too much to work out what’s what.

Through this book I’ve been ‘re-discovering’ this classic score and I’d forgotten how gentle and emotional it is at times. Over the years, I’ve remembered the big brassy cues, the heroics and over-the-top patriotism; but there is a lot more to ID4 than that.

It’s interesting (to some extent; and a bit disappointing to some other extent) to hear how action music has changed since ID4. This score was a an all-out, balls-to-the-wall kinda score back then; but today it feels like the “they don’t write them like that any more”-kind. For all its bravado, the score has it’s fair share of quiet reflection and drama; and it is always melodic, harmonic and satisfyingly complex. Remember the sequel ID4: Resurgence? No, I don’t blame you; but even with the same core material and twice the number of composers, Thomas Wander and Harald Kloser didn’t even get remotely close to capturing the sense of energy and drama and musical satisfaction that Arnold conjured up in his original.

Back to the book, which also includes The 20th Century Fox fanfare by Alfred Newman…, that’s a nice little bonus. The instrumentation page reveals huge string, brass and wind sections, a large array of mallets and percussion, and a synthesizer amongst other things.

We still have a few long winter nights ahead of us… and what better to spend it with a great score and a great book?

For more information, visit Chris Siddall Music Publishing.

Article by Pete Simons (c) 2022 Synchrotones

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