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Interview with Lorne Balfe

Film Music Magazine News - Di, 20/06/2017 - 00:14

Even if one might not be able to comprehend the seemingly fantastical equations of Albert Einstein, music remains the great communicator in touching the senses, and imagination. Such is the wonder of Lorne Balfe’s score to “Genius,” National Geographic’s ambitious foray from the often-staid world of straight documentaries into fictionalized reality. With Balfe’s sweeping orchestra and sci-fi-like sampling opening up Albert Einstein’s revolutionary theorems about the nature of time and space, “Genius” conveys the magic of a mind realizing the secrets of creation.

Yet this Ron Howard-produced series is far from the iconic scientist chalking up a classroom board. Instead, “Genius” is far more concerned with showing how a man who could be so brilliant with math can be so grievously flawed in his personal life. As portrayed young and old by Geoffrey Rush and Johnny Flynn through nine episodes, “Genius” reveals the violin player as a budding world-changer as capable of passion as he is indifference, leaving wreckage from the lives of his first, equally intelligent wife and their sons, while carrying on affairs in front of his beyond understanding second wife. For a vainglorious, yet somehow sympathetic “character,” Balfe draws on powerful, lush emotion that also captivatingly plays the greater canvas of Eastern European history through two world wars.

It’s a haunting, evocative and strongly orchestral sound whose spirit can be heard more intimately in “Churchill.” Dealing with another formidable true personage that held the weight of the free world on his stout shoulders, Balfe’s music here is more intimate and spiritually minded for a leader grasping with doubt about the invasion that he knows will cost thousands upon thousands of lives. It’s an epic intimacy that shows the versatility of this Scottish-born composer. Having risen up the ranks of Hans Zimmer’s musical brain trust on such scores as “Rango,” “The Dark Knight” and “Inception” to show his own stylish voice with “Beyond: Two Souls,” “Ironclad,” “The Story of God with Morgan Freeman,” the Emmy-nominated “Restless” and this year’s smash “The LEGO Batman Movie” among numerous works, Balfe’s “Genius” and “Churchill” hear the human heart of history with captivating lyricism. It’s music that makes the math, and history books open to their icons with immediately understandable, captivating melody that’s true inspiration.

How were you approached to score the music to Genius, and did The National Geographic Channel have an approach in mind for the show?

Ron Howard approached me, because I had worked with him and Hans. Ron knew that I had a background in television, and the “Genius” pilot was his debut as a director for television.

Did you do your own research into Einstein?

I wouldn’t say “research,” as I did know about the basic life of Einstein. Yet as “Genius” shows, there was far more about his life that people didn’t know about. The music was really about looking at where his story was going. The only research I did for the show was when it came to Einstein’s love of the violin. I don’t know how good he was at playing it, but if I had to make a guess, I’d think that maybe he was good at it. Some people say the same thing about most musicians being good at math, though that’s certainly not true when it comes to me!

Did it weigh on you that Alan Silvestri won an Emmy for his work on “Cosmos,” which is another show about the exploration about science, though one far broader in its scope than “Genius?”

“Cosmos” was an amazing soundtrack. But thinking like that won’t get you out of bed in the morning! The one thing I did learn from all of this is that you have to distance yourself from whatever you do, not to get too attached for too long or you will feel that pressure to outdo yourself every time. “Genius” was such a complicated work in its own way that to make all the themes for the theories to work together was something else. Television is far more complicated than film; with film, where you have an hour and a half to tell a story. With television, you’re musically telling a story for ten hours where you’re on this journey with the audience. It’s far more intense than your usual film. And viewers don’t watch television the way they used to. They sit down and watch five episodes in one go. So you have to monitor your use of themes, particularly nowadays.

Can you personally relate to Albert Einstein?

I I don’t think anybody really can. If they think so, then they’re very egotistical! Einstein was a complicated person and Ron wanted to make the score for him more of a classical storytelling experience as opposed to making it feel like a period piece. So it took me a while to figure out what the colors were to his story. .

“Genius” is far more about Einstein as a human being as opposed to being a “science show” as such, and in the process offers a lot of revelations about his personal life. Did any of them surprise you?

The most shocking thing to me about Einstein was his womanizing. I wasn’t aware of how much of a lothario he was! I didn’t know where he had the time to do all those great mathematical findings while chasing these women.

For all of crappy stuff that Einstein did to the women he was involved with, how do you want the music to maintain sympathy for him?

Einstein’s passion and his love didn’t make him a bad person. There was nothing malicious about him. He was a man that couldn’t help himself – a true eccentric. You couldn’t help but feel sorry for him and the people that he hurt. Musically, I didn’t want to make Einstein pitiful, but to hear him realistically so that it wouldn’t sideline the importance of what he’s contributing to science.

How difficult was it to musically convey the idea of scientific discovery, which make for some of “Genius’” most visually stunning sequences?

From the beginning, Ron always talked about that “sound” where, and when you have that “unique moment?” What is that piece of music when ‘all of a sudden” happens? Where you figured out that equation, or the conclusion to that theory? We’ve portrayed that with film music as a burst of energy. But on this television show it was important not overwhelm the viewer. The music has to sit back when Einstein’s demonstrating his theories, because had we been too intrusive it would’ve detracted from the information given. What he’s saying is so complicated and that I didn’t want to overwhelm the situation.

Did you combing “old school” orchestrations with more futuristic samples to show how Einstein was ahead of his time?

When we started the process, Ron would always unintentionally experiment with the two, but it wasn’t planned out to make “Genius” into a hybrid score. It just happened. The electronic elements provided us a way to look inside what was going on in Einstein’s head, the inside looking out if you would. I didn’t want to make a conventional score. I wanted to make one that, like him, was always evolving. The colors of the score had to match that evolution.

Was it important for the music to hold onto the audience that tuned in expecting Geoffrey Rush through the whole series, where in fact he essentially shows up at the very beginning and then the final few episodes?

I was more invested in the younger Albert Einstein, as that’s the person I never knew about. I actually yearned for even more with his earlier self. But you couldn’t have two different musical approaches for their ages. The music had to a whole, because it’s the same journey, a constant yearning by Einstein for passion and love.

How did you want to convey the scope of history that goes through two world wars?

It was an underbelly to the music that made for a sense of dread and brooding power that’s trying to overtake the viewer. It’s always a difficult thing to score when dealing with those dark themes. For example, when I was writing on “The Bible A.D.,” I had a theme for the devil, whose dark music could mean different things to many people. Sometimes that approach can end up being parody if you don’t watch it.

How did Hans Zimmer’s main theme inspire your own approach, or were you working on the score at the same time?

Han’s main theme was a difficult one, because it really isn’t about Albert Einstein. It’s about the concept of genius, as the series won’t be about Einstein next year. It’s about what the thought process is when you have that moment on inspiration – whether it’s writing the plotline for a great plotline for a piece of literature, composing a piece of music, or doing a painting, all of which will become iconic. My score is specifically about Albert Einstein.

How do you think “Genius” represents the move by channels like National Geographic from straight documentaries to essentially fictionalized shows like “Vikings?”

Viewers have a yearning and an appetite for knowledge, they want more content and this is an amazing dramatization that works as well as a feature film. That’s possible for shows, but very difficult to achieve. The process is even more difficult, because with a film, you have a certain amount of time to tell the story – whereas with television, you have more time spread out to tell the story, and to be more consistent in almost every aspect. People today tend to talk more about television more than they do about films.

Having now scored “Churchill” after Einstein, do you see anything in common with these two iconic figures?

This movie was also about discovering a side of a person you’ve never seen before. “Churchill” is about the end of his political career, when he was losing control. And it’s sad to see that happen. Like any character, that makes them relatable to viewers when they can relate their own emotions to them. While you can’t really relate to someone had the kind of lives that Einstein and Churchill did, you can relate to common emotions of vulnerability and loss. Both films are interesting to see because they also deal with the characters’ relationships with their spouses. “Churchill” and “Genius” are about men, not myths.

How did you want the specter of the D-Day invasion to be part of “Churchill’s” score?

“Churchill” isn’t about war, but the pride of the nation. He’s dealing with his emotional wounds, and trying to find a way back for a second chance. So to me, I never looked at it as a war film, but more as a drama. The director Jonathan Teplitzky (“The Railway Man”) was always keen on the authenticity of it, not wanting to make it epic. This was the story of a man who needed to make wrongs right.

You use voices in a particularly haunting, and hymnal way in “Churchill.”

British chorale music is the most beautiful pure music I remembered as a child. I think Churchill became the man he did because of his upbringing. He was brought up by his grandparents, and was alone for most of his youth. He wrote great poetry when he was young, so there’s a purity when you hear the voices in the score, as they for a man who sounded simplistic, but spoke from the heart.

Credit: Pierre Futsch and Nicolas Cabarrou

Do you think that scoring these films about legendary figures from the past will advance your own career?

I don’t care. I think that the most important thing I did was a documentary called “Salinger,” based upon the life of the reclusive author who wrote “Catcher in the Rye.” I loved every single moment on that project. The reviews were not good. Time Magazine called it the worst film of the year. I mean, Adam Sandler beat us! But that didn’t really matter, because there was a bigger message to be told. I think that if you’re lucky in life, you’ll get to work in different genres, it’s an amazing opportunity than just writing for horror films every single day, which can become monotonous, I think that in writing a score for Churchill and Einstein, you really want to learn about these men. It’s rare to be able to work on gems like “Genius” and “Churchill.” Albert Einstein was a rock star of his time. To be able to portray these characters so that people won’t think of them as stuffy and old is important to me, because we need those kinds of people again in our lives, and the future.

Listen to Lorne Balfe’s musical theories for “Genius” HERE on Milan Records, then listen to the sound of Britain’s wounded lion on Filmtrax HERE.

Watch “Genius” HERE. “Churchill” is now in theaters.

Visit Lorne Balfe’s website HERE

Special thanks to Alexander Portillo for transcribing this interview

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Audio: Interview with Brian Tyler and Alex Kurtzman

Film Music Magazine News - Wo, 07/06/2017 - 01:07

ON THE SCORE is sponsored by La-La Land Records

Through the pedal to the metal energy of his “Fast and the Furious” scores to the explosive ramp-ups of “The Expendables” and the stealth, death-inducing percussion of the concluding two “Final Destination” scores, there’s no mistaking the franchise-friendly sound of composer Brian Tyler. With a muscular, pop-rock friendly mix of orchestra and sampling, Tyler has long had the multiplex testosterone musical fuel in demand by Hollywood heavy hitters. However, when the lid is taken off the coffin that will unleash a new series of classic Universal horror monsters for a rebooted “Mummy,” the striking music that issues forth isn’t the kind of Tyler score we’ve come to know. It’s a new, classic beast entirely.

With his most impressive score yet, Tyler recalls the richly atmospheric, melody-driven horror of such classic composers as Franz Waxman, Hans J. Salter and Heinz Roemheld – all Eastern Europeans who heralded a dark, romantic sound that powered the likes of “The Bride of Frankenstein,” “The Wolfman” and “Dracula’s Daughter” (which isn’t to mention how Tyler also draws on the symphonic, sandstorm force that Jerry Goldsmith gave to the first “Mummy’s” vintage-set reboot).

Brian Tyler conducts a live performance of “The Mummy”

Very old school, sinister girl power is what this lavish, modern-age take on the mummy movie legend is all about in the increasingly seductive form of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), a far more sensuous mummy than the soul-eating eating “Bubba Ho-Tep” that Tyler scored from way back when. As Ahmanet seeks to unleash hell on earth through her fatal attraction to roguish adventurer Nick Morton (Tom Cruise), Tyler’s epic score goes for a sweeping sense of ancient fear quite unlike himself. A booming chorus, thrilling symphonic suspense, skittering evil and an enticing sense of Egyptian doom fill this “Mummy,” revealing a whole new composer whose princess seeks musically biblical payback.

Alex Kurtzman and Brian Tyler greet fans at “The Mummy”’s French premiere

Now on a new episode of “On the Score,” Brian Tyler is joined by “Mummy” filmmaker Alex Kurtzman as they talk about a long-lasting collaboration that’s evolved from “Eagle Eye” to “Hawaii Five-0” and “Now You See Me” to reach its biggest challenge yet for a genre directing debut that’s drawn vital powers of grandly melodic, evil excitement as both men seek to create a new, Dark Universe for Universe Pictures’ most prized and fearsome properties.

Click above to Listen Now or Click Here to Download


“The Mummy” strikes on June 9th, with Brian Tyler’s score available on Backlot Music.

Visit Brian Tyler’s website HERE

Convening after “The Mummy” concert (L to R) Courtney Vance, Annabelle Wallis, Tom Cruise, Brian Tyler, Alex Kurtzman, and Sofia Boutella

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Rupert Gregson-Williams

Film Music Magazine News - Vr, 02/06/2017 - 19:11

Just as the Amazons have remained hidden on their Zeus-blessed Paradise Island of Themyscira, composer Rupert-Gregson Williams has essentially remained one of the best-kept secrets in the insular town of Hollywood. Now, the impressively skilled residents of their respective worlds finally get their blockbuster coming-out party with “Wonder Woman,” as the Greek-molded goddess Princess Diana fiercely fights for peace and love to Williams’ heroic strains – an inherent optimism that finally blasts the dark, draining nihilism that’s defined DC films to bright smithereens.

But if Diana is properly travelling the cinematic world for the first time since her comic book creation by William Moulton Marston in 1941, her English-born muse has been out doing good works for nearly two decades. The brother of Harry Gregson-Williams (“Man on Fire,” “The Martian”) rose from “Urban Ghost Story” and “Virtual Sexuality” to impress with his own rousing orchestral sound. His music made you believe a farting kid could fly into space with “Thunderpants,” conveyed the genocide outside “Hotel Rwanda,” captured the backyard animated antics of “Over the Hedge” and has given any number of Adam Sandler pictures magical maturity with the likes of “Click” and “Bedtime Stories.”

It’s been a diligent climb through any number of comedies like “Blended” and “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” in recent years for Williams (including the smarter laughs of HBO’s “Veep”). Thankfully, Williams’ heroic talents were finally allowed to come roaring to the fore with his energetic work for the seriously underappreciated “The Legend of Tarzan.” Capturing the noble adventure of the iconic jungle lord, Williams’ cache was elevated significantly further as he grippingly played the incredible WW2 heroism of the real-life savior Desmond Doss in “Hacksaw Ridge,” before hearing the introspective feminine drive of Queen Elizabeth for Netflix’s “The Crown.” But nothing in Williams’ increasingly impressive arsenal of conveying heroism socks it to the audience like director Patty Jenkins’ smashingly great realization of “Wonder Woman.”

Bonded to his brother and the Hans Zimmer school by their use of propulsive samples alongside a traditional orchestra in a way that’s more newfangled than John Williams’ superhero-defining style, this particular Williams’ hears just as much valiant, sweepingly melodic conviction within Princess Diana. With ethnic instrumentation and bold, sword and shield clanging percussion capturing this Amazonian champion’s mystical birthright, the composer sends her out into the world and its Great War in the company of secret agent Steve Trevor, employing sympathy, humor and the heart-rending emotion of a sheltered woman seeing male-made carnage for the first time. It’s a sweepingly noble approach that’s pure comic book movie magic as Diana charges through the trenches in full costume as sweeping strings build to the thematic fierceness of Tina Guo’s rocking cello playing. There’s also no mistaking pure good and evil in the dastardly music of its gas-loving Huns and higher-powered villains, combat that reaches cosmically choral levels for its exhilarating musical climax, and truly moving aftermath. Bringing back every hero-making musical element that DC had forgotten, Rupert Gregson-Williams “Wonder Woman” resounds with epic girl power in a way that distinguishes the long-awaited arrival of Princess Diana as much as himself.


Did you and Harry become interested in music, and film scoring simultaneously? And in what way do you think your styles are similar, and dissimilar?

Harry and I both trained in performance as youngsters, and our love for film and film scoring came later. I think our styles differ sonically, but harmonically I think we may have one or two similar traits – we both were choristers at Cambridge. That training goes deep!


Were you familiar with the character of Wonder Woman before taking on this score?

I’d seen the TV show back in the day, and of course, Gal’s Wonder Woman really made an impressive mark in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” I had wondered, like many fans, why such an important figure in the D.C. Universe had not been explored before, but never dreamt I’d be taking her to the big screen for the first time.

Did the Wonder Woman music that was heard for the character’s first appearance in “Batman v Superman” influence your approach here?

The theme used in that film represents a Diana who is already a super hero, and confident in all things-warrior. In our origin movie, I needed to write a fresh theme and original music for the young Diana to represent her naivety. I composed for Diana knowing where the journey might end tonally. I enjoyed using cello playing of Tina Guo to show glimpses of what is to come!

Tell us about your collaboration with director Patty Jenkins, and what she was looking for the score to accomplish?

director Patty Jenkins & Rupert Gregson-Williams - photo by James Gillham/Sting Media

Patty is smart. She’s also got a great ear, and is a fan of film music. We worked closely on how to develop themes, especially the journey that Diana’s theme should take in her development from young girl to super hero. She really wanted a strong theme that represented the heart and strength of Diana. We spent a long time together simply talking Diana – her naïveté, her compassion , her strengths , before I wrote a note. We spent a lot of time with themes going back and forth until we found The One.


Before “Wonder Woman” you scored another highly enjoyable, period-set superhero with “Tarzan.” Do you see the characters as similar in that they’re noble warriors thrust into a weaponized world that they try to make sense of?

Yes, both characters have a naivety about them and their need to help the weak. Both draw on years of training or survival in sheltered paradise for their strength. Ultimately Wonder Woman was a journey of discovery for her powers, whereas Tarzan knew his strengths only too well.

Do you think your heroic music for the horrors of war in “Hacksaw Ridge” came into play here as well when it came to Wonder Woman taking on the WW1 trenches?

Yes, it’s an interesting comparison. Both Wonder Woman and Desmond Doss seek to help the vulnerable through their love of humans differ. Diana’s strength comes from a lifetime of training, and of course being the daughter of Zeus helps! With Desmond Doss I had to drill down into the spiritual heart of the man and where he got his strength.

Tell us about developing your Wonder Woman theme and how it fit this new retro-vision of the character?

Patty and I worked hard on the theme. We wanted to show strength and beauty and love. She is from a proud and brave race, descended from Gods. Diana is also naïve and humorous. Simple nut to crack! Really I wanted to have a theme that could be noble, romantic and ultimately heroic as the film moves through to its climax.

How did you want to convey a mystical, ancient land of Amazonians, and the tribal heritage that Wonder Woman carries with her along with their very physical emblems of their might and magic?

The Amazonians are fearless, and their land is timeless, so I had to be very confident with the theme for them. Their land feels less ethnic and more wondrous and magical to me, so I set about it with that in mind.

What attributes of Wonder Woman were important for you to capture?

I felt I had to capture strength, beauty and compassion. Because her nobility, charm and humor shine through so well with Gal Gadot’s performance too. I had plenty of opportunity in this movie to explore all these attributes.

How did you want to achieve a balance between musical femininity, and strength?

Diana’s melody is feminine, but always underpinned with percussion and propulsion. She learns of the darkness going on in the world, which drives her to want to want to save humanity. As long as her theme sung out, I could explore ever more bold ways of accompanying it.

Even during its most furious action scenes, did you want to go for an overaching, brass-driven sense of nobility for Wonder Woman’s mission?

No, as I play each action scene differently. In the movie she encounters danger at her most naive on the island of Themescyra, and in the man’s world she develops her powers and we see her at her most confident. I tried to develop the strength and powers of the theme to reflect her journey in the action scenes.

In most male superhero films, the “girl” is usually left to play second fiddle. But here the relationship is essentially reversed with Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor. How did that dynamic play into your score?

They have a great chemistry together, which I hope is reflected in the score. Steve isn’t left behind in any way. He holds his own, but Diana keeps surprising him as she develops. The themes become stronger and more about Wonder Woman as the dangers grow and her awareness of her powers develops.

Tell us about your more villainous music here, especially given their mix of the Germanic, and warrior godhood?

I loved writing for General Ludendorff and Dr. Maru – the theme is a low ascending figure on the lowest woodwinds with a counter line slithering downwards – it says pure evil after the first three notes play. There’s real darkness there, so I didn’t need to play the Germanic side of Ludendorff. I felt he represented a broader and older evil on the earth.

You’ve also scored a member of real-life female royalty with “The Crown.” Can you see any musical comparisons with Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana?

No, though both are brave in their way. Elizabeth doesn’t show emotion in the way Diana does. Her strength is in restraint. Diana wears her heart on her sleeve. So Diana’s theme is both noble and overtly romantic and heroic. Elizabeth’s is noble, but emotionally restrained. That’s the English for you!


Though you scored some decidedly serious movies like “Hotel Rwanda,” comedies, especially those from Adam Sandler, have been a consistent of your career. Why do you think that relationship’s lasted so long, and do you think you bring a particular musical “weight” to his brand of comedy, most recently with “Sandy Wexler?”

I love working with Adam – We’ve lasted a long time because he makes me laugh. I sometimes make him cry and I try to make him laugh. He is one of the most loyal in the business and I admire him for that.

A lot of women campaigned to get this score, but you were the winner in this tournament. Do you think that a person’s sex should determine who gets a “women’s” picture as such, or do you think it should be left to the director and studio to determine who’s right for the job based on talent, regardless of their sex, given a film’s subject?

I don’t think Patty would have liked to hire someone based simply on their gender. Just as she is a director first, She is also a female director. I know she spent long time thinking about who would score her movie, and heard a lot of music from both female and male composers. When she made the decision, it was based on whom she thought would understand the character of Diana best. I hope she was right in choosing me, and I feel lucky to have been given the opportunity.

Photo by James Gillham/Sting Media


Like Harry, you’ve created a dynamic style that blends a strong, thematic orchestra with rhythm and samples. Would you say that’s the sound any composer needs to stay sonically current, especially when it comes to getting films like “Wonder Woman?”

I think it helps to feel comfortable with technology and current musical trends, not necessarily to follow them. One can’t help writing melodies, harmonies and rhythms that get you excited, so the best thing for me is to keep an open mind on what I hear and to make sure I play with new musical toys as they are developed with new technology.

Do you think that “Tarzan,” “Hacksaw Ridge” and “Wonder Woman” now truly show you’ve at long last “arrived” in A-level Hollywood? And what do you think will be the trick to staying in a place you’ve long deserved?

Well that’s kind of you. But once you feel you’ve arrived, you may as well flick to autopilot and put your slippers on and sit back. I will always feel fear at the beginning of a project – that’s how I’ll keep it fresh. It’s been a terrific and exciting year. I’m thankful and looking forward to the next year. Let’s hope I get half the amount of opportunities I’ve had this year.


Lasso the musically mighty truth of Rupert-Gregson Williams’ score for “Wonder Woman” on WaterTower Records HERE

Listen to Rupert Gregson-Williams’ scores for “Hacksaw Ridge” and “The Legend of Tarzan” HERE and HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

May 2017 Soundtrack Picks

Film Music Magazine News - Wo, 24/05/2017 - 18:09

Soundtrack Picks: “BARBARELLA and WONDER WOMAN: THE TELEVISION SERIES” are the top soundtrack to own for May, 2017

Also worth picking up: A FAMILY MAN, ALIEN CONVENANT, BABY’S DAY OUT, FAST COMPANY, GET EVEN, RICHARD THE STORK, ROCKET TO THE MOON, THRILLER and many more!

To Purchase the soundtracks from this list, click on the CD cover

THE TOP PICKS

1) ALIEN CONVENANT / LIFE

     

Price: $11.49

What is it?: In space, no one can hear you scream. But you can certainly hear its terrifying music in these two auspicious, alien-centric scores from Milan Records.

Why should you buy it?: In “Alien Covenant,” we get the clearest view yet as to how these bioweapons work, as their spores and face huggers invade bodily orifices, bursting out with creatures that take on their victim’s shape. On that note, listeners of “Alien Covenant” might be searching for the creature running around in the form Jerry Goldsmith and Elliot Goldenthal. It’d likely resemble Jed Kurzel, whose striking, vicious creativity here is sourced from those composers’ DNA. Yet before his literal Hollywood breakthrough here, Kurzel made his own strong impression down under with his eerily tense work for “The Snowtown Murders,” “The Babadook” and “Macbeth.” Now Kurzel impressively insinuates himself among the giants that have come before him in “Alien’s” musical saga. Where director Ridley Scott had used just a bit of Goldsmith’s “Alien” theme in Marc Streitenfeld and Harry-Gregson Williams’ score for “Prometheus,” that legendary composer’s score has a far larger presence in “Covenant,” which is particularly ironic as Kurzel is called upon to use both Goldsmith melodies that were used in the original, as well as the ones that were rejected for a score that the Scott mostly tossed to use older Goldsmith work to arguable effect. Kurzel styles the orchestral side of “Covenant” in Goldsmith’s creepily orchestral fashion, using both minimal, gong-like percussion and well as grander gestures that at first reflect the optimism of seriously misguided space settlers. But as the invasive spore dust hits the fan on a deceptively pleasant planet, Kurzel introduces bizarre sampled and electronic elements, gnarled, percussive effects that get under your ears at conveying some alien civilization’s unknowable purpose in manufacturing civilization-killing dust. With the crew increasingly decimated in gory fashion, Kurzel brings impressionistic, brass heavy horror to the surface, modernistic music that veers from a whisper to frenzy in the tradition of Elliot Goldenthal’s nightmarish music for the lamented “Alien 3.” It’s an Avant-garde style that gradually consumes “Covenant” to impressive effect as eerie chorus and orchestra laments engineers destroyed by their own creations. Face huggers skitter about with terrifying percussion, and a chest burster is heard as a thing of tender beauty by an android with delusions of godhood. With a score that treads well between melodic fear and sound design, Kurzel’s unusual approach also delivers on the action set pieces, as rhythms, chopped vocal effects and orchestra capture the excitement of our heroine repeatedly hanging for dear life over the abyss, with gnashing double-jaws in front of her. Such is the intricacy of Kurzel’s work that more than a bit of it gets lost in the film mix, making this CD the best way to appreciate “Covenant’s” impressive hybrid of sound design and score that pays genetic tribute to the series’ musical heritage while skittering off in its own impressively unnerving way.

Extra Special: A major rebound for both director Daniel Espinosa and composer Jon Ekstrand from the interminably murky “Child 44,” “Life” is positively roaring with its more fiendish genetic aspects for a bald-faced, incredibly effective rip on that old chestnut of spacemen being chased about by a mutating creature with a decidedly bad attitude. However, Ekstrand really nasty trick is having his music make you think that it’s going to be a cosmically blissful close encounter between man and cute amoeba-like thing, as “Life” starts out with a richly symphonic sense of discovery and wonder. His music builds, its themes long and drifting as opposed to being forthright, reaching an “Also Sprach Zarathustra” transcendence with “It’s Alive.” But just as heavenly chorus sings with the promise of peace for “New Best Friend,” Ekstrand pulls the rug out from under the listener while severely tightening a protoplasmic handshake. “Life” from this point out builds with gripping desperation, suspensefully layering in the orchestral Where other composers might take a more frenetic route as the increasingly decimated space station’s dwindling crew try to outmaneuver the creature, Ekstrand goes for a more melodic than dissonant depiction of consuming fear. It’s scoring as relentless forward thrust, even amidst some blissful moments of dealing with the hopelessness of the situation, capturing the emotion of not only trying to save oneself, but also one’s blood brothers as well. Even when that clichéd used sonic bwwaammmm repeatedly pounds as a Soviet craft proves anything but a rescue ship, Ekstrand’s increasing momentum for blaring brass and strings is nothing less than riveting. Where “Gravity’s” Oscar-winning battle for survival against space itself showed how cool and unique one might make orchestra and electronics work for the vacuum, what distinguishes “Life” is how Ekstrand mainly uses the orchestra to convey heroes alternately running for their lives and trying to science the shit out their increasingly bleak and terrifying situation.


2) BARBARELLA / WONDER WOMAN: THE TELEVISION SERIES

     

Prices: $13.98 / $ 34.98

What Is it?: It can be said that Charles Fox’s prolific film and TV scoring career got off to cult fame right off the bat with “The Green Slime.” Having an equal ear for era-defining pop beats and brightly energetic orchestrations, Fox composed any number of eternally memorable TV hits (often in the company of lyricist Norman Gimbel) for “Love American Style,” “Happy Days” and “The Love Boat,” along with such beloved caper scores as “9 To 5” and “Foul Play.” Among his genre projects, “Barbarella” and “Wonder Woman” stand tall as much for their camp heroines’ eye-catching uniforms as much as their space Shagadelia and groovy patriotism, musical girl power that’s now finally on full display with the two long-awaited CD editions.

Why Should You Buy It?: 1968 was indeed an auspicious year for Fox to groovily suit up astronauts, or in the case of “Barbarella,” provide much of the acid-washed clothing for Jane Fonda’s barely-dressed sex kitten. Director (and then Fonda husband) Roger Vadim created as much of a delightfully wacky comic strip adaptation as he did a stunning pop art tableau, it’s a psychedelically humorous with-it attitude complemented by the chart-topping sensibilities of Four Seasons collaborator Bob Crewe and his Bob Crewe Generation Orchestra. But with its fat brass licks on “Barbarella’s” progressively torn covering, the sensibility here is also very much of a “Casino Royale” one – with both scores very aware of their high camp purpose. But if that Bond spoof had Burt Bacharach and Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass, Crewe’s production expertise created a wall of sound that was like Phil Spector in space. Electric guitar stings, sensual percussive atmospheres, hep spy music and an electric organ create the kind of alternate universe where a shag carpet space craft crash lands on a planet from the combined Id of Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali. “Barbarella” has it every which way as Fonda’s character, not exactly the brightest bulb in the universe, becomes a love object for any number of lustful characters, from the sleigh bells of an hairy chested iceman to the sitar-like grooves of the black queen and her Sodom and Gomorrah domain. Musical pastiche reigns in the mocking vocals of killer dolls and the crazed symphony of an orgiastic organ that Barbarella overloads (back then, you couldn’t do a satire score without taking on the classics). Yet what makes “Barbarella” memorable is that it’s way more than fun shtick, wrapping its craziness in genuine adventure and memorable themes, no more so than in the joyous, ascending string and brass melody for Pygar the Angel after he’s been deflocked by Barbarella. A combo of the playfully hip and the musically otherworldly, “Barbarella” also offers memorable songs, from The Glitterhouse’s cooing opening title for Fonda’s unforgettable space striptease to the goofily pitched “Love Love Love Drags Me Down” and the Bacharach-esque romance of “I Love All the Love in You.” Crewe rings out the film, and album with his riff on Pygar’s curiously touching sign off of “An Angel is Love,” the singer’s voice climbing to the heavens with a sweet horn refrain. It’s a combo of 60’s hip grooves and thematic melody that blissfully pays of “Barbarella,” a long beloved album that finally soars with terrific sound from Varese after decades of one inferior release after the other – pure heaven for fans of Fox and Crewe’s triumph of sci fi and Shagadelia.

Extra Special: Excepting Spider-Man, the 1970’s weren’t a banner TV decade for costumed superheroes, as the motorcycle riding, barely recognizable Wonder Woman and Captain America proved to face-palming reaction from comic book fans. But one colorfully twirling exception was 1975’s reboot of Wonder Woman, whose origin in WW2 and red, white and blue emblazoned outfit were dutifully recreated on ABC, and embodied to winningly beautiful effect by Lynda Carter. Done with just slightly less camp than Batman, every enamored school kid in America instantly recognized the bullets and bracelets call to action of Fox and Gimbel’s punchy-funk brass theme, who deliriously excited rhythm and chorus extolled her Amazonian virtues. The theme was a driving force through WW’s first war-set season, a patriotically nostalgic approach set by Fox. The dastardly Nazis were given the sound of Teutonic evil, as contrasted with square jawed Steve Trevor’s noble brass and the timpani. Paradise Island’s most famous ambassador had femininity to spare in her warm strings, while a jazzy sax cemented her maybe not-so platonic attraction to her ersatz boyfriend. With light militaristic suspense setting up the inevitable scene were Carter would effortlessly throw Germans and fifth columnists about, Fox brought the theme’s chorus to the fore, the orchestra cleverly varying the melody, with brass pows every bit the uppercut that Nelson Riddle’s music landed for The Caped Crusader’s punches. Fox was also canny enough to give “Wonder Woman” a contemporary pop vibe to its percussion. With his work done after scoring the pilot, Fox left the show in the capable hands of such composers as Artie Kane and Robert Prince, who kept “Wonder Woman” very much in Fox’s vein, even as the show transitioned to the modern era and a new network for its second and third seasons. Their music was stalwart enough, with a tone familiar to fans of such sci-fi shows as “Buck Rogers” and “Battlestar Galactica,” as well as displaying the kind of jazzy suspense that could be heard in any number of cop shows during the era. But it’s on the third disc of this terrific La La Land Records presentation that “Wonder Woman’s” scoring really jumps the shark in glorious fashion, from the punchy-funk action of Johnny Harris to Robert O. Ragland’s neo blaxploitation beat that could’ve easily fit his score for “Trouble Man.” The usually more sedate Angela Morley of “Watership Down” created a tingling, ersatz sci-fi meets Bond score, Robert Prince brought the Cosmic Beam with crazed disco rhythm and Richard LaSalle applied goofy monkey shines to awesomely absurd effect. In short, “Wonder Woman” is the 40’s by way of 70’s TV scoring awesomeness that’s a delight to fans of this cult show that Charles Fox emblazoned with a pop-friendly cleverness, a musical saga entertainingly chronicled by comic book score specialist John Takis on the triple CD’s colorful booklet.



3) FAST COMPANY / TIMEMASTER

     

Price: $17.95

What is it?: Dragon’s Domain shows how two composers linked to the inexplicably popular horror franchise “Friday the 13th” are just as adept at playing the evils of drag racing, or the nefarious designs of alien overlords in an unusual western fashion.

Why should you buy it?: After making a bloody splash with the parasitic terrors of “Shivers” and “Rabid,” David Cronenberg took a brief pit stop on his way to becoming the cinematic king of body horror with 1979’s “Fast Company” an almost forgotten B-movie interlude where the director indulged in his love of drag racing. Fellow Canuck Fred Mollin was just hitting the road to a prolific scoring career that would include “Friday the 13th’s 7 and 8, along with 72 episodes of its vaguely connected TV series. But as opposed to grooving with the sound of haunted antiques or mutating humans for that matter, Mollin and his brother Larry crafted a cool, song-driven score that could easily be jamming on the jukebox of a New Jersey country-blues bar as some racetrack. But if the producers couldn’t get couldn’t get Bruce Springsteen to perform the songs, Mollin, Bat McGrath and Michael Stanley impressively filled in the working class groove as their throaty vocals jammed with a swaggering sax, electric organ and lite jazz vibes, with even some disco fever thrown in. Even more impressively, the band also featured future Toto members Steve Lukather on guitar and Mike Porcaro on bass. Where movies of this sort had forgettable source cues, the Mollin bros tunes are uniformly good, conveying the energetic grit of tough living and loose women that surround the racer rivalry, or a “shootout on a drag strip” as Cronenberg saw it. It’s a grooving atmosphere that even smells like stale beer and burning motor oil in the best way a late 70’s drive-in flick can. Mollin’s relatively brief, band-centric instrumental work (Cronenberg’s first original score at that) is similarly packed with that era’s rocking goodness, with travelling men piano percussion, electric flame-exhaust thrash, and drum /guitar suspense for simmering sabotage, energetic instrumentals that sound like songs waiting to happen, putting much-needed energy into Cronenberg’s laid-back direction.

Extra Special: While his “ki ki ki ma ma ma” theme for the “Friday the 13th” series will remain his defining musical signature, and the stalk-and-slash suspense of his numerous series scores his most popular works, Harry Manfredini has always been far more capable than musically embedding blunt instruments in dumb teenagers heads – as can be diversely heard in any number of scores like the darkly heroic “Swamp Thing” or the high flying action of “Iron Eagle 3.” But likely his most impressive score that you’ve never heard of until now is for 1995’s “Timemaster.” As made by James Glickenhaus, who had a definitely talent for spectacle with “Shakedown” and “The Protector,” as well as Jason-worthy grisliness with “The Exterminator,” the director’s last movie had something to do with alien overlords hijacking humans into virtual reality games before sucking up the energy of planets. Well, ok then. But for Manfredini, it’s a terrifically diverse and highly melodic playing field at conveying youthful sci-fi action adventure by way of the old west. Coming up with exhilarating action rhythms at one moment and then spaghetti western stylings the next before venturing into Shaolin Temple Kung Fu action, “Timemaster” is a score full of exhilarating diversions, and one with a magically emotion heart as well as a starstuff chorus, youthful boldness and rock-pop rhythms that jet its heroes from one time zone to the next with the help of Pat Morita and Richard Wagner. It’s music on the equal of Alan Silvestri or Michael Kamen without an orchestral budget to speak of. But such is Manfredini’s dynamic writing and enthusiasm that the symphonic emulation here never matters. It’s the quality of this terrifically exciting music that does as it propels the imagination. Dragon’s Domain’s liner note specialist Randall D. Larson’s liner notes effectively shed light on this gem, as well as “Fast Company’s” draghouse blues to illuminating effect.


4) PANIC / POWER RANGERS

     

Prices: $16.95 / $10.79

What is it?: For all of his effectively gigantic scores like “The Fate of the Furious” and “The Mummy,” many of Brian Tyler’s best scores center on slow-burn mood as opposed to the fuse leading to an explosion – though given his prolific output there’s certainly room for both ends of the arthouse and multiplex stick to just get along with “Panic” and “Power Rangers.”

Why should you buy it: Done very near the beginning of an auspicious career, 2000’s “Panic” showed much talent to come with a beautifully haunting, low key score for equally promising director Harry Bromell, for whom star William H. Macy twisted his mild-mannered persona as a hit man with daddy issues. As he reveals his lethal neuroses on a psychiatrist’s couch, Tyler creates a thematic bed that’s about the sad insides of the protagonist as opposed to his cruel job. Hearing a unique, transfixing sound caught between strings and orchestral emulation that would pay off well, Tyler employs the delicate sound of a piano for a hopelessly wounded character trying to heal himself through romance with another lost soul in treatment, his futile dreams of salvation played through Tyler’s own wordless vocals. It’s a choral-inflected rhythmic approach reminiscent of Tangerine Dream, but done in a different more directly emotional playing field. There’s a real tenderness to “Panic’s” music that makes it unusually moving picture for the tortured hitman genre, though with a fatalistic film noir sensibility that let’s us hear the only sad road it can end on, if one that gives us a sympathetic feeling of transcendence. Like the author gone too soon, “Fitzgerald” marked Brommell’s last movie before his sudden passing, but his powerful mood piece about the writer’s final days in Hollywood only added to the newfound vitality of Tyler’s music. Impressionistic in its detox of booze and creative madness, Tyler’s conjures the rich, sometimes hallucinogenic alcohol-drenched sound of going into the iconic night with atmospheric style to spare. Given a gorgeously fatalistic theme that sings with the lush jazzy blues of Jerry Goldsmith and John Barry, “Fitzgerald” is beautifully sad and captivating, making for a tragic double soundtrack combo with a knockout punch, featuring exceptional sound and liner notes by album producer Zach Tow. It’s a CD a long time coming, but very much welcomed in displaying Brian Tyler’s muted, intimate touch at soulful, troubled tragedy.

Extra Special: There are few kid’s series more awesome in their rubber suited kitschiness than “The Mighty Morphing Power Rangers,” Saban Entertainment’s gonzo, Americanized reworking of an already absurdist monster battling Japanese show. But perhaps the most daring thing these “Rangers” have ever done was to fight for respectability as a big screen reboot, done as seriously as if its makers were trying to create “Superman: The Movie.” That these “Power Rangers” succeed at their lofty goals in an entertaining, thankfully non-goofy film is in no small part owed to Brian Tyler’s grand, and unequally uncondescending score. Having tackled the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” reboot with equally fannish, if just a little bit more knowingly humorous energy, Tyler approaches the multi-colored cosmic avengers with a welcome mix of earnestness and zoid-roaring excitement, his music squarely aimed at a slightly older youth audience with its alt. pop-friendly guitar energy that brings out real heart from the teens underneath these way better-looking suits. Standing proudly next to his Marvel scores for Iron Man and Thor, Tyler’s dynamic fuel of rhythm, orchestra and futuristic samples are the stuff that emo superheroes are made of, the score powerfully building to the big morphing moment, with Tyler’s music socking him a real Jor-El valor to Bryan Cranston’s pixilated head as he tells his young charges to do their multi-colored change-o thing. It’s a score that’s no more in geek heaven that when Tyler gets to have his rocking orchestra crank it up with “Go Go Power Rangers.” Given a chorus and his way with creature-smashing percussion, Tyler’s mesh of symphony and sci-fi samples does its darndest to make you believe a bunch of kids can morph. That “Power Rangers’” score succeeds with almost amazing maturity shows a confidently energetic composer who’s suited up long ago.



5) RACE WITH THE DEVIL / MAKING LOVE

Price: $21.99

What Is it?: What does the gay journey of discovery between two men have to do with a bunch of RV road tripping pals trying out outrun Satanists? Not much beyond the composer involved in one the crazier CD double feature that spotlights the diverse talent of Leonard Rosenman. Taking scoring into new, avant-garde territory with his brash, impressionistic work for piano student James Dean on “Rebel Without A Cause” and “East of Eden” before such experimentally surreal work as “Fantastic Voyage,” Rosenman wasn’t a composer particularly known for relaxed melody, which is what makes “Making Love” the true shocker that starts off this soundtrack.

Why Should You Buy It?: Perhaps the most romantic, and altogether lovely score that Rosenman ever wrote, “Making Love” speaks for all of the tenderness that goes with the most personal of connections, here a love that dare not speak its Hollywood name until Arthur Hiller’s sensitive 1982 drama, where a perhaps not-so happily married doctor comes to terms with his gay identity as his wife grows increasingly distraught. A master of using unsettled harmony to reflect psychological turmoil, Rosenman impactfully reflects a man’s sexual confusion, while not making it seem like he’s plunging into a nightmare, as so many far less enlightened films and scores did back when homosexuality and lesbianism meant the moral comeuppance of ostracization, or often worse. Here, it’s a beautifully lush thematic journey of self-realization that never goes for the musical melodrama, though one still very much in Rosenman’s tradition of blending melody and dissonance, if to way more emotionally subtle effect, with a gorgeous, harpsichord-topped classical rendition of the main theme also showing that this was the composer who won an Oscar for his adaptations for “Barry Lyndon.”

Extra Special: When you hear how Rosenman twists the harpsichord into an instrument of sheer terror along with gnarled strings the main title of “Race with the Devil,” fans will know just as quickly that this is manic ghost rider behind the Satan-driven “The Car” and the mutant savagery of “Prophecy’s” killer bear. Subversively using playful rhythms worthy of a western puppy dog round-up as pals Peter Fonda and Warren Oates drive around the southwest, it isn’t long before an inadvertently witnessed sacrifice bring out the snaky percussion, raging tone pyramids and dissonance that’s the singular trademark for Rosenman’s dark, experimental side. Indeed, there’s no mistaking the foul pit its relentless, villains have emerged from as Rosenman uses feverish onslaughts of strings, brass and perverted electric violin for black sound mass, yet one whose fearsome motifs are still evident within the madness of its primal fear. It’s music that’s pure, unnerving panic, displaying Rosenman as one of the most uncompromising, experimental composers of his day, especially when in the service of cult horror in more ways than one. Admirers of “Making Love” won’t know what hit them, but for fans of Rosenman’s ferocious genre scores, “Race With the Devil” will be twisted music to their ears.


ALSO FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION:

. A FAMILY MAN

While Mark Isham has done any number of powerful, all-symphonic scores like “42,” “Quiz Show” and his Oscar-nominated “A River Runs Through it” that examined the male drive to win, his psychological journeys into a the orchestral-electronic realm have been just as effective, particularly the hypnotic atmospheres of “Crash,” “The Cooler” and “The Accountant.” Now the latter film’s producer Mark Williams brings along Isham for his directorial debut “A Family Man.” But Gerard Butler’s Sparta-avenging ferocity as a corporate headhunter seems anything but hearth and home as his hunger for success consumes all, until his son’s medical energy makes him seriously re-examine his life choices. Isham has certainly been direct about the right soaring path to take for any number of screwed-up macho men, but what makes his “Family Man” particularly effective is the overall hushed tone he takes. At first building on the kind of electric alt. rhythms that are now powering dramas about company climbers, Isham’s pulsing music earns its emotional makeover as the composer slows down with hushed, subtly transcendent atmospheres that made for the kind of haunted, electronic vibes that distinguished such early scores as “Never Cry Wolf” and “Mrs. Soffel.” Evocative piano sounds amidst haunting, voice-like sampling and vibe percussion to convey sadness, and an affectingly poignant, slow awakening, where more overt realization is conveyed through heart-rending performances for the strings and violin. “A Family Man” travels from the rhythmic rat race to the spiritual with the kind of soulful perceptiveness that’s long made for Isham’s often profoundly quiet dramatic work, of which this score is a beautiful, moving hush, heard digitally June 2nd on iTunes.


. BABY’S DAY OUT

Teen auteur John Hughes saw that he’d come into a good thing when he had an adolescent make mincemeat out bumbling burglars with “Home Alone.” So what better way to reprise what worked by adjusting the formula for a giggling infant to wreak city-wide havoc on a bunch of miscreants than with “Baby’s Day Out.” As directed by Patrick Read Johnston, this daredevil cherub didn’t exactly hit the Chicago upper class suburban payday, but it inspired an utterly delightful score from Bruce Broughton. With his lush, ultra-melodic child-friendly orchestral sound that defined such classic youth fantasy scores from the 80’s and 90’s as “Harry and the Hendersons,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “The Boy Who Could Fly” and especially “Honey I Blew Up the Kid,” there was no better composer to pick up the whack-a-thug, hearth and home mantle from John Williams. Given a little, lumbering theme that’s quick to dash into playful panic, Broughton’s score comes across like a gossamer spin on “Peter and the Wolf,” with the sweet melody of Baby Bink being an unwitting hunter, and accident-prone brass the villain out to snatch him. These musical forces dances about as well in the spirit of Carl Stalling and the 30’s-style city symphony energy of George Gershwin. But while every skyscraper-ascending string, gorilla-charming bell and noggin-bashing horn tells you exactly what physical comedy is going on, Broughton is far more concentrated on melodic finesse than musical pratfall shtick. It’s a wise move that doesn’t let “Baby” devolve into busy music, keeping it consistently smooth and pleasing through all of its piano runs and sneaking flutes. But the height of “Baby’s” ingenuity is “The Construction Site,” as Broughton’s gorgeous orchestra spins “The Blue Danube” into a sparkling carnival of comic mishaps, his theme a perilously ascending and plunging waltz that makes for beyond-cute sweetness with death-defying irony amidst the girders. First released as a instantly collectable composer promo that ran around 30 minutes or so, Intrada has gorgeously remastered “Baby’s Day Out” to 79 minutes that never prove tiring, showing this score’s marvelous construction of comedy as perhaps his sumptuously melodic high point, even as nefarious adults here take the bruising brass falls.


. CARRIE PILBY

Girl power is too smart in Susan Johnson’s winningly intelligent, and sensitive directorial debut, even as “Carrie Pilby’s” peppy collection of alt. and rock songs by do their best to loosen her up, from Justin Dean Thomas’ Ramones-esque “Anytime I’m Feelin” to Chauncey Jacks’ Motown groove for “You Make Me Happy” and Mose Jordan’s soulful r & b “Be Your Man.” It’s a cool variety that speaks for a young, warmth-starved and intellectually confused woman trying to find herself in a musically hip big city. Thankfully, she’s got adept indie movie and TV composer Michael Penn (“The Last Kiss,” “Girls”) as her emotional wingman. In the welcome, brief score tracks on display here, Penn uses a gentle, sympathetic approach for strings, piano and guitar, dream-like samples yearning for something more. It’s a quietly memorable portrait of Carrie that has both tenderness and whimsy in evoking musical poetry from a wannabe novelist, much in the way that Penn has created emotionally fragile, female portraits in such scores as “Sunshine Cleaning.” Like “Carrie Pilby,” Penn has a poetic intelligence to his musical way, which points this soundtrack in a lyrically affecting emo direction.


. THE DEVIL’S CANDY

Black metal has certainly played its demonic part is horror scores from “Rock and Roll Nightmare” to “Trick or Treat” and “Ghost Rider.” But never before has it seemingly had the power to summon Satan himself than in the fevered fingers of Michael Yezerski (“Mental,” “The Little Death”), whose twisted power chords join with the artistic severity of Tasmanian director Sean Byrne, who last subjected a prom date to the looney tune family of “The Loved Ones,” and now loses any sense of humor when subjecting a rock-loving family to a serial killer’s musical fixation in the middle of Texas nowhere. But as opposed to slash, which certainly flavors this “Candy,” Bryne treats this potential grindhouse material with the visual art of Terence Malick, leaving an impressive playing field for Yezerski to work his dark incantations on. Like “Devil’s” dad’s fever dream painting coming to life, as the composer twists the screws in for his daughter’s peril with unbearable tension. Subsonic sustains lead to bone-splitting percussion, bizarrely sampled atmospheres reek with pure evil, with slicing power chords and pulse heartbeats unbearably build to relentless, howling attack. It’s a flaming climax that’s the equivalent of having a hair metal band thrash away to multiple homicides. In other words, easy listening this ain’t. But in terms of creating a score that will actually scare the shit out of you, while leaving the more adventurous horror listener transfixed, Yezerski creatively hits the insane, black mass sweet spot that makes your preacher’s worst warnings of metal come true.


. EMERALD CITY

NBC’s severe sword-and-sorcery reboot of “The Wizard of Oz” recently had Nielsen’s house dropped on it. But that’s no reason not to let the continuing imagination of Trevor Morris’ music fill your own quest down a colorfully twisted yellow brick road with this sumptuous presentation of the late series’ music. Having impressively accompanied a hero raging against the Greek gods for “Immortals” for Tarsem Singh, Morris now accompanies the visually opulent director for his take on Frank L. Baum stories. Just don’t expect affable munchkins and the heroic triumvirate of a scarecrow, lion and tin man, as displayed in child-friendly music terms. We’re talking about Dorothy getting water boarded by barbarians, with a steampunk wizard severely seek her termination. Morris, a composer with is own impressive track record in such genre series as “Kings,” “Dracula” and “Iron Fist” conjures an “Emerald City” that’s a world of darkly magical, musical possibility. Formidable choruses, ancient percussion and a miasma of creative sampling conjure mystical threat, where grand symphonic writing and an organ lead to a famed metropolis. Evil, good and the many green shades in between of just who are the heroes and villains are here are bound together with Morris’ impressive tapestry. But beyond conveying the constant threat to Dorothy, Morris also rejoices in the soaring beauty she encounters. From the raging brass of a locust attack to a lyrical crucifixion and the soaring, violin-topped tragedy of a cowardly lion, you never know what style of scoring you’ll encounter over this well-crafted collection of music for one of the network’s crazier fantasy efforts. “Emerald City” is a consistently invigorating quest of positively cinematic music that show just how much imagination Morris has when it comes to re-inventing iconically sunny music into something far more dangerous, or as trippy as a poppy field.


. GET EVEN

As one of the truly remarkable composers working in the often mind-bending videogame scene with his talent for melding expansive, classically-influenced melody with futuristic synth and sample rhythm in such scores as “Assassin’s Creed IV,” “Bound By Flame” and “The Technomancer,” Olivier Deriviere reaches new heights of surreal musical visions between the past and future as he plays a detective who wakes up in “Get Even’s” nightmarish realm. Trying to puzzle out where a bomb-strapped girl vanished to whilst mapping his way through Kafka-esque enemy territory. Deriviere creates entrancing atmospheres from heart beats, ticking clocks, human breath, train whistles and a siren, each creative sample morphing itself into music that recalls the composer’s brilliant time and pitch-bending game score for “Remember Me.” Action pulses merge with cues that recall Vangelis’ trippier noir scoring in “Blade Runner,” where other electronics bring to mind “Tron’s” game grid – as imagined here in a hallucinatory maze. “Get Even” probes as deeply into a sampler’s creative possibilities as it does a hero’s unsound mind, offering the most stunning use of classical impressionism and futuristic music since Garry Schyman explored the undersea metropolis of “Bioshock.” For more often than not, Deriviere’s score is in the haunted land of such modern classical composers as Arvo Part, using trembling, slowly drawn melody and chamber music to convey a sense of guilt-wracked tragedy and identity unraveling, the piano washing over the listener with lyrical loss. Though “Get Even” promises hard-edged music with its title, let alone with first person shooting, Deriviere is mostly in a fragile, tenderly emotional realm just as suited for a concert stage as a PS4, especially as beautifully recorded in Auro-3D technology, its all-enveloping audio making you feel like you’ve been thrown into a neo-classcial Twilight Zone you can perhaps shoot or map your way out of if you don’t go mad first.


. KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD

After his crazed, super fun, Eastern European-accented Cold War spy score to Guy Ritche’s unsung reboot of “The Man from UNCLE,” Daniel Pemberton applies the same punk rock sensibility to reinvigorating the round table into an electrified Rorschach test for the director’s far more uneven, if still enjoyable in-your-face spin for “King Arthur.” Proving that there’s truth in advertising for a film that trumpeted that this wasn’t your grandpa’s Camelot (likely to “Arthur’s” box office detriment), Pemberton’s treatment of not-so noble knights is as far away from the Wagernian take on “Excalibur” as you can imagine, let along Hans Zimmer’s “King Arthur.” Here the effect is like wandering into battle of the bands night at a particularly dangerous tavern in Camelot, as a director hell-bent to O.D. on style can imagine it. Going for striking themes comprised of heavy breathing heavy metal and all sorts of bare, sword-slamming percussion, this is more like some AC / DC 70’s album cover come to long hair waving, ultra-colorful life. Often, “King Arthur” is stripped bare to rhythm to accompany sarcastic storytelling rhythms, i.e. “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Swords.” Yet as hard as his score tries to reinvent the wheel, often to fun WTF effect, Pemberton actually does convey the expected period with Celtic-influenced strings, bagpipes and balladeering, creating a score that’s at once the most iconoclastic and authentic Arthurian scores in a long line of them. Yet for all of the delinquent fury that’s conveyed for a hero that’s anything but sterling, even Pemberton realizes that he’s got to go old school as a heroic orchestra shows up here and there, most notably for the iconic sword form the stone sequence. It’s the kind of go-for-broke work that fans of the musical legend will either love or hate. But at the least, “King Arthur” will catch their attention, which is more than can be said for many scores that follow the straight-ahead road to Camelot.


. MONSTER FROM GREEN HELLL

When it came to musically embodying the howls, roars and buzzing of any number of 1950’a bug-eyed, mutated monsters from “Earth Vs. the Spider” to “The Amazing Colossal Man” and “The Cyclops,” there were few composers as rampagingly prolific in the genre as Albert Glasser, especially when given already nasty wasps grown to beyond-Raid size by rocket radiation in 1957’s “Monster from Green Hell.” Where today’s horror scoring for far smaller ghouls is usually comprised of dissonant string and brass, the approach to these genre pictures from back in the day turned that frenzy up to 11, its strident orchestrations effectively conveying unstoppable terror beyond atom age imagination. While pleasantly strolling melody might not have been these pictures’ thing, what distinguishes Glasser’s approach in darkest, insect-infested Africa is that it’s got a titanic, distinctive theme to embody the wasps, an immediately evil three-note motif that hangs over the score. Better yet at giving these “Monsters” musical variety beyond the giant tarantulas and ants you’d find hanging in the American southwest is “Monster’s” exotic setting. Much of the score is trekking about the jungle to find what’s freaking out the tribes, allowing for native drums and tribal rhythms that make “Monster” sound equally like Tarzan score from yore. Ultimately ending up in a nest of smashing cymbals and shrieking brass, “The Monster from Green Hell” is pure hog heaven for enthusiasts of this delightfully over-the-top1950’s style, with the theme even becoming “Jungle Jazz.” As Monstrous Movie Music has seemingly ceased releasing these genre highlights, it’s great to have Kritzerland excavating these spine-tingling behemoths here and there with impressive, blasting sound, complete with a cavalcade of literal stingers for what’s arguably the most nightmarish flying insect of all, as well as one of Glasser’s more memorably insane creature feature. “Monster’s” inherent goofiness in the bottom half of drive in bills is hilariously chronicled in producer Bruce Kimmel’s liner notes for a glossy booklet that likely cost more than the movie itself.


. RICHARD THE STORK

Eric Neveux has had a long, internationally dramatic career with the spare likes of England’s “Intimacy,” Italy’s baroquely vengeful “Borgia” family and France’s lush artistic bromance in “Cezanne and Me.” But none of his scores have the migratory flight like the wonderfully energetic and surprisingly soulful “Richard the Stork.” Taking stylistic wing from the rambunctious, animated land of “Rio’s” John Powell, Neveux uses strongly melodic orchestral winds (exceptionally well generated by the Brussels Philharmonic) to jet between any number of constantly surprising approaches. Given a sparrow who thinks he’s a stork, Neveux goes for a thematically optimistic, rhythmic spirit that knows it will make the journey sans adoptive parents. Launched with catchy, can-do brightness, “Richard” dances about with ethnic, bird call elements for the oddball fowls he encounters, or cleverly panics with the theremin and improv jazz when chased by bats. Jazz of a soft shoe kind also inflects “Richard,” along with fuzz guitar rock, thrilling action, African percussion and a French accordion for the composer’s good, native measure. Not veering about quite as crazily as Powell’s similarly terrific efforts in the CG animal kingdom, Neveux’s firm grasp of symphonic melody make “Richard” consistently pleasurable, while also hearing real, wounded emotion from a character learning to take pride in his own species. That “Richard’s” most moving power comes from Neveux’s lush show just how well he’s jumped out of the gate for his first animated score, given Stacey King’s charming, pop-powered “Zootopia”-worthy song “We’re Coming Home” to send Quartet’s album off on striving wings of wonder.


. ROCKET TO THE MOON

From “The Great Race” to “The Magnificent Men in their Flying Machine” and “Those Daring Young Men in their Jaunty Jalopies,” transportation was grandly running retro amuck in the swinging 60’s. Competing multinational teams of eccentric inventors were just racing for the gun to go so they could engage in this genre of riotous demolition derbies, which got a comedic sci-fi spin with 1967’s “Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon” (soon changed to the adjective cash-in title of “Those Fantastic Flying Fools”). Aboard this cannon-propelled trip were of course the sputtering, iconically buck-tooted Terry Thomas, as well as Lionel Jeffries, who’d previously made the eccentric tip along with “The First Men in the Moon.” But there’s really no person aboard who propels “Moon’s” very English buoyancy that Patrick John Scott. A jazz band player as well as an esteemed session man for the likes of The Beatles and John Barry, “Moon” helped launch Scott’s career, then in its auspicious start with the Sherlock Holmes thriller “A Study in Terror” and the shagadelic femme fatales of “The Million Eyes of Sumuru.” Still standing as one of his most delightfully buoyant entries, “Rocket to the Moon” is ever so English in its approach, from the imperious brass of Queen Victoria to its bucolic orchestrations amidst the more overtly comedic music for dastardly villainy. Constructing a sturdily charming theme whose whimsy translates through marching bands to lush strings, Scott’s fondness for brass is apparent throughout, from the gamboling Victorian source music to the Teutonic swagger and blarting tuba of Gert Frobe’s explosive mastermind. His rising and plunging orchestrations are musical lessons in physics themselves as e a cliffhanging orchestra contributes to the joyous pastiche that powers “Rocket to the Moon.” Its given slapstick given gravity by Scott’s terrific orchestral writing that also manages to convey a sense of wonder at the insane enterprise of shooting man out of cannon. Now this decades-old rocket that’s been sonically polished up to snuff by Kritzerland for its trip from LP to CD (a greater voyage than anything in the film), with album producer Bruce Kimmel providing real appreciation for John Scott, and his robust approach to the kind of 60’s madcap comedy inspired by throwback traveling technology, as well as the bright melodic future that mostly seriously lay ahead for a most inventive composer.


. THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER

You might not have found an odder couple than Elmer Bernstein and John Wayne. One was a short, vastly talented composer who was nearly blacklisted, while the other was a towering performer who represented red-hating, God Bless America values. But The Duke certainly can thank Bernstein for adding immeasurably to his legendary Hollywood stature over the course of six, rousing western scores that included the likes of “Big Jake” and “Cahill U.S, Marshall.” Having released Bernstein’s climactic score for Wayne’s noble movie exit “The Shootist,” La La Land Records now goes gun blazing into 1965’s soundtrack for “The Sons of Katie Elder.” And it’s hard to imagine a more emblematic score at defining a Wayne western. A rousingly heroic theme, sonorous, desert-spanning orchestra and rough-and-tumble brass action are just some of the classic sounds that Bernstein brings to this Mexican-flavored round up as Wayne leads a brotherly four-pack out to avenge the varmits who’ve done their parents grievously wrong. But then, the year before he’d first saddled up with Wayne on “The Commancheros,” Bernstein had been part of the western game-changer with 1960’s “The Magnificent Seven,” a scored that defined an Americana brand of gunslinging heroism. Given the brotherly “Sons,” Bernstein has more of sentimental, bromance range to his melody, while the men’s punch-happy antics get treated with the most delightfully brawling Irish jig this side of Gerard Fried helping Captain Kirk give a beatdown to Finnegan in “Shore Leave.” With drumming suspense, a sturdy orchestral sense of righteous vengeance and a melancholy accordion, Bernstein’s score is great, rousing stuff that showed Bernstein as every bit the rough-riding gunslinger as Wayne. La La Land’s presentation offers rousing sound for “Katie’s” decades-old, eternally vital age, while offering three versions of its song along with Jeff Bond’s always interesting, well-researched liner notes on the legacy of Elmer Bernstein’s Old West.


. THRILLER

The golden age of television served as a fertile training ground for many great film composers to be, with perhaps none learning how to unleash terror from the cathode ray tube quite like Jerry Goldsmith. If there’s a program that sowed the seeds for “The Omen,” “The Mephisto Waltz” and “Poltergeist,” then it would two seasons of the unheralded anthology show “Thriller.” Sure Rod Serling may have gotten more popularity over in his CBS corner of “The Twilight Zone” where Goldsmith’s devilish fiddle conjured the tiny astronauts for its beloved “Invaders” episode. But Boris Karloff certainly was no slouch when it came to introducing tales of terror on NBC from 1960 – 1962, where Goldsmith applied said fiddle as well as a battery of chilling instruments to those in need of terrible moral comeuppances. Though given a TV-budgeted ensemble at the time, the dependable rescoring restoration team of producer James Fitzpatrick, conductor Nic Raine and The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra apply expanded symphonic weight to Goldsmith’s work, choosing six of the sixteen episodes he scores to make his “Thriller” work more impactful than ever before. Each episode is a malefic set piece. “The Grim Reaper’s” Shatner-cursed painting is personified by the retro-electric sounds of the Novachord, old scratch violins and the kind of eerily lovely waltz that would send a ghost down the Freling family’s staircase. A darkly lumbering theme and snarling brass push the listener into “The Well of Doom that recalls the more monstrously suspenseful music of Bernard Herrmann, where the shivering electronics and harpsichord of “The Prisoner” pave the way of Baroque psychological fright that would bring Goldsmith an Oscar nomination for “Freud,” as well as his truly unhinged asylum-set score for “Shock Treatment.” A girl’s ghostly protector “Mr. George” seems positively kind with a tender, tinkerbell-like theme, where “Hay – Fork and Bill – Hook,” offers Irish lyricism. But the perhaps the most striking suite is saved for last as Goldmsith pens “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper,” as signed in a delightfully diabolical way that suggests a drunken dance band stumbling about the fog-shrouded alleyways of Victorian England. Ace TV music journalist Jon Burlingame writes the liner notes that shed light on Goldsmith’s memorable contributions to this unheralded anthology series, whose music couldn’t be scarier given this impressive new Tadlow Recording that shows a composer grabbing onto the psychological, if not outright monstrous fear that would serve him so well on the big screen.



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Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Geoff Zanelli

Film Music Magazine News - Di, 23/05/2017 - 19:02

In the franchise world of “Pirates of the Caribbean,” one rises up the ranks from deckhand to captain by scallywag subterfuge, mutiny and murder. In composer Geoff Zanelli’s case, it’s the far more mild, if no less impressive traits of hard work and talent to get ahead as part of Hans Zimmer’s crew. A mate on the very first ship named The Black Pearl, and dexterously jumping from one darkly enchanted sea craft to the next over the course of three more pictures, Zanelli is now having a not-so motley band of musicians answering to his beck and command with the rousing “Pirates” saying of “Dead Men Tell No Tales.” As overseen by Norwegian directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg (who commanded the positively sedate journey of “Kon-Tiki” in comparison), “Dead Men” reprises the series’ stalwart, alternatively dead and undead characters as they combat the vengeful Spanish spirit of Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), a pirate-hating ghoul and his crew with a particular mad-on at Sparrow for afflicting them with their unholy condition.

Just as this film puts the band back together with a freshly villainous spin, “Dead Men Tell No Tales” arms Zanelli with a booty’s worth of memorable themes gathered from past “Pirates” scores, which abet his own hip, adventurous voice for the allegedly last adventure of Jack Sparrow. The Zimmer-commandeered series rudely re-invented all the wonderful clichés of pirate scoring into devilishly fiddling, jigging and brass-blasting in-your-ears rambunctiousness – yet still grandly paid off those clichés anyway. If anything, Zanelli’s swabbed these decks with just a tad of refinement for a terrifically exciting and fun score that delivers on the “Pirates” mish-mash of horror, excitement and punch-line humor – all of his gigantic musical cannons blasting with chorus, cellos and orchestra ablazing, and with some particularly gnarly and cosmic new themes for Salazar and Poseidon’s Trident to boot.

But then, one might say that Zanelli’s ascension to his biggest score shares much of the fateful destiny that drives the “Pirates” mythology. Composing on no end of soundtracks for Zimmer and his crew like “Antz,” “Pearl Harbor” and “The Machine,” Zanelli created a twisted Johnny Depp with his first major score for “Secret Window,” His prolific scoring career has since ranged from the arthouse (“House of D”) to thrillers (“Disturbia,”” “Hitman”) sweeping, Emmy-winning and nominated TV miniseries work (“Into the West” and “The Pacific”) sci-fi adventure (“Outlander”), charming romance (“Ghost Town”) caper comedy (“Mortdecai,” “Masterminds”) and the creepily kid-friendly (“The Odd Life of Timothy Green”). As hard to peg down as a pirate leg in his styles, “Dead Men” now shows just how rockingly adept Zanelli is at making a sizeable ship his own as he impressively sails into the Memorial Day weekend multiplex with music that excitingly hits all the notes of The Enchanted Kingdom’s singularly seditious movie take on their most beloved ride.


As a California native, I imagine you’ve been to the Pirates ride at Disneyland as a kid. What impressed you about it, and what effect did it have on you?

Pirates was a favorite ride of mine, for sure. I loved how immersive it was, and that each scene had some sort of punch line, or story point. You’re being taken through a whole narrative at a pace where you can absorb it all. There’s a spirit of adventure in that ride, and that same spirit was in all of my favorite films as a child growing up in the suburbs. Those films, like “Indiana Jones” or “Clash of the Titans” and the rides at Disneyland are all part of that daydream, and they feel very much like they’re a part of me. That’s why “Pirates of the Caribbean” was such an easy thing for me to get involved in.

Tell us about becoming a mate at Hans Zimmer’s studio. And what does it take to survive, and learn from an experience that’s caused other less hardy souls to jump ship?

At this point, the only person who’s been at Hans Zimmer’s studio longer than I have is Hans himself, so yes, that means it’s an environment I’ve thrived in for quite a while. But “survival,” that wasn’t really the word that was on my mind. The very first professional studio I ever walked into was Hans’ place back in 1994. I was 19 years old when I came to Los Angeles without knowing a soul in music or in film. I don’t even know if there was a recording studio in my hometown, but even if there was, there still wasn’t much film music going on, so I had to make a move. I was really working against all odds, if you think about it. Somehow I talked my way into an internship at Hans’ studio and once I got that I just never went home. I didn’t get a foot in the door, or even a toe, it was just my toenail! Hans was writing “The Lion King” at the time and I was pouring coffee and cleaning the dishes so I could stay after hours to hear Alan Meyerson as he mixed, or absorb technical experience from the staff there, or my favorite: bringing coffee into Hans’ studio and walking back out of the room as slowly as possible so I could hear one or two more notes, or one more comment from a director as a meeting was going on. That was my early education, in addition to all the stuff I was doing during school months at Berklee.

I think over the years I just became a fixture at the studio. I don’t even recall a formal introduction to Hans or most of the people there; I just made myself trusted and dependable. Two years after that, I became John Powell’s assistant, which was really my first actual job in music. John was my mentor for three years and I wrote more and more additional music on his projects, and then one day Hans approached me to ask if I’d work on “Hannibal” as an arranger. So I found a little broom closet of a room there, set up shop and then for a few years, I was Hans’ arranger on all sorts of projects. We always worked well together, and you can imagine how much a young composer can learn from guys like John and Hans.

What’s the trick of writing in tandem to create a cohesive score, especially at Hans’ studio?

Scoring assistant Zak McNeil, additional music composer Anthony Willis (rear), additional music composer Phill Boucher, composer Geoff Zanelli, music editor Pete Snell (rear) Photo by Dan Goldwasser

The cohesiveness of a score that’s being written as a collaboration, in my opinion, is the responsibility of the main composer. All I do in the role of additional music composer is respond to the film, write something I feel strongly about, and from there it becomes a matter of Hans or whoever has their name is on the poster to direct it. So often, and Pirates is a great example of this, I’ll write something in isolation that works well or is compelling, or undeniably right for the film and then that starts to inform other aspects of the score. Tia Dalma’s theme, for instance, or the Cannibal Island music I wrote in “Pirates 2” are examples of something of mine taking on a life of its own. The score becomes cohesive as all those elements expand from their original form into other scenes. You can go find Hans’ original demos of “Pirates” themes and track the evolution of some of them through the film, to see another example what I mean. This is a testament to how Hans works, and how he collaborates with people. He never says, “Make it sound more like me” but he does say things like “I don’t know how you write strings like that. They’re very ‘Geoff.’”

How did your work on the “Pirates” movies evolve to the point where you captained your own ship in the franchise? And given that this is your biggest film to date, was that responsibility at all daunting?

I did find it daunting, but I found the first four daunting as well. There’s a lot at stake with every movie I work on and I commit fully to everything I do, so they all feel important to get right. This is a blessing and a curse, though. The work really does keep me up at night. The evolution of my role felt natural, though. Since I threw myself into the world of “Pirates” from the very first film, the commitment was identical on all five films. Being the composer of record was an organic extension of that, and in a funny way it was almost a non-issue. I was ready for it.


How do you think the first “Pirates” film upended that particular genre? And do you think its score did as well?

The score for “Curse of the Black Pearl” was one of a few crucial elements that elevated the film from being a very good adventure movie to being a franchise-launching, iconic and influential blockbuster. It was hard to know at the time how people were going to respond to it, but at least for me, as it was coming together, it really did feel like we were right out there on the edge as far as how you could write a pirate movie score. If you look at pirate music tradition, so often you arrive at flourishing woodwinds or sea shanties or something like that. We got more into the grit of it all, the splinters under the fingernails, the body odor and the muscularity of it. It’s really an orchestra treated as if it’s a rock band. As for the rest of the film, you can see Johnny Depp arrived at a similar conclusion. A lot is made of his using Keith Richards as inspiration. The cellos are our rock guitars, and we’re not afraid to put them through the guitar amp when we need to! And Gore Verbinski’s direction was crucial here, too. He talked about Elizabeth Swan being “Cinderella at a Metallica concert,” so it all adds up to the same thing. We were all approaching the whole thing with a rock and roll attitude, a sneer and a gallon of rebellion.

On the other end, did you want your “Pirates” to recall the more traditional sea adventures of yore?

Not so much, no. I think the strength of “Pirates of the Caribbean” is in that self-indulgent attitude. There’s a way of playing the romance of the ocean, or the mythology of the sea within that rock context. If anything, I pushed it even farther in that direction, particularly with Salazar’s music.


Given the rich history of the “Pirates” scores, did you do you own digging to see what old themes you wanted to bring into this score? And conversely, how “new” did you want to make your take on the music without rocking the boat too much?

I know and worked with all the themes already on the first four movies, so I didn’t need to go digging. Those are all part of my blood by now! But it was important to break new ground. There are so many new elements with characters like Carina Smyth and Salazar, a bigger focus on mythology, Poseidon’s Trident, plus Jack’s origin story that I really had to go experiment for a while to get those all to feel fresh. I didn’t think about rocking the boat or not rocking it. I just wrote what felt right for the film, and since I’ve been on board for all of the first four films my perspective is already part of the sound, enough so that it won’t feel like a departure.

Do you think that scoring such epic television series as “Into the West” (along with Blake Neely) and “The Pacific” put you in good stead for handling a movie with this kind of expansiveness?

I think my experience on the other “Pirates” films, as well as other Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer films was really what prepared me for this one. Actually, my work on the first “Pirates” film is probably what positioned me to take on “Into The West.” That additional music credit on “Curse of the Black Pearl” made a big difference, and people who worked on it were pretty vocal in praising my work, so there was more awareness of what I was really capable of after that. I don’t know that I’d have been entrusted to take on a huge miniseries like that on my own, if I hadn’t already succeeded on a big project already. I was still in my 20s when I got “Into The West”, and it’s hard to put into words how validated I felt to get a Steven Spielberg project.

A definite bit of fatigue had set in with the last film. How important was it to restore faith in the franchise, especially in terms of the energy the score could give this far better reviewed entry?

Well, I had a different experience with “On Stranger Tides” because I got to be involved with a lot of new material. I worked with Rodrigo y Gabriella on some of the legacy themes, and the Spain theme was mine, plus the mermaids’ sequence. So from my perspective, I was trying to get to a novel place with the music. Really all I did was carry that approach over to this one where the aim was to break new ground whenever we can, for instance with Salazar and Carina since they are crucial new characters. And then when I go and use themes from the earlier films I was trying to find a new way to play them.

Jack’s origin story comes to mind for that. That sequence starts with Salazar’s music that is new, but then it weaves through all sorts of things including many re-imagined versions of the iconic music from the earlier films. There were only a few places where I’d go and use the original arrangement of the earlier themes. That happens when you first see Jack, though. It turns out you really do want to hear Jack’s theme, pure and simple right then. Another cue comes to mind, which is actually the very first thing I ever wrote for a “Pirates” film all the way back during “Curse of the Black Pearl.” The one that’s called “Barbossa is Hungry” on the album, that was actually me working up a variation on “He’s a Pirate,” but it took on a life of it’s own. A version of that gets used twice, and that’s a great example actually of how my voice came through on the earlier films, without many people knowing it’s actually my voice.

One particular shot of freshness comes from the saga’s new directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg, who’d done the far artier sea adventure “Kon-Tiki” before this movie. What kind of sensibility do you think they brought to “Pirates,” and what was your collaboration like?

We had a great collaboration, right from the start. Both Joachim and Espen are huge fans of “Pirates,” and they poured themselves into this film in a big way. I think they made a smart choice in aiming the tone of the film, the story, the look, the attitude squarely at what made “Pirates” great in the first place, which is a concise but interesting story that deals with a few characters involved in a larger than life plot. “Pirates” isn’t really about giant armies fighting each other; it’s about a few people whom we get to know intimately over the course of the film, set in a world that’s enormous. And it’s not afraid to be emotional, or scary. Espen and Joachim recognized those things and it really shines in this film. They were with me every step of the way.

Given the long time that this “Pirates” was in post-production for, did that you give more room to experiment with the score?

We did have a good schedule for this film, and yes that allowed me to experiment for a while longer than usual. I had the gears turning before they even shot the film, though, cause I got to read the script and carefully consider things. I think where it helps the most is in the architecture of the score, the way the themes are laid out and how they can each progress from scene to scene. That’s the job when you’re getting the main credit, and it differs from the earlier films where I was working in support of Hans. What I try to do is look at the big picture, figure out what each theme is going to need to do, break that all down into smaller and smaller problems, and only then do I start writing the theme.

Tell us about your theme for Salazar and his particular curse?

Salazar has a big story arc in the film, so his music gets to evolve in the score. We meet him in the present day and he’s just a vengeful, hateful creature bent on destroying all pirates, so that music is raw, muscular and dangerous. That’s where I started layering all sorts of twisted sounds, like Adam Peters’ cello through a horrible guitar amp, plus Martin Tillman’s acoustic cello just digging in with such malice and attitude, layered with a choir, the orchestra and some bizarre woodwinds. They all add up to a single minded, nasty sound! But we also see his backstory where you can learn his history and how it intertwined with Jack’s, and there he’s a mortal Spanish captain, a military man. So all that music plays later in the film, and you can hear where his theme came from, but only after you have already heard where his theme and character ended up.

This “Pirates” gives us the origin of Jack Sparrow. What kind of musical opportunity did that provide in showing a perhaps more grounded take on him before turning into the eccentric scallywag we know and love?

Actually, in the same way that you hear Salazar’s musical origins in retrospect, you hear Jack’s, too. The sequence, to me, is really about the actual moment in Jack’s life when he becomes Jack Sparrow. It’s the defining moment for him as a young boy. It’s also the same moment when Salazar becomes the twisted, cursed version of himself. A double origin story! And their stories are intertwined of course.

This sequel also brings back a lot of fan favorite characters. How did you want the music to show their growth?

Jack, in the present day scenes at the start of the film, is down on his luck, so his music has undergone a turn for the worse. It leads him to set in motion some pretty drastic, bad events, so that all had to be played with enough seriousness that you can believe Jack would be desperate enough to make some questionable choices. And then you have Barbossa, who goes through some amazing revelations during the film. I took the approach that he becomes a legend in this movie, part of the overall “Pirates” mythology so his music is actually informed by what I would call the “Myths of the Sea Theme,” for lack of a shorter name for it. I mean, if the constellations were named after “Pirates” characters, this is the film that would immortalize Barbossa in the stars, let me put it that way. So while there are some nods to the old themes we used for him, there’s a lot of new material, and it even ties in with the mythology of other pivotal characters in the series. I don’t want to give away too much, so I’m tiptoeing around the answer right now, but I think of Barbossa as the quintessential pirate and I wanted the music to embody that. He transcends his own character. He becomes lore in this one.

How did you want to embody this film’s central mystical object of the Trident of Poseidon?

The trident is part of the myths of the sea as well, but in a different way. It’s a tangible object, and the thing that everyone is trying to get to throughout the film. There are puzzles to be solved, and it’s all linked to a hidden place called Blackrock that Carina thinks she knows how to find. Carina, being a scientist, thinks of it as a problem that science can solve, but as she learns more about the world she lives in she finds there are things that simply can’t be explained by science. Once she’s armed with that knowledge, she can combine elements of both approaches and arrive at the answer.

What’s the importance of balance contemporary instruments like the rock guitar with more ancient ones like the Duduk in creating the pirates sound?

I think the only time we used an electric guitar was the third film, but I’m definitely abusing some cellos by shoving them through guitar amps this time around. The whole orchestra even gets put through that mayhem from time to time. The thing is, with a world as colorful as “Pirates,’” you can really use any instrument you want if it helps tell the story. I used to say things like “it is the composer’s right to go looking for new sounds” when people would ask why there are synthesizers in a score about “Pirates.” Now, I double down and say, “it’s the composer’s responsibility to go looking for new sounds!” Anything that helps convey story is fair game, as far as I’m concerned. You’ll hear a Duduk in this score when I’m dealing with ancient ideas, like mythology or Poseidon’s trident. But when we get supernatural, like with Salazar, I’ve gone and searched for something distinctly contemporary.

What’s the challenge of balancing the often eccentric, wisecracking humor of a “Pirates” movie with suspense, often in the same cue?

The film really leads the way with that. I’ve always been good at making sharp turns as the movie dictates, and that’s why I wrote so much action music in my early career. I’m pretty energetic as a person, so it’s natural for me, and easy to understand when and where the gears are shifting. So the challenge really isn’t in knowing when to make certain moves with the music, it’s really more in designing the detail that I want to have in there, the stuff that makes me feel like I’ve finished the cue and there’s nothing left that I can do to improve it. And the guiding principle in all of that, always, is the story. In action sequences, the story might be divided up into tiny little slices that each need to be acknowledged. It’s different from building or sustaining an emotion, where you are writing a much longer gesture, and the “Pirates” films are full of examples of both approaches.


This “Pirates” also gives us a return to the more horrific elements since the first skeleton-filled movie. How did you want to convey the unholy forces at play here?

We might scare some people this time, I’m glad you point that out! Carina is really the audience’s entry point for that, I think, since we witness her whole world come crashing down. She’s spent her whole life believing that science is all you need to explain the world, and she learns that things can be supernatural, unexplained, and just plain terrifying. For all of that, I wanted a larger than life sound and a lot of that relates to what I do with Salazar’s music, looking for a combination of sounds and instruments that makes it distinctive and specific. I’m layering all sorts of sounds, some which are easily identified and some that are not, in hopes that it adds up to people wondering “what is that sound?”

Given how fast and furious the action and effects get in these movies, what’s the trick to scoring their action sequences?

Detail, and giving each setpiece and identity are two things that come to mind. And again, it’s about telling the story the best way possible. The filmmaker David Koepp (“Secret Window”) once told me that every person who works on a film in any capacity should have on their business card “assistant storyteller.” Music is crucial for that, it’s the thing that exists in the air in the movie theater, it bridges the gap between the audience and the movie, and that applies not only to action sequences but anything that you’re playing music for.

The chorus also gets a particularly stirring workout here. How did you want to employ it?

There isn’t an instrument that exists that’s as expressive as a human voice, so I find it’s a very direct way to involve the audience in something, particularly something extraordinary. If there’s a moment of awe, something that’s hard to process cause it’s so large in scale, I use the choir to keep you engaged. It’s also something I use for creating discomfort or mystery, so the trident and Salazar get some pretty odd usages of the choir. And of course it just sounds huge to have a mass of voices all singing.

Nick Glennie-Smith conducts the string session. Photo by Dan Goldwasser

You’ve got as much of a massive sound for this “Pirates” with its orchestra and chorus. What were the recording sessions like?

We had a huge group for this, nearly 200 musicians all told, and sometimes multiple orchestras layered on top of each other so there was no shortage of size at my disposal. That’s a rare luxury in this day and age, but I have Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer to thank for that. They’re the ones who understand the value of putting together an enormous session like that, and they really do help musicians by remaining committed to recordings at this scale. Right now, I think film music is doing a lot to keep orchestras alive and I feel privileged to be part of that.

Recording this was just a joy. Scoring sessions are like the World Series for me. They are tons of pressure that only goes away if you work as hard as you can in there. But one thing you have to know about the musicians that come and play on “Pirates” scores is that they just love to play this music. If you add up all the experience for all 200 musicians you’re looking at something like 4,000 years of practice, blood, sweat and tears, probably more! And all they want to do is make the best recording they can, day in and day out. So I get great results from them, I just talk with the players constantly about what the scene is about, why I wrote what I wrote, and then I leave space for them to come meet me, so to speak. And every single time, they lean into it and play their hearts out. Plus, Pirates has a unique angle, what with the rock and roll orchestra and some amount of irreverence. They get to loosen up a bit, play rougher, let the edges show a little bit and that’s exciting for all of us to get to hear.

One important musical voice that’s back is cellist Martin Tillman. What kind of voice do you think he brings to the “Pirates” scores, and particularly this one?

"Pirates" cellists Martin Tillman and Tina Guo

Martin is Jack Sparrow. It’s as simple as that. In fact, you have to look to Itzhak Perlman playing “Schindler’s List” to find as good an example of a piece of film music being inextricably linked to a specific musician. I got in touch with Martin when I started writing to make sure he could join us, and my blood pressure went back to normal when he signed up. I had Martin play the Salazar theme as well, but in a very different voice and attitude. It was just nasty, really scrape-y and it argued with Adam Peters’ electric cello, which was recorded first, perfectly. I love the idea that Jack and Salazar were both voiced by the cello, but Jack was just one guy and Salazar was layer upon layer of electric and acoustic celli, more massive, more dangerous and threatening.

But why stop at two when you can have three? Tina Guo also played on some of the Salazar music, in particular the crazy and fast stuff in the shark attack sequence and what we called the cannon fight. So there’s three distinct cello voices in this film, and sometimes they play nice together, and sometimes their sounds clash in such beautiful ways! Tina Guo, by the way, goes on tour with Hans and she plays the Jack Sparrow melody when they play “Pirates”, but she does a smart thing with it. She makes it her own so it’s not a Martin Tillman impression, which would cheat both the audience and her. That music plays great in a live setting. it brings the house down every time!

How do you think this “Pirates” film stands in the franchise, and your score along with it?

That’s for the audience to decide. I know that Joachim and Espen were as devoted to “Pirates” as Gore was, and that it wasn’t lost on me how important it was to really try and deliver a score that lives up to the legacy I was already a part of. I reminded myself from time to time that this really is going to be a lot of people’s favorite movie this year, or maybe ever, and it had to be fully committed. I meant every note of it.

Special thanks to Dan Goldwassar at ScoringSessions.com


“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” opens on May 26th, with Geoff Zanelli’s soundtrack available on Walt Disney Records HERE

Visit Geoff Zanelli’s website HERE


See Geoff Zanelli live, and get your “Pirates” CD signed at Creature Features! For more info, go to www.creaturefeatures.com

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Aaron Zigman

Film Music Magazine News - Di, 16/05/2017 - 23:15

There’s dropping out of the rat race. And then there’s really dropping out. For the sardonic, disaffected Howard Wakefield (Bryan Cranston), it’s using a breakdown in his usual commuter train route to NYC suburban malaise to take a trip straight into his garage attic. There he stays for months, and maybe forever, looking across his driveway to watch his wife and daughters cope with his seeming disappearance, and grow to discover a new life without their jaded breadmaker.

Staying mostly silent throughout (apart from the flashbacks that show what drove Howard to isolation), it’s Wakefield’s first-person narration that imparts the listener with his caustic viewpoint, sardonic self-recrimination that gradually grows into a far more meaningful spiritual realization. The same can be said for Aaron Zigman’s profound, hauntingly melodic score that gets into Howard’s headspace and makes us understand a man alone, even when he once was part of society. “Wakefield” is a multi-layered, multi-thematic score of dazzling complexity, the summation of a prolific composer who’s ranged from the tearful emotionalism of “The Notebook” to the epic fantasy that paved “The Bridge to Terabithia” and the wacky comedy of “The Proposition” among dozens of scores.

Zigman’s time with Howard’s physical, and mental transformation opens up a world of styles to explore here, searching through tender strings and piano, rat race rhythms, eccentric humor, jazzy hubris, blissful godhood and the panic of being chased by Russian scavengers among the many facets of Howard. Capable of intimacy and lush orchestrations, Zigman’s “Wakefield” is the height of musical introspection and suspense, as well as the vital glue that, along with Cranston’s daring performance, hypnotically fills Robin Swicord’s beyond-intimate film. For Zigman, it’s music that’s as much about his own journey to reach a personal, and professional apex as he fills a garage’s second story with an enormity of an unlikely hermit’s life choices.


You’ve always had a skillful approach to melody in scores like “The Notebook,” “The Bridge To Terabithia,” “Flash of Genius,” and “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium,” which you co-composed with Alexandre Desplat. Do you think that’s something missing in many of today’s scores?

I think that memorable tunes that are achieved primarily by the four bar phrase—or just melody in general—are somewhat diminishing in today’s film music.

You’d scored Robin’s directorial debut “The Jane Austen Book Club.” What was your collaboration like this time?

Robin Swicord - Photo by Gilles Mingasson.

The collaboration was only different in the sense that Robin and I had already worked together before, so there was a deeper understanding and a more intuitive process. I had known about this script four years ago, so I was able to send Robin a lot of material that we could cull from. We were also not emulating a piece of temp music, but rather working from a concept, which, in my opinion, paved the way for a more original score.

There are a remarkable number of themes in “Wakefield.” Could you talk about developing them?

Years ago when Robin was writing this script, she and I spoke and she said she wanted a score in the style of “Vertigo” by Bernard Herrmann. My response was a piece of music that I sent her in that style while retaining my own voice and she was really moved by it. That piece of music was like an overture to the story. One of the things I’ve always felt strongly about is that when a script is well written I don’t need to see the picture to write themes for the various characters. That was the case with “Wakefield.”

How did you want to convey the meaningless, suburb-to-city rat race that starts “Wakefield?” as well as Howard’s yearning to break free from it?

Jennifer Garner, Bryan Cranston - Photo by Gilles Mingasson

Actually, I did not want to stamp the story as present day, especially in light of the fact that the original story was written by Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1835, with a variation of the story written by E.L. Doctorow. I trusted my instincts and used music that wouldn’t comment on modern present day but convey almost a timeless impression so that whatever “Wakefield” said in the narrative, written by Robin, it would not be foreshadowed by the music.

Most of “Wakefield’s” dialogue is heard through Howard’s first person narration. What challenge did that give you in the respect that a great deal of Bryan Cranston’s performance is silent, and your music has to speak for what’s going on in his head?

I so identified with Bryan’s character—not about doing the unthinkable—but with his yearning to break free of the things that bound him to a lifestyle that was not working for him because I am a person who believes in behavior modification. Over the last four years I have worked on myself and breaking free of chains that hold me back. I, too, am exploring a metamorphosis like this character.

When you have a film about a person secreting himself in an attack, it’s usually the domain of outright horror films like “Hider in the House.” How did you want the music to convey that “Wakefield” wouldn’t go in that direction, while also giving suspense to just what Howard is going to do?

Bryan Cranston - Photo by Gilles Mingasson

I wrote music not indicative of that style. It was actually the antithesis. I created music that used melody to convey an emotional fabric and I tried to stay away from being literal in any sense. To me the attic was not a creepy place, rather it was a place of refuge for Cranston’s character to sit with his thoughts, wrestle with his own human frailty and deal with his own self-grandiosity so that he could make his eventual transformation.

There are many spying sequences of “Wakefield” that recall “Rear Window,” as well as the danger of him going outside of his attic. How did you want the score to communicate that kind of on-edge creepiness, as well as the emotion of what he’s missing out on?

I used very dissonant harmony, not in the sense of the horror genre, but to convey anxiety.

Some people might look at Howard’s quest to find himself as a highly selfish act. Was it important for you to give the character empathy he might not otherwise have without the music? And did your scoring of Howard change your own opinion of the character?

Absolutely. It was important to use the music to create a path of emotionality and tenderness so that the viewer would be open and empathetic to the fact that this guy is not only a self-absorbed person but also a man who might be seeking to find himself. I wanted to create beauty in the music so that the audience would not interpret the movie in a myopic manner.

Did you want the garage attic to become a musically magical place, capable of bliss as well as danger?

I wanted the attic to become a place of quietness. I stayed very minimal in the attic and I wanted to sustain that sense of a place where the character could organize his thoughts and change his viewpoints on life. I didn’t see it as a magical place as much as a place of solace.


There are a surprising amount of musical styles to “Wakefield,” one of which is jazz, which is mixed with a particularly lush and sensual orchestra for Howard’s wooing of Diana in a way that’s film noir-ish. Did you want to go for that kind of classic, retro use of jazz? And were there any composers you wanted to pay tribute to in that respect?

Jennifer Garner - Photo by Gilles Mingasson

There were actually only two short jazz cues in the film, both of which were in the style of Thelonious Monk. I used these to convey some comic relief in an otherwise tense drama. The music of this film was more about paying homage to some of the great film composers of our past like Nino Rota and Bernard Herrmann.

There’s also playfully twisted, almost waltz-like comedy to “Wakefield” to reflect Howard’s sarcastic worldview, and even very funny doorbell-ringing suspense. Is it difficult to put absurdist musical humor into an otherwise dramatic score?

I wrote some waltz-esque rhythmical cues, but I tried to stay away from the traditional pizzicato articulation. I had the strings play an arco articulation so that the chords could be heard and felt and you could feel the oddity and the skewed quality of its dissonance. I wanted the comedy to be left-handed instead of using a generic or more pedestrian approach. For instance, I even used gamelan instead of marimbas to create a percussive feel in the comedy sequences.

Howard develops an almost Jesus-like relationship to the challenged kids next door to him. How did you want to convey their giving, emotional purity and the potential salvation they deliver to Howard?

Bryan Cranston - Photo by Gilles Mingasson

The autistic children that were used in this film by Robin Swicord were an example of purity to “Wakefield” because they were untainted by life’s adversities and every day problems. They were a mirror for Cranston’s character to be able to see himself through a transparent lens rather than a translucent one so that he could reconnect to humanity in a different way, in a way that is loving and kind. Instead of being threatened by these characters, he realizes through these children all the things that he was missing in humanity, such as kindness and unconditional love that so rarely exist in the universe. So I wanted the music to have an emotional quality whenever he was with these two characters and have a real poignant effect on the viewer so that they could see “Wakefield” in a different light, as well as pave the way to make his journey toward redemption.

Given the intricacy of “Wakefield’s” score, what are some things about the score’s construction you’d want people to realize that might otherwise elude them?

The most important thing is that I want them to understand that this is a period score to a modern drama. And, in my humble opinion, with the exception of many of our great writers, the scores in the past were more sophisticated in their harmonic construction and I would hope that audiences sense that about this score, too.

I can only imagine how many endless hours you’ve spent locked in your studio. In that way, how did you draw upon your own experiences with the self-realization that comes from isolation, or even moments of madness, to create the musical character of Howard?

I do identify with this character because I have had to deal with a lot of adversity and I have had to take accountability to achieve redemption. I really responded to his metamorphosis. Especially the aspects of contrition, self-examination and being open to change and focusing on the things in life that is important. So, it was quite easy for me to stay in my studio for hundreds of hours and write this music. I could have happily worked on this score for a lifetime.

With all of the scores you’ve done, “Wakefield” just might be your best work to date. What do you hope that “Wakefield” does for peoples’ musical impression of you?

I’d like filmmakers to recognize that I know how to be emotionally evocative without being saccharin. I hope that my work conveys that I am a serious dramatic writer who can write music that can achieve a director’s vision while saying something powerful and meaningful without overwhelming a film.

What do you think that “Wakefield” and its score have to say about the human condition when a character so starkly deals with himself?

Aaron Zigman - photo by Eugene Powers

In contrast to the question, I want to respectfully say that Howard’s actions and condition never seemed stark to me. I saw his predicament as a matter of life and death. If Howard never left his family and the comforts of his seemingly successful career and lifestyle, he never would have become the enlightened human being he becomes and he never would have achieved redemption. He would have died an unevolved person. Every human being should have the chance to become the best person they can be. And that message is the power of this movie.

“Wakefield” opens in New York on May 19, then in Los Angeles and select markets and on VOD on May 26, with Aaron Zigman’s score available this summer on Decca Gold

Visit Aaron Zigman’s website HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Audio: Interview with Tyler Bates

Film Music Magazine News - Wo, 03/05/2017 - 14:23

ON THE SCORE is sponsored by La-La Land Records

In a scoring career that began with 1993’s alien-filled “Blue Flame,” Tyler Bates has explored myriad worlds of music, whether it be the beat jazz of “The Last Time I Committed Suicide” the sexually-driven groove of “Californication,” the cool killer percussion of “John Wick” or the terrifying knife-metal of Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” reboot. But given his muscularly powerful work, few genres that Tyler Bates has played have been as impressive as films that take their origins from graphic novels and comic books – the last stand of The Spartans in Zach Snyder’s “300” rising Bates to a new level of musical adventure with its brash combination of rock and ancient orchestral tradition.

     

Often putting numerous stylistic approaches into the body of one score, Bates merged an elegiac symphony with bold anti-heroism and industrial kick-ass for Snyder’s epic take on the “Watchmen.” It was an unhinged approach that marked him as an ideal partner for the in-your-face attitude of filmmaker James Gunn. Their partnership has encompassed the deliberately gross-out approach to “Slither,” the God-like chorus that delivers a mission of violent justice to the unbalanced vigilante of “Super” and the satirically sanitized groove of the web series “PG Porn.” Yet though they share an indie spirit, “The Guardians of the Galaxy” truly rocketed Gunn and Bates into the stratosphere with their exciting treatment for the universe’s wisecracking saviors. But if this team-up of a tree, green Amazon warrior, a rabidly irate raccoon and cocksure human Starlord gave the finger to convention, leave it to Bates’ music to deceptively play their heroism for all it was worth. Delivering a theme as memorable as any superhero opus, Bates brought cosmic choruses, pulse-pounding excitement and best of all real humanity to these Guardians.

Now as Gunn flips open a second volume for “The Guardians of the Galaxy,” Bates returns to the hip fight with a score that’s as gigantic as Ego the Living Planet with it rousing orchestra, smashing percussion, a chorus as big as heaven itself and the sensual samples of sexy empathy. But perhaps most impressive is just how much heart and nobility that Bates’ supremely melodic score gives to these upstart space avengers this time out. It’s exciting musical camaraderie that ranks high amongst Marvel’s movie scores, a mix of adventure, humanity and humor that the composer discusses in a new edition of On the Score.

Click above to Listen Now or Click Here to Download

Meet Tyler Bates at Burbank’s Creature Features on Saturday, May 6th at 2PM as he talks about “Guardians V2″ and signs V1 CD’s. Find out about the event, and how you can order your personalized soundtracks HERE

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: VOL. 2 Buy the Soundtrack: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Buy the Soundtrack: THE BELKO EXPERIMENT SUPER SLITHER Visit Tyler Bates’ website
Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Mandy Hoffman

Film Music Magazine News - Ma, 01/05/2017 - 21:17

One might say there’s a waltz to the Pas De Deux of infidelity, the steps taken to hide illicit lovers while feigning the deadening routine of a longtime marriage, or long term relationship. But then, while we Americans might poo-poo this sort of thing, dallying with mistresses and Lotharios seems to go down just non-judgmentally fine in France, especially in their comedies. The American indie “The Lovers” delightfully has it both ways, no more so than in its gorgeously swooning score by Mandy Hoffman. Dallying with the classic romantic spirits of Georges Delerue (“Jules and Jim”), Nino Rota (“Amacord”) and Paul Misraki (“And God Created Woman”), Hoffman’s music casts a rapturous spell as schlubby husband Michael (Tracy Letts) and nonchalant wife Mary (Debra Winger) fall in love again. The neat conceit of filmmaker Azazel Jacobs (“Terri”) is that they turn into cheaters on the people the high-strung dancer and wannabe poet (Melora Hardin, Aidan Gillen) that they’re cheating in – resulting in the kind of roundelay that’s been the stuff of life for such directors as Francois Truffaut and Eric Rohmer – as transferred to our screens. But listening to Hoffman’s wondrously full-blooded thematic score will likely make cineastes think they’re back in the Gaelic glory days, a sound whose waltzing orchestral richness ironically belies a quite intimate indie film – music that captures the spell of rekindled romance, as well as the moral blowback that must ultimately arrive.

Residing in Manhattan as opposed to Paris, where this sort of ultra-melodic thing is also the norm, Mandy Hoffman has composed a score that will perk up the ears with its pure, unashamed lavishness. A dead ringer for Zooey Deschanel, and with a talent that will hopefully reach those converse heights, Hoffman has long been about the indie scene with a far more alternative sound. Beginning her scoring career with Jacobs’ “The GoodTimesKid,” then reteaming with him for “Momma’s Man,” “Terri,” and the HBO/ SKY series “Doll & Em.” Hoffman’s credits have included such character-centric shows as “The Mop and Lucky Files” and the forthcoming Amazon series “I Love Dick,” as well as the film “Ana Maria in Novela Land.” “The Lovers” is her biggest jump from the cool eccentricity to a Hollywood-distributed film, and her biggest sound at that, revealing a symphonic talent that will likely land her more creative affairs to come.

How did you get your start in the business?

I was a musician as a child, I played viola and piano. They came to me very easily. I also had a real problem with discipline, I would start making up my own music. I had friends who were also musicians, and wanted to form a band with them, they didn’t get it. For a while I stopped playing music altogether, up until my twenties where I had a serious relationship with a songwriter and rediscovered I ended up in this ten-piece band called The Rogue Burns Ensemble. They were great musicians, but somebody had to help organize it, and that fell into my lap. I played these toy instruments while another guy read his poetry. We did soundtrack music as well. I particularly liked retro film scores like from the sixties that had really moody instrumental stuff.

Dana (L) and Mandy Hoffman (R ) on the piano

I ended up moving to Los Angeles with this guy I was in a relationship with, and had a horrible break-up there. I didn’t know anybody in town, but I decided to stay and just be by myself for a while. He’d given me this four-track. As time went on I kept hearing from people that my music was very cinematic. Yet even when I was a child, I always thought of myself as musical writer of narrative, a storyteller. The scores of John Williams really took me into movieland. And I finally got to see it when a friend introduced me to Josh Mancell. He was working at Mark Mothersbaugh’s company Mutato Music. I was blown away the creativity I saw, and knew that this was what I wanted to do with my life.

I asked if I could work there, and was told that I should to go to UCLA”s film scoring program study serious composition. Right when I started I met Aza, who he asked me to do his film score for “TheGoodTimes Kid,” which was like a toned-down version of “The Lovers.”


“Toned Down?”

Yeah, really toned down! I was going to school with a lot of jazz people, and some of them played on my hodge-podge score. People still mention it to me, and it really is one of my favorites. I did things on it that I probably wouldn’t do now, because I didn’t really know any better at the time. It just seemed to work. I got a couple of write-ups from a few critics who said it sounded like Nino Rota’s scores were “being slowly digested by a boa constrictor!” That wasn’t intentional, it just happened, because I was just writing from my gut. It made realized how much the scores from the 70’s and 80’s really had an effect on me, especially Nino’s “The Godfather.” It was really an era when film music was all over the place. You had disco. You had Bernard Herrmann, whose work for Hitchcock I also particularly loved.

How was it for someone who was self-taught to have had to learn “self-discipline” in film score structure by taking classes?

It was challenging because I didn’t have this corporate goal in mind like the people around me, who wanted to be the next Danny Elfman or John Williams. I didn’t want to be that. When Aza asked me to score his next film “Terri,” I wanted to do something big, but Aza didn’t want that. So we kept it small and innocent because of the children in the movie. I ended up working backwards because I had written a piano piece for the end, which Aza really liked, and wanted to base the score on that sound.

“The Lovers,” is certainly a score that sounds big, which creates a sense of irony for such an intimate film.

I felt that “The Lovers” needed a big score. The actors were delivering these solid performances, and the music needed to fill in the gaps that that they were intentionally leaving out. It was like there was this conversation being said without a word being spoken, and I wanted to show that part of the story. When we started, Aza had asked me if I wanted to work on certain themes for different couples and characters. I didn’t want to do that, but to instead have this universal theme for them.

Was it important for the score to give a certain empathy to the characters that are constantly cheating on each other, something many people wouldn’t particularly approve as being a likable trait?

photo by Rob Rosenfield

I didn’t think I needed to get into the characters in that way. I felt as if I were a bird nearby, watching as these events as they were taking place. So I didn’t feel so much pressure to make a “statement” about anybody’s behavior. My dad was really into French cinema, which I watched a lot when I was younger. In those old movies, everybody cheated on each other, because that that’s the way it is in France! I don’t think that’s as commonly seen in that way for American audiences. Everybody in “The Lovers” is seriously flawed. The adults just seemed like children. So it was about my score catching the in betweenness of their lives, their grey areas that are not the black and white realities that we’re so used to.

“The Lovers” essentially is a French comedy in that way.

I have gotten comments that my film scores sounded French. I really don’t know what that means but maybe because I play the accordion? I really feel that most 50’s French scores have a uniqueness that doesn’t sound like the comedies in America tended to at that time. Today’s film scores tend to sound very homogenous, where they use the same clichés over and over, something they didn’t do back then. They had a voice, particularly in France, where they used strange instrumentations.

photo by Charchi Stinson


What about “The Lovers’” waltz-like quality?

Aza loves waltzes, so I knew I would be writing in ¾ time for those moments. The whole waltz thing happened when I was banging my head tying to write for a key scene. Aza had mentioned an old French film to me at that time. He wanted this carnival-carousel kind of music for the film, for this kind of ride to be taking place – this kind of youthfulness happening for these immature people playing games on each other.

If you were to strip away the music, “The Lovers” might not end up being as funny as it is. How important was it to capture the humor?

Well, I try not to score things as being “funny.” I’ve done a lot of comedies. For me, comedy is all about timing. I don’t like the music to dictate what should be funny. I had struggled with another project where the director wanted me to score funny for this scene that was already funny to begin with. Humor works better when there’s depth to it.

You’ve really captured the joy of being swept up in newfound romance.

I have written romantic music before but this was more like “soap opera” music without being a soap opera! I was really inspired by Alberto Iglesias’ music from Pedro Almodovar films, which are like soap operas, without the cheese.

photo by Rob Rosenfield

There’s this weird brass thing happening in some of the score, which seems like it might seem like a mistake, but it ends up being really funny for Tracy Letts’ husband – a guy whom you wouldn’t think of as a babe magnet.

I felt that that was my “comedy” music for “The Lovers.” I had these strings playing pizzicato, plucking where the musicians felt that I was doing a big mistake. We actually didn’t use much brass for the film, but when I did, I wanted this kind of growling for one of the character’s frustrations. I had written this crazy, 50’s inspired violin run for one of the female characters, making her seem like a real psycho, which I really loved but they made me take it out. They felt it was too dark for the film.

“The Lovers” does get increasingly dark by the end. How did you want the music to capture that tonal shift?

photo by Rob Rosenfield

I tend to go dark anyway, and “The Lovers” seemed like it needed this graveness to it. In the end, I was inspired by the score to “Vertigo,” which was an approach that had different textures that were not in the rest of the score. I had the harp doing these harmonics throughout the film but I made it more noticeable by the conclusion. I also brought in this xylophone to create this weird harmony.

How did you get such lush symphonic quality for your score?

I worked with a great orchestrator named Patrick Zimmerli, who’s a great jazz composer in his own right. He’s a New York guy and he does a lot of “new” music. He normally doesn’t touch the film world. I felt like he is such a great composer that I wanted to live up to his standard, and wanted him to dig what I was writing. I really wanted to challenge him, too and he really enjoyed it. We really didn’t work too closely together, I just more or less just handed him the score and he did his thing. There really wasn’t too much change from my mock-ups, but he made it all sound a bit more human.

photo by Pat Reynolds

I wrote “The Lovers” pretty much in the same e-flat key for continuity purposes. Of course, there were some changes here and there, but it was mostly in e-flat. As you know, strings don’t play too well in flat keys, which I did on purpose because it had a darker sound, and I didn’t want the score to sound too happy. I think the e-flat has been compared to a “majestic” key because there’s something rich about that. In the last two cues, I switched to “sharp” keys. You can hear that the string players are much more confident playing in their natural keys, which makes it sounds brighter and happier, because Aza wanted this happy resolve to the score. That’s why I shifted my approach. There was this piece of temp music at the end that I liked a lot but he said it wasn’t doing anything where it should be happy and sweet. I was scratching my head on what he was trying to convey towards me. Then it hit me. What Aza really wanted was a lullaby! He wanted me to put this movie to bed, so I wrote this piece what he wanted and that’s what closes the movie. It was the last week of the film and I was able to pull it off this lullaby that’s like the carnival that ends the film, I was very happy at his suggestion and the score turned out better for it.

What’s up after “The Lovers?”

I’m working on a new Amazon comedy series called “I Love Dick.” It’s a story about these people who move to this small town in Texas, where they don’t really belong. I get to write some crazy Tex-Mex music and country music for the show that I play on guitar, accordion and pedal steel guitar. Pedal steel is such an underrated instrument. It has this depth and wit to it that really brings out something in the score. I would really like to work more with that instrument in future. I also got some horn players doing mariachi-style playing, so this is “comedy” music that’s more on the nose than “The Lovers’ ever could be.

What’s it like to be a female composer in Brooklyn?

Pretty much all of my clients are in Los Angeles, so it’s been a challenge. I think I have been passed over a bit because I am a female composer, no matter where I live. I think most in this business thinks that it’s a man’s job. These days I’m very excited to see female composers such as Mica Levi having such a strong voice and breaking all these rules. She has made some fucked up shit. She’s such a huge hero to me. I think a change is happening these days because of strong people like her. And I’ve been working with a lot of women directors lately. I find it kind of easier in a way to work with them, because they give you more creative room and trust. Aza is an exception being a sensitive guy of sorts, but I feel that female directors tend to give up a little of their power to entrust it to me. They don’t want to micromanage me.

Director Azazel Jacobs and Mandy Hoffman (photo by Pat Reynolds)

How do you feel about the potential of doing big budget films after so much time spent in the indie world?

They kind of scare me because there are too many cooks in the kitchen, and so many opinions can make the end result not as good. I see a lot of it in advertising. If you look at it, most advertising music is crap. There are too many opinions, but there are a couple of companies out there that are doing good quality work.

Do you view yourself as a musical non-conformist?

My husband David Morrin is a classically trained guitarist who’s really versed in pop music. He loves The Beatles and The Beach Boys, which I skipped. Being the musician that he is, he doesn’t always get what I’m trying to do. Even I don’t try to conform to what I’m trying to do!

photo by Daniel Schweiger

In the end, what do you want people to realize about your score for “The Lovers?”

That there’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears in this film, especially because I happened to get pregnant during it. For the first time I felt that I didn’t have to give an explanation on what I was doing on a movie score. This is music that just speaks for itself.

“The Lovers” opens in theaters May 5th with its soundtrack available on Milan Records HERE

The “I Love Dick” soundtrack will be available for download on Amazon Music May 12th

Visit Mandy Hoffman’s website HERE

Special thanks to Alexander Portillo for transcribing this interview


(cover photo by Daniel Schweiger)

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

NEWS: Weekly Roundup: April 28

Soundtrack News - Za, 29/04/2017 - 02:00
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.564]Christophe Beck[] ([m.49218]Frozen 2[]), [c.1533]Nick Cave[] & & [c.1534]Warren Ellis[] ([m.49217]War Machine[]), [c.1187]Blake Neely[] ([m.49223]Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda[]), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here[]. Over 30 new soundtrack albums were released this week. [da.2017-04-24]Click here for the full schedule[]. Opening in theaters nationwide this weekend is (with music by): [m.46315]The Circle[] ([c.58]Danny Elfman[]) and [m.46721]How to Be a Latin Lover[] ([c.1224]Craig Wedren[]. Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking song credits for: - [m.46315]The Circle[] (10 songs) - [m.46721]How to...

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Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

NEWS: WaterTower Music to Release 'King Arthur: Legend of the Sword' Soundrack

Soundtrack News - Vr, 28/04/2017 - 02:00
WaterTower Music today announced the release of the soundtrack to filmmaker Guy Ritchie's action adventure [m.40891]King Arthur: Legend of the Sword[], in theatres May 12, 2017. The album features music from Golden Globe-nominated composer [c.1318]Daniel Pemberton[], and will be released in both a 26-track standard edition available on CD and digitally, as well as a 30-track digital deluxe edition. The digital versions will be released May 5, followed by the CD release on May 19. The unique, inventive and broad creative range Pemberton brings to his projects is omnipresent on the [m.40891]King Arthur: Legend of the Sword[] album. "This isn't your usual Hollywood epic adventure, it's a Guy Ritchie Hollywood epic adventure," explained Pemberton. "That means usual rules don't apply. In...

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Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

NEWS: Milan Records to Release 'Genius' Soundtrack EP

Soundtrack News - Di, 25/04/2017 - 02:00
[m.47548]Genius[], the upcoming National Geographic series, executive produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, features original music by composer [c.1465]Lorne Balfe[] ([m.43694]The Lego Batman Movie[], [m.38258]Terminator Genisys[]). The series features an original main title by [c.237]Hans Zimmer[]. Milan Records will be releasing a soundtrack EP digitally on April 28, 2017. "I'm incredibly honored to be writing music for many geniuses – Geoffrey Rush and Johnny Flynn as Albert Einstein, and for an amazing team led by executive producers Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, and showrunner Ken Biller," said Balfe. "Music was very important to Einstein. It was part of his thought process; he used music to distance himself from the problematic equations that he was trying to solve. The...

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Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

NEWS: 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' Awesome Mix Vol. 2 & Original Score Released

Soundtrack News - Za, 22/04/2017 - 02:00
Marvel Music/Hollywood Records are releasing the digital versions of [a.20506]Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Awesome Mix Vol. 2[] songs-only album and [a.20622]Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 original score album[] by composer [c.648]Tyler Bates[] today, April 21st. The film opens in U.S. theaters on May 5, 2017. [m.41693]Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2[] is filled with great action, humor and performances, but it is also infused with a new mixed tape and soundtrack, a dynamic that resonated deeply with audiences in the first film as evidenced by the success of the soundtrack album. The Grammy-nominated [m.34687]Guardians of the Galaxy[] soundtrack reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, becoming the first soundtrack album consisting entirely of previously released songs to top...

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Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

NEWS: Lakeshore Records to Release 'The Promise' Soundtrack

Soundtrack News - Wo, 19/04/2017 - 02:00
Lakeshore Records will release [a.20535]The Promise - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack[] digitally on April 21st and on CD June 2, 2017. The album features the film's original score by Academy Award-winning composer [c.234]Gabriel Yared[], with the original song "The Promise" written and performed by Multi-Grammy Award-winning and Golden Globe nominated singer/songwriter Chris Cornell, and an exclusive version of the Armenian folk song "Sari Siroun Yar" by Grammy Award-winning Serj Tankian performing with the Authentic Light Orchestra (feat. Veronika Stalder). It is 1914. As the Great War looms, the vast Ottoman Empire is crumbling. Constantinople (Istanbul), its once vibrant, multicultural capital is about to be consumed by chaos. Michael Boghosian (Oscar Isaac), arrives in the...

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Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

NEWS: Steve Mazzaro Launches Website

Soundtrack News - Zo, 16/04/2017 - 02:00
[c.2901]Steve Mazzaro[] has launched his official website. The composer, who has been working at [c.237]Hans Zimmer[]'s Santa Monica based Remote Control Productions for the past six years, recently co-scored DreamWorks Animation's hit comedy [m.41760]The Boss Baby[] with Zimmer. His other credits include Walter Hill's 2013 action thriller [m.32659]Bullet to the Head[] and Marc Webb's [m.32686]The Amazing Spider-Man 2[], on which he was credited as part of "The Magnificent Six". He also contributed music to various other projects scored Zimmer, including [m.38616]Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice[], [m.29989]Man of Steel[] and [m.39641]Chappie[]. [url.http://www.stevemazzaro.com]Click here[] to visit the website created by Dan Goldwasser's Warm Butter...

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Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

NEWS: Weekly Roundup: April 14

Soundtrack News - Za, 15/04/2017 - 02:00
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.401]Rolfe Kent[] ([m.44892]Downsizing[]), [c.1450]Nitin Sawhney[] ([m.47650]Breathe[]), [c.855]Laura Karpman[] & [c.6577]Raphael Saadiq[] ([m.48112]Step Sisters[]), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here[]. Over 25 new soundtrack albums were released this week. [da.2017-04-10]Click here for the full schedule[]. Opening in theaters nationwide this weekend is (with music by): [m.43702]The Fate of the Furious[] ([c.361]Brian Tyler[]). Expanding nationwide from its limited release last week is Marc Webb's [m.46837]Gifted[] ([c.1240]Rob Simonsen[]). Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking song credits for: -...

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Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

NEWS: BMI to Honor Alan Silvestri with Icon Award at 2017 BMI Film, TV & Visual Media Awards

Soundtrack News - Di, 11/04/2017 - 02:00
Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), the global leader in music rights management, will present the BMI Icon Award for outstanding career achievement to celebrated composer [c.201]Alan Silvestri[] at the company's 2017 Film, TV & Visual Media Awards. The annual ceremony will be held Wednesday, May 10, at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills. BMI President & CEO Mike O'Neill and BMI Vice President Film, TV & Visual Media Relations Doreen Ringer-Ross will host the ceremony. BMI will bestow the Icon Award to Silvestri for his impactful contribution in the realm of film and television music. "We are thrilled to honor Alan, a brilliant, deeply sensitive and diverse composer, whose glorious music is as inspiring as he is," said Ringer-Ross. "His keen cinematic sensibility, empathetic nature,...

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Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

NEWS: Weekly Roundup: April 7

Soundtrack News - Za, 08/04/2017 - 02:00
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.274]Harry Gregson-Williams[] ([m.49049]Breath[]), [c.752]Alexandre Desplat[] ([m.49069]Based on a True Story[]), [c.1238]Bear McCreary[] ([m.49066]Half to Death[]), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here[]. Over 25 new soundtrack albums were released this week. [da.2017-04-03]Click here for the full schedule[]. Opening in theaters nationwide this weekend are (with music by): [m.47665]The Case for Christ[] ([c.2357]Will Musser[]), [m.36451]Going in Style[] ([c.1240]Rob Simonsen[]) and [m.43473]Smurfs: The Lost Village[] ([c.630]Christopher Lennertz[]). Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking song credits for: -...

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Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Bear McCreary

Film Music Magazine News - Wo, 05/04/2017 - 18:53

The guy problems of fawn-eyed rom-com star Anne Hathaway in the American big city and nowhere town. Asia’s pesky buildings that get in the way of a man in a big monster suit (or at least in the good old pre-CGI days). Never shall these two movie worlds, or protagonists meet – especially in the case of a composer whose lovers usually get split asunder by Cylons, Walkers or nasty British soldiers. But there’s got to be a first for everything for Hollywood, and Bear McCreary. In this case, it’s “Colossal,” wherein Hathaway’s woman on the edge of a nervous breakdown through a series of bad luck relationships goes back home to sort her wreck of a life out – only to discover that her angst is controlling a major, monstrous wrecking ball in the form of a creature terrorizing Korea’s capital of Seoul. Gradually breaking through her alcoholic, guy-fueled haze, Gloria takes control of her life by making the beast half a planet away do some unexpectedly silly things (or at least the kind of wincing stuff Godzilla did back in his drunken, dancing Elvis period).

However, when you at first listen to Bear McCreary’s glorious, city-stomping score, you might think he’s playing the continuing adventures of the can-do heroine who just blew up a space invader at the end of “Ten Cloverfield Lane.” Such is the rousing orchestral weight and emotional mystery of “Colossal,” which gradually tips its hand to the more intimate, ironically dramatic story at hand from the eccentric mind of director Nacho Vigalondo. But then, the idea of taking a small view at a gigantic genre twist is often a spin on Nacho’s offbeat Spanish films as “Timecrimes,” in which a time paradox unwinds in someone’s home, and “Extraterrestrial,” where an invasion is waited out in an apartment. McCreary’s score for “Colossal” makes you realize the scope is just a bit bigger, and intimate at that. Alt. score faves like acoustic and rock guitars blend with bombastic symphonic foot-smashing, an angst-ridden cello finds an accompaniment in blasting brass, and tender piano builds to cosmic revelation worthy of Gozer the Gozerean. It’s witty and emotionally stratospheric scoring that has it both ways, often playing the straight, musical creature to a wacky, well-realized idea in a way that only expands McCreary’s catalogue of genre music, while showing the different, dramatic paths he’s equally capable of.

     

Indeed, it’s likely that the collected works of this protégé of Elmer Bernstein would stack higher than Godzilla if you put together the likes of “Battlestar Galactica,” “Black Sails,” “Outlander,” “Agents of SHIELD,” “The Walking Dead” and all of the other hit shows to his credit. Yet it’s McCreary’s forays into movie theaters that provide some of his best work, from the wondrous “Europa Report” to the metalhead demon busters that comprise the “Knights of Badassdom” or the eerily haunted beauty of “The Forest” and “The Boy” (we can even throw in some dance moves of a “Step Up” picture in there). But given its own tonal connection to the riveting, exceptionally constructed bomb shelter break out of “Ten Cloverfield Lane,” “Colossal” comes across like the tip of an iceberg to just how many genres McCreary is capable of in a movie, and score that delightfully, and movingly has its way with two unlikely ones.

What’s your for the giant monster films of yore, and how do you think their scores played into that?

I have always loved a good giant monster movie, and have tremendous respect for the legacy of the genre. “King Kong” was certainly the first giant monster movie on a large scale, and featured one of the first recorded scores in the history of film. So, in a way, every film with music owes a debt of gratitude to giant monster movies!

What was it like working with Nacho, especially given how unique his genre films are?

Nacho quickly proved himself to be as distinct as his films. I was inspired by his film, and even more inspired by his creative leadership. His grasp of the story, the themes, and their interaction, was as detailed as any filmmaker I’ve ever collaborated with. He was fun, funny and clear in articulating his vision.

We’ve never quite seen a “Kaiju” movie like “Colossal.” How would you say it subverts the genre? And was that a big appeal for you to do the score?

It subverts the genre by being a different film entirely that happens to take place within that world. I think the film is character drama, wrapped up in a love letter to the “Kaiju” genre.

How much did you want to emulate the sound of “Kaiju” movies with “Colossal?”

It was not a concern of mine in the slightest, to be honest. I did not revisit any classic monster movies scores before scoring this film. I focused on the character arcs and the tension. There certainly are big moments in my score, but those were not the focus of my creative energies.

Given Korea is the setting of its monster rampage, how much of an Asian quality did want to bring to “Colossal?”

I think my score, with its folksy strumming electric guitars and solo cello melody, has a distinctly rural American sound. The large orchestra represents the giant monster and the stakes of the danger, but the iconic sounds of the score are intimate and indie-rock in nature.

How did you want to thematically contrast the characters of Gloria and the monster, then have the music gradually bring them together with their symbiosis – especially give how different the worlds are of the “indie comedy’ and “giant monster” scoring are?

Gloria has a theme that stands out pretty frequently in the film. Her solo cello melody is often supported by strumming electric guitars. Those elements definitely come from the “indie” film world. I used an orchestra to achieve a larger “blockbuster score” sound when appropriate. In fact, the opening Main Title cue is actually a bit of a musical joke: a tense ostinato in the low strings and mounting huge brass fanfare build tension that sounds like it will reveal an epic monster, and instead, we cut to Gloria sheepishly opening a door to her boyfriend’s apartment after having been out drinking all night. At the end of the film, I brought the two sounds together, putting the “indie cello” melody in the soaring full orchestra. It was an epic, fun moment.

Usually films follow on storyline. But what kind of challenge did it pose given “Colossal’s” intercutting between Gloria and the monster?

I chose to focus the music entirely on Gloria. We witness the fantastic events through her eyes, so I generally chose to score her reaction to the events, rather than the events themselves.

Two instruments in “Colossal” that are particularly featured with the orchestra are the guitar and cello. Could you tell us about the score’s ensemble?

The guitars and solo cello were my way of rooting the score in an “indie film” persona. I wanted the score to feel almost schizophrenic for the first hour of the film. Like, some edgy indie rock band scored half of it, and a classically trained orchestral composer scored the other half. Then, as the film progresses, the two musical styles merge to form a coherent vision.

Colossal doesn’t quite prepare for you for its most massive subtext about abusive relationships involving men. As a male composer, did that affect you emotionally, and make it all the more challenging to play the score from a female perspective?

The themes of abuse, both in substances and relationships, run deep in this story, and those themes inspired me to give the score a sense of emotional weight and importance. The film is about how relationships can become imbalanced, with dominance overtaking vulnerability. This is represented in the score with the acoustic solo cello struggling to hold its own against a relentless and overpowering synth pulse. I suppose in that regard, the feminine voice of the score is represented by an acoustic instrument, and the masculine voice is represented by a synthetic instrument.

In its way, minus its indie vibe, “Colossal” plays as a sequel score to “Ten Cloverfield Lane,” one of last year’s best films, and scores, especially in how the music “opened up” a movie that could have been claustrophobic. Could you talk about scoring it, and how you hope to remain part of the “Cloverfield” universe?

I wouldn’t have thought of it until you mentioned it, but there is a musical structure that’s similar to both films, I guess. Both films start off very contained, and build to a huge finale that’s bigger than what you’re anticipating based on the first hour of the film. That story structure obviously has an impact on the requirements of the scores for those films. As for the “Cloverfield” universe, I am always up for whatever JJ Abrams wants me to do.

There’s a fun, bombastic quality to your score. How important was it to give “Colossal” that extra, astounding push without overwhelming it?

This was a huge question, and the first thing I tackled in scoring the film. It was vitally important that the score deliver an epic, soaring finale, without overpowering or destroying the tone of the film. The last 12 minutes of the film, were the first thing I wrote (in fact, I scored the entire 12 minute last reel on spec as a demo to land the job!). Once the final reel was approved by the director and studio, it was an easier process to reverse engineer the rest of the score.

Conversely, how important was it for you to give an insane story like this emotional weight?

Giving a story emotional weight is truly the only thing I am ever concerned about when doing a film, regardless of genre. Without an emotional connection, plots ultimately lose my interest after about 30 minutes. It was the intensely satisfying emotional arc of this film that made me want to do it in the first place.

You’ve been upfront about how you use a team of composers given your insane workload something that’s been commonplace in the industry for years now, though not talked about as candidly as you do. How do you retain quality control, and are there projects where you are determined to be the sole composer on?

Working in modern television requires a composer team to keep up with the massive amount of minutes necessary every week. Because all my television scores feature live players, most with full orchestra every episode, my team at Sparks & Shadows also includes orchestrators, engineers, music editors, copyists, session producers, and employees dedicated to coordination, logistics, project management, sample development, and tech support. Everything is in-house. The operation is massive, but allows me the creative support to spend my every waking minute involved with the creative concerns of my projects.

How do you think “The Walking Dead” has changed in the way where it’s now featuring scenes that rely entirely on music? And given the epic war that’s coming in the next season, how do you see your music for the show growing?

I have been fortunate to be a part of “The Walking Dead” since day one. My score has evolved as rapidly as the show itself, now nearing the end of its seventh season. I am just completing my fourth season with showrunner Scott Gimple, who really appreciates the value and emotional impact of music, and envisions sequences where score will be featured prominently. I am eager to see what happens next season!

With all of the film and television work you’ve done, it’s almost a surprise that you’ll be scoring your first non-genre dramatic movie with the upcoming “Rebel in the Rye,” about J.D. Salinger. What was that experience like, and do you hope to get more “straight” assignments like this?

Working with Danny Strong, creator of “Empire” and an accomplished actor / writer, on his directorial debut was a remarkable experience. It felt like a feat to land a film without time travel, robots, aliens, zombies, pirates, or demons. Scoring “Rebel in the Rye” was one of the best experiences of my life, yielded one of the best scores of my career, and I hope very much to do more films like it in the future.

You’ve also scored your first feature documentary “Unrest,” about a Harvard PHD who’s suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. Could you tell us about your approach for it, and the big difference you’ve discovered between writing for features and non-fiction here?

I learned a lot working with Jennifer Brea on “Unrest.” Her film is a chronicle of her personal journey suffering with CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), telling both her intimate story and that of people like her around the world. For Jennifer, this film is literally her life. So, approaching it as I would a fiction film proved to be pointless. I rewired my thinking so that I was scoring her life, and thought of the film as a byproduct. The music had to be as intensely personal and intimate as her filmmaking. I am really proud of the film, and excited that people will get to see it on PBS in the near future.

Another forthcoming project is the Blumhouse production of “Half to Death,” a “Groundhog Day”-like movie about a heroine learning how to get to the bottom of her multiple deaths. What’s the trick of scoring a film with repeated scenes, and how do you want to repeat, and the change the music for it?

Oh my, word gets around fast. I’m just getting started on this one. It’s too early to say, but I am looking forward to tinkering with this. I am attracted to the idea of using similar music for repeated sequences, but ultimately, my motto is always “Follow the Character.” It’s more important for me to adapt with the character’s POV. I have some ideas crazy ideas that I’m looking forward to pitching the director soon.

With “Colossal,” how do you think you’ve contributed to movies about giant monsters, as well as millennial relationship problems? And when you think about it, are they the same thing?

I’d love to think that my score checks both of those boxes. That was certainly my goal. We’ll have to see how people respond when the movie comes out.

Colossal is another atypical genre film, and score for you. Do you find these films more interesting than a far bigger, cookie-cutter opportunity that might come your way?

I always enjoy working on projects that challenge me, and make me a better composer for having done them. I like to think that even a “cookie cutter” gig might present cool musical opportunities. But, for now, I just keep my eye out for interesting projects that push me out of my comfort zone.

“Colossal” rampages in theaters April 7th, with Bear McCreary’s score available on Lakeshore Records. Pick up your copy HERE

Visit Bear McCreary’s website HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

NEWS: Varese Sarabande to Release 'Bosch' Soundtrack

Soundtrack News - Wo, 05/04/2017 - 02:00
Varèse Sarabande will release the [a.20328]Bosch – Amazon Original Soundtrack[] digitally on April 21 and on CD April 28, 2017. The album features the series theme song "Can't Let Go" performed by Caught A Ghost and the original music from Seasons 1, 2, and 3 composed by [c.10021]Jesse Voccia[] ([m.33195]The Big C[], [m.37599]A Haunted House 2[]). "The first thing I actually scored was the first scene of the first show," said Voccia. "It is a relatively long foot pursuit through downtown LA. It has almost a "French Connection" feeling to it with several changes of atmosphere, location and intensity. It is the first time we meet Harry Bosch and his partner Jerry Edgar." Based on Michael Connelly's best-selling novels, [m.40195]Bosch[] stars Titus Welliver as LAPD homicide detective...

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Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Rob Simonsen

Film Music Magazine News - Di, 04/04/2017 - 02:14

Hollywood is a town of the young when it comes to the composers who get all of the cool gigs (perhaps excepting that 85 year-old duffer John Williams). On that note, there are few creatively hotter, hipster commodities than Rob Simonsen at finding unique, vibrant groove that speaks for a new sound of film scoring. Simonsen began his career as an assistant, arranger and then addition composer to Mychael Danna on such brilliantly non-conformist scores as “Where the Truth Lies,” “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” and the Oscar-wining “Life of Pi,” Making his solo feature debut with the knightly drama “Westender” (in which he played a role as well), Simonson has since amassed dozens of credits, with a particular emphasis on quirky, character-driven films. Tapping into an alt. rock sound so preferred by Gen X’ers and millennial audiences yet with a strong, old school sense of orchestral melody, Simonsen has chronicled their romantic angst for “(500) Days of Summer,” “The Way Way Back” and “The Spectacular Now,” as well as a rhythmic addiction to the net with “Nerve.” He’s heard the creepily symphonic sound of true crime with “All Good Things” and “Foxcatcher,” as well as using impossibly lush strings and electronics to mesmerizingly embody eternity in “The Age of Adeline,” or even hell’s kitchen with a cool, cutting-edge sample sound for “Burnt.”

With all of Simonsen’s credits, it’s ironic that one of his most clever, and thoroughly fun scores is a throwback jazz heist soundtrack with a hip, mature feel for “Going In Style.” It’s a hundred-and-eighty (plus thousands of more dollars) turn for both Simonsen and actor-director Zach Braff after their collaboration on “Wish You Were Here.” Gentle whimsy gives way to a rollicking, fat brass section, whistles, and a suspenseful orchestra that might befit the golden days of Steve McQueen barreling down the streets of San Francisco. But in this case, it’s the dream team of Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin as three seniors who are mad as hell as their corporate mistreatment, and decide to take on a bank for the retirement robbed from them. Far more optimistic than the sad, gritty 1979 original, this “Style” is feel-good multiplex entertainment that gets the goods with well-weathered chemistry and symphonically jazzy flourish to spare, especially in Simonsen’s fresh retro grooves.

If these thieves might do their best not to get a rap sheet, Simonsen himself is getting labeled for comedy for good reason. At year’s end, he’ll be going on the lam with Owen Wilson and Ed Helms for “Bastards.” As their two man-children try to find their father in a series of screwball incidents and verbal squabbles, Simonsen provides an instrumentally eccentric take on a free spirit vs. stuck-up sibling. It’s a winning score that takes Simonsen on a road trip that’s familiar for its stripped down sound, but like “Going in Style,” offers the composer the chance to go for new, broader musical punch lines.

Certainly nothing if not prolific with the often musical chairs release dates of the many movies he’s scored, Simonsen also has the distinction of having another film scored by him on “Going in Style’s” April 7th opening date. And it couldn’t be for a more different movie, if beautifully familiar Simonsen score, than “Gifted.” Returning him to the company of “(500) Days of Summer” director Marc Webb, if in way more grown up surroundings, “Gifted” finds a math-magician little girl whose gifts are closely guarded by her single dad, who’d rather have her find a winning formula in life than becoming a guinea pig savant. At first depicting their relationship with ethereal magic, Simonsen introduces a more serious, symphonic sound for grown ups trying to tear them apart, yet with a subtlety that distinguishes the composer’s dramatically melodic instincts in a rich grab bag of distinctively vibrant, and stylistic scores.

How did you first connect with Zach Braff, and why do you think you were in tune as a composer and director?

Zach discovered me through an Apple commercial that I scored. He said he was watching TV and the “Photos Everyday” ad came on, which has no voice over or dialogue – just music accompanying all these beautiful shots of people taking photos on their iPhones. He loved the music on the ad and thought it was perfect for his film “Wish I Was Here,” so he did a Google search to find out who did the music and then found me. It was only after the fact that he found out I had done a fair bit of work with his editor and producers, so it all came together happily.

Not only is “Going in Style” Zach’s first “mainstream” film as it were, but it’s also a whole new, broader orchestral comedy sound for you, one very different from the kind of alt scores you often do. What were your mutual challenges like?

Zach has never made a film that was scored to this degree, so there was a lot of discovering about how to make the film work with score, which was achieved through a wonderful team Zach had with his editor, Myron Kerstein, music editor Andrew Silver, his producer Donald DeLine and music executive Erin Scully. Everyone wanted the same thing, but it took us time to figure out how to get there. Zach was very trusting of me and the process and we faced all the challenges together.

On my side, the initial challenge faced by all composers, is how to do something that hasn’t already been done – and done so well by the greats. In the journey of a working film composer, there isn’t always the opportunity to invent something new, so then it’s a question of how much fun to have with the genre and established approaches.

For me, this was a great opportunity to have a bigger, broader sound that harkened back to the 80’s and so many films I saw growing up. The fun, orchestral approach to “Back to the Future” was something we discussed in terms of how that score plays to the film. So really, it was trying to find unique musical material with melodies, motifs, etc, and then having fun.

This is definitely not your grandfather’s “Going In Style,” which was a very good, but downbeat movie. How important was it for you to establish a tone that was dramatic, but also played the lighthearted nature of the film?

Our rule was to never take away permission to laugh. Even though our heroes face real consequences, we were careful to never go dark. Zach’s films tend lean in with emotion so we also knew upfront that we needed warm fuzzy melodies.

When so many fun, jazzy “heist” scores have been done, what’s the challenge of finding something new for the genre?

As I was saying before, I think it’s about having fun with an existing genre. Not all films can handle experimentation, and they need to feel connected to their predecessors. So for me this was a chance to get into scores and records that I’ve loved for a long time, a love letter to Lalo Schifrin, Roy Budd, CTI Records…it’s musically referencing 60’s and 70’s but the approach and production is more of an 80’s, almost Amblin kind of thing.

How important was it to bring a youthful vibe to the score, while at the same time playing the particular challenges that reflect these characters’ ages, as well as their distinct personalities?

Zach wanted the youthfulness of the granddaughter character to come through in her scenes, so we needed something with energy there. And with our three main characters, despite their physical age, were playful and fun with each other. We never wanted to make their situation seem sad, we always wanted to lean into the fun and excitement.

A retro element would definitely come with aging characters like this who were in the primes of their youths in the 60s and 70s (as well as the 40s in one cue). How did that determine what kind of vibe did you want to explore for them, and how to incorporate that into a big orchestral sound?

I was definitely inspired to go retro, but not too much. Recording/mixing engineer Alan Meyerson was a brilliant partner in finding ways to give nods to the music we were referencing, while still staying modern.

What are your own favorite “heist” movies and scores, and why? How did you want the score to “track” the big, climactic robbery?

“Bullit” by Lalo Schifrin is one of my favorite scores of the genre (and films). John Barry’s stuff with the Bond franchise. Anything Roy Budd was doing in the 60’s-70’s like “Get Carter.” Quincy Jones, Deodato, Morricone. Even Sam Spence’s NFL Films stuff. I love the sound of electric bass and drum kit with orchestra.

There’s also a fun, subtle tropical flavor to “Going in Style,” as well as whistling and swinging flutes. How did those ideas come into play?

The whistling was actually an idea that Zach had, I think. It seemed like a fun idea so we went with it. There’s some body and mouth percussion in some spots as well. There’s a carefree playfulness to that stuff so it seemed like something to try and work in. The tropical vibe wasn’t intended, but maybe that’s just inherent with bongos and congas, of which there are a lot. We did a lot of Latin percussion, headed up by Pete Korpela, who is a fantastic player and brought a lot of groove to the whole score.

As fun as “Going in Style” is, does scoring a film like this make you reflect on your own mortality, and challenges that you’ll be face a few decades down the pike, especially in a composing industry known for its ageism. And if so, did that emotion play into the score’s more heartfelt moments?

You mean, was my own sadness about aging channeled into the score? Yes. Yes, it was.

“Bastards” is more in tune with other eccentric comedy scores you’ve done like “Girl Most Likely” and “The Way Way Back,” especially with its unplugged acoustical sound. How did you hit on this approach here, which also uses a more subdued orchestra?

“Bastards” needed something plucky and I wanted to find a way to get pluck without using plucked strings. I ended up using them a bit, but they’re 1:1 blended with palm-muted acoustic guitar plucks most of the time, so it makes it a little bit of a smaller, more intimate and hopefully unique sound. It still sounds like plucks I think, Ha! But the story for “Bastards” is really about a couple of brothers who are still trapped in their childhood selves in a lot of ways, and they reconcile by going on an adventure to find their father. So there needs to be a spirit of adventure driven by emotion, but big orchestra just felt too big and adult for that. It was the softer, quieter tones of acoustic guitar and upright piano seemed to match their characters.

It seems like just about any eccentric instrument is possible in “Bastards.” How did you pick which ones to use, whether it’s a dulcimer, a ukulele or a fuzz guitar?

Fumbling around until it felt right, pretty much. We used cimbalom, which is a fantastic instrument that I first heard my friend Chester Englander play with the LA Phil. It’s got a unique sound that can blend so interestingly with other things that we’re really used to hearing. It’s a fairly intuitive thing I think, just wanting something different and hunting for the right sound. I spend a fair bit of time at the outset just thinking about and experimenting with the palette.

How do you want to hit the difference between one brother who’s hopelessly wound up, and the other who’s a free spirit?

One is loose and goes with the flow, so we have something that’s laid back and relaxed, whereas the other one is uptight and needed something angular that is a little tense and also melancholic.

Like “Going in Style,” “Bastards” is a “caper” film of sorts, in that the mission is to do whatever it takes to discover who their real dad is. Tell us about capturing that kind of alt. jazzy sneaking about, as well as the idea of a multiplicity of potential, woefully flawed dads?

I think in the end I’m just tried to do what sounded sneaky to me. We knew there needed to be sneak in the score, but I think the discovery of the score was a theme that had a bit of hope and adventure. I imagined two young boys playing in the forest, setting out on a quest to find their lost father, the king. Waving a flag as they march into the unknown. There’s something sweet and earnest about that, and inevitably they get into shenanigans.

Is it particularly fun to play a road trip where bantering dialogue is as big a part of the physical comedy?

It’s quite different. Again, this was a bit of a broader film and score than I’m used to. But it was fun to play that up.

Despite its shenanigans, there’s an emotional core to “Bastards” about dealing with parental rejection, and wanting to be loved. How did you want to hit that without being overly sentimental?

Exactly as you said – to hit it without being overly sentimental. I was just trying to serve the scenes, which director Larry Sher did a wonderful job with. There’s some real emotion in that film. I get misty eyed every time I see it.

How was it for you to reteam with director Marc Webb on “Gifted,” this time as the sole composer?

It was great. I love Marc and he’s someone I’ve had a friendship with since we all did “(500) Days of Summer.” He’s a wonderful filmmaker.

Do you think there are instruments that naturally convey the innocence of children? And how did you want to play them here, especially given that this girl is super smart?

Anything small and bell-like seems to ring true for the sound of children. The main theme for the girl in “Gifted” is very simple. Elemental. She’s a normal kid in many ways, but a genius in others so we needed a more adult, complex sound from the orchestra that could keep up with that.

How did you want to play her bond with a dad of normal intelligence?

I would say he’s above average intelligence. But the life he is trying to give her is one of normalcy. He wants her to have a chance at developing without the pressure from the world to juice a mind like that. There are some interesting questions about the morality, ethics and responsibility of genius there.

There have been many kid’s “courtroom” movies that have gone wrong, especially given scores that tended to be treacly. Was that a concern here, especially as the score grows increasingly solemn with its dramatic stakes?

Yes, we never wanted to be too cute. McKenna Grace, the young actor that plays the lead is extraordinarily funny, smart, and entertaining and we didn’t want it to turn into cuteness.

You’re part of an “Echo Society” that stages new works from composers in Downtown Los Angeles. Tell us about the group, and what kind of creative outlet it gives you?

The Echo Society is a group of like-minded friends who gather to create new works of art, and share that with the greater LA arts community. This city is so rich with artists of all disciplines. We wanted to connect with other artists that we may not have a chance to work with in our “day jobs” of film composers, etc. For us it’s really important to make art for art’s sake – to see what’s possible and to cast a vision for something that moves us. We try to execute that with as much passion and commitment as we can in a way that will hopefully move others. It’s been wonderfully rewarding as a composer. I’m just as excited to be there to experience it as an audience member as I am to share it as a co-creator.

You’ve got quite an interesting film coming called “House of Tomorrow,” which mashes architectural legend Buckminster Fuller with the story of two punk teens trying to get laid. What can we expect from that score?

The score is all analog synths and glass flutes. The idea was to capture the sound of the future from the past. So there’s a ‘science documentary’ from the 60’s kind of vibe. It was wicked fun.

When you hear “Going in Style,” “Bastards” and “Gifted,” what do you think they say about your range as a composer? And where do you want to go in terms of exploring uncharged musical areas?

What it says about my range is a statement for probably for someone else to make, as I’m always just doing my best with any assignment. For me, a film score is always a chance to do something new. Maybe it’s just new for me, but that’s worthwhile. I’m always looking for ways to grow and develop as a composer and human being, and doing things I haven’t done before is always an opportunity for that. I’m also finishing up my first solo record and that will hopefully open me up more to making more music for music’s sake.

“Going in Style” and “Gifted” open in theaters April 7th, with “Style’s” soundtrack on WaterTower Music HERE and “Gifted” on Lakeshore Records HERE

Join the “Bastards” on their road trip at year’s end in theaters

Find out about the Echo Society’s latest LA performances HERE

Visit Rob Simonsen’s website HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws
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