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Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.14]Marco Beltrami ([m.41633]True Story), [c.2171]James Murphy ([m.41647]While We're Young), [c.1668]Dickon Hinchliffe ([m.41047]The Reach), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 35 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2014-7-21]Click here for the full schedule.
Opening nationwide this week are (with music by): [m.39381]Hercules ([c.1748]Fernando Velazquez), [m.39489]Lucy ([c.197]Eric Serra), and [m.39639]And So It Goes ([c.198]Marc Shaiman).
Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking song credits for:
- [m.39381]Hercules (1 song)
WHO: Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), a global leader in music rights management, and White Bear PR will return to 2014 Comic-Con to present a dynamic panel discussion about the working relationship between TV composers and producers. Each pairing will discuss their working relationship, how music plays a character in their stories and the intense process of scoring their projects. BMI Director, Film/TV Relations Anne Cecere will serve as panel moderator. The discussion will be followed by a Q&A session.
What: "The Character of Music" panel at 2014 Comic-Con will feature the following composers and creators/executive producers:
- Composer [c.1590]Chris Bacon [t.36164]Bates Motel
- Producer Christopher Nelson [t.36164]Bates Motel
Sony Classical is pleased to announce the release of [a.13246]Hercules - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, composed by World Soundtrack Award nominee [c.1748]Fernando Velázquez. Directed by Brett Ratner, the film stars Dwayne Johnson in the title role alongside Ian McShane, John Hurt and Rufus Sewell. The soundtrack was released digitally on [da.2014-07-22]July 22 and will be released on CD [da.2014-08-05]August 5.
"I really tried to address the strength and nobility of Hercules in the movie," comments Velázquez on the score, which was recorded with the London Philharmonia Orchestra. "The music tries to capture this kindness along with the great strength. It sounds modern and yet it feels classical as it is completely symphonic, even when incorporating electronics and...
The International Film Music Festival of the Province of Córdoba is proud to announce the final two components of their program--Composers [c.1294]Abel Korzeniowski ([t.39839]Penny Dreadful, [m.31622]W.E.) and [c.401]Rolfe Kent ([m.34415]Labor Day, [m.23477]Sideways) will be awarded with the 2nd annual Elmer Bernstein Awards. The Elmer Bernstein Award recognizes the contributions of composers through film/TV soundtracks. In addition the festival announces its honorary president, returning composer [c.630]Christopher Lennertz ([t.25180]Supernatural, [m.33582]Identity Thief).
This, the tenth edition of the International Film Music Festival, will be held from July 20 to 27 in Córdoba, Spain.
The activities for this year's edition, include announcing the...
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.1318]Daniel Pemberton ([m.40398]The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), [c.889]Robert Rodriguez and [c.1767]Carl Thiel ([m.33945]Sin City: A Dame to Kill For), [c.301]Edward Shearmur ([m.41091]Squirrels to the Nuts), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 16 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2014-7-14]Click here for the full schedule.
Opening nationwide this week are (with music by): [m.40474]Persecuted ([c.2114]Chris Ridenhour), [m.38142]Planes: Fire and Rescue ([c.118]Mark Mancina), [m.39503]The Purge: Anarchy ([c.6935]Nathan Whitehead), and [m.37702]Sex Tape ([c.809]Michael...
Director Matt Reeves' critically-acclaimed [m.34278]Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was scored by composer [c.534]Michael Giacchino. Tim Simonec conducted the recording of the score at the Newman Scoring Stage at 20th Century Fox. Our friends at [url.http://scoringsessions.com/news/276/]ScoringSessions.com have just made pictures of the session available.
[a.12956]Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - Motion Picture Soundtrack was released digitally earlier this month and will be released on CD in...
Composer [c.3228]Tim Williams recorded his score for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, an attraction at [m.41581]Universal Studios Japan, at the Eastwood Scoring Stage at Warner Bros. Our friends at [url.http://scoringsessions.com/news/271/]ScoringSessions.com recently made pictures of the session available.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will open its doors July 15,...
The 66th Emmy Awards nominations were announced yesterday. For information on the nominees, [url.http://www.soundtrack.net/news/article/?id=1858]click here.
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.1730]Andrew Hewitt ([m.41559]Mojave), [c.1090]Alberto Iglesias ([m.37933]Exodus: Gods and Kings), [c.1575]Mateo Messina ([m.41541]Barely Lethal), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 20 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2014-7-07]Click here for the full schedule.
Only [m.34278]Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (music by [c.534]Michael Giacchino) is opening nationwide today.
Finally, the following...
The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced the nominees for the 2014 66th Emmy Awards. Some of the highlights are as follows:
Original Main Title Theme Music:
- [t.38319]Black Sails ([c.1238]Bear McCreary)
- [t.39789]Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey ([c.201]Alan Silvestri)
- [t.33984]Magic City ([c.710]Daniele Luppi)
- [t.37723]Sleepy Hollow ([c.361]Brian Tyler & [c.10106]Robert Lydecker)
- [t.39676]The Spoils of Babylon ([c.2349]Andrew Feltenstein & [c.2350]John Nau)
- [t.33760]House of Cards ([c.674]Jeff Beal)
Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Original Dramatic Score):
- [t.39789]Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Standing Up in the Milk Way ([c.201]Alan Silvestri)
Oscar-winning composer [c.386]Ken Thorne passed away yesterday. The composer of [m.11034]Help!, [m.25170]Superman II and [m.25171]III, and [m.9368]A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum had enjoyed success on both the big and small screens throughout his career.
Born in East Dereham, England, Thorne began piano lessons at just five years old. He was playing professionally by the age of fifteen. His first feature film composition was for 1965's [m.11034]Help!, which would garner him a Grammy nomination for Best Original Score. The following year he won an Oscar for [m.9368]A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. On [m.25170]Superman II and [m.25171]III, Thorne was instructed to use [c.231]John Williams' theme from the first installment, while...
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.1069]Dario Marianelli ([m.40103]Everest), [c.178]Graeme Revell ([t.41512]Gotham), [c.1533]Nick Cave and [c.1534]Warren Ellis ([m.41502]Far from Men), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 25 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2014-6-30]Click here for the full schedule.
Opening nationwide this week are (with music by): [m.37759]Deliver Us from Evil ([c.235]Christopher Young), [m.37840]Earth to Echo ([c.2507]Joseph Trapanese), [m.36984]Tammy ([c.809]Michael Andrews). Expanding nationwide from a limited release is [m.41488]America: Imagine the World Without Her...
Soundtrack Picks: ‘MALEFICENT‘ is one of the top soundtracks to own for July, 2014
Also worth picking up EMPIRE OF THE SUN, THE HILLS HAVE EYES, GOLDEN NEEDLES, THE GOOD WIFE, IN YOUR EYES, OVERLORD, THE RIVER MURDERS, SHIVER, THE SIGNAL, TEST, TARZAN, THE WEDDING DATE and many more!
To Purchase the soundtracks from this list, click on the CD Cover
THE TOP PICKS
1) EMPIRE OF THE SUN: LIMITED EDITION
What is it?: Steven Spielberg has had any number of blockbuster dramas to go along with his list of sci-fi and fantasy hits. Yet just as “Jurassic Park” might not hold a candle to more personal efforts like “A.I.,” Oscar-bait pictures like “Lincoln” and “Saving Private Ryan” are no match for far more underseen historical films like “Amistad” and “War Horse.” Chief among these character-driven, unheralded masterpieces is 1987s “Empire of the Sun,” an adaptation of “Crash” author J.G. Ballard’s youthful “adventures” in Japan-occupied Shanghai during WW2. Perhaps one reason this movie dive bombed like a kamikaze was that it may have made audiences feel complicit in admiring The Enemy, a worshipful feeling of majesty beautifully conveyed by John Williams – Spielberg’s partner in both the critically venerated and unjustly ignored. Now the full power of “Empire” comes through with sweeping, symphonic spectacle on this two-CD special edition.
Why should you buy it?: While Williams was already a war score veteran with “Midway,” “Empire of the Sun” marked Spielberg’s first serious entry into the genre after the hilariously bombastic “1941.” Yet while it dealt with the Asian front, “Empire” had the unusual, effective approach of seeing events through the periphery of the pampered British school kid Jim (played by Christian Bale in one of the best adolescent performances to grace the screen). It’s a sense of wonder towards the awfulness of humanity, a rose-colored vision that Williams plays for all of its ironic magic through his telltale lullaby bells, lush strings and emotive melodies, all signifiers of a happy Spielberg childhood. When Williams soars with a toy airplane in the face of a Zero for an “Imaginary Air Battle,” its choral hosannas and graceful strings are the stuff of touching heaven itself – though to be fair the music is just as magnificent for as an Allied “Cadillac of the Skies” takes out a Japanese airstrip. A dash through the civilian prison camp he’s put into has all the sweet, gamboling horn energy of a romp through a playground. And when the destruction of Hiroshima flashes in the distance, it’s like an angelic epiphany – a subtle sense of religious salvation for the choir boy that’s also conveyed through the children’s choir performance of the Welsh hymn “Suo Gan,” with Latin providing joyous hallelujah deliverance in the “Exultate Justi” end titles. However, Williams doesn’t shirk for the very real danger at hand that alternately threatens to shoot or starve Jim, whether it’s the terrifying, surging brass and pitiless military percussion of “Lost in the Crowd” and “The Streets of Shanghai” (music more ferocious than any dinosaur attack at that) and the low Asian winds of “The Pheasant Hunt.” The tremendous, moving power of the film, and score is how it opens Jim’s eyes as to what’s really going on around him, doing so with a mournful tenderness that should be rightfully afforded to any child in unimaginable circumstances, delivering Jim’s emotional growth with the remarkable thematic tapestry that’s a given in this famed composer-director collaboration.
Extra Special: La La Land Records marks their 300th release with the stupendous production quality one would expect, of course rewarding fans of the label with just about every note of “Empire,” as well as numerous alternates. Hearing this greatly expanded score truly opens up the psychological, and often-spectacular depth of this remarkable score, which has been exceptionally remastered by Mike Matessino, who does a similarly fine, and psychologically incisive job on the liner notes for the always well-designed graphic layout of Jim Titus. The “Sun” has truly risen here for a work of a self-implicating cinematic art, one that’s sure to bring re-discovery through this limited edition.
What is it?: Genre films have always held a rewarding spell for James Newton Howard, an astonishingly adept, and prolific composer who from his first supernatural score to 1990s “Flatliners” has taken to the thematic majesty of a chorally-powered, symphonic orchestra to both horrifically dark and soaringly heroic effect – both emotional ends of which meet like never before in his magnificent “Maleficent.” For one of the best villain apologist fantasies in many a moon, Howard becomes a sorcerer’s apprentice as he unleashes Disney’s most infamous she-devil in all of her unexpectedly moving might.
What is it?: While he’s accompanied lost civilizations (“Atlantis”), talking thunder lizards (“Dinosaur”) and modern day legends (“Lady in the Water”), it’s obvious that Howard’s similarly revisionist fairy tale take on “Snow White and the Huntsman” landed him this gig. But while that movie’s godmother stayed evil, “Maleficent’s” far multi-dimensional nature allows Howard way more colors to play with, especially in a movie that isn’t so damn dour all of the time. For while “Maleficent” is just about as spectacularly set designed as “Snow White,” there’s a big, beating heart at work in it that really spruces up Howard’s inspiration – not that his “Huntsman” score didn’t bring home the epic fantasy music bacon. Sympathy is the key to opening “Maleficent’s” hardened heart, as Howard does a marvelous job of musical storytelling, pouring on the rushing winds of joyful flight and a gossamer sense of pure innocence to set up a nice faerie girl’s fall from innocence – taken advantage of by romantically seductive music, and then outrightly savaged by kingly, pounding military might. These are bastards who deserve payback, and Howard delightfully goes the tote at the big coronation sequence, unexpectedly plunging into his pop background for a delicious montage of Maleficent assuming all of her iconically evil affectations. Pitting her droll, sinister music against the angelic purity of the film’s ersatz Cinderella, Howard achieves an often delightfully humorous contrast between unknowing, near-irritating happiness with a fearsomeness that would like to blast it out of the good girl. But damned if it can’t help but love her as well. Not only does Howard achieve tearfully moving affect with a solo piano as Maleficent finally shows herself as a big softie, but also pounds out some of his most terrifically massive and exciting action music as the film ingeniously spins its variation on the climactic dragon battle, choral voices and brass ablaze for a virtuosic demonstration in mythic grrll power.
In an age when Hollywood seems a bit afraid to go for the sumptuous full-blast symphonic gusto, hearing Maleficent’s swing to The Force in all of her conflicted glory is a pure rush for fans who want to hear big, and boldly unapologetic music with a soft spot – much like the grand dame herself. The fact that we’re always on this faerie’s side for all of her mis-steps is a testament to just how much feeling a score of this dual nature can convey, its magic complemented with a tip of the flying crow to the 1959s signature villain theme – secure in the ironic glee that Howard has helped make her nothing of the sort, all while making us fall in love with fantastical scoring at its most deliciously brazen. Complementing his score’s wicked revisionism is Lana Del Rey’s near channeling of Diamanda Galas for “Once Upon A Dream,” giving beautifully creepy weight to a once carefree song. How I’d love to hear her take on “It’s a Small World After All” after hearing this.
What Is It?: While reveling in such mainstream classics and well-known composers as Alfred Newman’s “How Green Was My Valley” and Dmitri Tiomkin’s “It’s A Wonderful Life,” Kritzerland has also shown a penchant for such artier composers as Toru Takemitsu (“Rising Sun”) and Richard Einhorn (“When A Stranger Calls”). But of all the unknown gems they’ve put out so far, perhaps none is better timed, or shines amore beautifully than Paul Glass’ “Overlord,” an alternately modernistic and classical score composed for Stuart Cooper’s truly revolutionary war movie about the D-Day invasion, an amazing film which has also now received a blu ray debut from the cinematheque Criterion label to mark the invasion’s 70th anniversary. Made under the auspices of The Imperial War Museum, Cooper had the groundbreaking idea of seamlessly integrating a “new” black and white film with WW2 archival footage with the heart-rending story of an ordinary bloke in the attack’s first wave. It was an approach that needed an equally unique musical voice, one that Cooper found in American composer Paul Glass.
Why Should You Buy It?: Probably best remembered among hardcore scorephiles for the thrillers “Lady In A Cage” and “Bunny Lake is Missing,” Glass’ “Overlord” stands as one of the best 70s scores you’ve never heard of until now. Combining Avant garde dissonant strings with lyricism worthy of such great bucolic Brit composers as Edward Elgar and William Walton, Glass conveys the sad sense of a soldier’s future that could have been. The music of “Overlord’s” everyman protagonist is fearfully contrasted with music for footage the troops build up and immense war machines, giving a sense of hopelessness and sacrifice to a still-necessary endeavor, as well as immensity that goes beyond its character’s understanding. “Overlord” is at once poetically soothing and harshly demanding, its lush orchestral approach also given nostalgic 40s tunes to complement a country at its most valorous, and vulnerable – an aching tenderness that makes the movie’s shock ending all the more impactful. Though the human toll of D-Day remains unimaginable, Glass’ excellent score makes us feel for the sad destiny of an individual among thousands, a score frozen in time with an eye’s last vision.
Extra Special: If one might think that Glass’ style might be stuck in the 40s, a second disc offers Glass’ woozy film noir score for Stuart Cooper’s “Hustle.” You can positively feel the sexual heat and cigarette smoke brimming from Glass’ atmospheric work that hits the notes you’d want from the genre. Yet like “Overlord,” Glass shows a talent for impressionistic music, here with impressionistic strings and percussion to dance with the sweating brass and Hammond organ. It’s the kind of nervy orchestrations that make “Hustle” dangerously abstract and memorable while delivering the grifter goods. Also featured on this Cooper-centric album is Robert Farnon’s score for the director’s “The Disappearance.” Best known for hiply scoring the cult Brit show “The Prisoner,” Farnon’s work for this murderously re-cut Donald Sutherland assassin mystery (now on Twilight Time DVD) receives an interesting, impressionistic score that notably incorporates Ravel’s “Piano Concerto in G Major” to show just how well a solo, classical keyboard can signal murderous intent when accompanied by piercing strings and ominous percussion.
4) THE RIVER MURDERS
What Is It?: After their impressive initial releases of Guy Farley’s “Secret Sharer” and Johan Soderqvist’s “King of Devil’s Island,” Caldera Records continues to show excellent taste in finding subtle, yet powerful scores from composers of creative note – especially when it comes to their work for movies that might have flown under the radar. Now Pinar Toprak’s “The River Murders” sounds off with such tragic, heavenly resonance that you could easily have imagined this as the score for “Mystic River.” But it’s a testament to her music’s melodic production value that you wouldn’t expect this score as belonging to a 2011 straight-to-DVD murder mystery about a cop whose lovers keep dropping dead. The detective’s conscience gets a gorgeous dose of Catholic guilt via this Turkish programming protégé of Hans Zimmer who’s steadily making her own, impressive way up the Hollywood ladder.
Why You Should Buy It?: While “The River Murders” marks Toprak’s second CD release after her lyrical soundtrack to “The Lightkeepers” (on Movie Score Media), the composer has actually been quite prolific in smaller film and TV features like “Behind Enemy Lines II” and “Breaking Point” (with Dean Devlin’s big budget disaster movie “Geostorm” to come). The richly melodic quality that marks Toprak’s work is especially easy to hear in “The River Murders,” as she invests the score with one gorgeously tormented cue after the other. Mournful solos for the cello (played with haunting beauty by Tina Guo) and the piano are complemented by a superbly sampled orchestra. With lullaby bells to boot, Toprak’s thematic work begs comparison to such seminal Christopher Young scores as “Copycat” and “Jennifer 8,” both playing feminine perspectives on body count suspense. However, Toprak’s point of view here is through Christian Slater’s FBI agent as he tries to unravel the professed innocence of Ray Liotta’s homicide detective as to the floating pile of past amours. Toprak has a skillful way of balancing these womens’ ghostly voices with a religioso sense of contrition, using creeping strings and outrightly violent musical action for outright horror score shocks. But whatever Toprak’s method of generating dread, “The River Murders” are certainly the work of killing the listener softly, and with an eerie reverence for its victims that a serial killer would admire.
Extra Special: Sex, carnal transgression and old time religion also play a heavy role in Toprak’s score to the 2007 drama “Sinner,” which pits an old-school priest against an upstart rival with a femme fatale in the middle. This equally beautiful score is a good companion piece to “The River Murders,” with Pinar again going for a string-driven approach that aches with mournfulness and more than a bit of lust. In addition to the CD’s well-designed booklet and always thoughtful liner notes by Gergely Hubai (a writer who really knows how to give upcoming composers their props), the soundtrack also offers Toprak in her own words in a seven-minute “audio commentary,” a nice bonus feature that many soundtracks could benefit from.
5) TARZAN / BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE
Price: $12.99 / $19.99
What is it?: Tarzan” shows off David Newman as a composer who’s as muscular as ever when it comes to heroically swinging action. After last taking a trip into western space for the genre with “Serenity,” Newman returns to the jungle that gave birth to one of his most sumptuously exciting scores with “The Phantom.” Now the drums hit a fever African beat as he trades in comic strip blue tights for an earlier white savior’s loincloth. “Tarzan” stands tall as one of Newman’s most lavishly melodic scores, music that nobly never seems to sit still for a second. A mighty chorus powers “Tarzan’s” bold melodies as he swings from trees to stop a giant magic meteor in 3D, the music particularly impressing for its brass jungle hollers and native percussion. Just about every cue here suffices for any other score’s climactic moment in Newman’s colorful adrenalin rush, scaling peaks of unabashedly lavish melody that comes naturally given his own legendary bloodline – though not without bits of pop drive, metal guitar or comedy. Here’s hoping Newman gets more chance to swing in the realm ersatz superhero scores, one he knows how to climb the peaks of like no one’s business.
Why should you buy it?: David Newman’s rocking, rambunctious voice for electronics and the orchestra provided the beat for two cult teen movies from the late 80s – one involving a bitchy clique of “Heathers,” and the other pairing the far more lovable, dunderheaded duo of Ted “Theodore” Logan and Bill S. Preston, Esquire. While the first picture got a snarky, country-flavored synth beat, the clever, time travelling conceit for “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” afforded Newman the opportunity to energetically combine a full-blast, history-spanning symphony with a rock-pop beat for the Wyld Stallyns’ first quest. It was indeed a truly ingenious stylistic combo as Newman gives a playfully serious instrumental weight to such iconic figures as Abraham Lincoln, Sigmund Frood and So-Crates (while recalling just a bit of his dad Alfred’s “How the West Was Won” for Billy the Kid). The orchestral era hopping also allows references to Ye Old England as well as Asian percussion for Attila the Hun and Beethoven for well, Beethoven. Jamming them all into a phone booth is Newman’s antic talent for trumpeting, neo-Americana symphonic adventure (complete with “America the Beautiful”), as glued together with delightfully oh-so 80s neon synth keyboard percussion and guitar licks that play Bill and Ted as the two mentally harmless, lovable metal heads with IQ’s slightly about Beavis and Butthead. It’s a wonderful sense of innocence and uncondescending fun that helped make the movie into a classic of its kind, with Tim Grieving’s most excellent liner notes featuring new interview with Newman and
Extra Special: Intrada does a bit of time hopping with this totally awesome release, as they first put out Newman’s even more epic score for “Bogus Adventure” years before this. But with Bill and Ted, it’s always better late than never, especially with this deluxe edition that offers such nice bonuses as a western saloon’s tack piano, a bit of Claude Debussy and the William Tell Overture to boot.
ALSO FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION:
. D.A.R.Y.L.: Limited Edition
At first, it might have seemed an odd choice to have the Oscar-winning composer of “The Way We Were” score a movie about a kid cyborg. But when you consider what a beautifully melodic sentimentalist that Marvin Hamlisch was, hiring him for this sweetly unique 1985 kid’s adventure made perfect sense. Young star Barret Oliver seemed to be doing next to every memorable genre movie from the period (“Frankenweenie,” “Cocooon” and “The Neverending Story” among them), and brought much warmth to this robotic spin on E.T. as a super-smart twelve year-old who finds shelter from government baddies with a nice suburban family. Hamlisch uses all of his naturally programmed orchestral poignancy to give a “boy’s life” feeling to this likeable film, coming up with a memorable theme that creates a heartland warmth with guitar, harmonica and strings – along with outright synthesizers for what’s beneath Daryl’s skin. But perhaps the score’s most effective moments are when the said feel-good music of hearth and home gives way to the outright menace of the military. Having contributed one of the best, if unsung Bond scores for “The Spy Who Loved Me,” Hamlisch revels in the big, charging brass and drum timpani that makes for some terrific action music, the score practically whirring like an alarm as the theme takes on soaring heroism during the memorable sequence of Daryl’s escape on a stealth plane. It’s about as close to a Superman score as Hamlisch got, and one can only imagine the comic book possibilities he might have played if the movie took off further than its 80s cult appeal. As is, “Daryl” is a musical gem that impresses as much for its emotion as its action, with Hamlisch showing off his touch for a great theme-based song as Teddy Pendergrass performs “Somewhere I Belong.” Thanks to La La Land Records, “Daryl” has finally been located to still stand tall as a prime example of Marvin Hamlisch’s remarkable versatility to play both derring do and yearning emotion, as heard through a superkid who just wants a real family.
. THE GOOD WIFE (The Official TV Score)
If the religiously-minded Antonio Vivaldi was a television composer writing music for a less-than holy heroine, than his work might sound akin to the wittily dramatic music that David Buckley has been up to with the last several (and continuing) seasons of CBS’s hit “The Good Wife.” While Buckley might be busy on suspenseful feature scores like “ATM,” “Gone” and “Parker” while simultaneously blowing away a couple thousand mercenaries in the videogame arena of “Call of Duty: Ghosts,” “The Good Wife” gives his defendants a chance to hear a far warmer, and more emotional side from the composer – one that also couldn’t be further from the cold, rhythmic music that accompanies most courtroom shows. But even if you haven’t joined the program’s cult following, Buckley’s thoroughly engaging album is well worth having for its spot-on way of replicating a classical style, as crossed with more dramatically suspenseful cues – a listening experience that’s a bit like having one’s gambol through the European countryside interrupted by the orchestra doing a dramatic left turn to a world of heavy-duty strings, electric guitars, pensive pianos and sample grooves. It’s one way of effectively segueing between humor and malice aforethought for a season that upended its heroine’s life with the death of a beloved character. Buckley’s certainly spiffed up his music’s symphonic impact by having it replayed by the Hungarian Studio Orchestra, whose lush performance is classy in the best sense of the word, journeying from the height of costumed elegance to the big, important-sounding strains of the show’s ripped-from-the-headlines appeal. It’s a niftily offbeat and nicely thematic conceit where 17th century harpsichords and hold equal musical enjoyment with the scoring demands of today’s legally working women. And that’s not even counting the album’s bonus track of a hilariously salacious song tribute to “The Good Wife’s” no-good hubby that’s distinctly 21st century in origin.
. GOLDEN NEEDLES / THE FOURTH PROTOCOL (1,000 Edition)
From spies to a certain magnum-blasting cop, Lalo Schifrin can be certified as one of Hollywood’s most versatile men of musical action – though it’s likely to be his lightning fists of Chopsocky jazz-Fu which will go down as his most popular score (along with Bruce Lee’s most popular film) for 1973s “Enter the Dragon.” But perhaps an even cooler contender would be the soundtrack for director Robert Clouse’s 1974 follow up “Golden Needles,” which had seven treasure hunters of various moral shadings pursuing an idol whose “seven forbidden acupuncture points” all kick ass with Schifrin’s distinctive take on exotic East meeting pop west. With a piercing, Theremin-like effect worth a thousand Lee “kill” faces, Schifrin’s funky dulcimer theme dances about with Oriental percussion and jive bongos. Hip flutes groove with guitars and lush romance, while such oddball touches as a player piano meets in a Hong Kong alley with fuzz guitars. And when it comes to pure adrenalin the Schifrin foot-fist way, a nearly ten minute “Harbor Chase,” is an exhilaratingly virtuoso exercise in keeping a thematically breakneck combo of horns, rhythm sections and sizzling electronics veering between tingling synth suspense and 70s jazz beat-downs. It’s the next best thing to attending a jazz duel at Dr. Han’s forbidden island, and even better in many clever respects for “Needles’” CD debut that really nails Music Box’s 50th release.
Schifrin couldn’t have sounded more suspensefully different when he got to score one of his best thrillers with 1987s “The Fourth Protocol.” This crackling Frederick Forsyth adaptation pitted Pierce Brosnan’s super KGB assassin against Michael Caine’s alarmed British agent, both in a atomic-fueled Cold War race that Schifrin marks with a very serious, full-bore symphonic approach that masks his more typically jazzy musical identity as well as its identity-changing villain. You know The Reds are up to no good when Schifrin’s dark Russian melodies show its face, a droll Slavic identity that inflects this crafty score with no small amount of black humor in its devilishly handsome villain’s murderous, and calculated proficiency – all as a his opponent’s noble horn tries to stop him. Schifrin also does a powerful job of conveying a sense of momentum for the antagonists to the bomb countdown finish line – with piano percussion an especially valuable asset to lead us to a thrilling orchestral explosion for the movie’s “Day of the Jackal”-esque showdown (for a story not so coincidentally credited to “Protocol” author Frederick Forsyth). Long an out-of-print CD (as well as the first soundtracks put out in that format), Buysoundtrax has done a nice job of re-releasing this Schifrin collector’s prize, with always-exceptional liner notes by Randall D. Larson that gives a thorough dossier of one of Schifrin’s most straight-laced action scores.
. THE HILLS HAVE EYES / KNIGHT RIDER – Volumes 1 and 2
Don Peake is one of the musicians who’ve jumped on board of Perseverance’s new “composer distribution series,” which allows artists to use the label as a proxy for titles they’ve always wanted to release. Among the titles to spring from the former Everly Brothers guitarist are “Frankie and Johnny Are Married” and two volumes of “Knight Rider.” But horror cultists will most certainly get their primitive fill for Peake’s run through the cannibal-infested desert of Wes Craven during the director’s way grittier days, a grindhouse talent that had memorable brute force in 1977s “The Hills Have Eyes.” This since way more brutally remade thriller pitted a suburban nuclear family against a freakish clan inhabiting America’s atomic wasteland, a no-frills camping trip from hell that embodied the kind of raw, pre-“Halloween” synth and small instrumental ensemble horror scores that really got under one’s skin. That primitive power is on hand here in guttural spades (for the most part in ultra-short cuts) as Peake announces bursts of progressive jazz percussion and gnarled, lurking electronics. It’s the kind of twisted energy that one can imagine being banged out in the time it takes to listen to this 39-minute album, and is no less effective for its brutal, budget-necessitated efficiency. Peake’s “Hills” are alive in a way that many way smoother horror scores (and films) aren’t. Then a student of “Overlord’s” Paul Glass, Peake fills his score with provocative, blackboard-screeching anger, razor ringing glass, skittering bones and slithering weirdness, employed by such musicians as “I, The Jury” pianist Mike Lang and “blaster beam” player Craig Hundley. One can even hear echoes of David Hasselhoff’s talking car in the album’s jazzier chases as the album turns from the experience of dropping in on a horror jam session to grooving to slightly longer pieces. It’s a sound that marked an untamed era in horror scoring that might send those used to the more refined dissonance of todays’ genre soundtracks screaming from the “Hills” hodge-podge of barbaric cues, But Craven admirers who don’t like their listening particularly easy should dig the release of the small, bizarre wonder of genre expressionism, the aural equivalent of a bald, leering mutant hungering for flesh if there ever was one.
Giving a much more jazzily elegant ride is Peake’s other, even bigger cult favorite, as he assembles two volumes of his music from NBC’s “Knight Rider.” Taking the wheel for the computerized K.I.T.T. alongside David Hasselhoff for 72 episodes between 1983 – 1986 (Morton Stevens and Stu Phillips earlier contributions can be found on a Film Score Monthly compilation), Peake differentiated his music from what Alan Silvestri was grooving to for NBC’s other rubber-driven 80s hit “CHiPs” by putting over 30 musicians on top of his jazz-dance disco riffs. The result is a truly fun orchestral quality that plays more like cop jazz superhero music than what you might imagine as action for a high-tech car, whose suave Edward Mulhare computer chip is captured by pulsating synths. It’s a symphonic glitter ball swagger as delicious as David Hasselhoff’s hair that makes for a truly enjoyable listen as Peake veers between exciting variations of the show’s iconic theme to string sentiment and creeping criminal suspense. The songs are also particularly delightful here, speeding from Mexican music to 60s-ish guitar folksiness a la Joan Baez and Motels-esque 80s rock, with the biggest surprise being a cool take of Re-Flex’s hit “The Politics of Dancing” – exactly the kind of rhythmic decade-defining song you can imagine on Michael Knight’s stereo system – as well as the K.I.T.T. mobile these albums will turn any car into.
IN YOUR EYES
A guitarist and arranger for such composers as Brian Tyler and Harry Gregson-Williams, Tony Morales has been impressing with his suspenseful, action-heavy scores for “The Bag Man” and “Enemies Closer,” while also netting an Emmy nomination for co-scoring the hellbilly hootenany of the “Hatfields & McCoys” along with John Debney. Perhaps that’s why Morales’ romantic score for “In Your Eyes” sounds like it could be taking place during a Van Damme face-off, as well as a mesmerizing mind-eye bridge where boy meets girl via psychic connection. Morales’ programming chops, not to mention melodic talent, add much musical atmosphere to this well-reviewed Joss Whedon-written film that has the distinction of debuting on Vimeo for 5 semolians a shot. But Morales’ score definitely has the production, and melodic quality of a theatrical film as he uses guitar licks, piano and rhythmic samples to conjure the kind of indie sound that attracts hip younger audience (not to mention Whedon-ites). But there’s also a strong orchestral backdrop that really gives the score emotional depth, along while a haunting female voice that gives dramatic urgency to the romantic suspense. The other side of this often beautiful, otherworldly spell is a strongly propulsive, drum-heavy drive that could easily be dropped into a “Bourne”-ish spy chase, an element that makes this score work just as well for action groove fans. Given this involving, exciting and nicely emotional soundtrack that still fits the fantasy bill, the sky continues to be the limit for Morales’ “Eyes,” and ears.
It might be said that David Wingo’s winning, southern-fried soundtrack for “Mud” was akin to an artily existential take on Charles Bernstein’s South-ploitation score for “White Lightning.” But now Wingo ventures once again into the land of valiant, and villainous rednecks with nary a rustic instrumentation in earshot for “Joe.” Joined by director David Gordon Green’s frequent composer Jeff McIlwain (“Snow Angels,” “The Sitter”), this duo instead hear the dark brew of ambient trouble growing to a boil inside of Nicholas Cage’s ex-con turned reluctant hero. It’s a palpable, unsetting atmosphere of dread that could just as easily serve as underscore for a serial killer film, which might just be the point of creating storm clouds of ambience, metallic scraping and piano to get across the character’s vulnerability. Wingo and McIlwain contribute an understated, mesmerizing tension to “Joe,” helping Green’s filmmaking and Cage’s performance to achieve a real sense that violence could break out at any moment during this supreme struggle of anger management. The alt. rock sound of “Friday Night Lights” composers (and Sonic Youth successors) Explosions in the Sky are also on hand to give “Joe” a elegiac sense that all will somehow be right in this sad world, the dark vibe of its rustic, wood shack surroundings powerfully acknowledged in tone, as opposed to an outright musical drawl.
. LE PROFESSIONEL / LE MARGINAL
Somehow, unlike the latter Jean Reno who’d play the Eric Serra scored “Professional,” the original, ultimate French tough guy named Jean-Paul Belmondo never quite caught on as an English language star, despite his savoir faire with guns, girls and cigarettes – qualities he’d practice in abundance with 1981s “Le Professionel” and 1983s “Le Marginal.” But beyond their Gallic leading man, what would truly connect the first movie’s revenge-seeking agent and the second’s drug-busting commissioner were two uniformly superb scores by Italian composer Ennio Morricone, now remastered and given complete releases by France’s Music Box Records. Adept at every conceivable genre though a few hundred scores, Morricone wasn’t quite known in America as being a composer as capable of spy thrillers and policiers as much as he was known as a master practitioner of Spaghetti westerns – a cop movie talent that he’d really sock over a few years later with “The Untouchables.” Though contemporarily set, you can certainly hear just how well Morricone could play good guys who didn’t play by the government handbook, with nearly every cue a variation on a memorable main theme. “Le Professional’s” occupation as an assassin definitely gives this score the harder edge of the duo, with Morricone finding as many ways to make the brooding, ever-amplifying menace for piano and strings, as well as a classical, harpsichord create the sense of a stylish man very much in control of his particular set of skills. The “Professionel” melody changes identifiable guises with the zest of reaching for a new weapon with every appearance, yet capturing the lonely solemnity of a morally destructive line of work. Military percussion just as swiftly becomes romance, with an ethnically percussive quality capturing an African dictator who’s the hero’s marked man. Morricone’s way with suspense is also in top form, carrying the absolute assurance in a melody that the composer knows is gold.
Morricone provides a jazzier, two-fisted theme that gives a somewhat smoother touch to “Le Marginal’s” daredevil cop as he makes mincemeat of the Marseille drug trade. Like Belmondo’s charisma, Morricone’s music is all about attitude, going for classical pop and detective rock guitar funk, the score’s sex appeal again coming across for winds and flute. Brassy, staccato builds are the clearest indication yet for “The Untouchables” groove, along with dark, slithering strings building for a killer’s bullet. While this score might not be as instantly recognizable as “Le Professionel’s” inclusion of the hit single Chi mai,” (which did a hit on much that film’s actual score), “ “Le Marginal” is arguably the soundtrack that gives even more suave impact to Belmondo way, with an “urban western” sound that would soon translate to 1920s Chicago for with a trademarked bang.
. MILLION DOLLAR ARM
When A.R. Rahman first gained Oscar-winning attention in the western world for “Slumdog Millionaire,” it was as if some musical pitch hitter had arrived from nowhere, able to capture the exotic rhythms of his heritage via a pop beat as fresh as any album-spinning club kid (despite the fact that this relatively youthful composer-producer had been updating ancient Indian beats for quite some time). It’s a situation that couldn’t have made Rahman a better composer to play the sweet culture clash of a bunch of cricket players from the continent being potentially thrust into major league baseball for this Disney movie – a true winner in terms of quality even if it was a box office underdog. What’s more interesting is that “Million Dollar Arm” marks a Hollywood return for Rahman to his homeland after “Elizabeth The Golden Age,” “127 Hours” and “People Like Us,” scores mostly devoid of hip Indian music – a comeback that Rahman makes with a winningly sweet vengeance. While the songs that start “Million Dollar Arm” might not be another “Jai Ho,” the mixture of Rahman produced and performed songs have a cool groove that mixes raga with a hip-hop rhythm (and even a few industrial ones) in a way that’s accessible while honoring its musical ancestors, His nice score mixes voice, ethnic percussion and lush orchestral strings that convey the wonder of a desperate American sports agent thrust into a loudly colorful culture – and then the dramatic apprehension, and hope of the players he brings back to be reborn as baseball stars. It’s an effective emotional trip with the humorous percussion of a westerner’s get-rich plan mixing with glistening bells, orchestral sentiment and a truly gorgeous female vocal phrasings that hit a poignant chord in any musical language, not to mention capturing the suspense of a familiar “sports” score for the big end pitch – here given a transcendentally operatic tension as perhaps only an Indian could make the play. “Million Dollar Arm” rounds the bases between East and West with a contemporarily ancient style to award A.R. another big win.
. MY NIKIFOR
If you enjoyed the eccentric cimbalom approach of “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” then you’ll likely want to take a musical room in the addled, artistic mind of this Polish painter. For the stay proves a real, whimsical delight, as heard through composing concierge Bartek Gliniak. Having gotten recognition in his native Poland, this talented musical artist now gets some international soundtrack exposure with the release of his work for this award-winning 2004 film. Embodying a disabled, yet visionary painter who could barely communicate, Gliniak comes up with a memorable, waltzing theme that’s expresses itself through both wry humor and emotion in a quirkily subtle way that Wes Anderson would no doubt appreciate, not only getting across a witty Eastern European atmosphere but also the quirky personality of an “outsider” artist. With a circus-like sound that echoes both Nino Rota and the intrigue of “The Third Man” composer Anton Karas, Gliniak has both sympathetic fun with the grizzled old man (played onscreen by a woman no less), while also realizing a sense of heartfelt poignancy beyond the seeming craziness. It’s the kind of hat trick that made “Budapest” so memorable as a score and film, and pays off here nicely as a droll, charming listen that plays both a classical old country and a visionary in his own whimsically misunderstood world of color. For Gliniak, “My Nikifor” couldn’t be more colorful signpost to Hollywood at signaling his talent.
“Re-Animator’s” Richard Band really got put on the horror map with his big thing for decapitated noggins, which tells you all you need to know about how he ended up in the company of “Shiver’s” headhunting serial killer. Gone is any of that aforementioned film’s Herrmann-esque comedy for this straight-up thriller, to which Band contributes a grimly exciting score. Where budgetary necessity has resulted in many such low-budget horror movies employing a sampled orchestra, Band has certainly turned that sound into a charm that signifies he’s in the eerie house. Twisted bell percussion blends with efficiently emulated strings to give the murderer a sense of childish glee, while shaker percussion and weirdly distorted brass bring “Shiver” a tone that will certainly delight fans of the composer’s “Puppetmaster” scores. But perhaps the coolest thing about the musician’s nastily effective work is how well he’s jumped onto the rhythmic cop procedural suspense bandwagon as cops desperately hunt for a kidnapped victim, creating a pulsing, nerve-tensing sound that proves Band is equally adept with contemporary, all-too human monsters, smartly blending dissonance with empathy as he contrasts seemingly unstoppable, love-struck evil with empathy for victims who fight back. And on top of it, who’d have expected to hear cool 40s jazz tunes and a Bossa Nova love song on a Richard Band soundtrack? “Shiver’s performances by Laura Weinbach and Cheryl Conley only add to the album’s unexpected, twisted pleasures.
. THE SIGNAL
While I’m dying to hear (let alone see) what composer Nima Fakhrara did for Japan’s live action version of “Gatchaman” (aka “Battle of the Planets”), I can only imagine that it must have caught the attention of “The Signal” – with the result being an eerily pulsing sci-fi score with a strong electric undercurrent. In this paranoid tale, three college students get far worse than they bargained for while chasing down a hacker. As they’re propelled into a sterile, claustrophobic nightmare of mad science where things gone from bad to mind and body-bendingly worse, Fakhara’s score tunes strongly into the Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross / Cliff Martinez vibe – yet in much the same way that this impressive, gripping movie warps about any number of cult sci-fi movie ideas (with one film’s in particular) into its own mutant animal. Fakhrara nudges all sorts of chopping, tolling and chiming percussion from the oodles of no-doubt futuristic gear that it took to create this intoxicatingly multi-layered score, creating an overall hypnotic tone with a growing sense of dread and wonder, as if some other culture’s idea of a wondrous gift was being thrust into panicked human form. Better yet, “The Signal” carries with it a surprisingly strong tone of thematic melody in its future music tech, the score gradually opening up new layers of synth-sample complexity along with its ever-amping plot. Fakhrara definitely proves himself as a musician to watch in the burgeoning genre of alt. sci-fi scoring for a soundtrack that effectively conveys “The Signal’s” point of origin is definitely not of this earth, with a mesmerizing, sterile clarity that’s the envy of any ice-cold scientist taking digital-pulse notes of his human lab rats. A terrific, out-of-the-lab payoff gives Gabriel Faure’s “Requiem” a Theremin-rific tone of worthy of a 50s alien invasion flick, as topped off with a trip hop 8-bit beat. It’s as brilliantly batshit a climactic cue that you’ll hear in a score this decade.
A gay dancer in early 1985 San Francisco deals with relationships and the beginning of the AIDS pandemic in this well-reviewed drama that not only throws back to an era that marked the end of sexual innocence, but also a musical time that marked the highpoint of a specific movie scoring synth sound best embodied by the likes of Tangerine Dream. And for many fans of that progressive German group, the decade also marked a high point with the propulsive sheen of scores that embodied the stylish LA gloss of “Heartbreakers” and “Miracle Mile.” Welsh composer Ceiri Torjussen (“Big-Ass Spider”) might be a one-man band, but you’d swear by just how well he replicates the Dream’s rocking computerized sound that you’re in the primo TD line-up of Edgar Froese, Paul Haslinger and company. “Test” is a high mark for a spot-on soundtrack replication that not only entices Dream admirers, but also builds on their trademarked vibe for a bleeping, haunted sound, at once enticing while also getting across a subtle, haunted resonance of carefree days about to end in a big way. Torjussen varies the score’s soothing quality with a strong percussive attitude that also works as then-modern dance music. It’s a notable soundtrack debut for a composer who’s been steadily racking up stylistically impressive scores, a cool blast from the synth-glo past when robotic-rock electronic attitude was all the rage – a time that “Test” will make any admirer of the era miss with new appreciation.
. THE CASE AGAINST 8 / THE WEDDING DATE: The Reception Edition
Now best known for putting propulsive arrows in the Green “Arrow’s” quiver, Blake Neely seeks musical justice in a far more subdued, but equally powerful manner when it comes to overturning America’s legal prejudice against gay marriage. Marking another dramatically effective documentary score after chronicling The Challenger’s “Mission of Hope,” Neely once again conveys a poignant, human face on landmark events. His “Case Against 8” takes on an ethereal, subtly Americana tone as heard for rhythmic beds of guitars, piano, strings and poignantly sampled atmospheres. This score isn’t about winning the fight against voter and government-mandated prejudice with fist-waving, but rather a soft spoken, gracefully melodic sense of conviction, his emotional drive growing from despair to a bolder sense of victory and determination for the Supreme Court ruling. When the flag waves here to celebrate all colors of the rainbow, it’s with a humble thanks the carries the feeling of heart and homeland, the score’s finally sweeping orchestral patriotism well earned in a good fight that’s a long way from over.
2005s “The Wedding Date” marked a slightly less momentous, but nonetheless important timetable for Neely’s musical destiny, as this completely charming rom-com score signaled an auspicious beginning for his career after time spent orchestrating, conducting and composing for the likes of Hans Zimmer and Michael Kamen. And one can certainly hear how Neely picked up on their rhythmic appeal as he peps up a classically orchestral bridal tone with a pop groove. It’s a thoroughly likable date with the kind of smart comedy scoring that plays the meet-cute romantic travails of what’s essentially a reverse “Pretty Woman” with bouncy orchestrations, of course full of shimmering bells, love struck guitars and a nice feel for thematic melody that charts the race to the happy ending altar. Neely at first goes for frisky energy before playing true emotion, then heartbreak and renewed attraction with the pre-determined rom-com course. But this “Wedding’s” warmth is truly genuine, and a big reason that fans haven’t forgotten about Neely’s score after nine years – a fond remembrance that now sees Buysoundtrax produce an “ultimate” “Wedding” album, complete with alternative cues, demos and Dominik Hauser producing new takes on the film’s source songs, including an upbeat 50s version of “One Fine Day.” It’s a perfect date night soundtrack indeed, the definition of peppily emotional romantic scoring at its sweetest.
CLICK on the album covers to make your hardcopy or download purchase, and find the soundtracks at these. com’s: Amazon, Intrada, iTunes, Movie Score Media, Perseverance, Screen Archives and Varese Sarabande
With the winning likes of such improbable fim-to-tv adaptations as “Hannibal,” the boob tube and its scoring seem to have gotten significantly smarter and edgier than it’s been in the last several decades – or at the very least since the 16 years that “Fargo” first hit movie theaters. This North Dakota-set film noir represented the Coen Brothers at the height of their gleefully twisted irony, as a horrifically violent kidnapping-gone-wrong played out amidst cheerful salt of the Midwestern earth types. And only a humble (and very pregnant) female sheriff has the horse sense to figure out that this escalating insanity has bourn out from a pathetic car salesman’s plans. Adding icy musical bombast to this story was a cleverly dramatic score by Coen regular Carter Burwell, who used a Norwegian-flavored fiddle, strum-und-drung orchestra and cheerful percussion to create a brilliantly mocking, Herrmann-esque tone to the shocking true events.
“Fargo” didn’t exactly have the kind of story one could imagine stretching out over ten episodes of a television show, let alone the kind of music that one might imagine fitting network sensibilities. But thanks to the very long, and adult way that TV has come for cable, “Fargo” has now ended its first ten episode run as one of FX network’s most critically applauded and ratings-reaping series. Show runner Noah Hawley (“Bones”) has taken his own brilliantly black-hearted, happy go lucky spin on the original film, creating a whole new mythology for a sad sack-turned-supervillain, a devilish assassin, aw shucks local yokels and unlikely heroic officers to create a bigger, and even arguably better snow-filled canvas to fill with the victims of blackmail gone bad (with a side trip to Vegas included).
A big part of the tonal continuity between big and small screen is this “Fargo’s” music by composer Jeff Russo, who similarly opens up Carter Burwell’s mordant tone with an impressively sweeping orchestral quality. It’s a nice balance to the score’s Slavic heritage, as well as a crime jazz one as its plays with a lonely fiddle, cheerful bells and a piercing instrumental effect that tells us another body is about to bite the ice. The lyrically mesmerizing effect is as ironically dangerous and eerily dream like, a high point in Russo’s TV scoring resume that includes such titles as “Charlie’s Angels,” “Necessary Roughness,” “Hostages’ and the Hawley-run “My Generation” and “The Unusuals.” Also holding down a gig as the lead guitarist and songwriter for the Grammy-nominated rock band Tonic when he isn’t scoring such indie films as “Free Ride” and “Bad Behavior,” Russo has now truly landed on the Minnesotan map with “Fargo,” not to mention the Hollywood one with a hit that does Burwell and the Coens proud – boldly honoring the legacy of these tragic events, while having much musically vernacular fun with them as well.
Could you talk about your entry to composing, and how it particularly led you to TV work?
About 14 years ago I was asked to go into a studio and play guitar on a film score. After that I became really interested in writing music for picture, but my band was still touring extensively and recording albums. Five years later, when we were about to take a hiatus, I was hanging out with my friend Wendy Melvoin and we got to talking about her work in film and television, and I expressed an interest in it. She asked me to come work for her and Lisa in the studio…at first just assisting, engineering and editing, then additional writing on “Crossing Jordan” and “Bionic Woman.” Soon after that I was doing demos for my own shows and then finally got one. That was a show called “The Unusuals” for ABC.
When you first heard they were going to make a series out of “Fargo,” especially so long after the film came out, what immediately crossed your mind? And how did you get the gig?
I had worked for the creator/show runner, Noah Hawley, on his two other shows. He told me about the project and I was, of course, immediately interested. Basically I said, “Where do I sign up, and what do you need me to do?”
When you got the show, did you contact Carter Burwell? And did you intensely study his score?
Actually, I haven’t had any contact with Carter about this. I didn’t really study his score for the movie other than to watch the movie once to get the feeling that the Coens created. It had been 20 years since I saw the movie in theaters.
How did you continue on with “Fargo’s” telltale musical sound, yet make it your own as well?
The task was to stay in the world of “Fargo” but create our own identity (a very tall order considering the iconic nature of the movie and its score). So I felt I had to write all new melodies and themes while staying with the orchestral nature. The main theme for the movie is taken from and based on a Norwegian Folk song called “The Lost Sheep” aka: “Den Bortkomne Sauen.” I thought it would be good to sound a bit more Eastern European to give it a bit of different feel. The idea was to sound cold and lonesome and yet retain the emotion. To really underscore the beauty of the landscape and its contradiction to the evil ugly nature of Lorne Malvo and Lester’s descent into evil. Most of all, to treat it like it was a ten-hour movie as opposed to episodic television. For that I used an orchestra based in Eastern Europe…usually about 45-piece with an emphasis on strings and woodwinds.
It’s surprising to hear how lush the orchestra is in “Fargo,” a quality that also helps it match pitch-perfectly with the original score’s sonic quality. How important was it for you to get that depth of string sound?
The idea was to make it sound like a movie so using a big orchestra was necessary. A lush string section was very important in getting that sweeping emotional sound. You can get about 70% there with samples but there is no substitute for 45 people playing in a room.
How did you achieve this particularly eerie string effect that signals whenever danger is near?
I used a few different samples of a saw that was being bowed, and also utilized a violin playing behind the bridge in tremolo. Then also, deconstructing a piano with a hammer and a bow.
What was the difficulty of balancing comedy and tragedy, the feeling that viewers shouldn’t be laughing at the awful things that happen here, yet can’t help themselves from chuckling?
Interestingly I mostly stay away from playing comedy. If there is a scene in which it turns from drama to comedy, I will never make the shift. I would just come out… That way it’s never “dramedy.” Leaving comedy dry proved to be way more effective then trying to punch it up.
There’s an absurd air of country politeness to the characters in “Fargo,” especially when they’re about to kill someone. How did you want your music to get to the real thoughts behind their seemingly simple facades?
It goes back to playing the contrast. The air of “Minnesota nice” is in direct conflict with the evil that we are seeing on screen, so I tried to play the cinematic beauty behind the ugliness to draw out that contrast.
How did you want to balance the inept, but developing villainy of Lester with the all-knowing, super-smiling evil of Malvo?
As the series develops and we see Lester descend into darkness, his theme starts to change slightly, until finally I started to play Malvo’s theme for Lester (that cue is called “Lester as Malvo” on the album). It’s a pretty subtle shift from episode to episode, so it’s not that noticeable until you listen to the first and last episodes back to back.
On the other hand, how did you want to play the legitimate sweetness, and deceptively “aw shucks” detective finesse of Molly?
Molly is smart! Smartest person in town. In episode one, her theme is more of a mis-direct since you don’t know that she’s the person who will end up solving the whole crime, and the chief of police will get killed and replaced by the terribly naive Bill Oswalt. Once in episode two, I tried to give her underscore her strength and resolve.
If any character in “Fargo” is in search of redemption, it’s Gus. How did you want to approach him?
Here is another character that makes a pretty big shift. I didn’t want to play him too much of a fool at the beginning, so I had to be pretty subtle. But once he starts to transform (episode seven and on), I gave him a bit more strength and some percussion.
Did you have a character that you were particularly rooting for, and why?
It’s such a great character piece, so I was rooting for everyone at some point. The only character that really stays the course of the show is Molly. I guess I really rooted the most for her, and maybe Bill too. Bill has such a simple view of life that he can’t understand that someone who he sat across from in school could be capable of such evil. He didn’t want to live in that world. That was very endearing.
The snowy landscape is as much a character in “Fargo” as those spreading blood across it. How did you want to play the vast, white space?
This goes to playing the beauty against the ugliness. It needed to be emotional and sweeping to accentuate the vast expanse.
If you ever visited the snowy Midwest, what struck you about it?
I did visit the set in Canada while they were filming the first episode. Besides the cold, I was struck by the quiet. It’s very quiet. And of course lonesome!
Do you think in a way that a person listening to “Fargo” might mistake it for a particularly ironic Christmas score with all of its “jingle bell” percussion?
I actually never thought of that…In fact, yes, maybe.. Ha!
Wth its jazzy elements, how “film noir”-ish did you want your approach to be?
Originally, Malvo’s theme was played by a single upright bass. It felt a bit too jazzy, so I changed the part to be played by three contra basses in pizzicato. We didn’t want to be too jazzy or noir-ish but a little shines through.
Could you talk about the score’s “ethnic” character?
I leaned toward a more Eastern European sound, utilizing Viola (an under appreciated orchestral instrument, In my opinion), and English horn for a lot of the melodic elements.
Like the original score, “Fargo” is strikingly thematic in the way it ties all of the character arcs together, almost like a spider’s web that draws to a seemingly inevitable, but still surprising conclusion. How did you develop that strongly identifiable musical path?
It really all spread out from the main theme I wrote the day Noah told me about the project and how he wanted the score to sound. Once I had that theme, I started writing others based on the first script. As the story progresses and characters start to evolve, I needed to do the same to their themes. I wanted the viewer to be able to watch all ten episodes in a row, and not feel jarred by the evolution of the music that accompanied the characters’ shift. So my keyword was always subtle!
One of the many surprising touches in “Fargo” is the jump it makes in years for the final two episodes. How do you think the music helped make the transition slightly less unsettling?
We played the main theme over that transition to a year later. I think that helped ground the shift and made you feel like the story is still the same. Life goes on, and the subtle differences in the themes help to underscore the shift, but still keep you in the same place.
The show struck me as being particularly well-spotted in terms of musical placement. How did that process work?
We never temped the show. Noah, Skye (my music editor) and I would watch the episode dry and just talk about the places we thought music would be the most effective. We liked quiet. We liked spare and wanted to make the best use of the music. With as much silence as we allowed, it made musical pieces and entrances way more powerful and effective. That was such a big part of the sound of the show.
With the heavy hand of fate looming over “Fargo,” would you say the score is at all mystical?
There is an element of hyper realness and a magical thing happening. One cue in particular rings true to that sentiment…”The Parable” in episode five. I had written the piece as part of a group of themes I wrote before we shot the show. We set it aside for the first four episodes, and when that scene came in, we dropped it in as is and it just worked in a magical way.
The Starz show “Power” now teams with you 50 Cent (aka Curtis Jackson). Could you talk about that collaboration, and your approach for your newest TV assignment?
It’s definitely a 180-degree turn from “Fargo” in terms of score. I really don’t have direct contact with 50 Cent, but I’m sure that he’s listening to every note of the score. We use score in a very different way in “Power,” more for subtle vibe and tension. All of the big musical moments are songs since we spend a good amount of time in the club in which the show takes place. I tried to incorporate the sound of the city into the score…the hum of the subway, the sound of metal on metal, the overall noise you hear…
Give us a sneak for your feature scores to “The Surface” and the Chamberlain biopic “Wilt.”
“The Surface” is a mainly guitar based score, which is always a treat for me. I get to sit with my acoustic guitar and write all of the themes while looking at the picture, and it really doesn’t change from there, aside from adding a few bits of bass or pads or percussion. The Wilt biopic is a work in progress.
As someone who’s been scoring episode TV since the days of “Crossing Jordan,” how do you think the form has developed to the point where we’ve gotten a show like “Fargo,” and what do you think is ahead for the medium and its music?
TV seems to be changing. It’s more like making indie movies. That gives composers a huge opportunity, because music doesn’t have to just be a backdrop. It can have a voice and character.
With a whole lot of people dead, where do you think “Fargo” will go from here now that Molly is heading the local police station?
Who knows??? It could be ANYWHERE!
When you look at the many “based on a movie” TV series that have been made (and failed), why do you think it was about “Fargo” that showed it would succeed beyond peoples’ wildest expectations?
The writing! Noah is so great at telling a story. But really, you never know what people are going to like or not like. As I read each script, it just kept getting better and better. It’s really all about the writing and the execution.
If you could score another TV adaption of an “unadaptable” movie, what would it be?
“The Shawshank Redemption.”
Pick up Jeff Russo’s score for “Fargo” HERE
And watch the whole darned series HERE
Visit Jeff Russo’s website HERE
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is extending invitations to join the organization to 271 artists and executives who have distinguished themselves by their contributions to theatrical motion pictures. Twelve invitations were extended in the music branch. Those who accept the invitations will be the only additions to the Academy's membership in 2014.
"This year's class of invitees represents some of the most talented, creative and passionate filmmakers working in our industry today," said Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs. "Their contributions to film have entertained audiences around the world, and we are proud to welcome them to the Academy."
The 2014 invitees associated with music in film are:
[c.7076]Kristen Anderson-Lopez ...
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.45]John Debney ([m.41491]The Cobbler), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 39 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2014-6-23]Click here for the full schedule.
[m.33381]Transformers: Age of Extinction (music by [c.1018]Steve Jablonsky) is the only film opening nationwide today.
Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking song credits for:
- [m.33381]Transformers: Age of Extinction (9 songs)
- [m.41178]Drones (2 songs)
- [m.34084]Snowpiercer (3 songs)
- [m.40136]Whitey: United States of America vs. James J. Bulger (No songs)
The Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has updated regulations for how companies and individuals may market movies and achievements eligible for [t.41497]The 87th Academy Awards to Academy members. The most significant changes affect the Music category.
Music Branch members may not contact other Music Branch members to promote the nomination of their own song in any way, including via mail, email, telephone or social media. Additionally, Music Branch members may not attend any special live performances of eligible songs unless attached to a screening. For the complete award campaign regulations, visit [url.http://www.oscars.org/awards/academyawards/rules/87/regulations.html]oscars.org/regulations.
[t.41497]The Oscars will be held...
The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) held its 29th annual Film and Television Awards yesterday in Beverly Hills. Musicians performing during the event included Ed Robertson, Kevin Teasley, Crystal Starr, and Sara Andon. Presenters included composers [c.45]John Debney and [c.203]Mark Snow. Below is a list of some of the awards and winners.
Shirley Walker Award:
[c.919]Wendy and Lisa
Composer's Choice: Best Film Score:
[m.32671]Gravity - [c.1974]Steven Price
Composer's Choice: Best TV Composer:
[c.1238]Bear McCreary and [c.2495]Dave Porter
Top Video Game Score:
[v.37149]BioShock: Infinite - [c.1242]Garry Schyman
For more information on other categories and the...
Composer [c.1242]Garry Schyman has signed with agency Kraft-Engel Management. Previously Schyman was repped by Artist's Managemen. The composer of such titles as [v.37149]BioShock: Infinite (for which he just won an ASCAP Award) and [m.40633]Last Flight joins other notable Kraft-Engel clients such as [c.752]Alexandre Desplat, [c.58]Danny Elfman, [c.171]John Powell, and [c.1371]Austin...
Broadcast Music, Inc. is proud to once again celebrate and sponsor the art of scoring via its 2014 Composing for the Screen Film Scoring Mentorship Program. Directed by renowned BMI composer Rick Baitz, this New York City-based program provides an opportunity for nine emerging film composers to participate in a high-level workshop where film music will be examined from many perspectives: historical, psychological, dramatic, stylistic and more.
Using the facilities of the BMI Media Room, participants will explore a wide range of film music excerpts — composing, recording, and sharing work in a supportive environment. Students will leave the workshop with greater confidence in their own voices as film composers, several strong cues for their reel, an increased understanding of the business of film music and greater sensitivity to the art of composing for the screen. During the year following the workshop, the group will meet on occasion to share work and discuss students’ development as film composers.
The program will be open to the emerging film composer who has some experience in film and wants to learn more. Free to accepted participants, it will be limited to nine students.
Qualifications: Experience and credits as a composer; ability to read music; some experience composing for film preferred. Applicant should have access to professional music production equipment, such as a computer with composing software (such as Logic, Digital Performer or ProTools) and notation software (such as Sibelius or Finale); ability to create MIDI or hybrid scores.
To apply for the 2014 Composing for the Screen Film Scoring Mentorship Program, download the application and follow the application packet guidelines. All applications must be received by Friday, July 25, 2014.
Download the application HERE
All inquires should be addressed to Rick Baitz
Six sessions, to be held at the BMI Media Room, 7 World Trade Center, 250 Greenwich St, NYC 10007 (except for Session 5, the final recording session, location TBA).
1. Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014, 4-7 PM
2. Thursday, Sept. 18, 4-7 PM
3. Thursday, Sept. 25, 4-7 PM
4. Thursday, October 2, 4-7 PM
(2 week break to prepare final project)
5. Thursday, October 16 — Recording session, time & location TBA
6. Thursday, October 23, 4-7 PM
Listen to such pulsing wavelengths as Fall on Your Sword’s “Another Earth,” Nathan Johnson’s “Looper,” Nima Fakhara’s “The Signal” or Steven Price’s Oscar-winning “Gravity,” and you’ll pick up loud and clear on the burgeoning film scoring genre I prefer to call “alt. sci-fi.” It’s a plane of electro-orchestral existence where traditional symphonic melody (or at least the spirit of it) gets fused with an acoustical rock and roll vibe that can veer from psychedelia to grunge. Organic samples of everything from scraped metal to car engines are warped into new, unearthly entities, joining with electronic percussion and atmospheres that can be as simplistically lo-fi as John Carpenter’s “Dark Star” as they are the height of Reznor- Ross “Social Network” gearhead complexity. Musical content boldly announces itself just as quickly as it can morph into sound effects, all neo-experimental elements combining to create a surreal sound that transports a youth-friendly movie audience into an aural experience caught between pop’s outer limits and whatever’s left standing of the traditional film scoring style.
Simply put for those with the imagination to appreciate this new soundtrack form, it’s the coolest music to hit the genre since the Wendy Carlos and Tangerine Dream beat became the in-thing during the 80s with the likes of “Tron” and “Legend,” a decade that also included the far squarer symphonic likes of John Williams’ “E.T the Extra-Terrestrial.” Now apply said musical form, advance it thirty years into the found-footage multiplex age, and you’ll have received the call of “Earth to Echo,” wherein a bunch of suburban kids do their best to help an adorably Bubbo-appearing alien phone home – their adventures on earth recorded via camera phone and computer. It’s the kind of warm, “Super 8” throwback that filmmakers weaned on “E.T.” can’t help but make as they pay tribute to their creative inspiration, but in a whole new retro way – particularly when it comes to Joseph Trapanese’s thoroughly fun, alt. sci-fi score that firmly establishes him as a solo voice in the genre, and film music in particular.
As a young artist steeped in both classical, rock and electronic scoring, Trapanese has most often served as a musical wingman for pop-alt. musicians who are the first media spotlight draws – collaborating with Moby on “The Bourne Legacy” song “Extreme Ways,” assisting on “American Idol” darling Kelly Clarkson’s album “Wrapped in Red” and doing percussively ultra-violent beat downs with Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda for “The Raid: Redemption.” But Trapanese’s telltale impact of bringing both electronic and orchestral worlds together was soundly heard when he jumped onto the game grid with Daft Punk for 2010’s “Tron Legacy,” a booming, Wagner-by-way-of Wendy Carlos score that signaled alt. sci-fi’s arrival. Next teaming with M83’s Anthony Gonzalez for “Legacy” director Joseph Kosinski’s “Oblivion,” Trapanese got an official co-scoring credit, amping up big budget orchestral excitement while retaining a futuristic synth signature that truly sung during any number of dazzling musical set pieces.
But it’s with director Dave Green’s “Earth to Echo” that Trapanese truly gets to shine with the major solo stuff that’s been no surprise to anyone in the know all along. What’s unexpected for Trapanese’s fans is that “Echo’s” approach is perhaps more Williams than Carlos-Carpenter, as a warmly melodic orchestral sound takes the lead among invigorating electro-beats. It’s full of emotional symphonic movement that bicycle-riding kid named Elliot would appreciate, a nicely thematic score that proudly, and un-insultingly announces itself as hip kid’s stuff (in a way as different as imaginable from Trapanese’s throttling return to “The Raid’s” gleeful body count arena). Both mystery, magic and rambunctious authority-defying chases are in the air throughout this call to “Echo,” whether represented through JW-friendly strings, or cool, hyper-electronic beats that might make you think its young heroes were zipping about in light cycles.
Now firmly in the pole position of carving out his own film scoring identity after years of orchestrating and co-composing (with the car racing videogame score for “The Crew” yet to come), Joseph Trapanese reflects on a style that represents a bold new future for movie soundtracks, one firmly rooted in both rave and rock clubs as it is the concert stage.
Was there a point early in your career where you felt pop-electronica was a more viable future than one rooted in classical music? Or have you always tried to combine them in one way or another?
It was never really that deliberate or specific. The real focus for me has always been viable, living, relevant music. It is first about making music that evokes emotion and thought in an audience; once the objectives have been established for the music as it relates to the story one can evaluate what tools will be most effective. For me I grew up programming synthesizers as well as playing in youth orchestras and the school band, so my language has always been some sort of hybrid.
When you look at films like “Earth to Echo” and “Super 8,” do you think they show a conscious effort by filmmakers to get back to what they loved about 80s genre cinema? If so, what did that era mean to you, especially when it came to “E.T?”
From my perspective creativity and taste move in cycles. Part of the trend you point out is perhaps nostalgia: our director Dave and I are in the same generation and we grew up watching “E.T.,” “The Goonies,” “Stand By Me,” etc. I think another strong part of it is a reaction by young filmmakers against the bloated special effects driven spectacle. Classic films have provocative stories and driven characters, and amongst a crowded cinema of spectacle-driven films rather than story-driven films, “Earth to Echo” is refreshing.
Beyond its throwback appeal, what do you think makes “Earth to Echo” stand out in the found footage genre?
I think “Earth To Echo” may be the first family-friendly found-footage film! This was an interesting challenge, most found footage films have been horror films, and are purported to be made by long dead victims of grisly events. With “Earth To Echo” we have a found footage film made by young teens that are very much still alive at the end of our film (sorry for the spoiler!). We can imagine them growing up and hypothesize about how this event has changed them. And yet one more thing to mention: I think we all have read stories about how Spielberg and Giacchino got their starts, filming movies in their backyards with their friends. Our director Dave Green started this same way, and I like to imagine the kids in “Earth To Echo” perhaps growing up to do the same.
What do you think of music’s place in the “found footage” genre, especially as so many of these movies don’t use music to create the sense of “you-are-there” reality?
You’ve brought up a point I’ve thought about quite a bit, and I’m not sure if I have found the right answer yet. But when it came down to the nuts and bolts of storytelling, the filmmakers behind “Earth To Echo” found that we really needed music to bring the proper depth of emotion to the film. In the found footage films of the past, it’s really all about trauma and jump-scares. I don’t think any of us remember the background or development of the characters from “The Blair Witch Project” or “Paranormal Activity”. To clarify: I’m not being derogatory against those films, I enjoyed them both and they have a very valid place in the echelon of filmmaking. But on “Earth To Echo” we had a very different and far more broad range of emotions to convey, along with a much more intricate story and a completely different demographic. Music is able to make the highs more rewarding and the lows more profound.
After doing so many hard-edged scores, was it relief to do a kid-friendly movie like “Earth To Echo?”
I would use the words “different challenge” rather than “relief.” This is what I love about being a film composer. We are thrown into brand new environments and have to filter so many new variables (taste of the filmmakers, story, budget and resources, temp music, related films, backstory, etc.) through our brain. The end result is a combination of all of these variables filtered through our own background and taste. And each experience makes us better prepared for the next time we have to combine all these complicated factors.
There’s a fun, retro quality to “Echo’s” synth component that has a distinct 80s feel. Was that intentional, especially having worked on “Tron Legacy?” And do you think that score in particular set you up to do “Earth to Echo?”
I can attribute a great amount of both professional and personal growth to the two years I spend on “Tron: Legacy” as well as to Daft Punk’s Guillaume Emmanuel and Thomas Bangalter. There is a bit of them in everything I have done since, and without their mentorship and guidance I wouldn’t be the composer I am today. Like their effort for “Tron: Legacy,” I made a distinct effort at the very beginning of “Earth To Echo” to create a unique electronic palette that would compliment the orchestra. Dave and I often discussed how we wanted the orchestra to evoke the spirit of the classic film music of our childhood, but we also felt it was important to use the tools at hand to create a score that represents the youth of our characters and unique story.
How did you musically want to represent Echo’s powers, as well as its mystery?
One of the first ideas I set on paper for “Earth To Echo” was a chord progression and ostinato that brought forth both the great strength and mystique of our character Echo. It was a simple motion that went from F major to Db major, and together with the ostinato it provided the foundation for the climax of the film. On top of this motion I added a minor third motion that then moved up a half step and came down a perfect fourth; this is the simple melodic ‘hook’ for Echo, and I could vary it by placing it in minor keys, or by re-harmonizing, stretching, compacting, or just plain breaking apart.
Do you think going for a purely orchestral Williams-esque approach would have made the film too musically old-fashioned?
As part of the process of exploration, I wrote a few early “Earth To Echo” cues employing only the orchestra. Dave and I agreed that they felt too removed from our characters and story. What is great about the orchestra is that the sound palette is so broad that it can easily represent a wide range of emotions and depth. Yet it is so recognizable that it truly is timeless; when arranged for properly, the orchestra conveys a classic quality like nothing else. That being said, the possibilities of electronic sound are equally tremendous and broad; we would be remiss to ignore the range of color that modern synths and musical sound design can provide, especially in a story where our alien seems to be some organic-robot hybrid that uses modern phone technology to communicate with other lifeforms.
Many composers have enabled more famous rock and roll “composers” while always remaining in the background, even though they in fact essentially composed the scores. When you’re in that position, do you view yourself as a teacher to musicians who’d otherwise have no idea about film composing? And what was your trick to getting yourself in the spotlight?
There is no trick to being put into the spotlight. And my goal has never been to be in the spotlight, which is one of the great things about being a film composer. We are relatively anonymous in the grand scheme of things while also putting forth bold artistic ideas. I consider myself fortunate to make a living producing relevant and needed music, which has always been the primary goal.
I’ve been very careful about the artists I work with; it is a truly collaborative effort from day one. They are all fine composers and music producers in their own right and I’m just lucky to be in the room.
How do you think your programming, arranging, orchestrating and conducting work on every film from “Rendition” to “Beethoven’s Big Break” and “Percy Jackson” set you up for bigger composing breaks?
I’ve learned incredibly useful things on each of the projects you mention. Mark Kilian, Paul Hepker, Robert Folk, and Christophe Beck have each taught me a great amount and I’m indebted to them all. There is no substitute for working with great people on great projects, and every project I have done since then can be traced back to this early work. Hopefully I have paid back their generosity with my minor contributions on these projects but there is really no way to place a value on the career they have nurtured. I’m truly grateful for their support, and the skills I learned through them are put to use each and every day on the work that I do.
What would you say the biggest difference between working with Daft Punk and M83 was? And are the public image affectations out the door once you’re in the studio?
Both Daft Punk and M83 have unique artist personas and relationships with the public. But once we enter the studio the focus is on the story we’ve been tasked to tell. It is important to leave behind anything that may obfuscate the creative process. And it is equally important to share the skills and knowledge that may be beneficial to the process. The sole agenda is to convey the emotion needed by the film. Only when the team understands this can progress be made. The greatest difference between these projects was the timeframe and logistics involved, which are never easy regardless of budget or deadlines.
Your work for the “Tron Uprising” show was equal to, if not even better, than the “Tron Legacy” score. Do you think the animated realm gave you the opportunity to push your solo ideas even further?
Building the “Tron” environment in live action requires great physical and monetary resources; while animation is no easy feat, it is far easier to build scenarios that would be impossible to create using live actors and blue screen. Furthermore, one full season of television allows many hours of character development and fosters intertwining story lines; a film can only provide 80-120 minutes of time without feeling lugubrious. While “Tron: Legacy” was a feat that we are all very proud of, the animated world of “Tron: Uprising” was perhaps a more interesting space in which to explore the Grid. The animated series allowed me the special opportunity to further develop the sound established by Daft Punk while also exploring new thematic and stylistic ideas.
Were you surprised that you got the opportunity to score some “Wonder Woman” cartoon shorts?
These shorts were created by the tremendously creative Robert Valley, character designer of “Tron: Uprising,” The Gorillas, Beatles Rock Band; I could go on and on. I was truly lucky that Charlie Bean (the director of “Tron: Uprising”) felt that I was worthy to contribute to Robert’s work and gave a strong recommendation. If you have a moment to watch the shorts, they have a great classic vibe to them while being relevant and modern; it was a great experience.
The fighter pod canyon chase in “Oblivion” has got to be one of the most exhilarating action cues I’ve heard in year. What’s the trick to creating one climax after the other with such breakneck rhythms?
“Canyon Battle” was the result of a great amount of planning and preparation. Joe Kosinski was very clear about what he wanted; propulsion and power was tantamount. We carefully sketched out a tempo and key map that consistently pushed forward. The time signatures used gave each level of the battle a new feeling. Finally, the musical themes and motives of the film were folded into the arrangement. This was carefully planned through a detailed piano sketch. The best way to attack a challenge like “Canyon Battle” is to break it down into manageable components so that one can have full and deliberate control.
Another standout cue in “Oblivion” is the extensive flashback cue where Tom Cruise’s astronaut remembers his fateful flight into the space pyramid. Could you talk about writing this sequence?
Thank you. It was a difficult seven-minute sequence that had to move between love, mystery, and determination. Like the “Canyon Battle” we spoke about above, it was thoroughly planned and sketched, and careful attention was paid to each turn of emotion. I’m proud of this sequence and Joe Kosinski’s filmmaking here. It’s a rewarding moment for the audience to experience the emotion of Jack’s revelation.
It seems unbelievable that the beautiful song in “Oblivion” didn’t get nominated, while something like “Alone, But Not Alone” did. What do you think that whole situation shows about the Academy song nominating process?
First of all, I am honored to call Bruce Broughton a close friend and mentor. I really can’t comment on the situation around the song you mentioned because I am quite uneducated about the politics of The Academy. What I do know is that he wrote a touching song and it served a great purpose to both the film and film music in general; we need more simple and direct emotion.
On that note, a friend once told me that awards mean nothing and you should win as many of them as you can. Getting recognized with an award is a wonderful thing, but that is not why I am here. I love what I do and sitting amongst a room of people captivated by the story I am helping to tell is reward enough.
Could you talk about “Echo’s” song “World’s Away?” How important is it for a title track to be based on the theme from the film, as opposed to its own, dropped-in entity?
I think an educated audience can smell inauthenticity like a great white shark can smell a drop of blood a mile away. A great amount of time is spent on all my projects absorbing and understanding the thematic elements. When I brought in Dia Frampton to co-write this song with me, I made sure she completely understood the film from a subjective viewpoint. Because of this, she absolutely nailed the lyrics and melody, creating a song that both stands on its own apart from the film as well as reinforces the film’s themes and ideas. I’m honored that Dia and I could work together on “Earth To Echo.”
How important is it for you to keep melody as part of your musical equation?
A lot of people talk about lack of melody in modern film scoring, which leaves us with an easy musical tool to exploit. It’s great to be puttering along in a cue that perhaps is a simple ostinato and some chords, and suddenly intensify the drama and surprise the audience with a melodic idea. Great melodies are going to be around as long as there are great stories to tell. Lack of any melodic content usually indicates a lack of story.
Do you think that scores like “Gravity,” “Oblivion” and “Earth to Echo” represent a new school of “alt. sci-fi” soundtracks?
It is very hard for me to objectively answer this question from the unique position I have on the inside of these films (except for ‘Gravity’ which I was only involved with as conductor of a live concert suite version). My intention has always been to convey the ideas of the filmmakers in a bold and distinct way, and perhaps we’ve been able to achieve that here and there. After saying that however I’m reminded of all the giant shoulders we are standing on; Hermann, Goldsmith, Williams, Zimmer, etc. It is an amazing time to be a film composer because the vocabulary is so diverse and there is a great need for interesting music.
What was it like working with Aria Prayogi and Fajar Yuskemal, the two composers on “Raid 2” who scored the original “Raid,” but whose music didn’t get used in the film’s release in western territories? And what do you think it was this time that enabled them to get heard?
Fajar and Aria have a very close relationship with Gareth Evans. They scored his first major feature (“Merantau”) and have developed a tight shorthand with him. I was with Gareth once when he was posed the question of which score for “The Raid: Redemption” he preferred: mine and Mike Shinoda’s, or Fajar and Aria’s. His answer was deliberate and immediate: he said some along the lines of, “I really like them both and there were elements of each that outdid the other; the ideal score would be a compilation of the two.” Unfortunately Mike Shinoda was busy with Linkin Park at the time of production, but even so on “The Raid 2″ Gareth was able to achieve his ideal score with this unique collaboration. In Fajar and Aria I found partners who share my same goals of telling a story through music.
When scoring a film with so much lightning-fast movement as “The Raid 2,” does even trying to “hit” the physicality become part of the equation?
Absolutely, the physicality of “The Raid 2″ was a very strong component of our work on the music. However, it is not about the “micro” hits; worrying about hitting little punches here and there would be ridiculous. Gareth and his collaborators plan each fight very carefully and deliberately. To remember the choreography, the motions are very rhythmic; there are distinct beats. Each rehearsal is videotaped and, as part of the preparation for shooting, edited together to form a live pre-viz of the fight. Because of all this fine-tuning, as well as Gareth’s natural editing skill, the action sequences each have an internal rhythm. I spent a lot of time watching the fights with production sound only to experience them in a raw form that would allow me to tune in to the performer’s own internal rhythms.
What kind of charge does the concert stage give you when you’re performing “Oblivion” live at The Hollywood Bowl, or a suite from “Gravity” at the Royce for an audience of Academy score voters? Do you think you’re “representing” the alt. pop artists you compose with? Would you even say you’re a spokesperson for them?
I’m not a spokesperson for the artists I’ve collaborated with it. There is the work we create together and the work we create separately; I cannot represent them just as they would not be able to talk about “Earth to Echo.”
The concert format of music presentation has been part of me ever since my first piano recital. It is important that art continues to live in many different forms, and live performance can be a very special experience if done right. My current focus in that realm, “The Echo Society” (www.theechosociety.com), is about curating a unique concert for our friends and neighborhood. To me, it is about inclusion and exploration rather than the elitism and self-reflexism of most current concert music.
What do you think it’ll take for old-school film score fans to finally stop fearing electronic-heavy soundtracks and start to love them?
We are all products of our environment. If someone is raised or taught to believe that the orchestra is the only form of true film music expression, then they may not appreciate what we are attempting to do in current film music practice. Perhaps a similar reaction would be had by one who listens only to electronic dance music. But if a listener is truly open, they will find artistry in every experience.
Do you think being a “gearhead” in the studio is enough to cut it as a film composer? And is it easy to spot someone creating beats-per-minute and various ambiences versus a musician with real chops to make a contribution to the art? If so, do you think they need to look beyond their latest toys to educate themselves?
People may be gearheads, people may be film composers, and people may even be both; but one does not automatically make you the other. I’ll pose this right back to you: does having “real chops” as a musician but no skill in the studio mean one can cut it as a film composer? We can find one or two examples of this, just as one might be able to find examples of “gearheads” without chops being film composers. But I think we can all agree that the path to success is one usually forged with intelligence and awareness.
How do you think you’re bringing the worlds of “house” music and film music together with scores like “Earth to Echo?” And in the end, how do you think you represent film composing’s future, as well as its past?
I wouldn’t use the word “house” music to describe anything that I’m doing. And it’s truly impossible for me to ascertain the position of what I’m doing in regards to the work of the many far more talented composers that have come before and that will come after. I just hope that my contribution will make people feel something.
“Earth to Echo” lands on our multiplex planet July 2nd. Buy Joseph Trapanese’s soundtrack for EARTH TO ECHO online via the Relativity Music Group on July 1st HERE
Visit Joseph Trapanese’s website HERE