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The Guild of Music Supervisors held its fifth annual awards ceremony this week to honor members' achievements from 2014 in film, TV, video games, and advertising. To learn more about the event, including the nominees and winners, [url.http://www.soundtrack.net/news/article/?id=1953]click here.
Also announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.564]Christophe Beck ([m.41026]Sisters), [c.752]Alexandre Desplat ([m.30573]Everything Will Be Fine), [c.1283]Atticus Ross ([m.43009]Crocodile Gennadiy and [m.41875]Triple Nine), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 36 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2015-01-19]Click here for...
BEST MUSIC SUPERVISION TELEVISION COMEDY OR MUSICAL
WINNER: [t.34890]Nashville Season 3 [c.4171]Frankie Pine
[t.33393]Girls Season 3 [c.4714]Manish Raval and [c.4715]Tom Wolfe
[t.32186]Glee Season 5...
Sparks & Shadows announced the release date for the [a.14334]Everly Original Motion Picture Soundtrack on [da.2015-01-20]January 20, 2015. The album features original music composed by Emmy Award-Winner [c.1238]Bear McCreary with vocals performed by Raya Yarbrough and Brendan McCreary.
"I first conceived of the story for [m.41702]Everly, as my ode to Asian cinema, holiday movies like [m.6618]Die Hard, and entrails," said Lynch. "[c.1238]Bear McCreary is one of the most eclectic composers working today and there was no-one else I wanted to tell this story with me musically, so much so I named the head Yakuza Boss "Taiko" as an homage to one of Bear's signature sounds."
"For [m.41702]Everly, director Joe Lynch asked me to combine searing electronics,...
The Godfather LIVE brings Francis Ford Coppola's Masterpiece Film to music venues for the first time, making its Southern California debut at Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE on Saturday, January 24, 2015. Winner of three Academy Awards and countless other honors, [m.9896]The Godfather remains one of the greatest films in the history of cinema. [c.185]Nino Rota's iconic score accompanied by the film's traditional Italian folk music and jazz comes to life on stage, performed LIVE by the Hollywood Studio Symphony while the film is simultaneously shown in high definition on the big screen. Special guests to be announced.
For further information, [url.http://www.soundtrack.net/news/article/?id=1930]see our previous article on this...
Soundtrack Picks: ‘ON THE WATERFRONT‘ is the top soundtrack to own for January, 2015
Also worth picking up ALLIES, THE BETSY, ELMER BERNSTEIN: THE WILD SIDE, ETHEL, FALLING IN LOVE, THE GREAT INVISIBLE, SHAFT and many more!
To Purchase the soundtracks from this list, click on the CD cover
THE TOP PICKS
1) 1864 / ALLIES
What Is it?: Movie Score Media’s quality releases continue to be not only a major source for discovering new composers whose attendant projects barely hit U.S. shores, but also a great way to hear relatively obscure foreign soundtracks done by sometimes eminent American musicians – in both notable cases here performed in the key of war.
Why Should You Buy It?: Early on in Marco Beltrami’s career, the composer wrote one of his most interesting psycho-killer scores for a deranged female cellist, albeit in the guise of a period costume drama for Norwegian director Ole Bornedal’s 2002 thriller “I Am Dina.” Now Beltrami reteams with him for a completely different, equally impressive score for the Denmark’s most expensive TV miniseries. “1864” chronicles the country’s disastrous war with Germany during that fateful year, which also happened to see a bloody battle occurring in a United States. In fact, when stateside listeners hear the elegiacally orchestra, patriotic brass along with the tender strings and piano melody of the women left on the home front, they might assume that Beltrami has written a very assured Civil War score – minus the southern-isms. But that perhaps that’s just the point of how a powerful orchestral score can conjure the universal language of for all of its heroic folly, as dynamically performed here by \ Danish orchestras. They conjures both the horror, and true valor of battle, with an extra dose of tragedy given the catastrophically lopsided, and history-change results inflicted on Denmark. Beltrami does an especially good job of musically cutting between royalty planning out strategy and civilian soldiers suffering for it on the battlefront, seguing from heartfelt drama to the ominous winds of war. It’s epically sweeping music that gives “1864” all the thematic impact of a major film score, yet with such distinctive Beltrami touches as glass-like eeriness, relentlessly dire rhythms and raging brass that will appeal to admirers of such exceptional genre scores of his as “Snowpiercer.” Sure this might be Denmark. But given this oft-passionate, heroism-delineating, trumpet-blowing score in this midst of total loss, one might easily imagine Beltrami scoring a woman determined never to go hungry again if the need arises.
Extra Special: Rising French composer Philippe Jakko does his part for his country’s underground in this stalwart English WW2 film, wherein “Downton Abbey’s” Julian Ovendon leaders a crack team of Americans and Brits into occupied territory, of course with a traitor in their midst. But while traditionally told on the cinematic front, Jakko’s score is way more contemporary in its symphonic / sample treatment than going for a Ron Goodwin-esque approach, although his music’s stalwart spirit is certainly there in terms of its heroic military timpani and low, Nazi menace. Instead, Jakko uses tense, time-is-running-out percussion and waves of threatening string tension, a la “The Thin Red Line,” albeit with an approach that’s more centered on fighting than that movie’s existential meditation on war. “Allies’” battle music is suitably throttling, while horror-like electronics convey the overwhelming forces pitted against our patriots. For the most part, “Allies” is about survival as opposed to rah-rah assaults, a trigger finger-tightening darkness that distinguishes Jakko’s work, especially in the building chorus, strings and rock-like percussion that drives a truly memorable, neo-romantic theme to its sacrificial finish. As he succeeds in giving war scoring a powerful, contemporary energy by making very good use of obviously limited musical resources, Jakko puts himself in very good stead to accept further soundtrack missions with bigger budgetary guns on this side of the Atlantic.
2) ELMER BERNSTEIN: THE WILD SIDE
What is it?: No composer embodied the pure movie swing of jazz during the art form’s mainlining into much of film scoring during the 50s and 60s like Elmer Bernstein. From the hot sax heroin rush that flooded into Frankie Machine’s veins in “The Man With the Golden Arm” to the lustful brass catfight of “Walk on the Wild Side” or the salacious gossip beat that stank of “The Sweet Smell of Success,” Bernstein tapped into the energetic transgressiveness of music that promised a rawness that the Hayes Code-enforced movies could only hint at. So it’s only natural that Varese head Robert Townson would use his new concentration of staging international film concerts, particularly in Spain, to essentially strip Bernstein down to his jazz roots in the outlying Canary Island of Tenerife. It’s a swinging concept that not only goes for the hep Bernstein standards in their brass and percussion purity, but also numbers from the composer’s vast repertoire that one might not begin to think of having a sax in sight for.
Why should you buy it?: With its main players put together from The Big Band De Canarias, this “Wild Side” ensemble has an energy that’s both tight and free form as they nail “Man,” “Walk” and “Smell” in a way that’s as nostalgic as it is vibrant. And they’re not afraid to riff as well on performances for “The Rat Race,” give a saucily percussive build to “Jubilation” or put their Latin samba chops into “The Caretakers.” Special attention is given to Bernstein’s TV work for the John Cassavetes detective-cum-musician show “Johnny Staccato,” from its explosive main title to its soft, seductive vibes and crime scene blues that give off a cool, intimate film noir vibe. Frequent scoring session and Varese concert flutist Sara Andon adds to the album’s catchy energy, particularly in her tender reading of “Devil In A Blue Dress” and blowing with high, crime jazz finesse for a rambunctious performance of “Saints and Sinners,” then pleasantly helps turn the theme from “The Age of Innocence” into a neat variation that transports music written for an 1800s Manhattan-set drama into resplendent, uptempo music you could imagine hearing a century or so later. Vocalist Esther Ovejero is also on hand to give bad girl sex appeal to the theme from “The Silencers,” a Bernstein-Bond title song if there ever should’ve been one.
Extra Special: There’s a real cigar-smoke feel to these performances, the sense that this is playing in a backstreet nightclub as some very bad deals are going down to the clink of booze-filled glasses – which is probably the best compliment to give this big band ensemble who’ve captured Bernstein’s bad musical behavior in an unplugged, swinging way that the composer surely would’ve appreciated, let alone the fans of his brassily strutting golden era.
3) INHERENT VICE
What Is it?: For much of his filmmaking career, Paul Thomas Anderson had used composer Jon Brion to convey his provocative cinematic approach, from the insane percussive assault of “Punch Drunk Love” to the frog-raining, imposing orchestral thunderstorms of “Magnolia.” In relatively recent years, Thomas has moved onto Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood to accompany his swings between transfixing brilliance and unbearable pretention, often within the same films. If anything, Greenwood’s music has tended to be even more innovatively insane than Brion’s, ranging between abstract modernism and hypnotic melody to capture the addled minds of kingpins, whether it was an oil baron’s very bad attitude for “There Will Be Blood” or the mind-controlling intellectual guru in “The Master.” But perhaps what’s most unexpected about Anderson’s most incomprehensibly infuriating movie yet is just how relatively normal, but no less impressive Greenwood’s work is at flashes between Wagnerian melancholy to the altered musical consciousness of 70s era scoring, all with far more coherency than the stoner private dick of “Inherent Vice.”
Why Should You Buy It?: The self-knowing gag of “inherent Vice” is just how seriously it takes a labyrinthine plot that would give Jake Gittes pause, let alone a detective who makes The Dude seem like an intellectual giant. Greenwood’s main theme plays with the idea of being witness to great revelations of human avarice in his neo-tragic orchestral melody, poking about LA’s dark corners with brooding suspense. It’s almost as if his whole scoring viewpoint is heard from a doom-obsessed gumshoe, all while avoiding the jazz vibe that spells out film noir. Instead, Greenwood goes for the soothing quality of strings and violin, both soaringly downbeat in their melody. But if much of “Vice” starts off like the opening of some Wagnerian opera that stalks about with Glass-ian rhythm, there’s also subtly wacked-out humor to his score as well, as a Theremin mixes with pokey electronic percussion and rock guitar feedback for a rising, feverish sense of bewilderment. More period-specific vibes arrive with the drug-filled schooner called The Golden Fang, which gets a Chinese-meets-psychedelia mysterioso vibe, while “Amethyst” is a blissed out, sideburned groove for organ and folk guitar. Yet if “Inherent Vice” gets far out, it surprisingly isn’t half as confrontational as Greenwood’s other work for Anderson. This is a detective score that’s a beautifully smooth joint going down into the ears, as fit for the oldies at an opera opening as it might be stoners staring up at the ceiling as a Grateful Dead album plays – an approach that’s truly more than half as clever as Anderson seems to think his beyond-puzzling film is.
Extra Special: Vice’s” song choices is the one area where the soundtrack shines, especially given Anderson’s picks that range far beyond the usual 60s-70s song suspects in evoking an eccentric LA. If anything, numbers like CAN’s Velvet Undergound-ish “Vitamin C,” the R&B jazz of The Markett’s “Here Come the Ho-Dads,” Minnie Riperton’s delicate “Les Fleur,” Neil Young’s southern fried harmonica-flavored “Journey Through the Past” and the Tiki exotica of Les Baxter’s “Simba” suggest a mix tape put together by a clerk at Amoeba Records in a moment of ultra-hip, LP-bin combing euphoria. The dust that flies up definitely makes “inherent Vice’s” album a thoroughly interesting, cool buzz high worth investigating.
4) ON THE WATERFRONT
What Is it?: There are composers like Philip Glass (“Candyman”) who start out in the concert hall, and go onto blaze impressive new careers in Hollywood. Then there are those like Andre Previn (“Elmer Gantry”), who prolifically begin in tinsel town, only to leave it completely behind. And then there are such maestros as John Corigliano (“Altered States”), who briefly tread in Hollywood while making sure not to quit their day jobs, leaving behind a precious few soundtracks that show the dazzling movie career that could have been. On that note, perhaps no conductor could have been a Hollywood contender like Leonard Bernstein, proof positive being the knockout score for the 1954 classic “On the Waterfront,” a film that showed he had the stuff to venture from the elite-filled New York Philharmonic onto the city’s crime-swamped docks with wild, dramatic abandon that’s proof positive that movie scores walked tall as the new classical music for the masses.
Why Should You Buy It?: Few conductors really brought classical music to the people like Leonard Bernstein, who was also quite busy with Broadway musicals as he performed works by The Masters, whose work was arguably the “pop” music of the past. The time of the 1940s and 50s that marked his ascent was also an impactful era where audiences were being impressed with the work of such modern classicists as Aaron Copland, not to mention being wowed by the revolutionary visual work of such mavericks as Elia Kazan, who’d made a smash transition from stage to screen with “Gentleman’s Agreement” and “A Streetcar Named Desire.” That film’s bawdy jazz score by Alex North essentially broke the Eastern European mode of opera-based scoring into a new, dynamic directions that were muscularly American in nature. Kazan’s exciting tastes were in equally fine form when he brought on Bernstein for his first major score with “On the Waterfront,” a movie whose tale of Terry Malloy, a mug facing off against union corruption, served for many as Kazan’s screw-you to those who frowned on his finking of former Hollywood Communist friends to the HUAC red-baiting committee. But no matter how one might read “On the Waterfront,” the cinematic result was a blockbuster of black and blue emotion, all hammered in with raw poignancy by Bernstein. His work is particularly reminiscent of Aaron Copland, especially in its balletic movements and incorporation of jazz and the orchestra – but with firm musical control of that untamed idiom (though boozy jazz-blues source is to be had here). There’s heartbreak and trumpeting nobility to spare in Bernstein’s theme for this washed-up boxer turned dockworker, a deeply melodic sense of a bum who’s nearly gone down for the count in life, yet is possessed with enough dignity not to take the complete fall. Terry’s emotion is played for all of its raw vulnerability through Bernstein’s flute-topped strings, his themes are no more vulnerable than during the romantic scenes, or tearfully moving as its downtrodden hero discovers his mob brother’s sad fate. The darkness of the unstoppable corruption around Terry is made through sharp percussion and ominous brass that comes raining upon on him with roundhouse blows, with notable use of tri-tone menace (a modernistic technique employed even more furiously by Kazan’s next NYC composing discovering of Leonard Rosenman for “East of Eden”). Though “Waterfront” might not be quite as radical as North’s score for “Streetcar,” it’s one of the most seminally dynamic meetings of traditional symphonic film scoring with the upstart new-classical style, a vibe that would once again sound off with jazz-orchestral energy when Bernstein provided underscore for another gang street classic called “West Side Story” in 1960 – a work that “Waterfront” is most definitely a raw, angry precursor to – but with a gut punch impact far removed from the elegance of the 17t century maestros that provided Bernstein with his bread and butter.
Extra Special: It’s almost amazing to think that this landmark, Oscar-nominated score to a Best Picture winner has taken 60 years to come out. But Intrada has done a masterful job with one of the most important soundtracks they’ve ever released. The audio presentation is incredibly vibrant and brassy, betraying little of its audiophile age for a score from the way pre-digital era. Joe Sikoryak’s grittily black-and-white styled booklet design, classic score specialist Frank K. De Wald’s informative liner notes and album producer Douglas C. Fake’s tale of how the score was so splendidly presented today go to the mat to play Bernstein’s groundbreaking score in all of its pug-worthy glory that’s as impactful today as when Bernstein had Brando ran the union-bruising gauntlet decades ago.
5) STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE (3,000 edition)
What Is It?: Since the days the U.S.S. Enterprise set space sail on vinyl, the franchise’s TV music universe has beamed from Varese Sarabande to GNP/Crescendo and Film Score Monthly, but perhaps not so exhaustively as in the good hands of La La Land Records, who beyond their releases of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Deep Space Nine” and “Voyager” could lay claim to releasing just about every note of Classic Trek music in an astounding box set, which offered 15 CD’s suffused with the kind of distinctive themes and melody that would essentially be phasered out when the show was reborn in multiple incarnations in the 1980s. Some offshoots would be far more successful than others, especially when it came to the “Enterprise” prequel that aired on Paramount’s UPN network from 2001 to 2005 – a time when the scoring approach dictated by the shows’ high creative council displayed as much liking for distinctive music as Klingons had love for tribbles. Sure “Enterprise” might have been a scrappy holodeck precursor to some, but what’s surprising is that it might just have been the spin-off to display some of the most interesting music of the bunch, as can be heard in La La’s four-disc collection of the series’ greatest hits.
Why Should You Buy It?: “Enterprise” set itself apart from a fairly musically amorphous pack right out of retro-spacedock by using a Diane Warren song as its main title, as opposed to an instrumental theme (the most memorable of which still belongs to Jerry Goldsmith’s re-use of his “ST-TMP” theme). Smartly divided by musicians and fan favorites, the first two CD’s belong to longtime TNG composers Dennis McCarthy and Jay Chattaway, the men tasked with finding what would essentially be the non-commital approach to the franchise’s sound. Thankfully, “Enterprise” gave a bit more leeway to both, allowing them to show off more of their true thematic talents, McCarthy in particular reveals his epic abilities with the villainous Xindi’s attack on Earth for “The Expanse,” taking full advantage of the orchestra at his disposal with proud military action and suspense, Holstian thrills that get to take on Nazis in his full-throttle music for “Storm Front.” Not only does Chattaway get to play alien-ethnic flutes for “Civilization,” but also gets in some of the series’ (and this album’s) most wonderfully movie-score conventional music as he gallops away with space spaghetti western music, combining a wild electric guitar with rocking old-school orchestral stylings for the space range of “North Star.” CD3 is dedicated to the “Veterans and New Recruits,” which starts off impressively as “First Contact” film orchestrator Mark McKenzie brings that Goldsmith touch to “Horizon,” one of the most robustly cinematic suites in the collection. “Alien Resurrection’s” John Frizzell provides percolating suspense and melodic grace to “Proving Ground,” while “Quantum Leap’s” Velton Ray Bunch shows he’s equally adept at sending Scott Bakula into a Starfleet uniform with Federation timpani as he is a coming up with loopy theme for a game of Geskana.
Extra Special: CD4 is given over to the “Fan Favorites,” beginning with McCarthy and Kevin Kiner’s visit to a familiarly savage alternate universe with “In A Mirror, Darkly,” which offers thunderously striking, battle-loving music for orchestra and electronics, all with having a novel, sadistic twist on Goldsmith’s peacefully climactic scoring in “First Contact.” But most impressive on this disc is a score from a certain rising composer named Brian Tyler, who was given the formidable task of taking on The Borg for “Regeneration.” Even at this early stage in a career that would be full of fantastical action scoring, Tyler’s ability play excitement with ever-rising, orchestral rhythms, a la his breakout, Goldsmith-replacement soundtrack to Paramount’s “Timeline,” is played with utter, captivating confidence here. He also captures the eerie, seemingly unstoppable menace of a robotic hive mind – something that will be on full display as he helps the Avengers take on Ultron this summer. It’s “Enterprise’s” willingness to finally let these talented composers to relatively go for it after years of musical vanilla that really makes this set worth it for fans whose alpha and omega is understandably the scoring style of Classic Trek. Tying just about five hours of music are some of the best liner notes that Trek music expert Jeff Bond has done for both movie and show scoring incarnations, his writing made all the more memorable with the surprising honesty at getting the composers to reveal how “Enterprise” was going to be a relatively new, and far more interesting ball game in guiding New Trek to its seemingly final destination, as heard from the beginning of the Federation’s voyages.
ALSO FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION:
Marc Streitenfeld has provided muted, morally ambiguous scores before to oil workers facing off against killer wolves in “The Grey” and a professional hitman wanting his pay in “Killing Them Softly,” scores filled with truly interesting “ambiences” and unexpected instrumentation. But perhaps none of Streitenfeld’s experimentally minded scores of this nature hits more weirdly, or more effectively at home than “After the Fall,” wherein Wes Bentley’s suburban dad truly goes off the criminal rails to avoid falling into poverty after his firing. Perhaps one way to describe Streitenfeld’s unique work at its most effective here is to imagine Carl Orff or Saint-Saens on acid, as rhythmic, sometimes reversed bells capture a once-complacent man losing his innocence while plunging into a gun-toting rabbit hole. Plucking mandolins and icy strings give this “Fall” perhaps an even more of an emotionally chilling environment then he memorably applied to the doomed survivors of “The Grey,” a subtle feeling of tragedy in “After the Fall” that’s played with aching strings, and at times almost wistful, whistling sustains. Even samples resembling whale calls appear in this deceptively spare, yet hauntingly melodic score, which subtly, and powerfully achieves its goal of turning reality upside down – a feeling of childhood lost when the youth-instilled dream of the rewards that come with following the rules get economically shattered.
. THE BETSY
John Barry could give even the trashiest movies a sense of rose-smelling class, especially when the pot was boiling over with a stew of upper class behavior involving the usual assortment of sex, murder and business chicanery – as centering around a clean-burning car engine called “The Betsy” of all names. Such was the title that author Harold Robbins bestowed to this fun, Mr. Skin-worthy cinematic adaptation of his critically ta-ta’d brand of wealthily randy literature. Sure Barry might have been given a bit of cheese to work with in1978 between this, “Starcrash” and “Game of Death.” But the big difference was “The Betsy’s” air of high class, resulting in a score of true, richly melodic elegance that those unacquainted with the material might mistake for music dedicated to the noble, nostalgic captains of industry. No composer could use themes to drive scores like Barry, and “The Betsy” is as usually resplendent with them. Veering from busy, sometimes waltzing rhythms that signal the assembly of cars to eerie, “electronically”-accented suspense, aching violin tragedy and swooning romantic melodies for the abundant bedroom hopping, “The Betsy” shines as one of John Barry’s most impossibly lush scores in a repertoire full of them. One wonders why it’s taken so long to get this model soundtrack out of the cobwebbed assembly line of seemingly lost scores. But leave it to Barry specialists James Fitzpatrick and conductor Nic Raine to follow up their release of the Barry obscurity “Mister Moses” with another great performance by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. Sure they’ve rebuilt the model, but this Barry “Betsy” drives like a champ, even if it was always attached to an Edsel.
Having started off with some fairly wacky narrative films like “Streets of Rage” and way more artistic indie efforts like “Amy’s Orgasm,” Miriam Cutler has essentially become one of the queens of documentary scoring to the rhythmic tunes of “Lost in La Mancha,” “One Lucky Elephant” and the Emmy-nominated “The Desert of Forbidden Art.” Yet with so many works, Cutler remains truthfully under-represented on CD, a fact that Perseverance’s release of her score for the Emmy-nominated HBO documentary “Ethel” does a charming, and ultimately moving bit to remedy. Reteaming with “Ghosts of Abu Ghraib” director Rory Kennedy for a very personal look at the filmmaker’s mom, “Ethel” talks about the life of the woman whose marriage to Robert Kennedy was tragically cut short. Yet this matriarch from America’s most famous political family is someone who looks on the brighter side of life, an uplifting attitude that Cutler embodies with a playful, pizzicato-friendly rhythmic approach. It’s energetic music that’s full of likeable, peppy warmth, as well as far more poignant moments for string and guitar. Cutler follows the subject like a friendly reporter, spreading thematic sympathy, as well as subtly capturing the Washington environs of her husband, as well as nicely playing Latin music for Robert’s meeting with Caesar Chavez. Tragedy is also reflected with the same, understanding subtlety for a sympathetic orchestra, playing the poignant irony of a director who never got to meet her father. Cutler’s approach has a folksy quality to it as well that’s relatable in much the same pleasant way that Ethel Kennedy was to the many people who grew to realize that she played no small contribution to her husband’s legacy, even if she wasn’t in the spotlight. It’s a vibe that’s no less moving for the gentle, upbeat understanding that Cutler brings to the documentary genre, and this subject in particular.
. FALLING IN LOVE
Movie jazz has always seemed to find a home in Manhattan, and few composers awash in the spirit of an unsleeping city of a thousand stories have embodied those rhythms with the distinctive, thematic flair of Dave Grusin. Given a trademark NYC sound most often comprised of mellow electric percussion, reflective piano and wistful strings, Grusin has heard the city as both a place of danger (“Three Days of the Condor”), gilded society (“Bonfire of the Vanities”) and eccentric criminal intent (“The Pope of Greenwich Village”). But more often than not, it’s the vibes of beautiful, soft romance in scores like “The Goodbye Girl,” “Author! Author!” and the Oscar-nominated “Tootsie,” all of which have enchanted us with a metropolis of pining souls, to which that heartfelt repertoir can now add the first soundtrack release of 1984s “Falling in Love.” This muted, “Brief Encounter”-ish reteaming of Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro after their last tyrist in “The Deer Hunter” find them as already-coupled characters steadily being drawn into extra-marital passion through increasingly not-so incidental meetings throughout Manhattan. Grusin’s beautiful vibe-y score is the thematic throughline at opening up their vulnerable emotions, carried by with a longing melody that never fails to stroke the heartstrings, especially when combining a gorgeously lush orchestra is there to support the composer’s trademarked soft, and sometimes peppy vibes that make this a particularly noteworthy score for “Tootsie” fans. Indeed, hearing those shimmering strings, electric bells and steady piano percussion is pretty much seventh heaven for lovers of soft movie jazz at its best, as played in a score that pretty much captures Grusin’s winsome appeal as both a composer and jazz artistm here painting Manhattan in a mellow glow as transfixing as a soft fireplace – its gentle light drawing a couple together with an added undercurrent of suspense where the danger is heard in emotional terms. It’s nice to know that Kritzerland is a fan of Grusin’s work when it comes to his output for Paramount, following up their release of his nostalgic period score to 1984s “Racing with the Moon” with this other exceptional score from the same year, both scores awash in romance and longing as only Grusin’s affectionate style can convey. Of particular thematic note is the revelation of Grusin’s main theme (tracked in the film with the composer’s “Mountain Dance”), giving us new reason to fall in love with this unsung score for essentially the first time.
. A FAR OFF PLACE
Way before she trekked the Pacific trail, Reese Witherspoon braved 2,000 miles of the Kalahari desert in this surprisingly perilous 1993 adventure film from the family-friendly likes of Disney, who were certainly showing surprising bite at the time with the such movies as “White Fang.” Having released that double score (along with a bunch of worthy soundtracks from other unlikely Disney pictures), Intrada dips again into the well they first dug for “Place” at the time of its release, now coming up with 75 minutes to fully show off James Horner’s relatively unsung, strikingly epic score. Even though he ventured to Apartheid South Africa to far darker effect in “Bopha!” “A Far Off Place” has more than a bit of that menace, starting straight off as poachers wipe out the guardians of two white teenagers, leaving them to make an incredible journey to safety with the help of a young tribesman, a big elephant and some cute non-food animals – of course with the murderous villains on their trail. It’s a striking musical mix of Disney nature spectacle, tender sweetness and percussive peril. Horner seamlessly combines these elements with his majestic and dangerous score, of course graced with a telltale soaring theme that drives the action and emotion along with melodic grace, all while still acknowledging the story’s inherently savage nature. Hence oompa brass emphasizes animal pratfalls, gentle strings and noble horns bonding kids with a sense of purpose. Symphonic action stampedes, while instrumental exotica like African drumming and Oriental shakuhachis paint the kind of ethnic landscapes that Horner is so adept at scoring. Whether they took place in South American (“Where the River Runs Black”) the Middle East (“Day of the Falcon”) or the jungle planet Pandora (“Avatar”), Horner has always gives his locales a strongly empathetic, and unabashedly melodic, Americana orchestral shape, an approach that always made Horner a natural for Disney, especially when helping youths and their animal friends cross a truly dark continent – whose expanse now truly gets to trumpet itself for this powerful release.
. THE GREAT INVISIBLE
Ry Cooder’s ethereal scores merged country-folk guitar with blues rhythms, harmonica joining with rural percussion and eerie atmospheres of synths and metal to create such enticingly regional scores as “Southern Comfort,” The Long Riders” and “Paris. Texas” – a landmark, often Tex-Med groove that has since been exceptionally taken up by David Wingo in such transfixing Southern Gothic scores as “Mud” and “Joe.” While Wingo has put his own melodic stamp on characters inhabiting the deep woods, the composer now chronicles the real deal as he plays one of the most catastrophic events to hit the Gulf of Mexico in the acclaimed documentary “The Great Invisible.” Here Wingo’s rhythmic, ethereal talent for musical regionalism soaks over the 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig, which took eleven lives and created the worst oil spill in U.S. history. With a duplicitous industry of course taking an “I didn’t know stance,” Wingo’s music is left to chronicle the clinging psychological, and physical wake of the disaster on both the surviving workers and the economically devastated residents, a task which he approaches with both authentic empathy, and chilling atmosphere that also calls into play his disturbing, apocalyptic grooves for “Take Shelter.” “The Great Invisible” is all the more effective in accenting a real end of many peoples’ worlds as echoing guitar, poignant harmonica, rhythmic electronics and clanging percussion plays a massive construct perched above an unknowable ocean, the score gradually building a transfixing sense of menace that’s destined to blow – all with a keen feel for his earnest, southern-accented subjects. Wingo’s “Great Invisible” might be a mournful wake to the hubris of big oil and its little people victims, but it’s a score that’s always engaging in a way that’s both authentic and experimental, as hypnotic, elegiac melodies plunge into an industry’s oil-pitched blackness and its sad, still-sticking aftereffects on humanity and the environment.
. KING SOLOMON’S MINES (1,000 edition)
They were musical equals in my opinion. Yet for the better part of the careers of John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith, it always seemed that the latter was chasing the coattails of the first when it came to picture quality. For if John got Irwin Allen’s “The Towering Inferno,” then Jerry received that producers’ dog called “The Swarm.” While John flew with “Superman,” Jerry remained earthbound in the enjoyably silly company of “Supergirl.” But perhaps no second-cousin removed picture that Goldsmith got to score was a ludicrously close to aping a way better picture than when it came to comparing 1985s “King Solomon’s Mines” with another Spielberg-Williams adventurer that had hit the screens to way better effect five years earlier – even if Indiana Jones himself was certainly spun from H. Rider Haggard’s 1885 hero Alan Quatermain, who’d previous appeared onscreen in 1950. Valiantly stepping into Stewart Granger’s safari garb (sans Harrison Ford’s bullwhip) was Richard Chamberlain, a TV miniseries king not lacking for his own roguish charm. Heck, even Sallah showed up in this. That the resulting spectacle represented Cannon in all of its major studio-wannabe gonzo excessiveness certainly didn’t prevent its star from having a good time, let alone Jerry Goldsmith in his quest to swing with equal orchestral panache over an alligator pit of John William’s cliffhanging motifs. Just how close he got in spirit to those snapping maws is just one of the reasons why “King Solomon’s Mines” remains one of his most excessively enjoyable scores, as revisited in Quartet Records’ new two-CD set. Sure Jerry Goldsmith had more turkeys per quota than a composer of his talent deserved, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to give them his best. In the case of “King Solomon’s Mines,” he serves up all of his brassy action with a big, humorous wink. Driven by a rollicking, nearly-shrill theme that screams manly period adventure, Goldsmith lets us know the big difference between this and “Raiders” is that J. Lee Thompson’s thrill-a-minute pastiche is set in Africa, as opposed to Indy’s Middle East, a continent that the composer happened to visit that year in “Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend” (with the equally, enjoyably ludicrous “Congo” a decade away). The result is much tribal percussion (especially as its heroes are dropped into a now un-PC human boiling pot), charming mystery for far nicer upside-down natives, a nice, Marion-esque romantic theme and villainous, if not truly threatening brass for more German bad guys. Particularly fun is how Goldsmith frequently quotes from its Wagner-loving villain’s favorite hit “Ride of the Valkyries. The treasure within is some of Goldsmith’s most wonderfully frenzied action writing this side of “Total Recall,” long patches of non-stop, go-for-broke orchestral thrills and spills that leaves the listener breathless. In that respect, “King Solomon’s Mines” truly nails the fun of Goldsmith’s cliffhanging thrills, as well as shows up his own personal Belloq for energetic fun. “King Solomon’s Mines” has been popular enough to endure through many sold-out editions, but Quarter’s newly mastered release (along with Ennio Morricone’s score for Cannon’s other wannabe spectacle “Sahara”) is the first to pair the complete score with Goldsmith’s original album presentation, abetted by an splashy booklet, whose entertaining liner notes by Jon Takis have a true appreciation of Jerry Goldsmith unleashed.
. LES ONZE MILLES VERGES / TAROT (500 edition)
One of France’s most overlooked imports to Hollywood might be the late Michel Colombier, whose pop sensibilities particularly rocked the 80s with the funky synths of “Purple Rain,” “The Money Pit’s” jazzy comedy and “Against All Odd’s” sensual Latin exotica – easily one of the era’s sexiest, and literally heavy breathing scores. But Colombier was just as lustful in the 70s even after stroking the ego of Hollywood’s biggest evil computer for “Colossus: The Forbin Project,” a carnal talent that Music Box reminds us of in the release of 1975s “Les Onze Mille Verges” (aka “The 11,000 Sexes, or the most obviously straight-up American title of “Bisexual”). Yet when you listen to just how beautiful this period score is, the results are way more in the elegantly libidinous tone of “Dangerous Liaisons” than smutty sex music – even perhaps ecclesiastical given just how well Colombier recreates classical music from its gossamer strings, genteel waltzes to heavenly choral pieces, all the better to accompany the aristocratic debauchery of this adaptation of the pornographic poem of Polish-cum-French playwright Guillaume Apollinaire (aka Jan Kostrowicki). If anything, Colombier’s work is the height of symphonically melodic romance, and particularly clever in its Swingles Singers-like use of voice samba rhythms, only really tipping its lascivious hat in a full-on, cowbell ringing, horn-honking and whistle-blowing striptease.
Way more mod is the album’s accompany score of “Tarot,” which had “Lolita’s” post-nymphet Sue Lyons out for some Spanish gold digging. Colombier gets to put his songwriting talent to a catchily intoxicating use, at first performed by Nanette Workman with a Burt Bacharach-Roberta Flack catchiness. Colombier than proceeds to vary both the song, and its instrumental versions in ways that are always in the mood, much like its villainess. “Tarot” particularly impresses in a cool-kitsch suspense way with percolating, weirdly crying, siren-like synth psychedelia, gothic organs, guitar grinding and hammering pianos, his supernatural chicanery prefiguring such captivatingly surreal American scores as “Impulse,” “Cop” and “New Jack City.” But if you were just expecting 70s “Eurosleaze” mysterioso from “Tarot,” Colombier surprises by bringing in a strong, sinister orchestral component to spell out lovers plotting against s seemingly helpless bewitched target. But then, what can you say about a score that has a groovy rock cue called “Doggie Style?” Though they might be completely disparate in their musical styles at inspiring humor and weird depravity, what ties both “Bisexual” and “Tarot” show is Colombier’s cleverness at hearing sex as pleasure and punishment, a musical double feature where the cards are definitely in the listener’s favor at re-discovering this wonderful French composer’s more outré efforts. Plus, male readers will certainly enjoy the racy pictures onhand in a booklet that competes with Quartet Records habit of making liner notes the next best thing to Playboy Magazine – except you actually do read them for the articles.
. THE LITTLE MERMAID: THE LEGACY COLLECTION
Disney continues their exceptional series of hard-bound “Legacy Collection” releases with “The Little Mermaid,” the 1989 soundtrack, and film that really put the studio back above animated water, netting the fist of many best Song and Score Oscars for the “Little Shop of Horrors” stage duo of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, whose hip energy was sought to awaken the studio from its animated doldrums with this now-classic adaptation of the Hans Christian Anderson fable – the first fairy tale for Disney since 1955s “Sleeping Beauty.” What’s interesting about hearing the “Mermaid” in her complete, symphonic glory is just how much glowing, thematically instrumental wealth lies in Menken’s score. Crossing playful, bouncy “Mickey Mouse”-ing cartoon music with the motif-driven nature of movie tradition, Menken is sure to use the infinitely memorable hooks of these now-classic songs to tie itself his instrumentals together, showing this as indeed Oscar-worthy stuff, from the score’s regal rhythms to its heroine’s romantic pining for two legs and a terrific cliffhanging climax with the dastardly, organ-accompanied villainy of the tentacled Ursula. Menken and Ashman’s songs are as clever as ever in hearing a Calypso-Rasta beat for a matchmaking crab, Pat Carol’s Mack the Knife-like delight as she belts out “Poor Unfortunate Souls” or Jodi Benson’s wistful pleas to be “Part of Your World,” the tune that set the tone for every Disney heroine who wanted something better. Indeed, the novel device of having Ariel’s ever-rising singing voice subsumed into Ursula’s malefic melody still sends chills up the scaled spine. This “Mermaid” legacy continues these exceptional special editions’ tradition of offering original song demos from the artists, including a second CD that has Menken and Ashman pouring their Broadway glee into the tapes that would change the course of animated soundtracks. The book-like packaging offers charming new art in addition to concept sketches and touchingly emotional liner notes by Menken and “Mermaid” co-director John Musker. All make this “Mermaid” worth a new dive no matter how many times it’s already surfaced on your stereo’s shores.
. NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB
When looking for Hollywood scores filled with unabashedly glittering themes and melody, you might as well feel like visiting a museum. However, Alan Silvestri thankfully remains anything but a fossil in this practice. As a composer who’s been applying this relatively ancient orchestral approach since the long-lost days of “Back to the Future,” Silvestri has remained vibrant in conveying a child-like sense of magic and adventure when its come to fantastical wish fulfillment, no more so than in his continuing trips to this Fox family franchise, of which “Secret of the Tomb” threatens to be the last admission. If so, let it not be said that Silvestri isn’t shining these “Museum” lights with extra brightness. As he’s done with such popular triptychs as the “Future” and “Predator” films, Silvestri has a keen sense of history when it comes to reprising all of the themes he’s built his musical foundations on, with a wonderful, flowing sense of cohesiveness that’s abounding with new motivic ideas. Better yet, these movies’ draws of exhibits popping to humorous life is a virtual gallery for Silvestri to show off his various styles, from the knightly nobleness of Sir Lancelot to the sinister, ethnic rhythms of its Egyptian villain (a la the composer’s swashbuckling score for “The Mummy Returns”). But whatever the historical figure he’s galloping with, all of the music is tied together with Silvestri’s trademarked talent for lush strings lines, twinkling percussion and heroic brass – the kind of music which has now been enchanting young audiences for more than a few years. “The Secret of the Tomb” is yet another thrilling repository in which to visit these old musical friends in all of their golden, uncondescending sweetness and fun, once again show that dust is in danger of settling on Alan Silvestri’s enchanting, and energetic enthusiasm.
Eleanor H. Porter’s adorable, eternally optimistic sprite has been showing up on big and small screens since 1920, most popularly in Haley Mills’ effervescent form via Disney in 1960, and most recently in 2003 on the U.K.’s ITV. With the character’s roots transported from New England to England proper, it’s only right that a classically-minded composer like Christopher Gunning be giving the musical job of making the sun shine as bright as the little girl’s smile (never mind that he impressively got his start on such bloodthirsty scores as “Goodbye Gemini” and “Hands of the Ripper”). Thankfully, Gunning knows how to get across an adolescent’s spoonfuls of sunray smile sugars without inducing musical diabetes. And he’s got a smart, sweet theme that’s sure to warm over even the grinchiest of soundtrack fans. Gunning’s “Pollyanna spreads its happiness through beautifully delicate strings and pianos, wistful flutes and bell percussion gradually working over the emotions with a distinctive sense of early 20th century time and place. Like his “Greystoke” mentor John Scott, Gunning evokes the delicate, bucolic sounds of such English masters as Ralph Vaughan Williams and William Walton, here in restrained fashion, though unafraid of melancholy. Gunning’s indomitable, winningly tender optimism that finds an innocent, melodic purity within its music. Given that “Polyanna’s” score is relatively brief, Caldera Records has even more extensive time for its welcome inclusion of a composer audio commentary, a thoroughly engaging 25 minutes in which Gunning elaborates with utter charm on the career that led to “Poirot” and “Pollyanna,” as well as finding way more satisfaction doing concert music – though his scores are always welcome, especially little charmers like this one.
. QUEENIE / TO KILL A PRIEST (1,000 edition)
Georges Delerue wrote an astonish 18 scores alone from 1987-88. Two reality-based scores from that time now show his versatility, first making an emotionally empowering Indian passage to Hollywood, and then movingly martyring a leader doomed against totalitarian odds. Even given his French birthright, few composers had a naturally feminine quality to their work like Delerue, whose string, violin and flute empathy embodies an ersatz Merle Oberon (in the exotic form of Mia Sara) in his score for “Queenie,” one of those passion-filled TV miniseries of yore involving a woman climbing her way to the top through beauty and bedroom, a journey begun for the half-caste heroine in India. It’s an opportunity that allowed Delerue the rare opportunity to luxuriate in that continent’s rhythms, as ruled by imperious, English brass, creating a delicate, yet determined theme that formed the musical bedrock over two nights on ABC. Yet while the music is proud of its heritage as first, Delerue does much to hide its ethnic identity in both suspenseful, and tender fashion as “Queenie’ tries to succeed in a racist movie society – a sense of danger and discovery that’s perhaps even more important than romance in Intrada’s sumptuous album.
Far darker, but no less determined in its musical cause is Delerue’s score for an English-language, star-powered take on the Commie-backed murder of Solidarity-supporting Polish priest Jerzy Popieluszko (here called “Father Alek”), as directed by Polish expatriate Agnieska Holland (“Europa Europa”). Having powerfully dealt with the church in “True Confessions” and “Agnes of God,” Delerue plays the grim pursuit of Ed Harris’ secret police agent and Christopher Lambert’s fateful man of the people’s cloth with tragic, almost pre-determined realization of sacrifice. Yet the score is more about suspense and sadness, judiciously using a religious chorus for the fateful end, with anti-establishment singer Joan Baez accompanies the singers for “The Crimes of Cain,” where her iconic folk voice helps the theme rise to the heavens, hinting that the murder would be one more withdrawn brick from the Berlin wall that toppled Russia’s control of Poland. Music Box’s expanded release of Delerue’s fine work includes a far lighter collection of Polish waltzes and Mazurkas, along with Delerue himself singing a vocalese version of “Priest’s” end tune.
Honkeys had their gun slinging, women-bedding superhero named James Bond for years until a 1971 sex machine named John Shaft showed that a black private dick could be just as bad-ass, especially when it came to an urban action-funk groove that got Isaac Hayes an Oscar winning song and nominated score. So perhaps it was a little ironic that a “white bloke from Luton” who’d been busy scoring 007 would land the music gig for John Singleton’s 2000 reboot, giving Sam Jackson a tailor-made vehicle to cement him as a big screen mofo. But even given Arnold’s urban pedigree that might have been way lower numbered than 110th Street, the English musician truly showed he could do that way uptown walk in style, paying tribute to Hayes’ inimitable vibe while carving out a fresh rhythm for Shaft’s new incarnation – all while not selling out the spy friendly orchestral energy that Arnold had used to put new, pop-retro action into the Brosnan-Bond rebirth he helped spur. The result is a score that plays with all the energy of funk-driven 007 score like “Tomorrow Never Dies” and “The World Is Not Enough,” while being just as cool a listen for old school fans of Hayes (who put his stamp of approval on Arnold’s approach). But what gives his “Shaft” its own identity is how well Arnold uses his distinctive, dangerously lush string-brass sound with the improv energy of a Hayes-style band. Not only do their wah-wah guitar, electric organ, horn section and percussion grooves play freely over a tight, dramatic orchestra, but they go beyond riffing on Hayes’ sound (and occasionally his iconic theme) to go into the realms of wild Miles Davis “Bitches Brew”-style jazz and electric hip hop. It makes “Shaft” a shaken and stirred action jam both befitting her majesty’s secret service and an a soul brother, whose score proper now finally hits the street in style with La La’s generous 76-minute release, with Tim Grieving’s excellent liner notes getting down with Arnold on the composer’s desire to authentically update the “Shaft” sound without losing its cool.
. STILL ALICE
A professor losing her smarts to early onset Alzheimer’s has not only inspired a Golden Globe-winning performance from actress Julianne Moore, but also a similarly delicate, and painfully beautiful score from Ilan Eshkeri – whose score here captures the musical memory of his female-centered chamber work for last year’s “The Invisible Woman.” Where that character was dealing with lovelorn anguish, the subtly dissonant violins and delicate piano that inflect Alice’s struggle are about holding onto cherished life itself. Where a less-indie approach would’ve likely meant bringing on far bigger heartstrings, the intimacy of Eshkeri’s work is perhaps even more emotional in its seeming simplicity. For nothing has the immediate anguish of just a few musicians playing with strong, neo-classical themes that convey a woman of sophistication, struggling to hold onto the shards of her thoughts. But while “Still Alice” is full of quiet anguished, it’s far more of a lyrical listen than it is a sad one, its poetic melodies strangely soothing as a woman goes not-so quietly into the tragic night. Karen Elson’s closing song “If I Had a Boat” has a fairy tale wistfulness to it that proves a nice compliment to Eshkeri’s poignant instrumentals.
CLICK on the album covers to make your hardcopy or download purchase, and find the soundtracks at these. com’s: Amazon, Intrada, iTunes, Movie Perseverance and Screen Archives Entertainment
Award-winning composer [c.1528]Cris Velasco has created the original score for [v.42369]Assassin's Creed Unity - Dead Kings, the latest chapter in Ubisoft's historical action-adventure open world video game series. Set during the French Revolution, [v.42369]Dead Kings is a fully-fledged single-player campaign that continues Master Assassin Arno Dorian's story after the events of [v.42369]Assassin's Creed Unity. The [a.14471]Assassin's Creed Unity - Dead Kings Original Soundtrack was released [da.2015-01-13]January 13, 2015,is now available on iTunes.
[c.1528]Cris Velasco's dark, atmospheric orchestral score for [v.42369]Dead Kings immerses players in the mysterious open-world city of Saint Denis and its underground universe--an ancient necropolis with an...
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced this week the nominees for Best Original Score and Best Original Song. For further details, [url.http://www.soundtrack.net/news/article/?id=1948]click here.
Also announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.24]Carter Burwell ([m.42948]The Family Fang and [m.42417]Hail, Caesar!), [c.827]Heitor Pereira ([m.41880]The Moon and the Sun), [c.1367]Jeff Grace ([m.42947]In a Valley of Violence), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 44 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2015-01-12]Click here for the full schedule.
Opening nationwide this week are (with music...
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences just announced the nominations for [t.41497]The 87th Academy Awards this morning. The nominees are as follows:
Best Original Score
[c.752]Alexandre Desplat - [m.35957]The Grand Budapest Hotel
[c.752]Alexandre Desplat - [m.38812]The Imitation Game
[c.237]Hans Zimmer - [m.36450]Interstellar
[c.1817]Gary Yershon - [m.40759]Mr. Turner
[c.3198]Johann Johannsson - [m.40675]The Theory of Everything
Best Original Song
"Everything is Awesome" - Music and Lyric by [c.644]Shawn Patterson for [m.33666]The Lego Movie
"Glory" - Music and Lyric by [c.10688]John Stephens and [c.]Lonnie Lynn for [m.41458]Selma
"Grateful" - Music and Lyric by [c.]Diane...
There’s ho doubt that the O.G. masters of movie score Shagadelia knew they were being funny back in the ultra-60s day when Burt Bacharach had various James Bonds bouncing to the Tijuana Brass, or Charles Fox and Bob Crewe were disrobing Barbarella from her space suit to the strains of a female chorus and a funk guitar. Now with the groovy one-two punch of George S. Clinton and David Holmes making already-hip retro rhythms cool again for Austin Powers’ wacky spy jazz and the rocking organ-guitar grooves of twelve con artists pulling a big Vegas rip-off, everything old is way-out cool again. However, in a Hollywood scoring scene filled with rhythmic strains of period-specific psychedelic satire, it can be a challenge to bring something truly new to a happening.
That being said, “Mortdecai” brings new fresh flair to the groovy party, or more specifically the search for a stolen painting. The chase is led by Johnny Depp, here crossing Jacques Clouseau with Terry Thomas as he plays novelist Kyril Bonfiglioli’s vainly aristocratic art seeker. As adapted by “Stir of Echoes” filmmaker David Koepp to show his far funnier writing-directing side, “Mortdecai” eccentrically hits the screen as personified by a gadfly with more moustache than brains – though sure to get the job done with help of his ultra-hot (and way smarter) wife Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow) and very physical manservant Jock Strapp (Paul Bettany). Jet setting the search where art is worth its weight in Nazi gold is a score that’s wonderfully all over the Shagedelic place, not only slamming in the rocking guitars, harpsichords, organ and brassy spy jazz strains, but also shaking its over-liquored martini with Russian chorus and switched-on Bach.
There’s never been quite a flavorfully hip retro score like “Mortdecai,” a wonderfully absurdist, yet, surprisingly thematic concoction given that many scores like it say motifs be damned as they go for one self-contained groove of the moment, often to exhaustive effect. But that sure isn’t the case for this ultra-60s soundtrack that’s made so spot-on thanks to the inspired teaming of Geoff Zanelli and Mark Ronson. The first member of the duo started out on Team Zimmer with additional music on dozens of diverse scores like “Pear Harbor,” “The Last Samurai” and “Matchstick Men,” whose Esquival-esque grooves most portended to “Mortdecai.” Making his big feature impression playing Depp as a psycho killer for Koepp 2004 Stephen King adaptation “Secret Window” (and continuing his Koepp collaboration on the far funnier “Ghost Town”), Zanelli impressed both on the big screen with “Disturbia,” “Outlander” and “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” while showing his epic talents on TV with the Emmy-winning miniseries “Into the West” and a nomination with “The Pacific” (shared with Zimmer and his “West” collaborator Blake Neely).
Yet perhaps no project has hinted as to just how wackily far out Zanelli could go than with the trippily elegant escapades of “Mortdecai,” especially when partnered with English-born, international DJ extraordinaire Mark Ronson, making his feature scoring debut here after seeing his songs featured in such shows and movies as “Entourage,” “Glee,” “Step Up” and “The Great Gatsby.” It’s a fusion of movie scoring smarts and record-bin hopping, tune-producing dexterity that brings the usual suspect Samba rhythms, fat brass and cooing vocals a hilarious authenticity that makes “Mortdecai” already one of 2015s most energetic, and entertaining scores straight out of the gate, a collaboration that Zanelli now waxes his fake moustache poetically on.
Did the idea immediately hit you to do a retro-caper score for “Mortdecai?”
Yes, it hit all of us, actually. I’ve kept in touch with “Mortdecai’s” director David Koepp ever since we did “Secret Window” many years back, so when he got the film green-lit I was on the phone with him shortly after. And he told me about the story, sent me the script, and said he wanted to see about me co-writing the score with Mark Ronson, whose record “Version” had been on his mind as inspiration. This is what I love about David. He hears great music and sees an opportunity to create collaboration. So the retro-caper idea was there before a single frame was even shot.
I had a meeting with Mark within a week or two after that phone call and he and I got on great. We just knew we’d work well together and came-up with something unique. He and I value authenticity immensely, so our first conversations were about how to get the authentic sound, which means finding the right musicians, the right studios, analogue equipment, vintage instruments and all of that.
Then we went to our separate caves and started writing in isolation for a little while so we’d both start from our purest ideas. Two weeks later we got together to show each other what we’d been up to, and we found enough overlap in the musical language so that we each gravitated towards each other’s. It was really simple to get our ideas to play nice together. From then on, we wrote together for most of it – which is to say we crammed every corner of my studio with old amps and instruments from the 60s just to get the right sound from the get-go. Mark and I played almost everything as we wrote, knowing that we’d have the Dap Kings in New York play the final versions along with some of the horn players from The Roots, plus an orchestra, percussion, horn section, vibraphone, harpsichord and clavinet at Abbey Road.
Were there any swinging 60s scores or pop artists that you particularly turned to for inspiration? Or more recent “retro” scores that took their groove from them?
We were definitely aiming at the original, authentic 60s vibe moreso than what you may think of as the modern-retro scores. And while there weren’t particular scores we turned to, I certainly had in mind the playfulness of Henry Mancini, Esquivel and Quincy Jones. But you’ll find all sorts of influences at play here. The goal was to find a way of doing old soul, new vibe. We wanted to combine a centuries old aristocratic aesthetic with 60s instrumentation and a modern approach in a way that felt fresh, but still acknowledged the very clear roots “Mortdecai” had.
How did you do such a spot-on recreation of this very specific vibe in terms of orchestration, the use of female vocals and sound recording? Were there any instruments you knew that you just had to have?
Oh I knew for sure I needed a harpsichord. A very crusty, dusty, pretentious sounding one. I found a woman in London who had a collection of them and she recorded each one so I could choose the crustiest. And then we doubled that with a clavinet through one of Mark’s refurbished 1960s guitar amps to get this perverse aristocracy-turned-on-its-head sound. Mark coined the phrase “Harpsichord Aristo-Funk” which I think is as good a description of this score as any. But vibraphone, saxophones, spy guitar, soul band, funky horn section and of course an orchestra all had to show up here, and a Russian choir for good measure! And for the first time in my 20-year career I got to call in a flugelhorn.
The reason the vibe feels authentic is because Mark and I both have a deep love of these instruments, this style and this music. So great care and careful consideration played a part in every step of the process, right down to which microphones to use and what rooms to record this all in.
You mentioned the female vocal that I agree really elevates the score. That’s Rose Elinor Dougall. She’s singing the love theme for the film, which is something that Mark and I came-up with together in the studio in a very rough state. Then I went off and did this arrangement with really every instrument you could ever want to record, including that flugelhorn I talked about. When I played that to Mark it had a little fake choir in there and I was thinking about how to find singers who could pull of that 60s pop ensemble singing that you’ve heard. Mark’s idea was to go slightly more modern with it and get Rose to try it. She was perfect, of course, and she even got inspired to write a song based on that which plays in the film as well, called “Heart’s a Liar.” So that’s just another fantastic success story here in terms of the way we’re all able to collaborate and inspire each other.
At the same time, how did you want to make a retro score like “Mortdecai” fresh for today’s audiences who might not be onto the musical joke?
Well that’s the whole trick, isn’t it? One of the ways was what I was saying earlier about pairing 60s instruments with either something old and aristocratic, or something more modern. Another would be to turn things upside down by taking something old and playing it with a modern style. The film has Bach’s Toccata and Fugue on organ in one spot, and without spoiling the scene for your readers I’ll just say it’s used as a source cue in the film. And then as it goes on it becomes a mash-up with a funky drum kit, and soul organ part takes over, so we’re getting a little irreverent with Bach’s greatest hits… And I was always looking for instruments that have a dual function. Like a trumpet for instance, which can be very classical but it can be very funky, so you can play it in two different contexts as the story progresses. The mission was to get the band and horn section to feel like they have equal weight with the orchestra or any of the more conventional film score tools. That also plays right into the idea that this score is a “two-headed monster,” as David once called it, what with Mark and I both on it.
Was there a danger in the music thinking it’s too funny or forced, especially when you’ve already got such an eccentric hero?
There’s a huge danger! That was the most difficult part of the whole score, actually, finding the sweet spot for how to play the comedy. You don’t want to go and be overtly comedic cause it makes things corny instantly, but we also found if you play everything completely straight, it almost comes off like you’re doing a parody. It’s a strange thing, that overly serious music makes things feel too light or silly, but it really does happen. The answer for this score was to find styles to juxtapose against the action, and then lean away from scoring too tightly to picture, or being cartoony.
There’s also more than a bit of the sound of “spy jazz” in how you use John Barry-esque strings and brass in the score. How do you think that adds to the caper feeling, and how did you want to incorporate an orchestral approach with the period pop one?
When I visited the set for the film, David Koepp told me his two most frequent directions to everyone on the movie would be “Remember, it’s a caper!” and “Faster!” So the idea that this is rooted in a caper story was there from the start. The electric guitar gets to do a lot of the heavy lifting with the spy music for Ewan McGregor’s character Martland, but I’m doubling that with the orchestra pretty often, which is another of the ways we were marrying the orchestral world with the soul band instruments. I think the way those elements work together is what makes it feel like a caper. Mark and I weren’t afraid of going into the musical language that makes it feel like spy jazz, as you said. Or spy funk, or spy soul, if such a thing exists.
What do you think Johnny Depp’s own Clouseau-like eccentricity here brings to the character, and subsequently your approach for him?
We all know that Johnny can create a character like no one else with his performances. And I use the performances in a movie to inspire my writing in almost all cases. You’ve got a colorful character with a rich, aristocratic lineage who is now living the life of a rogue, basically, so I can go and be colorful with the instrumentation I use, and I have the vast reservoir of music that is “aristocratic” to draw from. And I found if I turn that on its head or pervert it in some way it led to interesting results. So we approached his music with a certain irreverence, a nod to Mortdecai’s entitlement, a ton of charm and maybe an ounce of cluelessness.
How did you want to capture the sexy chemistry between Mortedecai and his wife Johanna?
With a great, classic love theme and a flugelhorn! Johanna, his wife, is always calmer and cooler than Mortdecai, and she’s really much smarter than he is as well so she’s playing the big role in solving the mysteries. And they’re at odds with each other so often, so she gets her own cool vibe for some of the score. But when it comes to their relationship I needed everything to thaw. I wanted soft focus, Vaseline on the camera lens, and some combination of old soul records plus exotica records did the trick.
How did you want the music to play the various ethnic characters that are chasing after Mortdecai?
Mortdecai makes a few enemies and I wanted each to have their own music. So the Russians, they this big men’s choir and a muscular tune. I won’t even tell you what the lyrics translate to, but someone somewhere is going to get a kick out of them! Emil Strago (Jonny Pasvolsky) is another of the bad guys who wants to track this expensive painting down to fund his terrorism efforts, so he gets a darker, more seriously threatening theme.
I’ve always appreciated the work of writer-director David Koepp, whom you also teamed with to score the very different Johnny Depp vehicle “Secret Window,” and the feature “Ghost Town.” He’s certainly never done a movie quite like “Mortdecai” before. What do you think drew him to this material, and how do you think David’s literate nature informs his work, especially when it comes to his musical collaboration with you?
I think what drew David to the story was it has all the makings of a classic 60s era caper, which is a genre I know he’s very fond of. It’s also built around very snappy dialogue, which I’m sure was fun for him to work with as well. He and I have a shorthand now, on our third film, so our collaborations go very smoothly. He’s very articulate about his thoughts on the music, and gives clear direction all the time. He gave me the greatest compliment once by saying, “You write the best second draft in the business!” So I understand where he’s coming from, in other words, just as well as he understands me. I’m also not afraid to play him rough ideas or experiments because he fosters an environment where I’m able to work and try things, and even fail for a while without any fear.
Could you tell us about creating “Mortdecai’s” groovy songs, and want you wanted them to say about his character?
The songs came about organically, after most of the score had been written. So we did it backwards in a way, which is to say Mark and I worked for months on the score and then went “I bet some of these themes will work as songs.” And since the themes for the film were already character-specific, it meant the song would already be tied to the characters or to the love story before we do anything with it. Then it was a matter of finding a song form for them and building it into something where there’s room for a lyric and vocal. Again, these were collaborative efforts with Mark, myself and the artists who sang the songs. For “Johanna” that was Miles Kane and Ben Garrett, and for “Heart’s A Liar” it was Rose Elinor Dougall.
You talked about one particularly clever cue where you start off with a Bach organ piece, and then giving it a hip-hop beat. How did you look for those kinds of opportunities?
That one presented itself naturally since it was a source cue that morphed into a score cue. And I think a cue like that is very much informed by a DJ mindset, where you’d be looking for ways to take something that exists and put a new idea into it to inject fresh life. So that’s an overt example of that in the score, but the concept pervades almost every note. “How can we take an established sound and make it fresh while not losing what made it strong and compelling to begin with?”
What do you think “Mortdecai” will do for the whole genre of hip retro-scores?
Well, it’s certainly one way of doing a retro score without it feeling like a parody or watering it down in any way. I think it’s such a unique film and such a special opportunity that it’s hard to know how it would apply to other films that could go that way. So I think what it does for the genre is really up to how people receive it. I know we worked hard at the authenticity here, which is something I’d hope resonates with people who watch the movie.
If “Mortdecai’s” adventures continue, could you see your scores taking on entirely different approaches for him?
I think the score we have here is so symbiotic with the character Mortdecai that if his story continues some of that would continue as well. But there wouldn’t be a reason to make a second film if the character and the story don’t evolve, which would mean the score evolves too.
“Mortdecai” opens on January 23rd, with Geoff Zanelli and Mark Ronson’s score available January 20th on La La Land Records
Visit Geoff Zanelli’s website HERE
Visit Mark Ronson’s website HERE
Madison Gate Records is proud to announce the release of [a.14401]Outlander - Original Television Soundtrack, Vol. 1 in digital and CD formats on [da.2015-02-10]February 10, 2015. The album features original music composed by Emmy Award Winner [c.1238]Bear McCreary along with period-accurate songs adapted by McCreary for the television series, including the main title theme, "The Skye Boat Song," performed by Raya Yarbrough. The album was produced in collaboration with McCreary's Sparks & Shadows label.
Composer McCreary has been fascinated with the folk music of Jacobean Scotland from an early age. "When I first learned to drive, I was blasting bagpipes from my car speakers," he jokes. His fascination quickly became a passion: "toward the end of high school, I began...
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.1240]Rob Simonsen ([m.41881]The Age of Adaline), [c.564]Christophe Beck ([m.35578]Ant-Man), [c.14]Marco Beltrami ([m.36210]The Fantastic Four), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 23 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2015-01-05]Click here for the full schedule.
[m.40708]Taken 3 (with music by [c.1585]Nathaniel Mechaly) is the only film opening nationwide this week. [m.41458]Selma (music by [c.14354]Jason Moran) and [m.40172]Inherent Vice (music by [c.1579]Jonny Greenwood) are expanding nationwide from previous, limited releases.
Among all new theatrical...
Happy New Year!
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.1065]Ramin Djawadi ([t.42756]Westworld), [c.91]Mark Isham ([t.42844]American Crime), [c.3471]Neil Davidge ([t.42817]Spotless), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 9 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2014-12-29]Click here for the full schedule.
[m.41454]The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death (with music by [c.14]Marco Beltrami, [c.3354]Marcus Trumpp, and [c.3355]Brandon Roberts) is the only film opening nationwide this week.
Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking song credits for:
- [m.41454]The Woman in Black 2: Angel of...
“A Most Violent Year” might just be one of the most ironically misleading titles yet for a provocatively named film. For nothing in J.C. Chandor’s movie is what it appears to be, from the cargo heists endangering the heating fuel empire dreams of Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac in quietly burning Michael Corleone mode) to the insanely pacifist way in which he chooses to meet the thuggery that gets very close to home. But for all of the gritty photography, family business machinations and razor-sharp salty language that Chandor brings together to create a palpable feel of a 1981 NYC movie that Sidney Lumet never happened to make, perhaps no cinematic element flows more unexpectedly under Chandor’s hyper-intellectual surface than the spare, powerful score by Alex Ebert.
Pulsating synths, yearning brass, elegiac strings and even a WTF pipe organ create a mood of oil-black doom and tension, varying from near-subsonic suspense to conveying an elegiac epic worthy of a Mafia clan. Even a seven-minute chase near worthy of “The French Connection” rises from the car horn pitch of wheels-on-tunnel gravel to convey an inevitable sense of fate. This is a score that signals big, important stuff is going on, at once as retro electronic-y as an 80s-era crime score, while having a truly weird, unnerving alt. score sound, This is the most potent, and unusual approach to seemingly bad men since Faith No More’s Mike Patton used an operatic approach for the multi-generational crime saga of “The Place Beyond the Pines.”
Here you’re also given the feeling of listening to the work of someone who seems to be alien to the nature of film scoring – yet in the coolest of ways. So it’s no surprise then that Alex Ebert hails from that same musical tribe, with his alt. street cred coming from the progressive bands as Ima Robot and the Ziggy Stardust-esque alter ego of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. The son of a therapist and actress whose family’s creative roots hail back to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” director Max Reinhardt, Ebert had his songs featured in “The Deadliest Catch,” “Chuck” and “Breaking Bad,” along with a documentary score to “My Big Break” when his innovative music caught the ear of director J.C. Chandor. The son of an investment banker, Chandor parlayed his own knowledge of the predatory financial world into the acclaimed indie “Margin Call” (scored by Nathan Larson). Music would be even more essential to Chandor’s next, singularly ambitious and near dialogue-free film with 2013’s “All Is Lost,” which pitted Robert Redford against the elements as a self-made sailor who truly discovers what it is to be alone.
Billing himself as “Alexander,” Ebert won a Golden Globe for his impressively innovative score that veered between orchestral tradition and alt.-honed experimentalism to convey a man against nature in all of its sonically beautiful, and threatening glory. It was truly a breath of fresh musical air in the mist of a lot of water, giving the sense of something new on the scoring horizon, even as melodic hope relentlessly faded to almost Zen-like musical effect. Now given the far wider environs of “Year’s” grungy shipyard, a glass-filled house embodying The American Dream and the dank corridors of D.A. power, Ebert creates a focused sense of restraint that really wants to do some damage, yet keeps its potential for harm mostly honed in to seething, emotional effect that recalls the paranoid works of such classic conspiratorial musical auteurs as Michael Small (“The Parallax View”) and David Shire (“All the President’s Men”), not that Ebert has really heard of them. For this is one composer who’s his own, impressive man as his music tries to out-think menacing, near invisible forces out to destroy Abel. It’s a soundtrack full of palpable threat and a thirst for power that marks Alex Ebert as a composer out to bend his own rules with the way of doing movie score things, all as an anti-hero does his impossible best to avoid drawing blood in this gripping misnomer of a movie.
I believe you started out studying film before you became a musician.
I got into music at the age of seven, and then into film when I was in my teens. And that’s all I was focused on until I was 22, when I got swept back into music. So it was sort of a sandwich. What I got out of it was the general cinema of one’s life – the epic moments that rest within the cracks of even the most mundane situations. It’s the cinema that exists within everyone’s mind, especially when I was a kid. My dad would drive us up to Monument Valley while blasting Vangelis, which would cause a certain story to unfold in front of me. It’s that combination of the visual and auditory that really defines what the cinematic experience is. You can even get it by listening to music as you’re walking through the airport. You’re in your own world, and you’re being transported to a place where everyone carries an ephemeral weight and existential dilemma. That idea of finding those “tracks” in the moments and putting yourself on the line translated over to my music making.
What brought you and J.C. Chandor together?
My music was put before him when he was considering composers for “All Is Lost.” He really took to it, and saw something in my music that would lend itself to composing. He said if was the “layers,” which was the composition and instrumental structure of my songs. They come and go, and reveal things.
Though “A Most Violent Year” takes place in the far more expansive environs of NYC, as opposed to being confined to a sailboat in “All Is Lost,” you could say that both films deal with isolated men – both cut off from humanity, existentially or physically.
Yeah, I think so. One guy is in a total world of ambition, and the other has a total lack of ambition, which is his ambition. But both have a panic circumstance and a ticking time clock. So they’re both character studies in a way.
In contrast however, “All is Lost” is a more expansive and melodic score, where you’ve taken a constrained, and almost experimental approach to “A Most Violent Year.”
That film’s character of Abel Morales is intensely focused, almost in a trance. His whole attitude is very rigid and uptight. So both scores have that meditative quality in common. Abel’s eyes are half-closed, as he remains intensely focused on his capitalist venture. That kind of meditation leaks out onto the screen from Oscar Isaac’s performance, and I wanted to accompany that sort of leakage with an atmosphere that expands and surrounds us, bringing us into his meditative state.
The title is exceptionally ironic, given that Abel really goes out of his way not to hurt, let alone kill anyone. It’s almost satirical in a way.
It’s sort of the predicament of that era, where the American Dream meets violence, and the temptation of violence. So I guess I’d agree with you.
You use a lot of low register, almost imperceptible music. What were your initial discussions with J.C. like to reach that approach?
They were pretty vague. He’d talk about one inspiration or another, but it was really just the stuff that worked well with the meditation idea – that he was meditating his way through a problem. Abel is one of the most focused characters I’ve ever seen in a film. He never has an outburst or raises his voice much, even though the circumstances keep rising. He really tries to stay on edge the entire time. And so I tried to keep the music in that same vein. But at the same time, there’s the impending danger of the takeover of Abel’s ambitions, which gives an ominous tone to the movie. I wanted the score to prelude where it will all take him by the end of the film.
How did you want to use brass in the score?
It was just a hunch. I knew that I wanted brass in the score, though I wasn’t quite sure why at first. I used it in accompaniment with the orchestra. Primarily it was the lower brass, with whole notes and ominous tones, and even disharmonic sprawls of held notes that just sort of mashed the ears up. But then, I think the era of 1981 New York City just sort of feels brassy to me.
“A Most Violent Year” has the most interesting use of the pipe organ in a movie this year next to “Interstellar.” I wouldn’t think of that instrument for a film like this.
There’s something Dracula-esque about Abel to me. He’s built a Pandora’s Box of a castle. And trying to ascend it felt Dracula-esque. It’s an odd combination of ritualism and ambition. The only competition to Abel’s ambition is his own sense of morality, which is quite inflated as well. His idea that the driver’s shouldn’t be armed to protect themselves idea is taken to the point where he comes across as being a bit sociopathic and out of touch. It’s this weird inversion of morality gets the “Dracula” treatment as Abel’s sense of morality brings down the people around him.
The big chase in the film reminds me a lot of “The French Connection” in just how long, tense and gritty it is. How did you want the music in “Close Haircut” to map it out, especially as it never plays like “action” music?
I didn’t go back and revisit “The French Connection” – nor do I know if I’ve ever seen the entire thing. But in my mind, “The French Connection” was what I was going for. It was about letting the action, the footsteps and the breathing really sort of lead. And the sounds of the cars turning, the horns, the tunnel and all of that noise keeping us riveted. So I started with the main ingredient for the pasta. I think there had to be percussion of some kind. I knew I wanted horns. In fact, these “swirls” of horns and percussion were actually two separate pieces that we mashed on top of each other. I ended it with Abel’s theme, but finally in its full glory with the counter melody and all of that. The chase scene was fun to score because it was awfully long. It was a bit of project, but I’m really happy with the way it turned out.
I think you could digitally insert Oscar Isaac’s performance into “The Godfather,” and no one would notice that he’s taken Al Pacino’s place. Did you sense that J.C. was going for a legendary crime saga feeling here? And if so, how much of an epic sensibility did you want to give to the score to convey the birth of Abel’s home heating fuel empire?
We were aware of that, and didn’t want to dive too deeply into that. I had several pieces that I wrote that didn’t end up in the film because they were a little too “Godfather”-esque. During the process, J.C. related this story about how art impacted life right after “The Godfather” came out. What does every gangster start doing after they’ve seen it? They start acting like they’re in “The Godfather!” They all started having dinner at these little Italian restaurants. So when Abel meets all of the other oil kingpins, in J.C.’s mind it’s them imitating “The Godfather,” which is what he saw happening with the parents of the people he grew up around. So in that sense, “The Godfather’s DNA is entwined with “A Most Violent Year.” It’s an interesting, odd and cool layer to the film.
Though you’re never told exactly where Abel hails from, how much of his Spanish ethnicity did you want to reflect in the score?
He’s a Spanish-speaking immigrant. While I never asked J.C. where he was from, I thought his accent was so slight, and so brilliant especially because it only really came out when he got mad. I thought that was really cool. So there was that thought that maybe I could bring a little bit of his roots into the score.
Could you talk about your song “America For Me,” which ends the film?
I live in New Orleans now, and had been watching a lot of Ken Burns’ jazz documentary, and digging it. When I first thought of J.C.’s movie, I remembered this band in New York from 1978 to 1981 called Suicide, which was the very first synth—punk damaged band that used beat machines and howling over stuff. They were totally brilliant. I didn’t get to incorporate any of that reactionary self-destructive music into the score. But at the end of the movie, you get a mouthful of Abel delivering his morality. Come to think of it, it’s funny how his last name is “Moral-ess,” or “Moral-less!” That’s amazing! (laughs). Abel tells the D.A. how moral he is. And the D.A. says, “I hope so.” So I thought that this was the time to do something reactionary, self-destructive, and honest. I wanted to strip the song down, and in comes the beat machine – something that’s totally synthetic, jarring and reactionary. Then on top of it, there’s a melody that’s more classic and soothing. Making that song was really special for me. I didn’t write the lyrics down. I just sang them. I didn’t even know what melody I was going to sing. I just came up with it as I recorded it. It was an inspiring process.
This is one of the most interesting dramatic “crime” scores I’ve heard since Mike Patton did “The Place Beyond the Pines.” Do you think there’s something about being an alternative rocker that produces real musical originality when they cross over to film scoring?
I assume there has to be some thread there. I think naturally people doing what you could call “pop” music usually study different stuff, and come into film scoring with a fresh face, and no real paradigms that they’ve been taught to work within, in terms of scoring films. But it’s like cooking. We all have a sensitivity to know when something is arranged properly and ready to eat. So in that sense, it’s all the same.
J.C.’s movies are very “arch” if you well, but in a mesmerizing, intellectual way. Do you think your music is intellectual as well?
I think that’s what J.C. does. He digs into the answers, but he sort of lets the answers lay there in front of you, all discombobulated. You’ll need to put them together on your way home. That’ a generous gift to give to people.
How do you see yourself stretching the mold of what music we should expect in film scores?
I don’t know if you can say I “stretched,” or broke the mold for this movie. But I’m always pushing. I think that instrumentally the combination of horns, strings and synths in “A Most Violent Year” was a bit unique, and also at the same time belonged together. So perhaps I moved that combination a bit closer together. Of course synths and strings are very often used together. But to my mind, this was a different kind of thing. It plays a significant modulating aspect that you actually notice. For me that was very fun.
If you had to call the shots like Abel, what kind of project would you want to score next?
I’d like to do some kind of period piece, or again any movie that has visual space within it to allow for melody, and pieces of music that are complete and dominate what you’re hearing. I’d love to do scores like that.
Buy Alex Ebert’s score to “A Most Violent Year” HERE
Buy Alex Ebert’s score to “All Is Lost” HERE
Visit Alex Ebert’s website HERE
The Tenerife International Film Music Festival (Fimucite), which will be held on July 3rd - 11th, 2015, sponsored by Cabildo Insular de Tenerife, Canary Islands Government and Santa Cruz de Tenerife City Council, will pay tribute to the release of the 30th anniversary of emblematic works such as [m.1695]Back to the Future or [m.23566]Silverado, as well as to the French film composers.
The composer and Fimucite's director [c.911]Diego Navarro, will conduct again the Orquesta Sinfónica de Tenerife and the Tenerife Film Choir at the monographic concerts devoted to these two main themes, which will be held on July 10th and 11th at Auditorio de Tenerife "Adán Martín."
Fimucite has scheduled on July 10th the concert "The French Connection," which will pay tribute to the...
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.8025]Manuel Riveiro ([m.42712]Knock Knock), [c.1231]Nathan Larson ([m.42732]A Walk in the Woods), [c.91]Mark Isham ([m.37140]The Longest Ride), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 16 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2014-12-22]Click here for the full schedule.
Opening nationwide this week are (with music by): [m.41970]The Gambler ([c.568]Jon Brion [c.1790]Theo Green), [m.38139]Into the Woods ([c.387]Stephen Sondheim) and [m.38343]Unbroken ([c.752]Alexandre Desplat).
Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking song credits...
Director Sam Anders' recent release [m.38967]Horrible Bosses 2 features a score from composer [c.630]Christopher Lennertz. Lennertz conducted the recording of the score at the Eastwood Scoring Stage at Warner Bros. earlier this year. Our friends at [url.http://scoringsessions.com/news/281/]ScoringSessions.com have made pictures of the session available.
[a.14010]Horrible Bosses 2 - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was released digitally on [da.2014-11-25]November 25,...
We all know the music that’s supposed to accompany Hollywood depictions of history, let alone the real-life, freedom-fighting icons whose charisma transcends any imagined depiction of them. For whether they’re Michael Collins leading Irish guerillas, William Wallace swinging a sword for Scotland or Mahatma Gandhi traversing India with a walking stick, audiences know they’ll hear the lofty noble strains of a symphonic orchestra – as mixed in with melodic ethnicity if the subject allows. Indeed, there’s nothing like a symphony to stoke the fires of justice, whether lit with cries of violence, or asking for the complete restraint of it in the face of those who’d do grievous harm to the righteous.
In the civilly disobedient musical case of Martin Luther King Jr. the impact of “Selma’s” score comes from its subtlety of meeting racist fury with soft dignity, as the jazz, soul and spiritual rhythms of an oppressed black nation join hands with a measured symphonic approach, especially when detailing the movement’s effect on a troubled marriage through soft strings and piano. Yet this is also a soundtrack that truly knows when to raise its emotional fist to shattering orchestral effect – both in getting across King’s still unmet call for racial equality, as well as announcing an impressive new voice on the major scoring scene.
As heard in an astonishing Hollywood debut by Jason Moran, “Selma” mixes the inspirationally expected with equal innovation, from paranoid electronics to the handclap percussion of police beat-downs. It’s an unstoppable sense of history making that could perhaps only be captured by a musician so steeped in jazz and its cultural heritage. Hailing from Houston with his craft learned in Manhattan’s jazz-infused stomping grounds, Jason Moran gigged with such musicians as Charles Lloyd and Bill Frisell, notching several releases with Blue Note records in the process. Also well established in the academic and cultural worlds as a teacher at the New England Conservatory and as the Artistic Director for Jazz at The Kennedy Center, Moran only had a few documentaries to his credits before his music caught the ear of “Selma” filmmaker Ava DuVernary (“Scandal,” “Middle of Nowhere”). Now Moran and DuVarnay are marching to the recent tune of Golden Globe nominations for Best Film, Director, Actor and Song for “Glory” (performed by Common, who also appears in the picture), For Moran, there’s nothing more moving than walking in scoring lock-step with picture that re-creates a lightning rod moment in history – one that’s never been more pertinent than now, especially when it comes to marching to the beat of music as quiet, and bold as its leader.
When you hear a score as good as “Selma” from a composer who’s completely unknown, the first question is usually “Who is this guy?” What would you say to someone asking that?
Well, he’s a jazz pianist and composer, who plays around the world giving concerts in creative venues, in world art, and jazz festivals worldwide. And he wants to be like Duke Ellington!
How did you end up getting the gig?
I’m a close friend of Bradford Young, who’s the cinematographer of “Selma.” As they were nearing the end of their shooting, the director Ava DuVernay was asking around about who could do the score. So Bradford just said to “Call Jason.” Ava’s response was “Jason who?” But we started having conversations on the phone in the spring and early summer, and we formed a close relationship through conversations about our intentions as young artists, especially related to history. That ‘s a big part of what I do as a jazz musician. It’s really kind of how to re-conceptualize history and make it somehow resonate in today’s society. I’m dedicated to that craft of looking back, in order to expose something for the future. So we found a common language that way, which made it a real joy to work with Ava on this.
What did Martin Luther King Jr. mean to you before you even became a musician?
Jazz and activism are so integral to each other, whether we think about the music of Max Roach, Charles Mingus, Duke Ellington, the music of the vaudeville performer Burt Williams in the early 1900′s, or the music of Paul Robeson. That link, that defiance, that comes out of the origins of jazz and blues are what we know of black music in American. It has that kind of tension and history built in to it, a process of exploring sounds from James Brown to today’s artists like John Legend and Common, who perform “Selma’s” end song “Glory.” So when I study jazz, I don’t just study just the music. I study its relationship where it was in the history. “Selma” is set in the 60s, when John Coltrane was about to make his most profound work “A Love Supreme,” which is about the the way he felt about the things that were happening with the civil rights movement, as well as the four girls who were bombed in a church. John made a piece about that, so our relationship to each other has always been extremely close. It’s daunting to think about that, but it’s also how I’ve been working for my entire life as a creative artist.
What were the challenges of going from jazz to doing a major orchestral score?
The challenge is just not knowing. So I always want to work with someone who knows how deep the water is, to show where it is I need to be heading. Ava and I had lots of discussions about where we wanted to go with the score. She really wanted to have an orchestral score, as this is her biggest film, so we moved in that direction of her big films. As we developed it more, the orchestrator Matthias Gohl (“The Red Violin”) came in to calm me down, and helped me through the process, especially because he has more experience in these situations. It was helpful to have someone like that help discuss the terror that I had as to where we were heading. I was both excited and nervous about the prospect, because I had no idea of what the finished product would sound like. I had the feeling of it, but I didn’t have the full idea in my head.
What I really liked about the score is just how subtle it is. Was it difficult taking that route with such a towering figure as Martin Luther King Jr., who isn’t exactly painted as a saint here.
When I scored documentaries, my first response would be to tell the director that their movies didn’t need a score! I was always very nervous about adding music. A score can be of help, but it can also really strong-arm a theme. I didn’t want to necessarily do that here. I spent the last ten years working with a great performance artist Joan Jonas, who has worked with video, painting, drawing, movement and costumes. We’d do these performances together (and still do it now), and she’s been very helpful in teaching me the process of how to expose a narrative through sound and text. So entering this kind of phase with Ava was similar. On “Selma,” I was trying to give a just a little, because my habit as a jazz player is to actually give you a lot (laughs)! But I had to resist the temptation, because the score needs to be “felt” more than “heard.” I was thinking of how the music would get us from place to place, and how it would help the audience breathe? And sometimes it needed to be big, to put us on a boat and take us across this bridge to arrive at Martin Luther King’s final speech.
This is the first film to deal with the tension of his marriage to Coretta. How did you want to play their relationship, especially when it came to the rumors of his womanizing?
As a married man and father of two children, I can say that anybody who marries understands that any marriage is complicated. It has highs and lows. At most times it’s unresolved until the people pass away. Martin and Coretta ‘s marriage functions in “Selma” to address that state of complexity. There are a couple of scenes where they are together, and the music there is extremely “simple.” I think the way their actors David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo portrayed the relationship in a way that was so full of emotion that their scenes didn’t need much music. For years I’ve done these pieces where I played around pre-recorded voices, whether the language was Turkish, Mandarin or English. It taught me how I could “map” the directions of speech patterns, or how music could function with them. It also encompassed their breaths, and the tone of the room they were in. It was almost like playing the room they were in, rather than what they were saying. Ava and I worked hard to figure out the interplay between music and dialogue in “Selma” so we could get the sound just right.
Another thing that impressed me about “Selma’s” score was how you subtly incorporated a traditional scoring approach with African-American music, whether it was jazz, the blues or spiritual anthems.
One of the first things Ava and I talked about was where would that rural music comes into conflict with the urban tunes. That let the tambourine become one of the instruments in the score. There are so many cultures around the world, and the tambourine is something that anybody can beat their hand to, and have this rattle attached to it. The blues is a major part of southern culture, as is spiritual music. Both use that kind of percussion. I wanted to kind of have that relation between blues and Gospel music to get the idea across of the “sacred” versus the “secular,” which also represents Martin Luther King Jr. As that kind of combination has also been a big part of my music, I was happy to find places in the score where both styles could work together.
There are also cool, far more modern sampling effects in the score that create a surreal feeling at points.
I worked with a great guitarist named Marvin Sewell, whom I’ve been collaboration with for many years. As I was getting some of the themes together, we sat down and it just worked out beautifully. We weren’t worrying about the score sounding too “modern,” as Ava also wasn’t trying to perfectly recreate history. She just wanted to tell the history.
Your score finally gets bigger in a more traditionally epic way when King’s marchers confront the cops at the bridge. How did you judge when to let loose your own big orchestral guns?
When Ava said we were going to use source music for the bridge sequence, my reaction was, “Oh, good, because that was going to be a doozy!” But then she said, “Nah, we need a score here.” I was like, “Ah… ok.” A lot of my process kind of falls out of my relationship to the piano. As an improviser especially, I’m also recording myself, which is how I learned to write – to think about musical mood and how to develop it. So as we were working on that long sequence, Ava saw how the music needed to be broken down into three parts. There was the initial piece on the bridge, the conversation that happens on the bridge between the marchers, and then the confrontation with the police. Up to that moment where the police charge the marchers, it was how to look at that tension and how to represent the feeling of the police. Then there’s the tension within the marchers, who are aiming to march confidently across the bridge for what could be a long journey. But first they’ve got to see what’s on the other side. And it turns out to be pure terror. So it took us a long time to figure out what was the right mood for the sequence. We would get one part right, and then the other two would be wrong. It just took a while to figure out how to make it all work. I’m thrilled when people experience that theme there, and how the music tells you the whole story. The percussion of the marchers’ feet is also a wonderful thing to imagine, even though you don’t necessarily hear them entering the bridge.
The other big score moment of course is Martin Luther King Jr.’s final speech. How did you want to accompany such meaningful, and moving words?
This was the first cue that I wrote. And I would cry every time as I was watching it and listening to my music. I called Ava to tell her that I was crying for an hour watching this speech. She said, “What do you mean?” And I said, “Look, I’m going to send you my music, because sometimes you can cry for the wrong reasons! (laughs) But I was actually crying for the right reasons. Ave called me back with “I don’t know how you did it. But THAT’S IT!” It was a really good thing that had happened, because I hadn’t really thought about the rest of the film yet. I just knew how I felt about the end of it, because we know how his life ends after that speech. And we know where we are today. So the speech just seemed to be the most current part of the film for me. It was a really heavy moment each time I saw that cue come up.
It’s shocking how relevant “Selma” is right to this minute. You realize how far black people have come since those days. But yet they really haven’t come that far at all.
“Selma” is a real comment on the relationships that rule the country, and how we relate to each other. There’s an indictment it imposes on all of us, the moment where King is giving a eulogy for the child that was murdered. He kind of indicts everybody, the people who aren’t a part of the marches. He indicts the clergy when he says, “Come on y’all. You see this is a problem for people.” This film will hopefully serve as a template to show how the community that was around Martin Luther King Jr., and what we have to do now to move forward and progress. Not to just change laws, but to change peoples’ attitudes.
If a viewer decides to join the marches against injustice after hearing your music with the incredibly powerful music and images of “Selma,” will you think you’ve done your job?
Yeah. I think even people who are out there now are becoming aware of the film. Ava and Common took the film out to Ferguson and screened it down there last week. So “Selma” is becoming part of the community. They showed it last night in Boston to the mayor and the governor, and it’s now already part of their conversation. Cities are starting to find a way to discuss this film.
Unfortunately, it seems that one of the biggest racist institutions is Hollywood itself, especially when so many black composers now get pigeonholed into only doing “black” films. How do you hope to avoid that, especially as you’re just starting out in the big leagues?
I’ve always been a functioning musician who has tried to defy pigeonholes. I’m very interested in stories, and narrative, which has always been in my strategy, with or without Hollywood. I’m an artistic director at the Kennedy Center for Jazz. With this film I was just trying to be subtle, if not splashy at all – which is the way I go about all of my music. I don’t have any particular goals, just to make it all work. I try to enable those around me to have a bold vision, to make them hear what it takes to really make an effective change, There’s a scoring world you know, a directing world, a gender world, so many spaces to have a discussion about. The hole is always big but I feel like I have the option to lower the ladder into that hole, and to help myself climbing out of it as well.
“Selma” opens on Christmas Day
(A special thanks to Alexander Portillo for his interview transcription)
Visit Jason Moran’s website HERE
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced this week the contenders for nomination in the categories of Best Original Score and Best Original Song. To see the complete list of those for Original Score, [url.http://www.soundtrack.net/news/article/?id=1938]click here. For a list of those for Original Song, [url.http://www.soundtrack.net/news/article/?id=1937]click here.
Also announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.597]Alex Wurman ([m.39374]Unfinished Business), [c.361]Brian Tyler ([m.42045]Now You See Me: The Second Act), [c.1258]Michael Brook ([m.42689]Brooklyn), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
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Sparks & Shadows announced the release date for the [a.14334]EVERLY Original Motion Picture Soundtrack as [da.2015-01-20]January 20, 2015. As a special holiday bonus, fans that pre-order the soundtrack on iTunes now will receive the five holiday-themed tracks right away!
Composer [c.1238]Bear McCreary and the film's director Joe Lynch have teamed together with vocalist Raya Yarbrough to release a special gift, a video of "Silent Night," directed by Lynch and arranged by McCreary. The video can be viewed [url.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XP9Sn6mkbFs&feature=youtu.be]here.
"I first conceived of the story for [m.41702]Everly, as my ode to Asian cinema, holiday movies like [m.6618]Die Hard, and entrails," said Lynch. "[c.1238]Bear McCreary is one of the...