British composer John Powell does a number of things, most of them breathtaking and astounding. One of them is a penchant for very long uninterrupted tracks, very much like James Horner and his mentor Hans Zimmer. But he does something a little different with those uninterrupted tracks. He interrupts them.
John Powell takes a long track covering an extended scene (usually an action scene) and cuts it up in several shorter tracks on CD. Examples of this abound in his score to Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. Whereas most other composers would have produced one long track called “Herd Crossing/Plates of Woe/Battle Cry/Buck’s Theme”, Powell instead gives us four distinct tracks. Some of these tracks are as short as 16 seconds.
Appreciating film music is very psychological. Most listeners appreciate knowing that somewhere on a CD is a nice, juicy, extended centerpiece; something that stands out. It builds expectations. But if the track listing boasts four short tracks instead of a single 5:29 number (like in the example above), it tends to have a dissipating effect on those expectations. X-Men : The Last Stand wins the prize for diluting its climactic action centerpiece.
There is one benefit: it does allow the composer to isolate specific themes in their own tracks (like “Buck’s Theme” in the example above). This helps listeners to learn certain key themes as soon as possible, which can be quite an asset in a score brimming with over a dozen themes and motifs, as is Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.
But the disadvantages outweigh that sole benefit. No longer can you tell a friend “Oh, there’s this new John Powell track you just GOTTA hear!” You rather have to say “Oh, right, it’s actually 4 or 5 separate tracks, hold on,” as you search for the one that begins the sequence. And not all CD players can seamlessly play such tracks: a noticeable half-second gap between tracks can heavily distract from the listening experience.
Why does he do it? John Powell produces most of his CDs himself, so the decision undoubtedly originates from him. Here’s an easy answer: by having more tracks on his albums, he can make more money off iTunes. Perhaps not the most noble reason. But he might be on the road to recovery from this avarice, as attests the small number of tracks on his more recent Ice Age: Continental Drift album, with its unbroken 8-minute climactic piece.