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Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.3198]Johann Johannsson ([m.45794]Untitled Blade Runner Sequel), [c.1354]Benjamin Wallfisch ([m.43178]Rings), [c.139]Mark Mothersbaugh ([m.38138]Thor: Ragnarok), 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.2016-8-22]Click here for the full schedule.
Opening nationwide this week are (with music by): [m.46039]Don't Breathe ([c.1287]Roque Banos), [m.45842]Hands of Stone ([c.1664]Angelo Milli), and [m.42415]Mechanic: Resurrection ([c.91]Mark Isham).
Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking song credits for:
Varèse Sarabande will release [a.18372]The 9th Life of Louis Drax Original Motion Picture Soundtrack out both digitally and on CD [da.2016-09-02]September 2, 2016. The album features the original music composed by Canadian singer-songwriter [c.17323]Patrick Watson. "The director was a fan of my albums and contacted me to ask if I would do the score. I believe he needed music that was able to help support the dream states in the film," Watson stated. "The feeling of having chosen the musical direction together with the director helps to keep me on the same page for the rest of the score [especially] when scoring the opening credits first. It had a lot of the tones from the film in it which allowed me to really sink my teeth into the heart of the film in one...
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.237]Hans Zimmer and [c.4506]Pharrell Williams ([m.44626]Hidden Figures), [c.91]Mark Isham ([m.47158]The Headhunter's Calling), [c.1465]Lorne Balfe ([m.47156]Churchill), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 23 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2016-8-15]Click here for the full schedule.
Opening nationwide this week are (with music by): [m.41058]Ben-Hur ([c.14]Marco Beltrami), [m.42722]Kubo and the Two Strings ([c.1069]Dario Marianelli), and [m.44828]War Dogs ([c.124]Cliff Martinez).
Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking song credits for:
Lakeshore Records will release [a.18458]The Light Between Oceans - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack both digitally and on CD [da.2016-09-02]September 2, 2016. The album features an original score from the Academy Award-winning composer [c.752]Alexandre Desplat.
Director Derek Cianfrance has been a longtime fan of Desplat's work. "Filmmaking demands collaborative inspiration and trust. Desplat's music inspired the script," Cianfrance stated. Cianfrance had Desplat write a piano piece specifically for Alicia Vikander's character, Isabel, in order to actually play in the scenes. Once Alicia mastered it for the film, the piece became the emotional North Star for the tonal palette of the score. He concluded, "Over the next few months, I was able to collaborate with a true...
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.9466]Mica Levi ([m.47075]Jackie), [c.1238]Bear McCreary ([m.47042]Colossal), [c.1974]Steven Price ([m.44385]Baby Driver), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 27 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2016-8-08]Click here for the full schedule.
Opening nationwide this week are (with music by): [m.43979]Florence Foster Jenkins ([c.752]Alexandre Desplat), [m.42978]Pete's Dragon ([c.8594]Daniel Hart), and [m.39091]Sausage Party ([c.630]Christopher Lennertz and with songs by [c.294]Alan Menken).
Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking song credits...
The [a.18484]Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV - Original Soundtrack will be available digitally in the US on [da.2016-08-30]August 30 and on CD [da.2016-10-26]October 26, 2016. Composer [c.1858]John R. Graham has written the original music.
"Like Final Fantasy itself, [m.46827]Kingsglaive generates much of its energy through opposites. It blends magic and technology, the real and unreal, tolerance and intolerance," said Graham. "I was brought into write filmic music that would inhabit the world of the film, a counterbalance to Yoko Shimomura's beloved music for the Final Fantasy game series (Shimomura's work is also featured in the film). I ended up writing about 100 minutes of music which I hope conveys this simultaneous light-and-dark feeling and underlines the...
Lakeshore Records will release the [a.18453]Stranger Things - Original Netflix Series Soundtrack, Volume One and [a.18514]Volume Two. [a.18453]Volume One releases digitally [da.2016-08-12]August 12 and on CD [da.2016-09-16]September 16. [a.18514]Volume Two releases digitally [da.2016-08-19]August 19 and on CD [da.2016-09-23]September 23, 2016. Both volumes feature the original score by [c.19143]Kyle Dixon and [c.19144]Michael Stein, members of the popular Austin experimental synth band S U R V I V E.
"The directors were previously fans of S U R V I V E. They used a song from our first LP in a trailer they made to pitch their concept to Netflix. Once the show was picked up, they reached out to see if we were available to score the show," Dixon stated. Stein...
Lakeshore Records will release the [a.18500]Halt and Catch Fire - Original Television Score Soundtrack digitally [da.2016-08-19]August 19 and on CD [da.2016-09-16]September 16, 2016. The album features an original score by composer [c.1021]Paul Haslinger.
"I love exploring the mechanics of how the story is told. It has become perfectly normal, these days, to tell stories in nonlinear, sometimes parallel storylines. I think this is also reflective of our time, which is that of many streams of information going on at the same," Haslinger stated. When scoring the series Haslinger decided to approach the musical themes in a different way. "Music sets the vibe and provides a musical connection between the characters, their highs and lows. As the audience witnesses their...
In person or conducting, Christopher Lennertz has a boyishly enthusiastic personality that could easily make you imagine he was a member of The Goonies just a few decades before. So it’s no surprise that he’s becoming a go-to composer for funny animal kids’ movies are increasingly playing a part on a diverse resume with the likes of “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” “Hop,” “Marmaduke” and “Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore.” It’s a merry melody orchestral style that sings with colorful brightness and adventure. Yet in R-rating land, Lennertz is having just as much fun getting down and dirty for adult comedies, which hit new MPAA extremes of naughty words and raunchy sex with no small help from “The Hangover.” Ever since, Lennertz has been rocking and rolling with attitude-filled musical jams of his scores to two “Horrible Bosses” pictures and “The Boss” herself (though don’t think that Lennertz doesn’t have an utterly sweet PG13 side as well with his stuff for “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2”).
Now Lennertz likely has his best laugh as both ratings merge with “Sausage Party” and “Bad Moms.” The latter group will doubtlessly end up taking their kids to the first movie by horrific mistake, while otherwise going in packs to attend the other picture for vicarious laughs. But that’s part of the wink-wink come-on joke of “Sausage Party,” whose delightfully gloved, kid-friendly foodstuffs are not-so subtle stand in’s for horndogs and the buns they want to get inside of as they try to find their place in “The Great Beyond” that lies outside of the grocery store. While “Party” immediately announces itself as a full-on Seth Rogen and friends’ vehicle with a barrage of naughty words, dope smoking and sex jokes, Lennertz, along with his “Galavant” collaborator Alan Menken deliver the typical toon-adventure sound with truly fresh vitality. You’d even think this score would be accompanying a Mickey Mouse adventure if said rodent was on some brave knightly quest in a misbegotten DV sequel to “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” However, if Walt say what the guy who made Disney toons a habitual Best Score and Song winner was really up to, he’d likely spin more than a few times in his grave with the gleeful musical take-down that Menken and a deliciously errant Lennertz are truly up to. The result is exhilaratingly symphonic, expected PG CG toon music that’s accompanying anything but the sort.
Equally on note for a title that promises exactly what it delivers, “Bad Moms” is an often hilariously telltale film from “Hangover” co-writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who apply their foul-mouthed, drunken and sex-upped shenanigans in the service of girl power. Where Lennertz delivered a raw, rocking rhythm and blues guy’s night out sound for his two “Horrible Bosses” scores, the composer is perhaps just a little bit more sympathetically feminine in band sound as drives these desperate housewives and their bratty kids about town to take on the snooty PTA. While guitar and rock rhythms are abundant here, Lennertz’s ensemble also gets such feminine touches as a ukulele and women’s chorus, with strings providing a more emotional touch, showing that ladies can musically rough house with the guys while keeping their melodic dignity intact. It’s all part of the exuberant, comic course as Christopher Lennertz provides two of the summer’s most enjoyable comedy scores, one of which demands to chowed down with hot dog in gloved hand.
What do you think it is about your work that’s made your particularly busy composer when it comes to comedy?
Well, first and foremost, I think I get comedy. I grew up with things like “Stripes,” “Caddyshack” and “Ghostbusters,” and then ended up studying with Elmer Bernstein, who I consider to be the king of that kind of scoring. I also have a background in rock and jazz as a guitar player, so I think that eclecticism helps in terms of keeping things current stylistically. I think the most important thing though, is that I tend to be pretty big in terms of attitude, both with orchestra as well as other styles, which is really important when the music is playing the straight man. Whether it’s full on rock swagger like in “Horrible Bosses” or save the world type heroics here in “Sausage Party,” my instinct is always to have the music represent who the characters themselves think they are as opposed to what an audience might think they are.
How did working with Alan on the song-filled comedy series “Galavant,” help set you up for “Sausage Party?”
Two years on “Galavant” helped Alan and I develop a shorthand with each other. It also allowed me to learn a lot about his approach, which I’ve always been such a fan of. At the same time, I think he got so see and hear what I really do well in terms of action and how I deal with orchestra. By the time the opportunity came up, I think it made a lot of sense for us to work together.
Animation goes through a lot of “re-writing” as it were, and I can only imagine the challenge of “Sausage Party” on that end. How did the development process of the film affect your score?
Things definitely changed though out the process, but the great part was that our concept never changed. We all spoke at the very beginning about making this feel and sound like a huge epic Pixar styled adventure and we never wavered from that approach. Seth said on day one that he didn’t want comedic music, we knew we had to make Frank the hero and have the audience really root for him and cheer on the love story. The key to making this work was to make the audience care for the characters no matter how crazy the dialogue and animation became.
Have you always longed to screw with the Disney musical formula, let alone its animated clichés from back in the Menken days? And as the man who helped pioneer it, do you think Alan had as much fun messing with the style he helped put on the map?
I’m a huge Disney fan, so I have so much respect for all of those classics that defined a genre. More importantly, Alan’s work on things like “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast” are some of the reasons I wanted to score movies! The best comedies are often those that attack the classics head on using their approach. Elmer scoring “Stripes” like Jerry Goldsmith’s “Patton,” or Elmer approaching “Three Amigos!” in the same way he scored “The Magnificent Seven” makes everything more hilarious in the most respectful sense. And yes, Alan had a ton of fun. This may have been his first R rated film, but he’s actually a very R rated person!
On the other hand, how “straight” did you want “Sausage Party” to be the kind of scoring you’d expect from kid-friendly movies, especially as you’ve scored no small number of them yourself?
“Sausage Party” is as straight as can be. We didn’t want any family clichés for the most part. The only part that we approached in a family way was when the food first came home with the shopper before the ultimate truth was revealed to them. At that point, we tried to misdirect for as long as possible, so when the slaughter happens, it’s really shocking.
How did the opening song “The Great Beyond” spin itself into the score?
“The Great Beyond” was the first thing that Alan and Glenn Slater wrote for the movie. It was definitely supposed to be a huge production number that sets up the whole story, a la Belle in “Beauty and the Beast” or “The Little Mermaid’s Ariel in “Under the Sea.” The cool part was taking the initial motive from the song and weaving throughout the score in all different variations. It can be found set heroically, romantically, with a flamenco bent, as a horror motif…it’s incredibly effective and really becomes the main theme of the whole story. There are probably 8-10 character themes that we wrote as well, but it really is leitmotivic in a very classic way.
What was it like working with Seth Rogen? And did you get a contact high?
Seth was very involved from day one and had an amazing vision for what the music should do in this movie. He’s so smart and has great instincts, but he was also so supportive and enthusiastic throughout the process. Even at Abbey Road during the sessions, I’d see him laughing and clapping in the booth, then on breaks, he’d come out in the room and ask the musicians about their instruments, see if they were enjoying themselves, even hang about for a few pics. He’s a great spirit and really fun leader. And yes, I got a few decent contact highs, but I’m still holding out hope for a really great hang…hopefully if the movie’s a hit, maybe we can all celebrate for real!
How did the vocal performances inspire your work? And did you have a particular favorite character?
Whenever you have an amazing cast like this, it’s very easy to be inspired. Especially with characters like Selma Hayek’s sexy taco and the evil Jersey Shore vibe of the big baddie, Douche voiced by the amazing Nick Kroll. I used their inflections and delivery to influence both instrumentation and melody. Hard to pick…I think my favorite character would either be Theresa Taco, Firewater, or Ed Norton as Sammy Bagel Jr.
You’ve made very good use of all the ethnic food styles the score could turn into. Was that a big appeal of the score to you?
I love inside jokes within a musical score – especially hiding melodies normally heard in serious moments within source cues. The real fun in this one was also translating lyrics from the song into Spanish, Hindi, and Farsi. I even got my friend Asdru Sierra, lead singer of Ozomatli to sing the version of “Great Beyond” in Spanish for a mariachi version inside the cantina when The Douche becomes El Douche.
Is it a particular challenge to have music both humanize, and make you feel sorry for food?
Actually no. I think in general, I always score all the characters regardless of whether they are animated as I would any characters. When Ariel falls in love or Chip the teacup is sad, the score plays the emotions, not the characters. I think we do the same thing here. The thing that I hope will stand out the most, especially as it relates to the music, is how much this movie feels like a broad epic adventure tale. There’s a love story, a bad guy, a ragtag band of unexpected friends…we all wanted to make sure that regardless of the shocking dialogue and over the top images, the music’s job was to sell the emotions and the story.
You’re definitely right about that heroic, “quest”-like feel to the score that could easily mistake for a family-friendly score about knights. Was this always the intention?
Absolutely, Conrad Vernon, one of our directors, said, “Let’s make this the “Star Wars” or “Braveheart” of vulgar animated talking sausage movies!” As soon as I heard that, I was sold. Much like “Lord of the Rings” or something like that, our heroes are thrown together from different aisles/backgrounds and in the end, they learn to work together and become friends who in essence save their entire world and figure out the truth of the their universe. That’s Huge!
Tell us about your excitingly “Omen”-esque approach to the “Food Massacre”
That score is one of the greatest ever written and it was obviously the inspiration for that pivotal moment in the film. I was just thrilled to be able to write something in that style and be able to achieve it with such a great orchestra and choir. The most fun part was translating my poem about sausages and bread being slaughtered in hellfire and a river of blood. Where else could I possibly get away with that?
There’s surprising food for thought to “Sausage Party.” Beyond playing the obvious surface of animated scoring, did you want to hit the subtext of “the gods” and the meaning of existence as well?
Yes of course. I think everyone will be very surprised at all of the social commentary that Seth and the gang sneak into this one. There’s the struggle with the afterlife, all kinds of commentary on race and class, strong support of the rights to love and marry whomever you choose, and we even find common ground that could lead to love and peace in the Middle East! There’s a lot more under the surface than I think anyone is expecting.
“Sausage Party” has a terrifically lush and epic orchestral sound. How did you achieve that?
The Philharmonia Orchestra of London played their hearts out in studio 1 at Abbey Road. They got what we were going for right away and were amazing to work with. Our choir was the same. Really fantastic…and it was funny when they all saw “Canis Calidus” and started cracking up.
Having done a “macho” rock band approach for the “Horrible Bosses” films, what was it like getting into a more feminine mindset with that approach for “Bad Mom,” especially with unusual instruments for that ensemble like the ukulele?
First off, while “Bad Moms” is pretty raunchy at times, the directors wanted me to play more of the emotions. Co-director Scott Moore is actually from Hawaii and he suggested the ukulele. When I first wrote the family theme, I used it and they loved it. I think it’s a great and simple representation of the bond between a Mom and her children. Even though we wanted to connect with Moms, we needed to feel authentic, so that’s when I reached out to KT Tunstall, who I met last year and am a huge fan of. I really wanted her voice to bring the score to life so it sounded more like a record than just underscore.
Do you think there are instruments that are friendlier to women than most, and do you think making this score more emotional would make the ruder humor play better?
Maybe, I don’t know. I think it has a lot less to do with things being friendlier to women than it does with representing family and mothers with their kids. What we did do was listen to a lot of the best female pop artists and try to get some of that feeling and attitude. Everything from KT of course, to Feist and Liz Phair, even a hint of Courtney Love and Rihanna. Not literally per se, but definitely as inspiration.
In general, why do you think the “band” approach is the rage for raunchy comedies these days? And why do you think you have a particular talent for that?
I actually think that comedies, especially ones that are set in a more “realistic” setting (rather than genre stuff like “Ghostbusters” or “Sausage Party”) have always been the first to incorporate popular music stylistically. Henry Mancini did it with Jazz, Disco in the 70’s, Harold Faltermeyer in the 80’s. Comedies that want to take audiences along for a ride tend to need music that sets a mood and gives the audience permission to laugh rather than telling them when to laugh as an orchestral score might. As for any particular talent, I’d say it has more to do with my ADD than anything else. I love so many different kinds of music and the thought of incorporating different elements and styles keeps it interesting for me.
Did seeing what your wife goes through influence your score at all?
Of course. My wife and her friends would fit right in to this film. There’s so much pressure to be perfect Moms It’s natural to want to fight back and get back to what’s important: Loving your kids and doing the best that you can.
I really loved your work on “Agent Carter,” and am sorry to see the show go. Could you tell us about your experience through her saga, and how it opened up a nostalgic, jazz-tinted world of comic book scoring for you?
I loved “Agent Carter” from the very beginning. I’m a huge Cap fan and I was honored to take Peggy’s story, especially under the direction of Louis D’Esposito. Peggy was the ultimate assignment for me: 1940’s noir meets WWII military action mixed with the epic backdrop of the Marvel Universe. I had such a great time with her whole story. We were able to record with amazing musicians every week and even got to do an old fashioned MGM musical number that I co-wrote with David Zippel. It was an honor to be a part of it and I’m sad to see it go.
Would you hope for more adventures in the Marvel Universe, and is there a particular character you think you’d be well suited for?
Absolutely. I’m ready to go whenever! I have a great relationship with them and would definitely pour my heart and soul into any of their stories. It would be a dream come true. For me, right now, I think Spider Man would be the perfect fit. I could do something bold and thematic with heroism and grandeur. Plus he’s truly one of my all time favorites. I think I’d really nail that one.
You’ve done quite a bit of charity, and humanitarian work as a film composer. What inspired this, and how do you think music helps get an altruistic message across?
One of the quotes we often use is that music succeeds when words fail. I find that to be so true, especially in this highly charged climate of fear and division, where cultures don’t really understand each other. Music can bring people together, inspire emotion and empathy between those who do not share a language, and give purpose to young people at the most crucial times in their lives. Both of my parents were teachers, so I think my desire to promote education stems from this, but I also feel very blessed to have the life I do and if we all try to use our talents to give back to others, the world could be a much better place for our children and future generations.
You recently conduct a concert of Basil Poledouris’ music in Spain. What kind of influence was he on your career?
Basil was my hero, my mentor, and my friend. It was an honor for me to produce this concert with his daughters this summer. Truly unforgettable. Not only did I learn so many things from him, but his support and guidance really gave me so many opportunities. Beyond that, the love and support I got from his family was so amazing. “Conan” is still one of my favorite scores ever written and I hope that some of Basil’s passion for melody and power shows through in my writing from time to time.
Next up you’ll be scoring a satiric big screen riff on the already funny TV class “Baywatch.” What can we expect?
I’m still waiting to see a cut, but if I the director know Seth Gordon will make it very big and ballsy. It’ll probably a ton of fun and have great action sequences. I’m sure there will be a mix of a few different musical styles thrown in there and you can bet it will be huge. Can’t wait to get started.
Knowing that a bunch of under-17 kids are going to do their best to sneak into “Sausage Party,” how do you think they’ll appreciate your score?
I’m not sure if they’ll notice it, but subliminally, they’ll wonder where all these emotions came from in the middle of this raunchy movie they snuck into. That said, I’m sure Alan and I would be thrilled to see YouTube videos of kids playing the Douche theme on electric guitar or a middle school show choir doing a bleeped out version of “The Great Beyond!”
If you had to make a choice between scoring truly kid-friendly comedy, and way more seditious sex and drug humor-filled movies like “Sausage Party” and “Bad Moms,” what would it be?
Luckily, I don’t because the answer would be BOTH…and then some! As I said, being ADD and having a pretty eclectic musical taste, I tend to look for projects that contrast both with each other and with what I’ve been doing. I love following up “Agent Carter” with “Galavant” and “Thanks For Sharing” with “Sausage Party.” There’s nothing like taking stylistic and dramatic left turns for avoiding writers block and getting inspired. So if only I could follow up “Sausage Party” and “Baywatch” with some kind of Merchant-Ivory style drama, I’d be all set!
“Sausage Party” opens in theaters August 12th, with Christopher Lennertz and Alan Menken’s score available HERE.
Visit Christopher Lennertz’s web page HERE
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.2495]Dave Porter ([m.47025]The Masterpiece), [c.3914]Jake Monaco ([m.43482]Keeping Up with the Joneses), [c.13366]Geoff Barrow and [c.13365]Ben Salisbury ([m.46999]Annihilation), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 29 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2016-8-01]Click here for the full schedule.
Opening nationwide this week are (with music by): [m.43820]Nine Lives ([c.3669]Evgueni Galperine and [c.3670]Sacha Galperine) and [m.41974]Suicide Squad ([c.1974]Steven Price).
Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking song credits for:
From “The Magnificent Seven” to “The Dirty Dozen,” Hollywood scores have rejoiced in teams of bad-asses determined to go out in a blaze of glory. But seldom has a composer done a Holy Hell blow out like Steven Price with “Suicide Squad.” Packing together a rogues gallery of wannabe Batman killers into a force of extraordinarily evil magnitude, the Oscar winner of “Gravity” creates an ironically unintended superhero score to kill them all. Taken from Arkham Asylum for their mad skills with weapons, sorcery, mutant powers and sensual psychotic chops, Price brings the hybrid rage of today’s action scoring to the next level, blending a muscular orchestra with metal guitar, adrenalin percussion samples and a myth-making chorus, as well as Joker cackles. Wrapped up with a myriad of motifs that emotionally distinguish their dysfunctional characters in a way that few super-team scores dare to attempt, Price’s “Squad” is united with a fiendishly bright, brassy theme that lets you know they’re the bad-good guys, with a Carmina Burana catchiness that’s likely to have listeners’ heads bobbing as if they were attending a Led Zeppelin concert.
Starting his career in the big league trenches as a music editor on the likes of “The Lord of the Rings” and “Batman Begins,” “Suicide Squad” represents a big level up for Steven Price, who’s positively mild-mannered when it comes to the thrilling mean-spiritedness he conjures for gang banger-as-film director David Ayer. The Oscar for outer space artiness is one thing, but striking savage gold in the multiplex with an attitude is a whole other deal for a composer who’s now brought a blast of freshness to the superhero thunder dome. It’s a perfect approach when you think of how DC superheroes are no better than psychos these days, and certainly no better way for the Squad to meet their maker when given the rocking personality that Price invests into his most impressive, and thrilling work yet.
How important was being a music editor with a particular talent for temp tracking in becoming a unique film composer?
Music editing was one of the many jobs in film music I did along my 15 year journey towards finally being able to compose for a living, and I count myself very lucky that I had all of those experiences, all of which I still draw on in my work now. Temp music is a strange subject… many composers, including me, are not the biggest fans, in that it’s so easy for people to play safe if a temp score is thought to have “played well” at some exec screening or other. You could get stuck with an approach that has already been used countless times before. I used to be able to trace the “temp chain”… hearing where one score had influenced another, and it was often pretty depressing. However, one plus point of having done my share of temping work back in the day was that I got to the point where I could watch a scene and immediately hear in my mind a number of ways I could help that scene work, different approaches and styles of scoring. Now, when I’m looking at scoring a scene myself, I find that grounding helps me to look beyond those conventions. My first thought now is, “OK, well I think I know what would work on a basic level but how can I go beyond that to give the scene something unique, something that feels like it embodies this unique film?” It might be the harmonic language, or the instrumentation, or whatever the approach ends up being, but the plan is always to make the score undeniable… make it so the scene just feels right. For me, the greatest satisfaction is when a cue just feels bonded to the picture, and for that to be the case it needs such a bespoke approach. So that’s what I push for, and that’s probably why I sleep less than I should.
Tell us about your initial scoring work with Edgar Wright’s productions of “Scott Pilgrim,” “Attack the Block” and “The World’s End,” and how they set up your particular style?
Working with Edgar has been a massive highlight of my career so far, and I’m hugely grateful for the opportunities he’s given me. I guess if I were to isolate one thing I feel I’ve been able to develop through his guidance, it’s a sense that every detail matters. There’s not a shot in an Edgar Wright film, or a sound effect, a cut or a line, that hasn’t been thoroughly worked over to its greatest effect. So often there are subtexts and foreshadowing things happening in his movies, where all departments are coming together to tell the story on multiple levels. This totally carries through to the way he likes to use music. To be a part of that, and for the detail and layering to be so intrinsic to the filmmaking is something that I feel is a big part of what I try and do with my music.
How do you think you pushed your sound, and ideas of what a score could be with “Gravity?”
My first meeting on Gravity featured the words “I hate film music.” So it was pretty clear I was going to have to find a unique way of scoring that film. The great thing about “Gravity” was that the way Alfonso Cuaron had conceived the movie just offered the most incredible, unique canvas for music. For a start, the lack of sound in the vacuum of space meant that I could write a very layered, detailed score with the confidence that any subtleties wouldn’t get lost in sound design at the final mix. Also, the way in which the film was shot to create the feeling you were up there in space opened up the possibilities of writing music for the surround experience in a way I’d never explored before. Combine all that with a director who would always push for something original, and would always focus on the emotional impact of the music, and it was a pretty much uniquely amazing musical opportunity. I learnt so much on that film. I did so many different versions of virtually every scene, and was pushed to continually come up with so many new ideas, that at the end of it I just emerged full of excitement about the possibilities of film music, and praying that I got to do another film one day. I was kind of aware that the score could go down in quite extreme ways – positively or negatively – so it was far from certain I’d get to have another go!
What was the whole Oscar campaigning, and win for “Gravity” like? What was the impact like on your career?
Looking back, it was a fantastic time, and totally surreal. You find yourself in all sorts of incredible places with people you’ve admired forever. The fact I was sitting next to John Williams, who was every bit the gentleman you would expect through the entire process, at the moment they made the award announcement; that’s something that has stuck with me ever since. To shake his hand, and that of Thomas Newman, at that moment… I still feel so fortunate to have been there and grateful to the film for giving me that opportunity. I’m very aware that it’s an honor to be invited into that particular world, and, with regards to my future career, I kind of figure that I will basically be spending the rest of my working life trying to live up to that honor. I think I’ll only really get a sense of the impact of the experience when a few more years have passed. At the very least, I got to write a couple more scores, and that’s made me very happy.
How did you first meet up with David Ayer on “Fury?” What was that collaboration like, and how do you feel that a tank suicide squad, as it were, set you up for this movie?
Again, the work on “Fury” started with a list of things David DIDN’T want the score to be. He wanted me to steer clear of what he felt were the clichés of war movies. We agreed that at no point would I write a solitary trumpet line as the sun rose over a battlefield, as effective as that had been in the past. From there it was what seems to be my usual process of evolving cues throughout the scoring period, sending David my latest work, and constantly tweaking and reworking things in trying to find the solution to the film’s puzzles. It felt like a smooth and enjoyable collaboration, from my perspective at least, and David would give the most amazing notes, really concise, but cutting straight to the heart of the relationships between the characters. I remember him telling me that one cue needed to “bring out the haunt” that a character was experiencing. Somehow when I returned to the piece it just made so much more sense, and I could move forward. I’d like to think the “Fury” experience created a level of trust between us that meant, when I started this one, I felt I could get stuck in and try some extreme things from day one.
David has directed gang-intensive movies before like “Harsh Times,” “Street Kings” and “End of Watch.” In that respect, how much of a “gangster” approach did he want that would call back the past scores he’s gotten?
We’ve never really discussed past scores together. David is always pushing for new music, and new thoughts, so looking back never really happens. But I immediately felt when working on “Suicide Squad” that the film totally had this recognizable quality of his films: that sense of the “Squad” themselves, this gang of misfits coming together in a believable way for a shared goal. Something in the way David writes and directs creates a real true sense of camaraderie amongst the characters. You instantly believe these relationships exist, and feel the shifting relationships between the gang members. The added dimension in this one, with this being a gang of, essentially, insane and troubled outsiders, who all come together and form this weird, dysfunctional and dangerous family gave me a lot to play with musically.
Did you immerse yourself in the Squad’s comic book appearances before tackling the score?
I’d read a fair bit when I was younger, but only since I finished scoring the film have I taken a closer look at the comics themselves. Before that I felt I only wanted to be responding to David’s interpretation of these characters, and this world, without any preconceptions at all. I didn’t want to drag any baggage into the process with me before I’d seen what David was doing. It’s kind of interesting now, though, looking back into the original comic books, just how much detail has gone into this film. There are so many details from the original comic books that the fans are going to pick up on, and this incredible sense of respect for the canon of it all. Hopefully, in being true musically to the way David has portrayed these characters, the score itself honors that history too.
How difficult is it to make the bad guys musically heroic? And in that way, was it particularly important to make the their treatment more than one-dimensional?
The very nature of the characters in the film ensured that the musical approach had to be multi-dimensional. These are truly the bad guys, and if there was going to be any sort of heroic feeling, no matter how skewed, it had to be earned. Take the character of Deadshot, who is Will Smith’s character and who I absolutely loved writing for. On one hand, he is, as one of the lines in the film has it, “a serial killer with a credit card.” He’s an incredible hit man, paid to kill. So nothing heroic there. But then we see how he’s fighting to see his daughter who he’s separated from, and how desperate he is to escape the life he’s in, and then see him in action, where, within his own reality, he’s someone who can be counted on in a battle, someone to fight alongside, and you start to feel way more connected to him. There’s a journey there, and I wanted the music to reflect that. And that’s just the one character! The performances in the film, without exception, allow you to believe in these complex characters and their situations, and so, for me, the job was to really immerse myself in those performances and support them in any way I could.
Was the musical direction of “Suicide Squad” obvious from the start, or did it go through any major evolutions to get there?
Some of the direction came really early. I remember going to Toronto when they were shooting to see some early scenes, and something about the colors of the film, and this sense of fun, the feeling that it’s a good time to spend with these extreme characters, sent me off to my studio knowing that I wanted to find a sound for the film that felt exciting, and gritty but, also somehow kind of rough around the edges. David and I would talk in terms of “adding the neon”, this extra layer of extreme, day-glo color that seemed to emerge from various combinations of distorted guitars, basses, analogue synths and delay pedals – some quite unhinged sounds running alongside the orchestra. That stuff seemed to land pretty quickly, and, whilst it evolved throughout, there are sounds in there that I recorded in my first couple of weeks on the film. The tricky thing was finding a way to portray some of the wilder characteristics of the Squad members in a way that didn’t overbalance things, when there’s so much extreme stuff happening onscreen throughout the film. Portraying someone with voices in their head, for example, but in a way that didn’t just feel so strange it would disorientate someone watching the film, and push them away from the character. That stuff could take some back and forth, and rethinks, but some of those moments have turned out to be the ones I’m most satisfied with
Given so many members of The Suicide Squad, did you want to attempt to give the characters their own musical signature?
I felt very strongly that I wanted this to be a thematic score. The characters are so strong and distinct it felt like it would be unforgivable to not try to give them some strong musical identities. In most cases this is the first time we’ve met these amazing people on the big screen, and I wanted to introduce them in as memorable way as I could. Obviously though, the concern would be that with such a large group of characters, the score could just become a procession of unrelated melodies, and that you’d never get a sense of things developing and truly telling this story. So I spent a lot of time thinking about that, how it would be possible to score the film in a thematic way, and yet allow the themes to earn their place, and evolve and develop along with the characters. An early conversation in the cutting room really helped me out. David talked of how each member of the Squad is, in their own way, an outsider from society. They don’t fit in, whether it be because of their abilities, or their predilections, their appearance or past crimes, or whatever else it may be. Really, the Suicide Squad, unlikely as it would seem for each of them, represents the first time they’ve actually belonged, even though it’s such an insane gang to be a part of. So, that got me thinking of ways in which the character themes could find their home in the main Squad music too, how their melodies, recurring rhythms, whatever felt right for each individual, but also somehow slightly incomplete and “other”, could also become part of the Squad’s musical identity as it starts to coalesce. So these themes could coexist, and play off each other as the film’s relationships develop. Working on that was a really fun part of scoring the film.
How did the balance between more realistic villains like Captain Boomerang, and more supernatural / comic book ones like Enchantress affect the score?
With all of the characters it was a case of finding their heartbeat and color, and then the balance came from the way they interact on the screen. Captain Boomerang is one of the funniest characters in the film, always looking for a win, always planning, but also with a really endearing quality, and his music tries to reflect that. There’s skittishness to him, but also a rough sweetness that I felt really came through in Jai Courtney’s performance. With Enchantress you’re dealing with this incredible timeless, mystical and powerful entity, which obviously led to a different approach. Her music features a lot of choral work, and some often quite extreme musical sound design. She has untold powers, and a sense of desperation that really felt like the music could fly to some quite extreme places with her.
Harley Quinn and Deadshot are the two villains who’ve gotten the most play in the press. How did you want to play these characters, and their chemistry?
As I think is clear from the trailers and surrounding press, the performances of Margot Robbie and Will Smith in this film are incredible. And their characters are so likeable but complex that they were a lot of fun to write for. Harley is this incredibly charming mixture of bad / good / happy / sad / manic / chilling… and yet you enjoy every second spent with her. So musically I just tried to join her in the journey, and capture the twists and turns. There’s some moments of real, bare emotion in her story, and it was a lot of fun to take her theme to those places, but also embrace the insanity of some of her other behavior. Likewise with Deadshot, the complexities of his character gave me a lot of musical opportunities. He’s represented by two main motives, one of which signifies his relationship with and love for his daughter, and is full of sadness and yearning, whilst another, more hopeful, reaching figure, shows him as the highly skilled soldier he is, using his skills to reach for a better life. As Harley and Deadshot get to know each other, and respect and like each other, there were moments where, as with the other characters, I got to combine their musical identities in various ways.
Tell us about your approach to The Joker and Batman. Did you want the score to tie in at all to the DC musical universe that came before it especially given your work on films like “Batman Begins?”
My aim with those two icons was always to play the characters as I saw them on screen in this specific film, and through David’s vision, rather than reflecting other differing approaches. Whilst there have obviously been so many incredible musical versions of these iconic characters over the years, here I wanted to be honest and true to this specific direction. For example in this film we see Batman from a different angle… we see him through the eyes of our villains. And to them, Batman soaring into the scene is truly bad news. So I played him musically that way. I hope when he enters the scene you really feel the same sense of dread that our protagonists do. Writing for Jared Leto’s Joker was also a massive joy. There’s so much in that performance, so much intensity and insanity, and it was fun to push those buttons. But there’s also a feeling of his true, twisted love and longing for Harley that gives the Joker’s music a sense of doomed and epic romance, all the time on the edge of falling off a cliff. Opportunities to write music like that don’t come up often!
Hybrid scores that mix orchestra with electronics and samples are all the rage now, and “Suicide Squad” hits that bill and then some. How did you want to make that mixture here stand out from the pack?
The nature of the fusion of the orchestra and the electronics was dictated totally by what was onscreen. I just had to work out how those insane images should sound! I think the film has a unique look – everything from the production design and costumes through to the tattoos on the Joker’s chest have this aesthetic that immediately made me want to find a distinctive sound that felt like it lived in the same world. Sometimes, the orchestra felt right alone in telling the story, but often I needed to find a way of distorting that, of making it less straight. The music had to feel like it had led this strange life. When I first saw the film, something abut the way it looked made me think of the kind of extreme, feedback-y guitar work of people like Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew, or my first boss, the Gang of Four guitar player Andy Gill. Playing with various textures gave me a way into the score that I couldn’t find with the orchestra alone and the combination evolved to feel pretty unique, I think and hope. The palette evolved until it felt right against the images.
The chorus plays a surprisingly big role in “Suicide Squad.” What do you think voices brought to the score?
Something about the human voice just connects with me in a very pure way, and I love to work with singers, both individually and in larger groups. With a score as extreme as this, the way the human voice could be so immediately affecting in one scene, but so otherworldly in the next, meant it became an important part of my palette. Initially in the film, the female chorus itself is associated largely with the character of The Enchantress, whereby the male voice choir helped me conjure up the ancient, primal nature of Killer Croc. As things develop in the movie, it was great fun having the choir enunciate the “Ha Ha Ha!” laugh of the Joker over some critical moments of his story. The choir was superb. It was one of those sessions where things just fell into place and I feel they carry some important emotional weight within the music.
After taking a relatively sparse approach to “Gravity” and “Fury,” was it particularly cool to really go for it with “Suicide Squad?”
It was both great fun, and massively scary. Whilst my previous scores have had their share of complexities, the variety of music in Suicide Squad,” and it’s sheer scale, meant that I went into the sessions both incredibly excited to hear this music being performed by the musicians, but also utterly convinced that we’d never get through all of the music that I’d written in the time we had available! Thanks to the brilliance of the musicians it all worked out well, and there were some lovely moments where things came to life. In many ways, these recordings were less technical than other things I’ve done. With “Gravity” for example, I was recording individual lines separately so I could spin them around the surround speakers to immerse the audience in space so it was quite a dry process at times. Here though, there were occasions when the orchestra could throw themselves into a melody, and it was wonderful feeling the way that the musicians moved as one from phrase to phrase, adding those layers of humanity.
When “Suicide Squad” is in full fury, it feels like a score as a rock concert in cues like “Are We Friends Or Are We Foes?” How did that draw on your own band background, especially in giving the characters their attitude?
To me, it felt like the music for the film needed to have a lot of attitude and swagger. These people don’t fight clean, they don’t talk politely, they don’t care for niceties. So when things got lively it made sense to me that I could go big, and mean every note, and it didn’t feel right doing that in a purely traditional way. We were lucky to get Josh Freese in to play drums, and he’s one of the most powerful musicians I’ve ever spent time with. Just a great player, and grasped exactly what I was looking for as soon as I played him the demos. Added to that, there’s quite a lot of guitar playing in the score. I’ve wasted many years of my life making broadly obnoxious noises with guitars. My studio is full of far too many instruments, pedals and the like. So it was enormous fun to direct some of that energy into the score. There’s always a danger that guitars can sound a little lame in film scores, so I was determined to find the right sounds, and layer things up until they felt rough and ready enough for the Squad. I’m pleased I recorded all of the guitars on my own in the studio though, with no witnesses, as there were probably some embarrassing faces pulled as I played the main Suicide Squad riff.
Conversely, how did you want to play “Suicide Squad’s” more emotional “downtime” music in comparison to the rest of the score’s insanity?
One of the great things about the way David directs is that he’s not scared to give some space and stillness to emotional moments. He understands the value of lingering on a look, or a reaction. There are moments in the film when characters who, let’s face it, are not the nicest people in the world on a surface level, can really move you, and my job there was to find a space to allow that emotion to breathe. Within the thematic structure of the score, there were many occasions where I found myself getting more and more simple, with fewer and fewer notes, really finding the heart of a character’s theme for the moments when they were at their most damaged and vulnerable. David is excellent when it comes to clearing sound effects where appropriate in the final mix to give moments like that a resonance within the chaos of the rest of the film.
Given that you’ve worked as an editor on high-pressure studio tentpoles, like “The Lord of the Rings” films, how did those experiences set you up for the anticipation, and pressures of a movie like this?
My approach to everything that carries pressure or anticipation is to ignore that feeling as much as humanly possible. It’s not always easy, but I’m not sure thinking about the scale of a challenge too much is helpful. I kind of have this inner belief that so long as I keep moving forward and trying to do my job every day to the best of my ability, that’s as much as I can do. Everything else comes down to the way the cards fall. There’s no doubt that a project such as this brings with it a lot of pressure, and a lot of opinions and politics, but really if you can take a moment to truly focus (which can be tricky when all hell is breaking loose), you realize that most of what is going on around you is just noise, and nothing to do with what we’re trying to achieve. At the end of the day, we’re trying to tell a story. Within that story are a million decisions to make, all of which add up to the end result, but you can only take one of those decisions at a time. So I just try to keep moving forward, keep challenging myself to deliver work I feel enhances the story I’m working on, and, through it all, enjoy this amazing job. No matter what the pressures are, and really no external pressure is ever as extreme as the pressure you put on yourself to do your very best work, at the end of the day I get to sit in a room surrounded by musical instruments, and I get to share the things I come up with there with many wonderful musicians who all bring their talents to the piece. There is pressure, yes, but it’s a small price to pay for the privilege of doing the work.
“Superman Versus Batman” was criticized for being way too dark, so that when the “Suicide Squad” additional shoots happened, the news was how they were meant to lighten up the film. Seeing that reaction, did it also fall onto you to give more of a “fun” feel to the score, especially with the additional footage?
It seems with any project like this, the rumor mill can lock onto any number of leaked details, and before you know it there is an accepted story that actually may be quite a lot different from the reality! Certainly from my perspective, the score evolved in a very natural way through my time on the project, and there was no particularly specific pressure applied to me to assume any particular tone. This was always going to be a very different film from anything that had gone before in the DC world, and the very fact that I was invited to contribute meant that the score was going to sound different. Fun was always a huge part of this film, and it was one of the most exciting things that struck me when I saw the rushes way back in the middle of 2015, before any talk of reshoots.
The “Suicide Squad” soundtrack includes a bunch of bonus cues. What can you tell us about them?
I take a lot of pride in the CD (as it used to be!) presentation of my scores. I really want people to be able to listen to the score as an experience that both reminds them of the movie, but also makes sense as a standalone listen. So when it came to compiling the score album, that was my priority. But, I wrote and recorded a lot of material for this project, and whilst I’m very happy with the CD presentation, the time limits meant that there were a lot of pieces I couldn’t include. The fact that I was trying to give this group of characters their musical identities for the first time meant that I wrote and wrote, often writing lengthier versions of character’s cues that would appear in a truncated form within the film itself. When Watertower Records suggested that we could have some bonus tracks on the digital release of the score it felt like an opportunity to include some of those tracks that were really crucial to the film but that I just couldn’t fit onto a 74-minute album. With a film like this, I feel a great responsibility to the people who love these characters. Even if one person who loves Killer Croc is happy at the idea that his theme is available for them to listen to whenever they like, I think that justifies making them available digitally. Besides which, the bonus tracks contain some of my favorite performances. It was my first time recording in Hollywood with LA musicians, and there are some wonderful memories captured in those tracks.
Your other major project has been scoring the TV nature series “The Hunt.” What’s it like to score a particularly savage documentary show?
Actually, one of the joys of “The Hunt” was that is was less savage than you’d expect given the title. The show was a study in predation in the natural world, and the truth of it is that most predators fail most of the time. For me, it was a real passion project. I’ve enjoyed the natural history shows the BBC have made all my life and it was a genuine thrill to work with the amazing, often beautiful images. The truth is, there are no better stories than those that exist in the natural world, and the process of scoring the series was a joy. It was a daunting one. In my film career I’ve tended to take a long time over scores. I very much work the old fashioned way, I guess. I write every note myself and am totally involved in every stage of the process, all the way through the final mix, so the idea of producing essentially six 45-minute scores over a five-month period was kind of terrifying at the time. But it was an absolute joy. Every couple of days I’d start a new sequence with some new characters, and got to explore all manner of moods and approaches along the way. It was fast, but incredibly freeing and satisfying to do. In lots of ways, whilst I love the obsession of really focusing in on a score over a period of months, there was a great energy about working so intensely and yet so quickly for that period of time. I’m incredibly proud of the series.
In the end, would you describe “Suicide Squad” as a superhero score? And given that sequels and spin-offs have already been announced, where do you see your music for the characters going if you should continue with the franchise?
“Suicide Squad,” as a movie, feels like something very new to me. Whilst it’s undeniably a comic book movie, and a lot of fun, there’s a lot of character depth and complexity in there, and a unique feel to the whole thing. With the score, whilst I definitely got to have a lot of fun playing with, for example, the mystical and action sides of things, I was also invited to go on this weird, unpredictable rollercoaster journey with the Squad. It was a real pleasure to spend the last few months with them. I certainly would love to see where they go next, and would be very excited to see where their stories could take their music. It’s an incredible world to play in. I will miss Deadshot, Harley and the rest of them for now, but I hope people enjoy watching them as much as I have.
The “Suicide Squad” takes aim in theaters August 5th, with Steven Price’s score available on Water Tower Records August 8th HERE
Go on “The Hunt” HERE
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.1422]Ilan Eshkeri ([m.46976]The Kaiser's Last Kiss), [c.2590]Dan Romer ([m.46974]Katie Says Goodbye), [c.6885]James Lavino ([m.46962]One Last Thing), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 34 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2016-7-25]Click here for the full schedule.
Opening nationwide this week are (with music by): [m.45214]Nerve ([c.1240]Rob Simonsen), [m.45982]Bad Moms ([c.630]Christopher Lennertz), and [m.39488]Jason Bourne ([c.1620]David Buckley & [c.171]John Powell).
Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking song credits for:
Lakeshore Records will release the [a.18239]Nerve - Original Motion Picture Score digitally [da.2016-07-29]July 29, 2016, and on CD soon thereafter. The album features the film's original score by composer [c.1240]Rob Simonsen. The soundtrack also features the original track "Let's Play" performed by Simonsen and White Sea--an energetic synth-driven track with an 80s vibe.
"The directors Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost and I talked before shooting started, and discussed about using a lot of synthesizers and drawing from an 80's vibe," said Simonsen "This worked out great as I hoping the score would reflect the excitement of the film- electricity through the nervous system, always playing on your nerves."
"We came up with the idea of using a children's choir to capture a...
The Academy will highlight the art of film music with three programs in August: the West Coast restoration premiere of [m.13672]King of Jazz, a tribute screening of [m.20960]Purple Rain with members of the cast and crew, and a live concert celebration of [o.]The Black Movie Soundtrack II, featuring Oscar-winning recording artist [c.14721]Common and guests. The events will take place at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills and at the Hollywood Bowl.
The schedule is as follows:
[m.13672]King of Jazz (1930) West Coast restoration premiere
Wednesday, August 17 7:30 p.m. at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater
Hosted by Academy governor and Oscar-winning composer [c.534]Michael Giacchino and animation director David Silverman.
A time capsule in many, almost outrageous respects, “Indignation” takes us back to 1951, a year when youths went to college for a stringent education, as opposed to schooling themselves with beer and girls. The decade’s beginning was also marked by a “police action” in Korea and a home front war against sex, whose acts taken with utter casualness now could result in social shaming, or far worse back in The Day. It’s into this Puritanical environment of higher learning that the intellectually strident Marcus (Logan Lerman) tries to find himself at a college in Cleveland, rebelling against his provincially Jewish upbringing in the big New York borough city. At first choosing to entomb himself in a world of books, Marcus’ social isolation is breached by his attraction to Olivia Hutton (Sarah Gadon), a gorgeous WASP who proves to be his intellectual, if not mentally stable equal.
“Indignation’s” adaption from the novel by Philip Roth (“The Human Stain”) is the stuff of high-toned tragic romance and verbal parlaying that marks melancholy, a lyrical feeling impressively realized by Jay Wadley. A Yale grad himself, Wadley’s background includes the far more lowbrow humor of “College Humor Originals,” the dramatic series “Lie To Me” and “The Nine Lives of Chloe King” and the documentaries “Fair Chase” and “We Live This.” Now his heartbreaking, thematic melodies serve as an impressive introduction to Wadley’s classically attuned talents that have seen his music commissioned by the Carnegie Hall Ensemble, the Louisville Symphony Orchestra and Rufus Wainwright for his Opera and Song Cycle. Employing a chamber approach for violin and piano, Wadley reaches into Marcus’ hungry, yet shut-off mind to poignantly reflect his emptiness. But there is a tenderness as well to be discovered as well in Olivia, with sharply trembling, string lines reaching into a mental instability she masks with utter, deceptive poise.
With more rhythmic, fuller orchestral passages moving the film along with an inexorable feeling of fate, Wadley’s strikingly intimate and melodic score brings humanity to characters who’ve shut themselves off from feeling at a perilously young age. It’s an intellectual musical approach that reaches into a memorably melodic wellspring of universal emotion, matching the gauzy lensing of longtime producer, and first time director James Schamus, and Oscar nominee for overseeing “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” and “Brokeback Mountain,” Wadley also dives into the “Indignation’s” time frame in crafting the resoundingly lush song “Is it Love,” with features Jane Monheit’s gorgeous voice as exactly the crooner you’d imagine when parking a borrowed car for some pre-curfew intimacy. With his own composing signature given it’s first Hollywood feature, Wadley’s poetically heartbreaking music is likely to create its own poetic swoon in speaking volumes for the time-honored genre of tormented romance.
You could be described as one of those “come from nowhere” composers with this score. Could you tell us about your musical background?
I grew up in Oklahoma taking piano lessons as well as playing drums, singing in, and writing songs for my punk rock band. I took voice lessons in high school and was in the All-State choir which exposed me to living choral composers who were experimenting with sonorities that challenged my perceptions of classical music. I was so inspired by that music that I purchased a basic version of Cakewalk so I could notate using midi and eventually completed my first choir piece. I organized around 40 choir friends to perform it at my school’s talent show senior year and from the moment I walked off stage, I knew I was going to be a composer.
I went to Oklahoma City University where I majored in classical composition with a minor in vocal performance. My professor, Edward Knight, was a former student of John Corigliano’s and was instrumental in helping me begin to develop my own voice and fundamental process of composition. I then attended the Yale School of Music where I received a Masters and Artist Diploma in composition while working in the Center for Studies in Music Technology engineering recordings and diving into production. I was lucky enough to study with Martin Bresnick, Aaron Jay Kernis and the late Ezra Laderman. I will forever be grateful to them for taking a chance on a wide eyed kid from Oklahoma. After graduation I stuck around Yale to teach and work in the studio but had interests in getting into film and TV music. Through a composer friend in LA, I had the opportunity to demo for an additional composer job which turned out to be “Lie To Me” on FOX. Composing on that season was the first time I’d ever scored to picture and I was thrown into the fire of hour long network TV drama deadlines. It was super intense but I learned so much about working efficiently to turn around a lot of music on a tight deadline. After that I spent a few years helping Rufus Wainwright orchestrate his opera and song cycle, further honing my orchestration skills as I slowly continued growing my music production company, Found Objects, with my friend and fellow composer, Trevor Gureckis.
How did your background doing such diverse work as shorts for “College Humor” and series like “Lie To Me” prepared you to take on a super-serious movie like “Indignation?” And what was it about your work that appealed to James Schamus?
Funnily enough, those projects were initially more foreign to me than the work I did with James on “Indignation.” “Lie To Me” taught me the mechanics like how to produce, score to picture, deliver on tight deadlines, take lots of notes and how not to sleep. With College Humor, whether it required me to produce/sing my best impression of Nickelback for “Look at This Instagram” or write psychotically happy toy advertisement music for animations like “Hoverboard Lightsaber Portal Gun Fight,” I viewed every project as an opportunity to do research and expand my musical vocabulary.
With James, I was initially brought in to score his comedic short doc, “That Film About Money”, for Morgan Spurlock’s “We The Economy” series. That was about 2 years ago now, but I think we spent a lot of that initial meeting just chatting about classical music and Rufus Wainwright. We had a really great time collaborating on that project and getting to know each other. 6 months or so later he gave me a ring asking if I would be interested in working on “Indignation”. My experience on the other projects gave me practical tools and adaptability but it was my passion for classical composition and training that I think he found fitting and what allowed me to dive into the seriousness that a film like “Indignation” demands.
Given that this was James Schamus’ directing debut after producing so many prestigious films, was there an extra sense of striving on his part to make “Indignation” stand out?
James is a man with incredible intuitions, a wealth of knowledge and is a consummate collaborator. He invited me to peer into his process along the way from reading the script, visiting set, sitting in on edits/color etc… His thoroughness, experience and clear directorial perspective was evident from the performances and beautiful shot framing to his diligent placement of music cues. It was a pleasure to watch as he treated everyone with the type of respect and kindness that inspired and expected them to do their very best work. He had strong concepts he would stand up for when he knew they were right. If something wasn’t working, he encouraged experimentation until we found what we were looking for. Some of our favorite musical moments emerged when we stripped everything away and tried something entirely new and different. It might have been his first time in the director’s chair, but James is an experienced and creative leader who I think allowed his work and perspective to materialize very naturally.
James has overseen such memorable scores as Mychael Danna’s “The Ice Storm” and Tan Dun’s Oscar-winning “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.” What musical lessons was he able to impart to you?
James often stressed the importance of melody and thematic development so as not to fall into the trap of meandering film score filler. He wanted the score to be simple but have substance. Cues needed a reason to be there and needed to be deliberate in the way they entered and exited. It was a structured and thoughtful approach to the creative process that I’m very grateful to have experienced with him. James always came to the table having done his research and took a lot of care in making his creative decisions. I learned a lot from just watching that.
Were there composers, or scores that were an influence on “Indignation?”
Yes, but James had a brilliant way of leading me places without explicitly referencing one composer or score too soon. He wanted me to arrive at a conclusion of my own. After reading the script, I wrote a six-minute exploration on the instrumentation and themes. They ended up temping that in a few spots in the film and it became our first “in” to the sound of the score. James said he didn’t want the score to sound too polished and for it to have a classic chamber approach. At one point he showed the demo to a few people who felt like it had a “La Pou Deuce” Georges Delerue vibe to it, which was a reference that James had imagined, but never mentioned. We listened a bit to Fauré and Satie to inject a hint of French piano music into Olivia’s theme since she is a French Literature major. I’ve been influenced by a wide range of classical composers through the years but others we listened to give us new perspectives were Morton Feldman, Arvo Pärt, Lou Harrison – almost exclusively classical composers besides the 1950’s love song references.
The dialogue-driven nature of Philip Roth’s work has always made his work especially trick to adapt into film. Did that provide a challenge in creating a “literary” score as well, especially given “Indignation’s” long, almost play-like stretches?
Approaching the score with a chamber/classical sound put us in the right zone to begin with, I think. The thematic material needed to be addressed with a certain discipline that the intellectual dialogue embodies. I don’t think other musical genres would have achieved that same parity. The film also required an intimacy in the score but with enough distance in the recording to breath. We hoped to achieve that quality through a more concert like placement of the instruments and production style. I think that if the music ever felt too close to the ear or was overproduced it wouldn’t have that classic character that I think compliments the “literary” or play-like dialogue.
How did want to develop the score’s themes?
Since I was in the room from the start of the edit, composing temp cues and experimenting with James, we had some luxuries in the exploration phase. As the edit started revealing its structure, so did our themes, their variations and significance. We didn’t work as linearly as you might if the film edit had already been locked and I think that process benefited the score. James was adamant about having strong melodic material established that we could then expand and apply throughout the score in support of Marcus’ and Olivia’s character development. In addition to the more traditional thematic development, I peppered the score with little intervallic cells that are subtle but I hope helped the score succeed in its cohesiveness.
“Indignation’s” score varies between more quiet moments, and those that have more of a rhythmic force. How did you want to use those different tempos?
It was important that there were those energy peaks and valleys as we followed Marcus’ journey. Those differentiations were important in communicating the hopefulness of arriving at the Winesburg campus in “Convocation” to capturing the tumultuousness nature of his world being turned upside down and the sense of loss that he feels in “It’s Impossible/Forever”. There is a unique aloneness that Marcus experiences which can be devastatingly intimate and dark. We had to first establish the audience’s investment in his ups and downs and desire for him succeed before we could strip it all away from him and let the audience mourn.
What’s the challenge of putting yourself in the musical mindset of hyper-intellectual young adults, who talk in a deliberately stylized manner?
I think the music wanted to naturally gravitate towards a sound that complemented the intellect and import of the characters dialogue that James crafted. The look, feel and dialogue have a seriousness that is commanding and hard to fight against. I felt my job was finding a way to naturally accentuate the human condition of the characters without telling the audience too much about how to feel about their experiences. While the characters are hyper-intellectual young adults, they are still just humans with the same struggles, flaws, emotions and mortality that we all have. They just express themselves very eloquently.
Was it important to subtly reflect Marcus’ Jewish background?
We had an initial conversation about whether or not we’d make any reference to that. I think ultimately Marcus’s plight is a widely relatable coming of age experience and James felt this was a uniquely American story. While Marcus is Jewish, I don’t think it would have necessarily benefited the film to telegraph his heritage through music. Most importantly, we needed to feel Marcus’s innocent, well-intentioned struggle to find himself and his deep sense of loss. If anything felt like it reflected his Jewish background, I can’t say it was a deliberate decision we made.
Was it important for the music to lend empathy to Marcus, especially given how he’s built a wall around himself when it comes to human contact?
I could imagine some people finding the hyper-intellectual conversation style and seriousness of Marcus a challenge to emotionally connect with at times. I believe music can be a powerful tool in any film to help the audience become emotionally invested and to build that sense of empathy for a character. Marcus is a very sensitive, caring and sincere kid who is constantly being misunderstood and I think it is important that we feel each of those moments with him.
Did going to a prestigious college like Yale make an impression on how you wanted to get across the stifled nature of the college Marcus goes to?
For me, going to Yale for grad school was sort of the inverse of Marcus’s experience. Having grown up in a conservative and religious part of the country, I arrived at a liberal school that encouraged freethinking and challenging one’s core beliefs. I really hadn’t felt so at home or part of a community until I got to grad school. Those are not the experiences that Marcus is having in the film but his are ones I intensely identify with from my youth. I think I understand what it feels like to be misunderstood, to be well intentioned and naive about the world when the world is wiser and ruthless at times.
What made you want to feature the violin and piano on the score?
There was a lightness and expressive power to the violin and Tim Fain’s playing that I felt would allow for a wide range of emotional color. I had explored using cello or flute as featured instruments in the score, but besides a few highlighted exchanges between the violin and cello in some heavier emotional moments, it just didn’t stick. The piano was not initially going to be part of the score at all. It wasn’t until we got to the scene where Marcus reads the letter from Olivia that the piano felt appropriate. For some reason, prior to that the piano felt too saccharine paired with the drier dialogue. Once we got that cue working in a way that had just enough emotion without becoming too heavy handed, it became the standard for all the other piano moments in the score and we started to spread it around a lot.
Was it important that the score not become so overwhelmingly sad?
Yeah, I struggled with that a bit initially. After reading the script, I imagined the score being pretty dark and it took some time to overcome some of my initial reactions. But it was just about finding a new perspective and balance. It was important that the music first communicated some hope in order to effectively make its journey to that darker lamenting place.
If you’ve ever gone out with a person who had mental problems, did that experience get reflected in your score?
I have, and it was devastating as those qualities revealed themselves. I think if anything, it gave me insight into the complexities and misreadings of Marcus’s experiences with Olivia. It’s tough to have love for someone and want the best for them, and yet be powerless as you watch them slowly self-destruct and lose themselves – or worse yet, you are blindsided by it. Marcus’s inability to see clearly in his situation is predicated on a naiveté about some harder truths in life that I certainly identified with during that time. I think that intense sadness has found its way into some of the longer, darker melodic moments of the score.
How did you want to handle the heavy sense of fate that hangs over “Indignation?”
I think it is the slow moving, persistent, inevitability of the story that is the most devastating. It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion but only in retrospect do we, as an audience, really even recognize how big the train was and how much kinetic energy each moment had. I don’t think that this concept was overtly manifested in the score itself but I think that the score had to serve that goal.
Could you tell us about creating a lushly spot-on 50’s romantic song with Jane Monheit for “Is It Love?”
Writing this song with James will go down as one of the most special experiences of my life. James came to me and asked if I’d be interested in co-writing a 50s style love tune that you could hear Tony Bennett or Dinah Shore singing. I honestly can’t say I thought I would ever be in a position to write something like that and to record it all live in a room together with a voice like Jane Monheit. When I was in college, all I wanted to sing was music from the Great American Song Book – Kern, Porter, Rodgers and Hammerstein… that and maybe Gian Carlo Menotti art songs. So this music was in my voice and very dear to me.
James wrote some initial lyrics centered around the concept of “Is it Love?” and then I started working on the melody. I still have an iPhone voice memo of me humming, on the subway platform, what then became the main theme of the tune. From there it was a back and forth getting the structure and lyrics solidified and the chords fully fleshed out in a chart. I recorded a demo of me singing the song with a trio and found the best arranger I could for that sound. James had a personal connection with Jane’s voice so once we got her on board, we had our team. We left the song for the last session of three long days and the moment the downbeat played through the monitors, we all erupted with joy. It was a very cathartic experience for me and for a lot of us I think. We invited the musicians into the control room once it was tracked and we listened through it all together. I hope the affection that we had for this song really shines through.
Given its classical, often chamber-like approach, do you think “Indignation” is a score that could live on as a concert work as well?
I have thought about that often. I think there is something in the material that still excites me and would lend itself to some significant expansion. I was able to expand the opening piano cue with orchestra for the first part of the end credits or “Can You Hear Me? (Extended Version)” on the album. I gave it some development and growth in the string orchestrations and counter lines. Given the opportunity, I’d be thrilled to revisit the material for a time and create a concert version.
What’s up ahead for you?
I just finished recording and mixing another feature at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music, where I recorded “Indignation.” I hope to be able to tell more about that soon. There are a couple of feature projects in the ether and a few smaller passion projects with friends that will be coming out over the next few months. I’m keeping myself pretty busy but always looking for new opportunities to collaborate and try something different.
So, that, a little vacation and some sleep. Yeah… Sleep sounds good.
“Indignation” opens in theaters on July 29th, with Jay Wadley’s score available on Nettwerk Records HERE
Visit Jay Wadley’s Web Page HERE
Lakeshore Records will release [a.18427]Carnage Park - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack digitally on [da.2016-08-05]August 5, 2016. The album features the original score by composer [c.9898]Giona Ostinelli.
"I wanted to write a score reminiscent of a traditional Western, however reinvent the genre at the same time," described Ostinelli. "To achieve that, there was a lot of experimentation involved: I recorded an acoustic piano and fed the signal through an amp, I blew onto the piano strings and recorded the resonance, I recorded my breath and utilized it as a rhythmic element, I recorded a string quartet and then transformed its sound into something completely disturbing and terrifying--I wanted to demonstrate how frightening and sinister a string quartet could be as a...
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.1550]J. Ralph ([m.46901]Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool), [c.1240]Rob Simonsen ([m.44670]Bastards), [c.1781]Saunder Jurriaans and [c.8161]Danny Bensi ([m.46935]Barry), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 36 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2016-7-18]Click here for the full schedule.
Opening nationwide this week are (with music by): [m.39715]Ice Age: Collision Course ([c.45]John Debney), [m.44827]Lights Out ([c.1354]Benjamin Wallfisch), and [m.42919]Star Trek Beyond ([c.534]Michael Giacchino).
Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking song...
Varèse Sarabande will release the [a.17144]Star Trek Beyond Music From The Motion Picture digitally worldwide on [da.2016-07-22]July 22 and on CD [da.2016-07-29]July 29, 2016. The album features original music by [c.534]Michael Giacchino.
"To me it feels like an episode of the original series, but on a much grander scale. The crew is now on their five-year mission embarking on a completely new emotional journey than we have previously seen," said Giacchino. "It's been a chance to create a new musical landscape for the film that reflects both hope and exploration."
[m.42919]Star Trek Beyond, directed by Justin Lin, marks Giacchino's third film in the franchise. It will be in theaters, REAL3D and IMAX 3D on [dt.2016-07-22]July 22,...
Varèse Sarabande will release the [a.17197]Jesse Stone: The Ultimate Collection digitally and on CD [da.2016-08-05]August 5, 2016. The two-disc collection features music from all nine [t.]Jesse Stone films composed by [c.674]Jeff Beal.
"I love telling stories in music, bringing a character to life with sound," said Beal. "I'm so incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to create music for the nine [t.]Jesse Stone films represented on this collection."
"From the very beginning, Robert [Harmon, Director], Tom [Selleck] and Michael [Brandman, Executive Producer] shared with me this idea that the character and life of Jesse are what these films are about; our score should emanate from Jesse's emotional world and space, and the crime drama is subservient to...
The 10th Tenerife International Film Music Festival (FIMUCITÉ) will open on September 23rd with the concert "Lalo Schifrin's Jazz Goes to Hollywood" in the Infanta Leonor Auditorium in Los Cristianos. The Big Band de Canarias, led by the renowned saxophonist Kike Perdomo, will play some of the most known works of the Argentinian musician, composer of the score for the TV series [t.]Mission: Impossible.
The opening concert repertoire of FIMUCITÉ X will include [c.193]Lalo Schifrin's pieces for film classics such as [m.4519]The Cincinnati Kid (1965), [m.5084]Cool Hand Luke (1967), [m.3505]Bullit (1968) and [m.7739]Enter the Dragon (1973), Bruce Lee's last film. The soloist Alba Serrano will be performing at this opening recital.
The tickets for this first concert...