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FMM’s Michael Rogers covers the creative process with composer Harry Gregson-Williams at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, Park City, Utah.
On Saturday, March 21st, 2015 composer [c.45]John Debney's [m.19765]The Passion of the Christ Oratorio Concert was attended by nearly 6,000 people at the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba in Spain and closed their night with five curtain calls. Helmed by conductor and arranger Kevin Kaska, the performance featured the Córdoba Orchestra and Choir Ziryab along with special guests, woodwind player Pedro Eustache, and vocalist and soloist Lisbeth Scott.
This was the first orchestral concert at the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba in over 40 years and the first public performance in 15 years. LaLa Land records has also released a 2 disc set in honor of the historic concert which also marks the 10th Anniversary of the first Passion of the Christ Live concert which occurred in Rome, Italy. ...
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.149]Thomas Newman ([m.41409]Bridge of Spies), [c.231]John Williams ([m.41408]The BFG), [c.2507]Joseph Trapanese ([m.41486]Straight Outta Compton), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 29 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2015-03-16]Click here for the full schedule.
Opening nationwide this week are (with music by): [m.40666]The Divergent Series: Insurgent ([c.2507]Joseph Trapanese), [m.42580]Do You Believe? ([c.2357]Will Musser), and [m.36834]The Gunman ([c.14]Marco Beltrami).
Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking song credits for:
Soundtrack Picks: ‘CINDERELLA‘ is the top soundtrack to own for March, 2015
Also worth picking up AT MIDDLETON, BHOPAL: A PRAYER FOR RAIN, THE CAR, CHAPPIE, FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, IT FOLLOWS, LADYHAWKE, MAP TO THE STARS and many more!
To Purchase the soundtracks from this list, click on the CD
THE TOP PICKS
What is it?: In their 25-year and counting career that’s seen Patrick Doyle score (and occasionally act in) every Kenneth Branagh film from the time of 1989’s Oscar-nominated “Henry V” both men have shown a chameleon-ability to re-invent themselves for an ever younger-skewing Hollywood, no more so than Doyle as he segued from an incredibly lush and thematic style of orchestral scoring to taking on the muscular, pop-influenced electronic rhythms of multiplex action for Branagh’s “Thor” and “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.” But thankfully, that didn’t mean that the filmmaker and his favorite muse couldn’t go back home again to the kind of lavish productions that first brought them acclaim, while attracting a new young audience to boot.
Why should you buy it?: “Cinderella” might just being the most enchanted jewel in Branagh and Doyle’s old-school crown, or more likely glass slipper as the composer brings out his sumptuous symphonic talent in all of its glory to sum up the magic of Disney fairy tale enchantment as the studio puts flesh and blood on their their classically animated princess-to-be. Given a way less rough-and-tumble heroine to score for the studio after “Brave’s” Merida, Doyle befits Cinderella in the most gossamer of thematic finery, all gorgeous strings, sparkling bells and gently dancing rhythms that tap into the wish fulfillment of going from virtuous rags to sumptuous riches. Tenderly expressing the evil sister exasperation of Cinderella, Doyle pays off her fairy godmother assist with glorious waves of symphonic magic, desperately racing with ticking-bell clock excitement before her carriage’s transformation. The prince arrives with dashing nobility to sweep the music off of its dancing feet with any number of elegant waltzes (and even a Polka) that would do the European masters proud. Just about everything here is perfect in Doyle’s pull-out-the-melodic stops representation of wish fulfillment, as well as a young woman’s plucky spirit, his music having more melodic stardust than Tinkerbell herself.
Extra Special: “Cinderella” stands tall as a romantic testament to the of the unabashedly luxurious scoring that gave Doyle his start, with sparkling panache that will very likely make her a strong candidate for being the belle of the Oscar ball. Starlet Lily James certainly proves she’s got a pleasant singing voice to match with her waltzing performance of the classic tune “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes,” while Helena Bonham Carter has a ball getting her tongue around that other “Cinderella” standard “Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo.”
2) CHAPPIE / JUPITER ASCENDING
What Is It?: From military robots with heart to ruthless intergalactic multinationals, Varese Sarabande offers two big ticket sci-fi scores for March. While blisteringly bad reviews (one undeserved and other most deserved) unite both of them despite their disparate subjects, the one thing that “Chappie” and “Jupiter Ascending” can proudly play are two composers at the enthusiastic height of their craft as they soulfully explore the fantastical.
Why Should You Buy It?: Filmmaker Neil Blomkamp knows how to dirty up high-tech with the slum-set environs of “District 9” and “Elysium,” junkyard society that impactfully serves to re-educate a former police robot that gets drop-kicked into a limited battery life of crime. Given this way more visceral, and emotionally affecting take on “Short Circuit,” Hans Zimmer makes Number 5 come alive with an ingenious, synth-powered score that plays the growing evolvement of a cybernetic babe in the dark woods who only wants to be loved. With co-composers Steve Mazzaro and Andrew Kawczynski forming “The Chappie Elektrik Synthponia,” Zimmer goes right back into the high energy, transistorized guts that made him a 90s action stalwart with the likes of “Drop Zone” and “Broken Arrow” – wiping out any musically organic component in the process. The result is pure, powerful circuitry as scoring, its 8-bit sound ferociously souped-up for near future Johannesburg. Pulsating rhythms might get “Chappie” off to a crime-busting bang, but it’s almost a fake-out for a more restrained, and loveable, Pinocchio-esque tone the music will take to capture a fairy tale-like quality in its memorable theme, one that even whistles to capture the innocent, tender soul within the machine. Combined with Sharito Copley’s astonishing performance, “Chappie’s” score creates one of the cinema’s most emotively human robots, making the punishment that’s meted out against it almost unbearable. But this is a Neil Blomkamp movie after all, meaning that the big guns are going to get their play. And Zimmer delivers the action with thrilling ferociousness, his theme jamming with unhinged delight as vocals sing the praises of an ersatz ED-209 coming to call. It’s an powerhouse extension of the unjustly-maligned style that made Zimmer’s rockingly percussive, electro-charged score to “Spider-Man 2” the most fun thing about that film, here taken to even more buzzing, clanking and eardrum-bursting dimensions. In a new retro-synth meets techno-industrial era that’s given us the throwback likes of Daft Punk’s “Tron: Legacy,” “The Social Network” and “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World,” Zimmer’s “Chappie” is perhaps the purest of these thrilling throwbacks to the whole Tangerine Dream / Giorgio Morodor / Kraftwerk wave that Zimmer tamed into his own soundtrack-changing robot music beast. That tradition proudly continues with “Chappie’s” a terrifically energized and creative score that’s way more than the parts of the mind-boggling gear that it took to put it together. For Zimmer and team know that the most important part is heart.
Extra Special: As a fellow Oscar-winning composer who can always escape the few bombs thrown his way, and come out convincing listeners they’ve been listening to the score for an entirely different, and way better film, Michael Giacchino has made “Land of the Lost” into “Jurassic Park” and “Speed Racer” into “Grand Prix.” But he’s pulled off what must be his greatest hat trick for the latter filmmakers by making the Wachowski’s hilariously lamentable “Jupiter Ascending” rise to the heights of Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” (or at the very least “Star Wars”) by bringing out a truly cosmic score of imperious majesty, cliffhanging heroism and the human vulnerability of a young woman swept up into an intergalactic conspiracy, or at the very least one heck of a house of style. Giacchino is playing at the top of his thematic game here, especially with his use of chorus, ominously moaning for the villains, given a plaintive solo voice for an unbecoming empress and roaring full charge into a space minefield. It’s a terrifically pulse-pounding, and deliriously over-the-top in the way that only a very talented sci-fi loving kid can be when given an orchestra of what sounds like hundreds at his disposal. The result is a two-CD work of singularly exhilarating space opera bombast as it paints in epic, ear-popping colors to convey a universe in the balance, while at once lushly rejoicing in the alien-ethnic spectacle of it all, all without forgetting the more intimate moments when a bit of romance can poke through. As such, you could say that the magnificent “Jupiter Ascending” comes across as the sequel music that the actually quite good, Giacchino-scored “John Carter” will never get after its undeserved drubbing. At the least, this a heck of a warm up to what Giacchino will ultimately get to do when he’d deservedly handed the keys to the kingdom for George Lucas’ far-away galaxy (the playfully swooping, drum-pounding, Hoth-worthy “Flying Dinosaur Fight” at the end is more then enough to convince of Giacchino’s Williams street cred) “Jupiter Ascending’s” score is made all the more astonishing by the fact that Giacchino wrote it before the film was shot. Once again, it’s a demonstration in just how well he can play music from an alternate cinematic universe, let alone bestow distinctively separate, musical identities to the genre spectacles that understandably fly his way.
3) DUEL / THE CAR
What is it?: Intrada hits the evil road running with two classics of the killer vehicle genre, driven by truck and auto with Billy Goldenberg and Leonard Rosenman behind the wheels of “Duel” and “The Car.”
Why should you buy it?: If you talk to a certain generation, the most scarring horror experiences weren’t to be had in the cinema, but on network television, whose series and TV movies of the week were prolific in their suggested ghastliness. One of their most notable musical practitioners was Billy Goldenberg, who provided the chilling soundtracks for “Circle of Fear,” “Smile Jenny, You’re Dead” and “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” (as well as episodes of “Night Gallery” and “Colombo” for director Steven Spielberg). But perhaps his most important work would be providing the memorably impressionistic score for a “Duel” between motorist Dennis Hopper and an unseen big rig driver for this 1971 ABC Friday the 13th telefilm that showed its 25 year-old director had the right stuff for the big screen. The key to Goldenberg’s approach was in conveying the pitiless, desert byways that serve for a thoroughly unequal mouse-and-cat chase. Dissonant, churning strings eerily beat down with the heat of the sun, a hallucinatory waterphone creates weird bird-like cries circling overhead as if they were vultures, while dirty chords take on the stench-spewing weight of a truck from hell. Very few scores for film, or television were quite as mercilessly experimental in embodying rubber-tired death metal and a complete, terrified sense of exasperation like “Duel.” While organ passages are the more traditional horror scoring instrument in view as Hopper tries to figure out the maniac driver inside a diner, what makes the score all the more crazed is when it launches into stabbing tributes to the shower scene in “Psycho,” as if the 1955 Peterbilt truck was the malignant personification of Norman Bates as a “multi-ton knife” (but then again, Universal was also the producer here). With precious little melody to purposefully get mileage from, “Duel” is one relentless, truly scary listen, with the only respite given by some country-western instrumentals in the extras section. Indeed, “Jaws” seems like a piker when compared to just how musically ferocious “Duel” is.
Extra Special: With all respect to “Duel’s” accomplishment, I should look out of my rear view mirror for angry trucks when saying that my far preferred film and score is 1977’s “The Car,” which runs on the shrilly enjoyable satanic music of Leonard Rosenman. Plainly put through Universal’s assembly line with the goal of being “’Jaws’ on wheels,” “The Car” came out way better than the sum of its similarly “Duel”-influenced parts thanks to its astonishing stunt work, and even more importantly the direction of Elliot Silverstein, a filmmaker far better known for his eccentric character comedies like “Cat Ballou” and “Support Your Local Sheriff.” While that quirky sensibility inflects what’s on screen, “The Car” is given a head-on sense of evil by Rosenman’s pounding, “Dies Irae”-themed score. Rosenman was one of the main composers who truly brought a sense of concert hall modernism to Hollywood with an aleatoric style that was particularly impactful in service of sci-fi with the likes of “Fantastic Voyage” and “Beneath the Planet of the Apes,” and was all the more terrifying when in tri-tone service of the supernatural for “Race with the Devil,” a cultist versus RV road chase that put him in particularly good stead for “The Car.” With its pounding momentum and brassy feeling of doom, this score is pure, undistilled Rosenman. Way more impressionistic than going for more melodically accessible “devil” music a la Jerry Goldsmith’s “The Omen,” Rosenman went for something sneakier as he crosses sinisterly identifiable Latin melody with the sounds of a possessed souped-up Lincoln Continental Mark III, powered by metallic hits, furious rhythms and horn-like blasts of brass. But then, it’s exactly the right approach for a movie that never specifically says that Satan is behind the wheel (even if the original script did). Where “Duel” went for the head-on insanity of facing off against evil, “The Car” is more melodically accessible for a movie with a similar desert setting. It’s also perversely fun in the way that it cleverly personifies ultimate darkness on four wheels, fueled on impressionistic music that’s pure, unhinged tone pyramid Rosenman. The climactic chase’s interplay between surging, relentless brass, and piano as they try to run down the militaristic heroism for James Brolin’s good guy sheriff is a highlight of the score, so breathless that it makes one wonder how any musician could have survived playing it without a heart attack. Put together, “Duel” and “The Car” are intensely scary, beautiful-sounding listens that mark the films as genre classics of their kind, with Jeff Bond’s humorously incisive liner notes and Joe Sikoryak’s exceptionally well-designed road map booklets true appreciations of the sinister driving skills of these composers. For horror fans, one couldn’t imagine more perfect music to blast through the car radio, though one can only hope their eyes don’t sinisterly drift to pedestrians and other smaller vehicles while doing so.
4) FIFTY SHADES OF GREY (Original Score and Soundtrack)
Price: $12.99 / $13.98
What Is it?: The approach to musical movie sex has been pretty much played out between the usual (though always effective) suspects of a smoldering jazz saxophone, cooing female voices and erotically lush strings – even as the notion of a mainstream, major studio sex film has barely been played since the 70s. On those notes, “Fifty Shades of Grey” has arrived with unexpectedly stylish vibes on both counts, from its smartly heated score by Danny Elfman to a truly seductive song album that helps to accomplish the film’s seemingly impossible goal of making S&M enticing.
Why Should You Buy It?: Danny Elfman has scored dozens of films, yet practically none of them have overtly centered on sex (the media-hungry vixen of “To Die For” just might be the closest in his soundtrack sack). That alone makes “Fifty Shades” one of the most interesting projects to come this versatile composer’s way in a while, especially given how Elfman’s often-eccentric approach just might hear subject matter that’s been in the domain of Skinimax for the last few decades. The enticing result is a score that plays character psychology far more than it does sex, especially in how his music helps transform the tender, virginal vulnerability of young woman into lust for a whole new carnal world, even if what she really wants is a feeling relationship to go along with her ice cube / whip-stroking orgasms. Driven by an especially strong theme, Elfman uses a sound caught somewhere between alt. rock and a somber, subtle orchestral score. It’s an excitement that’s always tempered with yearning, the soulful, feminine guitar and strings hypnotically bound by rhythmic, bell-topped melody and strong electric chords. Caught between beautifully languid passages and percussive desire, Elfman conveys the urge to run to the forbidden red room, while also poignantly getting across how the ties that bind can only be physical at the end. Given how borderline goofy a movie stemming from Twilight fan fiction is, Elfman also gives a bouncy, subversive comic wink to the material. But overall, his approach is as gorgeous, and artsy as Sam Taylor-Johnson’s direction, determined to create something artful from unintentional camp. That his music helps “Fifty Shades” succeed by placing itself firmly in the big head, as opposed to what’s below it, shows just how hauntingly he’s achieved that goal.
Extra Special: When it comes to representing “Fifty Shades’” sweaty bump and grind (or more specifically stroking and spanking), then the soundtrack leaves the real sex to its songs, which have had just as much thought put into their selection as Elfman did in composing his score. That’s a rarity in many big-ticket movies that have one unmemorable pop tune after the next. But when picked with the actual desire to reflect the story, they can actually he inspired. “Shades” music supervisor Dana Sano has done this exceptionally well with both an ear to what’s hot and smart, getting the idea of mistress-master right across at the start with Annie Lennox’s hungry performance of “I Put A Spell On You.” But the big ticket here is Beyonce, who certainly doesn’t need Kanye’s help to impress us with her sultry pipes, which gets across the idea of an impossibly glamorous, and completely F’d up suitor’s pull with “Haunted,” the club beats of Michael Diamond’s remix capturing the film’s neo-futuristic glamour – a stylish sheen given a slow, pumping burn in “Crazy in Love.” But then, “Fifty Shades” is way more about foreplay, a slow dance to the red room expressed though Jessie Ware’s “Meet Me in the Middle” and the funky groove of The Weekend’s “Where You Belong.” Sia’s “Salted Wound” is full of painful yearning, while Skylar Grey’s “I Know You” has a gorgeous, pleading rhythm that sinks in the obvious as to how this is no love affair. Yet put together, Danny Elfman and the “Fifty Shades” elegant tunes are exceptional musical bedmates, all pleasure and no pain.
5) LADYHAWKE: LIMITED EDITION (3,000 edition)
What Is it?: When it comes to the oh-so-80s soundtracks, none more notoriously crossed rocking big-haired prog-rock with old-school orchestral scoring like 1985s “Ladyhawke,” a choice made all the more crazily anachronistic given that this was otherwise traditionally told sword and sorcery, whose spin was that a dastardly man of the cloth had jealously cursed a knightly hero and his fetching maiden to be separated by beastly conflict time schedules. Yet as opposed to using one his past composers like John Williams (“Superman”) or Jerry Goldsmith (“The Omen”), both of whom were unavailable, director Richard Donner drew on the music he’d been playing throughout pre-production scouting in Italy, and employed the titular musician behind The Alan Parsons Project to produce a score composed by his bandmate Andrew Powell. The result was a majestically zany soundtrack that would suddenly segue from strains that Miklos Rozsa could appreciate into disco rhythms where one would half expect Donna Summers to start singing. Given numerous soundtrack issues over the years that confirmed “Ladyhawke’s” enduring rep as a cult classic, Powell and Parsons WTF work has always remained a hate it or love it proposition (I’ve always been in the latter camp). But now given a gloriously complete (and then some) two-CD release by La Land Land Records, it’s likely that this sweeping score will be winning a few new acolytes who can truly appreciate how the duo hopped to hip up fantasy scoring in familiar orchestral armor.
Why Should You Buy It?: Even if one might break a smile at the bouncy, lighted floor sounds of the electro disco beat that takes one straight to the 70s and 80s as opposed to some vague medieval setting, there’s a reason that style of music reigned supreme for a good decade, which is its use of memorable thematic riffs. But whatever musical era they’re employing, Powell and Parsons have got a collection of terrific melodies in “Ladyhawke,” from the main, swaggering theme, one that serves as both a sun-blazing announcement of Rutger Hauer’s dashing Navarre whenever he’s battling church goons or riding across scenic Italian landscapes in the mousy company of Matthew Broderick. A more expected orchestral approach with the addition of magical electronic percussion and guitar create a truly lovely damsel to die for in Isabeau’s Michelle Pfeiffer, while dark, often dissonant percussion stands in for the animalistic savagery of the hordes after this romantically enchanted duo. Some of the Powell and Parson’s most effective music revolves around the anguish of them being separated in feather and fang by day and night, with ethereal, synths, poignant violin, eerie voices and heartfelt strings helping to make them one of the truly memorable duos of 80s genre cinema. And just as they transform, Powell and Parsons shape-shift their rock-pop rhythms into stunningly lush orchestral melody, then blend both approaches together with panache more reminiscent of their Parson Project albums than a typical fantasy score, the epic scope of which can really be appreciated for the first time in over 90 minutes of score. Another musical character that comes to the fore is John Wood’s twisted Bishop, who’s given Latin chanting and sinister male chorus, with voice-like samples memorably added to clanging percussion for the final slo-mo sword battle, the lover’s reunion in the flesh afterwards played for all of its gloriously soaring symphonic worth – all before of course going back to its horse-dance-gallop groove.
Extra Special: “Ladyhawke” has never sounded this good as it truly steps up to the mantle as a classic fantasy score. As with the case of many soundtracks that tried to meld popular music with an orchestral approach, it’s the glorious string sound that comes out as being the eternal of the two. Yet it’s also the audaciously dated beat of the Alan Parsons Project that really ensures “Ladyhawke’s” position as a cult classic, making the two stylistic approaches as inseparable as night and day. La La Land’s two-cd release further compliments Powell and Parson’s work with numerous alternates and extended underscoring for the fillm’s radio spots, as well as the fully prog-rock rhythm of the album’s single that will truly separate “Ladyhawke’s” score fans from the unbelievers. Tim Grieving provides thoroughly entertaining and honest liner notes that features fresh quotes the composers along with Rutger Hauer and producer Lauren-Shuler Donner, complete with her husband defending his bold composer choice against the haters. My feeling is that there will certainly be less of them after hearing this groovy, magical album that throws Erich Wolfgang Korngold and his compatriots on the rocking disco floor.
ALSO FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION:
. 1001 NIGHTS (500 edition)
Gabriel Yard has taken many romantic flights of fantasy from “Map of the Human Heart” to “The English Patient,” but few have the exotic eccentricity of his magic carpet ride for “1001 Nuits,” Philippe de Broca’s absurdist 1990 spin on the famous tales conjured by the alluring Scheherazade (played by Catherine Zeta-Jones in her film debut), wherein a very French genie jumps from a 20th century television set in London to create hijinks in ancient Arabia. A composer of French-Lebanese descent, Yared’s ethnic quality has often shown though with his exotic combinations of Middle Eastern instruments and lush orchestras. But “1001 Nights” just might be the most sensuously beautiful mélange of these two musical cultures, as a beguilingly romantic theme that’s the stuff of handsome, turbaned adventures and sultry women of mystery enters as Kasbah of wind instruments and percussion that’s as well suited to Valentino’s Sheik as it might be Aladdin. In addition to the seductive, melodic quality, Yared has just as much fun with playfully sweeping adventure, the kind of knowingly perilous fantasy escapades he hasn’t got to play much in a mostly dramatic career, while also relishing in the absurdity of synth circus music and a pipe organ. Catherine Zeta Jones’ pipes also impress with English-language song “Scheherazade.” As such,“1001 Nights” casts a truly enchanted melodic spell for fans of both Yared and a particularly enticing storyteller with a gloriously thematic score that isn’t so much scoring an absurdist time-traveling comedy as it is the purely cinematic language of Arabian love and adventure that helped give birth to the cinema’s thousands of stories.
. AT MIDDLETON
An emotionally congested heart doctor and a vivacious furniture saleswoman have a brief encounter during the day they take their unappreciative kids for a college tour. But when you listen to Arturo Sandoval’s beguilingly beautiful little score, you might think these two adults were gamboling about a small, seaside Italian village for a soundtrack that’s the height of retro romance. Indeed, Luis Bacalov’s Oscar-winning “Il Postino” score comes to mind, as opposed to anything Latin jazz when listening to the sweet, incredibly thematic melodies for accordion, strings and piano from Cuban jazz great Arturo Sandoval. Astonishingly representing his first feature score after his trumpet playing was featured in such pictures as “The Mambo Kings” and “Rango,” Sandoval is in pleasantly ironic position of composing for Cuban co-star Andy Garcia, who played the musician himself in an HBO movie. It’s a task that Sandoval handles with both poignant romance and sly wit. Using an ersatz Copland-esque fanfare, witty pomp and circumstance, and jazzy rhythms of a collegiate environment to serve as a playground for two adults getting back in touch with their inner youths, Sandoval develops their developing attraction with incredibly affecting tenderness and heartbreak, music at once drawn in for a climactic kiss with all the melancholy of the knowledge that this will be a life-changing brief encounter. Sure there might not be a particular reason for Sandoval to take such a Mediterranean-specific approach for a bucolic Middle American campus, but perhaps nothing can better sum up this character’s who are unable to change their fate. The effect is a score of lovely, bittersweet power, capturing the kind of unabashedly, intimate melodic poetry that’s a rarity in way bigger Hollywood rom-com’s, but can be found in abundance at this campus. While Andy Garcia performs his own lyrics for the thematically-based “There Was A Day,” with Dan Higgins’ emotive sax playing getting solely featured on an instrumental track of the tune. Randall D. Larson’s equally pleasant liner notes elaborate on this affecting musical tour with new interviews with Garcia and Sandoval, talking about a rewarding creative relationship that’s unusually personal.
. BHOPAL: A PRAYER FOR RAIN
British compose Benjamin Wallfisch has excelled at both ethnically-themed music (“Conquest 1453,” “Desert Dancer”) and scores about unassuming people being put to ultimate tests of their humanity (“The Escapist,” “Hours”). Now he’s able to tragically employ the best of both musical world for “Bhopal: A Prayer For Rain,” which uses a multi-character set-up that Irwin Allen would appreciate to unleash a real life disaster so horrifying that it would doubtlessly render that master of catastrophe silent in shock. Here, it’s left for Wallfisch to eloquently express the build-up to when Union Carbide’s pesticide factory will unleash cyanide hell upon the populace of a jam-packed Indian city. Yet it’s not as if those desperate to work in the shoddy factory think of it as anything but a blessing, as Wallfisch’s score conveys an innocent, blissful beauty through his deft combination of Indian instruments and a western strings, piano and electronics, as well as creating his own, breathless vocal-drum rhythm for a city-on-the-go with voices and native percussion. The composer would certainly fit right in at home if asked to score “Slumdog Millionaire 2” given his adeptness at reflecting both an ancient culture hoping to doing anything to entice a multinational that cares little for them. But there’s trouble in corporate paradise as Wallfisch gradually brings in a more concerned orchestral tone, his electronics now not quite so ethereal, almost simmering with ghostly voice-like effects. When disaster finally strikes, its with lushly melodic, ever-building symphonic anguish and ever-popular sonic booms. What follows is an especially eerie musical personification of cyanide fog catastrophe, made all the more effective with how Wallfisch mostly underplays the events with pulsating heartbeats and mesmerizing solemnity, done with the hindsight of history as opposed to hearing the kind of action-panic that might offer any hope of escape for these thousands of victims. But then, one might say it’s an approach befitting a country whose faith views death as part of a cycle of rebirths, or more likely is accepting of the lingering corporate horrors that befall them to keep jobs going – as the almost wistful guitar epilogue music innocently fast forwards to the present. It’s just part of the thoughtfulness that makes Wallfisch’s score so powerful, and delicately tragic, a tenderness that also fills Mary Lea’s end song. Sting and Anoushka Shanker’s end title “Sea Dreamer,” as heard in this exceptional Netflix instant watchable film, can be gotten via iTunes.
. ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN
Since musically partnering with The Mouse House, Intrada has released any number of worthwhile scores from the studio’s underappreciated period of live action filmmaking during the 1970s, among them Maurice Jarre’s “The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark” and Jerry Goldsmith’s “One Lucky Indian.” But if there’s one movie that’s stood the test of time (and a Rock reboot as well), then it’s 1975′s pre-teen sci-fi chase picture “Escape To Witch Mountain.” Introducing the telekinetic alien brother-sister team that would be the G-rated audience’s answer to “Carrie,” “Witch Mountain” would sort of go for a more adult treatment of suspense by hiring John Hough, who’d last scared the dickens out of any child unlucky enough to catch “The Legend of Hell House.” Along for the RV ride was composer Johnny Mandel, doing his first outright genre score after specialize in adult romance, comedy and crime with the likes of “The Americanization of Emily,” “MASH” and “Point Blank.” The result was a thrilling, if not-too dangerous score that ingeniously gave a folksy spin to alien powers, impressively combining weird, ultra-70s synths with a southern-style, ESP-enabling harmonica, two unlikely partners that somehow meshed quite well with the energy of an orchestra. Having created one of the most-played themes known to Hollywood with “The Sandpiper,” Mandell drives to “Witch Mountain” with a dynamic melody that pits two kids against adult menace, while gently capturing the innocent nature of these blonde-haired protagonists, playing their impossible tricks with a mixture of magic and electronic spaciness whose sound will be a particular rush to fans of Columbia’s old-school studio logo. The score’s down-home, rustic nature is particularly sweet, and still likely the closest that music befitting Mayberry RFD has gotten close to a sci-fi score. Yet Mandell’s understandably lighter way of treating the material only adds to the score’s charm, especially with his flute and brass flying camper music that’s pure, perky Disney lightness. As a film, and score that still bewitches a generation who fell in love with a pre-Housewives of Beverly Hills Kim Richards, “Escape to Witch Mountain” has gotten the wonderful presentation this blast from the matinee past deserves, with extras that spotlight its orchestral cues sans harmonica, and a last track that shows one of the more impressive virtuoso performances the instrument has gotten from “Cool Hand Luke’s” mouth-playing ace Tommy Morgan.
. IT FOLLOWS
Just as so many sci-fi scores like “Chappie” are taking their hip retro cues from the 70s and 80s, this electronic era is also proving a boon to such impressive horror homage soundtracks as “Starry Eyes,” “Cold in July” and “The Guest.” Heck, even John Carpenter is even back on the act he truly started with “Halloween” with a collection of imagined “Lost Themes.” Now Disasterpeace chimes in for “It Follows,” a score, and film that lives up to its title in more ways than one as a seemingly unstoppable supernatural entity chases a reluctantly horny teen through a suburbia The Shape would most definitely feel at home in. But where Carpenter’s game-changing score was essentially synth simplicity itself with its staccato theme and low, minimal atmospheres, the artist known as Disasterpiece (whose resume includes indie game scores for “Apoc Wars” and “Cannon Brawl”) is cleverly after a score that seeks more electronic meat to chew than just lovingly riffing on period slasher soundtracks. Sure you’ve got banging, ever-encroaching percussion a la “The Fog” for the incredible relentless of the whatever-it-is, introspective melody for a girl trying to spot a boogie thing out from the corner of her eye, and a suspiciously calm rhythms as we drive among rows of cookie-cutter, tree-lined houses. But Disasterpeace goes a few homages better with sound morasses that would fit nicely into Gil Melle’s seminal “Andromeda Strain” score, or paying tribute to Jerry Goldsmith’s eerie, electronic gestures in “Alien.” The score expounds on these originals, sometimes with just the slightest bit of subtlety, or gigantically in the case of shrieking sound morasses. But like the power of these synth scores that have stuck with generations thoroughly creeped out by such other landmarks works as Charles Bernstein’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “The Entity” (scenes from which “It Follows” is sure to reference in its seeming lo-fi way), the overall effect that Disasterpieace inspires is one of surreal dread, the sound of reality being turned upside down into a buzzing realm of insanity, luring its victim with hypnotic motifs before pouncing on them with blasting dissonance. It’s a pull that really helps the awkward pacing of this uneven, but overall impactful little horror movie that perhaps could have used more of Disasterpeace to keep its energy up. But as a listen, “It Follow” pulls off the trick of turning homage into something neat, original and most importantly of all, upsetting. Even Michael Meyers would be freaked out by how his synth strains have been so surreally, and brilliantly messed about with in anything but a electro-killer copycat way.
. JUSTICE LEAGUE: THRONE OF ATLANTIS
Where DC’s live action films have mainly inhabited a darkly pretentious realm of missed promise, the comics’ animated division has been delivering far more entertaining, and involving movies that truly deserve to be given big screen flesh and blood, especially when it comes to the talented composers who’ve given equally impressive musical muscle to their costumed heroes. Certainly deserving his place in a cinematic Hall of Justice is Frederik Wiedmann, whose cosmically thrilling time spent with the Green Lantern’s animated series led to the terrific Justice League ‘toon “The Flashpoint Paradox” before continuing on with impressive DC universe entries for “JLA Adventures,” “Beware the Batman,” “Son of Batman” and now “Justice League: Throne of Atlantis.” One particular reason that Wiedmann’s music is so thrilling is that he knows how to play these characters with all of the noble seriousness they deserve, but without crossing over into moroseness. Given the introduction of Aquaman here, the composer strongly paints the gold and green king of Atlantis with a proud, majestic strains and a Middle Eastern diduk, not only giving his newfound home a mythological sense of place born from ancient gods, but more importantly personifying a half-bred character caught between his father’s land and mother’s undersea domain. It’s his musical personage that leads the JLA, whose blend of alien, human, technological and magical members is kept hip with a combination of electronics and strings. While he might not have the resources of the London Philharmonic here, Wiedmann’s exception combination of a small orchestra and out-of-the box string emulation has the punch of a 100 pieces, especially considering how all-out epic “Atlantis” frequently is. Capturing a character who’s conflicted about being to the Atlantean manor born, Wiedmann gives his score a true sense of destiny and power, two big reasons that he’s also the subject of an unusually exhaustive composer featurette on the film’s blu ray itself.
. KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON
Varese Sarabande follows up the angry jazz energy of “Whiplash” with this far more positive vibes of Clark Terry, a recently passed jazz trumpeter and flugelhorn player who stands as a true legend of this distinctly American musical art form, having played over 70 years with the likes of Count Basie and Duke Ellington, given the Tonight Show band its swing, and lent soulful inspiration to such students as Quincy Jones and Miles Davis. The soundtrack, and documentary “Keep On Keepin’ On” not only let us hear a similarly profound connection through a blind piano protégé Justin Kauflin, but also highlight Terry’s astounding career as one of the most recorded jazzmen in history. It’s not an easy task to fit hundreds of hours onto one 70-minute long CD, let alone Terry’s touching words of finding one’s groove, but this bravura collection produced by director Alan Hicks and Quincy Jones (both former students of Terry’s) succeeds as a lesson in how to put together storytelling in both tunes and words. Given course with dialogue excerpts from Terry and the many artists who’ve been touched by his gift, “Keep On Keepin’ On” serves as a tour down memory lane of jazz itself. We get the Dixieland swing of The Oscar Peterson Trio’s “Brotherhood of Man,” vintage tracks from his “Harlem Air Shaft” with The Duke, and the raucously strutting swing of the “Blee Bop Blues” for Count Basie. “Michelle” is softly played jazz at its most romantic The standards also get their spotlight with the lush big band melody of Terry’s teaming with lush orchestral strains for “Candy,” “Girl Talk” and the swooning “Misty,” as well as the more intimate live performances of “I Had You” and his virtuoso solo horn giving magic to “Stardust.” Clark’s pupil also shines with his nimble keyboards on “Dreams Change,” the beautifully somber Darkest Hour” and the album’s end track “For Clark.” It’s a marvelous CD that’s a lesson in itself to jazz history, especially with how a horn can sum up the sadness and joy that gave the form birth, as played by a man who was jazz itself.
. MAP TO THE STARS
Even when not outrightly dealing with material steeped in horror or science fiction, the collaboration between director David Cronenberg and composer Howard Shore has often resulted in hard-edged music, from the viscerally brass knives to the gut of “Eastern Promises” and “A History of Violence” to the guitar electro shock of “Crash” and the psychologically howling strings of “A Dangerous Method.” It makes Shore’s more ethereal approaches to the director’s somewhat regular world tales of “Cosmopolis” (co-scored by the industrial band Metric) and now “Map to the Stars” all the more interesting and experimental in a collaboration that keeps stretching its already insane boundaries. With this poison pill travelogue of Oedipal Hollywood at its most quietly insane, both composer and director weave one of their best love-it-or-hate-it works. For a score that unites a bunch of unbalanced actors and their enablers, all on the verge of a truly intense nervous breakdown, Shore sets the thematic tone with ethereal synths and a Middle Eastern tabla, hinting of the promised exotic land of dreams. What he gives us is a hypnotic nightmare of rock-synth atmospheres, drifting over its universe of beyond-spoiled characters like pulsating clouds or brimming with electric guitar madness. “Map to the Stars” grows ever more disturbing and hypnotic in Shore’s judicious balance of ethereal atmospheres and more palpably organic music, as mixed with hip club beats for the viper dens of young stars on the make, pleading violins finally taking tragic center stage. For a composer who’s often taken daring chances of musical transgression in abetting Cronenberg’s decades-long career of provocation, the surprise of their latest affront is just how accessible this limo ride to LA hell is, which is perhaps the biggest comment they can make on how mesmerizing Hollywood’s psychoses are in the first place.
Albert Pyun was stylistically grinding out “Terminator” clones in the early 90s, following up the muscle from Brussels in “Cyborg” with Parisian kickboxing action-hunk Olivier Gruner as a trench coated LA cop man-machine on the trail of his ex-partner, with all roads leading to blowing up even more of a decimated factory location familiar to fans of this kind of low budget mayhem – let alone Pyun’s beyond-prolific output. Matching the director’s telltale color saturation was a stylishly atmospheric score by Michel Rubini. One of the most underrated practitioners of the era’s sleek, synth sound, Rubini’s noir-ish credits had included “The Hunger” (co-composed with Danny Jaeger), “Band of the Hand” and “Manhunter.” “Nemesis” would provide him with a half-electronic, half-orchestral fusion that particularly suited its high-kicking, gun-blasting future cop. And while Rubini would deliver on the percussive thunder here to match the relentless fireballs and bullets, what truly distinguishes “Nemesis” is its sunglass-cool mood. Given a reflective dick-on-the-beat theme perfect for a fog-drenched street, Rubini’s distinctive, effective melody gets haunting mileage from the City of Angels to desert and jungle, his score given further texture with voices, guitar and shakuhachi, an neo-Oriental vibe that’s well-suited to Pyun’s Woo-esque ambitions. A rock guitar groove also befits these swaggering gunslingers, while metallic hits give a Fiedel-esque presence to the evil robot overlords in human skin. Sure “Nemesis” might be familiar, but it’s a measure of Rubini’s energy as to how much swaggering, percussively pummeling fun this score is for the ambitious, low budget genre. Perserverance’s engineer Chas Ferry has done much to clean the dust off of this old cyborg’s bones for the first time in 23 years, giving Rubini’s work an impressive new spark that will impress fans of cult-video action flicks who want to get the Gruner groove on again. Rubini \ entertainingly elaborates on the scoring process in his liner notes – with perhaps the most interesting fact being that the composer was being trained by Gruner before he’d been approached to score the film. One can judge who emerged the master here.
. THE NUMBERS STATION
John Cusack and Nicolas Cage have long been in a race to see who can make the most direct-to-iTunes movies. But as Cage more than ever seems intent to be racking up some truly craptacular pictures to pay the bills, I’ve got to hand the title in terms of quality to Cusack’s way more interesting and polished choices, one in particular being “The Numbers Station.” Cusack’s once again playing a burned-out enforcement figure, this time a black ops assassin locked into a spy fortress with Malin Akerman’s attractive code breaker, both of whom are forced to fend off waves of assassins after intercepting a particularly dangerous secret message. Keeping these locked-in protagonists company in this effective, spare thriller is a cool, captivatingly pulsing score by Paul Leonard-Morgan. With the Scottish composer getting a particular lift from scoring the English spook series “MI-5,” Morgan has since impressed in Hollywood with the techno acid rush of “Limitless’” drug-crazed braniac, and the steely, hard-ass electronic rhythms of “Dredd’s” merciless future judge. “The Numbers Station” keeps that synth-rock / trance club groove effectively going in the movie’s lonely spy base, with the added benefit of strings to give the score real scope. Yet as opposed to a composer who’d be content to let the beat machine run amuck on top of a bunch of human players, what raises “The Numbers Station” above similar scores of this VOD type is its got a solid thematic foundation. Melody is the real key here to decoding this “Station’s” surprises, giving it a cool hip groove that brings to mind Harry Gregson-Williams’ “Spy Game” score. Leonard-Morgan nicely balances the more dance track-ish numbers with enticing suspense rhythms that bringing out the mystery behind the constantly voiced call signs, while also capturing the rapid, chattering and catchy beat of computer information flashing before the analyst’s eyes, the mechanical nature of her job abetted by scraping, chattering gestures. It’s a cool, rhythmically atmospheric score that’s especially well modulated between more oppressive tones and conveying the far bigger, and deadlier world of espionage outside of this forgotten English base. Amid so many scores playing the numbers game in taking a similar approach, its says something that this “Station” stands out in the spy score pack, especially given a composer who knows his way around fast-paced beats and more cerebral head games.
. PINOCCHIO: THE LEGACY COLLECTION
In the decades since 1937’s “Sleeping Beauty,” no animation-specialty studio has provided such iconic songs or scores as Walt Disney. But after numerous appearances out of, and back into their movie and music vaults, no ever-more-special CD release has done justice to their aural work like the studio’s Legacy collection, among whose multiple-disc releases are the likes of “Fantasia,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “The Little Mermaid” and “The Lion King.” But if there’s one classic movie that’s truly eternal in capturing the enchanted optimism that stands for the studio’s appeal to the youth in all of us, then it’s the glistening, magical music of 1940s “Pinocchio,” which is now fully given musical life to reveal itself even more of an instrumentally animated work than thought. Seeking to recapture the sweet fairy tale enchantment of his score to “Snow White,” Disney brought back the team of Leigh Harline and Paul J. Smith for “Pinocchio.” Together with Ned Washington they’d win the Best Score Oscar for this delightful work that’s the embodiment of a puppet who wants to be a real boy, a spirit that’s at once magical and mischievous. Given thematic life Washington’s classic Oscar-winning song “When You Wish Upon A Star” (which Steven Spielberg had John Williams’ use so brilliantly for the end credits of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”), Harline and Smith’s work is full of bright, eager melodies built around its other memorable tunes, begun by the sprightly “Give A Little Whistle.” Sparkling bells, the spectrally enchanted music of The Blue Fairy, the Germanic accordions of the movie’s “Old World’ Eastern European setting and the tinkertoy sounds of Gepetto’s workshop make this one of the first scores to truly become a character in such an inventively playful and unabashedly emotional way, especially as the puppet’s misbehavior puts him in melodically woeful and dangerous jeopardy. A particular delight is hearing some decidedly bad-boy stripper jazz-meets-circus calliope music as Pinocchio falls in with the wrong kid crowd at Pleasure Island. And when it comes to subversion, “Hi Diddle-Dee-Dee (An Actor’s Life For Me)” stands as a sarcastic ode to the next-oldest profession that’s more hilarious than ever. Those who’ve watched the “Avengers: Age of Ultron” trailer numerous times will also get to hear the original, far more innocent version of “I’ve Got No Strings.” Such is the power of “Pinocchio” in our collective memory that’s made this arguably the greatest of the golden age Disney song-score. With “Pinocchio’s” soundtrack fitting into one CD, the second disc is first given over to perky re-performances of its lost songs. But the B-side truly belongs to the three-octave voice of Jiminy Cricket (aka the folksy Cliff Edwards) and his insanely cute morality lesson songs. Hearing this collection of oh-so chirpy, and undeniably clever mental hygiene tunes as “Safety First” and “I’m No Fool” on “The Mickey Mouse Club” as he sung to TV-addicted kids about the dire consequences of what would happen to those who didn’t brush their teeth, properly ride their bike or jump in a pool right after eating is enough to make you want to stomp on that darned insect – which is exactly what Pinocchio did in Carlo Collodi’s original story.
. REACH ME
In nearly two decades of scoring, Tree Adams has mainly worked on television with such popular shows as “Perception,” “Californication” and “Franklin & Bash,” where he’s often impressed with quirky, groove-based music. That put him in good, eccentric stead for this off-kilter character cavalcade for director John Herzfeld, who returned to LA after the star-filled “Two Days in the Valley” with this even more out-there movie about fate-linked Angelinos, who are brought together by the words of a reclusive self-help author. While there’s no way for Adams to thematically play every member of the cast, the composer smartly settles on a vibe that combines rhythm and blues with nice Hammond organ bits, perky comedy-orchestral percussion with a spacey, meditative music for strings, synths and piano. It’s a fun, energetic approach that does much to smooth over some of the film’s wilder eccentricities, while offering melodic self-enablement for a cinematic approach that’s out to find some measure of truth in its emblematic author, who’s given a sad-sack jazz-brass approach, the horns going off-kilter when confronted with his fear of the people who desperately seek truth-telling from him. Another musical personage to stand out is a cop who can’t help killing ever perp he encounters, his quick-on-the-draw charisma cleverly given a spaghetti country-western energy. Keenly balancing comedy and drama, Tree Adams’ funkily appealing score is about LA as a state of eccentric mind, as mapped out with melodically energetic, and tenderly thoughtful geography
. RED ARMY
Christophe Beck is a composer with ever-growing action muscle with the likes of “Edge of Tomorrow,” Terminator Genisys” and “Ant Man.” But it’s his few forays into documentary scoring where he really gets to stretch his biceps, first taking on a broken educational system with “Waiting for Superman” and now showing the shattering, if emotionally empty power of Russia’s hockey-powered “Red Army.” Teaming with his longtime scoring coordinator and additional composer Leo Birenberg, Beck enjoyably partakes of all things Soviet for a score so nationalistic that it puts “Dr. Zhivago” to shame. Dancing Balalaika, violins and pomp-filled strings create an invincible army of warriors on ice that would take a big Cold War fall at the sticks of the U.S. at the 1980 Winter Olympics. But beyond going for the obvious employment of all things musically Russian, the true strength of Beck and Birenberg’s work is in getting across the soul-draining punishment of having no life beyond sports in service to The Motherland. A plucky main theme maneuvers to rhythmic builds, blasting rock guitars, virtuoso violin solos and chorus. It’s an approach that’s all about aggression and drive, while the wreck of the lives barely off the rink are conveyed through agonized strings and a mournful men’s chorus. You could almost say there’s a satiric quality to it all as these famed Russians truly face the not-so invincible music, with quirky instrumentations further melting the stone-faced ice. But then, if Russia has built its now capitalist revolution on sacrifice, “Red Army” is best at powerfully getting across the sad human toll in reaching shattered perfection, its especially empathetic string, flute and synth-sample melodies almost pleading for a shot of vodka as the rhythmically militaristic hockey machine breaks down. It’s in the strength of how thematically well Beck and Birenberg’s score is constructed that we get a moving sense of vulnerability in the enemy on ice, and no small amount of stalwart Russian pride as the score climactically rocks out with chorus and sonic booms in the best action hero fashion.
One might expect a Hollywood score for a tale of an angelic, flying infant to be full of sugary, bouncing baby comedy, Thankfully, that’s not the way they score angelic tykes in France, especially when in the caring hands of Philippe Rombi. An exceptionally melodic composer who could be the next Alexandre Desplat on these shores if given the chance, Rombi has had his share of childhood enchantment with “War of the Buttons,” as well as mystery for director Francois Ozon with “The Swimming Pool.” In 2009’s “Ricky,” Rombi was able to combine both approaches, beginning with a tender, piano-waltz theme that is the definition of vulnerable, sweetly sympathetic innocence for a woman awaiting her bundle of joy. Yet a good portion of the ensuing score is far more anguished than fairy tale in nature as Rombi concentrates on playing the aghast parents’ reaction as they notice strange bruises on their baby’s back. The sparkling bell percussion of Rombi’s theme joins with sorrowful violins and creeping strings suggesting an M. Night Shamalayan score in the making, while also getting across the child abusing implications of these unexplained marks. But once “Ricki’s” abilities are revealed, just a little tiny bit of the darkness leaves the score as Rombi conjures the “flying” rhythms of the infant, if in a more down to earth way than the swoopingly symphonic likes of “The Boy Who Could Fly” and “Superman.” There’s something to be said of the emotional gravity that Rombi makes his memorably thematic, poignant score that’s only as fantastical as it needs to be. You never knew flying baby music could be this smart with only the gentlest, melancholy flutter of its wings.
. THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL
Being second best doesn’t mean playing second fiddle to his first “Exotic Marigold” score when it comes to Thomas Newman’s return trip to this not-so geriatric Indian hotel for English expats. In this more-than-respectable sequel, Newman reprises his melodically cross-cultural masala of subcontinental rhythms and pattering voices with lush strings for a score that’s as colorful, and vibrant as the hustle and bustle of the city. If anything, Newman’s new check-in has even more of that fast-paced energy. For a composer who impressed out of the gate with the magically percussive comedy quirk of “Desperately Seeking Susan” and “The Man With One Red Shoe,” this “Second” time around gives him the welcome opportunity to return to a genre he doesn’t get to visit that often outside of his Disney scores for “Saving Mr. Banks” and “Finding Nemo.” Though the golden girl likes of Maggie Smith and Judi Dench might same ageless, what gives this “Marigold” entry more of a dramatic edge is the realization that the cast won’t be doing these sequels forever, even with the relatively younger Yank-blooded like of Richard Gere on hand. Subsequently, the poignant melodies that Newman gave to the likes of “Little Children” and “Revolutionary Road” are also on hand to give this score an especially moving, though unforced resonance, especially in its movingly quiet send-off before returning once again to its eccentric, rhythmic enchantment. But no matter what continent its playing, Newman’s music has always said it’s hip to be a square, no more so than with a soundtrack that communicates the love for these Brit fogies with a vibrancy that’s positively dancing to an ethereal, enchanted raga beat – along with the addition of catchily upbeat and modernly rhythmic Indian pop songs.
CLICK on the album covers to make your hardcopy or download purchase, and find the soundtracks at these. com’s: Amazon, Intrada, iTunes, MyPlayDirect, Perseverance and Screen Archives Entertainment
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.2495]Dave Porter ([m.43339]Term Life), [c.674]Jeff Beal ([t.43330]The Dovekeepers), [c.8705]Junkie XL ([m.41252]Point Break), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 28 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2015-03-09]Click here for the full schedule.
Opening nationwide this week are (with music by): [m.36438]Cinderella ([c.50]Patrick Doyle) and [m.38979]Run All Night ([c.8408]Stephen Perone).
Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking song credits for:
- [m.36438]Cinderella (6 songs)
- [m.38979]Run All Night (5 songs)
- [m.41750]Cymbeline (6...
Lakeshore Records will release the [a.14795]Effie Gray Original Motion Picture Soundtrack digitally on [da.2015-03-31]March 31 and on CD on [da.2015-04-28]April 28, 2015. The album features the film's original score by [c.1293]Paul Cantelon.
"Working on [m.38101]Effie Gray was a privilege," Cantelon said. "I was allowed to write the music freely, which in turn allowed the music to express the depth of the emotion that the film creates. I was raised in a very similar religious background to that of John Ruskin, and was exceedingly moved by the film's exploration of those important influences. This personal connection propelled the music to become a fully realized character."
"The whole film is brimming over with emotions on all scales," said Cantelon. "Though...
Since his 2005 video game scoring debuts with “Rise of the Kasai” and “Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows,” Jason Graves has played faithful service to a genre that’s continually evolved in terms of its striking visuals and bold storytelling as the genre has done its damnedest to shirk the mantle of being kid’s stuff, no more so than in the quality of its music. Action has been a particular forte for Graves, who’s proved that one could indeed hear a terrifying orchestra shriek in the void with the “Dead Space” franchise. He’s given the stuff of soaring fantasy to “Dungeon Siege III,” sent Lara Croft’s arrows heroically flying with “Tomb Raider,” rocked with the tricked-out cars driven by the “Wheelman,” and delivered righteous ghostly payback in “Murdered: Soul Suspect.” Yet among Graves’ numerously exciting scores, perhaps none have been as grippingly downbeat, or as elegantly sad as the centuries-old code of honor that binds “The Order: 1886.” It’s a classically-themed soundtrack that puts Graves at the center of the round table of an Arthurian-esque police force out to preserve the peace in a steampunk England, its Knights of the Realm beset by werewolves, rebels and a growing conspiracy within their ranks.
From airship to Lycan-infested hospital and the hallowed halls of his fellow Knights, “The Order” the noble Galahad finds his sense of righteousness crumbling with each new discovery. Given the thematic heavy heart of a cello and viola driving its tragically noble orchestra, Graves conveys an ever-darkening sense of betrayal to match a Knight seeing his band of brothers in a monstrous new light. Even with its rhythmic werewolf battles, moaning voices and tearfully aching strings, “The Order: 1886” maintains a real melodic sense of class (and dare say decorum) that one could imagine being heard in “Downtown Abbey.” It’s music that’s all about stiff upper lip honor a life sacrificed to duty, even as these warriors festooned in pomp and circumstance throw down with the ultra-violent action gaming demands. And given its lengthy and gorgeously moody cinematics, “The Order: 1886” allows Graves the opportunity to write a game score with the development, and depth of a feature film, an arena that the composer has recently been exploring with “Adrenaline” and “Unknown Caller.”
For a game full of armor-weighted characters, the composer has created a score that’s even stronger for its emotional weight as it is its percussive action, elaborating on the price of duty with refined, truly grave soulfulness that levels up just how dramatic game scoring can be within its shoot-‘em up, franchise-launching expectations. On that, Jason Graves can proudly be knighted amongst “The Order: 1886.”
Could you talk about the road that led you to specialize in video game scoring?
I cut my teeth on film and television music in the mid ‘90s. I attended USC’s Film/TV Scoring program and found myself working halfway through my first semester. I did lots of agency work for commercials and trailers plus plenty of reality television and film. My time in LA taught me to work very quickly under tight deadlines. Most importantly, I learned how to listen to the client and deliver what they need – as opposed to simply giving them what I wanted to do.
I eventually worked my way back to my home state of North Carolina and spent five years working on independent films and corporate accounts before I landed my first game. It was definitely a “knowing someone who knew a guy who knew someone that needed music” situation. The developer was in Australia and needed forty minutes of music in four weeks. Fortunately, I had been working on my studio and honing my orchestra chops for five years, so I jumped in headfirst and ended up having more fun in those four weeks than I had the entire time in LA. It wasn’t just the creative freedom – the sheer amount of music needed was the opposite of the “revising thirty seconds of music for six weeks” experience I had with advertising. It was a very liberating experience and I definitely set my sights on games since that first title in 2001.
How long was “The Order: 1886” in development, and did your music for it evolve along with it during that time?
I’ve been attached to The Order since 2012 and I know they were working in earnest on it for a few years before that. The first two years were definitely touch and go – there wasn’t a lot that needed music then. We still kept in touch and had an evolving idea of what the music could contribute. There were a few test levels and experiments I scored during that time, but they were really more surface/scary/single dimension kinds of cues. Everything revolves around Lycan encounters, so the music was very scary…but that was about it. Nothing of substance yet – none of us yet knew what kind of game we were making.
By late 2013 things were beginning to take shape. We knew that, yes, there were going to be gothic horror aspects to the game, but I didn’t want to score the whole thing as an outright horror title. I was particularly interested in our lead protagonist and what the game developer, Ready At Dawn, called “a burden of responsibility and honor” that he and his fellow Knights carried. The idea of a burden, or weight, was very intriguing from a musical standpoint and gave me a unique perspective towards the game. I wanted the score to feel more personal, introspective and mournful, rather than the usual drum-riddled, combat-driven loops that permeate so many blockbuster combat games. “The Knight’s Theme” and “Galahad’s Theme” were born out of this idea in early 2014. There had been plenty of experimenting for the previous years and I essentially wiped the creative slate clean with my eyes fixed on an April recording session at Abbey Road. We planned two sessions total to cover the in-game music and cinematics.
The first session went very well. So well, in fact, that I expanded some ideas and pushed the interesting sounds – male choir and solo strings – even more to the forefront, which yielded cues such as “The Knighthood” and “Last Man Standing” on the second session.
Like “Beyond: Two Souls,” “The Order: 1886” is a “hybrid” game that’s almost a movie as it is a game. Did you look forward to that approach?
I definitely enjoyed the story-driven plot and character development, which is a result of RAD’s overall approach to the gameplay. In many ways, I was able to score a good bit of the game as if it were a film. Any large game has many hours of cinematics – Tomb Raider had over two hours and Dead Space 3 was about the same. We had music in more than two hours of cinematics for The Order, but there was also an additional two hours of in-game music, so it really ends up balancing itself out.
The cello and viola are especially evocative instruments in “The Order: 1886.” What made you decide to feature them, and what did you want them to express about the characters and the story?
I seem to be on the eternal search for unique ways to approach each new score. Small, personal ideas are always more interesting to me and I’ve always approached music for a game the same way I would a film. What emotions are we trying to convey to the player? What are the character’s motivations? The Knights of the Order are solitary and lonely, having sacrificed normal lives for the greater good and leaving behind their family and loved ones. How could I express this, also immediately, in music?
Solo cello and solo viola was featured quite a bit. In fact, there are no violins in the entire score! I’ve always loved solo strings, especially for their personal, mournful quality – so introspective and solitary. Those emotions aligned with my musical idea of the Knights of The Order.
Could you talk about the religious aspect of the score, especially in how you use the choir? How did you want to play the “Arthurian” aspect of characters that likely started off at the Round Table?
The choir really serves two purposes. It functions as both the Knights and Lycans depending on the musical context. The human voice is the oldest instrument in the world. I wanted to lean on that idea and use that specific texture to full effect. There is a woman in The Order, but our story is centered around Galahad so I chose a male choir. And not just any men – only the low voices were used. We had twenty-four men made up of baritones, basses and contrabasses. And they were usually singing in their lowest registers. In fact, when we recorded the win themes they dropped their parts by an entire octave. Not only did it sound fantastic, but it wasn’t muddy or blurry – you could still hear every note in the chord, even that low. The effect was surprisingly immediate, especially when taken in context with the visuals. You see these Knights on screen in their amazing surroundings and hear the low male choir – it’s one of those infrequent but lovely “well, obviously that’s how the music is supposed to sound” moments.
Could you talk about the approach you wanted to take for the Lycans?
The entire ensemble really gets corrupted for the Lycans. The choir sings really, really low clusters – they actually had the most fun singing all that really low, dissonant stuff. Lycans are essentially humans that have been twisted into another form. The idea was to portray a mangled, twisted version of the “Arthurian” men’s choir while simultaneously providing a recognizable contrast in terms of texture and harmony. Even though the exact same group of men is singing, you should immediately recognize the difference between the choral music for the Knights and the Lycans.
The woodwinds were an unusual lineup to begin with. We had three bassoons and three bass clarinets, plus another three contrabassoons and three contrabass clarinets. They mostly played simple but effective low textures and clusters, quite literally scoring the Lycans and their monstrous appearance. They almost sound like they are sputtering and growling, with plenty of low trills and clustery swells. In cues like “The Hidden Enemy” you can really hear the low woodwinds moving in and out of the string quartet music, as if they are chasing and fighting with the Knights. There’s also plenty of low register breathing and growling in “The Enduring Pride,” which is the main theme for the half-breeds.
The strings were also treated very differently for the Lycan cues. It’s fair to say that all sense of melody or harmony was pretty much thrown out the window. What remained was very primitive and rhythmic. The strings are essentially the instinctual side of the Lycans. Heartbeats, blood rushing, fight or flight – I tried to make the music as primal and driving as possible, especially for the Lycan combat scenes.
Is it more pleasant for you to do a game score with more melodic content as such than the all out musical assault of a game like “Dead Space?”
Honestly, both are really a lot of fun! But that’s the key – being able to work with different styles of music from project to project. I honestly prefer to bounce back and forth from orchestral to other styles. Variety, as they say, is indeed the spice of life.
“The Order: 1886” is one of the most visually beautiful games I’ve played. How did that level of artistic design figure into the score?
I wish I could talk about how inspirational and amazing it was scoring such a gorgeous game. The reality is everything I saw, beyond concept art, was unlit polygon blocks and pre-vis renderings. It’s very typical in games and one of the few disadvantages of the music production schedule running parallel to the game production. So, basically I had to use my imagination and assume the visuals would end up looking fantastic, which, of course they did!
Did you want the score to reflect the “steampunk” aspects of the game, especially when it comes to the setting of an alternate, Victorian-Edwardian England? On that note, was it tricky balancing the many game genres that “The Order: 1886” fits into, from science fiction to fantasy and horror?
No matter how complicated story elements seem to get, for me as a composer it always comes down to what the gameplay needs. A lot of times there are distinctive aspects of a project that don’t need additional musical commentary. My approach for The Order was definitely more introspective than anything else, and in many ways limiting myself to the instruments I chose was the ultimate customization. I’m not really thinking of genre or period-specific requirements. I’m almost fanatically focused on the emotional connection between the player and the game. If I can forge and continually strengthen that connection, the rest will fall into place on its own.
What do you think is key to a franchise-launching game, especially when it comes to the music?
The hardest part would certainly be creating something original that is also both recognizable and memorable. Simplicity is an absolute must, but it can also be the most challenging and elusive goal.
When doing more of an “authentic” score like “The Order,” how do you keep the music fresh and contemporary?
I was very wary of stepping on too many musical toes, so to speak. We have a very specific time period the game takes place in and I wanted the music to seem like a natural extension of the era. At the same time, we all knew we wanted the score to have a unique sound, which meant things needed to be tweaked somehow. So I went back to the overall sense of weight and introspection. What is the simplest, most straightforward way to musically illustrate weight? Obviously, the easiest answer is to use an orchestra that could’ve existed in 1886 and write music with lots of low notes. And it is very possible that kind of score would work for a project like this. However, I love the idea of a musical challenge and really enjoy trying new things. I decided the most efficient way to compose a “heavy” score was to simply eliminate any instruments that would not contribute to that sense of weight. What I ended up with was a string-based score without any violins. Instead, I doubled up on the violas and cellos. The same idea applied to the woodwinds – only the low, beefy instruments were allowed.
In addition, most of the score is performed with string mutes, lending a veiled sensibility to the music. And, as luck would have it, almost every instrument bottomed out on a low C (including woodwinds), so most of the score is written in those very low keys of C, D or E. There were also instructions as to which specific strings the players were to use. We focused on the two lowest strings of each instrument, which have a thicker, darker sound to them. All of these examples are really more shading techniques than obvious, over-the-top extremes. But the idea of having them all combined together would definitely contribute to the overall sense of weight for the entire score.
How did you want to apply “period” strings to the game’s action mechanics?
It simply came down to a matter of energy. I was essentially limited to only violas and cellos for the action writing, since the choir, woodwinds, and contrabasses really just provide support more than anything else. Most of the score is actually three-part writing, especially the action cues. It was basically like writing action music for a string trio – it had to be simple but effective. That meant driving rhythms and plenty of forward motion.
Could you talk about your other projects this year, “Evolve” and the feature film “Adrenaline?”
“Evolve” was the exact opposite of The Order, musically speaking. It’s an online co-op shooter with extremely fast-paced gameplay. I performed and recorded the entire score in my studio and had a lot of fun experimenting with sound sources – everything from razor blades inside a piano and external synthesizers to found sounds and electric guitars. Most notably, every cue in the score has something run through my external guitar setup, which has twenty+ pedals, three cabinets and seven different microphones on it. “Re-amping” so many already unusual sounds gave the score an interesting twist, hopefully sounding modern yet organic at the same time.
“Adrenaline” was a wonderful throwback score for me. It’s a racing movie starring John Schneider. The entire film was scored with nothing but guitars and drums. Basically if you hired a rock band to score your film this is the kind of music you would get. Except in this case, it’s just a one-man rock band. I played and recorded all the instruments myself, which was an absolute blast. It has a very no-holds-barred classic rock sound and was a wonderful palette cleanser.
Do you think video game scoring affords you more creative opportunities than feature scoring would?
It really depends on the kind of people you are working with and how much trust you have between you. Game developers seem to desire more inventive and creative scores for their project. They want music that’s going to distinguish their game from the competitors. And I feel like the more original and interesting I can make that music, the happier they are with the end result. But originality is definitely risky!
Film, on the other hand, can fall into the temp track trap and want the new score to be as close to a previous, “successful” score as possible. Of course, if you’re an experienced film composer with an established track record you will have more leeway to be creative. Of course, it comes down to relationships and trust in film as well. The two films I’ve done in the last year were both very creatively satisfying because I knew the filmmakers and they trusted me with their projects. A lot of it is simply experience and relationships, which go hand-in-hand. The longer you work, the more people you know, the more music you write, the more opportunities you receive.
Visit Jason Graves’ website HERE
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.9137]Keefus Ciancia ([m.43314]Criminal Activities), [c.1061]Marcelo Zarvos ([m.43313]Our Kind of Traitor), [c.139]Mark Mothersbaugh ([m.35972]Hotel Transylvania 2), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 35 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2015-03-02]Click here for the full schedule.
Opening nationwide this week are (with music by): [m.39641]Chappie ([c.237]Hans Zimmer) and [m.39374]Unfinished Business ([c.597]Alex Wurman).
Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking song credits for:
- [m.39641]Chappie (13 songs)
- [m.39374]Unfinished Business...
Most Americans might say that the end of the world as we know it is no laughing matter. But then many other citizens ludicrously think that global warming is a myth, much in the same way millions of ignorant people once believed that the earth was round, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Such is the ironically humorous, and altogether disturbing theme of “Merchants of Doubt,” which shows the grotesque, oil money-assured carnival of industry-funded climate-deniers who lead their right-wing flocks astray like pied pipers. Such is also the ringmaster role also given to composer Mark Adler, who deliciously plays Robert Kenner’s documentary as a wonderfully thematic, three-ring circus of sparkling bells, cartoon-esque pizzicatos, calliope rhythms and jolly percussion worthy of a truly ridiculous Fox News-friendly show. Theremin-like sci-fi effects, hayseed harmonica and an organ complement the villains’ gleefully self-incriminating interviews, pokey film noir melodies playing as Kenner insidiously traces the roots of climate-denying to Big Tobacco, an outrageous conspiracy that has much of the same players involved in putting over another global poisoning on the populace that won’t be stopped until it’s too late.
Yet having worked together on the impactful “Food, Inc.,” Adler, and Kenner also know there’s a serious point here for all of the snarky laughter they provide. And as the hugely entertaining “Merchants” reaches its sad, if still hopeful final point for a situation that’s pretty much irreversible, Adler’s once-humorous melodies darken to reveal themselves as serving as poignant food for thought. The result shows the power of documentary scoring to have all of the belief-changing impact of dramatized “fiction” film music, with “Merchant’s” musical impact showing just how well Adler is versed in both cinematic worlds.
Starting out in the jazz and rock realms, Adler’s first jobs were not only music editing “Amadeus” “River’s Edge” and “Godfather III,” but also arranging the sultry source tunes of “Henry and June.” Moving into his own compositions, Adler has varied his narrative work between the absurd (“Slam Dunk Ernest”) to the dramatically impactful (“Picture Bride,” “Focus”) and jazzy sophistication (“Bottle Shock” and the Emmy-winning “Rat Pack”). But from his first score to “Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo” in 1985, documentaries have been a mainstay in Adler’s repertoire, his numerous, stylish subjects for TV and film ranging from “Russia’s Last Tsar” to “Reflections on Elephants” to “Sherman’s March” and the Emmy-nominated telefilm “Forbidden Territory: Stanley’s Search for Livingstone.” But now when PR-blinded Americans are revolting against science itself, not to mention common sense, Adler’s left-leaning ability to capture both absurdity, and true seriousness has perhaps never been more important for a man so used to capturing the music of our seemingly doomed natural world.
Could you talk about your entry into film scoring, and how it led to documentary work?
I was working as a music editor in Northern California in the 1980s, and many of my friends in post-production were also making documentaries and independent features. When it came to meeting filmmakers, the line between the doc world and the dramatic film world was much blurrier in the Bay Area than it might have been in L.A. at that time. My first composing gigs came out of those relationships. I scored “Las Madres: The Mothers of Plaza De Mayo and “Superchief: The life and Legacy of Earl Warren” (both Oscar-nominated feature docs) when I was just getting started as a film composer. Around the same time, I also scored two dramatic films; “Break of Dawn” (my first feature, which went to Sundance) and Wayne Wang’s “Eat A Bowl of Tea.” So pretty much from the get-go, I’ve been alternating between fiction and documentary scores.
How did being a music editor on movies like “Amadeus,” “Blue Velvet” and “River’s Edge” help your own education as a composer?
It helped immensely. You kind of go from the micro to the macro (so to speak) in your thinking about film and music. As you look at how the music plays in an individual scene, you also see how that cue in Reel 1 can set something up in Reel 4. That’s when I began to understand how the architecture of the score could relate to story structure and the character arc.
Some of your early fiction scoring was done for such directors as Philip Kaufman on “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” and “Eat A Bowl of Tea.” Could you talk about those experiences?
The work I did for Phil Kaufman was basically creating source music, since both “Unbearable Lightness” and “Henry and June” used preexisting music for their underscores. I produced and arranged the music that was played in cafes, dance halls, etc., where you could see the players on screen. It was played back on the set during the shoot. Sometimes, I’d enhance it or revise it for the final. In the case of “Henry and June,” I composed some of it as well. The films I did with Phil were shot in France, and I was sent over there to work, which I loved, even with my very bad French! I learned a few terms (for example, the word “piste” can mean both a train track and an audio track – same as for us) – that, and a very cooperative engineer and contractor got me through. I’ve remained friends with the contractor, by the way – Jean-Michel Bernard is a gifted composer in his own right and a brilliant pianist as well.
Doing the music on Eat A Bowl of Tea for Wayne Wang was a great experience. It was primarily a jazz score, which is unusual, as you know. And it wasn’t jazz as source music, but as dramatic underscore. The added twist was that the story takes place in New York’s China Town in the late 1940s, so there’s also a Chinese element in the music. We had some great jazz players as well as wonderful musicians on Chinese instruments – erhu, butterfly harp and dizi. I had to get up to speed fairly quickly with the Chinese aspects of the score, but I’m a pretty quick study. (I had played in a fusion band with Ali Akbar Khan’s sons, Ashish and Pranesh, so I wasn’t a stranger to non-Western music). Wayne was a great collaborator. I’d written a tango as a main theme, and when I played it for him, he said, “I like the melody, but what if you did it as a swing tune?” That’s a pretty astute request for a director to make…and sure enough, the swing jazz version became the main theme of the film. I’ve always been a huge fan of Monk, Miles, Coltrane, and Gil Evans, so I was comfortable with the jazz idioms. (Wayne once told me he particularly appreciated the sense of irony in the score–some of that undoubtedly came from my attempts to channel Monk!) I also wrote a song for the film – lyrics as well as music – called “Spring in New York, beautifully sung by Lynn Ray.
You also contributed to the legacy of Jim Varney on “Slam Dunk Ernest” and “Ernest in the Army.” How was it to work on those movies?
Those films were actually a lot of fun to do. My wife Joanie Diener had been music editor on almost all of the Ernest films, and very early on she helped define the tone of those scores with her temps – which is to say, to play things pretty straight musically and let the comedy happen on screen. “Slam Dunk” was particularly enjoyable–I went for a kind of New Orleans roots-of-funk sound, with a tuba playing funk bass lines. Guitarist Peter Maunu and trombonist Bruce Fowler do great work on that score.
Your last project for “Merchants” filmmaker Robert Kenner was “Food, Inc.” Could you talk about that score, and how it influenced your collaboration for this film?
Robby and I have been working together for over 20 years. There’s a feeling of candor in almost all of the interviews in his films–I think that has a lot to do with his own personality, which is disarming. He genuinely likes people, and I think this comes across in his filmmaking. So, there’s a humanistic quality to his work that seems well suited to what I bring to the table musically. He’s also a very creative thinker, and as a result each of his films has an unusually inventive take on its subject, which makes every project a new adventure for me as a composer.
Over the years I’ve started work on his films at earlier and earlier stages, with “Food, Inc.” being much earlier than previous films. I’d often sketch some themes based on the rough assembly of a sequence; then editor Kim Roberts might re-cut picture, using my music; then I’d refine the music based on her cut. I recall doing some of this on my very first project with Robby, “The Lost Fleet of Guadalcanal,” with editor Lenny Feinstein–but not to the degree of “Food, Inc.” We did this even more on “Merchants of Doubt.” Since much of that film hadn’t been shot when I started working on it, the earliest sketches were composed without picture, based solely on discussions I would have with Robby. It’s a challenging process for me, because I respond well to picture and have grown accustomed to doing that. But it was certainly gratifying to be influencing the tone of the film at such an early stage.
“Merchants of Doubt” is an unusually thematic score. Could you talk about developing your motifs?
I’m glad you noticed that! I enjoy writing tunes, so given the chance I’ll often go there. The process of developing themes is fairly intuitive for me, although I did make at least one conscious choice on “Merchants” – that was to use particular harmonic relationships as a way of unifying the various themes. For example, one relationship was that of a minor tonic to a major super tonic. Another was a minor tonic to a minor chord on the 6th degree. This encouraged quite a bit of chromaticism in the melody, much more than I normally use—which led to a kind of snaky feel to some of the themes. In this context, I’m using “snaky” as the opposite of “direct” – and when someone isn’t being direct with you, it’s often because they have an agenda. Not to put too fine a point on it, but all of that seemed to work well with the subject of the film.
Many people with some amount of intelligence view even the act of denying climate change to be ludicrous. In that sense, does that make “Merchants of Doubt” a “comedy score” as it were, especially with the circus-like approach to the music?
I guess so, though I’d prefer to think of it as a multivalent score! The circus quality really grew out of the film’s opening sequence at the Magic Castle, where we’re introduced to close-up magician Jamy Ian Swiss. As a “paid liar” whose audiences know he’s lying to them, he takes particular umbrage at the liars who deceive their audiences without their consent, so to speak. So the circus music that opens the film became one of the motifs associated with that idea. By the way, I’ve found that even people who are quite sharp will buy climate denial, which is a measure of how well the “Merchants” are doing their job.
When drawing on that calliope-esque approach,, complete with organ, were you drawn to Nino Rota’s scores in the genre for inspiration – especially as his Frederico Fellini scores often dealt with outrageous, outsized characters?
When I was around 13, my parents would take my brother and me to see Fellini films, and I completely fell under the spell of Nino Rota. From the beginning, I think I felt a deep, personal connection to his music, almost like the recognition of a shared musical point-of-view. He was one of a handful of childhood influences that made me want to become a film composer. Years later, I was blown away to discover that we share the same birthday! So all of that comes very naturally to me, and I think going towards that sound was fairly unconscious. I hadn’t thought about Fellini and his larger-than-life characters in the context of the film, but I think you’re very right to make that connection. Again, if the music suggests that, it was unconscious on my part.
There’s also a playful film noir aspect to your score here. How did you hit on that approach?
I think that grew organically out of the material in the film. There’s a sequence that uses the sci-fi idea of “parallel worlds” as a metaphor for the contrast between legitimate, peer-reviewed work of climate scientists vs. the fake work of the deniers. Besides Rota, I’m a huge Bernard Herrmann fan, and that kind of dark, low-strings-and-winds-orchestration just seemed to sit well with the noir-ish aspect of the sci-fi.
Do you think documentaries for that matter provide the opportunity to use far more eccentric instrumentation that a “regular” score might, especially when you’ve got Theremin and harmonica as part of “Merchants?”
Well, the Theremin is used in the score as part of an intentionally kitschy sci-fi vocabulary (I actually used an Arturia Minibrute synthesizer to suggest that sound). It’s introduced in the “parallel worlds” sequence. The instrument which sounds like a harmonica is actually a melodica. I think I grabbed it while I was developing some of the off-center, ironic material. I’m not sure that “Merchants” being a doc allowed for more of this kind of thing, though perhaps I am a little more conservative in my instrumentation when doing non-fiction films. Certainly in the case of this film, Robby encouraged me to get a little more out there.
Were you ever worried about the music as coming across as being “smug” in a way that would offend Climate deniers who might be watching this movie? Or do you care if they feel your music is justifiably mocking them?
I constantly worried about that, because I’m not really into intentionally hurting anyone’s feelings! I do have to say that I draw a distinction between civilians who deny climate change and the professionals who are in the denier business. The film really focuses on the professionals, so I don’t think we’re at all mocking the average citizen who denies climate change. As to whether the professional deniers would be offended, I guess I’d have to say that music is pretty useless in a film unless it stakes out some emotional territory. Music that only “energizes” or “percolates” or “provides a bed” is doing a tiny fraction of what it could be doing.
Still, particularly with a documentary, I don’t think you want to come on too strong either, especially when it comes to sitting in judgment of your characters. Robby Kenner suggested the idea of a playfully ironic tone to the music very early on. He phoned me one day and said, “This is a comedy about the end of the world.” I actually scribbled the phrase on a Post-It, stuck that onto my computer monitor, and looked at it every now and then as I worked. I hope I delivered that ironic tone with at least something of a light touch!
On the other hand, how did you want to get across the very serious aspect of this film, especially as we’re likely talking about something that’s likely irreversible at this point?
Exactly – good question – and this is something I struggled with constantly. We didn’t want the film to sink under the weight of its heavy subject matter and turn audiences off, nor did we want to ignore the very real seriousness of the subject. There are these more somber interstitials which recur occasionally in the film, and I treated them musically quite seriously, almost introspectively…so, hopefully there’s always this underlying sense that all is not well at the circus. And almost all of the final reel is quite serious musically, even more heartfelt, which reflects the seriousness of the situation.
How did you pick and choose when the music should be light, and dark here?
I suppose it’s a bit like doing a painting, which contains both bright and dark areas. You feel it out, beat by beat, but keeping in mind the overall story. There were times when I went dark, and Robby would say, “I can tell you’re writing your personal attitude about these folks, and that’s not what we should be doing here!” So I would adjust. He’s very good with this. It was particularly tricky on this film, since the music and the editing were happening simultaneously. Because I began work on it very early on, while the shooting was still happening, it was really impossible to get an overall sense of the story arc for quite a while. As I mentioned earlier, there was a lot of back-and-forth, with the score helping Robby and editor Kim Roberts find the tone for the film, and then with me responding to the emerging structure and making adjustments.
What’s the biggest difference between scoring fiction and documentary?
I was asked this question recently, and it occurred to me (after years of scoring both types of films), that every film is different, and I think that, finally, the differences among individual films can be much more pointed than any broad differences between those two genres, if that makes sense. For example, I scored a documentary right after completing “Merchants of Doubt” and that score felt more like big, dramatic feature film music. Having said that, I approach all films in a similar way – that is, in response to the story-telling requirements of the film, whether dramatic or documentary.
Do you ever get worked up, let alone mad, by the documentaries you’re scoring. And if so, how do you translate that emotion into music?
I do get worked up, and am often mad about many of the issues in these documentaries! But strangely enough, that doesn’t happen while I’m actually composing. I must go into some sort of professional mode, where whatever emotion I might be feeling about the subject gets completely channeled into the work (which is fortunate, both for the work and for my blood pressure.)
In that respect, what kind of “push” do you think music can give a documentary when it comes to convincing their audience on the point it’s trying to make?
Music can provide the stuff that makes the film more engaging, more enjoyable, and that helps create an attentive atmosphere in which the filmmaker can better get their message across. Beyond that, music can shade our perceptions of what we’re seeing and hearing. Sometimes it can slyly comment on a scene, making clear that there’s more going on here than is on the surface. Other times it can deepen the emotional resonance of a scene, making it more deeply felt.
Are there any documentary subjects that you simply won’t take because of your political convictions? And on that note, have you ever been approached to score them?
Interesting question. I’ve never been offered a doc that was at odds with my convictions. I once interviewed for a TV movie where the subject was somewhat political. I was very reluctant about the film, and that must have come across in the interview because, thankfully, I did not get the gig!
For you, what’s the biggest proof of global warming? And do you think it hurt that cause when the recent blizzard back east was overhyped by the media?
The biggest proof for me is the huge agreement amongst climate scientists that this is happening. That consensus was documented by Naomi Oreskes, who wrote the book that inspired the film. There’s also an on-going confusion over climate and weather (“It was freezing this morning! Where’s the global warming?”) and you can bet that confusion is promoted and exploited by the professional deniers. So, the recent blizzard you mention was “weather.” But if you look at the statistics over a period of decades, the trend is very clear.
Do you think it’s even more important for a composer to be doing films that advocate social, and in this case, global change, as opposed to working on films that are only concerned with entertaining their audience?
I would answer by saying that my favorite docs are entertaining, and my favorite “entertainment” films have something else going on. A documentary will fail as social change advocacy unless it’s engaging as a film. And I would say that for me, at least, no fiction film works as “pure entertainment” unless there’s something else that engages me at a deeper level. It’s been said that Francis Coppola saw “The Godfather” as a metaphor for American capitalism—so, it’s that, as well as an entertaining gangster film, and a compelling drama about families. And of course, there’s that great score!
Your next documentary will be about Dr. Haing S. Ngor, whom people are familiar with his portrayal in “The Killing Fields.” What can you tell us about the movie, and your approach for it?
This is a film by Arthur Dong–like Robby, a director whom I’ve had the good fortune to work with before (and also an Oscar-nominated one.) It’s a biography that traces Dr. Ngor’s extraordinary life from his childhood through his medical practice in Cambodia, his torture under the Khmer Rouge, and his escape to the U.S. where he was cast in a supporting role in “The Killing Fields” for which he won an Oscar. After that, he used his newfound notoriety to become a tireless advocate for the Cambodian people. He was killed in Los Angeles in the late 90s during a robbery. It’s a huge story, and Arthur used graphic novel-style animation to reconstruct much of it–a very effective approach. I did not know much about Cambodian music before I started working on the film. As it turns out, traditional Cambodian music utilized Gamelan, a color that I ended up using in the score, along with flute.
Are there any documentary subjects you’d like to see get made, and especially to score?
I’d love to see a film made about the influence of the military-industrial complex on foreign policy. It could be viewed in the context of the following saying: “When you’ve got a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” I’d like to see a film made about the U.S. Navy sailors who brought disaster relief to Japan during the 2011 Tsunami, and are now suing TEPCO for radiation poisoning following the Fukushima meltdown. (They’re being hampered in their efforts by the DOD, who claims the radiation exposure was too low to account for the cancers, tumors, brain defects and premature disc degeneration many have experienced since.) I’d be interested in a film that examines Carl Jung’s concept of the Shadow, and how it plays itself out geopolitically. That’ll do for starters.
“Merchants of Doubt” opens in theaters on March 6th, with Mark Adler’s score available digitally on March 3rd, and on CD April 7th through Lakeshore Records. Buy the “Merchants” MP3 album HERE
Visit Mark Adler’s Wesbsite HERE
[t.41497]The 87th Academy Awards were held last Sunday and Alexandre Desplat took home his first Oscar. For further details on the event, [url.http://www.soundtrack.net/news/article/?id=1967]click here.
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.91]Mark Isham ([m.43273]The Accountant), [c.752]Alexandre Desplat ([m.43275]Don't Tell Me the Boy Was Mad (Une histoire de fou)), [c.58]Danny Elfman ([m.34056]Avengers: Age of Ultron), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 38 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2015-02-23]Click here for the full schedule.
Opening nationwide this week are (with music by):...
[t.41497]The 87th Academy Awards were held last night at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. The nominees for music-related categories and the winners are as follows:
Best Original Score
WINNER: [c.752]Alexandre Desplat - [m.35957]The Grand Budapest Hotel
[c.752]Alexandre Desplat - [m.38812]The Imitation Game
[c.237]Hans Zimmer - [m.36450]Interstellar
[c.1817]Gary Yershon - [m.40759]Mr. Turner
[c.3198]Johann Johannsson - [m.40675]The Theory of Everything
Best Original Song
WINNER: "Glory" - Music and Lyric by [c.10688]John Stephens and [c.]Lonnie Lynn for [m.41458]Selma
"Everything is Awesome" - Music and Lyric by [c.644]Shawn Patterson for [m.33666]The Lego Movie
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.564]Christophe Beck ([m.43237]Hot Pursuit), [c.175]Trevor Rabin ([m.41320]Max), [c.809]Michael Andrews ([m.43193]The Adderall Diaries), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 25 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2015-02-16]Click here for the full schedule.
Opening nationwide this week are (with music by): [m.42564]The DUFF ([c.2455]Dominic Lewis), [m.39989]Hot Tub Time Machine 2 ([c.564]Christophe Beck), and [m.38925]McFarland, USA ([c.448]Antonio Pinto).
Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking song credits for:
- [m.42564]The DUFF (32...
Soundtrack Picks: ‘BREAKING AWAY‘ is the top soundtrack to own for February, 2015
Also worth picking up ABOVE AND BEYOND, FANTASIA: THE LEGACY EDITION, JAWS: THE REVENGE, OUTLANDER, SHOCK WAVES, SWITCH and many more!
To Purchase the soundtracks from this list, click on the CD Cover
THE TOP PICKS
1) BREAKING AWAY
What is it?: Next to “The Rabbit of Seville,” no entertainment has better used to use Italian opera for all of its marvelously rhythmic, and romantic possibilities like 1979’s acclaimed “Break Away.” A pure love of the art form put pedal to the bicycle metal for Dennis Christopher’s Dave, a local Bloomington Indiana young man who dreams of making the big Italian bicycle racing leagues to the dismay of both his parents and hardscrabble “cutter” friends. This musically-driven approach was inspired by English director Peter Yates, who created one of the classic American coming-of-age movies, whose spirit now shines brighter than ever given a new blu ray edition via Twilight Time, and release of its truly unsung underscore by Patrick Williams on Kritzerland Records.
Why Should You Buy It?: Williams, a prolific composer whose catchily energetic way with pop rhythms and melodic emotion accompanied over 200 film and TV projects, including such cult objects of affection as “The Cutting Edge,” “Colombo,” “The Simpsons, “All of Me” and “Used Cars.” Kritzerland has made it their mission to put a light on Williams’ largely unreleased repertoire with “Cuba” and “Butch and Sundance the Early Years.” But perhaps none is more revealing than this largely unused score, whose orchestral ensemble wonderfully draws on the classical sources at hand to portray the bonds of family and friends, and more specifically a seemingly impossible dream to ride out of townie life. While there’s a lyrical Americana warmth for strings and guitar, Williams main ride draws from the classical source at handlebar, from heartbreaking piano melodies to boisterously symphonic Italian melody that’s inseparable from the real deal. This is truly one of the unused score instances where a listener could easily could question Yates’ decision not to let Williams make it to the finish line. Yet, original opera is the thing here. And having used 40s jazz for the likes of “Swing Shift” and 50s rock for “Cry-Baby” (not to mention very 70s bar funk here), Williams adapts the Italian standards to create one of the truly one of truly great classical songbook scores, whose memorable impact is right up there with Leonard Rosenman’s Oscar-winning adaptations of Schubert and his way drier 17th century friends for “Barry Lyndon.” Indeed, Williams received similar Academy-recognition (if not the win) for his work here, even if his original music got its wheels jammed by Yates. Indeed, “The Barber of Seville” has never so full of pace or soaring heart, especially with how well it captures its young, ever-dreaming underdog hero’s optimism as he attempts to outrace a truck, win a collegian’s heart or finally makes it past the finish line. There’s no doubt that “Breaking Away” certainly added to a love of Italian opera in a way that cycled right back to its wonderfully energetic appeal in the first place.
Extra Special: “Breaking Away” is a delightful release that works as both a greatest hits collection of Italian opera, as well as recognition to a composer whose work deserves to be heard more of on CD. To be sure, there are plenty of terrific Patrick Williams works waiting in the closet to take up the next starting position after “Breaking Away,” chief among them his distinctly American superhero score that matched John Ritter’s colorful musical costume for “Hero At Large.” Anyone? Anyone?
2) CLIFF MARTINEZ FILM FEST GENT / MY LIFE DIRECTED BY NICOLAS WINDING REFN
What Is it?: Inspired by the dreamily minimal alt. rock likes of Brian Eno and the shredding guitar insanity of Captain Beefheart (an artist whom he drummed for along with the Red Hot Chili Peppers). Cliff Martinez helped put accessibly experimental film music on the map with 1989’s “sex, lies and videotape,” truly kickstarting the indie film scene along with Steven Soderbergh’s career. Working with that director, and well beyond him on such distinctively rhythmic and hypnotically still scores as “Narc,” “Wonderland,” “Arbitrage,” “Spring Breakers” and “Drive,” Martinez is mainly know by the masses for his rock-electronic work, often distinguished by the eerily glass-like sounds of his Cristal baschet instrument. But if there’s one true cult score of his, then it would be Martinez’s immersive dive into the orchestral, dream-conjuring waters of Soderbergh’s 2002’s remake of “Solaris” that has drawn numerous movie industry fans to his work. Given how well organic players added to Martinez’s music back then (and since), it was only natural that the Brussels Philharmonic, under the baton of famed conductor (and composer) Dirk Brosse, would perform selections from Martinez’s repertoire both domestic and foreign at the Gent music festival. It’s a score-centric haven for discriminating aficionados that not only proves its good taste with this album, but more importantly the performance chops of its orchestra at equaling the original soundtracks that these selections come from.
Why Should You Buy It?: An exceptionally well-paced album, “Gent” gives us choice cuts from their respectively played scores, beginning with the calypso-like tonalities of steel drums and the shivering strings that take us to “Solaris,” a voyage of both eerie and meditative power. The cimbalom-topped “Kafka” is Martinez’s wry take on Anton Karas’ “The Third Man,” as given quite a bit more paranoid dread. The already orchestral scores like “The Company You Keep” gets emotional tenderness and twisted, patriotic power, while “Contagion” has a darkly groovy sense of 70s paranoia, with electronics expertly played on top of the symphony. But it’s the scores where no strings existed that truly benefit from the Brussels string-heavy musicians, as “The Underneath’s” theme proceeds at a sensuously lavish pace, and the youth-skewing romance of ”Wicker Park” uses a piano for elegant gloss. Of particular interest to Martinez’s stateside fans are selections from his still unreleased French films L’espions (“Spies”) and “A l’origine” (“In the Beginning”). Given a spy thriller and the business chicanery, Martinez binds his music with a sense of mystery and emotion, as driven with hypnotic suspense in a way that’s completely different from the Hollywood norm. It’s all the more reason of how Martinez’s distinct style is drawing more recognition than ever before, now given whole other alternative dimension with a rich string sound that plays like it was always his lush intention.
Extra Special: One of Martinez’s best scores is surely for one of the most vile film ever made, as Gent’s performance of “Only God Forgives’ brings out a gorgeous, Herrmann-esque danger and beauty from an otherwise pummeling revenge thriller set in Thailand, an unaccountable movie given just how brilliant its director’s “Drive” was. As made by his wife Liv Corfixen, “My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn” points the way to a breakdown about a filmmaker getting lost in the morass of his own cinematically violent pretentiousness. Cliff Martinez is on hand to document that marital stress and creative heart of darkness with a beautiful, translucent score that’s contrastingly beatific in understanding a behind-the-scenes situation the composer knew in a way that was creatively first-hand. Sympathetic, pensive guitar melodies, percolating melodies and the ever-present Cristal baschet take a cool, percussive journey up the river of excess and hubris, bringing the foibles of a husband and father very much back down to earth in a captivating, meditative way that works equally well as an acid-dropped tone poem. It might be about Refn, but “My Life” is also very much of an insight to the hypnotic sample and computer groove that’s distinguished Martinez’s work from the start – music that comes from a place so beautifully unearthly that it seems Solaris is a neighboring planet to Martinez’s studio where he conjures his own works that transport the listener into a dream state – here through one collaborator’s nightmare.
3) EVERLY / OUTLANDER
Prices: $ $8.99 / $15.98
What Is it?: If you think Bear McCreary’s music has recently been male-driven meat and potatoes stuff between “The Walking Dead’s” morose zombie busters, the sarcastic demon fighter of “Constantine” and “Black Sail’s” randy pirates, two new scores from this always-energetic composer show his affection for grrl power, whether they’re blasting bad guys by the seeming hundreds or tenderly teaching the art of love to a time-lost Scotsman.
Why Should You Buy It?: When it comes down to it (and as films like “Kill Bill” and “La Femme Nikita” more than prove), guys like nothing better than really hot chicks shooting off heavy ordinance. Salma Hayek does this, and then some, in the Christmas Eve confines of an assassin-assaulted apartment building as she takes out deadly valentines sent by her mob boss ex. But what’s not to love, especially when “Everly” gives McCreary the chance to re-team with filmmaker Joe Lynch after his inspired metal-rock meets medieval orchestral score for the director’s “Knights of Badassdom” (even if Lynch got executed from it). Here the musical results are just a bit different than what you might expect. Hyper-beat metal-techno percussion blasts proficiently away, as mixed with McCreary’s “Battlestar Galactica”-born love for hammering Taiko drums (for the Yakuza villain not so coincidentally named Taiko) and a mournful shakuhachi flute, befitting the high Japanese baddie body count here. But what’s particularly cool is how McCreary gets across a heroine trying to save her family through mournful voices, a soulful piano and hauntingly beautiful, cello-featured orchestrations. It’s a nice emotional touch when other more testosterone-driven scores of this type are often happy to settle back and let bad-ass percussion handle everything – though screaming rock guitar chords and thrumming rave-worthy beats will definitely satisfy that crowd. Given one wave of killers after the next that come after “Everly” with ludicrous abandon, McCreary mostly builds his cues as rhythmic set pieces, yet mostly with some kind of melodic content in mind. He goes from eerie tubular bell stalking to machine-gun blasting energy with complete assuredness, while also being sure to give things an melancholy rest break between flying limbs. Considering how well lone, gun-proficient survivors go with Xmas songs, McCreary’s singing muse Raya Yarbough is on hand to deliver a jazzily bouncing “Deck the Halls” and an especially eerie “Silent Night.” The family song affair is nicely complimented as McCreary’s brother Brendan delivers his own humorously funky, fa-la-la’ing, as well as a church-worthy brand of Christmas cheer.
Extra Special: Just as it was the source of The Twelve Colonies, McCreary’s seminal work on the greatest sci-fi reboot of all continues to prove a wellspring of inspiration, though of a softer kind for “Outlander.” Here, the Celtic instrumentation that powered much of “Battlestar Galactica’s” emotion and rhythmic action serves to send an English lass through a Druid portal in 1945, and into that arms of a Scottish highlander battling the Brits in 1743. It says something that the seriously re-shined “Galactica’s” creator Ronald D. Moore is behind this Starz’s adaptation of the wildly popular romance books, as he’d certainly meet McCreary’s Hurdy-Gurdy’s, fiddles and galloping drums with open arms. Where McCreary used strings sparingly on “Galactica,” “Outlander” benefits from a lush, highland string sound in painting a musical picture with distinctive feminine appeal that speaks for a woman caught between two worlds, seeking to return to her proper husband, yet drawn to a hunky new love. McCreary captures her longing with true passion, while Enya fans will also appreciate the mystical use of voices here. McCreary is also able to get in instrumental bits of some eternal Scottish hymns and jigs like “Comin’ Thro’ The Rye” and “The Woman of Balnain.” McCreary’s more than proven himself as a time traveler when it comes to capturing authentic instrumentation from the skull and crossbones-days of Starz’s “Black Sails” to their Renaissance Italy for “Da Vinci’s Demons,” But his real touch is giving musicology a terrific contemporary energy that makes these string and percussion pieces feel as if they’d just been invented yesterday. It’s a talent that lets “Outlander” work exceptionally well in both musical worlds for episodic dramas that so effectively use history, perhaps to no more to lovely effect than “Outlander.”
4) FANTASIA: THE LEGACY EDITION
What is it?: One might say that classical music was indeed the first movie scoring, as pieces done to specific storylines were meant to conjure images in the mind’s eye way before the advent of moving pictures. And no filmmaker would prove that point like Walt Disney, whose 1940 masterpiece “Fantasia” was the best excuse for a concert a kid could hope to be dragged to, significantly elevating studio animation from children’s stuff to an art form that could be appreciated by one-stuffy adults. Some music received literal translation, from the glistening bells of an ethereal sugar plum fairy in Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker Suite,” Mickey Mouse evading a playfully relentless broom march for Paul Dukas’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” or the devilish Chernabog rising for the “Night on Bald Mountain” to the rapturously terrifying orchestral evil of Modeste Moussorgsky. Other segments captured the spirit of these great composers in tone, if not in original intention, as when Igor Stravinsky’s primal “Rite of Spring” accompanied the earth’s birth throes, or when a hippo did a dainty string dance to Amilcare Ponchielli’s “Dance of the Hours” (although it’s impossible now to hear that tune now without hearing how Allan Sherman turned the melody into “A Letter from Camp”’s lyrics of “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh!”). When listening to this gloriously chosen assemblage of classical music’s greatest hits, one can’t help but think of just how important the musical form has been to cartoons in general (especially to such classical-referencing Looney Tune composers as Carl Stalling). But “Fantasia” remains the high mark though the film’s numerous re-release, using Disney’s idea for making the idea timeless by incorporating new musical segments with “Fantasia 2000” and even video games with “Fantasia: Music Evolved.” Yet the original remains the gold standard, especially when put out as part of Disney’s lavish “Legacy Edition” soundtrack line.
Why should you buy it?: “Fantasia” wasn’t released on LP until well after the fact, though Buena Vista’s three-LP 1957 soundtrack was an event in itself, complete with a fold-out cover. Disney’s new, double foldout release goes one CD better, with the first two discs containing the original Leopold Stowkowski performance. From his on-camera appearance conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra in Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor,” Stokowski’s affable interchange with Mickey did much to convince young viewers that classical music could be down to animated earth. Though archival in sound, the landmark vitality of the original soundtrack couldn’t be more passionate, or sound better given this album’s remastering. Taking full advantage of the new digital medium in 1982, Disney commissioned an entirely new performance from the baton of Walt’s favorite movie conductor Irwin Kostal (“Mary Poppins”), whose work with the Disney Studio Orchestra and Chorus truly made this music sing, opening up wondrously colorful sonic dimensions that play like the fog being wiped from several masterpieces. Without slighting Stokowski’s work, Kostal’s rendition achieves the true resonance that Walt was going after. And thanks to its recording technology, the work remains just as technically, and emotionally vibrant decades later as the height of audiophile performance – sinking home the colorful imagery that Walt has now eternally tied to these concert hall standards.
Extra Special: The Legacy Collection packaging has been akin to mini, art filled books and “Fantasia” is no exception, with Disney producer Dave Bossert detailing the omnibus movie’s history, its pages full of glorious art that show the range of Disney’s grand ambition come true. Once upon a time Claude Debussy’s “Clair De Lune” was even in “Fantasia,” a piece we get to hear via Stokowski’s recording. And just for fun, the wonderfully raspy voice of the great character actor (and immediately recognizable Winnie the Pooh) Sterling Holloway is on hand to narrate for the little ones about what’s happening in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and “Peter and the Wolf,” though here it’s definitely images as opposed to words that really makes “Fantasia’s” music come to enduring life.
5) THE RIVER WILD
What Is It?: Since the day sound came to the movies, film scores have been rejected for reasons both political and aesthetic (especially as music is usually the first thing to get blamed when a film isn’t working). A few hundred of also-ran soundtracks including Bernard Herrmann’s “Torn Curtain,” Alex North’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” and Carter Burwell’s “Thor: The Dark World” – enough instances for Gergely Hubai to write a big, excellent book about these instances called “Torn Music.” But whatever the reason a score doesn’t make the final cut, it doesn’t mean these reams of tossed, recorded music are without merit, as Intrada Records has often proven with such “before and after” releases as “White Fang” and “Supernova.” Now two classic composers who have had no shortage of work tossed between them for all of their musical pedigrees get their moment to shine for the label’s impressive release of “The River Wild.”
Why Should You Buy It?: Probably the two most notable things about Curtis Hanson’s average 1994 thriller was the idea of putting Meryl Streep in the role of an action hero, and seeing her stunt double navigate some hair-raising Canadian rapids. Jerry Goldsmith (of the unused “Alien Nation” and “Wall Street”) and Maurice Jarre (also musically MIA for “First Knight” and “Jennifer 8”) were respectively sent swimming, and sinking during “The River Wild’s” tumultuous post-production. When listening to both scores here, it’s fairly easy to discern why Jerry Goldsmith kept his head above water. The one gigantic mistake that could have easily gotten him tossed from the boat would have been to play Streep’s plucky housewife-outdoorswoman like a bow-holding Rambo. Thankfully, Goldsmith captured her stalwart determination instead in this impressively thematic score that keeps its excitement constantly moving with a strong sense of character, much like the score he’d proved for the bear-evading, psychologically attuned score to “The Edge.” He starts out with Copland-esque orchestrations that could accompany a western landscape, while being just as well suited to these far greener great outdoors. Adapting the standard “The Water is Wide” as main theme, Goldsmith impresses with creeping, gradually building suspense for Streep’s fellow travellers to reveal themselves as not-very-nice guys. Determinedly melodic strings join with breathy synth suspense in a way that also recalls Goldsmith’s feminine-driven suspense for “Sleeping With the Enemy,” the score climaxing in a breathless, ten-minute run of action music that shows off his talent for being able to navigate constant blasts of percussive, symphonic excitement without muddying its waters with “busy music.” His “River Wild” is tightly controlled and beautifully maneuvered, paying off as an incredibly solid action score that never grows tiring.
Extra Special: Maurice Jarre was a particularly unabashed composer, but then the said can be said of any French musician weaned on big, expressive melody. For if Goldsmith’s “River Wild” is about muscular, thematically modular music, then Jarre takes a way more lavish picture of the wilderness. He begins with a soaring, gorgeously sumptuous feeling of a family about to take a great American adventure. Action is defined through military snare drums, crashing pianos and a sense of feminine vulnerability, along with a smattering of Jarre’s electronic music that made up most of his output during the 80s, here singing like a Native American bird. Yet the problem is that Jarre’s score is too tumultuous, leaving no real theme for the listener to grasp onto – the thrills often so over the top that this seems to be a sequel score to Jarre’s spy satire “Top Secret” as opposed to serious suspense. Though capable of truly amazing work, Jarre’s “River Wild” just isn’t at that level, giving justifiably good reason why a way more structured work by Goldsmith would replace his. But even with its faults, any Jarre score is worthy of interest, from its warmer melodies to the way that the composer unleashes some of the most gigantic percussion of his career here in a neo-Asian way that would perfectly suit a samurai epic. The problem is that “The River Wild” isn’t that picture. But I’m certainly glad that Jarre’s smashing waves are finally able to be heard in an album that not only allows every note of his work to be heard, but Goldsmith’s as well. We also get 16 minutes of alternate Goldsmith cues, with Jarre’s numbering 25 minutes, showing how much both composers struggled to satisfy Hanson (with Goldsmith’s reward being an Oscar nomination for that director’s landmark “L.A. Confidential”). “The River Wild’s” is certainly a whale of a musical tale, told with no favorites by Jeff Bond journalistic approach in the substantial booklet. But whether your favored captain is Goldsmith or Jarre, this a trip worth taking, where the only thing in musical common is The Cowboy Junkies performing “The Water is Wide” – soulfully on one boat, and with way more country groove on the one that didn’t sail, even as Jarre provides a beautifully sumptuous end title that ironically proves to be his best piece of music for the film.
ALSO FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION:
. ABOVE AND BEYOND
Movie buffs might think the limit of American involvement in creating the state of Israel’s first air force was Frank Sinatra throwing Molotov cocktails from a rusty plane in “Cast A Giant Shadow.” They’ll certainly be enlightened by this documentary that shows just how many post WW2 American flyboys were part of an international squad (including “Star Trek – The Motion Picture” writer Harold Livingston and Paul “Pee Wee Herman” Reuben’s Dad) who made sure Israel wasn’t overwhelmed by invading Arab armies during the country’s War of Independence. Given the recreations of air combat, it’s only right that this powerful documentary would need to have all of the soaring, daring and emotional firepower of a feature movie. Enter ace composer Lorne Balfe, a seasoned veteran of heroic soundtrack combat with such honor and glory efforts as “Ironclad” and “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.” But apart from blasting the enemy, Balfe knows this was a battle for a people’s very survival, made all the more important by the fact that they were nearly annihilated in the Holocaust. Starting out with a moving variation of the traditional Jewish song “Hatikvah,” Balfe subtly uses Hebraic melodies and an Eastern European violin, along with Middle Eastern percussion to capture a refugee-filled region that gives a newfound purpose to its airborne saviors, whose cocksure bravado also gets treated with wry humor. But more importantly, Balfe’s music is about bravery, danger and sacrifice, with a score that’s more about contemplative force than rhythmic battle, contrasting poignant piano-driven melodies with a suspenseful feeling of history in the making. If “Beyond’s” producer Nancy Spielberg should interest her brother in doing the Hollywood treatment of this nearly unknown story, one couldn’t imagine a better, or more moving score l to accompany it.
. ATLAS SHRUGGED: WHO IS JOHN GALT?
Sometimes music is so good that you can forget exactly what vehicle it’s attached to, especially when its Ayn Rand’s super-powered, epic train to nowhere through three lamentable “Atlas Shrugged” movies. Where Chris Bacon took the mulligan for its second entry “The Strike,” the first movie’s composer of note has now come back on board to finish this triptych with “Who Is John Galt?” For those uninitiated into the ways or Rand, or who end up getting the CD with understandably no urge to see the movie itself, the biggest question will be “Who is Elia Cmiral?” The answer is the very talented Czech composer behind the likes of “Apartment Zero,” “Ronin” and the recent, excellent southern crime-noir score to “Wicked Blood.” With this “Atlas’” focus on the emotion between two industrialists in an idyllic haven as opposed to having them speechify, Cmiral is able to go for a lush, romantically epic and exceptionally well-performed score. His concluding chapter positively sings with brawny orchestral themes and solo piano tenderness, music as melodically vast as the hidden valley that Galt calls home. But you could just as well imagine Abraham Lincoln chopping wood to this score, all the while feeling the call to serve his nation – its problems he sets out to finally fix with militaristic danger and chorus abounding. But then when so many Hollywood movies are afraid to go for this kind of unabashed symphonic abandon, perhaps it takes this kind of all-out, hopingly lavish indie film to allow its musician to really flex his soaring emotional muscles like Cmiral does to truly impressive effect. This is certainly a score that can walk tall, and proud, especially if you forget its source material.
THE BOY NEXT DOOR / THE LOFT
When it comes to sex and murder, it’s all location, location, location as can be evidenced in these two intriguing suspense scores from Varese Sarabande, both of which take their erotically charged subject matter seriously indeed (even if critics might not have). While “The Boy Next Door” isn’t going to win any authenticity prizes when it comes to spotting first editions of The Iliad, what Rob Cohen’s nutty thriller does offer is a hauntingly weird score by his frequent musical collaborator Randy Edelman (“Dragon,” “Daylight”), with an even big influence here felt by co-composer Nathan Barr. For “The Boy Next Door” comes across most as a creepy, kissing neighbor to his “True Blood” work (also available on Varese). Sexy vampire Goth singer Lisbeth Scott’s cooing vocals are eerily featured front and center amidst the sometimes southern-flavored strings and rock guitar reverb. But while erotically atmospheric, the mood she helps provide for a killer-bodded teen who’s hot for teacher is anything but romantic, and all the more effective for it. The theme of this “Boy” is all about transgression, far more in the mood of horror scoring than Skinimax, the music gradually goes bananas with all sorts of skittering, menacing samples that really get underneath the sweating skin.
Extra Special: For John Frizzell, having hot bodies frame the upper class is familiar territory since he provided one of his first, impressive scores for “The Rich Man’s Wife.” With the composer finding new avenues for suspense on television with “The Following” and “Stalker,” his feature score for “The Loft” arrives with impressive, well-toned elegance as an illicit high-rise time-share yields a beautiful, incriminating corpse. But as opposed to at first going on a more orchestral “Basic Instinct” route as the plot gets unraveled, Frizzell has something for more tantalizingly ethereal in mind. Using haunting sample and string tonalities, Frizzell treats the film as some kind of sensuously dangerous dream, his melodies drifting about as rhythmic suspense arises. But as the noose tightens around this badly behaving boy’s club, Frizzell neatly brings out a big, pounding orchestral theme, grim gestures and percolating rhythm to point out the guilty parties, and the desperation of escaping a murder rap. His “Loft” is exceptionally well constructed, as erotic in its cool miasma as it is breathless in reaching the ironic finish that shows off a composer who’s equally in the door with both Hitchcockian suspense and seductive beats.
. CHICAGO FIRE: SEASONS 1 and 2
Beyond his impressive film scores for “The Eagle” and “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters,” the Icelandic Atli Orvarsson has racked up any number of American TV credits on “Dragnet,” “Six Degrees” and “Law & Order: LA.” It’s through the latter show’s mega-producer Dick Wolf that Orvarsson was recruited in 2012 for an ongoing job with the Chicago Fire Department, his first two seasons with the model-hot squad now released separately via Lakeshore Records. Where the “Law and Order” franchise demanded something far darker, “Chicago Fire” gives Orvarsson more emotional breadth in dealing wit the torrid love lives, and dangers of its photogenic characters. Taken as a whole, these two releases are a thoroughly engaging, and exceptionally well-produced listen that pull us in with its strong melodic content, impressively scoring that often exudes a beautiful sense of melancholy with strings, piano and a haunting female voice. Just as able to burst into high-tension rhythm as it is movingly restrained tragedy as well as ethnic bagpipes and smoldering rock guitar, these well-chosen collections impress with an approach to musical firefighting that’s far more psychologically interior than slo-mo fireball-outrunning heroism. Its scoring that could easily accompany a beautifully brooding feature drama, making these albums equally worthy for fans of the show as it might soundtrack collectors.
. THE DAY OF THE DOCTOR / THE TIME OF THE DOCTOR
Music is still the hippest thing about the Doctor Who since his true rebirth in 2005, with Murray Gold’s scoring giving every new variation of England’s most famous Gallifreyan an attitude of fun and high cosmic drama. Gold’s epic send off’s for Matt Smith’s final two outings on this double CD makes for some of his most exuberant work for the series, starting straight off with a manically rocking techno spin on the Time Lord’s famed theme. Given that “The Day of the Doctor” marked the 50th anniversary special of the cult BBC sci-fi program, its seeming final solution to the Dalek problem gave Gold an especially galactic orchestral power to play off, not only capturing the big screen majesty of a symphonic space opera, but also the sense of humor so endemic to the character, a harpsichord stuffiness as mixed with Bond-like adventure. Better yet, the music’s synth element pays tribute to the electronic tonalities of the past composing likes of Ron Granier and Tristam Cary, if understandably souped up quite a bit in its futuristic computer vibes. Beginning with far more overt comedy is “The Time of the Doctor,” it’s 800th show where the T.A.R.D.I.S. got handed from Smith to his currently wizened incarnation of Peter Capaldi. Filled with bouncily waltzing music and pokey brass, Gold’s work nicely recalls the more humorous action music befitted to the slightly more rugged hero named Indiana Jones. As cracks in time and a horde of Daleks converge, Gold once again shows off his lush, orchestral dexterity by cleverly mixing John Barry-esque brass with wonderfully nostalgic Christmas music, making a sweepingly heroic, bell-ringing last stand for the Doctor to assume his next incarnation. But then, the massive charm of Gold’s music, even for non-acolytes, has always been that his approach is way more “Star Wars” than “Doctor Who” in its ambitions, a stellar majesty, and humanity that comes across loud and clear with this terrific release.
. JAWS THE REVENGE
How does one follow up one of the most iconic scores written for one of the greatest thriller-action films ever made – given that the gigantic great white shark has turned into one of the biggest dogs to ever surface in Hollywood for his fourth outing? Faced with a truly formidable task, Michael Small’s approach was to essentially go his own way with John William’s inescapable melodies in capable tow. It’s a decision that makes for one of the better scores written for one of the worst movies ever made as Intrada follows up their release of Alan Parson’s score to “Jaws 3D” with this quite unexpected work from a master of far more minimal conspiracy-suspense scores to the likes of “The Parallax View” and “The Star Chamber.” Gliding on Williams’ melodies as much as he has to (and often thrillingly so), Small is determined to create a “Jaws” score very much his own, and perhaps not as removed from his more personal work as one might think. Small connotes a dangerous sense of the deep, especially with growling electronic effects. A bold sense of heroism is front and center, given a similar, rhythmic feeling for a nautical chase between overwhelming, pounding menace and human vulnerability, deftly swimming between Williams’ score and Small’s own in a way that doesn’t ride that shark’s back as much as it impressively riffs on it. Perhaps the biggest difference between the scores is that while Williams gave the chase a feeling of swashbuckling joy, Small’s accent is far more on impressionistic, dangerous thrills that capture the movie’s infamous tagline of “This time it’s personal.” As such, this just might be the most exciting score of Small’s tragically cut-short career, meshing one very familiar piano and glistening string build-up with chiming, dark electronics and uncompromising orchestral menace – as performed by an arguably better symphonic performance than even Williams received. Previously released as an abridged promotional CD, this new presentation of Small’s shark from snout to tail is a real revelation, perhaps most of all for diehard “Jaws” score fans who will get to hear just how well a composer can use a classic work to swim on his own thrilling steam.
. THE JOURNEY INSIDE
While best known for such conspiratorial scores as “The Conversation” and “All the President’s Men,” David Shire also created wondrously symphonic expeditions into both the dark fairy tale realm of “Return to Oz” and the historically soaring skies of “The Hindenburg.” But perhaps no flight of fancy that Shire has taken was more commercially obvious than this sweeping Imax score celebrating the Intel Pentium Processor, even if some aliens find it a threat. No expense was spared in both terms of recruiting talent, or orchestra members for this outsized project, whose very big screen Shire filled with optimistic, epic melody. Indeed, this is the kind of rapturous work that never need be upgraded for fans of big fantasy scoring (even if the computer the score celebrates has progressed many times over). For this sci-fi tinged spin on Shire’s classic “Oz” score, the composer uses heavenly choruses, sweeping Americana orchestrations, a lurching bad guy theme and a youthful, often-playful sense of exploration into the technological unknown, all while assuring the audience that things will turn out all right for its plucky protagonist. “The Journey Inside” fits quite nicely into Intrada’s recent releases of such lush, youthfully heroic genre pieces as Bruce Broughton’s “The Boy Who Could Fly” and Craig Safan’s “The Last Starfighter,” while being the most unknown, and surprising score of these melodic flights of fantasy.
. SHOCK WAVES
Arguably the greatest Nazi underwater zombie movie ever made, Ken Wiederhorn’s creepily atmospheric movie has lost none of its nightmare inducing quality from the kids of my generation who blundered onto it during the late night CBS Friday movie. Now given a special edition blu ray, “Shock Wave’s” 1977 elements have been brought up to chapped skin snuff, especially its all-important force of creepy musical nature, as conjured for this Florida-made film by New York City-based composer Richard Einhorn. This beyond-creepily effective score marked the debut of this modern classicist, who spent his first scoring years in the independent horror genre with the lives of “Don’t Go in the House,” “Eyes of a Stranger” and “The Prowler.” Yet none were as purely strange, or disturbing as the synthesized tonalities of “Shock Waves,” for which Einhorn served as an eerie one-man synth band straight out of Columbia University. Fashioned from equal parts music concrete and melody as a tribute to Gil Melle’s pioneering electric score for “The Andromeda Strain,” Einhorn’s own computer experimentations are best at giving the listener the feeling that they’re trapped underneath buzzing, piercingly high or concrete-thick waves of digital water, surrounded by the howls of the damned. Einhorn goes even further with his unsettling effects by adding in the sounds of seagulls and Sieg Heil’s for good measure, creating a truly unearthly altered state that still slogs to shore as one of the pioneering genre scores. And it would be fair to say there’s a fun, unavoidably dated cheesiness to “Shock Waves” as well, particularly in its alternately lurching, or creeping Theremin-like melodies that are pure chiller theater stuff. With such other retro-synth scores under Howlin’ Wolf’s pelts like “The Boogey Man” and “Cyborg,” the label does a nice job of rescuing Einhorn’s goggle-wearing water-troopers from the abyss with all of their unnerving resonance intact, and lovingly mastered in mono no less, to remind us of the power of old-school circuitry music.
Unlike some soundtrack journalists who subscribe to the Woody Allen axiom of “those who can’t teach,” Brian Satterwhite is a man who can put his money where his mouth is. Beyond being an estimable soundtrack journalist, Satterwhite is longtime composer in his own right with a focus on documentaries, His catchily rhythmic approach has often accompanied truth-seeking subjects, from a zillionaire determined to put himself into space for “Man on a Mission” to seeing what’s truly netted inside the raw industry of “Sushi: The Global Catch.” Now joining these two scores among Satterwhite’s available discography is his drivingly rhythmic work for “Switch,” wherein a scientist goes on an energetic quest to see the many sources that fuel an increasingly overpopulated planet. But rather than taking stances that Greenpeace or Exxon might approve of, this is no doom-saying documentary or finger-pointing score. Instead, Satterwhite’s vibe has a pleasant brightness to it. Sounding much like a power station’s happy computers jamming with earth-generated percussion, “Switch” has a beeping, buzzing sense of fun and discovery, thematically travelling the world-wide instrumental grid from Indian singers to Irish pennywhistle and accordions, it’s more pensive moments conjured with grinding guitar chords, dulcimers and a creative array of rhythm instruments. But overall, “Switch” has a welcome sense of gentleness to it, conveying the ideas of problems that can hopefully be fixed as opposed to darker oil slicks of hopelessness, all making for a winningly propulsive score powered by clever enthusiasm and an overall vibe of hope.
. THE TOY SOLDIERS
Not to be confused with a classic early 90s movie about terrorists invading a boy’s school, this is instead an epic-length 80s look at the events during the closing night of a titular roller rink, during which five stories boogie down on teen angst. The soundtrack is certainly spot-on for the period, beginning with its underscore by Nathaniel Levisay (“Fading of the Cries”). He’s a composer who’s certainly listened to a lot of Tangerine Dream, circa their classics like “Risky Business” and “Miracle Mile.” He does an exceptional job of recreating the especially icy, pulsing groove. But it’s one thing to emulate, and another to put new soul into it, something that Levisay’s work does get better at when it starts going beyond the retro synth gear approach for more emotional, guitar-topped cues that bring out the inter-connected character’s sense of ennui, along with a more traditionally string-driven approach that stands for the composer’s own voice. It’s an overall muted, nicely introspective approach with a near religious sense of angst, its soulful pain coming across in shamanistic voices and church organ-like samples to go beyond the Edgar Froese mock-ups that at first limited it. The final song section of the “Soldiers” soundtrack is equally effective, with the bands Daily Bread and Gliss impressively raising the ghosts of such proto-Goth bands as The Psychedelic Furs and The Cure – their excellent vocals and guitar-rock grooves for teen pain so rhythmically, and romantically palpable that you can practically smudge the eyeliner from them. In any case, it’s nice to have a soundtrack where it sure ain’t disco pushing its young skaters down the rink to angst.
CLICK on the album covers to make your hardcopy or download purchase, and find the soundtracks at these. com’s: Amazon, Intrada, iTunes, Movie and Screen Archives Entertainment
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.1018]Steve Jablonsky ([m.42317]The Last Witch Hunter), [c.1781]Saunder Jurriaans and [c.8161]Danny Bensi ([m.43159]The Ticket), [c.1480]Henry Jackman ([m.32339]Pixels), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 41 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2015-02-09]Click here for the full schedule.
Opening nationwide this week are (with music by): [m.36439]Fifty Shades of Grey ([c.58]Danny Elfman) and [m.41219]Kingsman: The Secret Service ([c.1480]Henry Jackman and [c.2159]Matthew Margeson).
Among all new theatrical releases, we are tracking song credits for:
ON THE SCORE is sponsored by La-La Land Records
As hip as today’s spy music might get with techno rhythms and rock guitars, any composer worth their salt knows that the gold scoring standard remains with Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and the jazzily debonair music bestowed upon its most famously-numbered agent by John Barry. Whether it’s David Arnold and Tom Newman paying it official 007 homage, or even Edward Shearmur and Ilan Eshkeri making you take “Johnny English’s” spy cred seriously, you’re sure to hear those big brass horns, lush strings and charge-ahead, manly themes capturing operatives who can take down a secret villain’s base while never letting their Savile Row tailor down.
Now John Barry’s spirit gets resurrected like never before with positively smashing elegance by the team of Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson for “Kingsman: The Secret Service.” Every trick in the classic “Thunderball” music book gets played here, and then some, from cool espionage vibes to heroically roaring trumpets and dynamic orchestral excitement, as steadfastly propelled by a theme as patriotic as a Union Jack. This is the music of a suave agent, as teamed with the upstart electric rhythms and electric guitar attitude of a hooligan who has the stuff of greatness in him – if only Harry Hart can whip “Eggsy Unwin and a team of young punks into shape in time to take on the megalomaniacal Richmond Valentine from turning civilization into a lethal mosh pit.
It’s a musical teaming between edginess and sophistication that’s dynamically played by Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson in their second official score after “Kick-Ass 2” – a movie not so coincidentally about brash youngsters getting themselves into heaps of neo super-heroic trouble. Indeed, you might call Margeson Robin to Jackman’s Batman as he’s capably arranged and writing additional music for Jackman since that composer’s 2009 breakout score of “Monsters vs. Aliens” – a comic book progression that’s included “Kick-Ass,” “”X-Men: First Class” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” as both men carved solo scoring careers. But it’s re-teaming with the “Kick-Ass” moviemaking team that’s really brought out the brass balls like never before from Jackman and Margeson with some of their most wonderfully rocking, testosterone-filled score yet. “The Kingsman” truly speaks to both the Bond and Xbox music generations with equal, exhilarating excitement as it makes retro spy scoring sing with rockingly fresh excitement through one rip-roaring action cue after the other – an introduction into the Bond boys club like none other.
Now, on a new edition of “On the Score,” Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson reveal their oldest, and newest instrumental tricks to an arsenal of comic book movie scoring that only continues to grow with explosive excitement, all while Jackman talks about his seriously twisted spy music for taking on the real evil of Kim Jong-Un with his finally released score for “The Interview.”
Click above to Listen Now or Click Here to DownloadBuy the Soundtrack: KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE Buy the Soundtrack: THE INTERVIEW / THIS IS THE END Buy the Soundtrack: KICK-ASS 2
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards ceremony was held last night at the Royal Opera House in Convent Garden, London. In the category of Original Music, [c.752]Alexandre Desplat took the prize for his score to [m.35957]The Grand Budapest Hotel. Also nominated in the category were [c.11302]Antonio Sanchez for [m.39779]Birdman, [c.237]Hans Zimmer for [m.36450]Interstellar, [c.3198]Johann Johannsson for [m.40675]The Theory of Everything, and [c.9466]Mica Levi for [m.38539]Under the Skin.
This was Desplat's seventh nomination for a British Academy Film Award and his second win. His previous victory was for [m.30730]The King's Speech in 2011. He is also nominated for two Academy Awards for his scores to [m.35957]The Grand Budapest...
Director Paul Tibbitt's recent release [m.38642]The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water features a score from composer [c.45]John Debney. Debney conducted the recording of the score at the Eastwood Scoring Stage at Warner Bros. last year. Our friends at [url.http://scoringsessions.com/news/283/]ScoringSessions.com have made pictures of the session...
LOS ANGELES (Feb. 15, 2015) – They say that behind every great movie is a great score. But do you know the story behind every great score?
So much attention is paid to what happens in front of the red light of a motion picture camera. But the magic that unfolds under the red light of the studio scoring stage is just as spectacular, as SCORE: A Film Music Documentary will reveal.
SCORE launches on Kickstarter Feb. 15 to raise funds to finish a film that will feature A-list composers such as Danny Elfman (Batman, Spider-Man, Alice in Wonderland), Howard Shore (Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Departed) and John Debney (Passion of the Christ, Elf, Star Trek: The Next Generation), as well as insight from others in Hollywood including leasing film critic Leonard Maltin and legendary director/producer/actor Garry Marshall.
“Music by itself has an emotional impact all on its own,” says composer Christophe Beck who penned the score for Disney’s Frozen.
“For a younger generation, film music is the symphonic music of today,” says Patrick Russ of the Film Music Foundation.
Epicleff Media’s thoughtful, engaging documentary will guide viewers through the creative processes of some of the world’s greatest musicians as they create some of the world’s most emotionally expressive music. SCORE highlights the ups and downs of the creative process, a process with as many highs and lows as the winding melodies we’ve come to love.
Funds raised from Kickstarter will go toward final production costs for what will be the most definitive documentary ever made about film music’s biggest stars. Supporters will be able to pre-order the film, with their contributions covering the cost of the production. Backers who pledge more could be rewarded with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have their own musical motif written by a Hollywood composer, or a trip to Los Angeles to attend the premiere.
Support is needed to finish this massive undertaking so fans of film music can learn why film composers are considered to be the Mozarts and the Michelangelos of our day, and why many believe there is a new Renaissance occurring right before our eyes.
Fans will see the sound and the fury behind the score.
“We’re harnessing something from the ether,” says composer Tyler Bates (Guardians of the Galaxy, 300, Watchmen) of his craft. “It’s exciting.”
SCORE: A Film Music Documentary will launch on Kickstarter Feb. 15 with a fundraising goal of $40,000 to cover operating expenses, fees and creative costs.
Epicleff Media is a Los Angeles-based production company specializing in crafting compelling nonfiction projects with deep journalistic value. Its members are established, award-winning producers, photographers, editors and journalists.
Sure he might have unleashed voodoo-action hell for Arnie’s “End of Days,” gone hunting in the primeval percussive jungle with the “Predators” or taken “The Caller’s” ring from the razor-sharp Nine Inch Nails receiver. But when you come right down to it for all of his impressive detours into darkness, the Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated John Debney remains known as one of Hollywood’s nice-guy composers in a career that hasn’t stopped running for three decades since taking up his family’s Disney legacy. It’s a warmly melodic, family-friendly spirit that’s much like Debney’s affable personality, growing from the small screen to apply his lavishly fun orchestral sound to such live-action and animated fantasy epics as “Inspector Gadget,” “The Ant Bully,” “The Scorpion King,” “Evan Almighty,” “Zathura” and “Lair” – a lavish orchestral score that arguably put videogame soundtracks on the map as a musical contender.
In a way, you might say that John Debney has retained the adventurous, sometimes goofy enthusiasm of a kid glued to the boob tube, as expressed through music that can touch both the looney tunes kid in all of us, as well as the wistful maturity of an adult who yearns for more in life. Both facets are on display this movie Spring, first as the anarchic show your mom tells you to shut off makes its second cinematic adventure. And Debney is there for the momentous occasion of “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water” as the utterly bizarre hero and his equally wacked-out crustacean friends make the big leap into live action, as given super-heroic CG biceps to take on Antonio Bandera’s food-obsessed pirate. Debney fans who thrilled to his swashbuckling score for “Cutthroat Island” will surely groove to this very, very big symphonic expansion of the SpongeBob legend with a score that comes across as Erich Wolfgang Korngold meeting Carl Stalling, with a knowing dash of John Williams thrown into the iconic Krusty Krab musical mix, one that’s likely the most fun, and thrillingly “real” score as you can imagine being composed for a SpongeBob movie.
Though many of Adam Sandler’s performances have much in common with that certain ADD slab of yellow sea life run amuck, the actor is in restrained fashion at first for “The Cobbler,” an adult fantasy of far more indie-intimate proportions. One size doesn’t fit all for this Jewish mender who discovers a literal ability to step into his clients shoes, especially when it comes to the unexpected, but strikingly good idea of teaming Debney with Nick Urata for the music. As the leadman for the Gypsy-Klezmer influenced group Devotchka, Urata’s voice first impressed with the songs that drove “Little Miss Sunshine” to her beauty pageant, Urata then revealed his own instrumental abilities, going from the yearning child-like melodies of “What Maise Knew” to the sweetly romping score of “Paddington.” “The Cobbler” allows for a seamless meeting of the multiple identity minds between Debney and Urata for “Win Win” filmmaker Tom McCarthy, here with a score that has the delicious ethnic swing that encapsulates both “The Cobbler’s” Hebraic background and 20s jazz swing. But that’s just the start for a score that grows into decidedly oddball directions that SpongeBob itself would appreciate as funk joins with techno, rock and orchestra – all making for a wildly unique, yet mature comedy score as eccentric as it is emotional.
Now caught in his own musical workshop where the musical cobbling, and inventiveness have yet to cease, John Debney reflects on talking sponges, swinging Klezmer jazz and bringing The History channel a deliciously anachronistic sound.
Do you think having a dad who worked at Disney set you up to make a name with family-friendly cartoons and fantasy-adventures?
I don’t think that growing up in the business was an advantage for me necessarily. It helped me because I grew up in the Disney family that I was able to get a job in their music department. But from there the relationship of having a dad who worked at Disney worked against me quite often, because people erroneously assumed it was just a nepotism thing, and not necessarily talent.
How much of a musical inspiration were television cartoons for you?
I grew up first loving Disney cartoons and then later Hanna-Barbera cartoons and all of the wonderful companies that made these Saturday morning shows back in the day. But whatever generation we’ve grown up in, I think that cartoons are some of our favorite things. Later when I started to write for television cartoons, it was something I felt very comfortable with because I’d grown up in the environment of the Disney cartoon machine. So doing Disney shows like “Tiny Toons” was comfortable in my wheelhouse.
You’ve scored numerous cartoons that have been aimed squarely at the younger set like “The Ant Bully”, and ones that have gone for a more knowingly satiric adult appeal like “The Emperor’s New Groove.” What do you think is the difference in tone when scoring either approach?
I don’t categorize cartoons into sort of a narrow box of what tone they should be. I take each animated show as its own animal, because I don’t want to go in with any pre-conceived ideas of what I should do. When I was working on the “Looney Toons Back in Action movie,” for which I had the great joy of taking over from Jerry Goldsmith towards the end of his life, I had to honestly go into that production knowing I was going to have to write Warner Brothers-type music in the tradition of Carl Stalling. So there is a “style” that’s suited more to the actual studio. In the case of my score to “The Jetsons Movie,” I went for the Hanna-Barbera style that Hoyt Curtain developed, which was a jazzy, retro-sound. So I don’t think it’s the cartoons, or their movies that dictate the music. I think it’s more the era in which those shows were made.
On that note, do you think the appeal of “SpongeBob” is just how insane it is – the kind of “you’ll go blind if you watch it” stuff we used to get from our parents for watching “The Three Stooges?”
Yeah, I think that has a lot to do with it. I think SpongeBob crosses a few generations. When my boys were growing up, we would hesitate letting them watch “SpongeBob SquarePants,” because for some reason my wife felt that the show was a little bit in bad taste. But honestly, looking back on it, I think everything these days is in your face and distasteful in some ways! Back then, “SpongeBob” was an edgy thing. But now, it’s pretty mainstream. And the wonderful thing about doing “Sponge Out of Water is that I’m able to relive and replay some of those classic SpongeBob musical ideas, but to also create something big, new and orchestral.
On the opposite note, do you think there’s an adult appeal to SpongeBob?
I think there’s an adult appeal to the character. Parents get some of the jokes that kids don’t. Then there are a lot of jokes that the kids get which the parents don’t think are that funny. I think really smart comedy is like that, whether it’s animated or not. But there are always going to be things that appeal to certain age groups, which is the kind of timelessness of SpongeBob in a way. It’s become iconic. Where the show was sort of rebellious, parents are now going to take their kids to this movie, and I think they’ll all like it.
Having taken “Jimmy Neutron” to the big screen for Nickelodeon, is there the expectation of a bigger sound to really get home that this is a “proper” movie? And if so, was that particularly important for a film that had the characters going out of the ocean to take on CGI dimensions?
Yes. We knew going into this thing that we wanted a large scope, especially when the characters come into our live-action world. Definitely the filmmakers wanted a score that would fill the screen and tell people that this was a big, fun and very adventurous film. So there are all of those things in the score. There’s right down the middle “fun” music for SpongeBob with the pedal steel guitar, the ukulele and the like. But when we come into the real world, we explode into a much bigger sound, which was always the desire.
Do you think part of the score’s humor comes from just how epically symphonic it is?
Yes. It’s like Elmer Bernstein’s gag in “Airplane!” where you’re playing music very seriously without commenting on the comedy. But there are times when you want to comment on it, which we did on “SpongeBob.” It’s more the fun factor of it all. Sometimes if you play music that’s very serious, like an Indiana Jones movie, which I did a bit in SpongeBob (thanks maestro John Williams!), I think the score comes off as being more enjoyable for that.
How would you describe SpongeBob as a musical character?
I think that each character in the movie has their own theme, and motif. Plankton’s theme is played in the low brass and the trombones. SpongeBob music is just wacky. It’s just “SpongeBob-ish,” meaning there are hints of a Hawaiian guitar, 50s kitschiness and a funny mocking baseline. Creating those individual vibes was a lot of fun for me.
Was it important to capture a bit of the original cartoon’s scoring as well?
Yes. We had to give the hardcore fans bits and pieces of the original SpongeBob music because it’s so beloved and iconic. So there are numerous pieces from the show that hit at really fun moments where you might not be expecting it.
One of your fan favorite scores is for “Cutthroat Island.” What’s it like to return to those epic pirate waters here, and how did you want to make it just a little less savagely scallywag-ish in tone for Antonio Banderas’ Burger-Beard?
It was wonderful getting back to my pirate movie roots. I quite love that kind of music, and I don’t know why. Maybe I was a pirate in another life! As we had a pirate as our bad guy in “SpongeBob,” I just know that I had to go there. I created a theme for him that turned out to be a major theme in the score, as the very first piece of the movie is a big statement of the Burger-Beard melody and the SpongeBob theme. Later in the movie when our pirate comes onto dry land, there’s a furious minute-long pirate piece that’s probably faster than it should have been. It’s my favorite piece of score in the film, and I give big props to my orchestra for being able to pull that off. The LA musicians are incredible, and they played the hell out of it. So I’d say the music is in the vein of “Cutthroat Island,” though it’s a different type of theme for our bad guy. But nevertheless it’s in a world that I love.
“Sponge out of Water” plays in a slightly less cartoon-y, Carl Stalling way than one might expect. Was it important to go for a more, adventurously straight route than “Mickey Mouse’ing all of the jokes? And is that an approach you prefer in general for your animated scores?
Again, I take every project as its own thing. In the case of SpongeBob, as with every film I do. There were times in SpongeBob where we had to be cartoony, and others where we didn’t. Sometimes we’d hit things right on the nose, and at others we’d purposely not. It’s in the shaping of that where film music works well. Other than that, there’s no hard and fast musical rule.
Let’s talk about “The Cobbler,” an Adam Sandler “body switch” fantasy that you’ve co-scored with Nick Urata. How did the idea come about for you teaming with this score, and did you “divide” the cues based on what the needs would be?
The idea was brought to me by our mutual agent Laura Engel, who thought that this would be an ideal score for us to collaborate on. I thought the idea was great, as I’d loved Nick’s music for a long time. So we met, and I really liked Nick, We subsequently had a meeting with “The Cobbler’s” filmmaker Tom McCarthy, and really hit it off. Nick and I loved the strange, off-kilter angle of this story, as well as Tom’s work. So it was a no-brainer. We thought, “What if this score was a Devotchka-Klezmer tinged score, as our lead character is a cobbler. We wanted it to have the flavor of his background. It would be a fun, ethnically tinged score, which is what we came up with.
What do you think is the trick to a composer co-collaboration so that the score comes out as having one voice?
I think it’s important if you’re collaborating with another artist that you come up with a sound, and stick to the ground rules of what it is, so it doesn’t come across like there are two different musical things going on. That was crucial. And once we figured out the band and instrumentation of the cobbler, we just sort of went with it. We knew we were gong to have a clarinet, a tuba and a rhythm section, with magical dulcimers thrown in. But yet we had to make sure that it was all of a musical kind.
Could you talk about the score’s jazzier, Django Reindhart-esque roots, which are central to Nick’s music with his band Devotchka?
Part of the credit for that goes to Tom McCarthy, who had some great temp music in there comprised of different bands and artists from that world. That gave us a great road map of what we were going to do. We just had to figure out what we could do given the slim music budget of an indie film. So we came up with a rhythm section with ukuleles, guitar, clarinet, and a little sax that served the band. We added a wonderful violin player by the name of Sandy Cameron, and just went from there.
Having scored movies like “Bruce Almighty” and “A Thousand Words,” what do you think the challenge of “adult” wish-fulfillment fantasy is, especially for a movie that’s tied into emotion like “The Cobber?” not to mention having Adam Sandler doing a more restrained performance for it?
Both “A Thousand Words” and “The Cobbler” had lots of comedic moments. But at the heart of it all there’s this deeply felt emotional storyline. And I think you have to connect with that musically. If the score is too light then you’re doing a disservice to both the film and the audience. So it’s crucial to be in touch with the comedic side and the heartfelt side, which shouldn’t be cloying and over the top. Everything’s got to be emotionally centered.
How did you want “The Cobbler” to go from a wistfully intimate, “unplugged” approach to crazier moments for funk, fuller orchestra and techno rhythms?
Well, we had no idea where we were going! And as the film progresses, it gets even more schizophrenic and wilder. At face value, our hero is a cobbler. But he’s got a personality-changing shtick, and we had to go there – whether it meant getting techno, or getting funky. You can’t plan that stuff.
What was the challenge of keeping on top of modern beats in a way that’s real, especially for a composer who wants to sound contemporary in a way that isn’t pretending to?
Whatever age you are, or whatever part of your career you’re in, I think you always need to foster a desire to stay current and to listen to what’s being played now – to not let yourself get stale. Just try to keep your mind open to all of the new styles, which is what I embrace. I think it took me four movies to get my feet underneath the more contemporary electronic work that’s out there. Take my uber-aggressive scores like “The Call” and “Alex Cross.” These were learning experiences for me in how to integrate current music with the orchestral and acoustical elements I’m more familiar. The most exciting thing for me right now is to create scores like “The Cobbler” and “The Caller,” just things that are left of what people would consider my center. Because if you don’t embrace change you’re doomed to repeat yourself and be boring. I don’t want to be that artist. I always want to be a little bit surprising.
I thought your score for “Stonehearst Asylum” was one of last year’s best. It marked quite a different direction than your last industrial-driven score with Brad Anderson for “The Caller.” Was it particularly fun to go in a thunderous, gothic route here?
It was extremely fun to go into the bowels of this kind of Hammer-esque, traditional scoring. But I have to give all the credit to Brad Anderson for that. He’s an auteur, and a great director. From day one with “Stonehearst,” he wanted me to create a very passionate and traditional gothic score, tinged with some irony and quirkiness, because it’s a pretty quirky film. There a re a lot of comedic underpinnings to it. Brad challenged me to write some very beautiful themes, especially the love theme. I went to London to record, where the musicians played it with incredible verve and emotion. It was a great experience. My only regret is that the movie deserved to be released properly, and it didn’t get that chance. But nevertheless, I’m proud of the score, and the movie.
You’ve been a big part of “hipping up” the History Channel with your work on “Hatfields & McCoys,” “Bonnie and Clyde,” “Houdini” and the forthcoming “Texas Rising.” How did you hit on an approach of incorporating a wildly anarchic “rock and roll” approach to the more expected music you’d hear from the time periods? And do you think these shows would have been as big of a hit if the music went for something straighter?
Thanks for asking that, because I take great pride in the work I’ve done for The History Channel. The nice thing about those projects have been that the channel and those shows’ teams have given me great creative license for those sores. I scored “Hatfields” with my buddy Tony Morales, and we created what I consider a modern western-flavored score. We had great specialists on that like the singer Lisbeth Scott. Then after that was the incredible “Bonnie and Clyde.” I’d fallen in love with the director Bruce Beresford years before with his work like “Driving Miss Daisy.” He’s a wonderful gentleman, who allowed me to create a jazzy score that would at times be spot-on period music, and at others use completely contemporized, loopy music, especially because I felt that the real Bonnie and Clyde were rebels who could have been living right now – two star-crossed confused kids going out to create havoc and kill people. So I definitely wanted the score to have their edge and a groove to it. Fast forward to “Houdini,” where the creative direction was to have it be heavy metal, Nine Inch Nails-ish grooves meeting Gypsy violin music. That immediately caught my interest, and you can imagine the fun I had doing that. The very first piece of music in the film accompanies Houdini chained on a bridge, ready to jump into the freezing cold water. It was a three-minute cue that I spent a couple of weeks on, seeing if it could work. And I found that the cooler those people in the costumes looked in the scene, than the hipper and edgier the music sounded. It really did something to your mind. The byproduct out of all of that experimentation was that I got to create a superhero out of Houdini, of course aided by an amazing performance by Adrian Brody. Usually I can’t do what I want unless it’s on the screen, and boy was it there front and center with his performance. I called a good friend of mine named Sebastian Arocha-Morton to help me remix and produce the score. We ended up with a two-CD soundtrack. It was a gas, as they would say in the old days.
As a composer who’s worked nearly continuously for over 30 years, how do you see the Hollywood-scoring scene now? If it needs a big fix, what do you think it’s going to take to make it happen?
I’m extremely fortunate to still be working over that length of time. I didn’t even realize it was that long. I’m very lucky to have had the career I’ve had and to still be on people’s list. They still haven’t thrown me out yet as it were. I think there’s a lot of exciting new composers on the scene right now, so I don’t think that there’s a necessarily a dreaded disease in composer land. There are incredible people doing wonderful, new-sounding scores with their own style, which I think is great. I think in general it would be nice to celebrate diversity in the different types of music that’s being created in Hollywood. When things start sounding the same, that’s not a good thing – not that they are. Diversity is something that should be embraced.
“The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water” opens in theaters on February 6th, with its score album available soon on Varese Sarabande Records. “The Cobbler” opens March 13th, with John Debney and Nick Urata’s score available on Lakeshore Records. “Texas Rising” premieres on The History Channel on May 25th.
Visit John Debney’s website HERE
A special thanks for Stephanie Pereida for making this interview possible
Announced this week were new composer assignments for [c.1336]Mark Kilian and [c.1337]Paul Hepker ([m.43078]Eye in the Sky), [c.14]Marco Beltrami and [c.74]Philip Glass ([m.36210]The Fantastic Four), [c.1788]T Bone Burnett ([m.43071]Let It Snow), among many others. For the full list of composer and music supervisor assignments from this week, [url./composers/]click here.
There were 29 new soundtrack albums released this week. [da.2015-01-26]Click here for the full schedule.
Opening nationwide this week are (with music by): [m.39627]Black or White ([c.247]Terence Blanchard), [m.33758]The Loft ([c.70]John Frizzell), and [m.37700]Project Almanac ([c.1018]Steve Jablonsky). [m.42034]A Most Violent Year ([c.4295]Alex Ebert) is...