Discover the Movie Sounds & Music of AVATAR

Avtar review roundup 2 Every movie soundtrack helps make the finished product better. The music of AVATAR and the sounds of AVATAR are central to the movies’ feel, almost as much as the visual elements.

Guest post by Ty Wingfoot

Any movie experience would not be what it is without the music and sounds that are part of the film. The music of AVATAR and the movie sounds play an especially important role in the feel of this film because much it takes place in an alien jungle. You can’t just add in a cricket soundtrack with the occasional jungle bird thrown in, you have to create something all together new. You also can’t rely on some simple guitar or keyboard melody in the background either. For that true suspension of belief, that feeling you’ve been swept away to another world, you need a John Williams type, or in AVATAR’s case, a James Horner type score to match the feel of the film.

The Score

James Horner is responsible for the music in AVATAR. You might remember that he did the score for James Cameron’s Titanic, which is the best selling orchestral soundtrack of all time. Horner is known for Celtic music and electronic elements in his scores. Horner has also worked on several Star Trek scores and the music of other epic motion pictures like Enemy at the Gates, Troy and Willow.

While this score does sound similar to other scores he has done, what matters most is that the score fits the film, adds to the film and even all by itself is worth listening to as a soundtrack.

The Theme Song

The theme song to AVATAR, and the only song on the soundtrack not performed by James Horner, is I See You, sung by Leona Lewis. Leona is a Simon Cowell project who came to prominence through her appearance on the British show The X Factor. Leona’s music may be too sweet for some, but her style fits right in with the theme song and is a good choice for the music of AVATAR. James Horner and Simon Franglen did write the song for Lewis. They also wrote My Heart Will Go On for Celine Dion.

The Sound Effects

The AVATAR movie sounds were done so well that the film won a Golden Reel Award under the Best Sound Editing: Sound Effects and Foley, in a feature film category. AVATAR also won a Golden Reel award for Best Sound Editing: Music in a Feature Film.

The film required not only the standard machine gun type and space vehicle sound effects, but also sounds for the animals and the jungle noises that had to be created as entirely new and unique to represent an alien land. The Na’vi language was commissioned by Cameron and created as a separate, spoken language for the Na’vi people.

Sound effects aren’t something you can always create from scratch. In AVATAR, the effects were sometimes created by building upon existing animal sounds and other sound elements to achieve a completely new effect. For example, some of the sound effects may sound similar to Jurassic Park because some of the animals are dinosaur like.

AVATAR used Oscar winning mixer Christopher Boyes to create the unique sounds of AVATAR. Boyes worked on Titanic, Lord of the Rings and King Kong, just to name a few. Boyes didn’t just come on at the end in post-production, but worked in the actual sound effects throughout the filming of the move. In fact, James Cameron went back and filmed additional scenes after the sound effects were already introduced – many more scenes than Boyes had expected even though Cameron had told him…expect it.

In the end, the sound effects were integrated thoroughly into the film, and helped movie goers truly transport themselves to another time and place.

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What's your favorite thing about the music in Avatar? And how does it contribute to the experience of the film?


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