For an Englishman who went up the hill in Hollywood, Stephen Endelman has created a stylistically diverse career on both sides of pond, playing classical angst for Gustav Mahler (“Bride of the Wind”), the neurotic headspace of a parent-finding road trip (“Flirting With Disaster”), the kick-ass rhythms of Jackie Chan (“Operation Condor”), Irish heartstrings for a child-robbed father (“Evelyn”) and the epic drama of Israel’s creation (“O Jerusalem”). Yet the one genre that keeps re-appearing in Endelman’ repertoire is American crime, illegality which has proven just as invigorating for this somewhat imposing composer with the poignant music of a grifter’s family (“Imaginary Crimes”), the head-bashing, hard-boiled percussion of jewel thieves (“City of Industry”), the darkly tender music of an impressionable kid learning the pitfalls of the wiseguy life (“A Bronx Tale”) and the Asian-inflected underbelly of the martial arts circuit (“Red Belt”). But whatever the case, Endelman has always provided these dangerous, often quirky characters with solid dramatic footing, a seriousness that now finds itself upended with both whack-a-doo comedy and romantic fatalism in the NYC underworld of “Rob the Mob,” a score, and film, that stand as one of the composer’s most creative works in capturing the kind of rogues gallery so hard to believe that it must be true.
Where most “mob” movies concentrate on the code of goodfellas, the 80s-set “Rob the Mob” is most pointedly about those distinctly un-made people just outside of criminals’ orbit – yet deeply affected by it. One is a likeable young punk named Tommy (Michael Pitt), the son of a familia-crushed florist with a mad-on to get even. Proving himself to be smarter than he looks, and incredibly stupid as well, Tommy gets the idea from the John Gotti trial to stick up the “social clubs” that are littered throughout the boroughs, pocketing the wisguys’ cash and humiliating them in the bargain. His partner in crime is the vivacious Rosie (the scene-stealing Nina Arianda), who serves as the far smarter, and gun-savvy Bonnie to Tommy’s Clyde. What this couple nets in their crime spree not only brings them dangerously longed-for celebrity, but also the attention of the Feds and a reluctant mob boss named Big Al (Andy Garcia), a true family man who’s long felt his own wages of sin.
Where “Rob the Mob’s” trailer might understandably be selling itself as a zany comedy with no shortage of gun-shooting hijinks, there’s a surprising amount of seriousness to the way in which the film views its characters as far more complex than your usual goombahs. I’s a deeply felt resonance for the little “neighborhood” guy that marks the work of filmmaker Raymond de Felitta, with whom Endelman first teamed to play the unlikely multi-cultural, and multi-ethnic relationship of the Staten Island-located “Two Family House” (clan chemistry that DeFelitta would next take to even more operatically Italian heights in the Jan A.P. Kaczmarek-scored “City Island”). Not only does Endelman help De Felitta hit “Mob’s” cash-rich targets with jangling, energetic percussion and dark menace, but he also captures the duo’s impossible dreams with crafty rhythms, as well as subtly jazzy and beautifully elegiac music that hears how crime doesn’t profit anyone involved in it. But if there’s a humdinger to this score, then it’s Endelman’s simply gorgeous love theme for Tommy and Rosie, a gut-wrenching, poetic melody told in waltz-time that captures two people as hopelessly in love as they are hopeless in ambition, giving two neighborhood mooks a resonance worthy of tragically-destined lovers that Shakespeare might create.
Not given the richest of resources, Stephen Endelman has crafted a truly memorable, and offbeat score with “Rob the Mob” in a way these real-life crooks would likely have appreciated for all of their ill-advised grand schemes, an unlikely break-in that Endelman accomplishes with emotional gusto and a sense of unexpectedly touching irony.
“Rob the Mob” marks your second collaboration with filmmaker and writer Raymond De Felitta after the excellent “Two Family House.” How would you describe the way in which he sympathetically captures working-class characters? And how did your collaboration differ a decade later?
Raymond has made a career out of capturing Italian American working class characters with a myriad of interesting features. He knows the world so well and is able to capture it in a beautiful and quite lyrical manner, always with taste and integrity. I hope my music reflects that. Raymond loves melody in all its forms. He is a brilliant pianist, mostly jazz and the American songbook.
On this occasion Raymond was in the same studio – my studio. Raymond and his editor David Leonard worked in one room and I was in the other. He would edit. I would write, then throw what I’d written back to his room. He would change things in the picture or ask me to adjust the music. It was the most creative experience I’ve ever had with a director. It was fabulous how closely we worked.
As an Englishman, how interesting is it for you to be scoring movies about archetypical American characters like those in “Rob the Mob?”
I’m a composer, I draw inspiration from the moving image and I will write music to anything. I’m also now American so to me it seems completely natural. I love the Italian American culture, which I scored in my first movie “Household Saints.”
The album starts off with your song “Love and the Gun” How did it come into play?
Raymond had an idea to write a song for the movie. He wanted to make it a big 60s “Italianate” song, and that’s what we wrote. Ray came up with a lyric, which I then recorded it with a great band and string players Tamela D’Amico came in, translated the lyrics into Italian and sung it in both English and Italian. The song just fits the movie perfectly.
It’s shocking as it is fun to watch Tommy and Rosie’s idiocy at points. What was your own reaction to their characters when you first saw the film, and how did you want to capture it musically?
I love their crazy romantic behavior and their crazy love. I was able to reflect that in my main theme which is really quite beautiful. And also to answer your question I wanted to write a very delicate very beautiful, but rhythmically complicated main theme to reflect how I loved the film’s offbeat nature.
How did you want the music to balance the comedy and drama?
Morton Feldman, the great American 20th century composer, once said to me “There is no such thing as ‘funny’ music,” and I believe that to be true. I never think about music as being “funny.” I always think about the comedy, and the beats of the drama and dramatic situation, and I write accordingly. So I don’t know if there’s any “funny” music in this film. It is dramatic music, but often placed in funny situations which in this film highlights the oddness of some of the characters.
How do you see the characters of Tommy and Rosie?
I see Tommy and Rosie as two sad, misguided, somewhat silly but beautifully romantic people desperately in love. The love between them is palpable. I fell in love with them. I think as a composer I have to fall in love with the characters I’m writing for. I also I have to see some of me in them.
Could you talk about creating a terrifically memorable love theme for Tommy and Rosie?
Thank you for calling it that. I see Tommy and Rosie as diamonds in the rough. They are ignorant, but yet there is something so beautiful about them. I wanted to capture that in the “simplicity” of their music, although it isn’t simple at all. It’s a topsy-turvy rhythm, and these odd meter help to show the audience who these characters are.
Do you think it’s even more effective when a piano plays Tommy and Rosie’s theme?
Raymond talked about a piano theme, and I love the piano. For me it seemed to be the appropriate instrument for their love. I also knew I could build my strings, wind, and percussion around it. The piano is the soloist, not just for Rosie and Tommy, but for his mother, and Al, who’s the head of the mob family.
How did you want to capture the couple’s optimism that they’ll somehow get away with their scheme, along with the indomitable, dark forces they’re hopelessly outmatched against?
It’s hard to believe that two people could be so stupid as to think they could get away with robbing the social clubs of known Mafioso. I used a lot of homemade pads as textures for their darkness. I also went to a now-unused Wilton prison and recorded everything you could possibly imagine hitting inside a cell. That became my percussion ensemble, because Tommy and Rosie get sent to prison in the beginning of the movie.
In a way, do you think that even being involved with the mob is a life sentence? And if so, how did you want to capture that sense of tragedy?
For many it’s a life style choice. Like working in Hollywood or being a policeman in NYC. It’s a job, a business that’s illegal. Some people get away with it Tommy and Rosie had no chance, just like Bonnie and Clyde.
You also dealt with a street-smart career woman in the show “Made in Jersey.” Do you think that musical character translated to Rosie’s similar dreams of being a “professional” as it were?
Martina, who was the young lady in “Made in Jersey,” was very street smart and an Italian-American, which is the total opposite of Rosie. There was something terribly sad in the Rosie’s optimism that I tried to reflect in the music, which is heard in its poignancy, harmony and the piano melody and the filigree in the winds.
Almost two decades ago you also scored “Witness to the Mob” about Sammy ‘The Bull” Gravano, whose trial we see in “Rob the Mob.” How did you feel about coming full musical circle in that way?
My first movie was an Italian America movie called “Household Saints.” After that there was “A Bronx Tale,” “Witness to the Mob and “Two Family House.” So I guess I’ve scored lots of Italian American movies, not bad for a London Jew. However, my grandmother claimed to be related to Legs Diamond. I’ve always found the wise guy world fascinating. Yet I start any subject with a clean slate. I just try to bring my musical self to every project. I think that’s why I’ve never been tied down to any particular subject.
What were the budgetary challenges of “Rob the Mob,” and what’s your advice towards making the most out of a sampled orchestra, as you do here?
I was able to use enough real musicians to make the sound feel real. I know how to write for a small group and make it sound big. But most importantly, each movie requires a different approach. A 75-piece orchestra would not have been right for “Rob the Mob.” Also, I love chamber music I like to hear the contrapuntal lines as they weave in and out. Each instrument becomes a character and they talk to one another. That’s very much in the forefront of this score, and my music.
How did you want a jazz sound to figure into the score?
The music is syncopated, which creates tension, especially in the robbery scenes but I don’t think I’d call it “jazzy.”
You have some interesting instruments you wouldn’t expect in a mob score, especially what sounds to be a didgeridoo in “Worlds Falling Apart,” or Asian-style percussion in “Hit Goes Down.” How did you come up with those ideas?
It’s my pallets of sounds. I love combining eastern, Indian and western instruments. Even in “Evelyn” you’ll here the gamelan along with the Irish fiddle.
The most powerful cues in your score is for the conclusion of the film in “Christmas Day, 1992,” which accompanies Tommy and Rosie’s big date. Could you talk about the challenges of writing this piece?
I was in love with Tommy and Rosie from the moment I saw them on screen and I knew I had to write something that would be beautiful, sensitive and memorable, but not necessarily totally straightforward because it would reflect their mercurial love affair
How do you think the film, and your score subvert the “Goodfellas”-like expectations some people might have from the story? And in the end, do you think the goal of “Rob the Mob,” and your score is to see the humanity in people who are seemingly easy to classify,” especially when they do something so ill-advised?
What I love about this movie is that it’s not “Goodfellas,” which I love. “Goodfellas” was a different time. “Rob the Mob” is set in 1992, which is the end of the “Mafioso” era. It’s a bunch of old men in shorts being held up by a couple of kids.
Are you particularly drawn to films with flawed “heroes?”
I love flawed characters because we are all flawed. No one is perfect even when they think they are. That’s being human.
“Rob the Mob” opens in theaters on March 21st, with Stephen Endelman’s score available on Lakeshore Records HERE
Visit Stephen Endelman’s website HERE
To the best of my memory, I cannot remember a single update to any OS, DAW or sampler engine that did not provoke a range of reports running the gamut from “Great, totally fixed the problems I was having” to “Running like butter here” to “totally screwed up my rig, crashing like crazy, how do I revert to the pervious version?”
Not a single one, major update or incremental. This drives people absolutely crazy, especially with the incremental updates. After all, with major updates new features are being added and obviously much changes under the hood so the potential for trouble kind of announces itself. The more adventurous users, those who like to live on the cutting edge, go full steam ahead and balls to the wall and rely on backups made with Apple’s Time Machine, Carbon Copy Cloner, Super Duper or Windows 7 Backup and Restore or Windows 8’s new File History or Crashplan to return the computer to a previous state, among others.
The thing is, is that when you are on the cutting edge, you run the risk that you will end up bleeding. Most users therefore take a “wait and see” attitude and read voluminous reports of exactly what gets better for people and what gets worse and based on the preponderance of negative versus positive decide whether or not to update at that point in time. Those who are prudent almost never do a 1.0 release, and with good reason. Traditionally, they are a mess.
People who use computers for an important tool in making their living certainly know better than to update in the middle of a project. That is a quick trip to crazy town and courting disaster in a way that nobody with common sense would risk.
But sooner or later almost everyone finds himself/herself with some gap of time when they can consider doing so. At that point, one can either choose to go for it or to follow the age-old maxim, “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.”
I used to be the guy that chose the latter as often as not. Now I no longer can be that guy, because part of my living is helping those who take the plunge and writing articles like this. So I have to be a fairly early adopter. But since I continue to compose and arrange music as a part of my living, it scares the living you know what out of me.
Some OS and DAW versions eventually reach a stage of development where they are at their optimal state and leaving them behind can be tough. I will talk about ones that I know from personal experience. Most Mac users I know consider the last version of Snow Leopard, 10.6.8, to be a gold standard of Mac OS. It was fast and stable and a lot of people chose to stick with it, eschewing 10.7 (Lion), 10.8 (Mountain Lion), and now 10.9 (Mavericks). BTW, no more pussycats
Which is fine, until you buy a new computer that will not run it or a new version of your DAW that will not run under it. Pretty much all the present Intel-based Macs can, but as all Macs are now 64 bit and Snow Leopard is the last OS that also can run in 32bit, Apple has announced it no longer will support it, and a recent Safari security leak fix is only for OS beginning with 10.7. (It should be said that leak is not present under Snow Leopard.)
Want to transition to Logic Pro X and take advantage of all the nifty new? Well, sir or madam, say goodbye to Snow Leopard, Lion, and even Mountain Lion versions earlier than 10.8.4. It is totally 64 bit with no 32 bit option for itself or plug-ins and Apple doesn’t want you using any stinking old OS with it.
Pro Tools 11? It also requires 10.8.4. Cubase 7. A little more flexibility, 10.7 or newer. Digital Performer 8? You are still OK with 10.6.8 or newer, but it is hard to believe that will not change in the not too distant future.
How about sample engines? If you want to run Kontakt 5, once again kiss Snow Leopard goodbye, as it requires 10.7 or newer.
EastWest Play 4 surprisingly bucks this trend, allowing you to use 10.5 or newer. BUT, it won’t run properly in Cubase 6 and as previously stated, Cubase 7 requires 10.7 or newer. Gotcha!
The PC world moves slower, as Microsoft supports older OS much longer than Apple and OS upgrades are much less frequent. Microsoft still even supports Windows XP, although most of today’s stuff needs at least Windows 7, but I have not seen any products that say they require Windows 8.
I have a Windows 7 slave PC for running my more demanding samples libraries. When I boot it up I get a notice that there are Windows 7 updates available. Since I know next to nothing about PCs, the first time this happened I called up my PC guru and asked, “When should I install the updates?”
He asked me, “How is it running?”
I replied, “Perfect.”
He said, “Never!”
But bear in mind, all I install that is new on my PC are newer versions of Vienna Ensemble Pro 5, Play 4, and Kontakt 5, so I am good, at least for now.
The bottom line is that unless you are willing to take a pledge to yourself and say, “My system is fine and it is staying the way it is. Any new software or hardware purchases that require my updating it are off the table” then sooner or later, updates of your OS, your DAW, your sample engines, and your hardware are in your future.
When should you do it? When you have to? When you want to?
In the famous words of Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry, “You’ve got to ask yourself one question. Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”
Ever since “Fast and the Furious” put racing films back on Hollywood’s map (though most of their courses have remained distinctly off-the sport’s officially sanctioned track) one high-speed entry after the other has been trying to out-maneuver this box office franchise for the pole position of sheer, daredevil spectacle. What makes “Need for Speed” a particularly formidable challenger is that its super-speed mustang has the horsepower of a videogame powerhouse behind it, one that’s been a top runner for Electronic Arts since 1994. Now the bare-bones premise of driving via controller has been fleshed out with Aaron Paul behind the wheel, bringing all of his nervy “Breaking Bad” energy to Tobey Marshall, a street racing whiz with more than winning on his mind when it comes to racing against the evil zillionaire car enthusiast who’s killed Tobey’s best friend and put our hero in the slammer. Now aided by a do-or-die crew, pursued by cops, given “Vanishing Point”-like DJ props by Michael Keaton and partnered with a beautiful girl in the passenger’s seat, Tobey puts pedal to metal in this tricked-out race for payback.
Unlike the many videogame-to-film properties that have crashed and burned, what sets “Need for Speed” apart in both visual and musical terms is that it’s driven by character – while still delivering on the hot wheels spectacle. For where one might expect the regular action scoring tracks of adrenalin percussion and throttling rock guitar that can sometimes lazily power the genre, Nathan Furst goes way beyond the expected to deliver a blazingly thematic old school musical model here. Nox’ing “Need for Speed” with the symphonic stuff of epic heroism. Furst’s dynamically accelerating approach plays these car chases as if these vehicles were spaceships saving the universe, let alone galloping horses hurtling into the big do-or-die showdown.
As such, “Need for Speed” is a hugely impressive level-up for this composer who’s previously given his all to an entertaining, if less ambitious VOD action films full of mega-beasts and macho men. Furst’s fun, symphonically-inspired approach ultimately landed his him in the company of real-life Navy Seals to trumpet their somewhat fictionalized deeds in “Act of Valor” – a hit action film that brought its co-director Scott Waugh this DreamWorks-sponsored vehicle – one whose emotionally-fueled score will definitely come in first for the composer in showing how orchestral emotion and melody can fuel a muscle car film like never before for a career that’s truly passed the checkered flag.
What particularly attracted you to action-oriented scores?
I’ve always loved the bold energy and even fantasy that a good action/adventure score can possess. The scores that really called to me as a young child were often action/adventure and fantasy scores. I think the misconception can be that action/adventure score is simply ‘bombastic’. And while they’ll often have those moments, a GOOD one, in my opinion, actually has a light elegance that connects and intertwines those moments. A good example would be Michael Kamen’s “Die Hard” score, or of course basically anything John Williams has done.
You spent quite a bit of time doing great work in the VOD arena with movies like “Grendel,” “Shark Swarm” and “Lake Placid 2.” What were these titles like as a training ground, and how did you navigate through them to reach a true break out score like “Need for Speed?”
Haha! I guess so! I honestly enjoyed doing those early on because they always left me alone to do whatever I wanted, with no notes! It’s there in that trench that I really honed what I consider MY style and technique. I worked on a trilogy of “VOD” films a while back, and they were really happy with what I did. Someone in that production recommended me to Scott Waugh who at the time needed a composer. Scott and I hit it off, I knocked it out of the park for him, and that’s lead to a very creatively satisfying relationship for the last 10 years. We did “Act Of Valor” a few years ago, which of course became a hit, and that paved the way for Scott to get his opportunities to manifest his ideas on a large scale. I’m very fortunate that he believed in me enough to keep me on his team as the films have been coming. I wrote the “Need for Speed” main theme for him when they were still working on the script. He loved it, and he played it for Steven Spielberg, who I hear gave the thumbs up. It doesn’t get better than that. That’s a career high.
When you got the “Need for Speed” assignment, did you jump into playing the video game before scoring the film?
Not at all. Scott and I already knew the approach we wanted to take within a few conversations after reading the script. The approach was definitely to help tell the story of the film, which isn’t any part of the game. We agreed that the score should never be saying, “Look how awesome these cars are!” Instead, the entire score, including the race and chase sequences are completely about Aaron Paul’s character, Tobey, and what that moment might mean for him. I’m thrilled we were able to keep that vision intact completely!
What do you think makes “Need for Speed” stand out in the realm of video game adaptations? When so many others have failed, why do you think this one works?
Simple. It’s not really a “video game movie.” At all. The film already has a huge advantage, in that the games have no narrative or specific characters. So from the get go, we’re offered a creative blank canvas to build a character and story that makes you really care about why these characters are doing what they’re doing. Scott is a fantastic director who always has a specific vision. In this case, the raw realistic energy of the great car movies of the mid-20th century: “The French Connection,” “Bullitt” and “Grand Prix,” I think, inspired him. This film is also not a CGI fest. Everything is practical, so the action feels intense and visceral, not “shiny,” for lack of a better word. Not to mention with Scott Waugh directing with Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks’ support…. well that’s a very special thing.
What do you think is the biggest difference between the way you’d score a video game and a movie beyond the basic technical qualifications?
Only that I’m a big proponent of truly writing unique music to a project. I always strive for the kind of score where you hear a couple notes of the theme and immediately go “Aha! I know that one!” I’m not sure if that makes me compatible with game scores, but I hope so. I’ve always wanted to do a video game.
How do you think that working with Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh on “Act of Valor” set you up for “Need for Speed,” especially in terms of conveying heroic characters that live on the edge?
I suppose it helped as every film I do with Scott and Mike does – you’re continually building shorthand. I know their aesthetic well. But with every film, you learn a little more. That helps us find magic more quickly. Beyond that, the approach musically of “Act Of Valor” has nothing to do with Need For Speed’s.” We always start from scratch. With every film we ask, “What do we want to say?” “What do we want to do with the audiences’ attention?” And we go from there.
Now that Scott is in the solo driver’s seat for “Need for Speed,” was there any major difference in your collaboration?
Not at all! I consider Scott a true friend and a brother. I believe in him.
It’s all about giving everything you have and more into helping make the best film you possibly can. I’d follow him into hell in back to do that.And that’s how we do it every time!
You could say that the last “race” movie you scored was the motocross documentary “Dust To Glory.” Do you think there’s any difference between motorcycles and cars?
It absolutely was the last race movie! It was also my first collaboration with Scott Waugh. Fans of “Dust To Glory might find a fun little Easter egg in this movie…
Could you tell us about Tobey’s theme?
Tobey is an incredibly talented racecar driver who never really went pro. He’s a good guy who’s had some setbacks. Then he gets an opportunity to work for someone who was a childhood racing rivalry. Things go wrong at some point, and Tobey seeks vengeance through redemption (or perhaps it’s redemption through vengeance) the only way he really knows how. He has a fantastic and loyal crew and friends who will of course help in every way they can. Crazy nail biting fun ensues. But his quest for revenge is the act, but not the “why.” It was important to play the “why” in the score – his hurt, his frustration, and of course, his determination. I created two key themes, one being a long sweeping melody. I spend a good portion of the film using segments and “callbacks” to that theme in a lamenting way, which I hope pays off when we explode in the big moments where the theme just soars over us.
How did you want to convey the rush of being behind the wheel?
The rush and intensity of being behind the wheel is already in the camera, often in the first person, so music didn’t need to do that. For this score, the music is of better service to convey Tobey’s perspective of what he’s going through at that moment.
How did you want your music to “track” the various races, and do you have a favorite among them?
I did want each big “set-piece” to have it’s own identity of sound, yet still use the same motifs and themes I’d established. So that approach was honestly fairly straight forward, cause the moments themselves all look and feel very different naturally, and I’m mostly following the character musically. I’m torn between the cues “Hot Fuel,” “Utah Escape” and the last 2;30 of “Letha Force” (which was a separate cue throughout production). Those all hold a special place for me.
One might not expect such an epic, sumptuous sound in a score like this, one that’s more dominant than other soundtracks that rely more on rock and percussion. How important was an epic orchestra for you, and what did you want it to convey?
“Sumptuous!” I like that! It was very important to us. We knew we wanted to tell a big cinematic story, and not do a “Dude! Look how awesome these cars are!” score that could trap others. It was also important that our score not be gimmicky. It needed to be timeless, yet (hopefully) fresh in it’s own way. For me, that meant staying away from the uber-gigantic percussion rhythms and ticky-tacky synths. I do have guitars intertwined in the score, but I’m always calling on more of an old school sound. But while it’s definitely an orchestrally rooted score, but we knew we also wanted a clear, shimmering guitar, as a character in the score. I ended up buying a Stratocaster and figuring out how to play what I wanted from cue to cue. My sausage fingers are not conducive to guitar playing, but I made it happen! We brought the great George Doering in to replace a lot of my guitars, but my guitars are still in there. A lot more than I would have initially anticipated!
There’s a “western” feeling as well to your score in its sweeping, acoustically galloping heroism. Do you think NFS could be one if you substituted horses for cars?
That’s a very astute observation! There is a classic western energy there…
Did you have any symphonic composers who influenced your style for “Need for Speed?”
I have my own influences of course. Mahler’s always in there somewhere, and others…. The musical language that I gravitate towards is definitely influenced by what I listened to as a kid. We knew what we wanted to do, and it was apparently difficult to find “temp” score with that specific sound and approach as it was being cut. Luckily, I had already given them about 30 minutes of sketches while they were filming, so we just temped most of the film with the sketches for the themes. Of course, that’s always the best way to handle that.
Could you talk about scoring “Need for Speed’s” more emotional sequences, particularly the striking cue “Pete’s Death?”
Funnily enough, I wrote that in almost real time. I was playing the scene with the director in the room and just playing a very simplified version of my theme ideas. We played it through a couple of times, with me just singing out loud to convey what the vocal would do. He loved it, and that’s largely what’s in the film. I added just a couple of elements, recorded the vocals, and replaced the piano with the Steinway on the Sony Scoring Stage, using the same piano they played for “Jurassic Park.” How cool is that?
Composers of car chase movies have always faced their own race with the sound effects. How did you want to pull out the checkered flag in this respect?
It’s the relatively simple solution of working with a bigger musical scope, and broad themes, I find the ear subconsciously stays attached to the music despite the sound FX. When you’re using nothing more than big, stabby percussion hits, the effects will come through more. But then the music gets lost anyway, because it doesn’t mean anything. It basically is another sound effect at that point.
Would you like to do an actual “Need for Speed” racing game after this movie?
I honestly haven’t thought about it. I’d be hesitant, but never say never.
Some might say it’s silly to try and do such a mythic take on a “video game movie” in terms of visual and musical scope. But do you think it’s time that people started taking the genre seriously?
I don’t know that it’s on the public for not taking it seriously, I think it’s often been the filmmakers and studios. Some of these movies seem to be a parody of themselves before it even gets going. When we strive to make a film – franchise based or not – that believes in itself, I think the general public will rise to the occasion and believe in it too.
Do you hope that “Need for Speed” has a pole positional shift on the kind of music, and moviemaking you get from the videogame-to-film genre?
Oh man. I really haven’t thought that deeply about it. I just hope that people connect with the film while having a great time, and hopefully the score plays a role in that.
How do you want to keep your professional momentum up after “Need for Speed?”
I just enjoy trying to do great work with really interesting and talented people. I’m currently writing themes for another project at the moment. It’s challenging and a lot of fun, cause it’ll be a bit of a different sound. I love this stage – just me sitting down at the piano until I get that moment where the lock combination ‘clicks’ open.
“Need for Speed” opens in theaters on March 14th, with Nathan Furst’s score available on Varese Sarabande Records April 15th HERE. In the meantime, get some extra laps ahead by buying his score for “Act of Valor” HERE
And “Dust to Glory” HERE
New composer assignments were announced for: [c.1750]David Wingo ([m.40336]Maggie), [c.2269]Ludwig Goransson ([m.38201]Stretch), [c.367]William Ross ([t.40335]In My Dreams), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
26 new soundtrack albums were released this week. [da.2014-2-17]Click here for the full schedule.
[m.38022]3 Days to Kill (music by [c.3568]Guillaume Roussel) and [m.37597]Pompeii (music by [c.1688]Clinton Shorter) opened nationwide today.
Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking song credits for:
- [m.38022]3 Days to Kill (23 songs)
- [m.37597]Pompeii (3 songs)
- [m.35419]Almost Human (No songs)
Award-winning composer [c.1125]Winifred Phillips ([v.35749]Assassin's Creed III: Liberation, [v.37791]Spore Hero) has written a book to serve as a guide for those aspiring to write music in the booming video game industry. A Composer's Guide to Game Music offers practical advice from skill development to landing the job. It also provides the reader with a deeper understanding of the relationship between music and video games, which can differ significantly from that of film.
In what composer [c.274]Harry Gregson-Williams ([m.23439]Shrek, [m.]Narnia, [v.]Metal Gear Solid series) refers to as "compulsory bedside reading for budding games composers," readers will learn about collaborating with a development team, audio technology, how to run a business, and...
Varèse Sarabande Records will release [a.12027]Non-Stop Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, available digitally and on CD [da.2014-02-25]February 25, 2014, it was announced today. The film features an original score by [c.159]John Ottman ([m.31294]Jack the Giant Slayer, [m.27411]The Usual Suspects) and arrives in theaters on [dt.2014-02-28]February 28.
Global action star Liam Neeson stars in [m.37430]Non-Stop, a suspense thriller played out at 40,000 feet in the air. During a transatlantic flight from New York City to London, U.S. Air Marshal Bill Marks (Neeson) receives a series of cryptic text messages demanding that he instruct the airline to transfer $150 million into a numbered account. Until he secures the money, a passenger on his flight will be killed every...
For The Month of DECEMBER 2013
- Record Label
1Philomena OST Decca Records Alexandre Desplat
2Doctor Who: 50th Anniversary Collection OST Silva Screen Records Various
3The Book Thief OST
Sony Classical John Williams
4Runner Runner OST Lakeshore Records Christophe Beck
5The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug OST strong> WaterTower Records Howard Shore
6Gravity OST WaterTower Music Steven Price
7Saving Mr. Banks OST Walt Disney Records Thomas Newman
8< The Hunger Games: Catching Fire OST Universal Republic James Newton Howard
912 Years a Slave OST Columbia Records Hans Zimmer
10Ender’s Game OST Varese Sarabande Steve Jablonsky
11Expecting OST Lakeshore Records Mark Kilian
12Prisoners OST WaterTower Music Johan Johannson
13Arrested Development OST
Varese Sarabande David Schwartz
14Only God Forgives OST Milan Records Cliff Martinez
15Pacific Rim OST WaterTower Music Ramin Djawadi
16Dr. Who: The Snowmen/ The Doctor, The Widow, The Wardrobe OST
Silva Screen Records Murray Gold
17Doctor Who: Series 7 OST Silva Screen Records Murray Gold
18Frozen OST Walt Disney Records Christophe Beck
19Salinger OST Lorne Balfe Decca Records
20La Mula OST Moviescore Media/ Kronos Oscar Navarro CineRadio is produced by CineMedia Promotions. For more information about CineRadio or CineMedia Promotions contact Beth Krakower at cinemediapromo (at) yahoo.com
The chart is composed of music played during the month of December on soundtrack music specialty shows. This month’s reporters include WPRK, WRTU, WHRV, KFJC, KSPC, WQXR, WHFR, BBC 3 “Sounds of Cinema”, The Score, East Village Radio, Radioaktywne, Cinematic Sound, Soundtrax.fm, and A Fistful of Soundtracks.
* denotes new reporters
‘SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES‘ is one of the top soundtracks to own for February, 2014
Also worth picking up THAT AWKWARD MOMENT, BLACK SAILS, FALLING DOWN, GUILTY AS CHARGED THE MONUMENTS MEN, THIEF and more!
To Purchase the soundtracks from this list, click on the CD cover
THE TOP PICKS
1) BLACK SAILS / KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM
What Is It?: Currently battling for the title of being the busiest composer on television with the lurching “Walking Dead” and the shambling “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,” Bear McCreary isn’t just out for work, but also for achieving a consistently high quality of robustly inventive music, often for equally daring shows like “Da Vinci’s Demons” and “Eureka.” His Now, the indefatigable composer’s latest launch to Nielsen wonder is Starz’ “Black Sails,” a pirate show that lets McCreary smartly plunder the cult cable hit that started his profitable career.
Why You Should Buy It?: Using ethnic percussion as opposed to symphonically expected space opera music was an incredibly daring, and is it turned out, brilliant choice when McCreary boarded SyFy’s striking reboot of ‘Battlestar Galactica.” Like that show, ‘Black Sails” offers a character-driven craft on an odyssey to find a priceless treasure, even if these shipmates might be villains. With is ample amounts of cable-du-jour sex and violence, it was obvious that the producers of this show weren’t going to go for a swaggering Hans Zimmer “Pirates of the Caribbean” sound, but rather something befitting the good-looking grit of a far more realistic take on the scallywags. What McCreary provides is an unplugged, percussion heavy score that’s even rawer than “Galactica,” as befitting this scurvy bunch. Yet in collecting ethnic string, wind and percussion instruments from the ports of call these pirates have looted, McCreary also achieves a rhythmic world music, sea shanty sound in much the same fashion as he delineated “Galactica’s” gathered colonies. Having more than demonstrated his talent at making ancient instruments come to new, vibrant life in “Da Vinci’s Demons,” McCreary employs the Hurdy Gurdy, mandolin dulcimer, accordion and violin to create music that’s as much score as it might be a gig during wenches night at an island tavern, circa the 17th century. With its virtuoso, heartily acoustical sets, the music of “Black Sails” feels lived in, alive and authentic in the way that few history-based TV soundtracks have dared. And though there’s no touch of a modern orchestra, let alone Zimmer-esque percussion here, “Sails” is full of even more excitement and life than if it had been beefed up by modern sounds, though a rock guitar certainly fits in for the berserker attitude. Yet there’s sadness to this pirate’s life as well, the sense of finding solace at no port captured as well. Given what a strong start this series is off to, there’s no doubt that McCreary will continue to grow on “Sails’” winds, though I have a feeling we won’t be hearing Jack Sparrow’s approach anytime soon.
Extra Special: With so much standout work for the small screen, it’s a wonder why McCreary hasn’t conquered the big one as well, though sumptuous genre work like “Europa Report” certainly shows that he’s making strides – even when the film itself has stumbled like “Knights of Badassdom,” a picture whose behind-the-scenes creative battles ultimately took it give years to barely reach any theater (though its VOD wide release is now up). Thankfully, those kind of raging battles are only heard in McCreary’s bodacious, LARP-worthy work. Easily the most insane rock-fantasy score since Joel Goldsmith’s “Kull the Conqueror,” McCreary’s head-banging conceit is playing a bunch of dudes dressed in Medieval role-playing costumes as gods of metal thunder, unleashing sweat-flying guitars (with one solo played by no less than Whitesnake’s Doug Aldrich) and drum set thrashes to smite down the female chorus of a she-demon who’s been incanted to earth. More than just going Wild Stallyns with the long hair stuff, McCreary fashions his hard rock into strikingly shredding themes, with the orchestra delivering noble Celtic chivalry in spades. And in the few moments of quiet downtime, McCreary gets all girly like with flutes and harp to give some romantic Rennaisance possibility to guys who’d really like to get some, except not from a hell vixen. “Knights” slays with this simultaneously satirical and serious adventure that rousingly salutes an outwardly ridiculous past time that has to end up saving the world. Extra props for the straight-on legit metal ballads “Your Heart Sucks My Soul” and “At the Gates,” delivered with AC/DC gusto by McCreary’s bro Brendan. Their “Knights” truly kick-ass, making for a larger than life jam that more than ever shows that the composer can definitely rock in the big Hollywood leagues.
2) FALLING DOWN
What is it?: One could argue that 1993s “Falling Down” was Hollywood’s Tea Party moment, the movie where angry white man rage boiled over into the mainstream in a far less marginalized way than Travis Bickel’s righteously pissed rampage in “Taxi Driver.” Showing an ability to go for a cinematic gut kick after the enjoyably style-drenched likes of “St. Elmo’s Fire” and “The Lost Boys,” director Joel Schumacher sent Michael Douglas’ not-going-to-take-it-anymore worker drone on a society-busting trip from downtown L.A. to Venice Beach, the seething, often explosive rage and the inner sorrow of his suicide mission embodied with equal conformist-busting experimentation in James Newton Howard’s violent, emotional burn of a score.
Why should you buy it?: It wasn’t as if the composer hadn’t taken on troubling subject matter before in such works as the Vietnam-set murder mystery “Off Limits,” the Andes mountain cannibalism in “Alive” or the ultra violence of Steven Seagal in “Marked for Death.” Yet it was this kind of far more identifiable anguish that made so many respectable city dwellers want to Medieval that pushed Howard over the edge into truly dark, experimental territory as musically far away from “The Prince of Tides” as the Earth was from Pluto – let alone the ultimately sunny, we-can-all-get along message of his last venture into L.A.’s “Grand Canyon.” “Falling Down’s” urban, scum-cleaning trek through this City of Nightmares begins with eerie, whistling electronics, grinding guitar and metallic percussion, a growling, orchestral pulse building on top. It’s music that might just as well accompany a monster awakening. But here it’s an antihero’s enraged mental state, which Howard also expresses through moaning, gonging textures as the character is revealed to be no white savior at all. In the process, Howard conjures an ethnic, acid nightmare quality evocative of “Apocalypse Now’s” trek through the jungle to a murderous destination. But while “Falling Down” starts off with dissonant minimalism, Howard skillfully brings in far more melodic and human-sounding symphonic fury, as well as rhythmic, suspenseful action befitting of a Schwarzenegger or Seagal seeking payback on a very bad day, A lonely, neo-patriotic trumpet also distinguishes this movie’s gravely wounded warrior, whose mental collapse is cleverly enhanced with child-like bell statements of “London Bridge is Falling Down.” Howard isn’t so much begging for sympathy as much as he is understanding, effectively setting up a doom-laden, and greatly affecting sense of tragedy. It all leads to a somber, trumpet-topped outcome in line with subverting “Falling Down’s” expectations in the benefits of being justifiably pissed -even if the movie itself ended up being far less effective in going for a conventionally moralistic outcome for all of its seeming trumpeting of vigilante justice. But there’s no denying the confrontational, and ultimately sad power of Howard’s score, especially when given unusually controversial material from the studio system.
Extra Special: “Falling Down” definitely pushed buttons upon its release, especially among soundtrack fans that were impressed with Howard’s ability to show new reserves of dramatic possibility. Now Intrada finally releases this long in-demand score with an impactful 70-minute CD, which has Jeff Bond’s incisive liner notes following Howard’s darkly empathetic journey, whose extra tracks offer alternates and pulsing guitar tracks that add to the score’s striking psychosis.
3) SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES / BATMAN THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD
What is it?: Shirley Walker brought seriousness, not to mention production value to animation scoring back in 1992 with “Batman: The Animated Series.” Given her cue by the success of the first Tim Burton film that finally took The Dark Knight seriously, Walker turned from co-orchestrating Danny Elfman’s thunderous score to bringing her own film noir voice to the cartoon counterpart, and matched the live action picture’s symphonic power and thematic resonance in the bargain. So it was only natural that Walker and her scoring team would take the next, natural comic book leap with the WB’s “Superman: The Animated Series,” bringing an even stylistically richer and majestic orchestral sound to DC’s ultimate superhero that made every 30-minute episode into its own mini film score. Now after releasing two collections of the game-changing Bat toon music, La La Land Records goes the caped red and blue tote with this dazzling four CD set that’s all about how high flying the serious ambitions of TV animation scoring can be, all while having no lack of fun and adventure.
Why you should buy it?: There’s a remarkable seamlessness to over five hours of music offered on the “Superman” set, which is perhaps the best testament as to how Walker inspired her own creatively budding justice league of composers, each of whom get their moment to shine in this powerhouse set. Lolita Ritmanis turns from the simian playing of cute Circus music into the pounding African percussion and Kong-esque brass rampage of the big ape Titano in “Monkey Fun.” Kristopher Carter brought The New Gods into the mix with one of the series’ most exciting scores for the two part “Apokips…Now!” capturing the glory of Jack Kirby’s cosmic Olympians while unleashing the villainy of Darkseid, adding gnarled electric percussion and the metal clanging of death machinery to smashing, heroic fisticuffs. Walker gives her own dramatic take on the New Gods with “Legacy,” offering some of the series’ most alarming action music with all of the furious, brass writing she’d give to the impending demises of her “Final Destination” scores, complete with a lurching, epically ominous chorus for the supervillain supreme. But perhaps the most dynamic scores in the set belong to the duo of “The New Batman / Superman Adventures,” which allowed many of Walker’s themes for the first, groundbreaking series to enter Superman’s musical universe, among them The Joker’s, whose Theremin insanity and jolly, jazzy circus music, which Michael McCuiston deftly joins with the sinister sound of Lex Luthor in “World’s Finest.” But undeniably the wackiest music belongs to Harvey Cohen’s embodiment of the mischievous Mr. Mxzyptik, who’s treated with all the cartoonish energy that Carl Stalling gave to Bugs Bunny. These episode-specific styles are but some of the approaches that fill “Superman’s” music, whether it’s jetting from metal hair rock to intimate piano romance or lush jazz, all tied together with Walker’s dynamic main themes. It’s an astonishingly motivic universe that’s far from kid’s stuff, with John Takis’ excellent liner notes breaking down the episodes while showing the height of how a musical team reached for the sky in terms of creative quality, an effort touchingly saluted in a CD-ending outtake that has Walker congratulating producer Bruce Timm and her players on giving their orchestral all to animation, with the kind of fully fleshed out music sound that’s still a rarity for cartoon superheroes.
Extra Special: If Burton Bat movie rescued the public impression of comic books as being kid’s stuff, the one show we can blame for their condescending opinion is ABC’s beyond-camp version of “Batman” back in 1966. But only praise can be heaped upon Neal Hefti’s rollicking, “crime jazz” approach – a swinging kitsch vibe that was brilliantly brought to new, animated life by McCuiston, Ritmanis and Carter for the kid-friendly “Batman: The Brave and the Bold,” – a show based on the comic books that paired Batman with a different superhero each month. Our musical trio gives “B & B” an overarching blast of retro-jazz, their Pow! Thwack! combo achieving a pop art sense of musical camp that’s thoroughly fun without being goofy. But thankfully, all is not fun and games here, as the Ritmanis, Karter and McCuiston get across a strong sense of symphonic drama when need be, even without benefit of an actual orchestra. There’s also a strong sense of identity for the different guest stars under the jazz guise. Medieval flutes and voice give soul to Etrigan the Demon, Batmite sprints about to hapless heroics, Catwoman claws with a slinky sax, Wildcat has a crazed surf guitar and Jonah Hex all the instrumental fixings for a spaghetti western score. If you might sometimes find yourself somehow asking “Why so serious?” of “Superman: The Animated Series,” then the Emmy-nominated music of “The Brave and the Bold” undoubtedly will give you a two-disc shot of lightweight, musical fun, with some of the most inspired use of jazz to hit small screen avengers since Hefti brassily spun about the Bat logo. John Takis is once again back to give liner note appreciation to superhero scoring’s most dynamic trio, whose continued, energetic adventures show just how well Shirley Walker’s training in the batcave has rubbed off.
4) THE MONUMENTS MEN
What is it: Let the film reviewers shells have at it. But one thing few of them seemed to get is that “Monuments Men” isn’t a “war” film as such. Rather, it’s a very human story about art geeks being sent to rescue the best of what humanity can create, a mission accomplished with both sly humor and moving emotion that nevertheless has the dread of being in constant danger. It’s a smart, subversive take on the patriotic genre that pays tribute to it at the same time, which can also be said of Frenchman Alexandre Desplat’s slyly dramatic, flag-waving score that salutes the American intellectual red white and blue as much as it does the shimmering, artistic treasure they’re out to rescue from the Nazis.
Why you should buy it?: Best known for his more melodic work like “Philomena” and “Julia and Julia,” Desplat is a gritty veteran of French war films spanning from the Resistance of “Army of Crime” to Algeria for “Intimate Enemies.” “Monuments Men” gives Desplat the chance to pay tribute to a classic, Hollywood-style war score, as wonderfully typified by a whistling theme a la “The Colonel Bogey’s March” from “The Bridge on the River Kwai.” It’s an exuberant, carefree melody, much like the strutting professors-at-arms that can’t wait to get the call from Uncle Sam. But as their mission proves far more dangerous than expected, Desplat creates a solemn, string and trumpet sense of bravery and sacrifice that General Patton, not to mention the likes of Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams or Ron Goodwin, would approve of. In a Hollywood seemingly bent on blasting away the symphonic valor their work typified, Desplat remains wonderfully defiant in service of harmony. A master of varying memorable themes, Desplat turns his march into the touching intimacy of a piano, uses it to unleash the big orchestral guns of Americana victory, or brings on powerhouse action in the dark, Teutonic percussion of Hitler’s creatively bankrupt minions on the run. The gossamer use of bells and waltz-like rhythms that mark Desplat’s brushstroke also pervade “Monuments Men,” with just a touch of “Raiders” grand orchestral exoticism as well to accompany those endless vaults of crated masterworks. But most of all, Desplat is out to capture his characters’ humorous camaraderie as much as the spirituality of being in the presence of artistic transcendence. Call “Monuments Men” “Stripes” with seriousness if you will. It’s a throwback wonder of a soundtrack that proves to be the biggest breath of fresh musical air so far this scoring year.
Extra Special: While there’s nothing new to having composers show up in cameos of films they’ve scored (a la Jerry Goldsmith’s funny bits in the two “Gremlins” or Bernard Herrmann conducting the assassination symphony of “The Man Who Knew Too Much”), Desplat’s appearance as “Emile” just might be the first real, if small, part that a musician’s gotten in their own movie. It’s one of “Monument Men’s” most welcome surprises. And given the spot-on, wink-of-an-eye performance that Desplat delivers in his scenes with Matt Damon as a French Resistance farmer who can also pilot a biplane, this composer shows he has a whole other talent should his other movie gig inexplicably go south.
What is it?: With progressive rock rising in the late 60s, it was only a matter of time before the electronic wavelengths that especially emanated from Western Europe were received by American filmmakers. The band that first broke through Hollywood’s more classically-attuned scoring walls was the ever-changing German collective known as Tangerine Dream, whose trippy, rhythmic sound enticed the musically iconoclastic director William Friedkin to use their bizarre synth grooves for a suspenseful trip though the Latin American jungle in 1977s “Sorcerer.” Though Dream wrote the music before the film was even shot, the way that Friedkin melded long, hallucinogenic stretches of their hypnotic work to his nitro-packing odyssey was an exemplar of how well Dream’s music could play the more existential side of hard-bitten, criminally-minded characters. But it truly would be Michael Mann who’d take the TD vibe to a whole new level of visual synergy when they created the game changing score to 1981s “Thief,” a career-making soundtrack that not only broke through steel safes, but more importantly equated filmmaking cool with swathes of electro-rock groove.
Why you should buy it?: Though barely seen when it came out, Mann’s use of neon, rain-washed textures would redefine the 80s look of film noir with “Miami Vice” and “Manhunter.” Here it’s the perfect compliment to the machine-like slickness of its well-dressed antihero Frank, who crafts his heists with methodical, slick professionalism as opposed to brute force. His full-bore attitude is embodied by Dream’s undulating, steady rhythms and rock guitar, from the badass grooves of “Dr. Destructo” and “Igneous” to the bubbling, computerized chirps of “Burning Bar,” the music having all the futuristic sheen of Frank’s tools. Though he might play it cool in the escalating, piercing progression of “Scrap Yard,” there’s still the exhilaration of a job well done (“Beach Theme”), even though his retirement plan ends in disaster, betrayal that’s heard in the solemn, angered “Trap Feeling.” But TD’s undoubted centerpiece is the eleven-minute stretch of “Diamond Diary” that methodically plots out the big heist, not truly “hitting” each spark from its state-of-the-art blowtorch, but percussively building from break-in foreplay to orgasmic, fiery penetration. It’s no wonder that so many porn films stole this transfixing, elongated cue to put on top of their sex scene stretches.
Extra Special: “Thief’s” street cred as one of film scoring’s defining electro-rock scores has seen it put out through multiple versions over the past thirty-plus years, but it’s taken Perseverance Records to get a hold of the whole stash of released music – a minor miracle considering how TD’s own inter-band feuds has made it next to impossible to get out such prized jewels as “The Keep.” So at last here’s a “Thief” that offers both “Beach Scene” and “Confrontation,” the latter cue the property of Craig Safan. Commanded by Mann to groove on “Comfortably Numb,” Safan steals brings on his own rock groove, building with steely, energetic determination for “Thief’s” knockout, nihilistic ending as Frank settles the books, screaming chords and percussion that’s played with sweaty, freestyle excitement that brilliantly capturing the revenge of a guy you don’t want to F with. It’s a knockout piece that’s “Thief’s” approximation of the concert-ending solo. Informative liner notes by James Phillips and fittingly cool, blue-colored layout add the neon touch to this mostly complete, terrific-sounding presentation of the movie that let Mann and Tangerine Dream deservedly make off like bandits.
ALSO FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION:
. THE ART OF TRAVEL / GUILTY AS CHARGED (1,000 edition)
Contrary to popular belief, Danny Elfman isn’t the only member of the rock group Oingo Boingo to have a second act as a film composer. And like Elfman, lead guitarist Steve Bartek transferred much of his cult group’s bouncy world rhythms and devilish love of the dark into his scoring work, two prime examples of which are now available on one CD from Buysoundtrax. The music for 2008s “The Art of Travel” serves as the road map for a young man trying to find himself on a trip across South America’s Darien Gap. With fun Ska-jazz groove that recalls the Boingo days, Bartek takes a strumming, sensitive path that’s offbeatly blazed with retro guitar, synths and \percussion Like such composers as Gustavo Santolalla (“Motorcycle Diaries”) who’ve set young people into South American parts unknown in both locale and mind, Bartek’s uses sensitive violin and guitar melodies for introspection, exotic riffs and rising brass for the film’s awe-inspiring sights and rock rhythm to convey the fun of wanderlust – at least until queasy synths run into the Latin rebels who patrol them thar hills. But most of all, Bartek’s “Art” has a fun, inventively rhythmic and quietly dramatic sense of discovery to it, making for an effective, alt. Latin flavored score that conveys the bigger things in life. Having helped orchestra his bandmate’s crazed Gothic death sound in such seminal works as “Beetlejuice,” “Batman” and “Darkman,” Bartek got his own soundtrack to shine with his scoring debut “Guilty as Charged.” Sam Irwin’s delightful 1995 black comedy saw Rod Steiger frying much ham, as well as judged evildoers, on a traveling electric chair. Bartek’s stormy, symphonic work is a black-humored delight, full of purposefully malefic violins, haunted voices and a roaring, brass-topped orchestra that operatically conjures the twisted business at hand. Like Elfman, Bartek has an mad thing for Bernard Herrmann, whose playfully twisted melodies possesses this exercise in grand guignol evil-righting that’s as energetically determined as Steiger’s old sparky.
. THAT AWKWARD MOMENT
Renowned among rock fans for his guitar playing with the likes of Sting, Jeff Beck and David Bowie, David Torn has proven himself to be an equally memorable composer, especially when scoring projects involving youthful romance, from the halting love doll attraction in “Lars and the Real Girl” to the acid rock grooves of “The Wackness,” as well as an equally soulful adult breakdown in “Everything Must Go.” Torn’s film work is distinguished by an ethereal, rhythmic vibe, as beautiful samples merge with bell percussion and acoustic pace. It’s an approach reminiscent of Thomas Newman’s rarely heard forays into alt. scoring, which makes the equally rare release of this unsung composer’s work a reason to celebrate. Torn’s grooves don’t get smoother, or more enchanting than with “That Awkward Moment.” Charting the romantic forays of a bunch of best NYC buds, Torn’s entrancingly mellow work expresses the emotions these guys run from, an echoing, strumming tenderness given extra depth with strings and spacey synths. Alternating between montage grooves and pensiveness, “That Awkward Moment” is as smooth as can be, capturing a flowery, smart feel of first love beyond the guy talk b.s. Better yet, like their release of “Stuck in Love,” “That Awkward Moment” represents a welcome outreach for Varese to hook up young, alternative listeners beyond the typical soundtrack crowd, an appeal that songs are a must for. And “Moment” has unusually good tunes to spare, from the 80’s style synth rock rhythms of Crozet’s “Closed Shades” and Night Drive’s “After Dark” to the contemporary trance beat of Strange Talk’s “Morning Sun” and the doo-wop style of Lavender Diamond’s “I Don’t Recall.” All add for a romantic mix tape of a soundtrack that’s sure to turn awkward to lucky.
. DEAD AGAIN (2,000 edition)
Few film scoring, or actor-turned-director debuts have been as rapturously received as 1989s “Henry V,” the first of many auspicious pairings for Patrick Doyle and Kenneth Branagh that most recently impressed with the techno-orchestral “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.” But before the duo re-invented themselves to appeal to the blockbuster energy of the multiplex, they’d stormed Hollywood’s battlements with a decidedly old school score with 1991s “Dead Again.” This reincarnation thriller was a throwback in more ways than one, not only have its way with its supernatural 40s era murder MacGuffin, but also allowing Doyle to breathlessly pull out all the stops in re-creating the lush, melody-drenched golden age scoring practiced by the likes of David Raksin, Bernard Herrman and Miklos Rozsa. Doyle’s throwback inspiration to let loose the full thematic range of his orchestra was a plot drenched in music appreciation, as a private dick finds that a conductor’s seeming murder of his lover has its present-day roots in an unfinished, mad symphony. Doyle’s no-holds barred thematic approach is right out the gate in a striking melody that pounds through the years, with piano percussion and brass serving as the exclamation points to its newspaper headline montage. And it just keeps getting better from there for listeners who longed for the day when outright melody was nothing to be ashamed about. Doyle sorts through the murder-mystery’s clues with equal parts rollicking speed, tingling, star-crossed passion and pounding orchestral excitement that’s a delightful work-out for all the romantically suspenseful force a film orchestra is capable of mustering. La La Land’s release of the full score on a 78 minute CD gives us even more of Doyle’s rollicking, and brash music to appreciate, showing how it’s niftily constructed to pay off in one of the most gigantic, and quickly paced scoring climaxes ever, as the past flashbacks come ripping into the present with the murderer’s big reveal, with Doyle bringing the killer’s symphony to life with full operatic bombast. Now that Doyle and Branagh are understandably fashioning their bigger Hollywood collaborations for youngsters who haven’t begun to watch a black and white movie, “Dead Again” stands even more as a terrific blast from the scoring past, as energized for the present, with Brian Satterwhite’s exceptional liner notes ferreting out the clues behind the rewarding collaboration of two all-out artists and their landmark movie-movie-music film.
. LOLITA (1,000 edition)
Stanley Kubrick made a wildly entertaining movie out of Vladimir Nabokov’s forbidden novel back in 1962 (or at least as much of one that could be made back in those days), its seditious sense of humor abetted by Nelson Riddle’s jazzy score. But leave it to sensual auteur Adrian Lyne to set out to do a far more heatedly realistic version that would closely follow the novel, sans Peter Sellers’ cartoonish Quilty-isms. The result was far less salacious than one would expect from the director behind “9 ½ Weeks,” who created a somber, slow moving and surprisingly intellectual movie that was far more about the big head than the little one when it came to its wholly inappropriate relationship. And while it was to be the only time that Lynne worked with Ennio Morricone, the result was a remarkable collaboration. Doomed, lyrical romance has always elicited some of the Italian maestro’s finest work for Hollywood from “Days of Heaven” to “Fat Man and Little Boy” and “Bugsy,” whose drifting melodies, poignant flute and slow, fateful piano burn and flashes of film noir brass make that score incestuously close to “Lolita” in the best ways. Morricone crafts an astonishingly beautiful theme, whose phrasing spells out the vixen’s name – so don’t be surprised if you find yourself singing to it. Such is the thematic spell of Morricone that the frequently repeated, lullaby-like theme only becomes more enticing with each utterance, as complemented by a lavish, innocent melody that speaks for the deceptive bliss of true. Morricone’s use of using contrasting strings over his motifs have the powerful effect of telling us just how wrong this relationship is, while religious voices, dark percussion and turbulent melody becomes the world closing in on the erudite professor and his conquest. While this quite different take on “Lolita” was similarly doomed to remain in Kubrick’s shadow no matter how good the film was – or great in the case of Morricone’s score, the biggest reveal inside Music Box’s complete 75-minute release is just how beautifully, and hauntingly enveloping this soundtrack is – a nymphet who inspired lyricism over lust in an unsung score that can now truly stand as a Morricone masterwork.
. MUSIC ON HOLD
Howlin’ Wolf, a label better known among cult music aficionados for putting out such ferocious soundtracks as “Silent Night,” “The Dead” and “Mean Guns” might not be expected to have a romantic musical bone in its body. So the most shocking thing about this release just might be that one of the most sweetly delightful albums in their catalogue belongs to this Argentinean comedy (known as “Music En Espara” as it’s titled on HBO Latino). But then, given that it’s about a movie composer trying to identify an elusively inspirational tune that he heard on hold, it might not be hard to imagine Wolf’s attraction to this terrifically inventive score by Guillermo Guareschi (whose far more sanguine “Phase 7” previously got a Wolf release). Using a chamber music approach that could easily be number seven of Jerry Goldsmith’s “Six Degrees of Separation,” Guareshi’s antic plucking, piano percussion and harpsichord have a wonderful, zany energy for a score-solving caper between two lonely hearts, with the added bonus of regional guitar and tangos to boot. In its more serious passages, Guareschi impresses with the heartstrings of a Spanish guitar, while his use of piano, string quartet and Baroque melodies also bring to mind the flavor of Ennio Morricone’s more intimately dramatic work. But the catchiest bit here is the country music beat of toe-tapping harmonica of “Irish on Hold,” a stylistically different song that still typifies the score’s joyous energy. Rounded out with a series of piano suites that are as reflectively soulful as the soundtrack is boundingly fun, “Music On Hold” accomplishes any label’s best mission of introducing a promising composer who’s worthy of discovery, with a score that’s a delight in any score fan’s language.
Inevitably, all composers given the unenviable task of rebooting a much beloved score feel the need to pay homage to that movie-defining main theme. And while it’s nice that Pedro Bromfman has come up with a hilariously goofy, trip-hop spin of Basil Poledouris’ iconic “Robocop” melody, it’s as jarringly out of place as an orchestrally-minded 80s composer at a digital synthesis convention – not that Poledouris didn’t employ synths back in the day. But this is a whole new, humorless cyborg. And while devotees of the original score, not to mention a symphonic approach to outwardly thematic action scoring, might grouse, it’s hard to imagine an approach like that working for this surprisingly good reboot. This “Robocop” purges much of the original’s nutty satire and juicily villainous characters to refashion the film in the vein of a cold, menacing 70s-era conspiracy picture with the latest in effects tech. For that new mission, Bromfman’s mega percussion approach is right on target. Sure you haven’t heard this pounding fusion of rock percussion, orchestra and electronics about two zillion times before. And while this “Robocop” doesn’t break the mold, it’s cool, energetic stuff that does terrific service to the direction of his “Elite Squad” collaborator Jose Padilha. Told in realistic fashion with a steely, knife-edged sheen that builds a powerful head of suspense, Bromfman keeps the beyond-rhythmic score jet cycling along, coming up with ear-catching retro electronic sounds to represent a sensitive tough guy ghost in the killer machine. Creepily distorting strings and piano are his feelings trying to claw their way out of his frame, which receives a pretty good pulse theme as well that really takes control as the stakes are musically ramped up. That Bromfman achieves a top-tapping, Zimmer-esque groove to the big percussive banging is a complement as to how well this Brazilian composer (not to mention director) have nailed the Hollywood action groove – a target that “Robocop’s” full-throttle score both typifies, and energizes.
. SUMMER IN FEBRUARY / THE THIRTEENTH TALE
Showing that he’s as capable of capturing the past with headbanging metal in “Hammer of the Gods” as he is elegant melody for this “Summer,” Wallfisch takes a true look at an artist’s colony in Cornwall, circa 1913, an Oceanside wellspring of creativity that love and infidelity will of course rend asunder. It’s a fittingly gorgeous, oft melancholy score that’s firmly in the William Walton tradition, lushly capturing “that last golden summer” of British bohemian youth. With a particularly memorable theme, Wallfisch has the 20th century costume approach down pat, from poignant violin solos to turbulently flowing piano melodies (exceptionally well played by Yuja Wang) a “Greensleeves”-like siren’s song and soaring strings that convey the always-anguished state of the movie painter, and the tragedy bound to follow from his creative hedonism. Wallfisch has a delicate, passionate touch with that’s made “Summer” an ideal, if rare soundtrack release by Deutsche Gramophone Records, a label that certainly knows elegance when it comes their way. Wallfisch’s sense of class is made for Movie Score Media’s release of his BBC telefilm score for “The Thirteenth Tale,” its twisted family history revealed by a dying fiction author to her aghast biographer. Wallfisch is perhaps the keenest listener of all, as one can hear his enthusiasm at playing a Gothic thriller to the hilt. His tale spins out the genre’s musical chestnuts with panache, from brooding melodies to echoing chimes and ghostly voices that are the musical fog on this soundtrack’s moors. There’s a winning sense of humor as well to Wallfisch’s approach as he weaves about these eerie melodies before showing he means business with outrightly bone-chilling samples. For much like the heightened drama of a crazed childhood being spun by its storyteller, Wallfisch delights in creepy, old-fashioned melodic elegance to his haunted house scares, whose bursts of dissonance are also very much of the horror scoring moment. It’s a musical “Tale” effectively told, both with a wink and a jolt that brings out the devilish glee that any kid has in hearing a ghost story that will both enchant and scare the dickens out of them.
. TIM’S VERMEER
A longtime orchestration craftsman who’s helped such composers as John Williams, Alan Silvestri and Howard Shore realize their own masterworks, Conrad Pope has increasingly come into his own as a composer of melodic regard with the likes of “Marilyn and Me” and “In My Sleep.” Now one of his most beautiful scores stands as a meta-musical statement of its own with “Tim’s Vermeer,” a film that proves you can impersonate one of art’s greatest painters, provided you’re a creative genius millionaire in the comfort of your own, historically-appointed studio. Like its subject, Pope’s score has one foot in the classical past, and other in the jazzily quirky present. Gorgeous, small ensemble writing for strings, flutes and violin evoke Vermeer’s Dutch world, giving a 16th century sense of the naturalistic (and scientific) sense of wonder that inspired such life-like work from the artist – a glistening, emotional sound that makes for a worthy companion to Pope’s frequent orchestrating assigner Alexandre Desplat’s score for the Vermeer biopic “Girl With a Pearl Earing.” But what puts an eccentric, excited sparkle into that sumptuously flowing style is a plucky, humorous, jazz quartet sound for the artist’s biggest modern-day fan. Marimbas and vibraphone help create an offbeat, excited sense of discovery to the photo-realistic brush strokes, at once paying homage to the great age of art, while at the other having fun with the deconstructionist magic show quality that can only come from the directorial flourish of Penn’s silent half. Pope effortlessly progresses to a musical unveiling that proves “Tim’s” theorem, effortlessly flowing music that revels in the transcendent, touching quality of great painting, showing inspiration as the ultimate means to an end. In Pope’s case, it’s with a striking, melodically soft touch and attention to thematic detail that continues to show how his behind the musical scenes magic truly shines when put in an artistically revelatory spotlight.
. TO CATCH A THIEF / THE BRIDGES OF TOKO-RI
When one thinks of Hitchcock’s musical collaborators, composers like John Wlliams, Dmitri Tiomkin and Alfred Newman might come first to mind among the score fans who think outside the Bernard Herrmann box – which makes it all the nicer that Intrada has brought Lyn Murray to the fore, whose one movie score for Hitchcock certainly wasn’t for a lesser picture. Indeed, 1955s “To Catch A Thief” stands as one of the Master of Suspense’s most sleekly pleasurable films, a Monte Carlo set romp whose biggest sparkling treasure is Grace Kelley, all while the most exciting action is found in her wordplay with the always-debonair Cary Grant as they seek to ferret out the cat burglar who’s framing his retired thief character. This lack of bodies allows for a wonderfully effervescent score from Murray, a composer who’d cut his romantic comedic teeth for fellow Englishman Bob Hope on “Casanova’s Big Night.” “Thief” has a pleasant, bounce to the always at-first reluctant star couples who’ve made up playful thrillers of this lush life sort, with dalliances from western harmonica to swooning waltzes, cocktail jazz and a breathtakingly wonderful fireworks kiss. However, it’s still a score that’s very much in the Hitchcock Cannon, darting over rooftops to sleek, mysterious string writing, spookily looming danger and the kind of cliffhanging thrills that Herrmann would run with soon enough. Though it’s not that “Thief” would be the last work between the filmmaker and Murray, as the composer would go on to a nice run on years later on “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.” However, Murray had actually stolen audience’s hearts already for Grace Kelly the year before to far more serious effect on the Korean-set war drama “The Bridges of Toko-Ri.” Murray shows his impressive range with this stalwart, trumpeting patriotic score about the brave pilots and the woman who love them, allowing for joyful honeymoon music and the tragic heartstrings of sacrifice, right down to the incorporation of taps into this effective, if brief accompanying score – the most cues of which are dedicated to unexpectedly bright pop source cues by the likes of Rogers and Hart, along with military marches and polkas. It’s a must for Hitchcock score completists, as well as providing notice “Thief” composer more than worth some long-overdue soundtrack recognition.
. THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM: THE EXPANDED EDITION
Back in the day when the term “made for video” didn’t cheaply connote “found footage,” trailblazing companies like Full Moon Entertainment started out with some fairly grand ambitions of providing feature-quality production value on budgets that laced all of the shoe-strings as opposed to just a few, even when it came to the music. Easily the most impressive among Full Moon’s offerings was Stuart Gordon’s 1991 spin on “The Pit and the Pendulum,” which took full advantage of producer Charles Band’s Italian castle to give horrifying credence to the Poe tale’s oft-forgotten setting during The Spanish Inquisition – with no less than Lance Henricksen as a truly fearsome Torquemada. Having first notoriously paired his bro Richard with Gordon on “Re-Animator,” Charles once again asked his court composer to score “Pit,” whose new, complete edition makes this effort stand as the finest collaboration of a match gloriously made in horror movie hell. Band certainly benefited from a time when one could actually get an orchestral bang for the even the smallest production buck in conjuring a masterwork that got across the liturgical scope of this particularly sad example of historical terror, employing righteously fearsome Latin choruses to his tempestuous score. While not the symphonic size of “The Omen,” Band skillfully blends real strings with the effective power of his sampled orchestra in the score’s vision of man-as-Satan, offering a wealth of memorable themes as the music swings from rousing action to brooding malevolence and the poignancy of lovers rent asunder, as caught in the cogs of a villain using religion to mask his own sins. Above all, Band’s “Pit” is a strikingly melodic, and even beautiful score for the grueling cruelty it so effectively portrays, showing off the kind of epic, yet intimate scope that the composer definitely deserves to plunge into again beyond his always sanguine, Poe and Lovecraft-centric collaborations with Stuart Gordon – of which Perseverance’s expanded “Pit” still stands as a pinnacle in all of its sanctimoniously twisted glory.
CLICK on the album covers to make your hardcopy or download purchase, and find the soundtracks at these. com’s: Amazon, Intrada, iTunes, Movie Score Media, Perseverance, Screen Archives and Varese Sarabande
Don’t miss the first-ever Academy Award orchestral concert and animated conversation with Scoring nominees William Butler and Owen Pallett (“Her”), Alexandre Desplat (“Philomena”), Thomas Newman (“Saving Mr. Banks”), Steven Price (“Gravity”) and John Williams (“The Book Thief”), who will have an 80-piece orchestra playing suites from their lauded scores before talking about them with critic Elvis Mitchell. Get your tickets for this premiere film music event on Thursday, February 27, at 8 p.m. at UCLA’s Royce Hall HERE at Ticketmaster
Lakeshore Records will release the [a.12198]Girl on a Bicycle Original Motion Picture Soundtrack digitally and on CD on [da.2014-02-25]February 25, 2014. The soundtrack features original music by [c.1530]Craig Richey ([m.32613]Friends with Money, [m.31826]Wonderful World). The film was written/directed by Jeremy Leven (writer/director of [m.6874]Don Juan DeMarco, screenwriter of [m.]The Norebook).
[m.32620]Girl on a Bicycle provided Richey with an amazing opportunity--one that most composers only dream of, "The director [Jeremy Leven] gave me a clear request before I had even written a single note, and that was that he wanted the music to be another character in the film. He did not want the music to go unnoticed as backdrop." Richey described. "That was great...
The Guild of Music Supervisors announced its fourth annual awards event taking place on Wednesday, February 26, at Mack Sennett Studios in Hollywood. The awards will recognize outstanding Music Supervisors in 14 categories representing Motion Picture, Television, Games, Trailers and Advertising.
We are honored to celebrate and recognize the work of these important music supervisors at our fourth annual awards event," noted Guild of Music Supervisors President Maureen Crowe. "Music is an integral part to the success of motion pictures , television programs, films, advertising and games. It helps tell the stories and engages audiences. We look forward to our annual awards event, which places a spotlight on this important craft."
Motion Pictures [m.32684]Frozen,...
For the first time as part of its annual Oscar Week events, the Academy will present a live "Oscar Concert" celebrating this year's nominated scores and songs on Thursday, February 27, at 8 p.m. at UCLA's Royce Hall.
The program features an 80-piece orchestra performing suites from each of the nominated original scores, conducted by their composers. They include:
- [c.]William Butler and [c.10981]Owen Pallett, [m.37932]Her
- [c.752]Alexandre Desplat, [m.37817]Philomena
- [c.149]Thomas Newman, [m.35581]Saving Mr. Banks
- [c.1974]Steven Price, [m.32671]Gravity
- [c.231]John Williams, [m.36503]The Book Thief
Composer [c.246]Peter Bernstein, film director John Landis, composer [c.1238]Bear McCreary, and agent Richard Kraft will join the Golden State Pops Orchestra for the "Great Composer Tribute: Music of Elmer Bernstein" on February 15, 2014 at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro, beginning at 8:00pm.
[c.246]Peter Bernstein has worked on many projects as a composer including [t.7941]The Ewok Adventure, [t.24580]Stargate SG-1, and [t.99]21 Jump Street and with his father, [c.15]Elmer Bernstein, on [m.26045]Three Amigos!, [m.9664]Ghostbusters, [m.26597]Trading Places and Michael Jackson's [o.40240]Thriller, to name a few. [c.246]Peter Bernstein will be conducting the World Premiere of a Comedy Suite that includes [m.18228]Animal House,...
Varèse Sarabande Records will release a 1,500 copy limited edition CD of the [a.12136]Enough Said Original Motion Picture Soundtrack on [da.2014-02-11]February 11, 2014. The soundtrack, which was previously released digitally by Fox Music, features the original score composed by [c.1061]Marcelo Zarvos ([m.32963]The Words, TV's [t.36479]Ray Donovan).
"This was my second collaboration with [director] Nicole Holofcener," said Zarvos of [m.38345]Enough Said. "The score had to navigate a delicate balance of the comedic and dramatic aspects of the film with instrumentation ranging from a small folk ensemble to orchestral. A master of blending comedy and emotion Nicole really wanted the music to feel unified... but not too traditional."
One might say that composing additional music is much like being part of a jumbo jet crew, given the even more hazardous Hollywood conditions of making sure your zillion-dollar vehicle arrives safely to port – usually with far less flight time than you were counting on. Sure the captain deservedly gets the glory for a hopefully soft touch down. But for those who helped with the controls, or outrightly took the wheel when needed, there’s the satisfaction of a flight plan well executed. And just maybe the possibility that said extraordinary assistance might end up putting you in the captain’s chair sooner than later.
But then, it’s not as if Edwin Wendler wasn’t more than capable of flying solo before creating additional music for John Ottman on “Non-Stop.” The Viennese-born composer has been climbing the foot-in-the-door Los Angeles ladder in much the same, determined way as his peers, working on numerous shorts (Wrong Hollywood Number,” “Black Oasis”) and webisodes (“The Interior”) before finally getting that first indie feature (“Broken Angel”) – the one that every bourning composer hopes gets sees outside of the festival circuit, let alone listened to. Without being in the big leagues just yet, Wendler has certainly done well in that regard, especially when it comes to getting indie features that aspire for more than the Netflix Instant Video average, from the religious-themed suspense of “The Mark” to conveying the exotic danger and emotional faith of Westerners kidnapped in Thailand with “Escape.”
Like many composers waiting for the studio golden ticket, Edwin Wendler has also been just as busy paying the bills as the valued Aide-de-camp of an established musician, an often jack-of-all trades position that involves programming, arranging, orchestrating and composing additional cues. First working extensively with Paul Haslinger on scores like “Sleeper Cell” and “Into the Blue,” Wendler has found himself of particular worth to John Ottman, a composer who himself holds the distinction of directing and editing, especially for Bryan Singer and a whole horde of mutants.
Working with Ottman on such scores as “The Losers,” “The Resident” and “Unknown,” Wendler’s particular set of skills have now come into play like never before for “Non-Stop,” Liam Neeson’s new action extravaganza that finds the burly star as Bill Marks, an air marshal on board a flight that’s being tormented by an unidentifiable blackmailer, one who can lethally strike from nowhere. Veering from musical courses of dreamy melodies to raging percussion and ticking time bomb suspense as the suspects are whittled down to Bill being declared the prime suspect, “Non-Stop” is as emblematic of today’s percussion-driven suspense scoring as it is a full-throttle salute to the Neeson action star formula. But this is a pre-determined travel scheme that’s definitely in the first class seats, especially as Wendler propels Ottman’s dynamic score to its exhilarating, heart-pounding popcorn destination at the multiplex. It’s the kind of work that brings that big seat ever closer, as Wendler talks about the personal perseverance to be heard, and the professionalism to be a composer’s favored wingman.
Would you say that a kid growing up in Vienna is around far more music than another budding composer might be?
Vienna is certainly the place to be if you love Classical music, jazz, or avant-garde contemporary music. The concert houses and the opera houses offer first-rate performances on a daily basis. Not one but two radio stations play classical music all day. As a music nerd, it was a fantastic environment for me to grow up in. Unfortunately, film music was looked down upon while I was a kid but it has gotten more popular and respected over the years. The recent James Horner tribute event is a great example of how far Vienna has come during the past decade or so. I applaud what Sandra Tomek and others are doing to further establish film music as an accepted art form for the concert stage in Vienna.
Not many composers can say they’ve been in the Vienna Boys Choir. What were your experiences with them like, and did they play a part in you deciding to become a composer?
The boarding school aspect of the Vienna Boys Choir is something that forces young kids to grow up really fast. Some of it was a bit extreme: the long tours, for instance; traveling continuously for three or four months, with one or two concerts almost every day. The good thing is that you are exposed to a huge amount of classical music repertoire, and you get to work with some of the best conductors, singers, and orchestras in the world. I definitely learned a lot about the technical aspects of music making. I started composing while I was a member of the choir, opting to write new music instead of practicing the piano. I thought my piano teacher would be angry with me but fortunately, she encouraged my first attempts at music composition.
How did you progress from shorts to features?
Shorts are great when you’re starting out. The risks and responsibilities are on a much smaller scale, and it’s a fun opportunity for trial-and-error experimentation. After composing music for almost 50 shorts, I decided to simply say “no” to more shorts. I felt like I needed to progress to features and TV series in order to make a living. Luckily, thanks to directors Temi Lopez and Helmut Schleppi, as well as composer Paul Haslinger, I got those first experiences. I still work on shorts, occasionally, for good friends and directors I have worked with in the past.
Tell us about your experiences working with Paul Haslinger on “Sleeper Cell” and “Into the Blue.” Did your perspective Viennese and Austrian backgrounds make your collaboration easier?
When Paul first asked me to work with him, he joked that we would have a secret language – German – that we could use when we didn’t want clients to understand what we were talking about. I think Paul wanted me to bring my classical music background to his work, adding orchestral textures. As my work with him progressed, though, he taught me a lot about electronics, rhythm programming, and sound manipulation. Paul has always been on the cutting edge of electronic music, so I am very thankful for the opportunities and the experiences I’ve had with him. Paul also taught me the importance of remaining “current” or “cool” with one’s music.
How did you first get on John Ottman’s radar, and how did you end up writing additional music on “Non-Stop”?
I sent John a complimentary email about “Superman Returns” when that movie came out. After having scored several dark-subject movies for Bryan Singer, John finally got a chance to write something uplifting and soaring, and I was really happy for him. John learned about my work for Paul Haslinger and listened to some of the music on my website. He was impressed enough to ask me to try some cues when he was very crunched. In the case of “Non-Stop”, he got extremely busy editing “X-Men: Days of Future Past”, and his editing schedule overlapped with the scoring schedule for “Non-Stop”. After years of multi-tasking on his own, it was new territory for John to ask for help. He doesn’t seem like the type to give up control, so he was very reluctant and afraid of his musical integrity being at risk. I’m honored that John trusted me with completing work on the “Non-Stop” score. His guidance helped me tremendously throughout the process.
How do you think John’s ability at temping his own scores, and picture editing, add to his work?
As you know, John edits exclusively for director Bryan Singer. John’s knowledge of film music is immense, and he works diligently to find the perfect temp music for each scene. Sometimes, he even combines different pieces of music so they play concurrently while sounding like they are one and the same. In cases where John is working with a temp score he did not select, he might suggest other pieces of music which work better. John has great musical taste, and in so many cases, his temp music and final score are much more classy and effective than what most other editors might select.
When you’re writing additional music, what’s the trick to make the whole of the score seamless? Did you study the composer’s work beyond being thoroughly enmeshed in the style of the score itself?
I was familiar with John’s music when I first started working with him, but I hadn’t studied it in depth, and I don’t think John would have wanted that. John wants his music to stay fresh, so he would make verbal references to music other than his own. As for making the whole score seamless, John developed the principal themes and sound palette in the initial stages. He would send me an audio recording or a MIDI file of his themes and motives, and he would give me a list of synth patches or samples that he had selected. It was my job then to adapt and develop that musical vocabulary while following John’s directions and addressing his detailed notes.
Having directed Liam in the Ottman-scored “Unknown,” did the director Jaume Collet-Serra want a similar sound from John for “Non-Stop” to “link” these two movies?
Both “Unknown” and “Non-Stop” have elements of suspense and action in them, but it was important to find different sounds for each movie. The main melodic instrument in “Unknown” was the piano, complimenting the nostalgic qualities and the sophistication of the main character, Dr. Harris. In “Non-Stop”, we used almost no piano. The main character, Bill Marks, is kind of rough around the edges. John chose a gritty-yet-introspective sound by using a combination of guitar and synths.
How did you want the music to contribute to both Bill’s paranoia, and that of the passengers around him?
It was crucial to create a presence for the villain through music. Since the villain communicates through text messages, John selected a synth “ping” and some processed rattling noises to be applied and varied each time the villain’s presence needed to be felt. Sustained clusters alter with random, dissonant statements to underline the unpredictability of the villain’s actions.
One of your most effective solo scores has been “Escape,” a thriller about hostages. Tell us about that score, and if the psychological lessons learned in it about suspense played any part in “Non-Stop?
I’m really glad you liked that score! As a composer, you can never have enough “tension builders” in your arsenal. In “Escape”, I had used ethnic percussion to build suspense and excitement. It turned out that, during the later stages of scoring “Non-Stop”, those techniques came in handy due to a request from producer Joel Silver to use more percussion during moments of tension.
There’s particularly interesting, and dreamy use of synthesizers and percussion at the start of “Non-Stop.” What kind of tone did you want to achieve?
The opening slow-motion shots introduce us to Bill as he is starting his day at work. The music needed to subtly capture the emotional haze and sense of frustration that Bill is going through at that moment. Both John and I tried different approaches for this scene. The final version of this cue is John’s, and he did a wonderful job introducing the main theme and giving us a sense of the conflict, but also the nobility, of the main character. I then took those ideas and developed them for the subsequent scene in the airport.
Could you talk about the “ticking clock” aspect of the score? And beyond that, how did you want to help the percussive aspects of “Non-Stop” stand out?
The first time I became aware of the “ticking clock” element as an effective tool to consistently propel a story forward was when I listened to John’s score for “Valkyrie”. This was before I even started working with him. While “Valkyrie” made great use of acoustic percussion, John decided to go for a more modern approach for “Non-Stop”. I spent a considerable amount of time combining synth bass pulses with processed percussion samples. Repeating the same pulse for several measures can get old fast, so I did my best to vary the sounds and use odd meters and avoid anything that might come across like a musical resolution.
Are there any particular sound effects considerations that you need to take into consideration with this being an “airplane” movie?
Without giving too much away, let me just say that there are scenes in this movie during which the engine noise gets extremely loud. While working on one of those scenes, I looked at the waveform of the sound effects track, and it was pretty much maxed out all the way through the scene. In general, any sustained musical element will only be perceived as part of the sound effects, so you need to find something musically agile like runs or a pulse that has little or no release or reverb.
How did you want the music to gradually elevate the suspense to fever pitch excitement?
We worked chronologically on the score, in order to ensure a gradual rise in tension. The writers, director, and editor had already put a great road map in place that allowed for the music to steadily intensify with each new scene. It was a lot of fun to emphasize red herrings and downplay actual clues in order to keep the audience guessing.
What do you think of how most suspense scores have become orchestral-percussive hybrids, and do you think that style is more convincing to today’s audiences than doing something that would be purely symphonic?
I think that most filmmakers and composers have embraced the current hybrid sound for good reason. The style of filmmaking has changed, and all elements of filmmaking have changed along with it. Clichés seem to only work in a comedic context, so before the hybrid sound itself becomes a cliché, most will use it. We did our best to stay current with the music of “Non-Stop”, for instance by avoiding the marcato string arpeggios that may have become a bit over-used in recent action/suspense scores.
What do you think the biggest mistake is that young composers make when going to Hollywood? Or should they take their time before going there?
I think the biggest mistake one can make in this business is to get discouraged too soon: by rejection, by criticism, by financial failure, etc. Turning a negative into a positive is the most useful quality to have, not only in business, but also in life itself.
Do you think that being an assistant is particularly good training ground to see how composers deal with the politics of film composing? What are some of the biggest things you’ve learned on that end?
No matter what your job is working with a busy composer, you will see what goes on behind the scenes. You learn that actual composing is probably only a third of what a composer has to do while collaborating with filmmakers and running a small business. You learn about the psychological aspects of decision-making, about the importance of political correctness, about the advantage of always thinking one step ahead, about what to say and what not to say during business meetings and phone calls, etc. Probably the most important lesson I’ve learned is that a good sense of humor will help you stay positive, no matter how crazy a situation may seem. It will help you find better solutions and keep everybody, including yourself, happy.
On that note, what mistakes do you think that some musicians make when working with assistant composers?
I have been very lucky in that Paul Haslinger, John Ottman, and Stephen Trask are all wonderful people to work with: always constructive, positive, fun. I’ve heard some horror stories about other composers who are not very kind to their staff. I think that, in general, it is crucial for any employer to provide an enjoyable work environment that encourages creativity.
You next have a sequel score to the religious thriller “The Mark” coming up. What’s it like to mix your more “realistic” suspense work with the horror genre?
Interestingly, the first “Mark” movie was about a guy on an airplane, with terrorists, explosions, etc. It was almost spooky to find myself in very familiar territory on “Non-Stop”. My score for “The Mark” ended up being quite traditional in that it is more symphonic in nature, with some intentional tributes to Jerry Goldsmith. The music for “The Mark 2: Redemption” had to be much more complex because of the multiple locations and story threads. I wrote 116 minutes of music in a short amount of time, and really enjoyed the rush of writing a lot of action music. While the intensity of the action obviously had to feel real, “The Mark 2” is basically a fantasy story, and I had a big creative canvas, so to speak, which was a lot of fun.
Is there a certain point when any composer who wants a solo career has to say “no” to doing additional music, or should they always be ready to do other gigs in pursuit of their dream?
Saying no will sometimes propel your career forward in unexpected ways. It can also be the kiss of death for your career, at least for a little while. I think, in general, if you have to part ways, it is very important to do it in a respectful manner. Just explain your situation to your employer, face to face, from one human being to another. Most likely, they will understand, and may even be supportive of your next endeavor.
The opportunities being afforded to new composers to break out with a major scoring gig seem to be diminishing, in spite of the come-from-nowhere opportunities given to people like Ryan Amon (“Elysium”) and Steven Price (“Gravity”). Do you think working with a major composer is still the best way to get a break, as opposed to trying to forge a singular path?
The best way to advance your career is still to establish and maintain good working relationships with talented filmmakers. Those relationships might pay off right away, 15 years from now, or never. The important thing is to keep going and to keep having fun
“Non-Stop” opens in theaters and on February 28th, with John Ottman’s score available March 4th on Varese Sarabande Records HERE
Visit Edwin Wendler’s website HERE
Special thanks to Peter Hackman, Victor Kaply and John Ottman
Director Jon M. Chu's reboot of the Joe franchise, [m.31305]G.I. Joe: Retaliation, featured a score from composer [c.1480]Henry Jackman. [c.75]Nick Glennie-Smith served as conductor during the scoring session with the Hollywood Studio Symphony at the Newman Scoring Stage at 20th Century Fox. Our friends at [url.http://scoringsessions.com/news/265/]ScoringSessions.com have just made pictures of the event available.
[a.9737]G.I. Joe: Retaliation - Music from the Motion Picture, was released by Varese Sarabande and is available on CD and...
This week, new composer assignments were announced for: [c.1579]Jonny Greenwood ([m.40172]Inherent Vice), [c.50]Patrick Doyle ([m.35065]B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations), [c.537]Deborah Lurie ([m.40154]Murder of a Cat), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
27 new soundtrack albums were released this week. [da.2014-2-03]Click here for the full schedule.
[m.33666]The Lego Movie (music by [c.139]Mark Mothersbaugh), [m.35958]The Monuments Men (music by [c.752]Alexandre Desplat), and [m.37097]Vampire Academy (music by [c.401]Rolfe Kent) are opening nationwide today.
Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking song credits...
Sparks & Shadows, the boutique record label founded by composer [c.1238]Bear McCreary, announces the release of [a.12182]Knights of Badassdom Original Motion Picture Soundtrack on [da.2014-02-11]February 11. The soundtrack features performances by heavy metal and rock luminaries including Brendon Small (Dethklok), Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake, Dio), Mike Keneally (Frank Zappa), Steve Bartek (Oingo Boingo), Ira Ingber (Bob Dylan), Pete Griffin (Three Inches of Blood) and Joe Travers (Zappa Plays Zappa).
"In the darkest hours of a cold winter night, I read a script chronicling adventurous LARPers, an evil curse, a disgruntled heavy metal singer, wizards, warriors and the Hell Lord Abominog," said McCreary. "As I read, my musical imagination filled with soaring bagpipes,...
ON THE SCORE is sponsored by La-La Land Records
Where network television had once been the bastion of easily digestible normalcy, the often NC-17 explicitness of cable has now pushed prime time to stretch the limits of sex and violence – or at least as much of it as they can get away with given the restraints of free television. But leave it to “Hannibal” to shockingly shatter that barrier when it comes to the latter sin. With the doctor having notoriously practiced his culinary skills for the cinema, Bryan Fuller (“Dead Like Me”) has re-imagined Thomas Harris’ sophisticated cannibal for the small screen, given even most ghastly bite in the suave, accented personage of Mads Mikkelsen, whos’s made it a point during the show’s first season to land his tormented, and seeming BFF Will Graham in the psycho ward for murders the doctor engineered with utter care.
Mostly following a “serial killer of the week” formula, “Hannibal” has shocked just as much in its creative methods of death as for its intelligence, food for thought as taken to a whole new horrific realm. But beyond being ingenious in its ghastliness, one thing “Hannibal” has excelled in is expanding the concept of just what constitutes television music – or even scoring for that matter. For in a realm where procedural shows are content to rely on “the drone,” leave it to Brian Reitzell to create a mesmerizing, tormented soundscape. Having last gone down the rabbit hole with a twisted TV anti-hero in “Boss,” Reitzell has elegantly crafted “Hannibal’s” bad vibrations from ethnic instruments, percussion, samples and brass among a foreboding wellspring of ideas. At times barely perceptible, and at others a bloody primal scream, Reitzell’s wondrously bizarre work offers scant traditional harmony – as far a cry as possible from his rhythmic work for Sofia Coppola on such scores as “Lost in Translation,” “Marie Antoinette” and “The Bling Ring.”
If “Hannibal” has an ancestor in Reitzell’s repertoire, then it’s doubtlessly “30 Days of Night,” a rampaging vampires-in-Alaska horror film directed by David Slade, who now serves as “Hannibal’s” executive producer and frequent director. Having gotten a truly terrifying and non-traditional with the grinding, unearthly atmospheres and claws-on-a-spinal chord cacophony of Reitzell’s work, Slade has helped encourage the composer to go even further into lightless evil – yet with a bizarre sophistication that’s the perfect wine pairing for the deceptively delicious dishes that Lector imparts on his unsuspecting guests, gourmand courses that titled the first season’s episodes.
Now that the second season is about to be served, Reitzell and Slade are going even further into the realm of musical sound design that’s unlike anything heard on either theater or television screens, and all the more nightmarish for it – as prepared in a studio kitchen that Reitzell and Slade now give the recipes for on a new episode of On the Score.
Click above to Listen Now or Click Here to Download
Watch HANNIBAL Season Two, starting Friday, February 28th at 10 PM on NBCWatch HANNIBAL Season One
Buy the DVD: HANNIBAL Season One
Buy the Soundtrack: 30 DAYS OF NIGHT Buy the Soundtrack: BOSS
Amid the legendary campaigns of World War 2, perhaps no fight took such a horrendous toll on both soldiers and civilians, while ensuring the overall survival of freedom over fascism, like the Battle of Stalingrad. For the five horrific months between August 1942 and February 1943, the German army tried to conquer one of Russia’s most strategically important cities, and the country along with it. What they’d end up with was the frozen, bitter taste of defeat, one that would poison the entirety of Hitler’s war effort – but not before costing over a million lives among Stalingrad’s populace and its Red Army defenders. It’s an event that’s the stuff of valor, sacrifice and lost love in the face of impossible odds, exactly the kind of human struggle that brings out the best in musicians throughout time who’ve been tasked with trying to convey the weight of a history-making battle, and the ultimate patriotic triumph of good over evil.
Perhaps no medium has allowed “war” music to come to life like the widescreen cinema, especially when a country salutes its own soldiers with all the epic filmmaking forces that money can buy. Such is the Russian might behind “Stalingrad,” which stands as one of the country’s most formidable productions. Overseeing a cinematic army of hundreds of actors and technicians is by director Fedor Bondarchuk, who’d last chronicled the far less victorious Soviet battle for Afghanistan in 2005s “9th Company.” Given a far nobler cause here, Bondarchuck sees the massive fight through the intimacy of a love story, while also taking pains to uncover the humanity of the Germans as well. Needless to say, this is the kind of scope that just a few strings aren’t going to begin to cover. Tasked therewith to fielding the full orchestral force of Russia’s best players is the Italian-American composer Angelo Badalamenti. Best known among our film-going civilians for helping David Lynch re-invent film noir into a nightmarish wonderland with such scores as “Blue Velvet,” “Twin Peaks” and “Mulholland Drive,” Badalamenti has also traveled far outside of that crime-ridden underbelly with dozens of emotionally and stylistically diverse scores, including the lush fantasia for “City of Lost Children,” elegantly menacing suspense “In the Company of Strangers” and the ghostly fear of “Dark Water.”
But perhaps it’s “A Very Long Engagement’s” tale of war-torn lovers that hearkens back the most to a whole other level of symphonic engagement that Badalamenti unleashes in his formidable score to “Stalingrad” (on KMovie Score Media / Kronos Records). There’s no doubt that a Russian film composer named Sergei Prokofiev would’ve approved of the Soviet-inflected rhythms, valiant marches and full-blast brass section that conveys the heroic struggle against percussive, crushing darkness – all while intimately lush strings become the far more personal battle of war-torn lovers to stay alive. Yet Badalamenti is also sure to bring a level of control and intelligence to a score that could’ve been Stalin-approved jingoism in lesser hands. It’s a “Stalingrad” made of the universally affecting harmonies of courage under fire, tapping into the singular language of epic military scoring that’s driven such composers-in- arms as Jerry Goldsmith, Elmer Bernstein and Ron Goodwin. Now fresh from the fight, Badalamenti talks about the challenges of facing a powerhouse score soaringly fueled by equal parts love, war, tragedy and patriotism.
Do you think there were any previous scores of yours that led to “Stalingrad?”
I’ve wondered that myself. Often, when I’m approached with a new project, I’ll ask the filmmakers, “What music of mine made you feel that I should score your film?” That will at least provide a reference point to start from. But I didn’t ask that question on “Stalingrad.” Perhaps they were looking at “A Very Long Engagement,” which was a love story in wartime France that I scored for Jean-Pierre Jeunet. I don’t know. At first I thought, Fedor may have been drawn to the Russian flavor of my themes for “Blue Velvet” and “Mulholland Drive.”
How do you think you developed as a composer to the point where you could take on such a symphonically epic score as “Stalingrad?”
I’ve had a long career as a composer thus far, and I’d like to think that I’ve developed along the way. Writing for the orchestra is nothing new for me, if that’s what you meant by “symphonic.” My scores for “Blue Velvet,” “The City of Lost Children,” “The Beach” and “A Very Long Engagement” were all orchestral, along with many other films. It’s always a real pleasure to work with a full orchestra. And that was the right choice for this film. I really looked forward to the challenge of “Stalingrad.” The sheer amount of score that we spotted and the number of cues was a bit daunting. There’s 1hr15min of score and 36 cues in the final film. But I probably wrote 30min more than that during the process. Fortunately, I began writing themes early on and Fedor fell in love with them. And so I had the opportunity to sort of get a bit ahead of the production in that sense.
Did you do any historical research for the project? And if so, what were some of the things that struck you about the Battle of Stalingrad?
I did some very basic research on the topic after reading the script. It was a strategic and symbolic campaign by the Germans to capture the city of Russia. The destitute conditions that the Soviets endured were remarkable. The soldiers and residents were surrounded by Germans with very little food or supplies in the fall and winter of 1942-43. Enormous casualties were inflicted on both sides – both military and civilian. Somehow they managed to hold on to their city despite the overwhelming opposing force. But the film is really not just about the war. It’s about the tragedy of war and the lives of these people.
“Stalingrad” is your first full-on “war” score. Did any movies, or soundtracks in that genre influence you? And what do you think makes for a great war movie, and score, to begin with, no matter the nation?
There are so many: “Patton,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Apocalypse Now,” “Platoon,” etc. But most traditional war films that I can recall are from an American perspective. And so there’s this Americana-type sound that is so often drawn upon. Either that or it’s a different more psychological and troubling sound that evokes the horrors of the war experience. Sometimes even the popular music of the time is used as source. “Stalingrad” needed something different.
What’s the added psychological pressure of trying to capture such an all-important episode in Russian, and world history?
This film is a drama – it’s not a documentary. But, it’s true that we wanted to give the story weight and legitimacy. Much of that was done on the production side. Fedor aimed to keep the story historically accurate in every regard. For the music, I didn’t want to use electronics because that might take you out of the time period. So, it’s an all-orchestral score. Also, we wanted the audience to feel the scale of the event and I think that’s where music can help.
Could you talk about your collaboration with director Fedor. How do you think being the son of an epic director like Sergey Bondarchuk (“War and Peace,” “Waterloo”) influenced his taste in both visuals, and music?
Fedor knows filmmaking. He’s truly an accomplished director with great confidence and endless energy with an innate sense for music. He’s following in his father’s footsteps but he’s an artist in his own right. He already has a history of successful films in Russia, both as a director and an actor. And he’s developing some very smart business relationships all the while. Both he and Alexander Rodyansky (one of the producers) came to my studio to discuss the scope of the project and make a general plan. We got along like old friends but I was surprised that neither of them drinks vodka (Can you imagine a Russian that doesn’t drink vodka?) Eventually Fedor returned to have a final spotting session with me before the recording sessions in Moscow. As I wrote, much of our work was collaborating over the internet. I would constantly be sending themes and mockups. And then of course, we were re-united at the recording sessions in Moscow.
Tell us about your central themes.
In the opening of the film we hear the Universal Theme, which is a broadly stated overture with a beautiful sadness – and there are several other intimate scenes where we hear subtle variations of this music. The heroic Russian Theme, with its minor modal harmony, was the very first theme I wrote for the film. This piece accompanies the epic battles (“Men of Fire” and “Execution and Attack”) and the motif is referenced in cues throughout the movie. It’s probably the most Russian sounding piece I composed. Katya’s Theme is a beautifully tender theme for her character and for the five Russian soldiers who are central to the story. This music is heard as Katya emerges from the apartment house and visits the grave of her parents and looks after the little mementos of their life at the site. The scene is quite beautiful. There’s a theme for the conflicted character of Hauptmann Kahn, and a theme for his relationship with Masha. And there’s an odd-meter Panzer Battle Theme as well. One of my favorite themes, the Stalingrad Theme, is introduced towards the end of the film as Sergei and Katya peer at the night sky, seeing the lights from the air battle above as a thing of beauty. This theme is heard again at the very end of the film (also on the track “Goodbye Brothers”).
One can also sense Russian composers like Prokofiev in “Stalingrad.” What kind of influence did they play in your own formation as a composer, let alone this score?
When I was in junior high school, I would go to Manhattan and buy LPs of the various works of Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich. I wore out those recordings. For “Stalingrad,” I began by re-listening to Russian music in preparation for this score. But Fedor and I intentionally wanted the music to have a more universal appeal and not sound too Russian.
Talk about the “Russian” quality of the music that you did want to use.
The minor, modal harmony of the Battle theme (“Men of Fire” and “Execution and Attack”) is probably the most Russian, at least in principal. Once again though, we tried to avoid making the music sound exactly Russian in flavor. We wanted a more modern, universal sound. No Balalaika here.
Russian movies about the state definitely were propagandistic back in the day. How important was it for you to capture patriotism without going over the top in that fashion?
Well, I write for the film that’s in front of me. It’s not my place to comment on the politics of the film with the music. I have to be “all-in” and embrace the director’s vision.
How did you want to capture the civilian toll of “Stalingrad?”
The film depicts an enormous number of Soviet casualties during an attempt to take the Volga River. But it also shows that horrible suffering on both sides during this failed campaign by the Germans. I wouldn’t say that the story directly asks the music to confront that deadly toll directly. Rather, the audience feels it through the prism of each character and the story. And I feel that the music illustrates a forlorn sadness in that way.
How did you want to play the Germans? And was it important for you music to reflect them as human beings?
Fedor did not want to depict the German characters as “cartoons”. I think that meant he didn’t feel that presenting these men as evil incarnate was respecting the history or serving the film. Not to diminish the horrible atrocities and mindset one bit. By presenting them as real human beings who actually existed, it’s a far more troubling, and complicated vision.
Tell us about the importance of the brass and percussion sections in “Stalingrad.”
Sure, I love writing for the French horn – that was my instrument. So, there were many melodic phrases and counter-lines written for the horn. But I also used the section in a brighter more aggressive way; on “Desperate Search for Masha,” you’ll hear these clusters in the horns that helped create some tension. And of course, the biggest, boldest statements often involved the tutti trumpets and trombones as well (in “Tragic Killing”). “Kahn’s Theme” has a solo trumpet melody – which was meant to show his conflicted character – that is bookended by brass section statements. Brass played an important role in this score.
Doomed romance also plays a big part in war movies set on the home front. How did you want to reflect the musical intimacy of people torn apart within a far larger and tragic context of the battle for Stalingrad?
Sure, there are two love stories happening in “Stalingrad,” one on the Russian side and one on the German side. Of course, the music has an opportunity to help convey those hopeful, loving feelings even while the entire world is collapsing around these young people.
Did you want to use choral voices in the score?
There wasn’t meant to be any choral music for “Stalingrad. “Adding a full mixed choir has been overused in this genre; and I didn’t include it in the score for that reason. We did intend to have Anna Netrebko join us to sing a solo however. And we were honored to record her in New York after the orchestral dates were finished. It was really only one piece that we had for Anna to sing but we thought it might be nice to overdub her a few times on an 8 bar section of another cue. And so, she sings 3 parts as a chorus at the very end of “Execution and Attack.”
Can you talk about “Stalingrad’s” song “Legenda?”
The Russian pop star Zemfira performs the song Legenda that was written by Viktor Tsoi – who was an iconic Russian singer/songwriter. I met her in the studio while in Moscow and she performed the song for me. She’s a great talent.
What were the recording sessions like in Russia?
We recorded at MosFilm Studios that is a sprawling campus of older buildings in Moscow. It was established in 1920 which I believe makes it one of the largest and oldest proper film studios in the world. It has played a large part in the history of Russian film. We recorded there in a large studio on the campus for 5 days with full orchestra.
Your score for “Tough Guys Don’t Dance” has just been released by Music Box Records. What was the experience like of working with Norman Mailer on his one “Hollywood” movie, and how important was it to making you a favorite “film noir” composer?
I don’t think that “Tough Guys Don’t Dance” registered on the radar for most people. Of course, it was an honor to work with Norman Mailer. But it had nothing near the impact of “Twin Peaks.”
Not only did David Lynch help make you a go-to “mystery” musician, but how do you think his more offbeat movies like “The Straight Story” show people your versatility beyond the genre?
“The Straight Story” is a beautiful film that truly showed David Lynch’s versatility. He can do anything. Of course, I started out as a songwriter and so I had experience in so many genres including a bit of country (Can you imagine; a kid from Brooklyn?). So, this wasn’t much of a stretch for me. But of course, it probably helped people recognize my versatility in film scoring. I am grateful for the opportunity and I am really proud of that score.
“Stalingrad” has been a huge hit in Russia. What was it like going there to do publicity for the film, and seeing the audience’s reaction?
The premiere was very exciting – it was like a national event. And I had a tremendous time with everyone involved. I did so many TV, live radio and print interviews. If you can believe it, there’s a three-page spread about yours truly in Esquire UKRAINE.
Russians have become the go-to villains in Hollywood today. Do you think “Stalingrad” will show them in a different light?
I don’t know that this film will change public perceptions. But it’s always good to see the world through someone else’s eyes. Most Americans probably aren’t even aware of that one of the most crucial battles of the Second World War didn’t involve us. The world could be a different place today if the Soviets hadn’t defeated the German army. The people I met on both of my trips to Moscow were gracious, giving and warm.
Do you think “Stalingrad” puts you in a new arena as an “international” composer, and are there any historical events that you’d like to compose for?
Well, I guess you write for the film that is offered to you. Of course, most people don’t think of hiring me for a big budget action film. Perhaps I’ve been pigeonholed as a composer for more independent, art-film type projects!
Are there any other historical events that I’d like to compose for?
Hmmm. Mel Brooks already did The Spanish Inquisition, right?
Do you think it’s sweeping films like “Stalingrad” that helps keep massive, electronics-free orchestral scores alive?
Good question. It’s a shame that today, it often takes a fairly big budget film in order to support a decent score with live musicians, not to mention a full orchestra. It has to be a priority for the producers and the composer for it to all come together.
After doing such a gigantic score, are you looking do more a more intimate film next?
Perhaps. I look at each film as it’s own unique piece of art and the music has to serve the film. So, if the film appeals to me, and peaks my interest, that’s a good start, whether it’s large or small.
Get the newly released score to “Tough Guys Don’t Dance” HERE
Visit Angelo Badalamenti’s website HERE
First of all, a shout out to Bill Thompson, musician and engineer, for helping make some of the technical details understandable for me, but most of which I will not go into here as a Google search will lead you to much of it.
Before this year there have been a goodly number of audio interfaces in various price ranges available that were more than good enough in most ways, with good to excellent A to D and D to A converters, mic pres, and solid drivers. So let me say right off the bat if you have one of these, you may not care about the new Thunderbolt audio interfaces. Apart from the hardware, for composers working with large amounts of demanding sample libraries and software instruments, the ability to work at the lowest possible buffer size, and therefore the lowest possible MIDI latency, is a big deal.
According to all the benchmark tests I have seen, the audio interfaces that did this best were all PCI-e based. I myself use an RME PCI-e based audio interface and generally I work at a buffer size of 256. Lower buffer sizes increase the demands on your computer, so this of course is also dependent on how powerful your machine is and whether you are using slaves, but anyway lower is better.
For years, the next best choices were Firewire, especially Firewire 800. Because of the different ways Firewire and USB 2 transfer data, Firewire delivered superior performance.
Until it didn’t Companies, notably RME again, found away to optimize their drivers to the point where their USB devices actually performed with less latency than its Firewire counterparts and coming pretty damned close to PCI-e.
So once again, if you have an audio interface you are happy with, why ever change to one with a different protocol? The answer is because our computers are changing.
Firewire is slowly but surely going away, especially on the Mac. Since the introduction of USB 3 and Thunderbolt, both of which are faster, there simply is less demand for it and that is reflected on newer Macs and many PCs. PC manufacturers are moving to USB 3, while Apple is pushing Thunderbolt (called LightPeak on the PC) but hedging its bets by also including USB 3 ports.
PCI-e cards also seem to be going away, but more slowly on the PC than the Mac. If you buy a new Mac Pro, iMac, Mac Mini, or MacBook, none of them have PCI-e slots. I repeat, none of them.
So if you lust for a more powerful Mac but want to keep your PCI-e audio interface, as I did a couple of years ago, you must use a Thunderbolt enabled chassis, like those by Sonnet and Magma.
Or you can buy a new Thunderbolt or USB 3 or USB 2 audio interface. Except that there don’t seem to be any USB 3 interfaces yet, except for a MADI version by RME.
Many folks will tell you that USB 2 is just fine and these are unnecessary for most users and that is probably true. But guys like me who have been using a PCI-e audio interface, we simply don’t want to take a performance hit, even a tiny one. Indeed we want better performance. And what about users who are about to buy their first audio interface, or replace a broken one, or one whose performance they are not happy with?
For a long time, there were only a couple of Thunderbolt audio interfaces and they were very high end and expensive, like the offerings from Apogee and Avid, and the hybrid Thunderbolt/Firewire Universal Audio Apollo. These were simply not an option for many.
However, suddenly and splendidly, we are now seeing some new choices that are far more affordable with more on the way.
In the high-end market, in addition to the Apogee and Avid offerings, comes Lynx, with an updated version of their Aurora 8. They are well respected for the quality of their converters and are a viable choice for people in that price range.
At the other end of the spectrum is Zoom’s new Tac-2, listing for only $499 with a street price probably $100 lower. If you need a lot of inputs and outputs, this is not for you as like many of its quality non-Thunderbolt competitors in thus price range, it only has two inputs and one stereo output. However, if the past is an indicator, it will be very good sounding and even includes some FX.
Zoom crows that it is “More than twice as fast as USB 3.0—not to mention twenty times faster than USB 2.0 and twelve times faster than Firewire 800.”
Once again, many will say, “Who cares, USB 2 is more than fast enough.”
Fine, but is anyone going to argue that slower is better? My only reservation is that we do not have enough users to tell us if the driver is well written and reliable, but in my opinion this is one to keep an eye on if it is enough I/O for you.
More expensive but still affordable is the new Mark of the Unicorn 828x with a street price of $895.
It has a lot more I/O than the Tac-2 with 28 inputs and 30 outputs, 2 mic pres, ADAT, FX, etc. also has USB 2. MOTU’s 828 series audio interfaces are among the most popular and widely used because of the bang for buck factor and its drivers are solid.
I will now anger and annoy some MOTU fans (sorry, guys) by stating that in the past, I have not been a fan of this series of interfaces. I find that the converters and mic pres, while certainly not bad, are mediocre compared to those of even some lower priced units.
Clearly though, this will be a big seller in my opinion, just as their previous versions have been.
The talk of this year’s NAMM show however was the Apollo Twin. Everyone was buzzing about it. Unlike the other Apollos, it is Thunderbolt all the way (the older Apollos will have a firmware update soon to make them all Thunderbolt as well.)
Once again, if you need a lot of I/O, this might not be for you and a full blown Apollo probably is a better choice. However, it has 2 mic pres, and has a total of 4 analog in plus light-pipe, which will do 8 channels of ADAT. It also has two discrete stereo output paths, as it has 2 inputs and one stereo output. There are 2 versions, one with a UAD Solo for list price of $699 and one with a Duo for $899. It has excellent converters and pristine mic pres.
Fine, but so do many others, so why was there all the buzz? The UAD plug-ins! If you are a fan of them, as I am (be warned, they are like software rack cocaine) the ability to use them and even track through them without additional added latency, which only the Apollos provide, is the big deal. The Apollo driver had some issues at first, but now is considered solid. In a test with the first gen Apollo, I did have to raise my buffer sometimes but with Thunderbolt rather than Firewire connectivity, I expect that may not be the case.
My only complaint is that for me, even a Duo is not enough. I have a Quad PCI-e card in my Sonnet chassis and am thinking of selling it in favor of an Octo! But for those looking to get into the wonderful world of the UAD plug-ins, this is a no brainer in my opinion and I think they are going to sell a ton of them.
Once caveat: at this point it is Mac compatible only, but that will most likely change as (if) we see more PC motherboards that include Light Peak.