John Williams‘ War Horse soundtrack is about calculated symphonic dictation. It’s one of those scores that goads you, like an overbearing, baton-waving music teacher, into feeling this or that emotion on cue. Williams + Spielberg have been pushing the same buttons and working the same levers since Jaws. I once listened to an orchestra perform a summation of Williams’ best known movie themes at the Hollywood Bowl (with Williams conducting, of course). Well plowed and well trod, to put it mildly.
Mychael Danna‘s Moneyball score is more of a subtle, half-spooky weaver of spells. It’s hardly lacking in the activation of feeling or the use of compositional complexity, but it goes much easier and always seems to be slipping into your inner reservoir, creating spot-on ripples and currents but never trying to overwhelm or wash over. Danna, clearly, is trying to augment what you’re already feeling. As Jonah Hill put it in a recent HE interview, Danna’s score “watches the movie with you.”