After that, the music for the Tangerine Dream movies was less effective. Their score for Mark Lester’s 1984 adaptation of Stephen King “Firestarter” is moody and fun but a little familiar. By the time they did the replacement sheet music for Ridley Scott’s “Legend” (replacing Jerry Goldsmith, whose original sheet music played prints in Europe), it was clear that Hollywood had moved on.
Surprisingly, Mann never used Tangerine Dream again, but continued to use synth sheet music in his films. In “Manhunter, “ Composer Michael Rubini’s haunting score is accentuated by synth-rock tracks like “Heartbeat” by The Reds and “Strong As I Am” by The Prime Movers. The masterstroke comes during the film’s extended climax, which is marked for the grandfather of the acid-prog-rock hymns, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” by Iron Butterfly. Mann would get even more experimental with his soundtrack for his epic cop and thief drama “Heat”. This synth-orchestral score is composed by Elliot Goldenthal, but most of the score comes from previously recorded tracks by Brian Eno, Moby, and the U2 Passengers side project.
Mann’s most iconic piece of music from “Heat” is Eno’s “Force Marker,” an electronic percussion piece that marks the central bank heist. Like “Diamond Diary” from the opening “Thief” heist sequence, the track transmits forward movement. Moby’s synth-rock grinder “New Dawn Fades” is used as a preamble to Detective Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) confronting master thief Neil McCauley (Robert DeNiro) just before having a cup of coffee. The last piece of music is even better, “God Moving Over the Face of the Waters” by Moby. It comes after a cat-and-mouse shootout between Hanna and McCauley and the two share a moment of acceptance and understanding. His piano orchestration has an almost ethereal quality, as if to suggest that something spiritual has happened between the two men. This is the Dream-iest of all the tracks in the film.
And what about Tangerine Dream? Their popularity increased due to their scores for “Thief” and “Risky Business,” two scores which meant they would still have sold-out shows around the world. (The band still perform from time to time, although founding member Edgar Froese passed away in 2015.) Like most original and innovative things, the majority of knockoffs are bad. While synth sheet music has seen a resurgence over the past decade, as evidenced by everything from Netflix’s ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Drive’ to the documentary ‘Apollo 11’ and the director’s live appearances- musician John Carpenter, the recent film that has shown the most intriguing affinity for “Thief” is that of the “Uncut Gems” of the Safdie brothers. More of a character study than a crime story, the film stars Adam Sandler in a career-closing performance as a drug addict and diamond seller trying to clear his debts by making more and more bets. Daniel Lopatin’s synth-orchestral score raised the already considerable level of anxiety in the film. As in “Thief”, his constant presence instills tension in the so-called calm scenes of the film. It’s a dream of things to come.