Classical Music to Match 'Hunger Games'' Dystopian Vision?

Monday, March 26, 2012 - 05:25 PM

To create the stylized sound of “The Hunger Games,” the dystopian action-thriller that just enjoyed the third-highest-grossing opening weekend in U.S. history, the film’s director turned to the award-winning producer T-Bone Burnett. He assembled a soundtrack featuring pop artists like Taylor Swift, Arcade Fire, Glen Hansard and Maroon 5. So far, the music is winning praise from critics, and is burning up the iTunes sales chart.

Based on the first book of Suzanne Collins's trilogy, "The Hunger Games" is set in a dystopian future where 24 randomly selected young people must fight each other, gladiator-style, in an annual televised battle to the death.

Although it's not included on the official soundtrack album, perceptive audiences will note "The Hunger Games" includes Steve Reich's Three Movements for Orchestra, as well as electro-acoustic music by the Icelandic composer Olafur Arnalds and the American composer Laurie Spiegel.

But as for more standard repertoire, consider some post-apocalyptic films of the recent past: “A Clockwork Orange” (1972) famously employed Rossini, Elgar and the finale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony; “V for Vendetta” (2005) used Beethoven’s Fifth and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture; “Minority Report” (2002) included Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony and Bach; and “Children of Men" (2006) featured Mahler, Handel and Penderecki’s Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima

Some might object to the notion of pairing hallowed classical masterpieces with Hollywood portrayals of massive dehumanization, totalitarian governments, rampant disease, post-apocalyptic landscapes and cyber-genetic technologies. Others may shrug it off as harmless entertainment.

What do you think? Which piece best suggests a dystopian future to you? Take our poll and leave a comment below:

Updated 3/27 at 1:30 pm

More in:

Comments [7]

Barry Owen Furrer

Perhaps sections of Strauss' Ein Heldenleben Op. 40?

Mar. 29 2012 08:10 PM
Constantine from New York

How about Bartók's Bagatelle No. 12 from his 14 Bagatelles, Opus 6. It is one of the gloomiest pieces ever written.

Also Liszt's late piano piece La Lugubre Gondola.

Mar. 27 2012 07:52 PM

@Evan - thank you for the info. We missed that one as it didn't make it onto the official soundtrack recording. But you're right, along with Steve Reich, James Newton Howard also wrote the formal score for the film. The post has been updated.

Mar. 27 2012 01:46 PM
Evan from LA, CA

The movie DOES use classical music: Steve Reich at an important point in the movie. As the Games begin, they're set to one of Reich's Three Movements....

Mar. 27 2012 11:31 AM
Bob from Virginia, USA

You really need to throw in a little Turangalila to make it a contest. Nothing says Dystopia like a 12-tone scale.

Mar. 27 2012 10:57 AM
Mark from Northeastern PA

I've read part of the first book and honestly did not find it that interesting. This subject (man hunting man) has been done before (Running Man comes to mind)and honestly, I feel it's more hype than anything. Even Running Man used Wagner. A pity this group didn't feel the need to include classical music in the film. My vote for music would have been Adagio in G minor by Albinoni/Giazotto.

Mar. 27 2012 10:48 AM

"Threnody for the victims of Hiroshima" goes HARD!

Mar. 27 2012 10:42 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

The WQXR e-newsletter. Show highlights, links to music news, on-demand concerts, events from The Greene Space and more.

Follow WQXR 







About WQXR Blog

Read WQXR's coverage of classical music news, trends, commentary and more here at the WQXR Blog.