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Lakeshore Records will release the [a.16213]Bone Tomahawk Original Motion Picture Soundtrack digitally on [da.2015-10-23]October 23, 2015. The album features the film's original music co-composed by [c.15941]Jeff Herriott and the film's writer/director [c.15940]S. Craig Zahler.
"Although we didn't start working on the music until after they had finished a first cut, Craig and I spoke well before the movie was ever shot about what roles the music would and wouldn't serve, discussing a few films as reference points," said Herriott. "The music in [m.43777]Bone Tomahawk often accompanies long shots, rather than close-ups, primarily because Craig didn't want the music to underscore emotion. He wanted the emotional scenes to be as direct and impactful as possible, and he...
Varèse Sarabande will release [a.16333]Momentum Original Motion Picture Soundtrack digitally and on CD [da.2015-10-16]October 16, 2015. The album features original music by composer [c.3507]Laurent Eyquem.
"[a.16333]Momentum is a hard-driving yet fluid, action score that is as much orchestral as it is electronic," said Eyquem. "My goal was to create a customized sound signature for the film that used these sounds in unexpected, somewhat non-traditional ways. The soundtrack is definitely a hybrid or a fusion of sorts,, but I've stayed true to my melodic roots."
"The film itself is fairly intense, revolving around a woman who is a former CIA agent and who is on the run from the first frame of the film through to the end credits," Eyquem described. "The score has a...
ON THE SCORE is sponsored by La-La Land Records
In the 1950’s, theater owners viewed television as a threat to the big screen, even if that dawning medium’s offer of free entertainment might not have equaled the big-screen’s sweep when it came to music, or adult themes. Now 60 years later, one doesn’t have to go to the theater to get the best in daring, mostly uncensored entertainment, even if there’s a charge for it on cable TV. As one excellent show after the other on that medium proliferates to challenge movies as your best entertainment, two especially acclaimed shows are venturing into their second seasons, again with some of the best stories and scores that the small screen has to offer.
One draws from the talent that changed the face of independent cinema, and puts its arty, experimental approach into a turn-of-the-century hospital teaming with bad medicine. The other imagines one of indie Hollywood’s great, grisly black comedies as a 1979-set prequel, creating a chain of criminally morbid disaster. Of course, don’t ya know, we’re talking about Cinemax’s “The Knick” and FX’s “Fargo,” two strongly stylized shows that owe a good bit of their ambience to the music of Cliff Martinez and Jeff Russo. Sure a druggy tone of electronic minimalism and surreal percussion for Manhattan’s most troubled house of healing might be as far away as one might get from the punchy, crime-noir orchestra and period funk of North Dakota mobsters. Yet both approaches are linked by their composer’s strong, hip voices.
“The Knick’s” chief benefactor is Steven Soderbergh, whose daring approach has been complimented by the game-changing, alt. scoring of Martinez. He’s taken the most outré Soderbergh scoring for such soundtracks as “Sex, Lies and Videotape” and “Traffic” and placed his trippy grooves with anachronistic wander into the medical gore-filled misadventures of a drug-addicted doctor and a staff that’s full of malpractice – some of it well-intentioned. Russo, a longtime TV veteran of such shows as “CSI: Cyber” and “Power” received an Emmy nomination for his work on “Fargo,” running with the dark, rustic sound created by Carter Burwell for the Coen Brother’s film incarnation, then making it distinctly his own by opening up a rich orchestral sound that satirizes the arch characters and their bloody deeds as much as it haunts the snowy landscape with a sense of sinister, cosmic fate.
Now “The Knick” and “Fargo” strongly expand their sonic palettes this month (with the shows’ second seasons respectively debuting on October 16th on Cinemax and October 12th on FX). As the good-bad surgeon Thackery continues to fight his addiction, Martinez adds to his hallucinatory sound with ethereal, glass-like beauty and a beat that’s as out of early 1900’s place as it is intrinsically linked to it. As “Fargo” ventures to the Reagan era for its mix up of gangsters, hapless civilians, and smarter-then-they-look cops, Russo not only dives into disco funk, but also operatic irony and lethally uneasy rhythm, all with that Norwegian twang that fans of the series know and love.
Not only do “The Knick” and “Fargo” show off the cool, outer fringes of cable provocation, but they also represent the stylistic possibility afforded by a medium determined to show up the movies at their own game. Now, on a new edition of “On the Score,” Cliff Martinez and Jeff Russo talk about their dramatically different approaches to scoring two of pay TV’s best shows, both linked by their perceptive, musical journeys into the twisted characters of “The Knick” and “Fargo.”
Click above to Listen Now or Click Here to DownloadBuy the Soundtrack: FARGO (Original Television Soundtrack) Buy the Soundtrack: THE KNICK Visit Cliff Martinez’s website Visit Jeff Russo’s website
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.189]Ryuichi Sakamoto ([m.41588]The Revenant), [c.1294]Abel Korzeniowski ([m.44679]Emperor), [c.52]Anne Dudley ([m.44649]Away), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 47 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2015-09-28]Click here for the full schedule.
[m.40706]The Martian (music by [c.274]Harry Gregson-Williams) is opening nationwide this week. [m.41837]Sicario (music by [c.3198]Johann Johannsson) is expanding wide from its previous, limited release.
Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking song credits for:
- [m.40706]The Martian (9 songs)
(Photo by Benjamin Ealovega)
From the poignantly realized rural Texas of Conan creator Robert E. Howard that comprised “The Whole Wide World” to the epic fantasy realms of “The Chronicles of Narnia” and the unforgiving western territory of “Seraphim Falls,” English composer Harry Gregson-Williams has taken listeners into unique, and powerfully encompassing musical landscapes with a sense of invention. But perhaps no vast subject of of his is sung with the feeling of one man’s resourceful personality like “The Martian,” a film that marks Williams’ most surprisingly intimate teaming with stylist supreme Ridley Scott after his work on “Kingdom of Heaven” and contributions to “Prometheus” and “Exodus” – movies more about the gargantuan effects of history, aliens and God himself upon their often overwhelmed protagonists.
Yet as opposed to the vast space opera that “The Martian” could have been in its tale of lone astronaut “sciencing the shit” out of seemingly hopeless odds when inadvertently left for dead on the red planet, Gregson-Williams has crafted a truly personal, and pleasingly melodic score about resilience. Sure “The Martian’s” themes might offer grand strings, noble brass and a chorus in Mark Watney’s moments of high desperation. But for the most part, Harry Gregson-Williams’ score for “The Martian” is about pluck and a sense of self-reflective wonder, as playful electronic beats complement Mark’s delivery to the camera about what it takes to survive in body and spirit, his seemingly impossible, solo quest uniting Earth itself in their hope to bring him home. Williams’ rhythmic suspense also makes Mark’s survival by no means assured, but it’s also an attitude that’s above all inspirational. His pro-active, rhythmically smart and mesmerizingly atmospheric score works in powerful tandem with Scott’s unassuming direction, a combination that will likely create many real-life scientists to come when the audiences listen to and experience “The Martian” – music and movie turning their eyes to the can-do spirit of space travel itself.
The thing that struck me most about your score for “The Martian” is that it’s not about a planet. It’s about a person.
Yes. In my initial talks with Ridley, he wanted “The Martian” to be a really personal, quite small story at heart, concerning one man’s quest for survival. And as the film grows more epic and more frantic, so would the score as I engaged the services of a large orchestra and a large choir. But at the beginning as we’re following Mark around, the score is “perky.” I wouldn’t call it “scientific” music, but music that’s not too broad or epic in any shape or form – but still quite positive to reflect his character. Mark’s a very optimistic guy in the face of all this stuff he’s going through. So it was necessary to make sure his theme had a very positive air to it. It needed to stay quite small to begin with to just be bubbling along as it accompanied his actions. And as Mark grows in both stature and bravery, so should the score to allow it to come on quite strongly for the end of the film.
In that way, after such gigantic “sci-fact” space operas like “Gravity” and “Interstellar,” it’s particularly nice to have a relatively small-scale score like “The Martian.”
I did engage large forces in the last couple of reels, which are quite tense and epic. But to begin with, it’s more about mystery and unraveling Mark’s situation, which is also what’s great about the writing of Drew Goddard, who did an amazing job. There’s something very cheeky about his script, almost Big Brother-esque. There was no veering off once the story’s goals were set. Mark’s left on Mars and he has to get off it, so it’s very clear what has to happen. It was a real pleasure writing the score for Ripley because I think he also felt that he had a strong script, and he got his first choice of actors in every part, all of whom worked very well down to the smallest parts.
Personally, I found “Gravity” and “interstellar” to be too intellectually lofty and stylized at the cost of telling a comprehensible story that respect, given what a great visual stylist Ridley Scott is, it’s surprisingly that a great deal of “The Martian’s” power comes from him telling the story in a completely straightforward and understandable fashion. How do you think that’s reflected in your music?
“The Martian” was such a joy to do because I’d never done anything quite like it, where the music didn’t need to be ostentatious to begin with. That’s because Mark’s a scientist who loves working out problems. So his thematic material is very melodic, which gives us a sense of positivity – sometimes on simple instrumentation like a piano, but accompanied by bubbling synthesizers, which I hope didn’t stick out too strongly. I considered ostinatos on strings and woodwinds for him at first, but they felt a little bit too much like Jerry Goldsmith’s approach in “Alien, “ which didn’t fit Mark’s character.
If there’s one score that “The Martian” reminded me of, then it would be Thomas Newman’s “Wall-E” especially given your own arrangements for that have a sense of wonder and hope for guy longing for human companionship.
I’m happy you think so, because I’m a big fan of Thomas Newman. I haven’t heard that score, but I can imagine what it sounds like. There isn’t a lot of dialogue in “The Martian,” but there’s quite a bit of monologue because Mark is always rattling off, until he finally gets in touch with mankind. A key area for me was how to play “us” looking on at him as it were. Everything Mark does becomes well-known and public knowledge. There’s a lot of warmth and good will that he feels through his limited communication, and one of the ways I was able to express that was literally through the human voices of a choir. I drew their text from “On the Nature of Things” by Lucretius who was a Roman philosopher who lived before Christ. It creates music that is “holy” without being specifically religious as such. His text is concerned with the infinity of space and our place in the universe, which seemed appropriate.
“The Martian” will likely inspire people to follow science careers, especially as it accomplishes the nearly impossible movie trick of making science look fun.
Yeah. Who would’ve thought that? Certainly not me! But that was a great stepping off point when it came to writing the first couple of minutes surrounding Mark’s quest to survive. He’s very positive and humorous about it as he’s making water. And that’s the pattern that emerges. He has various challenges, some of which he finds difficult to surmount. But eventually Mark wins, which was musically what I had to do. So it was decided early on that the music didn’t have to make too much of a statement in terms of where we were, but to be more concerned with Mark’s character. I wrote his theme in a way that would be easily recognized as being heroic and triumphant. It was also important at his low points not to push the music into sentimentality.
Did you try to do your own research into the movie to grasp all of the scientific concepts that are going on it?
No, but Ridley and I did talk quite a lot about the concept of “The Martian.” He described how he had come to realize how everything in the film could take place, and was concerned about the reality of that situation. Its plausibility was first worked out in Andy Weir’s book, and then by Ridley, whom I’d known was a stickler for detail through my work with him on “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Exodus.” However, the first couple of months of working on the score were quite disconcerting, because when I’d see a close up of Mark outside of his camp, he wasn’t necessarily wearing a visor! When I told Ridley, he laughed and said, “Well, you try bringing a camera in front of a visor! You’ll see the camera in it, so we’ll add the visor later.”
How did you want to play Mars itself?
As I was sitting around the cutting room with Ridley months and months ago, we were asking what Mars meant to us. Mars is the bringer of war. It’s Gustav Holst. But Mars really isn’t the villain in this movie, although there’s certainly a sense of danger that comes from being on the planet. We had to keep an edge to a lot of the music to remind the viewer that Mark was always an inch away from certain death if he stepped the wrong way. Yet it didn’t seem like Mars should be the monster of the movie, which allowed us to be more concerned with its majesty. So we had instruments like a huge gong that we played very softly with. A woody mallet gave you a vibration that was almost visceral in its feeling. We also had a Didgeridoo and a synthesizer to characterize the planet
Were you expecting all of the disco music to be on the soundtrack?
The disco music was always in the script. I don’t recall if it said, “Here plays an Abba song” or “Here plays a Donna Summer song.” But it made mention of 70s disco music. From that moment I started work on the movie, which was four or five weeks into production, there were songs already in the movie. And there were also scenes with songs that Ridley ultimately decided should use score instead. But whether it’s songs or score, I think Ridley has a special sensibility with music.
It must be a dream job to get a score where a guy is walking around red landscapes.
Absolutely. “The Martian” has been a dream job. I was excited about it from the moment I read the script to the last note that the orchestra played at Abbey Road Studios. When the writing’s this good, the acting so believable, and the editing so perfect, it’s a pleasure to compose a score for a movie like this. And I can’t say that every film I’ve ever worked on fits that description. “The Martian” was a great opportunity for music.
You also contributed the expansive score for the Disney Nature documentary for the documentary “Monkey Kingdom, where you music becomes the voice of these animals. It’s not usually the kind of score you get as well.
It definitely isn’t, so I was thrilled when Disney Nature asked me to score the film, especially as I have kids who’d be watching it as opposed to The Martian.” “Monkey Kingdom” was made by guys who were sitting around the forest for two or three years, trying to get these shots and create a story around them. I wrote a theme for the main monkey who’s named Maya. She has a lot of hardships because she’s born on the wrong side of the tracks as it were, and has to fight very hard to feed her family and to survive. Having the setting of Sri Lanka gave me a tremendous variety as a composer, especially when it came to playing ethnic music. It was also the only time that I can recollect where I got to write the temporary soundtrack as well, which allowed us to make judgment calls about where the music should go after our first audience previews. “The Monkey Kingdom” was a real highlight of my career.
You also got the score coming up for Catherine Hardwicke’s film “Miss You Already,” which has particularly strong female characters.
A lot of strong women worked on that film in front of and behind the camera. I came to be on “Miss You Already” by no accident. After I saw “Thirteen,” I wrote to Catherine telling her that I admired her work, and to ask on the off chance that she’d consider me for a movie in the future. And it just so happened that Catherine was in pre-production to do this film. We met, we liked each other and I got the job. “Miss You Already” is very English. But in fact Catherine’s not, even though it’s a love letter to London. We had a lot of fun doing it. She’s tough and very brilliant. I’ve been fortunate to have done three or four very different scores like this, “Monkey Kingdom” and “The Martian,” all of which have very little in common musically.
It seems like we can always count on you to do interesting, stylistic scores like them, or on movies like “Domino” and “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.”
Well, I’m very fortunate to have been asked to do them. “Domino” and “Pelham” were done for Tony Scott, which allowed me to meet his brother, and to resultantly work with Ridley. I don’t take that lightly. And I always try to do my best.
From what you’ve learned about science through “The Martian,” how long do you think you’d survive if you were inadvertently abandoned on that planet?
Not long. My aptitude for science isn’t as good as my aptitude for music!
“The Martian” is now playing in theaters worldwide, with Harry Gregson-Williams’ score available HERE. “Miss You Already” opens on November 6th, with its soundtrack available HERE, and visit Harry’s score for “The Monkey Kingdom HERE.
Soundtrack Picks: ‘THE CREEP BEHIND THE CAMERA‘ is the top soundtrack to own for September, 2015
Also worth picking up THE ARISTOCATS, BLACK MASS, COOTIES, EVEREST, JEROME LEMONNIER: PIANO WORKS #1, MARIA DI NAZARET, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: THE TELEVISION SCORES, THE SECRET NIMH and many more!
To Purchase the soundtracks from this list, click on the CD Cover
THE TOP PICKS
1) THE ARISTOCATS / POCAHONTAS – THE LEGACY COLLECTION
What is it?: Walt Disney continues their beautifully packaged series of collector’s editions from their animated classics, this time venturing into their musical vault for two image-changing releases, one that truly brought their animal-friendly pictures a hepcat vibe, while the other dared to sing for a real-life human princess without a happy ending.
Why should you buy it?: Disney mated “101 Dalmatians” with “Lady and the Tramp” to produce 1970’s “The Aristocats,” which had a pampered French feline and her three kittens thrust into the cold, cruel world by an inheritance-hungry butler, only to have a cat from the wrong side of the tracks come to their rescue. “The Aristocats” was a winning Disney wrap for The Sherman Brothers, who’d brought the studio any number of classic songs from “Mary Poppins” to “The Jungle Book.” But it was “The Aristocats” where the Shermans brought in a whole new level of le jazz hot, beginning with the inimitable Tony the Tiger voice of Thurl Ravenscroft strutting here as “Thomas O’Malley Cat,” the brassy definition of being footloose and fancy free. The dazzling six-minute tune “Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat” is a delightful jam session where New Orleans-styled band and piano have Ravenscroft elucidate on the feline beat along with the inimitable, gravelly sophistication of Scatman Crothers. Far more sedately darling is a kitten singing its “Scales and Arpeggios,” while another big joy on this release is getting the full underscore by longtime studio composer George Bruns, who’d provide instrumentals for both live action Disney pictures like “Island of the Lost” and “The Love Bug” along with the animated “Jungle Book” and “Robin Hood.” Bruns fills “The Aristocats” with the musical approximation of being a cat, using purring, lush rhythms and crazily darting action, along with not-too menacing peril. But it’s the hipper elements that really make “The Aristocats” a howl, from the with-it, Mancini-styled brass comedy to a romantic abundance of French accordions. This might be kid’s stuff, but there’s a welcome, adult sultriness and bounce to “The Aristocrats’” flair that’d be right at home at a way more adult performance at the Moulin Rouge.
Extra Special: Disney was as unbeatable a force at taking home scoring and song Oscars as English adventurers were at seizing land from Native Americans when 1995’s “Pocahontas” netted again both awards, with composers Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz winning for their enduring tune “Colors of the Wind.” But while princess lib accounted for the studio’s animated rebirth for the Menken / Howard Ashman winning “Little Mermaid” that started their musical Oscar parade in 1989, what made “Pocahontas” different was that she had an eco-political message that asked both natives and settlers to just get along – with ultimately sad results. It’s a kind of message that Walt likely never could have imagined. And while the results were certainly well intentioned if ultimately mixed as a film, there’s much to savor in the twisted “Virginia Company” and “Mine, Mine, Mine” songs that are claiming God’s assistance and worshipping wealth. A particularly fun riff on the Jets vs. Sharks clashing duet for “Tonight” is “Savages,” where it’s the Indians and settlers claiming both sides as barbarians (with our sympathies justifiably on the Algonquin’s side). Like Menken, Stephen Schwartz was a Broadway veteran with such classic shows behind him as “Godspell” and “Pippin,” and the tunesmith teaming that was destined to result in such instantly memorable and soaring tunes as the Judy Kuhn-performed “Just Around the Riverbend” and the gorgeously heartbreaking “If I Never Knew You” (co-sung so well by Mel Gibson that you’ll actually wonder why he never attempted singing career after this). The determination of “Pocahontas” to do right by Native Americans (even if the movie was bound to have cute animal friends) shines through Menken’s lush work, which integrates it song themes expertly into its underscore, as flavored with tribal rhythms and percussion that reflects the Indian’s far nobler connection to mother natures, as earth spirit sung by Linda Hunt. When warriors from both sides come to inevitable conflict, Menken is suspensefully impassioned, essentially turning the hoary “evil injun” music of so many reprehensible westerns upside down. Even if the settlers seized the land in the end, hearing “Pocahontas” in its full glory shows its Oscar trophies are well deserved. Like “The Aristrocats,” this Legacy collection offers a second disc full of demos that are just as interesting for the tunes that didn’t make it (in “Pocahontas’ case the enjoyably goofy “”Different Drummer” and “In the Middle of the River”), as accompanied by art filled booklets that make these especially wonderful collectors editions for both Disney diehards and film music fans,
2) BLACK MASS / SICARIO
Price: $17.98 / $12.99
What Is it?: Movies might enforce their morality lessons that show us why good is always better than evil. Yet from the days of “Public Enemy” to such modern-day classics as “The Godfather” and “Scarface,” Hollywood has made criminal empires undeniably romantic, and even noble, especially given the dulcet orchestral tones of Nino Rota or the pulsating disco synths of Giorgio Moroder. But now two powerful “mob” films as such do their damnedest to gut our pleasure in evildoing, especially give the nerve-jangling tonalities of Johann Johannsson’s “Sicario” and Tom Holkenborg’s despairing “Black Mass,” two scores that make us hear that crime does not pay, with music while making our musical submersion into its hellish worlds on both sides of the border especially mesmerizing.
Why Should You Buy It?: Whitey Bulger is most definitely a person the average law-abiding citizen wouldn’t want to get to know, let alone get near. But even if the vampire-looking character kept an inhuman emotional distance from even his closest compatriots in the Winter Hill Gang, it doesn’t mean that this mass murdered wasn’t a human being – even if calling him a tragic figure might be a compassion stretch. Yet it’s exactly that flawed, vulnerable side that Tom Holkenborg (aka Junkie XL) dares to try and find empathy for. Having scored the way nicer Mad Max at a suitably apocalyptic level, Holkenborg is equally as effective at scaling his music sorrowfully back for Bulger. Elegiac orchestrations for strings and anguished cellos do their best to rip apart the mobster’s rock-hard exterior, working perfectly in synch with Johnny Depp’s chilling performance to reveal emotion that Bulger dare not show for revealing any sign of softness to the underworld. For Whitey, it’s all about the unnerving, metal percussion that signals his next brutal murder. But without being religious or Irish as such, Holkenborg’s score is wracked with Catholic guilt, consumed by darkness that knows there’s going to be a piper to be paid, and certainly an organ to be played on. Given that director Scott Cooper is making anything by a fun, “Goodfellas”-esque romp here, Holkenborg’s ultra-serious music pounds in the wages of sin that resounds with the violent waste of it all, given a theme that stabs its black hearts with a dagger, while also knowing when to haul ass as its conspiratorial threads come together that make Bulger and the FBI bedmates in murder. It’s heavy musical stuff that sucks the listener right in, or as dare close to Bulger’s sinister, yet poignant approximation as they’d like to get.
Extra Special: Hailing from a couple of leagues to the depressingly perma-frosted North of the Netherland-born Holkenborg, Iceland’s Johan Johannsson is making quite an impressive career for himself as the Franz Kafka of composers, capturing the sound of nightmarish hopelessness, first with the mania of a vengeful dad in Denis Villeneuve’s “Prisoners” before joining with another futilely driven vigilante in “MCanick.” If anything, it seems that Johannsson’s Oscar-nominated “Theory of Everything” was just a brief, inadvertent moment where he was thawed out with feelings of peace and serenity, as “Sicario” plunges the composer right back into his sinister playing ground with far more gut-wrenching effectiveness then the overwrought obviousness that filled Villeneuve’s previous feel-bad movie. Here both collaborators are far more accessible while being darker than ever as they show how the Mexican drug war have made both cartels and their pursuers morally indistinguishable from the other. With its unrelenting tension, “Sicario” is the “Seven” of drug trafficking films, as one can hear echoes of that Howard Shore serial killer score in how Johannson uses pounding strings and brass to throw an already conflicted cop into a world of pure evil. Foghorn-like effects, smashing metal and the score’s slow, ghastly pace are the stuff of pure, unbearable paranoia and absolutely riveting suspense, With a tribal beat and near-dissonance accompanying the pursuit of near-invisible enemies, “Sicario” is far more of a horror score than something resembling your usual, rhythm-heavy cops and drug runners soundtrack, creating the feeling of entering enemy territory in the unforgiving desert. There’s an equal, unbearable sadness to match “Sicario’s” menace in the anguished strings and minimal atmospheres that convey the drug war’s tragedy for the hapless civilians caught in an unstoppable cycle of corruption, music that eerie gets across a shear sense of soul-crushing futility. But while “Sicario” is as far from a happy listen as we are to the moon, Johannson makes the trip as utterly gripping as Villeneuve’s direction, matching the final plot twists by introducing a humming accompaniment to his sorrowful theme, an impossibly high, wailing child’s voices crying out for the victims. “Sicario” is magnificent in its utter bleakness, with Johannsson’s manic-depressive’ suspense score also caring distressing subsonic wavelengths that could be harnessed into a CIA tunnel-expunging sound weapon.
3) THE CREEP BEHIND THE CAMERA
What is it?: As the likes of “Ed Wood” have taught us, it’s easy to laugh at appallingly bad directors whose ambition at being the next Orson Welles fall short. It’s even easier to welcome grandly incompetent filmmakers into hipster theaters to “celebrate” them in the same way that Chris Hargensen welcomed Carrie White to the school prom. In that movie bullying fashion, what makes Peter Schuermann’s “The Creep Behind the Camera” so powerfully twisted is that it simultaneously encourages us to guffaw at the pathetic auteur behind a people-eating carpet from outer space, while pulling back the rug to reveal a truly terrifying wife beater and child molester who’s anything but funny business. It’s two sides of the curtain that Schuermann’s brother John must play as well in his inspired score that succeeds as retro kitsch its swinging goofiness capturing a real-life monster in “Creep’s” inspired hybrid of documentary and alternately hilarious and disturbing recreations.
Why should you buy it?: Not only taking a cue from Howard Shore’s Theremin-whipped strum-und-creature score for “Ed Wood,” Scheurmann throws in the kitchen sink of cult-ready grooviness into his wildly entertaining score. 70’s crime jazz? 60’s spy grooves? 50’s Elvis rockabilly? Les Baxter-meets-Henry Mancini Shagadelia? Latin mambo? Classic Universal horror chills? “The Creep Behind the Camera’s” got ‘em all, along veritable mad monster party of horror music clichés to spare. But rather then let his creatures run amuck, Schuermann is an especially clever Dr. Frankenstein with how well these crazed styles are thematically stitched together into one thematic creature. When his beat isn’t luring another potential starlet to an awful fate under the spell of “Creeping Terror” auteur Art Nelson, it’s outright raging with delusions of grandeur. But where we know to chuckle at the Art-as-Wolfman stuff, the more dissonant passages bring real terror to scenes of him threatening his victimized wife and child with fists clenched and belt swinging. Seeing this terrific, unsettling film (easily found on VOD) brings a whole other level to the term “guilty pleasure” when hearing the score’s grand design, especially the oh-so-happy funeral march that truly sends Art into the gutter, with a cowboy-styled “Whatever Happened To What’s His Name” hilariously riffing on a guy who definitely wasn’t Randolph Scott.
Extra Special: Even if John Scheurmann likely had less money to score the accomplished “Creep Behind the Camera” than the composer-wannabe high school music teacher was given for the scoring budget of “The Creeping Unknown,” this most definitely talented artist has the real deal goods. Sure the orchestra might be sampled, but the music’s so good you hear the imagined orchestra playing it. Soundtrack fans definitely will be laughing with this score instead of at it, though seeing the great movie itself will definitely put a whole other horrifying spin on Schuermann’s terrific entry into the kitsch-a-rific bad movie as art genre.
4) MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: THE TELEVISION SCORES
What is it?: Bond-mania inspired a host of classic television imitators, among them “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” “Secret Agent,” “The Avengers,” and even “The Wild Wild West,” all of whos agents have gone on to big screen incarnations for better and worse. But no small screen 007 spawn can match the pop impact of “Mission Impossible,” as fueled and immediately identified by Lalo Schifrin’s, fuse-burning theme, arguably the most popular TV melody of all time. The spy-groove match struck by the Argentinian jazzman-turned-composer virtually made for the approach of Joe Kraemer’s score for “Mission” best movie spin-off yet with “Rogue Nation,” which shows just how eternal that style has remained in our pop consciousness. But there’s way more to “Mission” then The Theme, as can be appreciated on La La Land Record’s incredible six-disc box set that covers the show’s best musical forays over seven seasons from 1966 to 1973, years in which numerous, notable composers ran with Schifrin’s hip, militaristic take for the Impossible Missions Force.
Why should you buy it?: The thrill of just every “Mission Impossible” episode was seeing the beyond-clever machinations by which its specifically talented operatives could take down Commies, foreign warlords and plain old American gangsters. Schifrin devised a jaunty approach the incorporated suspenseful timpani, sneaky pizzicatos, quivering strings and muscular brass that undermined their targets, given hep bongo beats and sax flair, all with a surfeit of ethnic music (usually from the Iron Curtain, Arabia and Latin America) for the predominant international takedowns. So popularly identifiable was Schifrin’s approach that it essentially set the show’s motivic template for the years to follow. But that didn’t mean that every musical “Mission” was the same old theme, as the several, riveting hours on this set prove. A pre-“French Connection” Don Ellis provides a bizarrely trippy “Cube of Sugar” (in fact, I doubt you’ll find anything more strangely dissonant in all of 60’s TV scoring), where the flutes and exotic percussion of Gerald Fried’s “Trek” might easily be mistaken for a Vulcan-set episode of another popular series he scored. Jerry Fielding, another veteran of Roddenberry’s Enterprise, is here riff on Schifrin’s theme for “The Council,” where “The Execution’s” doom-beating drums hint at the way bolder march Fielding took to send “The Wild Bunch” off to their ultra-violent blaze of glory. Even jazz great Benny Golson was on hand to provide an impressionistic score for a sightless Phelps in “Blind Jim.” With all props to Barbara Bain’s Emmy-winning work on the show, her turn doing Marlene Dietrich-styled songs with “Buy My Glass of Wine” and “Ten Tiny Toes” was outsung by Madeline Kahn in “Blazing Saddles.” But above all, “Mission Impossible” is Schifrin’s reel-to-reel tape, with the composer never missing a chance to get his jazz swing on whenever possible, particularly with the Bossa Nova and piano blues-filled episode “The Contender.” Yet his most impressive episode just might be his two-part “The Killer,” whose music could easily fill the musical shoes of a crazed Andrew Robinson as opposed to the stone killer assassin Robert Conrad, with Schifrin cooling drawing a sinister jazz target in the same way as his seminal “Dirty Harry” score (perhaps it’s no irony that the most pulse-pounding cue in that episode is labeled “Scorpio”).
Extra Special: Major props for this “Mission Impossible” collection can be given to Jon Burlingame, television music journalism’s answer to Ethan Hunt, whose knowledge of the medium easily bests being able hang from an airplane at take off. Given dozens of hours of already powerful “Mission Impossible” scoring to pull from, Burlingame has done an exceptional job of cherry picking what are truly the best tracks, while also paying attention to such unheralded show composers as Richard Hazard, Jack Urbont and Robert Drasnin. The result is always invigorating, and never tiring, showing just how much complexity could be given to variations on a Schifrin theme. Burlingame definitely reveals the show’s history through three booklets, a yeoman job of album producing and writing that he most definitely accepted with spy TV love to spare. La La Land follows up on their box complete classic Trek tunes with another terrific assembly of classic television scoring at its best (with a finally found “Lost in Space” set to arrive on Earth very shortly). Mission accepted with gratitude.
5) THE SECRET OF NIMH
What is it?: Given the astounding amount of genres that Jerry Goldsmith had scored by 1982, the fact that he had never did an animated film seems almost as impossible as the idea of super-intelligent rats scurrying below us. And while Goldsmith’s soundtrack for “The Secret of Nimh” somehow remained the only one he’d ever work on, it remains one the genre’s best animated features and scores by virtue of treating itself with all the emotion of live action.
Why should you buy it?: Sure Disney films up to the needle point of “Nimh” had their bits of upsetting violence and a smattering of social relevance. But it would be that studio’s expatriate Don Bluth who gave his film a real bite that was then unimaginable to The Mouse House as it tackled animal experimentation and Machiavellian backstabbing among the rat intelligentsia, yet given the warm, eventually cosmic glow of a widowed mother mouse trying to save her family from The National Institute of Mental Health. This was grad stuff worthy of any “real” film, which is exactly how Jerry Goldsmith treated it. The composer was certainly at the height of his genre power at the time with such epic soundtracks as “Star Trek – The Motion Picture,” “Outland” and “Poltergeist” recently behind him. Where most scores to featuring talking critters and their comic relief (here represented by Dom DeLuise’s mate-hungry crow) always featured some sort of musical cartoonishness, Goldsmith eschewed that pizzicato-happy approach as he played “Nimh” for real, – all still not ignoring the fact that Bluth was essentially aiming towards the Disney audience after all. Goldsmith’s main theme comes from “Flying Dreams,” arguably the loveliest song that he composed for a feature. It’s performed by the immediately recognizable, and gentle voice of the tune’s co-writer Paul Williams, along with Sally Stevens for the tune’s lullaby version. That melody is the embodiment of hearth and home for Mrs. Brisby (renamed from the book’s too toy-like “Mrs. Frisby”), a movingly sentimental theme that’s quickly swept into a world of soaring choruses, menacing strings and dark brass far beyond the mouse’s comprehension. But within the root-filled world of its mutant rats lies a god-like sense of majesty, almost a continuation of Goldsmith’s music for Jesus triumphant appearance at the end of “The Final Conflict.” Cues like “The Story of Nimh” are masterworks of musical storytelling as Goldsmith effortlessly segues from John Carradine’e foreboding wise old owl to thematic sentiment, Vejur-like majesty and into the terrifying, rhythmic build that turns tormented lab animals into Einsteins. It’s incredibly moving scoring that captures an uncommon sense of awe, and tremendous, Stravinsky dance-like excitement for a swordfight turning to the crushing, horrifying desperation of a mother watching her kids getting buried alive. Goldsmith’s “Nimh” has real weight to it, groaning to uphold a massive cinder block or unleashing Brisby’s inner magic with biblical deliverance, all given a magnificent thematic sense of uncompromising feeling worthy of any flesh and blood character that Goldsmith ever scored.
Extra Special: A longtime animated favorite precisely for its daring, “The Secret of Nimh’s” soundtrack has made flight from That’s Entertainment LP to a sold out Varese Sarabande CD. But this classic score has never sounded as sumptuously beautiful as it does on Intrada’s terrifically remastered cd that truly brings out the nuance of Goldsmith’s dazzlingly complex score (which has always been striking for its echoed recording). Better yet, Intrada had dug up one long-buried score cue “At Your Service” while also adding multiple demos for “Flying Dreams.” The label’s designer Joe Sikoryak has crafted an especially striking booklet that really brings out the color’s of Bluth’s artwork, as accompanied by Jeff Bond’s understandably awe-struck liner notes.
ALSO FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION:
. CIVILIZATION: BEYOND EARTH – RISING TIDE
Sid Meir’s strategy game that began on earth has now taken to space, going from playing with history to maneuvering about in sci-fi realms, which now plunge into an aquatic dimension of colony building for “Civilization’s” expansion “Rising Tide.” Where it’s certainly easier to score the videogame genre of first person shooters with their automatically cinematic action, creating a musical world out of metaphoric moving blocks presents a whole other level of difficulty. But composers Geoff Knorr (“Civilization V”), Grant Kirkhope (“Kingdoms of Alamur: Reckoning”) and Griffen Cohen (“Beyond Earth”) have truly opened up this tide into symphonically cosmic waters. Lush, epic washes of strings and chorus build with a sense of wonder and hope with each cue. It’s near-continuously escalating music that’s the equivalent of the idea of exploring brave new worlds for all of their optimistic possibilities, at least as our better choral angels would have us think. This sort of soaring melodic wanderlust has filled no small amount of James Horner and Jerry Goldsmith scores, and is played here with terrific sonic presence by the FILMharmonic orchestra, which makes full use of over a hundred combined players and vocalists, Think of Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra” being employed for a strategy game, and you’ll get a sense of the impressive, legend-making sweep that “Tide” is full of. As one wave of orchestra and chorus crashes after the next, “Tide” makes the mind look up at the heavens as opposed to a computer screen, which I imagine was Meier’s goal when he first set foot with gamers on this planet.
Politically incorrect to the hilariously satiric extreme, and doubtfully way more funny now that we’ve had a few years since a maniac opened fire on a class of kindergarteners, “Cooties” has evil mischief on its pubescent, crazed mind as a pack of killer kids make mincemeat out of their elementary school’s pupils and staff – all encouraged by the musical mayhem of Kreng (aka Belgian actor / composer Pepijn Caudron). Much like its fellow Milan Records classmate “It Follows,” “Cooties” takes its inspiration from 70’s prog-rock slasher horror strains, But as opposed to Disasterpiece’s effectively monolithic, single-minded march of death, “Cooties” mixed strain of gory zombie action and “Gremlins’”-esque hijinks yields a wild assault of styles from Kreng’s cleverly energetic soundtrack. Of course given a taunting children’s’ chorus and toy-bell glitter in its title, Caudron unleashes a plethora of screaming, electro shout outs to John Carpenter’s pattering suspense, Fabio Frizzi’s gurgling undead synths and Giallo metal guitars. Just about everything’s game in this crazed musical recess as such usually joyful kiddie music staples as fairy tale melodies and comedic bounciness lose their minds at the taste of tainted Chicken nuggets. You even get a demented take on the zombie mall Muzak from “Dawn of the Dead,” or a warped carnival organ, as Kreng lets his devilish imagination run wild – but not at the expense of actually managing to give his musical horror teeth with a mass of orchestral instruments and the kind of top-notch sampling that marks Caudron’s electronica career. “Cooties” is a demented, quite great sugar rush of a monster kid composer, a brain-ripping assault of kitsch, homage and thrashing rhythm that takes sleazy-retro horror scoring and makes it part of the Daft Punk age.
. END OF THE TOUR
In the midst of the understandable Tim Burton mania that accompanies Danny Elfman’s most popular work, it’s easy to overlook the composer’s ability at making drama sound as eccentrically original as his excursions into Goth-worshipped genre films. With such idiosyncratic excursions as “Good Will Hunting,” “Milk” and “Reckless,” one can hear as much affection for kindred outsider subjects like a math whiz delinquent, a loud and proud gay man and a suicide obsessed kid. Elfman’s new partnership with author David Foster Wallace again captures an original thinker with equally inventive music, in this case a real-life, soft-spoken satiric writer not destined to survive his own demons Elfman’s tour has a percussive, witty gentleness for this cap-wearing recluse, soft strings reflecting his icy rural environment, as well as the ghosts of past mental illness. With chiming bells and echoing, glass-like sound, Elfman’s created a latter day counterpart to Jack Nietzsche’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” but in this case for a brilliant man roaming about his own asylum. It’s a hallucinatory, sometimes groovy approach that tries to break out its shell for the hanger-on interviewer-poseur who’d like nothing better than to enter Wallace’s cursed cage of book tour celebrity. As wholly fresh as anything that Elfman’s done for original thinkers, “End of the Tour’s” poignant, surreal magic comes from hearing the composer trying to get inside of Wallace’s head, and in the end being pretty much as stymied as everyone else – but not without absorbing the melancholy, incisive ghost of the man with this bittersweet, beautiful little score. Lakeshore adds progressive tunes by R.E.M., Brian Eno and Tindersticks that likewise capture Wallace’s appeal to intelligent, disaffected readers. But if anything, it’s the sad, quirky warmth of Elfman’s score that makes us want to know his cut-short brilliance better.
“Eat, Pray, Love” composer Dario Marianelli takes a far more adventurous, and unintentionally lethal quest for musical self-fulfillment atop the world’s most famous peak, where disaster will strike a group of climbers in a horrifying chain of well-intentioned errors. It’s a powerful score that’s the embodiment of the queried mountaineer’s refrain of “Because it’s there,” a symphonically bold, but also ethereally spiritual journey full of percussive excitement and a soaring, strong theme as our climbers zero in on the top of the world. “Everest” is full of thematic strength and awe, capturing the thrill of being in time-lost land, while using haunting female voice to acknowledgement of the loved ones back home, an emotional device that will pay off later with devastating, emotional results. Marianelli’s skilled blend of modern rhythms with age-old Asian instruments, and even a bit of throat singing, gives “Everest” a real sense of scale, climbing from piano to bold strings to give the characters a humanistic sense of heroism. You can feel the strain of the ascent in Marianelli’s ever-determined builds as “Everest” enters its “death zone,” conjuring the monolithic, impossible odds of surviving a monstrous snowstorm, with eerie samples becoming the howling winds themselves. His theme takes on an elegiac realization of one’s own fate, his sadly, beautiful descending strings for life’s last light capturing a delicate sadness worthy of Arvo Part for a climber’s heartbreaking call back to his expectant wife. Yet the melody can gather up all of its strength to defy the odds right afterwards, with even the Nepalese army given their percussively inclusive moment in the heroic, helicopter sun. Where it would be easy to play these real-life events in an obvious, hammy way, Marianelli brings a real intelligence to this sort of disaster-survival scoring, with a heart-rending electric violin epilogue that makes “Everest” an intelligent, immersive score to summit.
. HITMAN: AGENT 47
Marco Beltrami continues to prove a great target for assassins this year, following up Sean Penn’s remorse-filled “Gunman” with the steely, all business as usual “Agent 47.” Though it’s the second videogame movie to feature the eponymously bald “Hitman,” this underrated feature is an infinitely better entry for the console-to-screen genre, if not actually its first legitimately good movie at that. Given a body-dropping parade of exceptionally well-executed action sequences and intense anti-heroes, Beltrami drops the beat big time. Fitting very well into the rhythmic-orchestral technique of action scoring forever blazed into Hollywood by John Powell’s “Bourne Identity,” Beltrami skillfully blends strings into merciless electro-rock pads, his trademarked way with raging brass, varying his thematic peaks to create a near-constant sense of thrill kill exhilaration. Beltrami captures the robotic finesse in Agent 47’s super violent ability, though given just a bit of contemplative, subtly melodic soul to reflect on. The real emotion is given to his very reluctant female comrade he targets for self-realization, whose meeting with her father yields truly moving emotion that almost seemingly comes out of nowhere. Through all of its well-executed mayhem, Beltrami never settling into the press-play dullness that can come from this musical style’s familiarity, especially when he brings in the big orchestral guns for a helicopter-smashing finale. From thrilling start to finish, “Agent 47” hits the floor as if he was attending a rave where people were filled with bullets as opposed to sucking on binkies.
. I’ll FOLLOW YOU DOWN
Where many time travel films involve lavish special effects and rollicking orchestral scores, 2013’s “I’ll Follow You Down” went back to the future with an impressive sense of intimacy on all chronometer readings, the emotional energy of its decidedly inauspicious time machine fueled by the lyrical score by Andrew Lockington. “A.I.” star Haley Joel Osment marked his second, terrific sci-fi film here, now playing a grown son left years ago for highly unusual reasons by his scientist dad. Lockington movingly places himself into the mindspace of a young man obsessed with unlocking the keys to his father’s disappearance, no matter the heartbreak it will cause him. Best known for his blockbuster accompaniment of The Rock on the epic scores for “San Andreas” and “Journey 2 the Mysterious Island,” Lockington shows that he’s just as effective when toning the epic multiplex energy down for a far more vulnerable film. Next to the calculations of its whiz kid, one can find the notes of such Thomas Newman’s scores as “The Shawshank Redemption” as Lockington makes similar, beautiful use of that musician’s way with haunting washes of strings and ethereal sound. It’s a balance of lush symphonic melody (superbly recoded at London’s Air studio under the guidance of ace “Stargate” orchestrator Nicholas Dodd), often accompanied with tender solo piano, making the cosmic forces at work resonate from a boy’s wounded, if hopeful soul. Guiding by Lockington’s ever-present, and quite remarkable themes, “I’ll Follow You Down’s” music borders the time-space continuum between the poetic and the profound. Yet there’s always a sense of propulsion to the trip, even in its most atmospheric passages as the score fills with both desperation and the wonder of proving the impossible. Hearing the soul beyond the hard science, Lockington’s beautifully haunting score is more than worth tracking to the Einsteinian era, proving its thesis with melancholy heart.
. THE INTERN
If Nancy Meyers is indeed the far less intellectually posteuring female answer to Woody Allen’s brand of upscale comedy, then she thankfully has far more of an appreciation for how underscore can help the travails of those who can really afford the NYC rent. For “The Intern,” it’s a gentlemanly retired businessman with a swank apartment that helps arrange an overworked fashion start-up exec’s life to the quite pleasing rhythms of Theodore Shapiro. The “Marley & Me” composer certainly has his own winning brand of melodic, modern rhythms for strings, percussion and sympathetic guitar that he applied to Anne Hathaway’s other fashionista vehicle “The Devil Wears Prada.’ The interesting spin here is that “The Intern” is not a Meyers rom-com as such, but a movie where the relationship is strictly kept on the level of friendship – that most interesting platonic state of affairs which is a rarity for a Hollywood comedy. Shapiro builds this ersatz father-daughter bond with a charmingly effervescent and winsome feel for lush melody, an acoustical-orchestral groove that also hips things up a little bit with electronic beats for an old-school guy thrown into a new, internet-obsessed world. It’s smooth, nicely smart scoring about nice people done by a fairly young composer who’s now an old had at making opposites attract, if not in that way for “The Intern.” Meyers’ astute song picks also gets the job done well, proving to be most Allen-esque thing about this soundtrack with jazz-pop standards by Ray Charles, Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday and George Gershwin reflecting De Niro’s now positively prehistoric generation and its way better taste in listening. Besides, would any light comedy soundtrack be without “The Girl From Ipanema?”
. JEROME LEMONNIER: PIANO WORKS #1
Soundtrack fans accustomed to robust orchestral scores, especially the unabashedly melodic ones that come from France, understandably want to hear the full symphonic power of the soundtrack, as opposed to the piano that most often gave the music birth. Where many solo keyboard albums have felt just a bit impoverished as a result of our expectations, Jerome Lemonnier’s “Piano Works” is a pleasant surprise that makes for a fully entertaining release that shows how a good’s score’s range can be communicated in its deceptively simplest form, in this case a collection of his since fleshed-out scores for director Denis Dercourt. Their fruitful collaboration began with 2006’s “The Page Turner,” which perhaps not-so ironically detailed the revenge of a budding pianist on the woman who ruined her career aspirations. If one think’s that the determined “Theme D’Anna” which opens the album will make for a classical listen, then the second, rapid-fire “Etude D’Ariane” immediately conjures a Bernard Herrmann-worthy chase. The cunning, chamber piece of “Au Chateau” gives way to the gentle “Paul A Bicyclette,” while “Prelude De Melanie” has a pleasant, Baroque energy. And so it goes as Lemmonier varies between Bach, impassioned suspense and delicate beauty. It’s a sound that’s most definitely cinematic, and classical as well, making for an album that’s nicely accessible to fans of both musical genres. But whatever the variation, Lemmonier’s unplugged collection from such Dercourt scores as “Tomorrow at Dawn,” “A Pact” and “En Equilibre” shows a composer who can conjure one interesting, catchy and sometimes darkly transfixing melody after the next, more than enough to make us want to hear the instrumentally complete versions as such, even if their emotion is most definitely heard on his strokes of the keyboard.
. MARIA Di NAZARET
Mel Gibson certainly made Jesus the next big thing for film and television the world over with composer John Debney expanding on Peter Gabriel’s trend-setting “Passion” soundtrack by treating God’s son with authentic percussion and ancient Middle Eastern instruments, as given a wash of the old time scoring religion of the western symphony. Finding a different musical direction for Jesus certainly presented a challenge for future composers who’d have to play The Word. When given an Italian-German TV miniseries that saw Jesus’ rise from the perspective of his mother Mary and the not-so-pure Mary Magdalene, English musician Guy Farley took a lushly symphonic, and quite reverent depiction of The Savior for “Maria Di Nazaret.” Having impressed with the way more sinful scores of “Cashback’s” ethereal ogling of nude models, “The Flock’s” psychologically twisted pursuit of child molesters and “Hot Potato’s” retro spy games, Farley achieves a gorgeous sense of worship, paying due tribute at the altar of John Barry and Ennio Morricone in the first composer’s strongly thematic, writing and the latter’s blending of melody and dissonance. Most impressive is that Farley’s score for “Mary” (divided between “The Early Years” and “The Passion”) doesn’t overtly go for those ethnic biblical chestnuts that have become a bit cliché after “Passion,” subtly using tribal drums, diduks, flutes and voices that result in his own distinctive approach to Jesus. While there is a mostly muted sense of a higher power, there’s not much that’s especially “religious” about Farley’s work here, making it even more accessible to the soundtrack fan that might not necessarily want to get sermonized to. Instead, “Mary” plays like a bucolic romance, given moments of dark suspense, or the intimacy of a solo piano. The inevitable tragedy of “Maria’s” second part nevertheless has the hope of resurrection in the lovely voice of Tanja Tzarovska (whose vocals also gave witness to John Debney’s work) with Farley only going for the real sweeping, Alfred Newman-esque “Greatest Story Ever Told” approach at the right moments. In capturing a higher power, Farley’s score is nicely down to earth for the savior of mankind as it mostly plays a mother’s undying love for the Son of God. Caldera Records pairs Farley’s score with the earthier Italian production “L’Uomo Che Sognava Con Le Aquile,” which offers another gorgeously melodic, and sometimes sweetly whimsical score. Its backdrop of farming and cheese selling in the Italian countryside recalls the bucolic energy of Thomas Newman, as well as more playful, tuba-topped Neapolitan rhythms for the film’s not-so chaste romance. Throughout both impressive works (including a cue that’s likely the most beautifully elegiac music you’ll hear from a Jean Claude Van Damme movie), Farley shows a mastery of the orchestra and piano that might make some listeners think he’s been touched by a higher power.
From Gaijin to Gweilo, it’s understandable why white warrior invaders were not particularly welcome in pre-modernized Asia. However, these barbarian interlopers certainly provided welcome opportunity for white composers, whether Maurice Jarre was scoring a shipwrecked sailor in “Shogun” or Hans Zimmer accompanied a Civil War soldier daring to become “The Last Samurai.” Now Frenchman Guillaume Roussel goes back further than any interlopers before to capture a Crusader “Outcast” finding new battles to fight in China. This centuries old sword-swinging, arrow-shooting meeting of East and West certainly opens up fertile territory for Roussel, a contributor to such Hollywood soundtracks as “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” who’s simultaneously making a name for himself with such French-set action scores as “3 Days to Kill” and “The Connection.” There’s much Catholic guilt to be head with heroes who’ve grown sick of religious bloodshed, as Roussel powerfully uses Latin hymns during choice battle sequences, while bringing out the anguished emotion from Nicolas Cage’s berserker knight (of course called “The White Ghost”), a powerful sense of somberness that brings seriousness to a standout among Cage’s reams of VOD movies. Better yet, Roussel judiciously balances the far more backward instruments of Medieval Europe with poetic use of Chinese strings and winds, making this the most potent score in its genre since “The Last Samurai.” Like that soundtrack, there’s a powerful sense of thematic honor that adorns its crusaders, with a dynamic orchestra and distinctly modern, rock-guitar-powered percussion making “Outcast” very much part of the 22nd century camp of action writing. It’s a welcome score indeed in cross-culture warrior soundtracks, with all of the epic nobility that implies.
The world’s most notorious chess master has at last been found by Hollywood. And it’s not in the interesting, almost surreal way that James Horner chose to play a chess-struck kid in the cloyingly sentimentalized “Search For Bobby Fischer” (even if that movie was admittedly about a little kid who didn’t know better about his idol). Instead, “Pawn Sacrifice” hears the real, raging deal, as personified for a likely Oscar nomination by Tobey Maguire. It’s the next great performance of a psychotic that’s been gifted to composer James Newton Howard after Jake Gyllenhaal’s glory-lusting cameraman in “Nightcrawler” – both actors creating buttoned up anxiety that explodes into frightening fury. But where scoring car crashes provides news-at-11 excitement for the eye to gawk at, playing the life-or-death moves on a chessboard with the same level of gripping energy is definitely a more difficult task – one that Howard excels at brilliantly here for his third teaming with director Ed Zwick after the less successful films “Defiance” and “Love & Other Drugs.” Here Howard envisions Fischer as a little boy lost to parental neglect and his own growing mental illness, with chess as his only must-win purpose in life. Like Zwick, the real challenge beyond the chess moves is giving pathos to a truly unlikable person. Using warm instrumental colors in muted fashion to give Fischer a sad measure of humanity, while subtly introducing Russian rhythms that illustrate both Fischer’s expatriate mom and his somewhat sympathetic adversary in Boris Spassky. Having explored interesting electronic elements early on with such scores as “Grand Canyon” and “The Trigger Effect,” Howard uses cold, steel-like samples to get inside of the opponent’s always calculating minds, getting across the idea of computers riffling through thousands of potential moves in their brain banks. There’s no excitement as such in trying to get across the idea of chess as some raging battle. Rather, Howard goes for two snipers constantly trying to get a lethal bead on each other’s killshot intentions, both given a sadness in being pawns of greater Cold War forces. Even when Bobby gets the big win, Howard keeps his most conventionally symphonic music in a state of moving melancholy. It’s easily one of his most beautifully tragic pieces of music, saying that in the end there’s no win for a genius who’s been hopelessly beaten by insanity, even if the red white and blue is being hoisted high. It’s the checkmate musical move for a compelling, excellent film and score that has no end of inventive, unexpected moves of its own to match Fischer’s tormented soul.
. THIBAUD OU LES CROISADES
History, especially its cross-bearing era, was particularly good to Georges Delerue as his career reached international acclaim during the latter 1960s with the medieval likes of “A Man for All Seasons” and “Anne of the Thousand Days.” But if those scores were mostly concerned with highborn nobles, a white crusader on his home television turf gave the composer a bit more excitement to play with for “Thibaut the Crusader.” Running from 1968 to 1969, this French series featured a dashing, white-garbed avenger fighting for the good name of Christianity in The Middle East, who never managed to get a speck of heathen blood on his always-sparkling white outfit, It was a field day for Delerue to show off his romantic panache, from a glorious march theme to his gorgeous way with lyrical, flute and string melody, evoking knightly honor in both spirit and music from the period, Delerue’s approach might not exactly be swashbuckling, but it’s certainly music that would befit King Arthur if his knights were searching for the grail in sand-swept lands, with beautiful winds conjuring Arabic exotica. There’s also a nice, frisky playfulness to Delerue’s score, making “Thibaud” a quite lovely thematic marriage between big heraldic adventure, sprightly period music and the kind of lush, lyrical poignancy that made Delerue a king of romantic sentiment. Music Box Record’s release pairs “Thibaud” with Delerue’s work for the 1969 French series “Fortune,” which chronicled the real-life American exploits of Swiss entrepreneur John Sutter, whose famous California mill led to the gold rush. Just as effective as his approach for Thibaud a few hundred years before, Delerue’s harmonica and guitar embodies the America west, with waves of glittering harps the wanderlust that led to Sutter’s impoverished ending. There’s certainly no fool’s gold in Delerue’s music that poignantly captures the tragedy of a man driven to ruin by the quest for riches, while also giving the Frenchman the opportunity to show that he would have made a mean American saloon pianist back in the day.
. WOLF TOTEM
From chronicling caveman seeking fire on a blighted pre-earth to a roaming bear and two tiger siblings, few directors have really touched the spirit of the wild like Jean-Jacques Annaud. But his talent for realism goes way too brutally far in “Wolf Totem,” which sadly represents the next-to-last score that we’ll ever hear from James Horner (the final being his Chilean miner rescue soundtrack for “33”). Maybe it’s eerie foresight that Horner’s quite marvelous score basically sums up the qualities that made him into one of Hollywood’s finest composers – among them an untamed, epic sense for the orchestra, an understanding of music as myth and a world traveler’s talent for employing ancient ethnic instruments as old as the wolf’s presence alongside man. All of these qualities are put to sweeping use in Annaud’s tale of emissaries of Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution in service of making nomadic Mongolians part of the bigger Little Red Book picture. Having first teamed with Annaud for the eerie, electronic score that put a distinctive touch to the Dark Age murder mystery “The Name of the Rose” before reteaming for the sniper suspense of “Enemy at the Gates” and the sweeping Arabic family feud of “Day of the Falcon,” Horner’s unfortunately final work for Annaud beautifully matches the director’s always reliable sweeping vistas of untouched nature and its human inhabitants with Tibetan throat singing, flutes and Oriental percussion, all giving a distinct feeling of an untamed land. But it’s the essence of the wolf that symphonically rules the score with thundering action for the bestial joy of the hunt, a magnificent feeling of god-like nobility and above all a sweepingly thematic feeling of tragedy for the end of a time when man and beast were respectful adversaries towards their place in nature. If anything, the awesomeness of “Wolf Totem” is Horner’s follow up to “Legends of the Fall,” brassily raging to the heavens with a magnificent sadness and defiance for the inevitable. It’s Horner’s music that adds even more gut-wrenching tragedy to Annaud’s over-the-top cavalcade of wolf slaughter in all of its horrible forms, so awful by the end that the only character you’ll be sympathetic to is the last wolf standing. Definitely the fat better way to appreciate “Wolf Totem” is to solely stick to its music without Horner’s work being tainted in the mind by the movie’s brutality. For everything that was great about Horner is contained within this mighty totem, all the sublimely emotional, and howling thematic strength present for a distinct voice that could only be silenced by fate itself.
CLICK on the album covers to make your hardcopy or download purchase, and find the soundtracks at these. com’s: Amazon, Intrada, iTunes, Moviescoremedia and Screen Archives Entertainment
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.452]Theodore Shapiro ([m.43166]Ghostbusters), [c.91]Mark Isham ([t.44001]Blood & Oil), [c.1688]Clinton Shorter ([t.44638]Colony), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 39 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2015-09-21]Click here for the full schedule.
Opening nationwide this week are (with music by): [m.38485]The Green Inferno ([c.8025]Manuel Riveiro), [m.35972]Hotel Transylvania 2 ([c.139]Mark Mothersbaugh) and [m.40394]The Intern ([c.452]Theodore Shapiro).
Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking song credits for:
- [m.35972]Hotel Transylvania...
Varèse Sarabande released [a.16103]Everest Original Motion Picture Soundtrack digitally and on CD [da.2015-09-18]September 18, 2015. The album features the original music composed by [c.1069]Dario Marianelli.
"My initial instinctive approach to the score, which our director, Baltasar Kormákur, liked and encouraged me to follow, was to have a calling voice, a distant siren call," explained Marianelli. "It is at the same time a voice that represents the ancient goddess-like mountain, but also a luring and irresistible calling to one's own destiny."
"The opposite point of the musical compass is the 'conquering' attitude of the mountaineers, a kind of macho, go-getting approach to nature," Marianelli continued, "which is reflected in a much more propulsive, percussive...
Varèse Sarabande will release the [a.16355]American Ultra Original Motion Picture Soundtrack digitally on [da.2015-09-25]September 25, 2015. The album features original music by composer [c.1061]Marcelo Zarvos with additional original music by Orbital's [c.2394]Paul Hartnoll.
"I always love when a film pushes me to do something different from what I've done before," said Zarvos. "In the case of American Ultra director Nima Nourizadeh was very keen on an electronic sounding score, so we could never really picture a person playing an instrument. Even when certain elements were played live, a lot of time was spent processing the sounds so they always felt strange and unexpected. It was a fun direction that informed the entire score."
"Paul comes from the pop world...
World Renowned MA in Scoring Program enrolling now for 2016/17
Pulse College (Dublin, Ireland) delivers an innovative 1-year MA in Scoring for Film & Visual Media, a one of it’s kind for Ireland.
The 1-Year MA in Scoring for Film & Visual Media program is enrolling now for the 2016/17 and includes some of the Hollywood Scoring Communities biggest names as visiting course tutors; including Conrad Pope, Christopher Young, Garry Schyman, Alf Clausen, Richard Kraft and Richard Bellis.
Pulse College seeks passionate, focused and motivated students, who are innovative, demonstrate originality and ready to learn, contribute and create. As Program Director Derek Gleeson, and director of the Dublin Philharmonic Orchestra, states: “We are attracting passionate students and professionals from all over the world, as well as Ireland. Musicians that have a unique style, create original compositions, and are able to tell a story through music, enhance the visual experience, and aim to work in the global entertainment music industry.”
Does this describe you?
The MA in Scoring for Film and Visual Media has propelled Dublin onto the international stage as the go to destination for young musicians demanding first class educational and practical experiences. Alumni of the program’s first year, which has just concluded, have already gone on to score professional projects and were accepted onto the ASCAP Film Scoring Workshop at Fox Studios Newman Scoring Stage, which is testament to the level of training received.
Run in association with the Conservatory of Music and Drama fat DIT (Ireland’s largest third level educational providers), this Masters course will be delivered in Pulse College and the world-famous Windmill Lane Recording Studios. U2, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones and Lady Gaga are among the many legends that have graced these rooms. More relevant to this course, many great film scores have been recorded here too, including The Mask, Mission Impossible and many others by great composers such as Elmer Bernstein.
The course begins September 2016 and applications are currently being accepted. There is no fee to submit an application.
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.1287]Roque Banos ([m.44562]A Man in the Dark), [c.3670]Sacha and [c.3669]Evgueni Galperine ([m.43820]Nine Lives), [c.3198]Johann Johannsson ([m.44592]Story of Your Life), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 28 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2015-09-14]Click here for the full schedule.
Opening nationwide this week are (with music by): [m.36918]Black Mass ([c.8705]Junkie XL), [m.39955]Captive ([c.1465]Lorne Balfe) and [m.42112]Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials ([c.1154]John Paesano).
Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking song credits for:
The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences recently announced the winners of the Creative Arts Emmys. The nominees and winners are as follows:
Original Main Title Theme Music:
- WINNER: [t.40197]Transparent ([c.1784]Dustin O'Halloran)
- [t.42390]Marco Polo ([c.710]Daniele Luppi)
- [t.39839]Penny Dreadful ([c.1294]Abel Korzeniowski)
- [t.43325]Texas Rising ([c.45]John Debney & [c.21]Bruce Broughton)
- [t.43330]The Dovekeepers ([c.674]Jeff Beal)
- [t.41196]Tyrant ([c.257]Mychael & [c.652]Jeff Danna)
Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Original Dramatic Score):
- WINNER: [t.33760]House of Cards, Chapter 32 ([c.674]Jeff Beal)
- [t.]Chef's Table, Francis Mallman...
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.1231]Nathan Larson ([t.44545]Vinyl), [c.1805]Pedro Bromfman ([t.44531]Rio Heat), [c.652]Jeff Danna ([m.34040]The Good Dinosaur), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 28 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2015-09-07]Click here for the full schedule.
Opening nationwide this week are (with music by): [m.44194]90 Minutes in Heaven ([c.16420]Michael W. Smith and [c.3132]Tyler Smith), [m.43177]The Perfect Guy ([c.13251]David Fleming and [c.1278]Atli Orvarsson) and [m.42500]The Visit (title by [c.1293]Paul Cantelon).
Among all new theatrical releases, we are...
Lakeshore Records will release two soundtracks for the film [a.16175]Mississippi Grind: Vol. 1 - Gerry's Road Mix and [a.16324]Mississippi Grind: Vol. 2 - Curtis' Road Mix. Both albums will be available digitally in October and are film-inspired compilations of amazing blues tracks.
Setting the tone are great tracks from such esteemed legends of Blues as Memphis Slim, Furry Lewis and John Lee Hooker, each volume is a musical reflections of the state mind of an individual character. A rare look into the deeper motivations of such complex and vivid men as Gerry and Curtis each volume is different as are the fates and choices of the gambling men they represent. Through the songs of Big Bill Broonzy, Memphis Minnie and Joe Callicott, amongst others, the actions and choices of...
Marvel Music is releasing the soundtrack for Marvel's [a.16145]Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on CD [da.2015-10-02]October 2, 2015. The digital album is available now. EMMY Award winner [c.1238]Bear McCreary composed the music for the series.
"I've always adored superheroes and their musical fanfares," said McCreary. "Collaborating with Marvel, Joss Whedon and his creative team is truly a dream come true. Together, we craft a score each week that I hope measures up to the insanely high standards of Marvel fans around the world."
"The first season of Marvel's [t.38320]Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was the most ambitious season of television I have ever been involved in. The sheer scope of this project was daunting: to score 22 episodes in 22 unique orchestral sessions, with...
From “Insurgent” to “The Hunger Games,” the YA (i.e. Young Adult) sci-fi genre is all the rage when it comes to kids revolting against the evil, adult dystopian powers that be. And while all might have their share of tragedy and mayhem delivered upon its protagonists in their search for sanctuary, none have delivered the kind of epic mayhem better reserved for outright teen-unfriendly horror pictures with the expansive eye and ear-catching ferocity of “The Maze Runner” and its sequel “The Scorch Trials.”
It seems like only yesterday (or at least last September) that Fox’s franchise, spun from James Dashner’s novels (and prequels), got off to an impressive start as young Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) got thrown via freight elevator into a Kafkian / Lord of the Flies nightmare he never made. Filled with body-crushing, ever-changing Godzilla-sized mazes, Thomas and his compatriots ran like hell while battling their own tribal insanity. Powering their desperate attempts to outwit “The Glade” was an impressive mix of breathless, dark electric percussion and frightening, towering orchestrations that certainly made an impression – created by a musical talent that seemingly came from nowhere along with Thomas Like him, “The Maze Runner” was a literal breakout for composer John Paesano. A stalwart of VOD productions like “S.W.A.T. Firefight,” “Superman / Batman: Apocalypse” and “Another Cinderella Story,” Paesano had long been waiting for his chance to make a run to the next Hollywood level, and succeeded beyond his hopes with a “Maze”-smashing success, its music meeting rock-grinding effects head on thanks to the astute ear of graphic designer-turned filmmaker Wes Ball for his debut feature.
But if Ball and Paesano’s collaboration on “The Maze Runner” captured the suffocating weight of what it was like to be trapped in a hellish Rubik’s cube, then their even more impressive sequel “The Scorch Trials’ really opens up Thomas’ world, and then some. Now released into a sand-filled seemingly unending desert Thomas and his few surviving friends from the Maze must navigate at top speed through raving zombies, city ruins and the avarice of the Mengele-like WCKD organization that blindly, and ruthlessly sees the kids’ lives as a means to a beneficent end. Taking on a true sense of stirringly melodic, exciting danger that was once suppressed by giant building blocks, Paesano unleashes a savage and terrifically exciting score that embodies a danger-filled world, while opening up new labyrinths of emotion for its characters to meet, many of whom meet ghastly fates in the process. Paesano isn’t so much scoring a “YA” picture here as much as he is an all-audience one, displaying an adventurous, apocalyptic vigor that his one-time collaborator Jerry Goldsmith would approve of – with the only element this “Scorch” lacks being horse-riding apes.
“The Maze Runner” has also revealed new courses for Paesano’s musical imagination, most popularly the super-heroic sense of “Daredevil.” For this beyond-gritty take for Netflix’s Hell’s Kitchen corner of the Marvel Universe, Paesano stripped down a traditional superhero score to its most minimally powerful essentials, building the bing-watching suspense of the blind crusader’s final costumed confrontation with the Kingpin. Far warmer, and traditionally emotional are his stirring sports scores for the football games of “When the Game Stands Tall” and the forthcoming, “ “My All-American” which kicks off with a battling optimism that “Rudy” would appreciate. And in more child-friendly realms, Paesano continues to ride high with his Annie-winning score for ”Dragons,” the TV-spin on “How to Train Your Dragon.”
Now firmly in the spotlight with a future that can’t stop running on rapidly maturing feet, Paesano talks about navigating an even more complex, and texturally richer musical sequel to “The Maze Runner.”
Could you tell us about your own film scoring journey?
I have wanted to be a film composer as far back as I can remember. It really hit me about the age of 10 after seeing Steven Spielberg’s “Empire Of the Sun.” I was so drawn to that film, and of course to John Williams’ amazing score. There was just something very magical about that film, which sounds strange considering the content of the story. The movie centers on a young English boy who struggles to survive after being separated from his parents during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai during World War II. The main character in that film, Jim Graham (young Christian Bale), had a fantastic imagination, and had uncanny ability to always find adventure in whatever task or circumstance he was put too or up against. I was so amazed how John Williams was able to use his music to show the viewer how a 10-year-old boy would view the events of that war versus how an adult would, and how the music functioned in that film – how integral it was in order to help the viewer see this story unfold through Jim’s eyes. The score really grabbed me and I remember having a conversation with myself saying, “that’s what I want to try to do when I get older!”… And I stress the word TRY. So private music lessons started around the age of 12-13 (Piano), music school after formal school (Berklee College Of Music), and then out to Los Angeles to start the long road to become a film composer. So it was a very premeditated music journey, it was never about anything else besides scoring film. People always say, “Oh you are in the music business”, and always have to correct them and say, “Actually, I consider myself more a part of the film business”
Some of your own notable early scores were on direct-to-video sequels like “Another Cinderella Story,” “S.W.A.T. Firefight,” as well as the animated movies of “Superman / Batman: Apocalypse” and “Ben 10: Secret of the Omnimatrix.” How do you think these projects developed your action and dramatic abilities for bigger theatrical pictures?
It’s a very interesting business, not just music, but the entertainment industry as a whole. There are so many levels that we operate on. I will give you a short example. Lets take a film like “Superman/Batman: Apocalypse.” The job required around 75 minutes of orchestral hybrid score, I think I had about four weeks to score the entire film. It was a package deal and the budget didn’t allow for any live players, no orchestrators, no contractor, no programmers, no music editor. Now lets compare that to a big Hollywood action film. Let’s, for argument sake, say it needs 75 minutes of music of orchestral hybrid score, usually not a package. Production has money for an orchestra, orchestrators, contractor, music editor(s), programmers, ambient music designers, scoring mixer, music mixer, etc…
What I’m getting at is 75 minutes of music is 75 minutes of music.
Working on direct to DVD films can be much more challenging than some studio features, just for the sheer fact that more times than not you have to do EVERYTHING yourself. You become your own music editor, you are you own orchestrator, do all your programming, sometimes you even have to mix and deliver your own score to the dub. Not to mention, there is just as much politics to navigate, and the expectations are still the same as they are on studio features, just a lot less money to get to the finish line!! I feel you learn a lot on direct-to-DVD and small budget films, possibly more than you will ever learn on big Hollywood productions. That’s why I think they are so important to the development of a young composer coming up in the biz. If you can get through a direct-to-DVD project you can get through anything!!
How did you come aboard your first Hollywood breakout film with “The Maze Runner?”
I was already familiar with director Wes Ball’s work from his short film “Ruin,” which I thought was absolutely fantastic! When I found out that he took on the directing gig for “The Maze Runner,” I worked with my agents to find a way to get some music in front of Wes. I have a great relationship with Fox Music that goes back almost 10 years. Over that time period I had done a bunch miscellaneous projects for them and we were all just waiting for the right opportunity to present itself to graduate to the next level. So when both those worlds collided I was able to get into the mix for “The Maze Runner” gig. Fox Music got some of my music in front of Wes. He listened, and came to the studio for a meeting. We had a great conversation and got along really well. We both grew up on the same type of films (Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, and Ridley Scott). Wes is also a HUGE film score enthusiast. All he listens to are film scores, so that was another thing we had in common. So we geeked out on all of this stuff, I played him some cues, he told me his thoughts about the movie, and really just hung out for an hour or two. A couple of months later I got hired for the gig.
A lot of young composers don’t realize that there is so much more to this job than just writing music. At this level, everybody is extremely talented, everybody knows how to write music, and these days there are so many different styles of film music. The range is extremely broad. Fox Music does a fantastic job at pairing directors with composers, not just on a musical level, but on a personal level as well. I think they truly understand how important that aspect of the job is, and they just don’t make it about the music when they suggest composers to directors and producers. It’s about the whole package, personality, taste, and of course music. Film scoring is a true collaboration. I think it’s really important to have a connection on more than one level with whomever you are collaborating. You need to be able to have an open level of communication and a certain comfort level to get through it. Music is so subjective, so trying to find that sweet spot requires a lot of collaboration, which equates to spending a lot of time together working through the film. That being said, if you are working with somebody you don’t necessarily get along with, it can be a tough journey. We and I get along so well because we have very similar tastes and ideas about music, and because we both could sit down and drink a couple of beers together, I am sure it all contributed to landing the gig.
What do you think distinguished “The Maze Runner” from other “YA” franchise pictures as a story, and how important was it to give the score its own identity, while also hitting the notes of a future-dystopian score?
The one thing that we really set out to do was to create a score that operated as a true character in the film. I felt the best way to accomplish this was to have a score be voiced through the eyes of our main character, Thomas (Dylan Obrien). Throughout the film the score is mainly heard through the eyes of Thomas, always being voiced from his perspective. The score starts off like Thomas, a little unsure of itself, unsure of its place in this new world, mysterious, off balance, and as far as instrumentation, its very organic. I tried to utilize sounds and instruments that are indigenous to the area where this group of boys lived (The Glade), which uses skin drums, sticks and oil drums. I spent time on set doing some field recording with some guys from my creative team to sample sounds of the surrounding environment, which included cicadas, wind through the trees, crackling fire, oil drum percussion, and bamboo sticks. I took all the material back to the studio to create a custom library to utilize in the score.
As the movie progresses and Thomas learns of a new more technologically advanced world that exist outside of the Glade and the maze, the color of our score follows this path as well. I start to introduce colors that are more modern than that which we have heard in the front part of the film. I start to incorporate hybrid elements alongside of the orchestra, sounds such as synths, electric percussion, drones and sound design textures, “The Maze Runner” was not a heavily thematic score when it came to melody. The goal of this score was to create an evolving world that helps the audience invest in what they are seeing on screen. There are fragments of melodic content sprinkled throughout the film and as the film progresses those fragments start to take on a more fully realized shape. Also remember, this is a trilogy. Call us ambitious, but in the back of our heads, we were thinking of the greater idea of the score spread across more than one film and have the score grow with those films. The idea of Thomas starting off in one world and ending up in a completely different world is a theme that I felt the score should shadow. I feel it might make the experience of the trilogy richer!
“The Maze Runner” was unusually violent for the genre. How did you want to get across the true sense of peril these characters were in, not to mention the even greater stakes that “The Scorch Trials” would raise them to?
Wes and I always wanted the audience to feel like they were standing in The Glade with our characters. We worked really hard to make sure the music never pushed the viewer back into the audience. I wanted it to be a score you ‘felt” and didn’t really “hear”. If the audience felt like they were with our characters, we felt they could feel what our characters were feeling much better then if they were just viewers sitting in a theater, it was all about inviting the audience into Thomas’ world.
Was the standing order of “The Scorch Trials” to be “bigger and better” in every respect?
I think the term we used was “grown up”…so yes!
“The Scorch Trials” essentially leapt right into production after “The Maze Runner.” What kind of pressure did that give your, or was it a good thing as your music was in that mindset already?
I started sketching ideas two weeks after we wrapped “The Maze Runner.” We had a much smaller window on “Scorch,” and Wes had an even smaller window then I did. Its pretty amazing what he has been able to pull this movie off. Wes is a very special director and I have been so blessed to be able to part of his journey on this project, because he has a way of making sure he gets everybody firing on all cylinders. Wes never gets nervous. He’s super confident and I think it rubs off on everybody around him.
How important was it for you to call back to “The Maze Runner’s” score while moving the adventure ahead?
It was only as important as it needed to be if it was going to serve the film. I am a firm believer in letting the film tell you what it needs. I think we brought in just the right amount of “The Maze Runner” score to have them feel related. They are very different scores from a functional aspect. Our world is so much greater in “Scorch” and I think our score reflects that. I think we picked up from where we left off at the end of “Maze.”
Were you glad to have more of an open playing field as it were now that the characters weren’t confined by a crushing maze?
Yes…. that was a big challenge in “The Maze Runner.” Working on a film with very limited geography can be tricky.
The idea of speed is essential for these kids who’ve still go to outrun one menace after the other while always pushing forward. How did you want to get that breathless, breakneck suspense and horror across, especially with the particularly ferocious zombie menace here?
We did a couple versions of scenes that were pure horror/action and they just felt flat. It was very important that this film never lost its sense of adventure and FUN. Wes has such a great compass when it comes to finding that balance between serious and fun. We were always asking ourselves those questions. Is this fun? Is this adventurous? If “No” was the answer to either one of those, it was back to the drawing board!!
An especially great set piece of the film, and score is the “Leaning Tower of Scorch.” Was it particularly difficult to compose all of the levels or terror and suspense going on in this extended piece?
I think the key phrase in that question is “set piece.” Wes has a handful of 7-10 minute long Spielberg-esque action scenes in this film that build, build, build. Tons of fun. “Leaning Tower of Scorch” is one of those scenes. It’s a very challenging cue because we didn’t want wallpaper. Wes wanted the music to really help tell the story in each one of these action sequences.
On the emotional end, how did you want to convey the characters’ longing for a far more hopeful world than the one they’re thrust into, and the new potential romance that Thomas finds with the rebel leader Brenda?
I tried to take a page out of our “Maze Runner” score for “Scorch’s” emotional blueprint. Simplicity is a good word to use to describe this sound. Our cast is so good, that I really just wanted to support and not get in their way. The concept of “feeling” and not “hearing” the score would be important in making sure the audience could feel the stakes for Thomas and Brenda, and again, I can’t say enough to how great the performances are from our cast.
How did you want to combine orchestra and electronics here to give the score its post-apocalyptic weight?
I wanted it to be a hybrid score, more so then “The Maze Runner.” When we got to the end of that film and Thomas learns of a much more technologically advanced world outside of the maze, our score started to take on colors that are more modern than that which we have heard in the front part of the film. I start to incorporate more hybrid elements alongside of the orchestra, sounds such as synths, electric percussion, drones, sound design, and textural elements. So as we get into Scorch here, that sound continues to evolve through the eyes of our characters.
As we’re in the wasteland with this one, did you want to give the desert any kind of exotic, mysterious quality?
I just wanted to make sure that the music captured the vast emptiness of our world, to make sure you could feel the loneliness of it. Again, it was about being simple and making sure the music lived in harmony with the sound design.
You have interesting, subtle use of a female chorus in “Scorch Trials.” How did this idea come about?
I wanted something simple yet powerful as well as emotional, and to me. And nothing is more emotional then the human voice. It seems liked it fit our world perfectly, but again, its one of those fine lines. You don’t want to abuse it, or it looses its effectiveness. We really picked our battles on when and when not to use the chorus in the film.
The same year as “The Maze Runner’s” release, you also got into the far more noble sports genre with “When the Game Stands Tall.” What do you think constitutes a great, spiritually moving “sports” score?
I think you just want people to really be able to feel the story being told. I also think its important to make sure you give the audience an enjoyable ride. You have to really feel the highs and the lows of the games and its players.
You’ve truly followed up “Game” in Jerry Goldsmith’s footsteps by scoring “Rudy” writer Angelo Pizzo’s “My All-America,” which deals with another true-life underdog rising through incredible setbacks to achieve crowd-pleasing triumph. Was Goldsmith’s score on your mind when you approached this, and what was the experience like of working with Angelo on his first directorial effort?
Angelo is absolutely amazing; he has arguably penned two of the greatest sports stories of all time with “Hoosiers” and “Rudy”. It was an absolute honor to be able to score his film. Don’t be fooled, it might be his first directorial debut on paper, but he knows film just as much as anyone. He’s an experienced filmmaker! It obviously was a very intimidating job considering Jerry scored his last two films. When Angelo and I met, we had a fantastic conversation, and I knew we re going to be a great fit. I am so proud of the score and the film and excited for everybody to hear and see it. “My All-American,” releases in November, and Sony Masterworks is releasing the soundtrack as well.
What’s it been like for you to pick up the sound that John Powell established and to fly your own way with it for the “How To Train Your Dragon” cartoon series?
Its’ extremely challenging. When I initially got it, my first thought was, “I’m so excited. I get to be like John Powell. I get to work with all this music that I love.” The immediate thought after that was, “Oh shit, I have to deliver music like John Powell!” It was one of those things – be careful what you wish for! John is such a talent and if there was a “Composer Hall of Fame” he would no doubt end up in it! So it was quite daunting to think how I was going to live up to this? The thing with “Dragons” was I used John’s music as much as I possibly could, but with episodic TV, you have to be careful not to keep bashing people over the head with the same theme on a weekly basis. I created a score that was in the spirit of John’s music. The trick was to use those themes that were the fabric of the movie – Themes based on Hiccup, Toothless, and all the characters – and at the same time take the score in another direction and to different places. I think I did a good job in doing that. I’m very proud the score. We’re going into a third & fourth season right now. The series moved to Netflix and the next season, and it looks absolutely amazing.
For me, Netflix’s “Daredevil” is one of the most riveting and powerful superhero projects I’ve seen in any medium. How did you come aboard it, and were you aware of just how much darker, different and adult this would be from the usually far “happier’ Marvel universe?
I had worked with Steven DeKnight in the past on great project he has in development. When I found out he was going to be the show runner on “Daredevil,” I really wanted to get in the mix. I am a big Marvel fan. I love their universe and it’s just a fantastic, well-oiled machine. I love the way Steven tells stories, he has great sensibilities when it comes to score. He is a “less is more” guy. II reached out and he passed on my material to the folks at Marvel and the process began. Luckily I made it through the stages and ended up with the gig. I always feel like I learn something whenever I work with him on these episodes.
Was it difficult finding a stripped-down sound for “Daredevil,” especially given the kind of far “fuller” approach we’re used to from superhero scores, and even the darker DC ones like “Batman” at that?
At first it was, your instincts say “Superhero” = John Williams…. But we really wanted this to be different, we didn’t want it to be “traditional” Marvel Universe. I have to give all the credit to Steven, because he really knew what he wanted right from the start and we all just followed his lead. And it turned out he was totally right! Again, the show is put together so well that you just need to support what is happening on screen and let the rest takes care of itself.
Does it make music all the more important in filling in the sense of a “blind” character like Matt Murdock?
We play a lot with his disability and his heightened sense of hearing. It is a true marriage between music and our sound design team.
“Daredevil” is essentially a big ramp up to the final episode where he gets to put on the “suit.” How did you want to hit that moment we were all waiting for?
We bring the music up a couple levels in that final episode, anytime a guy puts on a superhero suit, it’s hard to ignore!
With the introduction of Elektra and The Punisher into the next season of “Daredevil,” can you give us a preview of what to expect from your music. Will it get “bigger” as it were, and will there be more of it?
I just started working on Season 2. Unfortunately, I can’t talk about any of it. All I can say is it is amazing. Get ready!
On that note, what can we expect for the ending of “The Maze Runner’s” musical trilogy with “The Death Cure.” And could you see yourself scoring any of the prequels that James Dashner has written?
The ideas for it are already being talked about. I will score anything those “Maze” guys do, if they let me!
Are you happy about how sudden success has come your way with “The Maze Runner” films and “Daredevil,” and how do you hope to keep the action momentum going, while letting people know your music has a warmer emotional side as well?
I couldn’t be happier. I am just so lucky to have been able to work with some really talented people that make my job much easier then it could be. I’ve met some amazing people and I think if you are in the business for the right reasons success will find you. I never got into music to make money or become some known entity. I did it because I saw a film when I was nine years old and said “that is what I want to do.” This is all I know how to do! So, as far as I am concerned, I already achieved my goals, the rest is icing on the cake!
”The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” opens on September 18th, with John Paesano’s score available on Sony Classical music on October 2 HERE. In the meanwhile, listen to “The Maze Runner” soundtrack HERE
Visit John Paesano’s website HERE
Special thanks to Steven Weintraub and Collider.com
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.1058]John Swihart ([m.44515]First Girl I Loved), [c.1547]Nick Urata ([m.43071]Love the Coopers), [c.2933]Ryan Miller ([m.44506]The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 26 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2015-08-31]Click here for the full schedule.
Opening nationwide this week are (with music by): [m.42732]A Walk in the Woods ([c.1231]Nathan Larson) and [m.41751]The Transporter Refueled ([c.1292]Alexandre Azaria).
Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking song credits for:
- [m.42732]A Walk in the Woods (18...
Few filmmakers who specialized in the world of horror left such a profound impact on our nightmares as Wes Craven, whose recent, almost unthinkable passing has truly left a legion of fans in shock, reeling at the far greater cruelties that real life can harbor to its most gifted. But for all of the visceral terror that Craven unleashed, it’s with an almost giddy sense of happiness that so many recall the gestalt his movies provided, bestowing a sort of confidence in being able to take on the boogey men. Remembered for the true braininess that went into his films, and a kind demeanor on and off the set, Wes Craven not only constantly re-invented his career, but inspired the creepy best from his composers – among them the unforgiving electronic desert landscape of Don Peake’s “The Hills Have Eyes,” Charles Bernstein’s lullaby theme for the child-killing Freddy Krueger in “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and Brad Fiedel’s synth-voodoo spell for “The Serpent and the Rainbow” among them.
But if there’s one musical Craven collaboration that really changed the face of a new generation’s approach to horror scoring, then it would be his pairing with Marco Beltrami. A USC protégé of “The Omen’s” Oscar winning Jerry Goldsmith, the soft-spoken Beltrami’s no holds-barred approach to orchestral fear impressed both Craven and his frequent editing collaborator Patrick Lussier to hire the neophyte as the bold voice of “Scream.” Creating a deliberately over-the-top approach of bravura melody, ear-blasting dissonant modernism and even a cowboy melody, Beltrami was as equally as culpable as Ghost Face in setting a berserk tone where horror and humor were indivisible. It was an approach terrifically in line with Craven’s macabre spirit, setting a delightful, mean-spirited melodic tone not only across the “Scream” franchise, but also for their direct teaming on the snarky werewolf thriller “Cursed,” another stab at a dream killer with “My Soul To Take,” and the real-time, “real” life terrorist suspense of “Red Eye.”
“Scream 4” would be the unintentional last time that Craven would work for Beltrami. It was a fun, meta-blow out in the series that still has yet to die (having found a new killing ground as an MTV series). Beltrami delivered the kind of raging, brassy, black-humored approach that fans had come to know and love about his singular musical voice for the “Scream” theatrical franchise. We were lucky enough to have Wes join him for the show to display the calming, smart influence that brought out Beltrami’s Id like few other directors. It’s in tribute to their partnership and his indelible influence of the composer that Craven gave life to that we now re-run this tribute episode of On the Score.
Click above to Listen Now or Click Here to DownloadBuy the Soundtrack: SCREAM 4 Buy the Soundtrack: MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: RED EYE Buy the Soundtrack: MY SOUL TO TAKE
Buy the Soundtrack: CURSED
Varèse Sarabande will release the [a.16140]A Walk in the Woods Original Motion Picture Soundtrack digitally on [da.2015-09-04]September 4 and on CD [da.2015-09-25]September 25, 2015. The album features the new songs "The Birds Are Singing At Night" performed by Lord Huron and "Dead End Street" performed by Blake Mills, with songs from Dwight Yoakam, Chatham County Line, Tim Grimm, and additional tracks from Lord Huron. The album also features two suites of the original score, composed by [c.1231]Nathan Larson.
"Our biggest musical challenge was how to represent the majesty of the Appalachian Trail, its jaw-dropping vistas, its forbidding mountains and blessedly untamed wildlife," said director Ken Kwapis. "The answer came in the form of Lord Huron, whose songs provide...
Whether it’s a desperately poor person or the most sophisticated (and seditiously entertained) movie and TV watcher, nothing represents the ruthlessly swift, or successfully doomed path to the good life like The Drug Lord. Whether real or imagined, these captains of illegal industry represent the ultimate in charisma, cunning and seduction, everything it takes to keep enemies close, maintain armies of devoted followers and addict the public to your supply. From Mexico’s “El Chapo” to Cuba’s imagined Tony Montana, Latin America has been a hothouse region from which these enthralling villains have emerged, which makes Brazilian composer Pedro Bromfman especially fitting (though quite law-abiding) to keep company with these kingpins, foot soldiers, gun molls, informers and assorted flotsam as they wreak havoc on themselves and most tragically the innocent while rising to the top – an all the more spectacular place to fall when pushed by Bromfman’s music.
Exploding on the international crime scoring scene with the raw, violently energized rhythms that sprang from Brazil’s shantytown favelas to take on the “Elite Squad,” Bromfman’s mix of South American instruments and sinister industrial grit helped bring filmmaker José Padilha’s morally ambiguous clash of “BOPA” cops and slum crooks international acclaim, especially with action enthusiasts. Brought to the Hollywood’s promised land, both men applied their energetic, scum-fighting skills to the rebooted, cyborg hands of “RoboCop.” Giving a metallic, cold take to the iconic character, Padilha and Bromfman scored both fan controversy and a decent global gross. But there’s nothing like the pure stuff, and now thankfully, these collaborators are on far steadier footing among their native, drug-poisoned roots as Padilha and Bromfman return to the global region that’s provided them with so much violent inspiration.
However, if you expect to hear, let alone see the kinetic flash-bang of the “Elite Squad” films from Netflix and Gaumont’s “Narcos,” Bromfman and Padilha have something far more unexpected to offer binge-watching addicts in this ten episode series. Driven by the wry narration of gringo DEA detective Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook), “Narcos” traces the rise of Colombia public enemy #1 Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura), a business-savvy thug whose offer of “Plata o plomo?” (“Silver, or lead?”) finds most people taking the more precious, non-lethal item, propelling him from a low-level trafficker in stolen items to the top of the cocaine food chain. Yet like such more polished predecessors as Michael Corleone, the fabulously rich Escobar has dreams of going legit as a political man of the people. And when those dreams are of course denied, Escobar shows himself to be the true, horrifying ruler of his beleaguered country.
Much like this quietly vicious mobster, “Narcos” is told with unusual restraint for this visceral crime-does-not-pay genre, especially in Bromfman’s hypnotic score. With a distinctive, thematic tapestry that gives shape to this decades-spanning story, Bromfman mixes indigenous Latin American rhythms and melodies with intoxicating synths, musical styles that blend flawlessly – much like Escobar’s ingenious ways of mixing cocaine with plastics, or the human body in order to transport his deadly cargo past the border. Percussion keeps the chase’s tension high as Steve and his DEA partner Javier (Pedro Pascal) stay one maddening step behind the seemingly uncatchable Escobar, hamstrung by a CIA more interested in bagging Commies than the drug runners who are the real threat to America. Bromfman’s calculating, yet often languorously tropical approach convey a good life built on bloody death, yet always threatened on the edge of collapsing. It’s a combination of devilish, breezy assurance suspense and tragedy that’s positively serpentine in its effectiveness, a surprisingly laid-back approach that’s all the more menacing for being cool in the face of the death, personifying an evildoer who can easily switch from being the devil to a caring family man. Like Escobar’s product, Bromfman’s mesmerizing score gets under the skin to truly disturbing, euphoric effect, marking him as one of “Narcos” most effective dealers.
Growing up in a radically socially stratified place like Brazil, at what age did you notice the difference between the desperately poor and super rich, and the lengths the destitute would go to escape poverty – let alone the extremes that the law would go to stop them? What did you think of the situation?
This is such a loaded and complicated question. Growing up in Brazil you’re aware of the social dichotomy from a very early age. You’re also aware of your surroundings, learning to read what’s going on at the beach, on the streets, when kids growing up in the US are probably completely unaware. At the same time most lines are a bit blurred in Brazil. I feel like there’s a lot more, and certainly friendlier, interaction between people from different social classes, races and religion. Also, Brazilians in general seem much less afraid, even though there’s probably a lot more to fear. They seem more laid-back and relaxed facing their daily struggles.
Creatively, when did you notice the power of film scores? And was it something you determined to do before you set off to study music in America at the Berklee College of Music?
The first time I was really moved by a film score, was when my dad took me to see “Cinema Paradiso” in Rio. I was probably 13 years old, I had gotten my first guitar at age 10 but didn’t really start formal lessons until probably that same year (1989). Music was always an important part of my life. My mom had dreamed of being a singer, but she passed away when I was 10 years old. Looking back, her passion for music was a driving force in my career. I did not study film scoring at Berklee and had no idea this would be my path and passion years later.
What kind of musical training ground was working on The Oprah Winfrey Show, “A Baby Story” and ESPN shows in the American market?
Those early shows as well as working on music libraries and trailer music were essential in helping me develop my chops. They especially helped me deal with music technology, which I I started playing around with 15 years ago, just before moving to LA, but truly dove into once I arrived. I had to catch up on recording and engineering techniques as well as learning to create music with a computer, something I had never done until I was 23, as I had grown up playing instruments and writing jazz and Brazilian music with arrangements on paper.
The real international game changer for you was working on 2007’s “Elite Squad” films. Could you talk about creating their scores, and how your approach might have changed as the characters got significantly darker in the 2010 sequel “Elite Squad: The Enemy Within?”
The “Elite Squad” movies were certainly game changers for me. Those movies travelled and won awards around the world, opening up a lot of opportunities. They were also the beginning of a long friendship and collaboration with José Padilha. I was in Brazil this week for a movie I’m working on and for the Netflix premiere of “Narcos,” and I caught “Elite Squad” on TV. I hadn’t watched that movie in 7 years and I couldn’t turn it off. It has such raw energy and I’m extremely proud of what we did (as are most Brazilians). But at the same time, it makes me realize how little I knew at the time and how much I’ve grown since as a film composer. I think part of the chaotic energy and originality of the first “Elite Squad” had to do with our lack of experience. The tiny music budget and having never done an action-suspense score before, were also a big part of the music being what it is. I was brought in primarily for my experience as a music producer, since we needed to re-record songs and work with Brazilian Funk artists, a samba school, etc…
I think my experience through those two films mirrors the experience of our main character in “Elite Squad,” obviously in a totally different field and with completely different stakes. In the first movie, Nascimento is a young and very aggressive Bope officer, trying to figure things out but thinking he understands the situation in Rio and hat he’s prepared to tackle it. In the second movie he is more sophisticated. He understands how things work and he goes about his business with more finesse, even though in the end the shit still hits the fan and we get a bit of the young Nascimento doing what he does best. My experience and the instrumentation we used allowed us to intentionally mirror that. The second score is certainly more sophisticated, we have strings and some brass but we preserve the electric guitar, raw percussion and aggressive energy from the first movie.
Did the “Elite Squad” scores set you up for your first major series “Narcos?” And how important was it for you that this series take its own musical path, especially given the arch of its ten episode run?
I think every project I work on sets me up for the next thing. Through the experience gained, professional relationships and my development as a composer and a human being. I literally believe that every step in my musical career is somewhat connected, and one thing feeds the next even if they seem completely unrelated. The instruments I grew up playing, my studies of Jazz, Brazilian music, Tango, Classical music, my experience as a music producer, arranger, self-taught engineer, they are all contributed to the composer I am today. I’ve always been a very eclectic musician and that also feeds my desire to re-invent myself and to try and create different music every time I approach a new job.
“Narcos” is strongly thematic, especially for how long the series runs. With so many characters, how did you decide whom the most important ones were to hit?
Yes it is. Fortunately, I was involved with “Narcos” from the very beginning and reading the first few episodes, before they even started shooting, allowed me to start exploring musically with a great understanding of who our characters were and what the music needed to be. Most of those themes written in the very early stages, ended up being the main themes throughout “Narcos.” After writing those pieces last fall, I stayed away from the show for most of the shoot. It was fascinating to be able to go back to the music I had crated months before and to play around, explore and develop those themes over 10 episodes. Of course a lot of new music had to be composed after that but the tone and instrumentation were set very early on.
With “Narcos” taking place all over the South American map, was it a welcome opportunity to bring together musical instruments and cultures from the region, and which ones did you want to highlight? Did you create a “suite” of ideas of you will before even starting?
I play a lot of those South American instruments and, for this show I also tried playing a lot of instruments I had never played before. Besides percussion, almost 100% of the sounds and instruments you hear on “Narcos” were performed by me. I focused on Colombia, not necessarily Colombian rhythms, but writing a suspense/action score using those instruments and language. Obviously, being from Brazil, some of my roots certainly seeped into the music as well.
Did you do any research on the Medellin Cartel before starting the series? And if so, what did you find most striking about Pablo Escobar’s run as South America’s most-wanted drug kingpin?
I did talk to José about the history and scope of the Medellin Cartel and I read the scripts, a true history lesson. Growing up in Brazil, I was familiar with how tough things were in Colombia for part of the 80s and 90s. It still amazes me the power that Escobar and the Medellin Cartel had over Colombia and its leaders at the time. Escobar was certainly an evil guy but, at the same time, he was adored by the poor and by his family. He became a politician at one point in his life and claimed someday he’d be the president of Colombia.
It’s usually drug-trafficking gangsters that capture the public’s fascination like “Scarface’s” Cuban “immigrant” Tony Montana, who achieve the high-living American dream. How did you want your music to capture the “good life” aspect of being a drug kingpin, while also playing the brutality that leads to the top?
Escobar was a true dichotomy, a family man, a politician, a drug lord, a murderer, and the Robin Hood paisa. He has three themes in the show representing some of those different personalities. One of those themes is also played as a theme for Colombia and the hopes he claimed to have for the country. In the beginning of the show you see a tough guy and a very smart businessman who is certainly willing to kill people to get things done. As the show goes on you start to see his downfall into madness, becoming a completely unpredictable and truly vicious man. Escobar’s music, and the music for the show in general, gets darker as we move though the episodes. Even though we deliberately decided not to glorify Escobar, the audience has to embark on a journey with him. They have to “root” for him at times and feel his pain when he loses a family member or a close friend. Therefore his music also had to be emotional, with a deep sense of longing. Things didn’t really turn out the way he had planned. “Narcos” for me was a fascinating and constant search for the right musical tone.
When you’ve got law enforcement often behaving like criminals to catch the “bad guys” in “Elite Squad” and “Narcos,” how did you want to play that sense of cloudy morality?
Again, there are no black or white characters in this show. Everyone falls into a grey area and they’re all willing to do what they believe they have to, in order to accomplish their goals. In “Elite Squad,” we had a police officer that behaved in very questionable ways but we were always looking at it from his perspective. With Nascimento being the hero of the story. In “Narcos,” the characters, and consequently the music, had to play all sides of the story. We, as audience members, find ourselves rooting for Escobar and Murphy, the DEA agent embedded in Colombia, at the same time.
How do you think the score plays the tragedy of both law enforcement and criminals, who are essentially caught in a chase with no end?
That was one of the things I set out to do. The sense of dread and longing even when I was writing a beautiful piece or an action sequence; the overall dark mood of the score, the hypnotic effects with very little harmonic movement in a lot of the darker pieces. The throwback to spaghetti western scores, with the punctuating percussion and harmonicas. At the same time, like you mentioned before, “Narcos” has a very melodic and sometimes sweet score. We didn’t want to hit people over the head and tell them what they should feel. I set out to create a sound world for these characters to inhabit and the differentiation between characters is done thematically and not necessarily through different instrumentation and sounds.
There’s a mellow, almost hypnotic contrast between shimmering electronics and indigenous Latin instruments and percussion in “Narcos.” How did you hit upon that mix?
Every instrument and every sound you hear in “Narcos” is organic and original to the show. We didn’t use a single Omnisphere pad or software library. Juan Carlos Enriquez helped me create an extensive library of original Kontakt instruments for “Narcos.” We did a long sampling session in the beginning of the process, recording myself playing percussion, charangos, ronrocos, viola caipira, upright bass, flutes, accordion, harmonicas, melodicas, hang, etc… We experimented bowing, banging, scratching and ebowing several of those instruments and Juan Carlos edited the audio we selected, creating these amazing instruments that permeate the show. These software instruments we created were then processed, played backwards, distorted, but their source is 100% acoustic. “Narcos” also has a boatload of percussion, several grooves featuring my good friend and great musician Cassio Duarte. I tend to rely heavily on percussion in most of my scores whether it is “RoboCop,” “Elite Squad” or “Narcos.”
Do you think there’s a universal “language” when it comes to scoring crime? What were your favorite scores in that genre, and did they at all influence “Narcos?”
I don’t think there is necessarily a language in scoring anything but certainly our ears and experiences sometimes bring us to common places. Conceptually, my main inspiration in setting out to do this score, were the Morricone westerns. I felt there were a lot of parallels between the Colombia we see on screen and the western towns under the stranglehold of outlaws. Obviously Colombia had a much bigger and more complicated situation.
Could you talk about the role of percussion in “Narcos’” eerier, and more suspenseful moments?
The percussive punctuation is something always very present in my scores. It probably comes from my Brazilian roots and my limited ability as a percussionist, it’s much easier to make noise than to groove on percussion. On “Narcos,” I think the percussion reinforces that Western feel. The score doesn’t necessarily sound like a traditional western, due to our unique instrumentation, but that conceptual thought was there from the beginning. Percussion is also an extremely effective tool in scoring action and building suspense.
How did you want to get across the period setting of “Narcos” in terms of the kind of music that these drug kingpins and their minions would be grooving to in the 80s and 90s?
To be honest, apart from a couple of cues, we didn’t worry much about setting the score musically in the eighties and nineties. There are a couple of funky pieces, with wah wah guitars, that were done with that in mind. However, musically speaking, most of the period setting was done through the source licensed for the show.
With the first few shows heavily driven by Steve’s sardonic narration, how important was it for the score to be able to play with the dialogue that also serves as our “history lesson” of the narco wars?
Very important! My experience working with José on the “Elite Squad” films, taught me a lot about dealing with narration. Sometimes we’d be spotting a scene or playing back music I had written for a sequence and José would be asking me about the narration that used to be there and why it no longer was. He could probably recite the narration of all of his movies back to you. Those lines are there for a reason, they are important to him and to the audience’s understanding of the story and my job is to complement and support them. If I write something that’s making it difficult for the audience to understand the narration my music will be lowered or elements will be cut in the final dub.
Before “Narcos,” what was it like playing the Internet criminals of Alex Winter’s documentary “Deep Web,” and do you see any kind of kindred spirit with the far more physical evildoers your music has explored?
“Deep Web” also has a generally dark score, probably darker than “Narcos,” and certainly less melodic. It’s much more electronic, full of pulses and synthetic mallets. “Deep Web” tells such a tragic story of a brilliant kid who lost his way and his family trying hard to prove his questionable but possible innocence. One thing is certain, my emails are being read and flagged by law enforcement somewhere This year most of them talked about narcos, drugs, The Silk Road, Dread Pirate Roberts, Escobar, DEA, etc…
Your first Hollywood score (not to mention the movie) for the “RoboCop” reboot drew a lot of controversy for being so radically different from Basil Poledouris’ music. In reflection, even with the opportunity it presented, do you think it was a “doomed” project to attempt no matter the quality of the score as your heard it?
I’m very proud of “RoboCop” and the music I created for it. I think if the project had been called “RoboOfficer” and was not released as a reboot, people might have looked at it and judged it for what it is. I know how much blood, sweat and tears we all put into it and, in the end, we made the film we set out to make, with José fighting for his vision all the way through. It was upsetting that the film and score were attacked and dismissed from the very beginning, most times by people who didn’t even see the film. Critics and hardcore fans don’t necessarily understand the process of making a blockbuster film, the hurdles and pressures involved. They also don’t understand that a score like Basil’s, unfortunately would never be approved in a modern Hollywood film. I’m certainly a huge fan and I fought to find a place for his theme in our movie but this was a very different “RoboCop,” and it needed a very different score. I did my job and managed to please my director and both studios behind the film and that’s what I set out to do. People also forget the movie did $250 million dollars in worldwide box office. It certainly wasn’t a flop.
With so much darkness that you score, do you welcome the chance to get to play the romantic side of Brazil in films like “Rio, I Love You,” which goes back to the far more pleasant ideal that people had of the capital before the likes of “City of God.”
Believe it or not, when I arrived in LA and started writing library and trailer music, I seemed to primarily get called for romantic comedy tracks and sweet melodic music. That’s certainly changed! As I mentioned before, being an eclectic musician, having loved and played so many different styles of music, I do enjoy opportunities to re-invent myself and to dip my toes in different musical pools.
Why do you think Pablo Escobar seems to be the rage now with so many projects like “Escobar: Paradise Lost?”
Escobar is truly a fascinating character! Colombian history in the late 80’s and early 90’s is surreal and unimaginable for most people today. You can’t make up some of the things you see on screen, no one would believe it. I think as people become more familiar with his story they are compelled to know more. Maybe some time has gone by and people are ready to digest it as entertainment, I’m not really sure… His story certainly has many ingredients moviegoers seem to love: sex, drugs, money and plenty of violence.
What kind of opportunity do you think that unusual “channels” like Netflix are giving to composers in terms of their musical approaches? Do you think there’s even more freedom there?
I think there’s a lot more freedom in dealing with Netflix. They seem to hire the people they trust creatively, people they want to be in business with, and let them do their jobs. Netflix approves an entire season before a single episode is shot. I believe they are not as dependent on the success of a single show, allowing them to take more risk. I had a tremendous experience with Netflix and Gaumont on this show. It was truly relaxed and hassle-free musically speaking. I worked closely with José in the beginning and, as we moved through the episodes that other directors had worked on, I dealt with Chris Brancato and Eric Newman, whom I had also worked with before on “RoboCop.” I believe we found the tone everyone was looking for in the music from the very beginning and everything flowed very smoothly from there.
Do you think there’s any real stopping of the drug wars and the bloodshed they spread across South America? And do you think the rage that candidates like Donald Trump have towards the people who are driven to flee it as much as they are hoping for a better opportunity should have that anger directed towards them – especially as you are a legal, musical immigrant?
If there’s one thing I learned from working with José is that, as long as there is demand there will be supply. It might shift around as one country “cleans up their act” but, if there is a thriving market for illegal drugs somewhere in the world, there will be drug dealers and kingpins. Drug empires will rise and fall as we move through time but they won’t cease to exist unless people are not buying drugs or can get them legally. As for the anger towards immigrants, luckily I’ve never felt it on my skin. I’ve always been treated properly and have been given innumerous opportunities here in the US. It’s sad to think that most of the people who might experience that prejudice and anger are much harder working people than you and me. Honest individuals who came to the US to try to support their families.
Though you’re in Hollywood now, how do you see your career continuing on with your specialty in crime scoring, while also taking on more diverse subjects?
I’m very happy and realize how lucky I am to have the opportunity to compose music for a living. My main goal is to continue to work on projects that fascinate me, whether they are documentaries, TV shows or Hollywood movies. Although my main focus is the US market, I’d love to continue to work on quality shows in Brazil and Europe, as I’ve done until now. I certainly don’t shy away from scoring crime and drugs but I’m also very opened to different opportunities. As I finished “Narcos” I became a father and I’d love my daughter to be able to watch something I’ve worked on before she’s old enough to handle “Narcos” or “Elite Squad!”
Watch “Narcos” on Netflix Instant HERE, and listen to Pedro Bromfman’s score digitally on Lakeshore Records HERE, with a physical CD to be released October 2nd HERE
Listen to Pedro Bromfman’s scores to “Elite Squad” HERE
Visit Pedro Bromfman’s website HERE