Music is an important part of the film experience. A good score can heighten your reaction to good film, underscoring the emotional moments, enhancing adrenaline-pumping action sequences, or anything in between. In the early days there was live organ music accompanying films; I can only imagine what that must have been like. In any case, scores are an intrinsic part of our movie-going experience and can also continue on as separate creative works. Alongside film scores are songs written specifically for films, more pop-type tracks that can be thematically important to the experience, or just add another element to it.
The Academy Award for original music has existed since 1934 when the first statuette was awarded to Louis Silvers and the Columbia Studio Music Department for One Night of Love. The award has gone through a few changes over its lifespan. There were a few years when there were two awards, one for Original Score and one for Scoring. I am not sure what the difference was there. It would then go through a long stretch where there were still two awards but they were for Dramatic or Comedic Film and for a Musical feature. It would go through another transformation in 1962 when the awards went for Original Music Score and Scoring of Music - adaptation or treatment. The 1970s saw another renaming of the prize to Original Score and Original Song Score. It was not until 1980 that the award took on the form that we know today as Original Score, and a single statuette.
There are five films vying for the award this year: Avatar: James Horner; Fantastic Mr. Fox: Alexandre Desplat; The Hurt Locker: Marco Beltrami, Buck Sanders; Sherlock Holmes: Hans Zimmer; Up: Michael Giacchino.
There is some very good music there, although there is one omission, an expected one. My favorite score of the year was Christopher Young's for Drag Me to Hell. Frankly, I am not surprised in the least; I mean, it is a score for a horror film and how often do you see horror recognized by the Academy? That's right, not often.