A unique - if sometimes odd - mixture of electronic and orchestral music.
Reader review by Jon Turner
Not much of a hit in its initial 1982 release but a cult favorite for many, this film was the first of its kind to explore with CGI effects for a movie. For all its faults (mainly in the story and acting department), TRON is nevertheless unique for its then-amazing computer generated special effects. It was also one of the early jump starts to the US video game market in the early 1980's, which is what also makes it a landmark.
Composer Wendy Carlos was chosen to contribute to the soundtrack of TRON, no doubt due to her experimental work with the synthesizer (and, she admits in the notes, she is a big fan of computer graphics). Her score, stripped from its function in the film, is a rather odd, yet intriguing work. It employs her GDS and Moog synthesizers, but also a chorus, two orchestras(!), and, on the finale track, a pipe organ. All of these instruments are synchronized together to create an unusual listening experience, but at the same time ground breaking for its time, as such an effect hadn't been achieved (you can read the liner notes for more detailed information on how the orchestras and the synthesizers matched together). Her style ranges from baroque to classical to B-science fiction film style. There are a lot of moments when the score is very dissonant and obnoxious enough to give one a headache (particularly whenever it is in action), but it is never without is moments of relief, especially tracks 10, 12, and 17. This kind of score may not go down very well with those used to a typical soundtrack, but considering the nature of the film, Carlos's score is more than appropriate for TRON. One could compare this soundtrack with a video game soundtrack, as it does sound mostly electronic, despite the inclusion of the orchestra and chorus. But this would only be another compliment to this roller coaster ride of beauty, action, and surrealness.
The music was previously available on CBS Records in 1982, including the two bouncy if not remarkable rock songs performed by JOURNEY ("Only Solutions" and the dated "1990's Theme", which isn't much of a song). Unfortunately, it had never been released to compact disc until recently, just in time for its 20th anniversary. This CD release will please fans of the film, as it features all of the music contained on the old CBS release, plus three bonus tracks that were omitted from the original release for spacial purposes. The most interesting of the bonus tracks is the last one, which is an electronic keyboard rendition of track 17. (And I found the title misleading; I thought it was going to be a REAL piano!) The liner notes by Wendy Carlos are very interesting to read, as she talks a lot about how her music for the film was composed, and the sound quality is terrific.
If you are not familiar with video game soundtracks, or TRON, then this CD may not offer much, but fans of the film will undoubtedly enjoy it. I tip my hat to Walt Disney Records for re-releasing this strange yet masterful soundtrack.