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“I’ve always been passionate about culturally-significant movies and music, and tend to gravitate toward edgy, disruptive counter-culture so go with film projects that have something to say about cultural convention and alternatives with potential to advocate for fresh, unique perspectives,” clarifies Randall Poster (THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, BOYHOOD, THE INTERN, THE HANGOVER, SKYFALL, THE AVIATOR, SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE, SCHOOL OF ROCK (Grammy-nominated soundtrack), MEET THE PARENTS, VELVET GOLDMINE, RUSHMORE, GUMMO, HBO’s BOARDWALK EMPIRE, and upcoming VINYL) when asked how he works on film music supervision movies.
A Brown University grad, Mr. Poster reflects on igniting his then-nascent music supervision career kindling “when I co-wrote a script and produced a movie (the 1990 Sundance-premiered A MATTER OF DEGREES, that won the CMJ (College Music Journal’s soundtrack of the year) and was the default guy to handle the music. During the process, I realized I was in my element so decided music supervision was what I should be doing.”
A Sundance Awards jury member (World Cinema Dramatic Competition) at this year’s festival and Cinema Cafe panelist, Mr. Poster conveys that he realized early on while making A MATTER OF DEGREES how music supervision falls into the Producer camp of film business responsibilities.
“When I was young, I started to notice how music in movies enhanced making me feel stuff while I was watching. Music in The Beatles’ HARD DAYS NIGHT, THE GODFATHER, etc. made significant impressions on me. I like challenges, and working toward securing music in movies and TV is generally always complicated because of how music publishing, rights, record business performance masters ownership, and performance rights organizations are structured.
There’s also the ‘the human dimension’ factor, as in, handling rights-administrator research and personality quirks. We’re often as much psychologists and personality negotiators as we are musicologist go-to folks.”
To make his point during his Cinema Cafe presentation, he offers film clip show-and-tell of movies he feels influenced his early music-in-film emotional impressions, as well as films he has music supervised or soundtrack-produced.
“When Wes (Anderson) and I started our creative collaboration together on BOTTLE ROCKETS and RUSHMORE, I came to appreciate he has clear ideas for songs and music, chooses many prior to filming, and we overcame our first clearance challenge with Cat Stevens’ (now Yusuf Islam) HERE COMES MY BABY. At the time, he wasn’t licensing music for media projects but we learned he’d founded schools overseas, so since RUSHMORE was set in a school, that’s what we emphasized, it appealed to him, and he agreed to license us the track.”
He expands, “life is often ’round,’ and stuff pans out differently than initially planned. When working with Todd Phillips on VELVET GOLDMINE, we went to (David) Bowie, R.I.P., because the picture was set during that Ziggy (Stardust), glam rock period. But it turned out, David felt the story was just too close to his own actual career course, so opted out and left us without the tracks we needed. Luckily, I work with bands and rock musicians – Brian Ferry was thankfully supportive – and I also knew of Craig Wedren (SCHOOL OF ROCK, LAUREL CANYON, ANCHORMAN, ROGER DODGER) of the rock act SHUDDER TO THINK. Their sound has a similar glam flair, so we just swapped Bowie tracks with Wedren compositions.”
“On SCHOOL OF ROCK, Richard (Linklater, Oscar winner BOYHOOD, BEFORE SUNRISE, DAZED AND CONFUSED) and writer Mike White’s (NACHO LIBRE, THE GOOD GIRL, ORANGE COUNTY, FREAKS AND GEEKS) rock music knowledge helped us tremendously. Of course, Jack Black’s magic didn’t hurt also.”
Advancing his ongoing Wes Anderson collaboration on the 2004 picture THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU, Mr. Poster describes a reversal of sentiment with David Bowie.
“We wanted a Spanish vibe for Mark’s (DEVO’s Mothersbaugh (THE ROYAL TENNENBAUMS, RUSHMORE, LORDS OF DOGTOWN) score but also again, we wanted Bowie material as a theme for Bill’s (Murray) character. I guess this time, Bowie didn’t feel our story was at all related to his real life and he responded to it, so he gave us his blessing to use nine of his songs.
Wes and I would meet on Sundays to review the prior week’s edit assembly progress and actor Seu Jorge did bossa nova versions of the Bowie stuff that worked really well.”
Asked about the various creative processes and preferences of score composers, Mr. Poster offers contrast with, “some composers come in early to the production and want to know what source songs are being considered. Often it’s the composers who come from rock and pop backgrounds like Mothersbaugh, Wedren, etc., and others like Thomas Newman (JARHEAD, SKYFALL, SAVING MR. BANKS) don’t want to be involved with the source tracks process.”
“Sometimes creative perspective conflict and fighting amongst project creative team members can result in improved magic. As I’m getting older, I fight and cry less now than when I started as stuff inevitably sometimes goes sideways. I’ll suggest to a filmmaker that they reconsider her or his decision on a particular track when it feels ‘bigger’ or greater than the material warrants, as in, if it just seems the sequence or scene hasn’t earned a song or track that already has an elevated stature, or is popularly iconic.
I’m excited that the HBO VINYL series (executive produced by Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger) is epic enough to validate a combination of hot original and classic tracks from my playlists.”
There’s a muscular, solitary spirit that hails from The Great White Nord, as well as a natural eccentricity. Perhaps that might explain the individualistic, off-kilter spirit running through even the most bombastic multiplex movies that Icelander Atli Örvarsson has scored in Hollywood. Drawn to Hans Zimmer’s orbit like so many talented western European composers (if geographically located on a mostly frozen volcanic land mass), Örvarsson rose through such American TV shows as “Dragnet” and “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” to impress with his surreal film scores for “Babylon A.D.” and “The Fourth Kind.” With Viking blood no doubt in his family tree, Örvarsson also showed a talent for sword-swinging history in “Season of the Witch” and “The Eagle,” as well as the gonzo, gargantuan fantasies of “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” and “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.”
Örvarsson is a composer rarely given the chance to go musically small when characters are speaking English (excepting the powerful “A Single Shot”). But given the opportunity to not only score, but associate produce a critically acclaimed homegrown dramedy, Örvarsson delivers his very effective version of an unplugged soundtrack with “Rams,” a proudly offbeat affirmation of his musical identity that shows just as much emotional power in its rustic, instrumental simplicity.
Directed by Grímur Hákonarson (“Summerland”), “Rams” tells the often humorous parable of the two aged Bolstadar brothers, going about their business of shepherding with no words spoken between them in fifty years – despite the fact that they live right next door to each other in the middle of nowhere. The loves of their lives are their male sheep (though not in that way) that they preen for championship titles with all the order of mothers prepping beauty contestants. When their woolen-fleeced families are suddenly attacked by the dreaded, infectious disease of scrapie, the authorities force them to annihilate their herds. The slightly more gregarious Gummi (Sigurður Sigurjónsson) can’t bring himself to wipe out his loved ones, enraging his jealous, alcoholic sibling Kiddi (Theodór Júlíusson) all the more.
What follows is battle of wills, as towering as that of any bitter, rival ranchers in a Hollywood western – though as translated to two old coots in a landscape that would make mincemeat of John Wayne. Communicating a prairie sound that an uninformed listener might indeed mistake for movie about terribly lone cowboys riding a forbidding range, Örvarsson’s beautifully spare, yet striking themes for strings, accordion, organ and piano hears “Rams’” visual sparseness with haunting lyricism for a dying way of life. It’s a powerful, melodic simplicity that also speaks for these brothers’ stubborn family history on a tundra where the human-animal bond goes 1,000 years back, emotion that’s especially important when the subtitled dialogue is at a premium. The score’s bleakness also serves as a deadpan contrast to “Rams’” sly, quirky humor that makes the movie surprisingly engaging. In short, you’d have no idea that the man behind “Vantage Point” or “The Perfect Guy” had anything to do with this score, which says much about how effectively Atli Örvarsson has reclaimed his musical Icelandic identity with these critically acclaimed, oddball herders.
What makes an Icelander? Do you think there’s a national character, or approach to life as such that separates it from other Nordic countries?
I do think there’s definitely an Icelandic national character, as there is for most, or perhaps all nations. I used play this game in airports where, if I saw someone who I for some reason thought was Icelandic, I’d try to listen in and see if I was right. Usually I was! It’s actually a fascinating subject – what makes a nation and their characteristics? So much of it is in the unspoken, body language, etc. The Icelanders are fiercely independent, slightly arrogant, not too terribly disciplined yet very lovely and fun to be around. The Viking blood is very much alive and well too, so the explorer gene makes us want to go abroad and travel. That might explain why a nation of roughly 300.000 people has two international airlines!
How did music first touch you in Iceland, let alone the idea of having a career as a Hollywood film composer?
I got it from both of my parents and my extended family so I’ve been immersed in it all along. Icelanders have, or at least used to have, this urge to sing when they get together, especially if they’ve had a little bit to drink! I grew up taking music lessons, playing in all kinds of ensembles from rock’n’roll to jazz to classical so I had a very broad musical upbringing. My first professional gig was actually as a trumpet player in a pit orchestra for a production of “My Fair Lady” when I was 13. I’ve often wondered if that was the seed that spawned my love for the intersection of music and drama. But it was really at Berklee College of Music that I got exposed to writing for the screen. I immediately fell in love with it.
It’s not often that you see a composer also serving duty as the associate producer of a film he scores. How did “Rams” come your way, and what made you decide to take a major additional behind the scenes roll in it?
I had been interested in doing some more work in European cinema so I decided to go and meet filmmakers there at this film festival in Les Arcs in the French Alps. Ironically, most of the people I met were from Iceland. One of them was Grímar Jónsson, the main producer of “Rams.” He told me he was making this film about two brothers who live on farms right next to each other but haven’t spoken in forty years. I asked him where he was shooting and it turns out one of the locations was a farm where my grandfather farmed and my mother was born! I basically told him that I HAD to do the music but we still had to convince the director that I was the right guy. So he went on Youtube and listened to my stuff from some Hollywood films and determined that I was most certainly not the right guy for his social realism drama! Of course we laugh about it now but I can understand how he came to that conclusion based on what he heard. I wasn’t going to give up though and wrote this long, heartfelt email about my personal connection to the film and he eventually was convinced.
Since my family is from the valley where Rams was shot I was able to help out a little bit with the production using my connections there, which evolved into me being offered an associate producer role. Filmmaking is perhaps a less regimented industry in Iceland than in Hollywood with that kind of instance, and I think it was really just a gut decision by Grímur to ask me to be involved in this capacity. It’s definitely been a fun experience!
What were your greatest challenges during the production of the film? Do you think that your past composing experiences set you up for the moviemaking process?
The biggest challenge for small European films seems to always be the same: to secure the funding for making the damn thing! A film like this is a real labor of love and it’s a financial risk to make a movie about two old brothers and their sheep. I think every film project teaches you something new about the process of making movies. So yes, my past experiences definitely came in handy!
Was the approach obvious to make “Rams” a spare, solitary score?
It was. As Grímur, the film’s director, pointed out in the beginning of the process, the main characters live most of their lives in silence and out in nature. So the score needed to be very quiet and perhaps stoic, which was a nice challenge as most of my previous films have been big and loud!
How did you choose which instruments that you wanted to use in “Rams,” especially given that there aren’t too many of them in the score?
Well, that’s exactly the point. Most regular people in a remote Icelandic valley don’t have a lot of instruments around, and they never did. We’re talking about organs, violins, accordions and perhaps a piano. The voice really is the “instrument” that’s most used around there and originally we talked about using choirs and vocals but in the end, even that felt overpowering.
How would you describe “Icelandic” music and its origins, and how they played into “Rams?”
Icelandic music is quite affected by the fact that, back in the day, the church there basically banned musical instruments for quite some time. Hence, it’s mostly a vocal tradition up until the 20th century and a lot of it is in parallel fifths, which were mostly abandoned, in Western music after the Renaissance. So maybe it’s a bit of a time capsule in that sense. There’s also this melodic folk song tradition that is very big in Iceland. In general, I think Icelandic music and the musical preference of the people there is very melody-driven. I think all these aspects are present in the score that I wrote. Of course, as I mentioned, we opted against singing. But the parallel fifths and that melodic tradition are both very much there.
Could you talk about your personal identification with “Rams” location, as well as its music?
Rams is a very personal project for me. As I mentioned before, my mother’s family is literally from the location of the film! My great, great grandfather was the organ player at the church in the valley and shortly before shooting started I was sitting with the producer and director of the film (Grímur and Grímar) discussing the music. I was about to go back to the US for the winter and this idea came up that it might a good experiment to get the keys to the church and record something on the organ there. So I took an engineer, a laptop and some mics and basically started jamming. My father had passed along a few months earlier and I had inherited his accordion so I brought that along as well. Basically, the main theme of the film is what came out of that one-man jam. I started just improvising on the accordion and then overdubbed the organ. It was a terrific moment and somehow just perfect for the tone of the film. Grímur would then play this piece that I recorded for the actors before they went on set, so I feel that this piece of music became very much an organic part of their performances and, hence, the film as a whole.
How important was being on the “set” of “Rams” to composing its score?
In a way I feel like I was on the set of “Rams” from time to time since I was born! Even though I grew up in a nearby town, we’d go and visit the countryside every now and then. So the location, the people, even the story felt quite familiar!
Given that the humor is so droll and quirky in “Rams,” was it a challenge to capture that laid-back quality to the film’s eccentricity?
Well, everything about the film is somewhat laid back. In a way, the score is really more of a character in the film than a typical underscore that mimics the action or emotion on screen. So I wasn’t really “scoring” the humor a much as just co-existing with it.
Conversely, “Rams” also strikes me as a terribly sad score. Do you think its sense of tragedy also adds to the incredibly subtle humor, as well as its unexpectedly moving emotion?
Perhaps so. I think the humor in the film would very much have fallen flat if I had been trying to mimic it in the music. But then, the accordion has become a bit of a quirky instrument over the years and maybe the sound of that alone, even though it’s playing a sad tune, was enough to give it just the right amount of humorous color.
At around forty minutes into “Rams.” the music takes a major tonal shift with the arrival of winter. Do you think your use of the organ and piano bring a sense of dread to it?
That’s the point where the piano is first introduced and yes, I felt that these sparse piano chords had the right character to depict the loneliness of winter in a remote Icelandic valley. I actually had originally written that theme for a string quartet but we found that the piano was more effective.
Given that these brothers barely speak, let alone to each other, how important was it for the music to get inside of their characters?
It never really was my intention for the music to get “inside” of either one of their characters. It is more a case of the music commenting on the whole situation and the story as a whole. But then, even the ending is open to interpretation, so it seemed like the right thing to do, to not steer the audience too much in one direction or another. It’s a bit of a dichotomy I suppose, the music kind of has its own voice and existence in the film, yet doesn’t comment too much on it, yet seems to be curiously organic to the whole thing…
There are particularly haunting Icelandic songs on the soundtrack. How did you choose them, and could you talk a bit about Icelandic “popular” music that people were listening to long before the days of Bjork?
I suggested a couple of the songs and singers we chose, mostly just stuff that I really love! One of the song titles, “I Fögrum Dal,” literally means “In a beautiful valley” and it’s a song about loving your land that seemed very fitting for these guys. They love their land and their animals more than anything else. Most of the songs in “Rams” are performed by famous and beloved singers in Iceland such as Haukur Martens and Stefán Íslandi. Once again, the strong vocal tradition was very much present in popular music throughout the centuries and I think our song choices reflect that.
Given that you’ve done a fair amount of massively symphonic and electronic scores, was it a nice break to do something as deceptively “simple” as “Rams?”
It was both nice and very challenging. It’s a bit hard to go from writing very complex, symphonic/electronic music to relying on just one accordion! Having said that, I find that the real process of scoring films is more or less the same regardless of the genre or style. You have to just live and breathe the film and eventually you get into character and learn what it needs.
What’s the process been like of shepherding “Rams” about the Awards season?
It’s been great fun! Obviously it went off to a very good start with winning the Un certain regard prize at Cannes but it’s been one success after the next since then. I haven’t really been involved in the festival circuit much before but I really love it because it’s about the appreciation of cinema.
Do you hope that the critical success you’ve found with “Rams” (100% on Rotten Tomatoes so far) will inspire other composers to take the gamble on producing as well?
I’m not sure if I really have any sort of an opinion about that. I never set out to be a producer but this project just fell into my lap and it’s really the personal connection that I have with it and the location where it was shot that brought the producing aspect to me. Perhaps the moral of the story is to be open to trying something new and pursuing crazy ideas/
You’ve continued to segue between big studio films like “Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters” and “Mortal Instruments” to far less commercial foreign ones like “”Colette” and “The Homecoming.” Do you find yourself switching between the “Hollywood” and “art” approach in the process?
Yes, I think that’s a fair assessment. I like to be a chameleon and I really just love trying new things. Each film is like a puzzle that has to be solved, which I find intellectually stimulating, and going between genres and styles makes it artistically stimulating.
Does “Rams” give you the taste to try your hand at producing a bigger, more mainstream American production?
I can’s say that I’m planning to get into producing films for the sake of producing films but if something that moves me came along I might try it again. For me it’s really about the right project and telling an interesting, compelling story.
What do you want people to take away from “Rams” when it comes to what it takes to be an Icelander, and the nature of your country’s more rustic music?
I really just wanted to be as honest as I could in “Rams.” What people take out of it is up to them. I imagine they see a people with big pride, big hearts and a very dry sense of humor and that’s probably pretty close to the truth!
“Rams” opens in theaters of February 6th, with Atli Örvarsson’s score available now on Lakeshore Records HERE
Visit Atli Örvarsson ‘s website HERE
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.2962]Anne Nikitin ([m.45549]This Beautiful Fantastic), [c.234]Gabriel Yared ([m.44574]It's Only the End of the World), [c.1337]Paul Hepker ([m.45537]Shepherds and Butchers), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 31 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2016-1-25]Click here for the full schedule.
Opening nationwide this week are (with music by): [m.45104]Fifty Shades of Black ([c.5043]Jim Dooley), [m.42054]The Finest Hours ([c.24]Carter Burwell), and [m.35215]Kung Fu Panda 3 ([c.3342]Paul Mounsey).
Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking song credits...
Few English composers have gotten to score the stylistic extremes of America like the creatively and physically pugnacious Stephen Raynor-Endelman, a musician of all emotional trades if there ever was one. A musical prodigy who’d write two operas by the wage of 18, Endelman moved to New York to start fulfilling a movie scoring career with such individualistic, eccentric scores as “Household Saints” “Postcards from America” and “Imaginary Crimes.” His music depicting rough and tumble lives with humanity to spare before going back to the British and Irish isles with the romantic comedy, and fatherly drama of “The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain” and “Evelyn.” But it was Endelman’s wacked-out way with rhythm that helped spur “Flirting with Disaster’s” cross-country identity crisis. He’d sailing the southern byways of “The Journey of August King” and “Tom and Huck,” use head-smashing percussion for “City of Industry,” kicked ass for David Mamet with “Redbelt” and battle cancer for the show “Chasing Life.” Endelman also accompanied Mahler himself with “Bride of the Wind” and adapted the music of Cole Porter in “De-Lovely,” getting a Grammy nomination for its album. These are but a few of the entries in an impressive near-death career that’s ranged from the blazingly orchestral to the wackily unplugged for Endelman’s distinctive, ever-striving voice that’s survived by being a force of nature.
Now as a new year begins, two scores prove an impressive contrast in Endelman’s keen musical psychology. And there are certainly warped, percussive brain cells to play inside the head of “Madoff,” an ABC miniseries that has Richard Dreyfuss using his mensch-ish charisma to mask an evil genius whose pyramid scheme horrifically collapsed on thousands of investors, let alone his own seemingly oblivious family. Greed is indeed good in Endelman’s score that teams him again with director Raymond De Felitta, who provided the composer with some of his most humane work in “Two Family House” and “Rob the Mob.” Here, it’s a feeling of coldness that rules “Madoff,” clever samples embodying rushing dollar signs and clanging cash registers, as contrasted with a chamber orchestra that gives a classic sense of villainy to high finance’s most infamous figure. The musical tricks that “Madoff’s” score might use are high tech, but Endelman’s effective use of strings that let us know it’s a sad tale of hubris as old as time that’s bound to come crumbling down.
Conversely, it’s Endelman’s music that captures the honestly can-do, faith-based Americana spirit of “Greater.” Like “Rudy,” this sports biopic is about a completely unlikely guy on the field, if one who is certainly not small in stature. Described as “the greatest walk-on in college football,” the giant Brandon Burlsworth (Christopher Severio) made an attention capturing play with the Razorbacks that would likely have made him a legend with the Indianapolis Colts. However, tragedy intervenes with his NFL destiny, leaving Brandon’s devastated brother Marty (Neal McDonough) to recover his own shattered belief. But as opposed to the kind of “big game” scoring one might expect here. Endelman takes a more intimate path with affecting, rustic Americana that get across Brian’s homegrown roots and Christianity, a tender piano as mighty as 100 orchestral players. While “Greater” certainly makes some big patriotic plays, it’s capturing a poignant spirit of an ever-optimistic individual that’s gives this powerful score its winning, soaring play – as well as Endelman’s own in real life.
“Madoff” reteams you with director Raymond De Felitta, who’s provided you with some of your best films, and scores with “Two Family House” and “Rob the Mob.” How would you describe your partnership, and why it works so well?
It’s the best. We understand each other’s sensibilities. He trusts me to give him something new and original each time. I’m respectful of Raymond’s vision, and “Madoff” was no exception. Raymond sent me the script I read all 4 hours that night and the following morning went to my studio and started to compose the first theme, which was Bernie’s. Raymond and David Leornard, his long time editor, don’t like to use temporary soundtracks, so I’m always sure to provide original music for the first day of principle photography. David then plays around with the music and asks for additional cues and so on and so forth. By the mix of the show everyone had chimed in, but the “Madoff” score was still pretty much as I had originally intended it, only embedded in the film. It’s an extremely elegant way to work but it requires trust and collaboration between all the parties. Luckily our producer Linda Berman was respectful and detailed on the program. This was a blessed project for me.
Your scores have dealt with overtly criminal and violent enterprises before in “City of Industry” and “Rob the Mob.” What do you think makes musical “white collar” crime different?
In a nutshell, violent crime has a grittiness that allows one to be edgy and dark. “City of Industry” is probably my darkest score as it uses low tones, low percussion and the haunting Bulgarian folk fiddle. “Rob the Mob,” whilst dark, is also a romance if not a little peculiar. I think when you’re dealing with dark people who do bad things to others you need to be conscious of what makes them tick. Bernie Madoff is no exception. He’s almost Shakespearean, so I needed a balance between the big-hearted family man and the sociopath who is devoid of morality. That was quite a challenge, especially given Richard Dreyfuss’ own Shakespearean performance and the requirements of the ABC network.
When you first heard about the Bernie Madoff scandal, what were your thoughts? Did you know anybody who was a victim of him?
I did not know anyone and of course I was very disturbed. However, I find Bernie Madoff a fascinating person, a sociopath who never made one investment. I looked at him as a classic antihero – loved by all, but evil to the core. That’s what makes him and his story interesting. Subsequently I’ve met people who lost money with him, a family member who ran his charity and one of the lawyer trustees who was trying to get the investors’ money returned. The later was the most fascinating, as she’s going after the banks that knowingly took billions of dollars in fees. There is a parallel between Bernie Madoff and the Boston priest sexual abuse story in “Spotlight,” though none of those leading figures will ever do time. I always find that disturbing. Even if these stories are historic, if people are guilty they should be found guilty. I’d like to see the statue of limitations in the U.S. removed in certain types of crime, if not all.
If you’ve ever been the victim of having your financial, or creative trust violated by someone you thought was infallible, how did you channel that emotion into this score?
That’s a very complicated question. I don’t know that I’ve ever been violated creatively, or not that I know of. However, I have felt betrayed and perhaps that does translate into this score. There are some unusual choices of harmony and counterpoint to some textures that grate in places. Perhaps that comes from betrayal. In hindsight, perhaps some of the disconnected rhythms in the strings might allude to emotional violation.
As a composer who takes pride in their Jewish identity, were you angry with Bernie Madoff on the level of someone who gave ammunition to those who viewed Jews as devious manipulators of high finance who didn’t care how much destruction they caused?
Naturally I wish Madoff were a WASP. But alas, when you see the show and you learn a little more about what motivated him you begin to understand his madness. There are bad apples in every box. Unfortunately he’s one of the worst, and a Jew. However, him being sentenced to 150 years? I question why the banks and financial institutions aren’t doing time as well. For the most part the score is in minor keys. There is a little flavor of modal harmony but it’s not a traditional “Jewish” sounding score. Having said that, Jewish music is in my blood as much as it was in Mahler’s. My music has a plaintive quality, a sense of yearning even when it’s happy. That however has perhaps more to do with personality than Jewishness. I’m also a mutt, a British- Dutch-Russian Jew. I think the British side comes across in movies like “The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain. But only time will tell!
Nowadays the “event’ miniseries all seem to be on cable channels. What do you think makes “Madoff” unique for one of the few recent times we’ve seen a project like this on a network?
It’s shot by a brilliant filmmaker who saw his vision and has put it on the small screen. It doesn’t compromise. “Madoff” is gritty and very detailed. Is that unique for network television? It also challenges the audience yet it’s extremely entertaining, gripping and informative. Is that also a function of television? The famous NBC executive Pat Weaver certainly thought so.
Do you see “Madoff” as a tragedy? And if so, why should we even feel sorry for him or his family?
No. The tragedy is the people he stole from. However, he was not alone. Greed fueled many people who also knew him. They knew something had to be up, but they didn’t want to deal with it because they were all making so much money.
Part of the score is rooted in a chamber string approach, while the other uses a more modernistic rhythmic approach. How did you arrive at that balance? And what kind of instruments did you use to achieve it?
I balanced a string quartet with modern percussion and unusual personal sounds I created for “Madoff.” I wanted to find a way to drive the show and at the same time write musical lines that related to the characters and their development. That’s always my approach. “Madoff” was a wonderful tapestry for this and for me, very rich indeed.
How did you want to play the “ticking clock” quality that builds to the inevitable point when Madoff’s pyramid scheme collapses?
I did that in two ways by increasing the tempo as the cues progressed and accelerating it within the cues.
Would you say there’s an off-kilter quality to “Madoff’s” music, something that doesn’t quite “connect” in its score, much like Madoff’s inability to realize how he’s truly victimizing people?
The music is off kilter rather like “The Fiddle on the Roof.” It’s very grounded in its point of view but it has a designed oddness that reflects the way Richard Dreyfuss plays Bernie.
Now let’s move onto “Greater.” Were you familiar with Brian Burlsworth before taking on the film? And once doing so, what was your process like to capture his indomitable spirit?
I had no idea who Brandon Burlsworth was and I know nothing about college football. However, like “Madoff,” when I first saw a very rough cut of the film with no temp, I went to work and wrote themes. They are still in the movie.
Did any great sports scores, especially football-themed ones, play inspiration to your own approach, especially as this your first “true” sports score as such?
Yes, especially “Field of Dreams.” The producers and I discussed a lot of scores like that.
Most sports scores are done about iconic figures, many of who have had their careers cut short by fate. What kind of weight do you think this puts on you as a composer to “live up” to the legend, without getting over-sentimental in your approach – especially as “Greater” is a “faith-based” movie?
That’s a very subjective question. This is a heartfelt sports film that looks at a young mans faith. Brandon believed so profoundly that he had a mission and that his God would help him get there. He believed, and that’s what attracted me to the film. Over sentimental is very hard. It’s an orchestral score with real themes that develop. It’s also about a hero, a young man, troubled for sure, but strong enough to overcome his obstacles and achieve his dream.
How did you want Brian’s strong Christian beliefs to be reflected in the score, as well as the rustic, “Americana” quality of his upbringing?
I tried to steer away from any religious quality to the music. Instead I went for a very simple and plaintive piano melody that our director David Hunt and his co-writer Brian Reindl fell in love with. It’s a seven-note phrase that repeats at various times in the film.
The piano usually doesn’t usually play a big part in “sports” scores. Why did you accentuate the instrument here?
Simply put, the piano in this context becomes Brandon’s inner voice. He was deeply religious, a pious young man and the simplicity of the piano best expressed that.
Were those kind of soaring, Americana “big” speech or big game moments in any sports score something you were looking forward to here?
Yes but that’s not really what this score is about. The biggest moment is a four-minute cue where Brandon trains very hard. There are other moments like when Brandon goes into the stadium for the first time. There’s also the “We Trust” cue where Brandon’s brother Marty realizes his faith, having lost it with his brother’s untimely death.
You might be the only movie composer who can actually punch out someone in the boxing ring. Do you think any of that “musical” discipline as such translates to football?
I don’t know if I could punch someone out today! But yes, as a classical musician, I work very hard practicing every day. I feel the same why as a sports person who has to work on all aspects of his game. I write everyday I practice my technique. I study. I listen to music. I read scores. But mainly I just go to work and write. I have a set of skills that thus far have not let me down. I get to do something I love I’m a very lucky person. On occasion I get to make a few bob (money)
As an English-born composer, you’ve done a considerable amount of scores about all facets of the “American” experience from the working class of “Household Saints” and “A Bronx Tale” to the returning veterans of “Home of the Brave” and its wealthy excesses like “Madoff” and the best of its spirit in “Greater.” How do you think living in this country and working on more artistically driven projects have influenced your work?
I think I love the characters of each movie or TV project I’ve ever done. Even Bernie Madoff. Not literally, but musically. I’ve been very lucky, whether it be Harvey Keitel in “Imaginary Crimes,” Kevin Kline in “De-Lovely” or Pierce Brosnan in “Evelyn.” I fall in love with their characters and I try to develop music around them and their situations. One of my biggest thrills was leaning late last year in an article I happened to stumble upon was learning that the main theme from “The Englishman” was used by NBC for both the Los Angeles and Beijing Olympics. In Los Angeles they used it for Ali lighting the torch.
You’ve gone through more health scares and seemingly improbable recoveries than most composers can imagine. How important was music to your survival? And did that essentially make you the perfect composer to score a cancer survivor show like “Chasing Life?”
Music saved my life. I lay in my hospital bed at UCLA for seven months listening to a playlist of six symphonic works, all slow movements from my favorite symphonies, always getting anxious if the battery on my iPhone would die. Those pieces and their tempos and orchestral forces reached into brain and heart and helped save me. Yes, “Chasing Life” was very interesting to score. Not because of the music per say, but because each week I got to see if they were doing it right. It’s about a young woman getting AML that’s an aggressive blood cancer, leukemia. She has a transplant I had a transplant. They got it right even if it got a little soapy. Being in a hospital bed for seven months is no fun. I was in a coma for almost three months. My family and friends and doctors had no idea if I’d recover walk, talk or write music again. When I woke up I could talk. But I could not walk or move my hands I’d atrophied, and all I wanted to do was to get back to writing music. It’s taken a few years to really recover both physically, emotionally, medically and spiritually. But I have, and last year I was pronounced cured. It’s a very strange feeling, but also an empowering one.
You’ve also been open about sexual abuse that happened to you as a young man. How do you want to channel this experience into a film called “A Boy, A Man and His Kite,” and what do you want people to get out of it?
I’m using a short film I’ve written, and which Raymond De Felitta has agreed to film, as a launching pad for my charity Consent. Consent is a word that’s not given its fullest meaning nor taught. I recently was a witness for the prosecution in a historic sexual abuse case. I went to London to confront my abuser or at least look at him. It was a three-week trial. It was the most empowering feeling I’ve ever had when the Forman of the jury said 25 times “Guilty.” Both me and one other witness held hands and cried. Our abuser Trevor Bolton was given a life sentence. As a result of that case and the events leading up to my abuse 38 years ago, I’ve decided to adjust my name to Stephen Raynor-Endelman. Rather like wavering my anonymity for the BBC, as my birth name was Raynor and my stepfather’s name was Endelman. You will see that name on both “Greater” and “Madoff.”
If Bernie Madoff ever gets to see this miniseries, what do you want him to think when he hears your score?
I don’t know that I give a shit what Bernie thinks of my music. His opinion has no importance to me, nor anyone else. I hope people at large enjoy the music as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Conversely, how do you want “Greater’s” score to inspire people, whether they’re into sports of not?
I want people to enjoy the music and be inspired by the film. If the music helps that, then I’ve done my job.
What’s ahead for you?
My films and a Broadway show. That’s what I’m most excited about today!
Watch “Madoff” on ABC February 3rd and 4th at 8 PM. “Greater” premieres in theaters on January 29th, with Stephen Raynor-Endelman’s score available on Lakeshore Records soon.
Visit Stephen Endelman’s website HERE
Varèse Sarabande will release the [a.17276]Jand Got a Gun - Official Motion Picture Soundtrack digitally on [da.2016-01-29]January 29, 2016. The album features original music by composers [c.560]Lisa Gerrard and [c.1836]Marcello De Francisci.
"The soundtrack score to this film is what you would call a Hollywood western with what we hope is a completely 'fresh and new' approach," said De Francisci.
"Director Gavin O'Connor was looking to find a very signature score to this film while shying away from what is considered the conventional western soundtrack," said De Francisci. "We naturally gravitated to recording a lot of live instruments and editing performances to the point that at times would cross into the realm of sound design. Other areas demanded a quite...
Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) and the Sundance Institute will present the 18th annual Composer/Director Roundtable and 14th annual Snowball during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
BMI's roundtable, "Music & Film: The Creative Process," will take place on Monday, January 25, from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the Samsung Studio (638 Park Ave., Park City, Utah). The conversation will be moderated by Doreen Ringer-Ross, BMI's Vice President of Film/TV Relations. "Music & Film: The Creative Process" is a cornerstone event at the Festival exploring the role of music in film. Focusing on the relationship between composer and director, participants will discuss what goes into creating a successful film score, the ingredients of an effective composer/director relationship,...
Lakeshore Records will release [a.17060]The Boy - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack digitally on [da.2016-01-22]January 22 and on CD [da.2016-02-19]February 19, 2016. The album features the film's original score by [c.1238]Bear McCreary with the original song "In My Dream," written and produced by [c.]Brendan McCreary and performed by Fyfe Monroe.
"The film's success comes from the audience following Greta on her journey of discovery. She begins skeptical that Brahms [the boy] is alive, as any sensible person would be," said McCreary. "This was the character arc I wanted to highlight with the score: Greta's growing relationship with Brahms, and her transformation from skeptic to believer. I knew that if this character arc works, the film works."
Soundtrack Picks: ‘THE REVENANT‘ is the top soundtrack to own for January, 2016
Also worth picking up ASH VS. EVIL DEAD, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 3, STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, 13 HOURS, THE WIND GODS and many more!
To Purchase the soundtracks from this list, click on the CD cover
THE TOP PICKS
1) ASH VS. EVIL DEAD / PAY THE GHOST
Price: $11.99 / $12.49
What is it?: Ever since his rampaging, Necronomicon-opening debut with 1981’s “The Evil Dead,” Joseph LoDuca has been writing the horror score playbook when it comes to musically conjuring all sorts of pesky demons, ghouls and pissed off spirits (not to mention the monster-battling Amazonian fury of Varese’s new “Xena Warrior Princess” box set). No two new scores better represent LoDuca’s musical broomstick when it comes to treating the undead with Bruce Campbell’s’ hilarious swagger, or hearing the real scary deal by doing the DTV sweat with The Cage.
Why should you buy it?: Both Joseph LoDuca and Sam Raimi’s careers were made in a backwoods cabin, a place that proved extreme gore could successfully flow with over-the-top humor. It’s a combo that’s replicated to hilarious, pitch perfect delight for Starz’s “Ash vs. Evil Dead,” proving that the cult movies’ creative team have lost none of their smart-assed energy on the small screen. If anything, the anything-goes boob tube opens up a whole new world of crazed creativity in LoDuca. Given an exceptional, full-on orchestra that’s even more epic than “Army of Darkness,” LoDuca jumps right in with insanely seriousness that practically blasts off the TV set, capturing the series’ outrageous tone with exclamation point music one could imagine accompany a 1950’s drive-in monster flick. LoDuca wields spaz attack dissonance, rampaging brass stabbing strings and subtler elements like creepy female voices with winking effectiveness. His hopelessly vain, likable idiot of a he-man is given trumpeting superhero music that plays Ash’s can-do Deadite- slaying strains. LoDuca is just as brilliant when the music is outrightly laughing at itself, from hitting the slapstick violence with all the mayhem of Bugs Bunny cartoon, hearing the psychedelia of a demonic acid trip or speeding down a highway to hell with heavy metal. There’s even a nice tip of the Spaghetti Western sombrero hat, but with just enough sincere drama to give some emotional weight to a guy realizing he’s a death sentence to everyone foolish enough to join him “Ash Vs. Evil Dead’s” compilation album is a groovy, gonzo delight that shows there’s new, furious musical life to be had in the Necronomicon, not to mention horror television that doesn’t have to be so damned serious all the time.
Extra Special: There’s nothing to laugh at, and quite a bit to get creeped out by in LoDuca’s score for the Nicolas Cage thriller “Pay the Ghost.” Say what you will about so much of the over-working actor’s prolific output ending up on iTunes, but most of it is actually quite entertaining, especially this “Ring”-ish tale of a professor trying to retrieve his witch-napped son from the Twilight Zone. It’s any father’s most unlikely fear, and LoDuca’s relentless use of razor-scraped metallic effects accounts for must of “Ghost’s” completely unsettling effect, its samples joined with hushed, mumbling, gasping children’s voices, as well as the eerie sing-song voice of an Irish sorceress. The Crone’s ethnicity is conjured with striking use of the fiddle, and an organ-backed Gaelic chant of “The Portal Song. And even if “Ghost” can’t pay for the kind of orchestra at “Ash’s” disposal, the intimacy here brings out real ingenuity from the most nightmarish recesses of LoDuca’s sample-driven imagination. While you might smile a bit at its eccentric NYC street marching band music, this “Ghost” is all about jump-scaring the hell out of you at effective and disturbing frequency, plunges the listener into Halloween’s witching hour.
2) EDWARD SCISSORHANDS (Expanded)
What Is it?: From “The Nightmare Before Christmas” to “Sleepy Hollow,” no collaboration between composer and filmmaker has yielded the darkly enchanted fairy tale worlds of Danny Elfman and Tim Burton, even if said land happens to be beautiful downtown Burbank. But that was the charm for the1990 classic “Edward Scissorhands,” in which a dangerously misshapen, cookie cutter man-child found himself adopted into a winter wonderland of candy-colored conformity. At once as beautiful as a snow globe and ironic as a Tupperware party, perhaps the most overriding emotion of “Edward Scissorhands” is the poignant, painful sadness in its parable of how the misunderstood outsider is doomed to fail, something that two iconoclasts like Elfman and Burton likely felt before the made macabre geeks things to be admired. Still arguably the most popular work of these outsider artists, especially given its magical choral theme, “Edward Scissorhands” now gets a gloriously complete release via Intrada Records that’s resplendent in its soaring, melancholy enchantment and sinister suburban-ism.
Why Should You Buy It?: “Edward Scissorhands” was brilliantly conceived by writer Caroline Thompson and Tim Burton as a play on such iconic fairy tale elements as the forbidden castle, helpless maiden and frog prince, as spun for its director’s humorously seditious imagination. The same can be said for Elfman’s music box of a score, from its gossamer, bell-percussion to forbiddingly romantic strings and an alternately magical and gloom-filled female chorus. But the most important element of “Edward Scissorhands” is its gloriously tragic theme that pleads to the heavens for its impossible relationship between cheerleader and construct to work out, its crystalline notes gently falling over their iconic ice grooming scene like snow itself, replete with waltzing magic and the knowledge it will soon dissolve before harsh reality sets in again. That much of “Edward Scissorhands” sings with Gothic repression says just as much about how much Elfman and Burton loved the idea of misunderstood monsters and freaks trying to impossibly adjust to modern worlds they never made, a malefic air that’s pure foggy, old-school horror music stuff, as capable of running from the villagers as it is vengefully attacking them. But in spite of Edward’s travails, it’s the goodness of his heart that proves the stronger emotional force. Sure it’s unbearably sad, yet there’s a sense of hope, and purity that rings through Elfman’s score, capturing the impossibility and attraction of beauty and the beast, as musically imagined as a big ironic commentary to the real creatures that lay in the houses ringed with well-manicured hedges. It’s a sense of absurdity that Elfman is just as gleeful with, from a hair-cutting tango and Gyps violin to the pokey, tinkertoy symphony of its suburban mechanoids heading to work.
Extra Special: Previously available in a the Elfman “music box” set (the special composer salute to end them all with its insane frills), Edward Scissorhands” now gets a stand-alone, far more affordable release that creates a brand new assembly of the score to boot, making it worthy indeed for the many Goth-attuned fans who worship at the Elfman-Burton altar. Original box set book writer Jeff Bond is back as well to elaborate on “Edward’s” musical origins for a presentation that only makes its macabre poignancy an all the more of a lyrically twisted Xmas bedtime story.
3) THE REVENANT
What is it?: Not so much a film as it is a 4-D environmental experience director Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s “The Revenant” is the definition of haunted, existential filmmaking that packs a brutal, poetic punch at every life-threatening turn. It’s also the first movie he’s made where pretention doesn’t get the better of him, especially when it comes to the music, as could be heard to “Birdman’s” incredibly distracting drum score. That is most definitely not the case for The Revenant,” which often plays above a whisper, all the better to mesmerize viewers with its gorgeous, icy visuals.
Why should you buy it?: “The Revenant” counts the triple-threat of Japan’s Ryuichi Sakamoto (“The Sheltering Sky”), German conceptual electronic composer Alva Noto (aka Carsten Nicolia) and Brooklyn-born Bryce Dessner of the Grammy-nominated band The Nationals. While their talents might cross continents, there’s a seamlessness to their music, as natural in its approach as wind rustling through dead leaves, the flow of water, or the haunted limbo between life and death – a place that the a bear-pummeled trapper spends a hypnotic eternity crawling his way through to avenge an native son. Ghosts fill “The Revenant” when people and animals aren’t being murdered at every turn, a portrait of humanity at its most primitive, their callous brutality made all the more powerful by the contrastingly serene, minimal quality of much of the music. Given the most solo spots on the album, Ryuichi Sakamoto is the most symphonically conventional composer making the musical trek here, with such gorgeously lush works as “Wuthering Heights, “Little Buddha” and the Oscar-winning “The Last Emperor” to his credit. His symphonic expressiveness is certainly toned down, but to no less effect in his gentle, mournful theme and slow string melodies, conveying a lyrical sense of regret, if not outright tragedy. Dressner strikes out on his own to impressive orchestral effect for the growing sustains of hallucinatory buffalo, or the creeping, then pounding realization of a commander’s betrayal that a man abandoned to certain death is in fact far from it. But for the most part, “The Revenant” employs its composers in various configurations as it varies from a chamber approach to more emotionally fleshed-out scoring. Poignant strings, feverish rhythms, reverberating electronics and exceptionally subtle tribal percussion and winds occupy space with reversed, buzzing sampling that wouldn’t be out of place accompanying some video instillation piece at a modern museum. Except here, it’s visual hypnosis that you could pretty much spend hours watching.
Extra Special: “The Revenant” is a striking, collaborative combination of muted tradition and ambient high concept that’s completely different than what one might expect from a “western” score. Yet “The Revenant” certainly delivers one in its hauntingly weird way. It’s as much of of a sad, rustic lesson on the futility of violence as you might’ve heard back in the day when western soundtracks were starting to realize the futility of violence – not that nature was playing by any moral rules to begin with. “The Revenant” is as utterly unique and transfixing as the film it accompanies, showing how music and image can be a fully, immersive physical experience without the help of glasses or quaking theater seats. That this Golden Globe winning score has somehow been disqualified from Oscar contention is almost as wrong as getting humped by bear before being buried alive.
4) STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
What is it?: Just as Max Steiner’s thunderous symphonic score for 1933’s “King Kong’ created fantastical film scoring (and film scoring itself) at the dawn of sound era, there can be no underestimating the earthshaking importance of John Williams’ revival of that gloriously melodic, full-blooded approach for 1977’s “Star Wars.” Not only did his majestic, theme-driven approach essentially put orchestral scoring back on the studio map, but it accompanied an equally iconic movie that inspired the imaginations of a whole new generation of filmmakers. Now the circle is essentially complete as Williams returns to the saga that justifiably made him a household name, going from the last, unjustly maligned prequel to truly continue the saga for this wildly overpraised, yet still entertaining film. But if its director J.J. Abrams was hell-bent on essentially packing the plot of the first two “Star Wars” pictures into one, at the least he’s reprised Williams as the continuing voice of these movies’ grand, cosmic scheme of familial betrayal and togetherness. That his music succeeds far better as a listen outside of the “The Force Awakens” than as part of its big, noisy wash of confounding characters and nonsensical plotting says much about how a man who’s arguably the greatest film composer of all time can remain a vital and essential voice of the epic he helped create, even if his cinema-changing musical force might not exactly be with him like before.
Why should you buy it?: “The Force Awakens” isn’t quite on the level of “Star Wars,” “The Empire Strikes Back” or even “Return of the Jedi.” But set yourself up in front of two loud speakers, and there’s much to be impressed by in what “The Force Awakens’” soundtrack does achieve. The first “Star Wars” was a wake up call to Korngoldian action, encouraging little and grown-up kids alike to leap about like Robin Hood, piloting a spaceship as opposed to swinging on a Sherwood Forest vine. So even if we might not be getting something on the eternal musical order of Death Star attack, an asteroid field chase or the fateful love theme of Han and Leia, what we do get here is certainly thrilling, action packed and emotional. The sparkling percussion of the Millennium Falcon is powering the thrusters, the brass is blazing with the blasters, music that strongly delineates the swashbuckling forces of good and the imperious horn section of the bad guys (complete with evil, moaning chorus). Perhaps it’s because Williams is more about hitting the frenetic action and forced character interactions that the music does very well by the moment as opposed to the longer haul, a repeat-and-rinse hollowness of the script that the music can’t help but reflect, with the classic themes doing their best to bridge old and new whenever a familiar friend shows up.
Extra Special: The litmus test of any “Star Wars” score is if it makes us feel the magic that started it all. And that undeniable joy and vitality are very much apparent in the strong, if not instantly classic melodies of “The Force Awakens.” Impeccably performed with all of the soaring lushness that signifies the Williams trademark, it’s a score that proves that even if you can’t go home again as the movie relentlessly tries to, having that emotional thrill of the moment, as scored by the thankfully continuing voice of the “Star Wars’” musical saga, is certainly is far, far away from a bad place to be.
5) TOTAL RECALL” 25th ANNIVERSARY EDITION
What is it?: With his manly, raging brass, God and country patriotism and blazing, syncopated action writing, Jerry Goldsmith’s music could exude sweaty, old-school testosterone like few composers in the business. And no score, or director gave his exuberant tendencies an awesomely excessive workout like Paul Verhoeven in 1990’s “Total Recall,” an Arnold Schwarzenegger epic that sent the secret agent Austrian to Mars to kill a few thousand people and liberate the planet. An eye-popping, balls-out, mind-bending delirium of a sci-fi action film, Verhoeven’s gonzo taste for awesomely staged carnage meant that Goldsmith’s music was running for its life with breathtaking momentum, one thrilling cue ramping into the next chase. Or at least that’s the way we’ve mostly experienced Goldsmith’s score with all of the best rhythmic stuff put together into one cd. Yet what distinguished “Total Recall” was just how smart it was in its seditiousness, putting actual, Philip K. Dick-ian thought about the matter of self-identity in between its carnage, eerie, psychological suspense that Goldsmith played just as effectively. Now Quartet Records unleashes all the atmosphere of Goldsmiths’ titanic work for this dazzling two-CD edition of “Total Recall,” finally giving all the air to both the score’s excitement, and food for thought.
Why should you buy it?: Goldsmith’s machine-gun blazing heroism for Carolco’s “First Blood” and “Rambo” put him in excellent stead for their next, and most ambitious action machine. But what made “Total Recall’ a more interesting proposition for Goldsmith was that its gunplay would be its trippy sci-fi elements, opening up the possibility to really bring mysterious electronics into the mix, along with a sense of cosmic grandeur. Having used spacey synth work to good rhythmic use in “Logan’s Run,” then conveyed the fusion of symphonic and surreal majesty for “Star Trek- The Motion Picture” before throttling through a Jupiter-adjacent mining colony in “Outland,” Goldsmith was in exceptional musical shape for the stylistic demands of “Total Recall.” With the score fully restored on its first CD, we get to appreciate the thematic build-up, as Goldsmith uses ominous strings and bubbling, ultra-computerized music to suggest a machine-enhanced dream state, with danger lurking about every Terran corner, even using synths to replicate radar pings. When the bullets start flying, Goldsmith’s symphonic might explodes with smashing, soaring exuberance. But it’s not like you’re really supposed to take any of this seriously, as Verhoeven’s sly way of handling the graphically violent shenanigans also transfer to a sense of humor in Goldsmith’s score, the composer really throwing himself into the crazy, bombastic quality of the production in a way he’d never quite done before. Yet there’s an undeniable grandeur that does takes this stuff seriously, from the soaring reveal of an alien ice-melting machine, or the probing, Theremin-like electronics that try to discern reality from a dream state.
Extra Special: The oft-issued “Total Recall” has stood as one of Goldsmith’s most popular cd’s with such cues as “Clever Girl” and “The Big Jump” often on fan’s repeat button. With the original Varese presentation heard on the set’s second CD, this ultimate edition goes beyond the last ultimate one, offering up more of the suspenseful, identity-question material that gradually springs the surprise on our hero, Particularly fun \ new inclusions include Bruno Louchouarn’s future disco source cues for the mutant strip club, as well as Goldsmith’s enticing commercial jingles with the inimitable refrain of “For the memory of a lifetime, recall, recall, recall.” But most importantly of all, “Total Recall” has never sounded better under the ears of album producer Neil S. Bulk and of original Goldsmith mixer Bruce Botnick, with Jeff Bond’s expansive liner notes, hilariously revealing (though definitely not so at the time) how the staggering amount of notes that Goldsmith wrote made mincemeat out of the first scoring attempt with Germany’s “Graunke Orchestra,” (just a bit of their work heard here). Filled with such gems, this ultimate edition of “Total Recall” shows that it’s definitely time for fans of Goldsmith’s classically over-the-top score to get their asses back to Mars.
ALSO FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION:
. 13 HOURS
Whenever our true-life cinematic soldiers are besieged by enemy hordes in Africa or the Middle East in such films as “The Hurt Locker,” “Black Hawk Down” and “American Sniper,” they’re battling impossible odds on sure, if expected musical footing of dark electronic-orchestral percussion, tribal rhythms and the swelling melody of absolute patriotism. While Lorne Balfe might not be breaking any new ground, he’s certainly at the top of it as he accompanies the undeniably brave, CIA-contracted soldiers of the Global Response Staff as they hold off the better part of Libya’s Islamist forces from slaughtering an American compound. Capturing the a forbidding Arab-African vibe far more in spirit than with an overtly ethnic sound, Balfe’s score works in the same way as Michael Bay’s stylistic and ferociously exhilarating, if surprisingly non-jingoistic direction. It’s a lean, mean fighting machine of a score, full of blasting, suspenseful ramp-ups that are packed with the determination to survive, a single-focus energy on taking down the attackers that define its character’s professionalism under fire. Balfe’s certainly proven he can do these action rhythms in his sleep with the likes of “Terminator Salvation,” and the fact that they retain interest through one percussive machine gun blast after the other says something about the score’s effectiveness on that adrenalin-pumping action end. The forbidding Libyan turf is giving a chilling atmosphere, as well as a sense of hopeless tragedy, especially with the score’s use of electric cello. But amidst the kind of relentless, neo-industrial rock action that Balfe brings on, it’s the score’s forceful emotion that truly gives “13 Hours” its power as Balfe captures the bond of this band of brothers. In the most effective cues, strings rise to play the emotion of a possible military rescue that doesn’t come, a single piano the pull of families back home, or a noble trumpet emblematic of sacrifice. Though having the orchestra and brass do some flag waving at points to paint an undeniably noble portrait of its soldiers, Balfe’s potent score is most powerful in its downtime when playing a muted sense of duty, if not an ultimately pyric, mournful feeling of fighting a way out from an intractable conflict that’s grown the world over.
Mutant sleaze, NYC-set indie cinema makes a puss-drenched return from the days of “Street Trash” and the horrors of Tromaville as a bunch of freak squatters get turned into a bunch of toxic maniacs who engage in murderous tenant control. And that’s as good an excuse as any for composers Daniel Davies and Sebastian Robertston to create an appropriately grungy retro, John Carpenter-inspired sound for the ensuing, squalid synth-centric insanity. Listening to the guttural, weirdly percussive atmospheres, grinding guitar chords, relentless beat and purposefully cheesy electronics, as well as the creative warping of such organic instruments as the piano and organ, you’d feel like you were in some NYC penal colony sub-basement too gross for even Snake Plissken to search. But given that both musicians played on Carpenter’s “Lost Themes” album, it’s no wonder at how well they’ve simultaneously souped up and debased The Master’s chilling grooves to plunge listeners into a mesmerizing hell hole where music and sound design are slashing each other up in a battle for grotty supremacy. “Condemned” also offers some unexpected treats as well, from a cool jazz ensemble to disco kitsch before bringing on the hammering, slimily electro-metal bloodbath. Born from the loins of The Kinks’ Dave Davies and The Band’s Robbie Robertson, but sure as yellow slime sounding nothing like their dads here, “Condemned’s” effectively succinct and twisted album announces the duo as Carpenter acolytes to reckon with, expanding and debasing that rhythmically atmospheric sound to play like a sleazier, unhinged, ultra low-rent version of the way spiffier and spotlighted retro adherent “It Follows.” And that’s a compliment.
Chip off the old squint Scott Eastwood has it both ways as he goes gunning for “The Outlaw Josey Wales” and “High Plains Drifter” in an effectively nasty western that Quentin Tarantino would likely approve of, especially as any speck of humanity gets made mincemeat of in a thoroughly devilish way. Given that “Diablo” is way more horror than spaghetti a la “The Hateful Eight,” composer Timothy Williams only provides just a bit of those aforementioned musical tropes (a la whistling and steel guitar), and with a twisted point to them at that. For the most part, “Diablo” is fearsome, heavy duty psychological stuff, loaded with madness to spare from feverish fiddling, darkly mysticism and rampaging percussion (complete with clicking shotgun), yet balanced with a sense of the striving, wounded emotion of a nice guy just trying to get his wife back. But by the time this starts playing with all of the menace of Jason Vorhees packing a six-shooter instead of an axe. Williams reveals just how skillfully his score has subverted the heroic expectations he’s set up. It might not sound quite as western as the music that accompanied Clint’s gunslingers who rode into town, with hell coming with them, but the attitude is very much there in this purposefully disturbing, malefically pounding score the ends with an evil howling smile. And while western scores might not be known for their songs, Zelia Day gives “Diablo” a truly memorable one in “Bloodline,” her fateful, rocking voice backing a melody that’s pure Spaghetti goodness, rife with guitars, hoots and trumpeting brass. It’s a tune that Man With No Name would be proud to enter a showdown with.
. I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 3: VENGEANCE IS MINE
Revenge is a dish best served musically cold with an array of searing, blunt instrumentation by Edwin Wendell as he delivers the goods for sleaze exploitation’s most notorious title, a franchise that just keeps giving on its reincarnation’s third go-around. But even if you might not be up for the continued adventures of a female avenger giving raping male pigs what’s coming to them, there’s quite a bit to be intrigued by in Wendler’s score, which skillfully blends moments of dark, melodic psychology with relentless sound design shocks. Having used a battery of these effects to savagely powerful effect with the killer polar bear of “Unnatural,” and the hilariously self-referential slasher antics of “Tales of Halloween’s” best segment, Wendler’s way with industrial metal and electronics makes him a Nine Inch Nails-worthy engine of punishment for “Grave,” at once beating, and challenging the brave soundtrack buyer with sheer, always-intriguing relentlessness. His state-of-the-art sound warping also manages to capture a retro synth grindhouse sensibility from whence this series sprang. But “Spit” also has actual feeling beyond its jangled, screaming nerves, as Aeralie Brighton’s mournful female voice and a troubled, effective theme paint a cutting portrait at the price of inflicting deserved punishment, his point explained by Zach Tow’s thoughtful liner notes for Howlin Wolf Record’s impressive packaging. Dare to say it, but “I Spit on Your Grave” 3 has a ballsy sense of both melody and punishment that, like a sticky-seated Times Square cinema from back in the day, delivers the goods to those listeners asking for it.
The SyFy channel challenges the green screen gods with this mythical TV quest very much in the tradition of “300″ and its children “The Immortals” and “Spartacus,” as a young man faces Herculean tests that will allow him to unseat a host of warriors, overlords and assorted monsters from the Greek pantheon. In his own rise through the music editing ranks of “Tin Man,” “Alice,” “Elysium” and additional music on “Chappie,” to becoming a composer worthy of this sort of scoring mantle, Richard Walters proves himself worthy of this visually audacious genre with evocative music that hits the expected beats, while marking its own identity. Ethnic winds (of course driven by the mighty Diduk), siren-like voices and hip, Middle Eastern rhythms dreamily echo about, with evil king and creature battling left to manly shield-beating percussion, as backed up with more subtle than expected orchestral-sample presence. Sure Xerxes and Zeus have gone into battle with this sort of musical armament before, yet it’s this often poignantly haunting quality to Walter’s evocative sound that makes “Olympus” play like its taking place in its own distinctively melodic mountain, one intoxicating its listeners with the sorcerous, hallucinogenic vapors of The Fates themselves, while losing none of its Hero’s questing determination in the process. It’s often quite lyrical music that conjures in the series’ evocative imagery in the listener’s mind, perhaps even more potently than what a visual effects artist might conjure.
. PRESSURE / GAMBA
A British composer who’s done much world travelling with his impressive work with the Viking fury of “Hammer of the Gods,” the tragedy of “Bhopal” and Iranians yearning for freedom in “Desert Dancer,” Benjamin Wallfisch now impresses in playing the crushing ocean depths before opening up to a fantasy land of animated adventure. But then nothing tends to bring out a composer’s creativity like being placed among few characters in the depths, as Alan Silvestri and Ilan Eshkeri have proven on “The Abyss” and “Black Sea.” Having shown a particular talent at combining symphonic melody with unique, and often eerie electronic atmospheres, Wallfisch pours on “Pressure’s” suspense with both beauty and danger. An immersive score if there ever was one, Wallfisch’s use of pounding, electric rhythms and ominous brass conveys a ticking clock, air-running-out desperation from what’s essentially a chamber drama. In such seemingly hopeless situations, it’s a given that the score will express seemingly last regrets, hopes and sorrow that are especially lyrical here without letting the tension slip, the unknowable darkness outside always a menace. “Pressure’s” inventive score sucks you into its battle of escape with haunting, almost mystical ambience for the character’s visions, yet in a way that’s doesn’t prove darkly suffocating as a listen, especially given its clever use of air hose samples and gasping voices to conjure its environment, building to a transcendent rise to the surface. Lyrical salvation is also provided by the gentle, water metaphor filled song “Satellite” as written and performed by the composer’s sister Joanna.
Where “Pressure” is as enticingly dark as the ocean depths, all manner of musical color wonderfully explodes from “Gamba,” a Japanese anime in which a brave town mouse is called upon to liberate a weasel-ruled island. It’s the kind of challenge that an American rodent named Fievel Mouskewitz knew well, but given the distinctly Japanese subplot here of avenging a blood oath, While Wallfisch captures this heightened sense of drama, “Gamba’s” score is more about bright action and revelatory wonder. It’s more of a traditional James Horner-esque style as opposed to the wackier, if equally effective John Powell approach that’s now the in-demand sound on these animated shores. The result for “Gamba” is a beautifully performed, truly grand symphonic score replete with memorable themes, epic reveals and dastardly villainy, as played with a big heart. It’s an accent on emphatic, wondrous melody that’s a sheer delight, especially for fans of the dearly missed Horner, Wallfisch crafts a score that immediately reaches to the little one’s heartstrings, but with his big ears on the dramatic stakes that are anything but childish.
. RABID DOGS
A French composer as capable of tenderness (“Copperhead,” “Winnie Mandela”) as he is hard-ass DTV action (“Rage,” “Momentum”), Laurent Eyquem now travels a new road that remakes the Mario Bava’s 1974 hostage thriller “Rabid Dogs” (also known as “Kidnapped” in its U.S. release). Certainly original composer Stelvio Cipriani (“Taxi Killer”) didn’t have the kind of electronic gear to give pulsating menace that opened up a whole new, sinister world inside this new car of vicious criminals and their seemingly helpless captives. It’s a darkly pulsating place that Eyquem knows quite well given his previous beat-downs for Nicolas Cage and Olga Kurylenko. Here the bank robbers’ percussive action is even more twisted and metallic – sinister rhythms and samples that are as cold as ice as they threaten to rip apart the quivering string melody of its captives. Better yet, Eyquem maintains this tension with a clever all-synth retro sound that reaches back to the classic Italian 70’s exploitation beat, if with way more gritty technical sophistication, especially when its organ kicks in. Throttling with menace throughout, Eyquem’s has put all of the grinding, growling parts together for a gripping road trip from hell that impactfully follows its souped up synth path.
. THE SETTING SUN
From Arabia to Africa and America, Maurice Jarre stands as one of film composing’s great ethnomusicologists. In his energetic quest of combining cultural winds and percussion with a western symphonic approach, the region of Asia held increasingly spectacular results for Jarre, as was evident in the visits of “Red Sun,” “Shogun” and “Tai-Pan.” As it turns out, one of his most formidable voyages to the land of the rising sun lay completely under the soundtrack radar until now. But thanks to Intrada, who’ve done an impressive job of putting out unsung, late-era Jarre scores like “Solar Crisis” and “Distant Thunder,” we can finally hear “The Setting Sun” in all of its Imperial Army “glory” as such. This expensive 1992 film about a forbidden WW2 romance between a Japanese spy and a rebel was consigned to a forgotten dvd, even given such stars as Diane Lane (as a Chinese rebel leader) and Donald Sutherland (playing “John Williams” no less). As set against Nippon-occupied Manchuria, Jarre is given the chance to combine both cultures, as the delicate strings of the Japanese shakuhachi and samisen meet the Chinese sheng, a delicacy that’s formidably contrasted by some of the most massive drum percussion Jarre commanded (including the world’s largest drum, the da-daiko) full of the rhythmically angry might of the invading forces. Jarre was usually never one for being a shrinking violent when it came to playing emotion, and “The Setting Sun” has ravishing thematic melody to spare, as well as subdued electronics that alternately shout passion and danger with cliffhanging effectiveness. Jarre is at his epic, romantic best here, especially given a terrific orchestral that makes this his most powerfully performed Asian score, one that resounds with the composer’s joy in creating a musical canvas as emotionally rich as two lands in collision. A true revelation in Jarre’s discography, “The Setting Sun” is what Jarre’s big screen scoring was all about in any musical language.
. A TALE OF TWO CITIES (Limited Collector’s Edition)
It is a far better better thing to listen to Serge Franklin’s beautiful costume drama score for Charles Dickens’ oft-made tale, here tailored for a French-English TV miniseries from 1989. Brimming over with lavish themes for one of literature’s greatest sacrificial acts of pure love, “Cities” effectively segues between the more mannered British countryside to the Baroque, sometimes humorous music of the French aristocracy, which will soon enough turn to the far darker suspense of desperately trying to avoid the blood thirsty jaws of the revolution’s Madame Guillotine. A prolific French composer who should have branched out far more into English-language scoring shores beyond this adaptation and a few “Saint” TV films, Franklin’s “Cities” brim over with exceptional, elegant, symphonic-like melodies. It’s a musical tale of Channel-crossed attraction, the panicked danger of revolution gone wrong, and finally of a dead ringer’s noble end, with a stirringly choral, requiem-like angst (richly performed in Budapest) that you’d imagine catching Beethoven’s notice when he was still capable of hearing. As the definition of the kind of ultra-sumptuous thematic scoring that defines literature as opposed to plain old writing, Franklin’s tale is pure melodic class.
THE WIND GODS
Turkish composer Pinar Toprak continues to prove that she’s been touched by the gods of symphonic melody as she continues to show herself as a rising, impressive voice in Hollywood’s way under-represented world of female film composers, talent that can be heard in Movie Score Media’s gently soaring “Lightkeepers” and Caldera’s release of the darkly religious score to “The River Murders.” Caldera once again shows Toprak’s way of catching soaring, excitingly melodic gusts with their release of her sumptuous score for the 2013 American Cup documentary “The Wind Gods.” Given that she’s playing the do-or-die effort of Oracle zillionaire Larry Ellison to win this sport of sailing kings, no expense has been spared in filling The Hollywood Studio Symphony’s canvas to push this music to the listening win. But then, the success of “The Wind Gods” soundtrack comes from the fact that this music could accompany just about any sports film in how it captures the spirit of competition, especially one where it’s man versus nature as well as each other. Given lush, exceptionally well-defined themes rhythmically pushing the boats forward (especially well interplayed in the aptly named “12-Minute Cue”), Toprak also beautifully captures the blue environment with contrasting moments of still lyricism, a lushly poetic sensibility that brings to mind Thomas Newman’s bucolic Americana style in the best, competitive way. “The Wind Gods” is as exciting as it is emotional, especially in its sense of discovery for a composer who’s really about to blow that hatches down with the upcoming mega-disaster movie “Geostorm.” Consider this the poetic calm before it.
CLICK on the album covers to make your hardcopy or download purchase, and find the soundtracks at these. com’s: Amazon, Intrada, iTunes, Moviescoremedia and Screen Archives Entertainment
Academy Award Nominations were announced yesterday honoring the best achievements in motion pictures in 2015 -- including the Original Score and Original Song categories. For the list of music-related nominations, [url./news/article/?id=2143]click here.
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.3475]RZA ([m.45473]Meet the Blacks), [c.17714]Philip Selway ([m.45468]Let Me Go), [c.274]Harry Gregson-Williams ([t.45464]Confirmation), 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.2016-1-11]Click here for the full schedule.
Opening nationwide this week are (with music by):...
This morning The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the nominations for [t.44150]The 88th Academy Awards. The nominees are as follows:
Best Original Score
[m.41409]Bridge of Spies, [c.149]Thomas Newman
[m.39926]Carol, [c.24]Carter Burwell
[m.41731]The Hateful Eight, [c.137]Ennio Morricone
[m.41837]Sicario, [c.3198]Jóhann Jóhannsson
[m.35727]Star Wars: The Force Awakens, [c.231]John Williams
Best Original Song
"Earned It" from [m.36439]Fifty Shades of Grey
"Manta Ray" from [m.43217]Racing Extinction
"Simple Song #3" from [m.43811]Youth
"Til It Happens To You" from [m.43020]The Hunting Ground
"Writing's On The Wall" from [m.38342]Spectre
The Oscars will be...
Varèse Sarabande will release the [a.17178]Flesh and Bone - Ballet Music from the Series digitally on [da.2016-01-15]January 15, 2016. The album features the four-movement original Dakini Ballet composed by [c.12311]Adam Crystal.
Series creator Moira Walley-Beckett and choreographer Ethan Stiefel collaborated on a 13-minute original ballet for the series. "The narrative for the ballet was obviously created by Moira, which was following a woman going through these different phases of growing and becoming empowered," Stiefel explained. "I had to create something that works not only as a ballet that looks good and is effective on camera, but also works within the context of the actual episode and what else is happening while that ballet is being performed. And what's really...
Last night, The Hollywood Foreign Press Association's [t.45263]73rd Annual Golden Globe Awards were held. The nominees and winners were as follows:
Best Original Song for a Motion Picture:
Winner: "Writings On the Wall" - [m.38342]Spectre, by [c.16773]Sam Smith and [c.16575]James Napier
"Love Me Like You Do" - [m.36439]Fifty Shades of Grey, by [c.]Max Martin, [c.]Savan Kotecha, [c.]Ali Payami, [c.]Tove Nilsson, and [c.]Ilya Salmanzadeh
"One Kind of Love" - [m.36555]Love & Mercy, by [c.]Brian Wilson and [c.]Scott Bennett
"See You Again" - [m.37596]Furious 7, by [c.]Justin Franks, [c.]Andrew Cedar, [c.]Charlie Puth, [c.]Cameron Thomaz
"Simple Song #3" - [m.43811]Youth, by [c.2044]David...
If one might have the cliched attitude of old school English composers as adhering rigorously to the classically imperious music of Queen and Country, then they likely haven’t heard much of George Fenton’s prolific work over the last four or so decades, let alone had a crotchety, crazy old lady parked in their driveway for fifteen of them.
Not only has Fenton contributed one of his most delightfully attitude-filled scores to represent “The Lady in the Van,” but he also has the distinction of having actually met the fearsome Ms. Shepherd, a curmudgeonly homeless woman who became a grudgingly accepted thorn in the side of playwright and screenwriter Alan Bennett (“Prick Up Your Ears”). Now his autobiographical experience in dealing with a musically-inclined visitor from hell (or course played by Maggie Smith) has resulted in a wonderfully unsentimental dramedy by Nicholas Hytner, marching to the brassy, classically humorous rhythms of Fenton’s score to strike terror into the creativity of any writer trying to get work done, let alone get along with his neighbors.
That the fictionalized Bennett (enacted by Alex Jennings) actually splits into two personas to snarkily observe his own weakness in the overwhelming storm (and shit) of his houseguest has opened up a floodgate of demanding brass and deviously pleading violins, along with true piano empathy from Fenton’s delightful and unexpectedly moving score. He marches in cantankerous lock-step with Hytner’s drolly humanistic film, their sixth collaboration together after the likes of “The Madness of King George,” “The Object of My Affection” and their adapration of Bennett’s “The History Boys.”
But even if Miss Shepherd isn’t going anywhere as Fenton trounches her into Bennett’s life with waltzing, circus-like aplomb, the same certainly can’t be said of a composer with over a hundred scores to his credit. Traversing both sides of the pond since his breakthrough soundtracks for “Gandhi” and “Jewel in the Crown,” the oft Oscar-nominated Fenton has displayed epic sweep (“In Love and War,” “Anna and the King”), literate melody (“A Handful of Dust,””Dangerous Liasons”) fairy tale romance (“Stage Beauty,” “Ever After”), cheeky English humor (“Mrs. Henderson Presents”) the pop stuff of Hollywood cult comedy (“Groundhog Dog,” “You’ve Got Mail”) and the intellectually eccentic music of the cinema’s most unhinged visionary Terry Gilliam (“The Fisher King,” “The Zero Theorum”). Perhaps more importantly, Fenton has brought sold-out crowds across the globe for the live performances of his epic scores to the documentaries “Planet Earth” and “The Blue Planet,” opening up audiences hearts and minds to a message of conservation that goes way beyond music appreciation.
Yet if George Fenton has indeed brought the world to his listeners, perhas no more intimimately delightfull music has arrived from his often addled creativity than the strains of a seemingly batty, piano-playing witch who’s plopped herself in spirit as his front door.
Having met the real Miss Shepherd, what were your thoughts on how she was “adapted” for the big screen?
My memory of Miss Shepherd is that she was both scared and scary. She tended to look at you but would look away if you looked back. I think Alan was the only person to ever really get much out of her verbally. I think the screen adaptation is wonderful because it embraces, even celebrates all her negative qualities but also because it attaches true value to her as a character. Her predicament was not unusual. She was homeless. But she managed to give that predicament status and so too does she in the film. I think the film says much more than simply telling the story of one person. It addresses our own responses to people in such situations.
Knowing Alan Bennett as well, what do you think of his translation into a “character?” And how did you want your score to speak for him?
In 2000 I wrote a string quartet for which Alan wrote a monologue. It was called “Hymn,” and was commissioned by the Medici Quartet. Originally Alan read his own words, about music in his childhood, but after several performances of it he said he’d rather not because timing things with the music made him nervous. I asked if someone else could read it instead and that person turned out to be Alex Jennings. “Hymn” with the companion piece “Cocktail Sticks” ran at the National Theatre and then in the West End, so by the time the film came along, not only was I used to seeing someone else other than Alan be Alan, but also used to that person being Alex. Alex is nothing like Alan but he is such a good actor that what he does do is portray the sides of Alan that the piece demands. He doesn’t imitate him really. He more alludes to him through his mannerisms and voice. The score I think does speak for him, because stylistically the musical references are as much to do with Alan Bennett as they are with Miss Shepherd.
Could you tell us about your creative relationship with director Nicolas Hytner, all of whose movies you’ve scored. In a way, would you say this is a callback your first movie with him, which also dealt with an irascible elder with “The Madness of King George?”
Nick is a musician as well as musical. He is also a renowned theatre director and ran the National Theatre for ten years. He is very decisive. This doesn’t mean he wants you to follow instructions, but it does mean he responds almost immediately, and very clearly to what’s presented to him. We work very fast. “The Madness of King George” was a little different because the score was all either Handel or adaptations of Handel that I wrote. However the similarity is that in both films (and unlike his other films) Nick was against score in the traditional sense. He is rigorous in this respect. He didn’t want Miss Shepherd to be sentimentalized by film music. He wanted the music to be as taught and robust in feeling as she was and he referenced Beethoven trios, Schubert quartets, etc. At one stage we were going to use music from their repertoire. But I saw the downside to that as being just a bunch of pieces with no thematic link. So I wrote things, he immediately responded and here we are.
Maggie Smith has a wonderful “curmudgeonly” persona as an actress. How did that affect your score?
She is very difficult and brusque but also in the film quite strict and disciplined in her views and behavior. So when I wrote the “Miss Shepherd on the rampage theme” I still tried to give it a formal structure, like it was a piece she heard in her head. There is a slightly bi-tonal section at the start in which I was trying to somehow illustrate her emotional state (confused but not downcast) before the cellos play her gruff theme.
There’s a waltzing, Shostakovich-ian feel to your music for “The Lady in the Van” that’s particularly delightful. How did you hit on this approach?
I did a play called the “Collaborators” for Nick at the National. It was about Stalin and Bulgakov. Before I started, I looked at the Shostakovich pantomime music. He had a masterful way of playing with popular idioms in music. He does the same in the Jazz suites. The waltzes are stylistically in the tradition of Russian (often military) waltzes, but in his own unique way. They were definitely a reference for the score but my reference also was the fairground – and French Musette waltzes (“Ms. Shepherd in Paris”), hence the melodic shape of Miss Shepherds waltz. “Da da-da Da da-da Da. “The sort of up and down shape to the tune.
Do you think there’s something naturally funny about the tuba?
Not really. I think of it as honest. I suppose though it’s when one hears it in things where the short notes on it are evident. That makes it humorous
In that respect, how did you want to use the violin to bring out a sort of “mock” sympathy for an aged lady who’s most often nothing of the sort?
I think the use of the violin was more often than not the result of a musical decision rather than a character one. I spent ages trying to hear the score and its tone in my head. I think that once one’s got there with that bit the choice of instruments, the particular use of the violin here or there, is often less deliberate than it appears to be. It’s just emerged like I suppose characters in a book do to an author.
You scored an ironically sad, and often humorous vision of “the happy homeless” in “The Fisher King.” Did you think back to those characters with this soundtrack, and do you think there are any tonal links between them – especially given an especially “Gilliam”-esque moment in this film?
Well since you mention it I think there are tonal links yes, but I don’t believe I was conscious of them. Probably the reason I never thought of “The Fisher King” is because when I’m working on a film I mainly am influenced by what’s on the screen in front of me rather than anything else. This film couldn’t look more different to “The Fisher King” in terms of framing lighting cutting etc. so I never thought about the similarities whilst working on “The Lady in the Van.”
As most of the music for Miss Shepherd is “funny” as such, did that make the points where you wanted to go for serious drama more difficult?
I didn’t really set out to make her music humorous. I was trying to make it speak for her as in ” Right I’m moving down there” or ” Oh your mother” or ” Oh! A day at the seaside!” and give it her eccentricity so it came out as humorous – but really I think because she is so humorous herself. The more annoyed she gets the funnier she is. I think a lot of the time the score is meant to be her voice. Even in the nightmare scene it’s like the Avant Garde of her youth so it still is from within her. My main aim with the more serious moments was to still preserve a formality to the writing. Even when she dies in the van, hopefully the music has a discernible formality that stops it from ever wallowing in self-pity.
Alan Bennett makes much about how difficult the writing process is as an author. Do you find yourself ever going through the same amount of exasperation as a composer to the point where you’re literally looking outside at yourself?
I find writing very hard and getting harder. I quite frequently look at myself sitting there and think how stupid I am not to be able to solve a particular thing when I’m sure anyone else could in a second.
Could you tell us about how the major classical pieces in the film were chosen, and how they influenced your own score?
Nick and I were pretty focused on Chopin from the word go. Miss Shepherd was a pupil of Alfred Cortot, the Franco Swiss pianist who was particularly famous for playing Chopin. We listened to virtually every other concerto in case, but in the end, the simple melodic attraction made us choose Chopin’s Piano Concert Number 1 in E Minor, even though I’m not as fond of it as some others. We were incredibly lucky to find Clare Hammond, who plays the young Miss Shepherd. And although Chopin and Schubert’s impromptu Number. 3 n G-Flat Major are the only repertoire pieces in the film, her involvement influenced how I wrote the score. The presence of the piano and the styles in which it plays are in part due to Chopin and Schubert but in part due to Clare herself because she took part not only as a brilliant soloist, but also by staying involved and by playing on the scoring sessions.
On that note, did you teach Maggie Smith to play the piano? And if so, what was that experience like?
No, but she used to play apparently, so she set about learning the piece and could play it.
You join the ranks of such other composers as Bernard Herrmann and Lalo Schifrin who’ve taken on-screen roles as “themselves” as it were. Having started out as an actor yourself, did you look forward to a fairly crucial cameo?
I think it’s fairer to say I acted in a couple of things rather than I was an actor. Either way I was actually reluctant to appear. Mainly because I would have to then look at myself endlessly when I was working on the score. But in the end it was quite a fun day. Thanks to a haircut and a moustache I walked onto the set past about eight people I know really well and none of them recognized me, which gave me confidence in my character. The BBC Concert Orchestra was really good sports about the period look as well. But what made the day was that we actually just played the pieces and they filmed us. So it felt like an occasion and was a nice thing. I still look away though if I’m at a screening.
Having scored a fair number of Hollywood comedies like “Groundhog Day,” “Hero” and “Hitch,” what do you think is the biggest difference between musically approaching humor in American and English productions?
Without a long and involved answer I would have to say that the American comedies I’ve done were more comedies as a directors medium, as opposed to English ones, which were more comedies as a writers medium. Perhaps the importance of the spoken word suggested that the music operate more like theatre music, rather than film music (but that is probably going to be immediately disproven). Also most comedies are underpinned by a serious or romantic theme, often about redemption. Different filmmakers tell those stories in their particular way, maybe partially affected by their nationality or the story’s nationality. I have always enjoyed immersing myself in the sensibility of the film. Inevitably the music will be affected by the films core belief.
You got noticed on this side of the pond for your exceptional work on such historical dramas as “Gandhi” and “The Jewel in the Crown.” Would you say that you have an epic orchestral sensibility that’s continued to grow with scores like “Dangerous Beauty” and “Anna and the King?”
I don’t know how to answer that. I love to write for the orchestra but equally I love being in a room with a small group or a rhythm section. But to have a full orchestra at one’s disposal is to have one of greatest human resources on earth. The collective ability and experience sitting there is unmatched in my view and I am always very excited by that and very much want to employ them at what they do best, rather than just use them. I’m not sure about “epic” as part of my sensibility, other than when called for and hopefully justified.
Among your many repeat collaborations with filmmakers, you have an especially “unplugged” one with Ken Loach in such films as “Carla’s Song,” “Ae Fond Kiss” and “Jimmy’s Hall.” How do you want your music to fit the kitchen sink reality of most of his movies?
Working for Ken has been an education. It’s made me re evaluate how I work on other projects. Everything begins with an almost “hair shirt” simplicity. A note here – a chord there. The most uninflected musical statements and then I work outwards. Ken wants the music to be part of the fabric of the film but quite often that fabric is dry and desolate and un-musical. So it can be hard to find a way in. But once in, I think there can be a complexity built from small strands that in its way are satisfying and surprising. For example, in “The Wind that Shakes the Barley,” the film ends with a boy ordering the execution of his brother. That is pretty epic and I suppose the task is to allow the simple threads of the score to develop to the point that the epic nature of that moment so it feels supported and truthful, without having compromised the documentary reality of the story to that point. Often film music is there as a kind of shorthand, and in a way that’s its purpose. Ken doesn’t want any shorthand, so it can mean writing in a counter intuitive way, He does want the music to make one feel the moment more, but not in a way that bypasses anything that’s on the screen right then.
You’ve done exceptional work in many genres. Do you particularly enjoy doing film noirs like “Heaven’s Prisoners,” “Final Analysis” and “China Moon?”
In a word ~ “Yes.” I find “noir” a particularly musical environment. It appeals to my dark side, which doesn’t get appealed to nearly enough.
As a composer who excels in themes and melodies, one of your most haunting, and unsung scores for me is “Mary Reilly’s” take on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Could you talk about dealing with such an iconic figure in horror fiction, especially given the film’s indirect manner of being seeing through his maid’s eyes?
Thank you for that. I loved writing “Mary Reilly.” I found the black granite of Edinburgh; the austere and cold look of it and the charge between John Malkovich and Julia Roberts really fascinating. It was a score I wrote beginning to end, meaning in order, I think that was because I didn’t want the score to understand more than she, Mary Reilly, did as the story unfolded. It’s a slow reveal (sometimes not slow enough!) and very cruel – sometimes mocking. The violin tune is supposed to be like a Celtic lament for her which becomes more layered and troubled as it develops. The score had fantastic playing by the orchestra.
Seeing what’s happening to the world’s environment now, does it make your “nature” scores for such projects as “Planet Earth” and “Blue Planet” all the more important with influencing the audience’s treatment of the environment?
I’m very proud to have written for those films and I think the films themselves have increased people’s appetite for the natural world and subsequently their awareness. I think what the music contributed was a more emotional connection with the footage. This has been born out by the concerts that I play of the material, which are more popular now than ever before. Without commentary, it seems that the music and the footage together allows people to engage withe the stories in their own way at their own pace. No one is telling them about what they’re seeing. It’s a shared experience because they are in the midst of a large crowd, and that response has always been very heartening. So perhaps in the programs in the films and in the concerts the music does, in its own very, very small way, increase awareness for what is the most important issue in the history of the human race.
Does scoring movies like “The Fisher King” and “The Lady in the Van” affect your own attitudes when encountering the homeless now?
It certainly makes you think a great deal about it. But I hope that seeing the films also makes people less wary of homeless people. I think generally with most people, apparently having more and more to do and less time to do it contributes to an ever-hardening attitude to people that don’t fit in, in whatever way. Perhaps these films will make people a bit less dismissive. I hope so.
Do you think there’s any tie between music and madness? And how long do you think your could have put up with Miss Shepherd, let alone Maggie Smith’s realization of her?
I’m not sure and also not sure if historically the musical ones went mad, or the mad ones were musical. As for Miss Shepherd I certainly couldn’t stand the distraction of her or Maggie Smith for five minutes. Interestingly though, if asked Alan if he would say the same. He didn’t, and really chose to help her. He wasn’t, he says, very nice to her. She wasn’t a choice of his. Maybe there’s something in that.
“The Lady in the Van” will be parked in theaters this January, with George Fenton’s score available on Sony Classical Records HERE
Visit George Fenton’s website HERE
Lakeshore Records will release the [a.17205]Synchronicity - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack digitally on [da.2016-01-22]January 22 and on CD in February. The album features the film's original score by [c.1595]Ben Lovett--his sixth collaboration with writer/director Jacob Gentry.
"Jacob and I were both raised on 80's movies and the music of [c.27]John Carpenter, [c.441]Wendy Carlos, [c.160]Vangelis, [c.]Jean Michel Jarre and others who pioneered the sound of that era," said Lovett. "Since the visual tone of [m.45307]Synchronicity is very much inspired by science fiction films from that time period, we wanted to approach the music with similar reverie to reinforce the overall aesthetic goals of the film." Lovett opted to work exclusively with vintage analog...
Sparks & Shadows announced the release of [a.17125]The Forest - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, featuring music by [c.1238]Bear McCreary.
"When I first heard of Japan's infamous Aokigahara Forest I was immediately fascinated by this terrifying place that is inexplicably the site of numerous suicides each year," said McCreary. "David S. Goyer told me he was producing a new film set in this haunting location, and I was thrilled he asked me to compose its original score."
Not a stranger to writing music for scary productions, McCreary found himself genuinely frightened by [m.41283]The Forest. He described, "I watched an early cut alone, in the middle of the night, in my backyard studio. When the film was over, I walked slowly between the trees in the dark night...
Milan Records will release the [a.17190]Diablo Original Motion Picture Soundtrack digitally on [da.2016-01-08]January 8, 2016. The album features the film's original score by [c.3228]Tim Williams and the original track "Bloodline" performed by Zella Day.
"When I first watched [m.45361]Diablo, the first thing that struck me about the film was both the incredible beauty of the visuals and the haunting imagery of Scott Eastwood on a horse," said Williams. "The character he plays, Jackson, a post Civil War soldier, is pursuing a group who have kidnapped his wife. It was powerful and compelling."
"The director, Lawrence Roeck, and I discussed the tone at length and felt a more traditional western guitar driven score might feel a touch overused and might not serve the...
Among practitioners of torture horror, Charlie Clouser’s razor-sharp industrial grinds and nightmarish, metallic atmospheres were the anti-tunes to inflict utter doom with in such nastily effective soundtracks as “Dead Silence,” “Death Sentence,” “Resident Evil: Extinction” and the “Saw” franchise in particular. Beatific music this wasn’t, even as the Nine Inch Nails keyboardist and award-winning hard rock producer showed that he had more than one stylistic hatchet at his scoring disposal when it came to television, especially in his rhythmic calculations for “Numb3rs” and the surreal suspense that filled “Wayward Pines.” So forgive us for thinking that Charlie Clouser has seen the heavenly light when hearing the beautifully spiritual score of the SyFy Channel miniseries “Childhood’s End,” transforming his genre scoring into a thing of transcendent sci-fi scoring – if only it weren’t for the cautious rhythms and eerie voices that tell us the celestial bringers of peace might be anything but benign in their ultimate intentions for Earth.
Such is the power of Arthur C. Clarke’s iconic 1953 novel that SyFy, a channel that’s become known for decidedly anti-intellectual monster animal name mashes, has turned into a grandly powerful, smartly emotional miniseries. It’s but one of the many evolutions this adaptation signifies as it examines multiple crises of faith, from a fighter pilot questioning his role as a spokesman for the “overlords,” the parents of the all-powerful psychic children they’ve planted or a devout Christian faced with the seeming devil himself. Clouser’s score powerfully weaves these stories with a mesmerizingly suspenseful melodic power that ranges from the ethereal to the frightening, hitting every philosophical note of a tale whose imagines of alien invasion, imperious kids and shocking extra-terrestrial personages have since become the visual language of sci-fi cinema and television. Clouser’s score builds with a haunting religious power to a cosmic reckoning for our planet and species, creating a sonic headiness that not only signals the composer’s next creative phase, but also a network’s itself with this epically spiritual close encounter.
What did “sci-fi” music mean to you before getting “Childhood’s End?”
The scores to “Forbidden Planet,” “The Andromeda Strain,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Planet Of The Apes,” “Alien” and “District 9” contain most of what I like in the realm of sci-fi music. The bigger, more epic themes tend to sound a little corny to me, so I tend to gravitate towards these scores.
Were you familiar with “Childhood’s End” before the assignment? And if not, did you break the book open once you started composing?
As a kid I was a big sci-fi junkie, and I was way more into that genre than, say, super-hero or fantasy novels, so in high school I had devoured Clarke, Asimov, Bradbury, Dick, and Niven, and in later years got way into Gibson, Sterling, and Stephenson. I had read “Childhood’s End” a few times, but it had been a decade or two, so I admit that I cracked it open after I read the screenplay that Matthew Graham cooked up for this version.
“Childhood’s End” is especially striking for the SyFy channel, especially given the lowbrow level of network movies and shows they’ve given us since the cerebral departure of “Battlestar Galactica.” Were you surprised by this level of intellectual quality?
I have to say that SyFy is really stepping up their game lately, and I’m glad that I was able to get on board at what seems like the right time. Clearly there’s an audience there that’s receptive and can deal with more mature sci-fi, and now it seems like the network has got the resources and experience to tackle something like “Childhood’s End.” I’m glad to see that they’re really going for it.
“Childhood’s End” was a visionary, seemingly unadaptable book that nevertheless presaged such sci-fi conventions as alien invasions and telekinetic, all-powerful superkids. How did those kind of iconic “conventions” musically strike you?
Honestly I operate mostly by instinct and reflex when it came to “Childhood’s End.” It wasn’t as though I had to sit and scratch my head at how to capture this story musically. When the alien ship first appears it’s dread and impending doom, so that’s territory I know well. When the story is dealing with the crumbling of religion, to me that meant a wistful chord progression that folds in upon itself. It starts with a hopeful chord that gets narrower and turns sad but remains noble, if that makes sense. When the children ascend and leave the parents behind, it had to be a rising, upward progression to embody the wonder of what the children will experience while still retaining an element of sadness to represent the parents’ heartbreak at losing their children, and this is best embodied when the son finally ascends in the scene in the cemetery. When Milo finally leaves Earth as a stowaway on Karellen’s ship I wanted the score to have an element of “noble wonder” to call out the magnitude of what he’ll experience while still playing on the woman he leaves behind, and the score during the scene as the ship leaves earth is the best representation of that feeling, and it comes back as he sees Karellen’s home world and encounters the “galactic overmind.” I was a little relieved to find that all of these musical themes came quickly and easily to hand, and there was less bashing my head against the keyboard in frustration than I feared there might be.
You’re best known among genre fans for your visceral approach to the “Saw” series. Was part of the attraction to scoring “Childhood’s End” the chance to compose a far more melodically “peaceful” score than fans might expect from you?
Absolutely. “Childhood’s End” deals with ordinary people experiencing extraordinary events, and is really a human drama, so I knew that it would need a much more delicate touch than the insanity and mayhem of some of the scores I’ve done in the past for movies that were populated by unhinged lunatics committing grievous acts of torture. That’s why there are so many cues with gentle, emotional melodies played on a solo cello, backed by warm, muted string passages. Sure, there are some extra-large epic moments, but really the majority of the score tends toward the smaller, more emotional thematic ideas. By the time we’re in the last hour or two, all of the big sounds and wild sonic pyrotechnics are gone, and the sound palette has shrunk to just strings, solo cello, piano and choir, and the musical themes have narrowed to focus on just three interlocking progressions that represent a calm realization of an inevitable fate, a wistful longing for a future that can never be, and facing certain doom with a noble, stoic, and honorable face.
Nevertheless, do you think there’s the kind of industrial component you’ve used in your horror work to the score?
In some of the early cues, like when Karellen’s ship first appears, there’s definitely some harsher, more ugly sounds, and as Ricky goes up against the Freedom League people we hear a bit of aggression in the score, but most of that begins to fade as the story focuses on the children. Still, I did use all of my usual techniques for manipulating and processing sounds to give an unsettling quality to the score. Even when it’s sounding small and sensitive, I tried to use a lot of weird synth drones, bowed metal sounds, and time-stretched samples to give a little bit of an unnerving edge to the score.
Is it particularly daunting to have to score a few hours of music for a miniseries, especially one with these kinds of expectations? Did you decide on how many themes you’d have given that amount of work?
“Childhood’s End” wound up having around 120 cues totaling over three and a half hours of score, and I had just under nine weeks from start to finish, so it definitely was a lot of music in a short time frame, but that’s more of an issue of logistics rather than a creative challenge. As I said before, I kind of write by reflex and reaction to the story, so the hard part isn’t coming up with the themes and music, it’s all the elaborate programming and mixing that winds up taking all night. I don’t let the deadline limit my ambition to achieve my musical goals. A short deadline just means I can’t spend all night on twisting knobs trying to perfect a background drone texture or auditioning a hundred different brass sounds. There’s always going to be a thousand more cool sounds to experiment with, that process is a bottomless pit. But when you’ve hit the right melodic idea or chord progression, I think it’s easier for me to say, “Stop! That’s the one!” than it is to do that when fiddling with the knobs on a synthesizer.
Despite the book essentially being a conversational one, how important was it for the score to rhythmically, and dramatically drive a story that had to work for the more conventional arena of television – all while keeping an overall ethereal tone?
A lot of the scores I’ve done have needed to keep some subtle element of pulse, or rhythm, or a sense of forward motion while still staying fairly low-key, so I’ve had a lot of experience at that and have developed a lot of approaches to keeping the wheels turning without resorting to using drums or overt rhythmic sounds. Even when a cue sounds like a squishy ambient murk I like to keep a rigid metric grid behind it, so I spend a lot of time mapping out the tempo for every cue so that all of the phrases are complete, so that I don’t have to stop one measure short of finishing a phrase or chord progression when the scene ends or I need to turn a musical corner. I’d like to think that this really helps those squishy, murky, non-rhythmic cues sound more musical and less like a drone-fest. I also tend to use very quiet instruments like harp or soft piano to play a very slow pattern behind the murk that helps to give a sense of meter and tempo to all of the ethereal sounds that go on top. It might be because I have some background in song-based composition, but I have a natural aversion to phrases that are seven bars long when they sound like they “want” to be eight bars, so I go to great lengths to make the tempo of my cues allow for symmetrical and complete phrases in all situations.
Given the three-part structure of “Childhood’s End,” did you want to differentiate the story themes of each part?
I definitely felt like there were three phases to the story and the score, and on the first part there’s a lot of big, epic, doom-laden moments as well as some good old-fashioned tension and action moments. In the second part the score turns more toward the crumbling of religion and the fate of the children, so most of the action elements in the score go away and we start to hear little hints of heavenly choirs as well as some musical elements that are almost in the horror genre, as the children start acting almost possessed. Once we get to the third part of the story, it’s all about human emotions, so the score focuses on more emotional sounds and motifs and we hear a lot more of the solo cello and that “noble wonder” theme as Milo leaves on Karellen’s ship. The story is neatly divided into these three chunks, so it was a good opportunity to have the score be pretty different in each part.
The idea of religion as a panacea is a major, striking story theme in “Childhood’s End.” Were you surprised by an approach that could be taken as pro-atheist, and how did you want to musically reflect the idea of aliens as assuming the role of God?
Well, if there is a God, it’s probably an alien of some kind, right? So that idea wasn’t a huge conceptual leap for me. As the children are ascending I almost played it straight, with rising chord progressions and choir-like sounds, although it was decidedly minor sounding and not your usual “heavenly” progression. It was the character of Paretta and her dismay at the crumbling of her religious belief that required a more delicate touch. That was where I used a very simple phrase of chords that had a hopeful-sounding start and then on the third and fourth chords became pinched and strained, and could finish with a downward modulation by a minor third to give a sense of inevitable doom where appropriate. To be honest, I came up with that motif in a couple of minutes. It was as though my hands just made the right shapes on the keyboard right off the bat. Maybe I got lucky on that one?
Another major theme is coming to terms with death. How did you want to musically capture the sense of loss, and transcendence that’s planetary, as well as personal?
As the story starts to deal with the death of Earth, we really experience it through Milo’s eyes at the same time as he’s seeing the wonders of the cosmos. This was a little tricky, as those two story lines are swapping places and overlapping all through the last hour or so. This is where I was glad that I had written Milo’s “noble wonder” theme in the same melodic and harmonic mode that his “stoic facing of inevitable fate” theme as in. These two musical ideas overlap in the same way that the story line does all through the last hour, with changes in the instrumentation and sounds helping to separate the two. There are big, washy brass and choir chords behind Milo’s wondrous trip into the cosmos, narrowing down to more gentle string chords with solo cello melodies as he’s coming to terms with the end of humanity and deciding that he doesn’t want to stay on as the last survivor. But through all of this, the underlying musical motifs share a commonality that let me switch gears smoothly, without sounding like I’d stopped one idea and started the next. It was a little tricky, but luckily the two ideas shared enough musical DNA that this could happen without sounding jarring.
Could you talk about the “cosmic” orchestrations of “Childhood’s End” that seems to occupy a hypnotic place between organic music and electronics?
I wanted the score to have a mostly organic and acoustic footprint, since this is really a human story. I think there are exactly two purely synthesized sounds used: a simple pulsing synth bass on a few early cues and a long filter-sweep sound later in the score. To me, the “cosmic” aspect of the sound comes partly from the use of choir-like tones along with very distant brass textures. Most of the things that sound like choirs are actually strings or processed guitars that just happened to have a vocal-like quality that caught my ear. Often, when working with heavily processed guitars as I like to do, some combination of filters, pitch shifters, and delay effects will suddenly sound like a human voice, and I’d seize those moments and use those tiny chunks of sound to create that effect. At first I tried to use some of the elaborate sampled choir sound libraries that I have, but this usually sounded forced and cheesy to me, so I tended to favor the more distant sounds that just reminded me of choirs without actually being choirs.
The violin, piano and female voice get especially powerful highlighting in the score. What drew you to them?
I wanted the score to contain a pretty wide range of emotions, from “mega-doom” to “single teardrop”, but I knew that there were a couple of spots where just one teardrop wouldn’t be enough, and those were the spots where I broke out the solo female vocals. When Karellen gets shot and falls to his knees, and then the nukes finally go off, those are the two scenes where I could have gone for big, epic brass or something, but I went in the opposite direction and had that plaintive female vocal way out in front. That heartbreaking vocal sound is in such stark contrast to the murky, ethereal quality that much of the score has that it really jumps off the screen and punctuates those two moments, and I’m glad I only used it in those two spots so that it really stands out.
How did you want to embody Karellen and The Overlords, especially given their unguessable nature until the series’ very end?
The only times that I used terrifying sounds in the score for the Overlords is when we’re dealing with people’s reaction to them, like when the ship first lands, or when Karellen first reveals himself. In those kinds of scenes I did use atonal clusters of choirs and other scary sounds, but only to call out the human’s reactions to what they were seeing. When Karellen is talking to Ricky in the fake hotel room, or visiting him at the farm, or Milo is on board their ship, I wanted to score to be calm, benevolent, and noble, since that is the essence of what the Overlords are. They are the opposite of the xenomorphs from “Alien”; they are just here to do a job, to complete a task that has been set in motion many millennia ago. They are not even the architects of this plan, so there’s no need to hate them for what’s inevitably going to happen to mankind. I tried to embody that in the score, and not to make them seem dangerous or malicious. We can be afraid of them, but that’s our problem, because in the long run none of what’s happening isn’t really their fault.
Tell us about playing the “Jesus-God” relationship between Ricky and Karellen.
To be honest I didn’t play Ricky as the Jesus figure in the score at all, I kept his musical elements focused on his confusion at first, then his frustration, and finally his resignation to his fate and his decision not to stay in the hotel room with his dead first wife forever. These were all story elements that were personal to his character, not part of his mission as mankind’s messiah or whatever, so I only addressed these elements from the point of view of how they affected him, not the rest of humanity.
There’s a sort of “2001”-ish quality to your score in how piercing strings and chorus that are used to convey mankind facing an unfathomable power. Was that a conscious choice to hearken back at points to the Gyorgy Ligeti music that Stanley Kubrick placed in Arthur C. Clarke’s most popular film adaptation for this score?
I admit to attempting my own half-assed low-budget version of Ligeti’s astonishing atonal choir work in “2001.” I know I could never hold a candle to his magnificent achievements, but I first saw “2001” when I must have been about seven or eight years old and I was absolutely transfixed by his work. I never heard music or sounds like that before or since, and to me his work is absolutely otherworldly and mind-bending. I still listen to his work often and I remain in awe of the effect it has on my psyche, it makes me feel like I am experiencing something so huge that my tiny human mind could never comprehend even the smallest part. So, yes, I did try to mimic, imitate, simulate, and pay tribute in my own lame fashion Ligeti’s “Lux Aeterna” when we first see Karellen reveal himself to mankind, and I know that my version is a pale shadow of what he accomplished, and I don’t care if I get criticized for daring to attempt such a half-assed knock-off. I had to. I just had to. It was the only choice.
There’s no true “good” or “evil” in “Childhood’s End,” which makes the show especially striking. How does that kind of philosophy impact the score? In that way, do you think the music simultaneously borders a place between fear and acceptance?
Well, the score, like this version of the story, is like a big triangle. It starts wide and gradually gets narrower and more focused until it’s just about one man, Milo, witnessing the inevitable fate of mankind. So in the beginning there are more shades of right and wrong, and a sense of resistance and fighting back against the unstoppable, but that begins to fade and the musical motifs get narrower and the sounds get more placid and peaceful, as though the score is on its deathbed just waiting for the final lethal injection to send it off to rest in peace. I wanted to give the sense that the Overlords were not malicious conquering invaders, but were merely shepherds who are guiding mankind to a peaceful end with as little pain as is possible, given the circumstances. So the moral struggle as embodied in the score starts to fade rather quickly, somewhere in the second part of the story.
What was the creative musical process like with the SyFy Channel?
I worked quite closely with one of the producers, Todd Sharp, as well as Matthew Graham, who wrote the screenplay, and there was a lot of discussion but actually very few revisions were needed once I was off and running. Early on we talked at length about the emotional focus of each cue and the project as a whole, and there wasn’t a single cue that had to be started over from scratch. Any changes I had to make took the form of adding a swell here, a bit of choir there, and only in one spot did I actually have to go in and change the underlying music. Near the end of the story, when Milo is back on the dying earth and he gets up off the couch and walks past a skull lying on the ground, I had to change about twenty seconds of music. At first I had a feeling of noble resignation, but not too much darkness in that moment, but Todd and Matt both thought that it needed to go heavier there, so I changed the music to modulate downward and have more of a feeling of Milo plodding towards his doom rather than stoically, nobly striding to the end. After he begins to witness Jennifer ascending and the Earth crumbling, the score is back to my first version. So either my first instincts were right, or I got lucky, or maybe both?
You’ve also got plenty of musically surreal puzzle solving of a bigger picture in “Wayward Pines.” Could you tell us about your approach for the show, and what we can expect for its return?
I just heard that “Wayward Pines” will be coming back for a second season, and I imagine I’ll be starting on that this spring. That’s very different to something like “Childhood’s End.” That score needs to have a sense of claustrophobia and isolation and none of the expansive sense of wonder that I attempted for “Childhood’s End.” So for “Wayward Pines” I use a lot of smaller sounds that feel like they’re happening inside your head, rather than anything big and cosmic. I also use very different chord voicings and melodic modes; I try to keep the chord voicings tight and small, usually within a single octave, to help give that feeling of claustrophobia, and often use melodies that stay within the center of the chord voicings to help everything feel small and tight. I don’t double things an octave up or down, and I try to keep a wide gap between any low-pitched parts and any of the higher sounds so that everything sounds more separated and isolated.
This isn’t so much an intellectual exercise. It’s just how I react to the story and what I see on the screen. If I play some wide, two-handed part on the keyboard my reaction is, “That sounds wrong for this. It sounds too outdoors, too wide.” If I play a tight voicing with my hands all scrunched together and try to fit everything inside a single octave then my reaction is, “That sounds like it’s happening in between my ears, it feels like the room is getting smaller” and I naturally gravitate in that direction. It’s all instinct, reaction and reflex at this point, none of this is really planned out ahead of time. I don’t write any of these theories down to remind myself how to approach a project, it’s just how I naturally react and respond to the story and the images I’m working with.
With miniseries like “Childhood’s End,” do you think television has become the new go-to place for letting movie composers do interesting, experimental work?
Television has certainly changed over the last fifteen years or so, and now that we’re seeing audiences respond positively to high-quality stuff, whether it’s “Game Of Thrones” or “House Of Cards,” I think the networks, cable channels, and streaming services are really stepping up to the plate and spending the time and resources to up their game. I like doing features and television almost equally, and I could never really walk away from either one in favor of the other. Television often has shorter deadlines, but this can be a blessing in disguise, since it’s possible to over-cook things if given too much time to revise and re-visit your work. So I like to alternate between the two as much as possible, but I have no shame in my television game.
If an alien told you that he was going to change the world for the better, would you believe it, especially after scoring “Childhood’s End?”
I’d never believe that the aliens were here to do us any favors. I also wouldn’t assume that we could do a damn thing about it, so I’d try to mimic Milo’s “noble stoicism” as I marched to my inevitable doom!
Watch “Childhood’s End” on the SyFy channel, or its website HERE, with its blu ray arriving on Earth. Listen to Charlie Clouser’s scores for “Childhood’s End” and “Wayward Pines” on Lakeshore Records HERE and HERE
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.2406]Julian Wass ([m.45395]Other People), [c.962]Mark Suozzo ([m.45394]Love and Friendship), [c.1015]Aaron Zigman ([m.45391]Wakefield), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 6 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2015-12-28]Click here for the full schedule.
No films are opening nationwide this week. [m.41731]The Hateful Eight (music by [c.137]Ennio Morricone) is expanding nationwide from its earlier, limited release.
Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking song credits for:
- [m.41731]The Hateful Eight (9...
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.1668]Dickon Hinchliffe ([m.45369]Little Men), [c.17631]Josh Ritter ([m.45368]The Hollars), [c.868]tomandandy ([t.45371]The Wilding), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 8 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2015-12-21]Click here for the full schedule.
Opening nationwide this week are (with music by): [m.43158]Concussion ([c.151]James Newton Howard), [m.43745]Daddy's Home ([c.809]Michael Andrews), [m.41385]Joy ([c.15287]David Campbell and [c.13730]West Dylan Thordson), and [m.41252]Point Break ([c.8705]Junkie XL). [m.41036]The Big Short ([c.4631]Nicholas...
Lakeshore Records will release the [a.16832]Anomalisa Original Motion Picture Soundtrack digitally on [da.2016-01-01]January 1, 2016 and on CD [da.2016-01-08]January 8, 2016. The album features the film's original score by [c.24]Carter Burwell and the original songs "None of them Are You" (lyrics by Charlie Kaufman) and "Goddess of Heaven."
The creation of [m.42590]Anomalisa began in 2005 as a concert work for text and music, developed by Burwell, titled Theater of the New Ear. The concept was that the actors and musicians would all sit on stage, scripts and scores on music stands, without sets or costumes; an entirely auditory experience. Charlie Kaufman wrote [m.42590]Anomalisa under the pen name Francis Fregoli, and directed the actors Tom Noonan, David Thewlis...