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Interview with Dominic Lewis

Vr, 05/10/2018 - 05:21

Few shows start off as impossible alternate reality fiction, only to transform into a horrifying variation of the truth like Amazon’s “The Man in the High Castle.” Adapted from the Philip K. Dick novel that posited the Axis powers of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan winning WW2 to split the spoils of America. Linking the fates of the rebellious Juliana Crane (Alexa Davalos), the traitorous American Obergruppenfuhrer John Smith (Rufus Sewell), Japanese trade minister Tagome (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) and relentless “pawn” Inspector Kido (Joel de la Fuente) are black and white films that show a counter earth where accepted history played out – the images of which become key to determining the destruction, or salvation of “High Castle’s” nightmarish future.

Told in muted, oppressed colors and ever-surprising moral shades of grey, the new season of “High Castle” is more darkly fantastical as it has the Nazi’s pursuit of “travelers” who can skip between free, and subjugated worlds inspired the Reich to build a machine that will let them invade the multiverse. Yet the ten-episode season is also far more intimate in domestic scope. Its main story strands find Juliana dealing with the shock of her murdered sister who’s seemingly coming back to life, all while the ruthless John Smith shows an unexpected, emotional side as he tries to keep his family together in the face of the “sacrifice” of their genetically doomed son to the Reich’s euthanasia. Amongst the “pawns,” Tagome does his best to shelter Juliana, even as Kido tries to break the minister’s stoic stance to find out why he’d abet the enemy, especially when her compatriots bombed Japan’s San Francisco’s headquarters at the climax of last season.

Tying the myriad story threads and characters of this formidable “Castle” together is the mesmerizing score by English composer Dominic Lewis. For a series based on the nature of time, the pressure of evil closing in plays a central scoring role in season three. Rhythmic music becomes a countdown as the Nazis try to control the multiverse itself, a far more fantastical angle that also suffuses Lewis’ approach with an otherworldly, dream-like atmosphere. Brass becomes twisted patriotism, where violin hears the tragedy of relationships rent asunder in a series of betrayals. Though mostly played in brief, impactful portions through “Castle’s” ten episodes, Lewis also gets to revel in epic orchestrations as the Japanese fleet sails under the Golden Gate Bridge, emotion dances with a forbidden Bar Mitzvah, and the symphonic piercing of dimensions becomes scoring that would do any arch villains’ super-science lair proud. So too does the show’s ersatz Leni Riefenstahl feel soaring Wagnerian triumph for her propagandistic goal, even as the music will make our hearts sink. However, there’s also a new sense of musical hope on the horizon for a “Castles” that’s been renewed for a fourth chapter, as the leaflets of a rising sun inspire the striving, patriotic melody of a populace finding the hope to struggle out of fascism’s jackboot.

Thankfully, Lewis’ singular rise as one of the most talented, next-gen composers of Hans Zimmer’s musical fortress has been far less traumatic, if no less creatively challenging. Trained in the cello and composition at the Royal Academy of Music, Lewis made his Hollywood pilgrim’s progress through booth reading, synth programming, vocals and copious additional scoring for such composers as Rupert Gregson-Williams (“Bedtime Stories”), John Powell (“How To Train Your Dragon”), Henry Jackman (“Wreck-It Ralph”) and The Man himself (“Rango”), Lewis’ contributions on dozens of scores ultimately saw him break out with solo work that’s included swooping animation (“Free Birds”), propulsive suspense (“MI-5”), frantic comedy (“Rough Night,” “Fist Fight”) and social drama (“Money Monster”) before entering the door of “High Castle” via his long association with Jackman.

Even though Dominic Lewis might have found himself in grim surroundings as the walls between oppressive fiction and reality have broken down in the face of a homegrown tyrant, the composer has also indulged his far more child friendly talents this year with the rambunctious treats of “Peter Rabbit” and the rousingly terrifying tricks of “Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween.” Like the “High Castle’s” dimension-shifters, Lewis knows how to segue from one musical tone to the next, an ability learned from The Masters that he now reveals.


Tell us about your path to film composing.

Both of my parents are musicians, which always helps a lot. My Dad was in a quartet and my mom’s a singer. So from the time of being a young kid I was exposed to live concerts and classical music all the way through to rock music. My sister exposed me to dance music or electronic music. Then my dad started doing sessions in London with Isobel Griffith’s orchestra. So that perked my ears up to that world. Then I was lucky enough to go on a couple of sessions. I think my first was “Shrek” with Harry Gregson-Williams. Then I did other sessions with Craig Armstrong and George Martin. It just sort of unfolded from being a musician and playing the cello and singing in choirs and doing all sorts of stuff. Film music was just a natural progression for me. I had many greatest hits soundtrack Cd’s and tapes in my dad’s car and tapes, all of which made me fall in love with it. But it was being at those scoring session that made me say, “Oh my God, this is what I have to do!” subconsciously there all the time. And then I went to these sessions and I was just like, oh my God, this is what I have to do!”

When I was old enough I went to down Rupert Gregson-Williams’ studio and started programming stuff up when he’d go out for a cigarette break. I was very lucky to ease into the world because then other people get thrown out of college and want to be a film composer. But they get coffee and food and stuff for years before even doing tech work. I was lucky enough not to have to do that because Rupert had me under his wing and taught me loads of stuff. Then he told me to go to LA and visit people.


How was it getting started by doing additional music for people like Hans Zimmer and Henry Jackman at their studio?

Both composers were extremely talented and very different. The world of Hans Zimmer is something I never thought I’d be part of after studying and listening to his music in school. Then cut to two years later and I’m sitting in a room with him and John Powell talking about dragons and fighting pandas and whatnot, all with Dreamworks Animation head Jeffrey Katzenberg in room. That was a dream come true, but also extremely scary to me. Hans’ world was very daunting at first because the man is a genius and you constantly feel the pressure of being at your very best – that you must not let him down, the you always needed to prove yourself.

When I started at Hans’ Remote Control Studio, I didn’t leave it for like three months. I would have interns going to get me spare underwear and I’d used the shower in the building just to let Hans know – and he probably had no idea I wasn’t leaving the building! It was just that, that hunger, that need to prove that I was good for this, and that his cues were in safe hands with me. Where things were a bit easier with John Powell on “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Kung Fu Panda 2,” “Rango” with Hans was really tough because he’s got so much faith and loyalty in his guys that he will pretty much gave them the stage for their cues which I think is fantastic and extremely ballsy. That’s why he’s one of the greats. Oftentimes it is was only me and “Rango’s” director Gore Verbinski talking about cues, which was very daunting and scary. When I later worked with Henry it was a more relaxed atmosphere because I was writing from the wings and not really being involved in meetings with the filmmakers and the executives. I was just sort of me doing my cues, making sure they were up on the server and then hearing later after the meeting whether the music was approved or not, or what fixes there were to come. I became far more confident and relaxed in what I was doing. And I was a better composer. Henry and I pumped out a lot of music over three or four years. Yet all of the experiences I’ve had writing for composers has been amazing in their own ways.

You got involved with “The Man in the High Castle” with Henry scoring the pilot.

Henry and I scored the pilot together, and I took over from episode two using the things. Then after season one it was sort of a reboot because the characters moved on to different things. Seasons two and three have just been me, and I just signed a contract for four – which will be me too

How do you think the show and the music have developed to the point of season three?

Each season is extremely different in my eyes. The first one was very character-based and very intimate as it followed them through journeys. We got to know their struggles and where they would be going. Then in season two you have this big story arch where you’re faced with the end of the world. So that change was huge as I went from very small, intricate character-based melodies and harmonies to a more elaborate Austrian-Hungarian classical palettes with Straus-ian melodies. Now season three has gone a bit noir in a sort of Hitchcockian way. Things also get a little bit more sci-fi n the way of Phillip K. Dick because you dive more into these alternate worlds and the craziness of their “travelers.” other travelers.

Musically through all three seasons I’ve taken organic elements, and messed them up by stretching them and, sticking the instruments through delays to make the music feel weird, creepy and strange. And then on top of that you’ve got these traditional instruments playing melodies and harmonies – yet always with that underlying current of the strangeness and eeriness. So that’s what musically ties the three seasons together, even though they’re all very different because of their stories’ contexts.

The “sci-fi” nature of season three brings in a particularly ethereal sound.

I started season three with the “Trudy Suite,” suite, where I wanted to create that “daydream-y” sound when you don’t know what world you’re in, who can travel or who’s going to travel. You have to be in a particular meditative space to be able to travel. It was important for me to create that dream-like stuff with chimes, bells and things that repeat in a nursery rhyme / music box kind of way. The suite is made out of celeste, struck chimes, warped Glockenspiel and things like that with strings as and undercurrent. There are some voices in there too. It’s a more musically dreamy way of time traveling I guess.


Would you say the scoring has gotten stranger as whole?

It’s so great that they’re kind of letting me do what I want on season three. There’s a lot of trust now, which has kind of pushed the musical envelope a little bit. I’m not trying to blow my own trumpet, but I’m just saying that I was trying to think outside the box and to really push this strange classical harmony that you necessarily wouldn’t do in a TV show. And I get away with it because the show is so great. It holds it. You can just keep pushing on it in terms of experimenting with new weird things and hybrids between different genres of music because it works. But that’s essentially what “The Man in the High Castle” is. It’s a hybrid of a lot of different genres that are now going all over the place, and you can do that with the music as well.

How did you want to musically differentiate between the Japanese and the Germans?

It kind of changed because everyone’s moving around so much. The music was a bit more clean cut in season one where the Japanese took on a more woodwind-based palette and the Germans tended to be more brass-orientated. But actually as the seasons progress, and especially in season three, we see different sides of different characters, which ties into what the Japanese and Germans were doing season one. Their instruments cross over, the neutral zone. Now John Smith’s melody might be on the cello, which in season one was mainly Juliana’s instrument. Inspector Kido might have more of flute- based thing. But if he’s being really evil, then I’d bring in the brass. So it’s kind of boiled down to strong brass instruments for the bad guys, and woodwind instruments for the good guts, for want of better words, because everything’s crossing over now. The Japanese and Germans have all got their fingers in different pies.

What’s especially interesting in season three is how a once completely nefarious character like John Smith is almost a “hero” for want of my better word. How do these twists give more emotional depth to the music?

It’s great to be able to flip the script on some characters, especially with John Smith, because in the first season I didn’t really score him. There was a noise he got from a piano pedal that we stuck through a feedback and just let it go. I took elements of that and made more intense, because I didn’t want to do the whole “evil Smith” thing, you know, low strings and brass and whatever, because then it becomes too cliché and annoying. So it was more of a sound design way of scoring him. With season two, we got into the whole thing with his son Thomas’ illness. I could come in with brass with John being the bad guy, or use a cello or piano to show how he was feeling for Thomas, and in turn make us respond sympathetically to John. With season three you’re undecided because John seems to be going against what the Nazi vision for America is. That made it really difficult to paint him in a way that the audience could make up their own minds about John. So his stuff was done with more neutral instruments. For example, maybe I’d take the horn and double it with cellos or use instruments that don’t necessarily paint John as a good or bad guy. But I feel the same with you, because Smith almost comes across as being a hero in this season.


How did you want to choose when to bring in the big orchestral moments as when you have Japanese fleet sailing through San Francisco or introduce the Nazi’s dimension-channeling machine, which is almost like a scene out of a James Bond’s villain’s lair?

It’s a mixture of me and the temp tracking process. Some people get very used to the temporary soundtrack that they put in while editing the episode, which is very difficult to get away from when I’m spotting my own music. I’ll say that we don’t need a cue here. But because they’ve had music there for a while, they want it in the same place. Sometimes with those longer cues, I’d personally rather have them be shorter so I could let the action breath a little bit. But I think those longer pieces work, especially as a lot of the time those scenes have sound design that just blend in with the score.

The show can be very depressing, as it seems there’s no way the Axis will ever be overthrown. But this season brings in the idea of the hope of the rebellion. Was it a relief to play that kind of guarded optimism into this overwhelming darkness?

I think it’s great because season two was super dark. There was no hope, But I like season three’s new element of resistance. It creates more of a balance because we’ve had two seasons of the Nazis doing their thing, which is a lot to process. Maybe that’s why season two wasn’t so well received by critics I think because there was no real light at the end of the tunnel for anyone. It was just massively depressing. So now it’s really lovely to have just a little glimmer that maybe they can pull this off. And then you kind of come back to thinking “Well, how the hell are they going to pull that off with something like twelve people?” But it’s still nice. I think the danger with dark shows is that they just drag you down. I know from friends and family that even in season one they’d be like, “Oh no, I really liked the show, but it took me a long time to get through it because it’s just so dark!” I think it’s really good to bring in that strand into season three, which I hope they do in season four so we can get to have a hero.

The running joke is that “Man in the High Castle” is a documentary show. Do you ever get depressed while working on it, especially as it seems that there’s no stopping the rise of fascism in America?

Righter after I finished season two where the arch was the end of the world, I joked that next week we’d have President Trump. And then it fucking happened! “The Man in the High Castle” has been close to home. But now with this season’s new theme of hope I think the show is easier to stomach. Yet there are certainly moments for me when it’s depressing, especially when you have a huge group of people chanting “Sieg Heil!” for 45 seconds. That’s time to turn the dial down. I can’t hear that because I have to watch a scene a number of times in order to score it. But then I get to work on other shows like “Duck Tales,” which are happy, fun and the complete opposite! So that helps me stay sane.

One truly charming kid’s score you did this year was for “Peter Rabbit” Now you get to scare them with the sequel to “Goosebumps.” What was it like to take over the musical reigns from Danny Elfman for “Haunted Halloween?”

Oh my God. It’s so daunting. I was very scared. But the director Ari Sandel and I were adamant that while we didn’t want to do away with Danny’s themes from the first one, we also wanted to give this score its own sound. I think I’ve come up with some cool new themes. The main villain in this movie is Slappy, the ventriloquist dummy. He has a very creepy side, but he’s also the master of puppets – the sort of maestro who’s bringing Halloween to life. So I wanted to give him a march of sorts for him commanding his troops. So I wrote the “Slappy March,” which is a lot of fun. Ari really loved it, and it’ the main theme in the movie. “Goosebumps 2” has been an amazing experience for me. I mixed all my musical influences for the score from Strauss to Ravel to John Powell to John Williams to Danny to Alan Silvestri to Mahler. But it’s the most “me” I’ve been writing for an orchestra and I’m very proud of that. The last big orchestral score I did like this, even though the tone was a bit more “fluffy,” was for “Free Birds.” “Peter Rabbit” was a bit more of a hybrid.


What’s the trick of scoring a kid’s horror film where the music has to be scary, yet not too scary?

That’s tricky to balance. There are moments where you want kids to jump and be scared, but you can’t go too far, otherwise you’ll have them screaming and running out of the cinema! So it was a tough line to toe. But the execs and the director definitely leaned towards the scary stuff and wanted to push that envelope a little bit and make it scarier. So I think that’s, that’s a big difference between the two scores. Danny’s isn’t necessarily “scary scary,” where there are very definitely scary moments in mine where I used horror scoring techniques, like you’d have in “It.” But I think “Goosebumps 2” has been shot in a way where I can afford to have that little bit of extra horror in the music. The picture holds it well. We’ve really had incredible musicians who’ve achieved those strings effects and drones that would accompany an R-rated horror movie. It’s been really incredible for me to write for an orchestra like that, and I’d love to keep doing it.

Madison Iseman, Jeremy Ray Taylor and Caleel Harris star in Columbia Pictures’ GOOSEBUMPS 2: HAUNTED HALLOWEEN.


You’ve had a pretty swift rise as a composer in the last five years. What would you attribute that to?

Being a film and television composer is so much more than just writing music. It’s the whole thing. You’ve got to be good in a room with the director and the producers. You’ve got to be able to produce the goods musically and you’ve got to think on your feet to let everyone know that they’ll be safe in your hands. John and Hans and Henry are all great like that. I was a sponge and fed off of their musical brilliance. It was incredible to be in a room with them and the directors and execs to see how they reacted to tough stuff, like flipping scenes around and deadlines and all that kind of stuff that comes with supervising a score. I was able to be in that for almost five years before I went out on my own. That helped me really understand that your job as a film composer is to fulfill the vision of the director and the producers and the studio. So yes, obviously you want to have your voice and you want to bring what you bring, but at the end of the day you ‘re a filmmaker too. That’s a huge part of being a successful film composer is being a fellow filmmaker and part of the collaborative process.

Obviously there are times when you need to stick up for what you think’s right, but you also need to do away with a bit of your ego.

That’s why being a team player is huge. The people I work with are getting what I bring to the table. But at the same time, they’re also getting what they want. It’s very easy to throw in the towel and say, ”Okay, well I’ll just do that.” But there’s an interpretation line of like. “They said this, but I think that what they really want is this music.” That’s the tricky part, because a lot of directors and producers don’t necessarily speak the music vernacular. So translating what they mean is very important. To anyone else, it might be “What the hell do they mean by that?” But because I’ve been in it, I say, “Cool. Moving on.” That’s probably one of the main reasons why it’s been maybe a little quicker for me to get to where I am, just because I had such great training and great great mentors. They really set me up to hit the ground running.


Watch the third season of “Man in the High Castle” premieres on Amazon Prime HERE.

“Goosebumps 2 Haunted Halloween” opens on October 12th from Sony Picture, with Dominic Lewis’ score available soon on Sony Classical Records.

Listen to Dominic Lewis’ scores for the first two seasons of “Man in the High Castle” HERE

Romp with Dominic Lewis in the animated animal kingdoms of “Peter Rabbit” HERE and “Free Birds” ” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Dustin O’Halloran

Wo, 03/10/2018 - 22:25

One of the truly soulful composers who’s fused his acclaimed alternative sound into a growing, impressive body of scoring work, Dustin O’Halloran’s music often seems to be on a journey of self discovery. First joining with singer Sara Lov to front the Devics, O’Halloran relocated to Italy, where he drew on the memory of the music of the ballet classes his mother taught for his solo album debut with “Piano Solos.” Its poetic sound caught the ear of director Sofia Coppola, who brought his piano pieces to the distinctly hip costume drama court of “Marie Antoinette.” O’Halloran has since given his mesmerizingly intimate emotion to the immigration-effected young lovers of “Like Crazy,” the cello-driven seduction of “Breath In” and a doomed Marilyn Monroe stand-in for “An American Affair.” Teaming with Jill Solloway to win an Emmy for his title music to Amazon’s “Transparent,” O’Halloran received further award notice when he and fellow indie-centric scoring artist Houschka received an Academy nomination for “Lion,” a movie about reclaiming lost identity that opened up a whole new world of ethnic sound for the often overseas composer – just as much as his indie music work with Adam Wiltzie would show off ambient explorations as A Winged Victory for the Sullen.

Dustin and Adam Wiltzie are A Winged Victory for the Sullen

Even from Berlin, O’Halloran took note of the home fires burning in America as one unprosecuted police shooting followed the new to spark demonstrations from victims who were often urban. It’s inspired a new wave of social justice from a populace that won’t take it anymore, their growing need to take action inspiring Angie Thomas’ bestselling book “The Hate U Give,” and now a powerful film adaptation from director George Tillman Jr. (“Soul Food,” “Notorious”). It’s heroine Starr (Amandla Stenberg) has seemingly navigated a life in two worlds, reveling in her cultural identity in her gang-blighted neighborhood, while wearing the schoolgirl costume of a private academy on the other side of the tracks, where she’s found both friends and a beau. But when an innocent car ride with her longtime crush Khalil (Algee Smith) sees him gunned down by a trigger-happy white cop, Starr suddenly finds her dual existences colliding as she must determine whether to reveal herself as a witness for a jury that will determined if the officer goes to trial.

While O’Halloran has played high dramatic stakes before, “The Hate U Give” has a social resonance that goes beyond just any simple movie going experience. Yet as opposed to an in-your-face call for change, both director and composer take an unusually poignant voyage to that point where Starr will affirm her identity. As heard through a building sense of desperation and life-changing determination, O’Halloran is very much in his own, subtle territory here. With a lyrical piano theme, aching violin and an intimate orchestra, O’Halloran’s impactfully muted approach creates a sense of yearning and growing anger that’s both suspenseful and emotional. It a sense of lyrical somberness for Starr’s balancing act loosing its cool, mixing with more menacing electronic tonalities that hear the very real threat posed by the gang who doesn’t want her drawing attention to the drug dealing that’s used by the media as a weapon in dehumanizing Khalil.

O’Halloran’s beautiful, brooding score steadily gains its moving power without musical cliché, instead choosing to hear itself through a wounded young woman’s realization of who she is, and the price will bring. It’s a low key approach that will likely captivate audience members to not only understand the realities of urban existence, but help change their thoughts in a battle for social justice that goes from the streets to a very White House. As captured with a hush instead of a scream, O’Halloran’s impressive score for “The Hate U Give” marks both an impressive new chapter of in his sound, and continuing theme of characters realizing their worth.


Your first score was for Sophia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette.” She’s a filmmaker who has a definite appreciation for the world of indie and alternative music that you were coming from.

I think it was a great film to be a part of because it had such a great collection of music. It was also a good starting point for me as a composer to understand that film scoring doesn’t have to be this classical idea of what film scores should be. That’s sort of stayed with me – that film scoring is an evolving art form that should evolve and should move forward. In the same way, Sofia Coppola had a lot to do with thinking about how filmmaking can evolve, especially because she was into such different music that brought a whole new life to her movies.

Two films that got your further notice were Drake Doramus’ “Like Crazy” and “Breath In,” two relationship films that again drew on your alternative string and keyboard sound.

I felt I really had a lot to myself to bring to them, because that was the music I was interested in making at the time. Drake is a big lover of music, and he wanted everything to feel very fresh. He wanted the soundtracks to feel like a playlist instead of a film score he wanted it to feel like a playlist instead of a film score. I got a lot of room to really make good pieces of music because there was so little dialogue in those movies. The score was put up front. It was only after Drake’s movies that I had to do underscore and learn how to make music work with dialogue, which is a completely different way for me of making music for films. My scores for Drake are still two of my favorites.

You were were really put on the Hollywood map when you and Hauschka got an Oscar nomination for Garth Davis’ “Lion,” which also revealed a whole other ethnic side to what you were capable of. What was that experience like?

Dustin and Hauschka

Garth was a really wonderful director to work with and he gave me a lot of trust and creative room. So everything that came after that was fun and a really nice experience. It was really great to be in a Hollywood situation where at the end of the day just the film is enough. But I got acknowledged, and I got to bring my mom to the Oscars!

You do a lot of your work in Europe. What is it about being over there that adds to your music?

Europe is always a place that’s much more focused on the arts. It’s less a career-oriented place than New York, LA and London, which are expensive, career-driven cities. So it’s nice to be in contact with musicians and artists that have that different perspective, especially when I shared a studio with Jóhann Jóhannsson in Berlin. So it was great to have this kind of environment with artists that I really admired and appreciated. That kind of process that I’ve had in Europe doesn’t happen everywhere.

What do you think that being in a studio with Jóhann brought to your work?

Jóhann Jóhannsson and Dustin O’Halloran

Jóhann was just uncompromisingly strong in his vision. He was so intent on pushing himself and his music forward. He never, he never sat back and rested on his laurels. He was always pushing, and always very inspiring. In the short time that he was making films he made a huge impact on the sound of Hollywood. So many films now are referencing his scores. Very few composers have had that kind of impact. Jóhann was definitely one of the masters.

Even working overseas, I imagine that you were hearing the near constant stream of news of white cops shooting black people and getting away with it. What did you think of those stories?

America is a very divided country right now. There’s a lot of social division. We’re just seeing it in our government and a lot of places. It’s definitely much more of a topic in the United States, though. Europe is going through their own social issues. But I mean, what can you say? It’s a divided time.

What do you think it was about your music that made George think you’d be right for “The Hate U Give?”

The Hate U Give director, George Tillman Jr

Well, I think this is a tricky film because George was looking for a score that could hit a lot of the different emotional spots of the film in a very honest way, one that wouldn’t be this big Hollywood score, He wanted the music to feel like it it was inside of Starr’s character. I guess George had heard “Lion” and really liked it. In a lot of ways, both “Lion” and “The Hate U Give” are the kind of soundtracks that I’d never really done before. George and I had a lot of conversations about how he envisioned the score, which I had to show him, as I didn’t have a lot of past work that would sound like what he was looking for. But we just really got along very well. I went away and worked for about a month, then came back with about half of the score to play for him. It went really well, because he’s a great director.

Given how incendiary “The Hate U Give’ could have been in its cinematic and musical approach, how important was it for the score to remain low key, almost as a counterpoint to the heated emotions that are happening in the story?

Dustin and George at the scoring of ‘The Hate U Give’

I got the sense that George wanted to make a film that a lot of people would see and understand – to be inclusive. “The Hate U Give” doesn’t want to divide. It wants to show a humanistic approach to some big social issues and for the audience to walk away with something. The music was to ultimately help that. It isn’t referencing musical genres, but Starr’s emotion. I could actually get pretty abstract about that because George let me go pretty far with my ideas, which I was really excited to do. I got to experiment with getting away from tonality because I felt that sometime melodic content was too much for this film. That let me create more of a sense of feeling rather than a lot of “melodic” moments. They’re definitely in the score, but there also these soundscape moments that are about the intensity of what’s happening.


A theme to many of your score is that they’re about characters that are trying to find themselves, and their way through life. How do you think that applies here?

Music is such a subjective thing. It’s different for so many people. So, it’s hard to say exactly what it is that’s common about my music. But to me, I think it’s reflecting the idea of time, which is why it works with these kinds of characters, because they’re trying to define their emotions.

How did you want to play the key scene in the film with the police shooting of Khalil?

I just felt like I wanted it to feel like how something like that would feel. There’s little bit of melodic content in the scene, but not a lot. Mostly I just wanted this visceral feeling of like when something dramatic is happening in real life, because you don’t hear this melodically sweeping score. It’s an intensity that sounds abstract. You feel that in the way that George shot the scene, and from the emotion that Amandla gives to it. She’s an incredible actress.

Like Hamlet, Starr spends much of this story deciding if she’s going to take actions against outrageous events. How did you want to play that rising need to reveal herself as the passenger in Kahlil’s car?

I think I build the score to that moment. It’s a dynamically escalating score because Starr is dealing with all of these conflicting emotions. It is Shakespeare for sure as she defines who she wants to be. Because she’s always evolving as a person, there’s a lot of music in film – about 75 minutes. Because the story is constantly shifting, there aren’t a lot of themes to come back to, though there certainly are motifs.

How does Starr’s narration of the film impact your own musical storytelling?

I’m always playing her emotional perspective. So I guess the answers to that question is that the music tells you that it’s always about her journey.

The movie starts very impactful with Starr and her family being given “The Talk” about how they should behave when a cop pulls them over so they’ll survive the encounter. That will likely to be eye opening for audiences. In that way as a white composer, what did you learn about the black experience through “The Hate U Give?”

I think that really goes back to the prescriptive that George brings to the film. When we come to the big riot scenes at the end. He was really conscious about the music for the crowd not sounding dangerous. He wanted that protest itself is a good thing, even though it goes out of control in the film. The music shouldn’t play them like they’re the dangerous ones. It’s their right to protest. So I really followed him about how the music should be sensitive to those kinds of situations. For me, “The Hate U Give” is a really important movie to be a part of. We have a big problem now in America, and it’s great to work with a director who’s sensitive to that.

The other movie you’ve scored this year about a woman discovering herself is “Puzzle,” where the character literally puts together the pieces of what she’s missing from her routine as a housewife. What was that experience like?

I think “Puzzle” is a very topical film as well in a time where there’s a lot of awareness of women’s issues. This isn’t a big dramatic film, but a very subtle and interesting film about a woman discovering who she is in a typical patriarchal relationship. She doesn’t even realize that she needs to find out about herself. What’s special about “Puzzle” is that there are probably a lot of women like that, women with gifts that they don’t realize. Real life is a lot like “Puzzle.” It’s not big and dramatic, but super small. It’s about people who realize they’re big inside of their own worlds. And I think Kelly Macdonald is such a great actress to portray this very internal world because her acting style is so subtle. I’ve always loved her acting, and here it gives a lot of space for the music because her character is so internal.

It’s resulted in a lovely chamber score from you.

That score was done very quickly in about four weeks. I really loved how it came out because you never know how the music’s going to come out when you don’t have much time. You’re starting to film and we don’t have that much time. But I was really happy with how “Puzzle” came together.

I’d love to hear how your and Hauschka’s score came out for “The Current War,” but it’s tied up in the whole Weinstein company mess. What can you tell us about the soundtrack?

I don’t really know score the status of the film, but I’m very proud of it. It’s a very contemporary electronic score with a lot of percussion for prepared piano and analog electronics, modular synths and a lot of sound design work. It was deep diving it to try and creating something that was musically new. It’s a painstakingly detailed score, so it’s frustrating that the movie hasn’t come out yet. I hope it’ll see the light at some point.

Your upcoming score for “The Art of Racing in the Rain” is about a dog and racing cars. What can you tell us about this seeming change of pace for you?

Well, it’s not a cartoon with a talking dog in it! It’s more an existential family drama that’s based on Garth Stein’s book, which is told through the eyes of a dog. He’s definitely thinking in it. He’s the vehicle through which the life of the family is told. It’s a dramatic film that I just got started.

As a musician who straddles both the, the film scoring in the Indie rock world, how do you think your sounds contrast and compare with each other?

The Devics’ Sara Lov and Dustin O’Halloran

All the music that I’ve done for myself has been a very important part of how I approach film scores because recording something in a rougher way or the way I use analog effects shows how I’ve grown with music, where I’ve always recorded myself. So how I approach recording has just as much to do with the composition as the notes do. So that’s something that’s different about how I work. Some composers don’t know anything about recording and they just go to a studio where they record their music and have a very great-sounding score. But sometimes it’s not about recording in the most beautiful studio, Maybe it’s about recording a cellist in your studio, close miking a piano or putting something through an old delay pedal. That can create an emotion in just the same way. That’s what I’ve learned from making my own music is how you can record the same piece of music on five different pianos and in five different ways. And maybe one of those versions on an upright piano has a lot more to say than a beautiful nine foot Steinway recorded in the most beautiful studio.


Do you hope that the film gets out young people to vote in the November mid-terms, as well as making them ask why police don’t face justice for shooting innocent, unarmed blacks?

I hope so. The worst thing that can happen is that we are having a conversation and that we’re letting fear dictate our democracy. And I think that when people start to understand what’s happening and see the other perspective and educate themselves, then there’s less fear. I think our country is now starting to find that understanding. Hopefully it can bring about a more humanistic viewpoint, because there are a lot of different people in our country. We’re a melting pot, which is a beautiful thing. It’s just about trying to understand people’s positions.


“The Hate U Give” opens on October 5th with Dustin O’Halloran’s score on Milan Records October 19th

Buy Dustin’s scores to “Like Crazy,” “Breathe In,” “Lion” and “Puzzle” HERE

Listen to Dustin’s “Piano Solos” HERE and his work as The Winged Victory for the Sullen HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Federico Jusid

Do, 20/09/2018 - 01:51

Few writer-directors have struck a dramatic chord on television like Dan Fogelman, whose acclaimed NBC series “This is Us” have won over audiences by playing all of the heartstrings of triumph, laughter and loss. It’s a particular ear towards the human condition that Fogelman now takes to the big screen with Amazon Studio’s “Life Itself,” and hearing his musings loud and clear and with poetic subtlety is Argentinean composer Federico Jusid. They’ve engaged in a time, and country-warping tapestry that brings together a seemingly dissimilar group of mixed-up characters into a dramatic whole, its intimately sprawling tale arranged in chapters from a grief-obsessed screenwriter to rebellious rocker before travelling to Spain to center on a relationship- hungry olive oil baron and the peasant family he admirers for a film that’s about the act of storytelling as existence.

Fogelman’s playful, profound idea is fully grasped by Jusid, one of the rising crop of Latin American and Spanish-centric composers, all linked with their impressive ability to hear the human condition. The son of frequent directing collaborator Juan Jose Jusid (“An Argentinean in New York”) and actress Lusina Brando (“I Don’t Want to Talk About it”), Jusid was born with an artistic drive that gave him a prolific career on both the classical concert and film and television scoring stages. Catching the attention of international audiences with his work alongside Emilio Kauderer for 2009’s Best Foreign Film Oscar nominee “The Secrets in their Eyes,” Jusid’s numerous soundtracks since have included “I Want to Be a Soldier,” the epic series of the Spanish queen “Isabel” and the biopic of the Chilean poet “Neruda.” His rising English-language credits have veered on the side of suspense with “Kidnapped,” “Misconduct” and “Loving Pablo.” Put together, Jusid’s often-harmonious approach has gone from lushly powerful orchestras too more intimate ensembles, capturing a wide range of emotions that now pay off with lyrical resonance for “Life Itself.”

Given the work of Bob Dylan that plays in Will’s manic head that starts off the tales heartstrings, Jusid takes an approach that’s rarely above an unforced whisper, and all the more powerful for it. Piano blends with electronics and gently haunted strings lead to Latin guitar, forming a halting, lovely web of melodies that soon become as recognizable as Fogelman’s well-drawn characters. It’s music that’s communal in its ideas of love and sudden, sometimes shocking loss, as gently accented to radiant, and tearful effect. It’s a score that demonstrates themes as the ultimate links of hopes and dreams, showing Jusid as a composer who’s truly tuned into the tragicomedy of life itself.

(photo by Circe F. Ervina)


Tell me about your musical start in Argentina.

My mother and father were both classical music lovers, and played the piano in our house. I started playing it when I was five, and soon was working with a great music teacher, who also taught me to improvise – which is fantastic for a little kid. I believe this same person also created a system of music notation. So music was something that was very natural to me. I thought I’d never do anything else than become a musician.

What was it about film music that inspired you?

Juan and Federico Jusid

My parents were very passionate about their work, so it was very normal for me to be in the “green room” of a theater, or on a film set. I know that left a big imprint on me. Seeing my father work showed me how movies were constructed. I’d write background “jingles” for his movies. As a teenager, I studied at the conservatory, and would always be writing music. I think because of my family, I learned the “reality” of film scoring as opposed to the old academic approach that I’d get from school. I left Argentina to study abroad and develop my careers in both the classical music world, and the film one.

What was it like having an international breakthrough as the composer alongside Emilio Kauderer for the Oscar-nominated Argentinean film “The Secrets in Their Eyes?”

I ended up working a lot of Spanish movies, or movies that were Spanish co-productions, like “The Secrets in Their Eyes.” That film became very significant to, for me, especially when it came to expanding my career to America. I was able to go from scoring foreign movies in two or three sessions to getting a 120-piece orchestra and choir when I composed additional music for Alberto Iglesias’ score for “Exodus,” which was quite a new experience for me.

The first “Hollywood” score that you did on your own was for than Anthony Hopkins thriller “Misconduct.”

I actually did the Halle Berry movie “Kidnapped” before that, but because of Relativity Studio’s situation, “Misconduct” came out first. I remember waking up in the morning, turning on my studio’s TV set, and there was Anthony Hopkins on the screen, an actor I’d grown up watching!

How did you end up scoring “Life Itself?”

I’d known the film’s music supervisor Season Kent Though we’d never worked together, we’d often run into each other. I got a call from my agent that they were looking for a composer for “Life Itself,” especially one who’d be respectful for the part of the film that took place in Spain. I was just finishing the score for “Loving Pablo,” he asked if I could send them some pieces from that. They liked it, and asked me to write up some arrangements of the Bob Dylan song “Make You Feel My Love,” which plays an important part in the soundtrack of “Life Itself.” To be honest, I’m not completely familiar with all the work of Bob Dylan, but I knew what they wanted. I sent Season five or six pieces that were done very simply for Spanish guitar and the piano very simple, you know, Spanish guitar and piano instrumental, which got me the assignment. When I finally saw the film, I was surprised that a lot my previous scores were in the temporary soundtrack. That can be very fortunate, or very fatal! But they liked the flavor of the new demos I sent them. Things fortunately went very smoothly through the whole process.

Given that a lot of the characters never meet each other, but are interconnected, how important was it to set up their relationships with your themes?

I talked with Season and Dan about how my music could mirror the structure of the film, especially as it begins with the character of a screenwriter who’s always putting timelines together. I wanted my themes to interconnect the people in that way so that their music could flow from one to the other with an “architecture,” like Dan’s incredible screenplay. I just humbly tried to follow it with motifs that jumped from one character to the other. Some would be fully orchestrated, while others would have different colors. So eventually when all these musical pieces come together, you realize how they’ve fitted all along. The score also needed to work with the songs, which are such an important part of the film. It has a “language” that’s laid back in a funny way, yet is also straightforward and often tragic, much like Dan’s TV show “This is Us.” He talks about the most profound things, but in a way that isn’t rhetorical, or solemn, but simply and lyrically. So I didn’t want “big” themes but instead a score that had similarly lyrical gestures.

Could you personally identify with what Dan’s characters go through?

I’ve certainly lost loved ones, which is very hard to cope with. But as a mother says in the film, it’s important to keep their memories alive as we expand on our own choices in life. That’s a very profound thought, one that really touched me. I could also identify with Will’s compulsive character big time!


Given how over the top and sentimental this score could have been, was it important to keep it subtle?

Yes, absolutely. I was very aware of that. I tend to score melodramatic, and romantic stories with that same kind of understated approach. “Life Itself” deals with some very big, transcendent thoughts. The worst things I could have done was to give them a musical exclamation point. The score needed to be respectful, as opposed to being sweet – like a desert you didn’t want. It’s a movie that ranges from the funny to the tragic, and it was important that Dan’s point of view wasn’t over-sentimentalized.

Besides using guitar for the film’s Spanish segment, you also have some interesting “ensemble” orchestrations in your score.

Isabel Segunda temporada. Federico Jusid y la Orquesta y Coro de RTVE -Photo by Javier de Agustín Aldeguer

I used electronics, a Rhodes Piano and guitars in a way that was always interconnected. It’s very simple, low key approach, because I didn’t want to overdo it.

What kind of “message” do you want people to get from the score?

I think the message of the film, and the music is how every person makes an emotional impact. There are many layers to that, because the audience is given a new perspective with each character that’s on the screen. It was up to me to deepen that emotion, to bring in new musical voices without being distracting. It’s a humble goal, and I think it went well.

You get to be a lot more dramatic with your score for a new animated take on “Watership Down” for television.

Yes, the approach is pretty much the opposite of “Life Itself!” Richard Adams’ novel has been turned into four episodes that are very dense and lyrical. The music brings an extra layer to his metaphor of comparing rabbits to the human condition. So it’s a broader, non-stop score with music for big chases and death scenes. It’s beautiful and so poetic, and the music is “painting” in every scene alongside the visuals.

In the end, what’s your biggest life lesson you’ve gotten out of Dan’s film?

‘Life Itself’ filmmaker Dan Fogelman, composer Federico Jusid and actor Sergio Peris- Mencheta

With each project, I try to put my own personal style into its idiom. And I think that with “Life Itself,” I’ve helped the audience to understand, and enjoy being with these characters. In a broader way, that shows how music allows us to connect to one another, especially our loved ones.


“Life Itself” opens in theaters on September 21 from Amazon Studios.

Listen to Federico and Emilio’s score for “The Secrets in Their Eyes” HERE,

Listen to Federico’s suspenseful soundtracks for “Kidnap” HERE and “Misconduct” HERE

Visit Federico Jusid’s website HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Abel Korzeniowski

Vr, 31/08/2018 - 22:45

One might say that modern cinema’s scoring for Satan and his clergy hailed from Poland, as the cooing voices, sinister ceremonial melodies and eerie atmospheres of 1968’s “Rosemary’s Baby” came from composer Krysztof Komeda. He’d provide his dark mass in impregnating service of his countryman Roman Polanski as they set up their coven in Manhattan’s Dakota apartments. Now decades later, Poland’s new scoring Abel Korzeniowski proudly continues the tradition by going back to the Blumhouse beginning his Eastern European neck of the woods, drawing upon all the forces of his country’s richly melodic traditions with modernist darkness to spare for “The Nun.”

Introduced in “The Conjuring 2,” the hell-sent demon Valak makes an unholy mockery of The Cloth to bedevil The Warren family’s investigation of a London poltergeist. With its ghoul-faced image and formidable powers, Valak wasn’t able to steal its victims’ souls, but it sure stole the sequel in much the same way that the evil doll Annabelle did for “The Conjuring.” Now given a 1951-set spin off all its own to expand The Blumhouse’s horror universe, “The Nun” retraces the demon’s steps to the Transylvanian address of the Abbey of St. Carta, where the innocent initiate Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) and the fearful Father Burke (Demián Bichir) try to discover the truth of Valak (Bonnie Aarons), with prayer their only weapon.

As atmospherically directed by Englishman Corin Hardy, who made the memorable Ireland-set spore horror movie “The Hallow,” “The Nun” offers many basement chambers, forbidden tomes, sealed rooms, and of course jump scares for Korzeniowski to investigate in the best tradition of Satanic church scoring. Known for his gorgeously lyrical scores to “W.E.,” “A Single Man” and “Romeo and Juliet,” Korzeniowski showed his more fantastical, and richly symphonic talents with the sci-fi animation of “Battle for Terra” and the surreal Disneyland music of “Escape from Tomorrow,” as well as the imagined human horror of “Nocturnal Animals.” But no project showed that Korzeniowski had the real supernatural stuff like his three season run on Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful,” for which the composer unraveled a gorgeously gothic, and symphonically rampaging take on a re-imagined league of literature’s gods and monsters.

Now Korzeniowski makes a full-blooded leap into darkness with “The Nun” with a combination of his orchestral aplomb and more frenzied, Blumhouse-style scoring where modernism rears its startling, white-faced head. Conjuring church-horror scoring at its finest, all of the gleefully familiar vestments are here, from gonging bells to Lamb of God Latin choruses and unearthly moaning. But Korzeniowski is sure to up the ante with a veritable witch’s cauldron of hissing “voices,” chain-rattling percussion, symphonic stomping and majestic Wrath of God orchestral lightning bolts. Thematically merging creeping suspense with demon-pouncing strings and only a few, tender violins to provide succor from the overwhelming evil at hand, Korzeniowski maintains his own voice while speaking in the dissonant spirit of the Blumhouse sound. But given Korzeniowski, perhaps it’s today’s horror scoring that gets possessed instead by his indelibly melodic voice for the silent Valak.

As a child, did you find anything frightening about the church or its servants?

I grew up in a Catholic culture. We were immersed in everything within the Rites. I went to church every Sunday, I remember attending school with all the nuns – where we were beaten with rulers. I don’t remember anything ominous about the church except maybe what was in the biblical stories that included so much violence from which the religion is based upon – all of them speaking about this higher power, this big image. This was my childhood.

Now you’re primarily known for doing these incredibly lush scores for movies like “W.E” and “The Single Man,” What was it like for you to go from the dramatic to the horror scoring world with Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful?”

It was very much surprising because I always thought of myself as a melodic composer. I had to find a proper contrast to what was being shown, not just jump scares or a lot of noises, but to show both sides of the situation. I thought of the sense of dread and the things that scare us more, to find that place of why we do the things we do to make my music “scary.”

Did you have an appreciation for horror films to begin with?

I am not a great horror film watcher. Often at times, they are too strong for me. I don’t usually look for them on my own. But one that did stay with me was “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” because of its sense of romanticism and its score by Wojciech Kilar. I can watch it over and over again.

How did you become involved with “The Nun?”

This was through Warner Brothers and New Line. They thought the film could use some of my approach based upon all my scores. I got a chance to talk to the film’s director Corin Hardy, who was still filming in Romania at the time, and we connected very well. This was a really easy understanding about “The Nun” from early on because I was shown a lot of the principle photography at an early stage. That let me accumulate layers upon layers of ideas for the film.

The Nun director Corin Hard (From EW.com)


I’m a big fan of Corin’s “The Hallow.” What was your relationship like with him on “The Nun?”

We worked very closely, and went step by step with the score. Corin really tried to make this as an atmospheric European horror film, to immerse the viewer to believing that they were in this abbey.

You can say that the start of the “modern” satanic score goes back to Krysztof Komeda’s “Rosemary’s Baby.” What kind of scores in that genre stand out for you, and did you want to pay homage to them with “The Nun?”

Komeda is certainly a highlight for me as a film music composer. He is the lighthouse to me for horror because he achieved something more than just the typical horror themes associated with horror film music. I also truly love Wojciech Kilar’s “Dracula” score, and wanted to pay homage to it with “The Nun.”

What do you think makes a “scary score,” and you ever scare yourself with “The Nun?”

I can’t say I know what a “scary score” is. But I can say what I feel when I write “scary” music, because we respond emotionally between what’s personal and what everybody else feels. I have to feel the sense of dread. I have to feel the jump scares — to know that their timing is right. My music has to affect me as if I was in the audience of “The Nun.” There are moments in this score where I would still jump every time I listen to it. It’s really strange because, sometimes, even though you know that something’s coming, it still startles you. So It’s that scary moment where the music is pulling our strings at precisely the right moment and we have no other way to react when it happens. It’s a knee jerk reaction, like where you hit your knee at a precise spot and your leg will always bounce! So there’s something to it in the horror film score, that part where it gets under your skin where it just stretches your senses and prepares you for the moment when that “jump” happens.

You could say that Blumhouse is the Marvel Universe of horror films, where it seems that every character is connected. When you got “The Nun,” did you just watch all of the Blumhouse movies to refer to the “Conjuring” universe to make sure your approached matched the other composers’ in it?

No, I did not. I usually don’t really want to reference other movies, but I did watch the first two “Conjuring” movies to see what the audience wanted to expect in a thematic way towards the film. I felt I owed it to the audience to understand this relationship with these movies and their scores. If I had written “The Nun” without the knowledge of the previous films, I would have written it in a more romantic style, with more counterpoint and less electronics. I tried to make this more of an earlier form of horror scoring, and more orchestral than the previous films, which were more modern sounding.

“The Nun” is an origin film for this demon, as well as set in the 1950’s. How did that play into the score?

Since “The Nun” was a period piece, it allowed me to use more elaborate melodic elements than “The Conjuring.” And because its setting is in an abbey in Romania, there are no modern musical elements like the other films. This helped affect my score by using Romanian musical elements, with the basic thinking that this was a part of Europe. So, there are influences of this being an Eastern Orthodox Church, with their characteristic of a male choir singing at an exceptional low range. This choir sounds an octave lower. Their basses sound just out of this world. It’s a very different type of singing, so I really wanted to have this quality in my choir where we could use singers who can go this low. Other voices were used for pagan rituals that were at the time described by the church as Satanic. Of course, they were not, but it is how they portrayed them – that pagans were something evil.

At points, these voices sound like a hissing witch’s coven that’s conjuring the devil.

Some of those vocal elements you mentioned—the hissing sounds, come from orchestral instruments, where the brass players were literally hissing into their instruments. Obviously, the throat singer was an important part of the score.

Blumhouse monsters don’t talk nearly as much as Freddy Krueger. Given that, how important was it for you to get inside of this demon’s head and speak for Valak?

The nun doesn’t speak much! Her theme in a way is a manifestation of that because it’s a choral phrase—like this calling, a sort of replacement of her voice.

Contrastingly, how did you want to portray Sister Irene’s goodness versus this overwhelming evil?

The spiritual aspect was equally important as came down to making that innocence feel real.

“The Nun” offers truly monstrous percussion, which at points sounds like chains being dragged across the floor and at others like some hellish Godzilla is stomping through the abbey. How did you achieve those effects?

For the first wild session, we did percussions, scratching sounds and orchestral elements. We also had seven huge bass drums that became an element of huge hits for the things we did throughout the score. We had a lot brass instruments playing to this drum that gave me an unusual type of brass chorus that naturally ring outs from this drum.

Scoring session stills from Water Tower Music


You’re a very melodic composer, where a lot of horror scores are very aleatoric and dissonant. How did you want to achieve that balance of crazy horror scoring and the kind of music you usually write?

I had to restrict myself to writing short and clean intensions with the score. This was a way of mentally trying to explore the intricate details in the performances that were beautiful and unsettling, On the other hand, I identified scenes that I thought really allowed for using horrific elements. Otherwise, I simply held writing those dissonant elements. I also waited for moments where I could use the orchestra in an epic way, or to evoke something metaphysical.

Having had your first taste of the Blumhouse universe, is this a galaxy you would like to explore further?

I would certainly like to have some time off, because horror scores can be taxing on my ears. Having worked on “The Nun” for ten months, I’ve realized how tired my ears have become because I always had to listen to the score at a loud volume to understand how it would work. I think that’s taken some sort of toll over that time. On the other hand, I really enjoyed the experience of working on “The Nun” with Corin – though I wouldn’t mind writing softer music for my next score!

Any concluding thoughts the state of horror scoring?

I think that there is room for music in the horror genre that goes beyond scaring people in the usual way. This is my goal – to write music that would stay with people besides the film itself. I think the horror genre allows for that.

“The Nun” spreads its terror on September 9th, with Abel Korzeniowski’s score available on WaterTower Music HERE

Listen to Abel Korzeniowsk’s scores for “Penny Dreadful” HERE

Visit Abel Korzeniowski’s website HERE


Special thanks to Alexander Portillo for transcribing this interview

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

August Soundtrack Picks

Wo, 22/08/2018 - 00:59

Soundtrack Picks: “MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT” is the top soundtrack to own for AUGUST, 2018

Also worth picking up: BLACKkKLANSMAN, BLACK MIRROR: ARKANGEL, CHRISTOPHER ROBIN, DAMSEL, THE MEG, ROCKET GIBRALTAR, THE VALLEY OF GWANGI, WILSON’S HEART and many more!

To Purchase the soundtracks from this list, click on the CD cover

THE TOP PICKS

1) THE COWBOYS: THE DELUXE EDITION

Price: $19.98

What Is It?: By 1960’s end John Williams was making the evolution from such wacky comedy scores as “Penelope” and creator of fantastical TV music for “Lost in Space” into more high-minded subjects. Not only would he drop the ‘ny’ from his first name, but also getting his first true major “adult” score from “The Reivers,” filmmaker Mark Rydell’s tender look at a bunch of kids starstruck by Steve McQueen’s hellraising grifter. But it was with the young’uns thrall to The Duke that Rydell truly unleashed Williams’ full-blown Americana for 1972’s “The Cowboys.”

Why Should You Buy It?: While this wasn’t the composer’s first round up in the genre after his score for “The Rare Breed” and episodes of “Wagon Train,” “The Cowboys” truly revealed his sweeping, orchestral expertise for iconic themes and emotion, especially given an actor who was the west. Drawing on the swaggering, dance-like sagebrush evocations of Aaron Copland and Jerome Moross, then fashioning them into his own distinctive voice for the American outback, Williams’ landmark score starts off with a gloriously exhilarating theme that’s the visual epitome of galloping through the range, music that’s cattle driving joy itself. Like “The Reivers,” the score is full of comic incidence for a pack of greenhorns, with the great harmonica playing of “Midnight Cowboy’s” Tommy Morgan’s harmonica, tack piano, guitar, the groaning sound of a Brazilian cuica bass harmonica for Bruce Dern’s villainous Longhair and a bunch of outrightly gawky rhythm for learning the cattle wrangling ropes. It’s an authenticity that evokes the landscape as William’s soon-to-be iconic, beyond lush orchestrations soar with widescreen grandeur. With the score’s initial sense of fun, “The Cowboys” presages Williams’ scores to come with an Irish-flavored round-up that would go full land grab in “Far and Away,” or windswept beauty that presaged the going away son—mother hug of “Superman.” But with one of the great shock deaths of cinema, “The Cowboys” gets considerably more dramatic to show these kids the real violence of the old west they’ve been sheltered from. Rattlesnake percussion and ominous strings bring an impactful darkness to the score, the militaristic drums of adolescents turning into righteous executioners met with furious, cunning rhythm – even if the score still doesn’t lose a youthfully melodic twinkle in these heroes’ eyes with their musical rebirth into men of the west.

Extra Special: A once in-demand bootleg LP before lawfully riding the CD as a thirty minute album with Varese Sarabande, “The Cowboys” now revels in its full glory for the label’s 40th anniversary, “The Cowboys,” courtesy of producer Robert Townson and William’s expert sound restorationist and liner noter Mike Matessino that not only gorgeously remasters the sound, but also round up the running time with atmospheric alternates and its overture and intermission for the 70mm version into 75 thrilling minutes that show a maestro now truly ready to ride the Hollywood range like never before.

2) MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT / GENIUS: PICASSO

Price: $14.99

    

What Is It?: Lorne Balfe has definitely accepted the mission of becoming one of Hollywood’s busier composers, often picking up the rhythmic mantle from his mentor, and collaborator Hans Zimmer, with a stylistic range that jumps boldly into multiplex action with the likes of “12 Strong,” “The Hurricane Height” “Geostorm” and the more proper Netflix series “The Crown,” – all leading to two of his most impactful scores for adventurers who physically, and artistically save the world.

Why Should You Buy It?: Steadily trying his hand at franchises from The Terminator to Pacific Rim, Balfe now steps into the shoes of a series that’s kept running in such distinguished shoes as Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer, Michael Giacchino and Joe Kraemer. With his own voice, as always intertwined with Lalo Schifrin’s iconic TV themes, Balfe lets the fuse fly for a dynamic score for a movie that counts as the best of the bunch. Giving Schifrin’s jazz-action and military motifs a brass punchiness worthy of John Barry, Balfe skillfully modulates the score from simmering tension to pounding chases. The villainous new world order is given piercing, skin-crawling string sustains, while the hinted romance between Ethan Hunt and his MI-6 counterpart is played with long, somber regret, melody that says there’s no happily ever after in their business. But it’s the film’s numerous stealth and escape sequences in which Balfe’s exceptionally well-plotted music shines (and is frequently solo’d on the soundtrack), bringing on unusually exotic drum percussion during a prisoner breakout. Piano solo suspense that brings to mind Michael Small conspiratorial scores like “The Parallax View” effortlessly dashes to dynamic, full-throttle orchestral action. With nuclear destruction to be averted, Balfe ingeniously brings in a wrath of God chorus at vital junctures for all of it’s stirringly apocalyptic worth. But the highlight is just how well Balfe handles the seemingly impossible three way climax that goes on for the film’s final thirty minutes, jetting from helicopter-like rhythm to bomb defusing tension and farewell-to-thee tenderness, climaxing in the triumph of the singers picking up the Schifrin theme as civilization is saved once more. It’s exhilarating, suspenseful work that’s all about can-do team spirit where Balfe hits the big Hollywood bull’s eye like never before, matching the elegant sophistication and gloss of a series that impossibly hits new, jaw-dropping heights with each entry, and score.

Extra Special:
Having received an Emmy nomination with Hans Zimmer for their main title music to the Albert Einstein-centric score of last season’s “Genius,” Balfe returns to hear the brilliance of a world-changing iconoclast – in the case an artist whose fantastical brain was reflected in brushstrokes as well as self-destructive passion. There were as many sides to Pablo Picasso as his styles evolve, a headstrong determination of beauty and bullheadedness that Balfe captures with no small amount of his own genius. Singing with orchestra and jazz at its start, Balfe reflects how Picasso was determined to shatter both the old artistic guard and its Puritan tastes, bringing contemporary musical vitality to Picasso’s life through his concentration on melody and interesting, often playful electronic atmospheres for a man who relished in devilish provocation. Yet buried in his bravado is the wounded, small boy that Balfe captures with tender strings and piano. Just as he expressed Einstein’s Germanic heritage, Picasso’s ethnicity is played with lyrical Spanish guitar, harmonica and accordion as an often joyous, humorous dance, while also being sure to capture the tragedy that drives Picasso. But for the most part, there’s even more exuberance to this season’s scoring, with mystical, atmospheric work that builds with to a heaven-sent fever pitch to capture the creative process, cues that end with that “voila!” reveal of one of many masterpieces. At points recalling the symphonic storminess of Beethoven if he had a Spanish spring to his step as well as the modernism of Philip Glass and the clarinet whimsy of James Horner in his score for “Sneakers,” Balfe is as modern as can be while reflecting the classically-minded old Europe that Picasso helped to forever change. This “Genius” soundtrack shows us the mesmerizing, myriad sides to an revolutionary as Balfe paints another captivating musical portrait worthy of his show’s title.


3) THE VALLEY OF GWANGI

Price: $21.99

What Is it?: Next to such gunslinging composers as Elmer Bernstein and Ennio Morricone, perhaps no musician made his mark on the movie sound of the American west like Jerome Moross. Practically exploding onto the scene with his swaggeringly thematic, Oscar-nominated score for “The Big Country” in 1958 (a year that would also see his rousingly evocative scores for “The Proud Rebel” and “The Jayhawkers!”). Moross took a balletic, Aaron Copland aesthetic to the mountains and prairies, his brass-driven themes singing for both the vast landscapes and their hard men. It was a style symphonically packed with both heroism and danger that shaped the genre’s landscape, even if by 1969 he hadn’t scored a western in some years. But given his credentials, it was positively inspired for Ray Harryhausen and company to have Moross score a cross between a western-dinosaur hybrid that lay within “The Valley of Gwangi,” a score that epically demonstrated that Moross could stylistically lasso a steer as well as he could a snapping allosaurus.

Why Should You Buy It?: Harryhausen’s stop-motion mentor Willis O’Brien had been hoping to realize his dream project of dinos vs. cowpokes for decades. And though the creator of “King Kong” might not have lived to see it (though did a sort of variation with giant ape vs. cowboys that Harryhausen helped animated with “Mighty Joe Young”), “Gwangi’s” unusual genre mash ended up being one of the stop motion maestro’s most enjoyable films. That’s because this was a story, and score that was determined to play it straight, even while acknowledging the incredibility of roping a seemingly extinct carnivore. Given that Harryhausen and producer Charles H. Schneer had often turned to Bernard Herrmann for such monster-filled classics as “Jason and the Argonauts” and “Mysterious Island,” it seemed only natural that Moross would bring out a similar, rhythmically jagged style to personify the titular beast, as well a magical sense of discovery for the film’s equally charming miniature horse. But if anything, “Gwangi” is memorable as an evolution of Moross’ “Big Country” sound, a grandly thematic, sometimes romantic score whose sweeping charge-ahead rhythms immediately conjure images of cattle drives, hoedowns and romance – with an extra emphasis on snapping, shrill brass to give the score the angry weight of a round-up unlike any other. Moross thematically balances the melodically scenic with animalistic danger as he rides into the forbidden valley, with Gwangi’s motif a mix of bucking percussion and trumpeting rage that delineates white hats with blue, scaly skin, as well as giving Spanish flavor to the film’s setting. Like his friend Herrmann, Moross hears stop motion as a dance of sorts to match his own original compositions in that field, his rhythm giving real punch to some of Harryhausen’s best sequences, especially during the thematic interplay for Gwangi’s capture, music that treats what could have been ludicrous and condescending with all the sweepingly melodic passion he gave to Gregory Peck when he rode the high country.

Extra Special: Intrada has gone into the hidden valley to bring forth the missing link among the memorable scores that Harryhausen’s creations inspired. “The Valley of Gwangi” is certainly one of the grail soundtracks in the bunch, and it doesn’t show much age with this album’s robust sound that, not only containing the entire original score, but numerous alternate takes and plentiful P.T. Barnum-worthy marching band music that capture the disastrous hubris of James Franciscus’ hornswoggling antihero.

4) WESTWORLD: SEASON 2

Price: $13.98

What is it?: Amidst the dark, fantastical worlds that Ramin Djawadi has helped construct for cable with his series scores for the likes of “Game of Thrones” and “The Strain,” none is more musically mind-boggling than “Westworld,” which only manages to be more tantalizingly confounding as each season goes by. After the first run’s time warping introduction of the androids and their eventual rebellion, the new edition concentrated on their attempted breakout, a quest for liberation that not only journeyed to new territories, but went further into the characters’ minds to impossibly blur the difference between human and mechanoid.

Why Should You Buy It?:
Ramin Djawadi’s styles are as diverse as the realms that make up the seemingly continent-sized Delos, as lush, classically attuned strings and poignant melody give far more emotion to these creations than their masters. Cues often building with a profound sense of realization, while the sound of technology run murderously amuck is heard through distorted synths and sampling. Djawadi effortlessly jumps about with iconic genre sounds, whether it be the ominous drumming of war painted Native Americans, the strumming of Spaghetti westerns or player piano that convey the show’s mix of authenticity and cruel artifice. But of all of the environments that Djawadi rides to, none offer more exotic, and heartbreaking opportunity than Shogun World. With the setting of feudal Japan coming alive through traditional wind and percussion instruments like the shamisen, shakuhachi and taiko, it’s a delicate cello that paints a portrait of the robots confronting their mirror Asian images and storylines – with a full orchestra reflecting a heart literally ripped asunder for all of its emotional devastation. It’s a massive sonic landscape almost makes “Throne’s” Westros seem small,

Extra Special:
From “Westworld’s” introduction with the stunning chamber use of The Rolling Stone’s “Paint It Black,” Djawadi’s subversion of popular music has been a highlight. Not only does the Stones’ devilish tune show up again, but Djawadi offers unplugged variations that include, Mozart, Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer,” Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box” and Radiohead’s “Codex” as played with piano and strings. The height of irony over usually violent scenes just might be The White Stripe’s “Seven Nation Army,” whose melody Djawadi plays on a Sitar as we’re introduced to Delos’ India subdivision as a prelude to a tiger hunt where the humans become prey – which is usually par for the course in the world’s most lethal, and ineffectively guarded amusement park.

5) WINDWALKER

Price: $15.95

What Is it?: Where such westerns as “Little Big Man,” “A Man Called Horse” and “Dances With Wolves” strove to show an authentic Native American existence as seen through the eyes of a white character, 1980’s “Windwalker” was essentially the first sound movie to be completely about Indians – even if it headlined the decidedly British Trevor Howard for box office necessity. But then, it can be said that it’s the spirit of the intent that’s most important of all in paying respect to a vanished civilization. So where the score by Merrill Jenson might not be solely comprised of chants and indigenous instruments, the gorgeous music, as conveyed by The National Philharmonic Orchestra, most certainly captures the pride and emotion of the Cheyenne that “Windwalker” salutes through its final life-spanning tale of a great warrior.

Why Should You Buy It?:
A prolific, often faith-based composer, Jenson was certainly put in good stead for this film by scoring “Indian” and “Three Warriors” for “Windwalker” director Kieth Merrill. Using vast string landscapes, noble brass and soaring melodies to connote a land only touched by those who’d been there for millennia, Merrill’s gorgeously thematic score immediately connects the character to circa 1797 Utah, a land filled with both string poetry and the darker threat of Crow raiding parties and ravenous wolves. While it’s very much a “Hollywood” approach honed through decades of film scores, Merill invests his sweeping orchestral approach with unmistakable Indian rhythms, adding to a scoring approach created by Hollywood’s Eastern European settlers with a true Indian flute, drums and, French horns. It’s a seamless integration that comes across as believable to both the reality of the people, and the very nature of storytelling that serves as “Windwalker’s” narrative framework.

Extra Special: “Windwalker’s” music reflects an ancient culture whose music comes from the woods themselves, with a “celestial” echoing flute and the kind of bigger imagination an orchestra captures. As finally released on CD by the archival soundtrack specialist label Dragon’s Domain, “Windwalker” stands tall as a major, spiritually moving discovery in the annals of western scoring.


ALSO FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION:

. BASIL POLEOURIS COLLECTION: VOLUME 3

Before, and even after Basil Poledouris captured the ocean’s creatures with a symphonic power as vast as the sea itself in scores like “The Blue Lagoon” and “Big Wednesday,” the water-loving composer was dipping his toes into a way smaller ensemble of synth, pop and acoustical music. Now two of Poledouris’ similarly themed works (but for fish and mammals of vastly differing temperaments) are unleashed in all of their grooviness with Dragon’s Domain’s double header CD of 1977’s “Tintorera: Killer Shark” and 1979’s “Dolphin.” Both sound nothing like the Poledouris of “Wind” given their dominant use of electronics, which swims between eerie tonality and disco / jazz fusion for the “Jaws” rip-off, of “Tintorera,” in which Brit ladies Susan George and Fiona Lewis get chum mixed in their hedonistic waters while vacationing on “the island of women.” Realizing that to go for a John Williams approach would be as foolish as skinny-dipping in man-eating waters, Poledouris uses mesmerizing washes of electronic melodies for the shark stuff, hits of metallic percussion blending with sampled howls and piercing sustains. It’s a synth sound very much of the period, coming across for this Mexican production like an Italian horror score where a slasher is menacing a sexed-up disco. Poledouris hits up that dance floor with boogying grooves, sexy keyboards, sax, and romantic flute and guitar for the movie’s real focus on bikini babes – the music on the prowl with lust and romance. Adding to the score’s retro fun are its catchy disco songs. But the straight up “Together Until Goodbye” (written by Carol Connors, who’d next pen and sing “My Love, We Are One” for “Orca the Killer Whale”) has a sensually lush, string and guitar backing with a memorable melody that could have easily played as a James Bond end title song. Though Poledouris’ made a way more respectful breakthrough right after “Tintorera” with the epically symphonic “Big Wednesday,” it was no doubt the far more noble aims of 1979’s factual “Dolphin” that had him return to lower budgeted music waters, again in a far different voice. With a sound that recalls a more pleasant version of Mike Oldfeld’s “Tubular Bells,” Poledouris mixes an acoustical approach with pop-friendly synths to reflect these naturally empathetic animals, music that’s about empathy as oppose to fear. It’s a tenderness reflected in piano, guitar and gentle pop percussion that continues his exploration of jazz fusion in a way that’s far more poignant. Though stylistically different than his orchestral voice, “Dolphin” truly reflects Poledouris’ innate love of the ocean that filled both his professional and personal lives, as accompanied by the documentarians’ pleasant message songs. Certainly of interest to the composer’s fans who want to hear him in a completely different medium, every bit of breathing space has been filled on these discs with the scores’ intended, unreleased albums, alternate takes and songs for a voyage into much bigger things that’s well chronicled as always by score oceanographer Randall D. Larson.

. BLACKkKLANSMAN

Since his first score, and Spike Lee Joint for 1991’s “Jungle Fever,” jazzman Terence Banchard has impressively grown through such soundtracks as “Malcolm X,” “Summer of Sam,” “Clockers” and “She Hate Me” to not only bring Aaron Copland-esque Americana to a uniquely African American musical form, but also the far funkier vibes of its pop evolution. It’s a sound that’s played both dramatic importance and socially biting humor, a duality that now comes home to roost at an especially vital time for Lee’s especially pertinent “Blackkklansman.” Satirically waving the Confederate flag at “Dixie” with full, drum-beating Confederate pride is only the start of this rousing, Afro power fist in a white hooded face as Blanchard goes Klan hunting with determination and retro soul brother humor to stick it to the worst Man of all. Using electric guitar licks that channel Eric Clapton alongside lush strings and vibes, Blanchard’s uses two themes – an orchestral one that socks home the solemn determination of its undercover cop, and one given to retro rhythm for his often humorous infiltration. The composer’s uniquely rousing brass sound conveys conflicted patriotic nobility and danger that gets across the as well as the very real menace of the film’s somewhat overt Klan buffoonery, music with a real sense of empathy for a detective discovering his racial identity in service of a force that often brutalizes his people. At his score’s most entertaining 70’s groove, Blanchard goes into a throwback vibe worthy of John Shaft. Both musician and director build steam with a growing sense of outrage, until finally going for the gut punch with its documentary ending as Blanchard’s serious theme roars with its all of its full, smashing brass and string weight to express how the racist past has never changed at all in the present. It’s devastatingly, tearfully indignant music as the militaristic drums of the cute opening cue now serve as both a call to action for the audience, and a cross burning march for emboldened, murderous racists who now don’t need to hide behind masks. Like Lee’s film, Blanchard’s end music is agitprop that’s needed more now than ever.

. BLACK MIRROR: ARKANGEL

Mark Isham at first created a magical score for Jodie Foster’s angel of the backwoods in “Nell” before accompanying her behind the camera with the jazzy scores of “Little Man Tate” and “Home for the Holidays,” But if those works ranged from the spiritually dramatic to often humorous character studies, their new director-filmmaker collaboration for “Black Mirror” takes a more darkly potent turn into tragedy. With this series’ “Twilight Zone”-esque spins on modern technology and its usually terrible effects, “Arkangel’s” finger-wagging goes towards surveillance run amuck with smothering mother love as a monitoring device is implanted a child who grows to violently resent it. Isham takes an eerie approach that recalls his murderously suspenseful tones for “Kiss the Girls” and “Don’t Say a Word,” with the attacker being good intentions, and the victim privacy. “Arkangel” begins with a rhythmically pensive theme for piano and cello for more innocent times between mother and daughter. Yet we can tell something’s off as he nightmarishly dives into a life-changing, near-death accident. Isham’s use of sampling has often had a sci-fi atmosphere in such scores as “Fire in the Sky” and “Next,” here taking on an especially chilling tone for a seemingly benevolent device. Gentle bird cries and keyboards might give us a sense of Zen-like comfort, but as the years pass, the haunting, often piercing use of cello becomes increasingly melancholy with its thematic cry for help, a teen’s anger growing as the instrument’s organic sound turns to gnarled, electronic emulation. But as opposed to slamming home the final irony that’s a trademark of “Back Mirror,” both Foster and Isham take a subtly haunting approach that makes perhaps this season’s best episode all the more emotionally devastating. Their “Arkangel” is a thoughtful, melodically chilling and heartbreaking work in the next, rewarding chapter of a collaboration that’s been a long time coming, paying off with haunting, mesmerizing results worthy of the best future shock on television.


. CALL THE MIDWIFE

A hit BBC series about the joys and sometimes sorrows of nurses n’ nuns doing the rounds of the poverty-stricken, baby-popping East End has created no end of pleasant music from Italian composer Maurizio Malagnini, who’s been helping from the womb for this popular BBC series since Season 4. His choice selections are now brought forth via Silva Screen Records’ charming, tunefully packed album. Malagnini has certainly done his orchestral practice on the BBC with such series as “Muddle Earth,” “The Body Farm” and “The Paradise.” And like fellow Italian composer made good in Britain Dario Marianelli, Malangnini has a real talent for sumptuous orchestral music. But while repeated spoonfuls of sugar can turn the listener to Scrooge instead of Florence Nightingale, Malangnini is exceptionally skilled with dispensing richly emotional music in a way that avoids treacle. Given a top notch orchestral performance, the composer’s character-accented love of strings, piano and flowing melody make his “Midwife” shine as a pure listen apart from a show Americans might not be familiar with, even if the emotions of child delivery are translatable to any ear and social standing. While this show’s neighborhood might be the dumps, there’s a gorgeous richness that shines forth on just about every cue, whether Malagnini is capturing resplendent joy, tenderly expressing tragedy or going for poignant nostalgia. What his “Midwife” brings forth in its numerous selections is unabashed, quite lovely melody that makes each newborn’s cry special indeed, no matter how many musical babies he’s delivered on the show.


. CHRISTOPHER ROBIN

It’s a boon-Pooh time for movies to be looking with wistful nostalgia to A.A. Milne’s stuffed, sweet animal creations and their effects on the boy who played with them, Last year’s “Goodbye Christopher Robin” revealed the author as an absentee dad who gives his son no small amount of psychological baggage to carry, his regret played with bucolic drama by Carter Burwell. Those same themes of being an bearly-there father now carry forth with the imagined, adult life of “Christopher Robin,” who’s matured from a charming kid having tea with his little buddies into a rueful salaryman to whom memories of gently fantastical fun are barely a blip – of course until Pooh and pals suddenly show up in his “real” life. It’s a theme about rediscovering one’s inner kid that’s been heard in every movie from “Drop Dead Fred” to “Hook,” but one that’s still provides catnip to composers who are young at heart – no more notably so than with Geoff Zanelli and John Brion. With both composers having heard childhood enchantment before with “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” and “ParaNorman,” a trip to via tree trunk to Milne’s 100-Acre Wood certainly proves inspirational. Gamboling in the forest with enchanted bells, soothing bucolic melodies and just a bit of melancholy for innocence lost, but eventually regained. Zanelli and Brion’s score is a comforting, emotional blanket that’s especially fun when hearing talking, marvelously realized animals intruding on an utterly repressed England. Rubbed wine glass, loopy brass and children’s voices seamlessly give life to the notion of stuffed playthings in the flesh as honey-sweet themes for a dad rediscovering himself meet the clever, bouncy Klezmer music of a Tigger on the loose. There’s lovely, fairy tale stuff at work throughout “Christopher Robin’s” score that hears the stuff of enchantment and family reconciliation, resolving in a charming, sweeping orchestra that understands the utterly gentle attraction of Winnie the Pooh. Some of the Sherman Brothers’ songs from Pooh’s animated adventures also appear here for an album that basks in the timeless company of these beloved characters for truly magical score that will make you believe a bear can talk, let alone sing.


. COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT

By 1970, evil, or at least seriously over-thinking computers were beginning to rule over sci-fi cinema. But perhaps the ultimate achievement in creating a non-nuked dystopian society belongs to that year’s “Colossus: The Forbin Project.” An quite great unsung movie directed by Joseph Sergeant (who’d inspire an equally innovative score for “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three”), “Colossus” had a canyon-sized Big Brother machine show its superiority over its cocksure egghead creator, steadily forcing humanity to accede to its every whim under pain of atomic annihilation. Much like the calculating circuits, French composer Michelle Legrand (best known later for his erotic grooves for “Purple Rain” and “Against All Odds”) created a prescient score out of the Hollywood gate that could stand proudly with the Avant garde likes of Jerry Goldsmith’s “Planet of the Apes” and Gil Melle’s “The Andromeda Strain.” Routed in modern classical composers like Igor Stravinsky than the more experimental electronic realms that immediately leap at the listener as being “sci fi” as such, Legrand uses organically rhythmic movements befitting “Rites of Spring,” along with exotic, ethnic percussion to emulate the sound of electronic music. But here the tabla drums and tribal percussion are the ever-calculating mind of a child evolving into super genius with the of a Russian computer compatriot. There’s plenty of experimental jazz-like riffs happening as well, with a cool, baroque harpsichord theme that connotes a straight, sinister line of thought as joined by panicked gestures – much like a bunker full of freaking technicians realizing they, and the human race, are no longer the masters of their planet. “Colossus” is a continually agitated score for the most part as Colombier captures a swirling sense of desperation, the plucking strings and violin strokes becoming increasingly sinister to laugh in the face of militaristic music. Imagine “The Hunt” from “Planet of the Apes” extended to just about an entire score, and you’ll get an idea of the unnerving energy that Colombier achieves – though to be fair there is a humorous bit of va-va-voom as the theme becomes sensuously resplendent for Colossus to observe the mating habits of lesser life forms. Long a cult movie, and score for those in the know, La La Land now unleashes this brilliant, feverishly chilling score through their exciting new collaboration with Universal that promises to unearth other longed-for scores in the studio vault, which “Colossus” finally grants access to. Liner note writer and “Colossus” uber-expert Jeff Bond is just the right person to calmly detail this fascinating, and still vibrant score that showed just how ingeniously music could capture the permutations of a well-meaning monsters that movie science delighted in creating during perhaps its most creative era.


. DAMSEL

The Austin-based Zellner Brothers detune the archetypical western idea of a gallant man out to rescue a comely maiden from the land’s worst varmits into a wonderfully off-kilter dramedy. And who better to bring along on a seeming savior’s quest than the filmmakers’ neighboring band The Octopus Project? This four musician indie darling collective first with the Zellers on the ironic “Fargo”-inspired “Kumiko the Treasure Hunter.” First attracting notice at Coachella over a decade ago for their eccentric way of pairing electronica with acoustic instruments, the Austin-based Octopus’ tentacles truly capture the impossibly diverse landscapes that “Damsel” and its adorable miniature horse travel over, from beach to desert to prairie to the wild forests and back again. It’s the kind of west that can only live in an increasingly deranged rescuer’s imagination, a musical landscape of beautiful, lyrical insanity. Using such expected acoustical instruments like the guitar and banjo in completely unexpected and hallucinogenic ways, the band brings in surreal electronics and subtle acid rock grooves in a way that seems at once to be absolutely authentic and absurd for the period. There likely hasn’t been such a weirdly spellbinding trip across a no man’s land since Pink Floyd dropped acid at “Zabriskie Point,” let alone the Sonic Youth soundtrack of “Made in USA” or the airy guitar work of Explosions in the Sky (it’s no wonder that Octopus Project opened for them). No matter how far out “Damsel” might get, there’s a rustic quality that keeps the score grounded in the dust and sand, the strumming, with the spooky feeling of a seemingly improvised score being created before our ears. Certainly one of the more beguilingly innovative films and soundtracks to hit this year, The Octopus Project shows they can howl like a coyote, have a flute and water bowls commune with Indian sprits (as eye-rolling as they get towards these white people) or trickle like a mountain brook in their captivating fusion of the organic and electronic – even as Robert Pattison serenades us with the love ballad “Honeybun” among the soundtrack’s many bemused delights.


. DON’T WORRY, HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT

From their first wackily murderous teaming with 1995’s “To Die For,” Danny Elfman and Gus Van Sant are an eccentric match made in misfit composer-director heaven. It’s an originality that especially shines to Oscar-nominated effect when playing outsiders trying to fit their ideas into a disapproving society with such films as “Good Will Hunting” and “Milk.” But perhaps no subject has had a more difficult time finding themselves in body and soul than John Callahan, who’s driven into a wheelchair by alcoholism, only to find redemption though self-help meetings and a gift for outrageous cartooning. Given Van Sant’s typically surreal and unsentimental approach to what could’ve been a straight-line biopic, Elfman starts his wacked-out drawing with a jazzy hand, his score filled with that musical form’s improvisatory, hip quality. Grooving with the humor and anger that flows from Callahan’s alkie mind from one moment to the next, Elfman is interestingly all over the place with a rhythmic approach that at times seems to be in the Twilight Zone between Miles Davis and John Adams, let alone a warped Peanuts special. Voices and deceptively sweet bells percussion get across Callahan’s quality of being a devilish kid and motorized wheelchair Evil Knievel, gifting the score with both a sardonic attitude and real poignancy. As “Foot’s” themes reveal themselves, we hear Callahan’s soul coming together with every psychological movement he takes through a 12-step program. “Worry” is ultimately the sound of redemption and sweet, internal piece, a poignant view of a misanthrope that’s one of Elfman’s most unique efforts, in a long string of them with Van Sant as they go rolling merrily along with a true sense of discovery. Even Callahan’s own tune “Texas When You Go” shows up here to humorously strum along.


JURASSIC PARK: FALLEN KINGDOM

Though he’s played with retro superheroes, soaring starships and primal man-apes, no hit franchise affords mega-composer Michael Giacchino the sandbox to monstrously romp in like Jurassic Park, even if the place he first gloriously attacked for “World” gets incinerated with “Fallen Kingdom.” If anything, segueing from a volcanic island to mansion opens up even more opportunities for Giacchino to roar like a big monster kid, especially when in the brassily snarling company of the new mutant raptor Indominus Rex. Its cunningly dark theme is among the many notable melodies that Giacchino unleashes here, beginning of course with John Williams’ noble trumpet motif. Giacchino swiftly goes his own with child-like wonder, biblical choruses, evil military marches and symphonically throttling chases in tow, all of which transition to a house haunted by very much alive extinct animals. Treating the doomed Isla Nubar with a sense of majestic reverence and melancholy for the many species that aren’t going to get off it before the big volcanic boom, “Fallen Kingdom’s” soon goes for wickedly fun action as the dino-bidders are turned to mincemeat, even playing the stalking with overt comedy for one bit. But with all of the orchestral weight that Giacchino brings to the score, there’s a brightness to the fear, and more importantly, a real melodic empathy that goes out to these poor reptilian captives, music that makes us root for their escape while simultaneously making us pray that the Indominus doesn’t. Giacchino holds back until the very end to gloriously let loose with Williams’ full “Jurassic Park” theme in a way that brings the series full circle to a world where dinosaurs will likely rule again, let alone provide this wonderfully enthusiastic composer with plenty of new thematic opportunity for a series that’s far from extinct.


. THE MEG

Sure it might make you want to think about 1975’s “Jaws” with its poster of an open-mouthed super shark. But “Meg” is actually way more of a glorious throwback to the awesomely silly, if well-made 90’s days of “Deep Blue Sea” (not to mention “Deep Rising”), especially when it comes to the era’s rhythmic brand of synth-orchestra scoring, a decade that Harry Gregson-Williams cut his teeth abetting Hans Zimmer on the likes o “Broken Arrow” and “The Rock,” as well as his own “The Replacement Killers” and “Enemy of the State.” It’s a fun, pulsing spirit of good vs. evil that surfaces in “The Meg” with a souped-up vengeance. With one racing musical setpiece after the other, his “Meg”” score is in furiously dangerous and heroic pursuit with its wash of synths, strings and voice, all with a very keen sense of the environment. Pinging to the deepest recesses of the ocean with sonar-like cries, Williams also lets us know we’re in Asian waters with ethnic winds and percussion. While a sense of rapturous, twinkling wonder greets his exploration, doom-ridden voices soon tell us that we should’ve stayed the hell out. Strong themes play throughout “Meg,” as heroic motifs do battle with brassily rampaging melodies, nicely emotional music saluting one fallen cast member after the next as the music accelerating between rocketing suspense. Yet like the film, there’s a wink to the score that tells us not to take all of this too seriously. It’s a sense of beat-heavy futuristic electro-string fun and excitement that makes “The Meg” vintage Harry Gregson-Williams, while showing us just how much he’s evolved in the multiplex game, even if its shark remains defiantly stuck in the prehistoric age.


. LEAVE NO TRACE

There’s often a yearning rustic quality to English composer Dickon Hinchliffe, a way of using guitar and eerie keyboards to tap into a lost America in such films as “Texas Killing Fields,” “Out of the Furnace” and “At Any Price.” His acoustic heavy voyage down the rustic indie back roads of poor, spiritually lost citizens impressively began with 2010’s “Winter’s Bone,” a critically acclaimed look at a young woman’s hardscrabble Ozark existence that introduced Hollywood to both actress Jennifer Lawrence and filmmaker Debra Granik. While her star has certainly been prolific in the years since that’s also seen Hinchliffe take on such stylistically diverse work as “Locke” and “Peaky Blinders,” it’s taken nearly a decade for Granik to take another walk through the backwoods of psychologically wounded characters. But finally with “Leave No Trace,” she’s back on track with a father and daughter who have zero desire to be on society’s radar. Beyond sharing “Winter’s Bone” deceptively bucolic vision of an verdant existence on the edge of civilization, it’s also a film told with utmost naturalism, here with no hero, villain or any melodrama. Keeping to an ensemble of folk instruments and electronics, Hinchliffe creates an entrancing mood piece that steadily journeys through country grooves and gently plucked strings in a way that’s unmistakably woodsy. It’s music that’s both spiritual and haunted with dark, sometimes nightmarish metallic and guitar effects, conveying the uneasy peace that a gravely wounded veteran finds in his rootless existence, with sadly ethereal passages hinting of the awful experience in the desert war that have silently broken him. It’s also a score of immense, subtle tenderness for the relationship with a teenage girl who’s reached the end of wandering down rootless paths with him, the score finally coming to a fiddle parting of the ways. Haunting in its subtle impact, “Leave No Trace” show a director and composer who most definitely know the realistically emotional path they’re taking through a backwoods that’s as much a physical place as it is a psychological one.


. NO WAY OUT

Along with such symphonically trained masters as Jerry Goldsmith and John Barry, Maurice Jarre jumped at the chance to use electronics in the 1980’s – creating a distinctive synth sound with the mesmerizing likes of “The Mosquito Coast,” “Apology,” “Jacob’s Ladder” and the Oscar-winning “Witness.” The result took his sound in unexpected, somewhat experimental directions while losing none of his melodic signature. Jarre’s approach turned what might have been a more conventional thriller sound into something even more dangerous especially when it came to the murderous town of Washington D.C., and the halls of The Pentagon in particular for 1987’s “No Way Out.” With a forebodingly rhythmic theme driving the suspense, Jarre gets Kevin Costner’s lust-struck military officer in way over his head for a lethal cover-up that finds him as the prime suspect of a Russian spy hunt before that sort of thing was acceptably out in the open. Jarre’s motif-filled score is especially atmospheric with his wash of electronic tonalities, a sound that’s almost sci-fi in its mesmerizing reverberations. But while there’s an almost ethereal quality to “No Way Out,” Jarre is just as quick to jump from spy sneakiness into ferocious percussion, the chases becomes ever more breathlessly relentless as our hero becomes a rat dashing about the Pentagon’s cage. Jarre accentuates the action with militaristic drum rolls, making the synths especially emotional with doom-tolling tension, regret and jazzy romantic irony for love / lust gone very wrong. Much like the wall of sound that “No Way Out” and Jarre’s companion scores conjured, there’s a feeling of discovery and energy of a musician hearing all the possibilities of his new synth medium, then high-tech meeting with old school compositional ability with his most exciting textural score. Note for Note, a label with a lot of 80’s electronic love through their releases of Hans Zimmer’s “Thelma and Louis” and “Rain Man,” treats “No Way Out” with relevance, putting the compete score on one CD, then reprising Varese Sarabande’s original vinyl program on the second platter, which also includes numerous alternates from Jarre’s most stylistic decade.


. PUZZLE

From the gentle indie rock of “Still Crazy” to the classical yearning of “Breath In” and the Oscar-nominated parental quest of “Lion,” Dustin O’Halloran has a poignant, often soft-spoken way of having characters break through their shells to discover new truths about themselves. It’s a talent for putting the emotional pieces together that reaches a new level of impactful subtlety as it assembles a picture of a seemingly ordinary housewife discovering an extraordinary ability with “Puzzle.” It’s a journey of yearning discovery that O’Halloran steadily collects with a chamber approach, layering piano, intimate strings and harp, his small-scale palette developing for a portrait of meek dignity, melody that lets us hear long forgotten life goals. Gradually developing this lovely little score with the rhythm and joy of puzzle making and new, hesitant romance, O’Halloran’s reflective theme gains a sense of hope and twinkling magic, a flute also serving to acknowledge what our heroine might be leaving behind as a result. As the seemingly meek character’s talent grows along her with her suddenly salty voice, O’Halloran brings on nice, near-jazzy rhythms at points. “Puzzle” is a score of affecting, sometimes haunting emotional contemplation that helps turn a mouse into a lion, as complemented by Ane Brun’s affecting song “Horizons.”

. ROCKET GIBRALTAR

One of the more hotly contested soundtracks of the 1980’s was “Ladyhawke,” which paired a traditionally symphonic fantasy approach with the prog-rock grooviness of The Alan Parsons Project, as personified by their arranger Andrew Powell. But buried in that score’s enduring debate is his other, emotionally soaring soundtrack for 1988’s “Rocket Gibraltar,” a sweet family reconciliation film that gave an emotionally resonant Viking funeral send off to Burt Lancaster and the endearing star power he represented. Powell’s rapturously thematic score is as broad and romantic as the Hollywood icon he’s playing, his gorgeous strings playing to the heavens, at times as exuberantly as a dangerous, crazed dream sequence that Michael Kamen might have conjured for “Brazil. At others, the melody is far more lyrically embodied for flute and violin before bombastic Wagnerian brass takes over for the titular, flaming boat that his young admirers send him off in. There’s a sprightly, kid at heart sprit to Powell’s work that isn’t afraid to go for trilling innocence amidst the emotions his music proudly wears on its shoulder. But if his romantic exuberance is sporting horned helmets on its way to Valhalla, the Alan Parsons spirit also shows up in an inoffensively fun pop way to remind you that this was indeed the guy who did “Ladyhawke.” However, listening to this oft-gorgeous, practically unheard score leaves you with the impression that “Rocket Gibraltar” is the one that Parsons wants you to remember him for. Thankfully, the wedded team of soundtrack producer Peter Hackman and composer Edwin Wendler didn’t forget this charming score, persevering to get it a very nice release on Intrada that’s the definition of a score you’ve never heard of, but one very much worth getting for this exuberant, star-powered blaze of glory from a worthy composer I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing rise again.


. WILSON’S HEART

Christopher Young has always been on the cutting edge of experimental horror scoring with the nightmarish likes of “Invaders From Mars,” “Hellraiser,” “The Vagrant” and “Species.” It’s a talent for merging melody with dissonance and unholy beds of ambience that makes him perfect to capturing the eye-encompassing medium of virtual reality, now given one of its most ambitious games yet for Twisted Pixel’s vision-filling effort for the Oculus Rift console with “Wilson’s Heart.” For this quest of a man trying to find his ticker in a surreal, monster-filled nuthouse, Young unleashes a wild array of styles that truly give the game its fourth, fiendish dimension, especially given the film’s black and white vision that hearkens back to the kind of classic creature features that Young so obviously loves. Franz Waxman and Hans Salter would surely dig the electrifying use of a Grand Guignol orchestra. Given the mad science in both the gaming console and the story at literal hand, Young warps electronic samples with the score’s foray into dark chamber music. It’s the sense of walking about an unholy laboratory, weird metallic gestures only adding to the tension. At other times, typewriter clicking, sirens, echoed piano and warped bells fill the prowling air before ferocious rhythm and screaming voices goose the action. Beyond sounding like you’re exploring from inside of The Twilight Zone’s clock by way of The Overlook Hotel, “Wilson’s Heart” also has a malefic sense of humor as it segues between its often-cacophonic soundscapes to the score’s more melodic footing. “Wilson’s Heart” pumps with a real sense of mad creativity for those happy to submerge their senses into his realm of anything-can-happen horror scoring. This just might be Christopher Young’s most batshit effort in a long line of exploring the genre’s musical, and anti-musical outer limits, as designed to drive the player mad in all of the coolest ways, especially for a climatic thirteen minute collage of unhinged voices, tinkertoy percussion and reversed, reverberated tunes that’s the equivalent of desperately finding one’s way via headset through the funhouse of a circus from hell.


CLICK on the album covers to make your hardcopy or download purchase, and find the soundtracks at these. com’s: Amazon, Intrada, iTunes and Screen Archives Entertainment

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Victor Reyes

Do, 16/08/2018 - 23:40

Few composers are as adept at opening a world within an impossibly confined space as Victor Reyes. Whether unleashing epic suspense for a man imprisoned by a coffin in his breakthrough score for “Buried,” or creating a concert piece that a musician must finish under pain of death for “Grand Piano,” Reyes has shown a classically inspired voice that’s taken him from a prolific career in Spain to impressing Hollywood with an impressively melodic, often chilling voice – a talent that netted him an Emmy for his exotic, pulse-pounding score for the limited series adaption of John LeCarré “The Night Manager.”

Both Reyes and filmmaker Rodrigo Cortes certainly have taste for the cold and creepy, moving upwards from “Buried” to the faith-healing thriller “Red Lights.” Now they unlock the spirits of a seemingly isolated girl’s academy where evil lies “Down a Dark Hall.” Academies have certainly proven fertile ground for terror with the likes of “Suspiria” and “Satan’s School for Girls.” Yet the tormented, intellectual spin that’s at the end of this “Hallway” is certainly a unique trip for the genre. Dropped off at The Blackwood Boarding School in the middle of nowhere by her unsuspecting parents, the rebellious “Kit” (AnnaSophia Robb) and just a few, fellow misfit teens are told by the highly suspect Madame Duret (Uma Thurman) that she’ll help them develop their “gifts” together. However, the X-mansion this is not, as it’s steadily revealed that the newfound, artistic talents flowing through their fingers come from a quite disturbing source.

Reyes is certainly possessed by Bernard Herrmann as he visits this old dark mansion, with impossibly eerie and lush orchestrations echoing through its passageways and hidden chambers. But while his score resounds with an old school spirit, Reyes is also sure to reflect his very contemporary heroines with folksy guitar and alt. rock attitude. making for a musical combination appealing to both mature and YA audiences. Amidst the inescapably lurching rhythms, eerily poignant melodies and youthfully defiant vibes, “Down a Dark Hall” is most musically impressive as Reyes crafts another concert piece. At first thematically evolving from lyrical piano, more sinisterly determined strings, a ghostly chorus and finally an epic symphonic climax make for a memorable danse macabre, Reyes once again brilliantly breaks through the wall between the realm of classical music and score, but to an effectively unholy point here. His score is the architecture of Cortes’ film, giving its target young audience a lesson they won’t forget in the existence of the ghosts of supernatural scoring who are more contemporarily alive than ever.

Tell us about your musical upbringing and how it led you to scoring. Did you have a particular love of the piano?

Well, I have studied the piano career since I was a child, so it can be said that most of the relationship I have with music I have had through this instrument.

You were quite prolific in Spain. What was the earlier part of your career like, and why do you think your country richer more than ever with composing talent?

Spain is, in itself, a country full of talent and passion for life and the arts. I started to develop my musical career as a studio musician in the pop groups of the 80s, in a very important cultural and political environment that influenced a lot of the artists of my generation.

How did you first meet Rodrigo, and what impressed him about your work?

Rodrigo called me for his first film, “The Contestant,” and since then I have written the soundtracks of all his films. He is a particularly attractive man to work with, since we share a lot in terms of musical and cinematographic tastes.

What were the challenges of scoring a one set claustrophobic setting with Rodrigo’s “Buried,” and how important do you think it was for the music to open the film up as it were?

“Buried” is probably one of the most difficult films to interpret for a composer, since we are in a unique and very reduced stage, as it is a coffin. The option we managed was to “represent” everything that happened “outside” the physical scope of the film – that is, outside the coffin, so that the audience had more emotional information about what is happening.

You got to score for Rodrigo on a bigger scale for “Red Lights.” What was the challenge of a film where the mystery was if there was a “real” supernatural element at play?

In “Red Lights” we tried to contain the music in the scenes in which “supernatural” things happened so as not to create an atmosphere of “reality” in them. This aspect of “reality” emerges much better when it refers to the “true story” that underlies the story, that is, by paying attention, it is possible to identify a trickster. That’s what the movie is about.

A score that really set the tone for “Down a Dark Corridor” would be “Grand Piano,” which again had a unique sort of confinement – that of a pianist not being able to stop playing under an assassin’s threat. Tell about writing an original piece that also had to function as the soundtrack?

It is quite complicated, because as in “Grand Piano”, some scenes of “Down A Dark Hall” have diegetic music, that is, that is playing in the middle of the action, as are the pieces that Kit plays on the piano. The process of composing music “before” the production is very similar to that of a “musical”, but without lyrics, since you have to think about how to physically perform these pieces during filming, taking advantage of the artistic skills of the actors.

You’d been working with Spanish directors with most of your scores. How did you finally get your Emmy-winning “international” breakthrough with “The Night Manager?” And what was your experience like on a globetrotting suspense series like this?

The experience of working in “The Night Manager” has been a way of learning, as in any other film. Its director Susanne Bier has won an Oscar, and the cast was made up of such talented actors. The series was also personally supervised by John LeCarré. So I had many possibilities to help me understand such a complex plot. But with so many different scenarios, it was important to be careful so that the music wouldn’t “reveal” much about the final resolution. I had to preserve the mystery.

Not only did we get the Oscar-winning “Shape of Water” last year, but also the far less-seen “Cold Skin” was released, which was about the far less romantic encounter between humans and fish-people. Could you talk about your approach to the film? And having scored it, what did you think of “The Shape of Water” and it’s music?

“The Shape Of Water” is a very different film from “Cold Skin.” One is a romantic story about the need to understand the other, while the film I scored was full of cruel action where the characters kept a distance – although like “Shape,” the movie does become very emotional as the story progresses.

Rodrigo’s “Down a Dark Hall” is his first straightforwardly supernatural film. There have been several “evil boarding academy” movies made, most popularly among them “Suspiria.” But what do you think makes “Down a Dark Hall’s” approach stand out in the genre?

It is a supernatural film in terms of the story, but the film delves into an idea that Rodrigo explained to me during the first months of production, and that has to do with that in this world “nothing is free”. Art is a path of suffering, of perseverance. Advancing in any discipline means sacrifice. You cannot give it away. It is a very deep concept that is not so clear in today’s society. For example, the bookstores are full of books like “Learn to play the piano in a week”. That does not exist. In his last book, Steve Pinker notes that -in general terms- you have to spend around 10,000-15,000 hours practicing any artistic discipline to be able to master it. That is a lot of work.

Melody is literally key to this score. Given that a “piano score” piece would be essential, did you write it before shooting began? And how did you want it to develop from piano intimacy to its epic orchestral finish?

The “melody” of the film is one of the keys that explain the final resolution. I do not want to make spoilers but this melody that reaches the character of Kit from nowhere, has an explanation within the story. Go see the movie, and you will understand what I am talking about. Of course, the pieces that Anna Sophia Robb plays on the piano were written by me and by Rodrigo months before filming began. In the end, music is the vehicle through which the protagonist understands that she is facing herself, and not supernatural beings.

Star AnnaSophia Robb and filmmaker Rodrigo Cortés

Were you on the set at all to work with AnnaSophia Robb to help make her playing convincing, especially given the circumstances?

Anna Sophia is a wonderful actress, and a great collaborator. It is very difficult for an actor to give the feeling that he “dominates” an instrument, whatever it may be. In the case of the piano. Pianists have a “position”, a way of sitting before the instrument, of physically relating to it. She worked a lot with us on this “new” aspect of her character, and she did it with full conviction. Actually, it is impossible to know whether or not he is really playing the piano. We all worked hard on this to give the greatest fidelity to the images.

Given the anger of the young women who are forced to go to Blackwood, how did you want to bring in the idea of the “alt.” music, and attitude that they walk in, especially when contrasted with the “old school” horror- suspense approach of the score?

To give the idea that girls travel not only to a different place in their homes, but to a “different” place in almost temporary terms, we start with a score that is going to undergo a metamorphosis through different musical currents related to the classical music, the farthest thing from the world of these girls. The score travels through impressionism, and serial music to lead to a musical epic that represents the death of the powers that exert their influence on art. What really scares the movie are the people who take advantage of other people. That’s what Kit finds when she goes down the stairs to get to the Dark Hall.

Tell us about your main themes here, especially a powerful, rhythmically “chopping” theme in the score whenever something particularly terrifying happens.

We needed to create a very special environment for the Blackwood mansion, which is a place separate from the world where strange and dramatic things are going to happen. Apart from the “main theme”, which refers to the longing that Kit suffers for his dead father, we needed to represent the character of the Uma Thurman’s character Madame Duret, who is someone you would expect to find in the Paris of the early twentieth century in a bohemian café. So she has a very different character from the rest of the score. Also the house, as protagonist, has its own “musical world”, a kind of beating heart that has the ambition to explode into terror.

Blackwood has suspiciously few students enrolled in it. How did you want to capture their sense of isolation, both psychologically and being in the middle of nowhere?

As I was saying, from the first moment that girls arrive at the house, we use music as an action element to represent that they are in a place where they have no control over what happens. Madame Duret takes away cell phones, which for any teenager means little less than complete isolation. From then on, girls have to live with what the house provides them, which is full of surprises.

How did you want the music to unravel the mystery, and steadily build through it?

From the first beat in the first scene, before anything happens, we use the “main theme” but in a suggested way. The theme itself was developed during the story for the musical emotional support that becomes the character of Kit. At the end of the film, the theme itself almost does not recognize itself, more than when it opens again to the piano the simplest way possible. It’s like removing layers from an onion. At the heart of the onion lies a truth, a disturbing reality.

There’s certainly a romantically lush, Bernard Herrmann-esque feel to your score. Did you use “Corridor” to salute the great, atmospheric horror scores of yore?

The romantic musical parts develop during the learning phase of Kit, who does not really know what the hell is going on in the house. In this sense, there is a mysterious part closely related to Herrmann, but immediately everything falls apart, and gives way to a much more aggressive and contemporary orchestration.

You also make “Hall” a hybrid score as well with electronics. How did you want to employ them here?

At first, we thought that the score should be very purist, only with orchestra, etc. But we realized that the musical representation of the “ghosts” required a more contemporary sound, a combination of orchestral acoustics and very elaborate electronic music. . There are parts of the score in which we have chords of 60 notes in the middle of a diabolic “ostinato”. On top of all this, synthesizers and electronic textures give the soundtrack a much more up-to-date package.

“Down a Dark Hall” certainly has an interesting twist that plays into the idea of the great classics. Like “Grand Piano,” it puts you in the position of capturing artists far smarter than mere mortals. What kind of challenge does that present?

Certainly, this is the central idea of the film. Some pieces that sound in the film were written by a fictional composer that we invented for the occasion. Let’s say that the ghost of this composer dead centuries ago is going to take over Kit’s character through his music.

Rodrigo Corté and actress Uma Thurman

In spite of its scares, there’s also a wicked, subtle sense of humor to “Down a Dark Hallway.” How did you want to capture the overt, Gothic quality of its teachers, especially Uma Thurman’s beyond-French stepmistress?

The character of Uma Thurman treats the girls as what they are, angry girls, and she behaves like what she is, the director of a special institution. Madame Duret is sarcastic with them but at the same time she lends her help with the best intention. At least in the first part of the story. The music represents all of this.

Kit’s character is haunted from the beginning by visions of her father, and a relationship that could have been. How important was it have this emotional angle to the score, especially as all hell ends up breaking out around her?

It was very important, as you say, because the figure of the father represents everything that she believes unites him to the earth, to his life. Actually, what is necessary for Kit to move on with his life, is to say goodbye to him. That’s why the “father’s theme” plans over the entire film until it becomes “something else”, something for the future, that helps Kit to stop looking backwards.

Given the contemporary rhythms and guitar music in the score, do you think it’s important for horror scores, at least when dealing with young characters, retain a youthful appeal?

Contemporary rhythms, or “pop” songs are important in this film, since the protagonists are teenagers of today. We have used them for the presentation of the girls, but once they arrive at the mansion, all this disappears to contrast with “another” reality, both physical and musical.

Your next score for “Finding Steve McQueen” is as differently all-American as can be in dealing with about a gang that tries to steal Richard Nixon’s hush money. What can you tell us about your score?

“Finding Steve McQueen” is a wonderful movie by Mark Steven Johnson, the director of “Daredevil” and “Ghost Rider”. It is a film about people who behave like children, and do not take responsibility for their actions. In a romantic comedy tone, it is a very funny and exciting movie. I am very happy to have done it and I have had the opportunity to handle other musical records.

Given a vast repertoire, why do you think you’re drawn repeatedly to both supernatural, and suspenseful subject matter?

Well, they call me to do this, and this is what I do, but I do not have preferences. I guess it’s the tastes of the public, which is, in the end, for those of us who work.

View “Down a Dark Hall” in theaters and on VOD from Lionsgate Premiere on August 17th, with Victor Reyes’ score available soon.

Buy the soundtrack: “Buried”

Buy the soundtrack: “Red Lights”

Buy the soundtrack: “Grand Piano”

Buy the soundtrack: “The Night Manager”

Buy the soundtrack: “Cold Skin”

Visit Victor Reyes’ website HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Audio: Interview with Brian Tyler

Wo, 15/08/2018 - 04:20

(Photo by Aris Stoulil)

ON THE SCORE is sponsored by La-La Land Records

From the explosive rhythmic action of such franchise as “The Fast and the Furious” and “The Expendables” to the orchestral fury of gods and monsters in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “The Mummy,” composer Brian Tyler’s prolific Hollywood resume has no shortage of testosterone-fueled, music. But if he seems like a composer whose swing is in racing cars, letting bullets fly with rock and roll or bringing on the symphonic thunder, Tyler can just as powerfully conjure a feminine spirit on a fabulously wealthy Oriental dance floor. Where Tyler certainly explored that ethnicity in such scores as “War,” “Bangkok Dangerous” and “Tokyo Drift,” this time the tone is universally romantic as a beautiful American professor is swept up to Singapore by her humble, equally gorgeous beau – only to discover he’s beyond wealthy. As our heroine navigates an otherwise good guy’s snobbish relatives and conceited friends, Tyler unleashes gorgeous, lush romance that’s his most heartfelt and unexpected scoring yet. Just as impressive in his new film for director Jon M. Chu is taking the caper groove of their last pairing on “Now You See Me 2” into a wild variety of styles that cut a rug from swing to big band brass and whistling Latin rhumbas to create a soundtrack packed with sly comedy, swooning melody and jazz the world over.

On far more musically masculine American terrain, if just as unexpected, is Tyler’s music for Paramount’s smash TV show “Yellowstone.” Here the lust for money and power demands a far more violent price as Tyler evokes the majestically tragic orchestral sound of a traditional western, then crosses it with a modern, lyrical sound to show how past feuds are angrily alive in the present – an opportunity to play straight-up, mournful family drama and the lush, lyrical vastness of a vanishing prairie in a landscape that shows just how many styles there are in the composer’s prolific repertoire.

(L)Brian Tyler plays with Enchanting China (R) Brian Tyler conducts his music at Enchanting China (photos by Stefania Rosini)

Now on a new episode of “On the Score,” Brian Tyler talks about spanning the globe to capture the jazzily romantic and emotionally darker sides of wealth and power with his newly revealing scores for “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Yellowstone.”

Click above to Listen Now or Click Here to Download

Buy the Soundtrack: CRAZY RICH ASIANS Buy the Soundtrack: YELLOWSTONE (available August 17th) Buy the Soundtrack: NOW YOU SEE ME 2 Buy the Soundtrack: PANIC / FITZGERALD Visit Brian Tyler’s Website
Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Fabio Frizzi

Wo, 08/08/2018 - 22:04

In the rich horror history of hands-free dolls wreaking bloody mayhem, there’s no more iconic troupe of terror than the pummeling, razor-wielding, head-burrowing creations belonging to Andre Toulon. First unleashed from the mind of Charles Band, a genre impresario with a big love for all creatures small, 1989’s “Puppet Master” was an instant smash for his pioneering direct-to-video label Full Moon Entertainment. Wound up by brother Richard Band’s circus-like theme and scores, the increasingly outrageous and weapon-fitted puppets inspired numerous sequels and soundtracks as they and their inventor transformed from pure evil to Nazi-busting heroes.

But if budgetary restrictions were the biggest foe when it came to holding these puppets down, the gloves are now outrageously off like never before with “Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich.” In rebooting Band’s most famous property, writer S. Craig Zahler (best known as the eviscerating, head-smashing director of his scripts for “Bone Tomahawk” and “Bawl in Cell Block 99”) wipes out any thought of the puppets as anti-fascist avengers. Here, Andre Toulon (played with typically fiendish drollness by Udo Kier) is a good Nazi with a Trump worthy mad-on towards religious and sexual undesirables. Pumped full of lead in a prologue, his very much alive toys are unleashed upon a current-day fanboy convention of those who’ve followed his infamy. Given a game cast that includes “We’re the Millers’” Thomas Lennon, “Streets of Fire’s” Michael Pare and “Re-Animator’s” Barbara Crampton, “Wither” co-directors Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund run with the resist metaphors and political incorrectness to the extreme as the increasingly diminishing heroes fight off pint-sized, unholy embodiments of the right wing – propelled by noticeably better production value on a still small scale.

Given the involvement of the now-rebirthing Fangoria brand as a presenter, the gore is pushed to gloriously, ludicrously offensive limits. Yet there’s also something quite lyrical about a moaning, marching and melodic score that’s almost positively, classily European given the “Reich’s” mayhem. Perhaps that’s because composer Fabio Frizzi is more than used to drawing equal attention to his music even as the blood and blood brain matter pile up on the screen. Hailing from a film and music loving, Frizzi was classically trained before first becoming prolific in cop actioners and comedies. But it was by finding his visceral muse in iconic Italian goremeister Lucio Fulci that Frizzi became renowned for his gravely disturbing, yet somehow tuneful work on such cult classics as “Zombi,” “The Beyond,” “Manhattan Baby” and “The Psychic.” Frizzi, along with such fellow artists as Claudio Simonetti and the band Goblin (“Deep Red,” “Suspiria”) helped pioneer a progressive horror sound that blended rock, eerie synths hypnotic rhythm and memorably twisted themes that would play over scenes as opposed to outrightly commenting on their fear. Frizzi’s music has inspired new generations of horror-loving composers from Christopher Young (“Hellraiser”) to Joseph Bishara (“The Conjuring”), with a progressive spirit now possessing a new genre scoring rage with “It Follows” and “Stranger Things.” It’s a stylistic rebirth that’s seen Frizzi make an acclaimed international tour with his live, re-envisioned score for “The Beyond,” and now impressively take the invigorated reigns of an American fan favorite series.

Richard Band took a circus-like approach to his “Puppet Master” scores, a style picked up by many of the composers who’d follow through the unkillable series. And while Fulci is sure to salute his iconic theme over the end credits, “The Littlest Reich” stands as perhaps its most melodic effort. A deceptively sweet, waltz-like melody for Toulon drives most of the score, the theme showing up in sequences where one might expect far more aggressive handling would be the way to go. Where aggressive guitar playing, rhythmic voices and creeping synths recalls Frizzi’s classics, his “Puppet Master” is also made of more somber, haunting stuff, with its throbbing synth strings and glistening bells – yet certainly slaying for the occasion with fascist percussion and unstoppable vocal rhythm. It’s an impressively thematic, often ironically contrasting approach to the insanity onscreen that shows Frizzi’s killer instincts are as lethal as ever, just waiting to spring forth for the horror genre that he helped give new musical lifeblood to.


Tell us about your musical beginnings, and what attracted you to become a film composer, with a particular talent for eccentric subjects?

The passion for music was something innate. Everyone in the family was passionate. I remember the choirs we did together in the car, going to the beach, when I was 5 or 6 years. The work of my father is the other half. He was in love with cinema and became a young protagonist of the industry. I grew up having available discs of Italian composers like Carlo Rustichelli, Nino Rota, Armando Trovaioli and Ennio Morricone. When I started the profession, there was a great flowering of the genre. The range of possibilities was wide. And the imagination was vivid, young and instinctive.

Most Americans became aware of your music during your collaboration with Lucio Fulci on movies like “Zombi,”The Beyond” and “Cat in the Brain.” Could you tell us about what made that partnership so enduring?

Lucio is often described as a very difficult person and, especially at work, perhaps he was. But he was a man of deep feelings. I was the youngest collaborator of all his crew and I had great respect for his role (obviously) and for him as a person. The years passed, but our relationship largely remained largely the same, opening the door to a side of friendship. And then, probably, he must have liked my way of writing music for his films.

If you had a style of music for the genre, how would you describe it?

While my approach has never changed, it has grown up with me. It is a mix of many elements, of many thoughts, doubts and solutions, like it would be in the workshop of a craftsman. Music, especially that for cinema, must have a mood. I love rock, classical music, synthesizers, melody and, good musicians.

Italian horror was far nastier and unforgiving than its American cousins. How do you think your music added to that terrifying, eerie and “real” feeling? And what part do you think you played in the renaissance of progressive-rock-synth scores that was typified by artists like you and Goblin?

It was not easy at the beginning to find the right way to interpret that kind of horror musically. The key is to make the score become a protagonist of the story, one of the actors. With some directors and with Fulci in particular this happened. On the rebirth of these scores the internet was fundamental. The fans were able to exchange opinions, find soundtracks and expand their collections. We all had the opportunity to talk to and enjoy each other on this stage and give each other a big “hug.”

Though you’ve certainly scored many different types of genres, were you happy to essentially be known around the world as a “horror” composer?

I think it’s beautiful that love appears in some way. I am proud of this recognition and gives me a great pleasure that many of my fans and connoisseurs rediscover slowly, almost in disbelief, many other things I’ve written. And sometimes they those scores love very much.

What was it like for you to do live shows in America, especially when it came to performing “The Beyond” live to picture before packed audiences at London’s Barbican and Hollywood’s Egyptian theaters?

It gave me very strong emotions. The esteem and affection I found in America are things that impressed me, along with my collaborators. “The Beyond Composer’s Cut” was born from the idea of extending the original score of the film to make it enjoyable as a sort of film version in concert, a type of show that would have great emotional impact. And the peculiarity is that I came to America to experience the result. The packed Egyptian Theater was a great prize.

Did it make you especially honored to find that major American genre composers like Joseph Bishara and Christopher Young considered you a big influence on your work – not to mention Quentin Tarantino using “The Psychic” as a bit part of his “Kill Bill”” soundtrack?

Chistopher Young, Fabio Frizzi and Joseph Bishara

Well, this is one of the aspects that excites me the most, the influences. From those in the shadows to the striking ones. I remember that several years ago I received a message from a US boy who told me that he had saved himself from a life at risk by becoming passionate about my themes and becoming a valued musician. The esteem and friendship of many protagonists of the American music and film scene honors me very much. Joseph, for example, is a very strong musician and it is fantastic to know that he counts me among his musical influences.

How did you become involved with “Puppet Master: Littlest Reich?” And do you think your history of scoring insanely gory movies had anything to do with it?

I have many friends in America, and among them some great admirers. These include Brian Hacket, a live audio engineer who works with many productions. He had seen a strong connection between my story and that production (to which he collaborated) and spoke with Dallas Sonnier, the producer. Some emails were exchanged and the game started!

Before diving in to “Reich,” did you watch any of the past films in the “Puppet Master” series? And did anything strike you about how they were scored?

I obviously knew the series, but I had only seen the first one. I liked the original 1989 movie’s theme by Richard Band. I always found it very apt. And poetic.

How did you think this “Puppet Master” was different from its predecessors while still paying homage to it?

For a long time I have been following the activity of Cinestate and the collaboration between Dallas Sonnier and Craig Zahler. Their working group produces things of great quality and above all of strong personality. I was sure that even in this case, the identity of the project would be strong.

It struck me that your score is more straightly melodic than other “Puppet Masters,” especially in how you use a waltz-like theme as opposed to going for the circus-y feel of the past scores. Do you think there’s a classical elegance to it that captures the kind of evil “refinement” that Andre Toulon had?

Actually the theme in 3/4 that I wrote and that appears in the opening credits wants to be a tribute to the historical Richard Band theme. The nickname that we have attributed to it was the “Carousel theme”, as if it were a music that remembers this “game” as one of perverse destiny, a game that we all participate in, with nobody excluded. It ‘s definitely a theme with a melody that wants to be remembered and I think that if the viewer gets attached to a musical cell and brings it home in his memory, it will also be good for the movie. Sometimes an evocative melody can be essential.

Could you tell us about your other themes?

There is the theme of Blade, the most representative puppet. The musical moment of his meeting with Edgar, the protagonist, is the first song I wrote. It is an essential but important scene, which tells a lot of the story, almost the vain attempt to establish an impossible relationship. I liked it a lot and I started from there. Another theme dedicated to the Toulon Mansion and to the description of its mysteries and protagonist, for which I used abaritone guitar. There are two themes that tell the story, one based on Mellotron, in my tradition, the other a sort of tragic military march. And finally a musical moment made of sounds, rhythms, sequencers and synthesizers that tells the moments of deaf fear.

Did you want the Nazi element of the Puppets to play into the score, as well as the Jewish factor of its heroes?

It is inevitable that the audience will look for artistic musical styles and they could not miss elements of this kind.

How much of your “Italian horror” past did you want to bring to this score, especially when it came to the use of voice and rock-like percussion?

When you are facing a new project of a genre in which you have done many things you are known and appreciated for, you can not completely forget your personality, or at least that part that probably others expect from you. It is a delicate game of equilibrium, perhaps the most difficult thing to decide. Also in this case I tried not to deny myself, without my style being too “obvious”. And the judgment on this difficult alchemy is not up to me, but to all the others.

Where the past “Puppet Master” scores played more of the physicality of its horror sequences, do you think this score is more reliant on the mood than directly playing the ultra-violent ways that the puppets have of doing away with people?

In a soundtrack of a horror film in addition to music and dialogues there are also sound effects. I remember that Lucio Fulci often preferred, in extreme situations, to remove everything and leave only a cry or an annoying effect (like a chalk on the blackboard). I like to give a musical punch in the stomach from time to time. But I also love to suggest to those watching the movie a kind of fear.

Your long time guitarist Riccardo Rocchi plays on the score in a way that ranges from classical to rock. Tell us about your collaboration, and his importance in your scores.

Riccardo Rocchi

Good musicians are a great treasure for a composer. Riccardo, who is a close friend and also accompanies me in concerts around the world, is one of the collaborators who have played for me in this soundtrack.

Did you have a favorite puppet, or death to score?

Blade is my favorite. His killings are many, some ironic and some terrible, Each one required a lot of attention.

Do you see a new chapter of yourself as a horror composer for American pictures with “Puppet Master?” And if so, what would you like to musically explore musically for the genre? And would there be a fan favorite franchise that you’d like to take a stab at?

Surely this experience is something new and interesting for me. I believe that a composer should always be ready for new stories, new adventures. I want to take all the emotional tools that will allow me to express myself in the most authentic way. I think I’m ready for new challenges.

Do you think there’s a whole, undiscovered musical dimension for horror scores to take – much in the way that you helped to re-invent its sound?

Read a screenplay, live it deeply, let yourself go, manage emotions with your own technique. In a sense it is easy.


“Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich” begins prowling select theaters and on VOD August 17th, with a cast and filmmaker showing at Los Angele’s Egyptian Theater on Tuesday the 14th HERE. Fabio Frizzi’s score will be digitally available August 17th on Lakeshore Records.

Visit Fabio Frizzi’s Facebook page HERE

Special thanks to Michael Gingold, Riccardo Rocchi and Joseph Bishara

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Steve Jablonsky

Wo, 11/07/2018 - 17:39

He’s big, put together with charismatic muscle, and knows how to move with powerful, heroic steps. All of which make the franchise building megastar known as The Rock (aka Dwayne Johnson) perfectly constructed for composer Steve Jablonsky. While not quite as physically formidable, Jablonsky has more than shown he can keep pace with his leading man after a career scoring transforming robots, machine gun-blasting villains and perfect military specimens thwarting alien invasions – with the humor to even poke fun at his own action stylings in the outrageous Netflix spoof “Game Over, Man!” Now after all of the imitations spawned by the best action movie of the 80’s, both The Rock and Steve Jablonsky get to team up at their mightiest for a film best described as “’Die Hard’ in a building.” And The Pearl is certainly a formidable, ultra-futuristic “Skyscraper” peaking above Hong Kong, as if some “Arrival” spaceship from the Donald Trump branch of the family landed. Of course, that’s all a nefarious, foreign accented baddie needs to light a torch a la “The Towering Inferno,” with our hero’s family trapped on the upper floors.

If The Rock has a real magic to his success, it’s his ability to bring likeable heart and humanity to his well-built movies, of which “Skyscraper” boasts top-notch design and action via the fun direction of the star’s “Central Intelligence” director Rawson Marshall Thurber. That The Rock’s security whiz character Will Sawyer is way more worried dad pushed into the impossible than a bionic-legged Superman says much about the emotional stakes that level up “Skyscraper” and Jablonsky’s action scoring abilities, especially after having created one of his most unique scores for the star’s unlikely appearance as a real-life gay weightlifter dragged into murder in “Pain & Gain” (which also ranks as the best, and most unique film from Jablonsky’s frequent “Transformers” collaborator Michael Bay). With brass and rhythm literally blazing through any number of knuckle-tightening, building-climbing set pieces, Jablonsky’s most exciting score yet not only makes bank on the composer’s trademarked way with musical momentum, but also melodically makes the listener aware that taking down the bad guy isn’t Will’s biggest goal. It’s a “Skyscraper” that’s a slam-bang combo of thematic orchestra, electronics and metal, as topped with a futuristic sound that in the end succeeds so well by being about family first while more than delivering the action goods, giving the composer his most impressive fusion of excitement and heart yet for a genre where he remains a modern king of the hill.

What would you say is the Steve Jablonsky action “sound?”

Well, I have no idea how. I would describe it, to be honest. I’m the worst at telling people what I do because I really just sit down and let the movie inspire me. “Skyscraper” seemed like a film where we could try a little bit, something a bit more different, where I could try not to go too “Hollywood.” I wanted to treat Dwayne Johnson’s character a bit more like an everyday guy, as opposed to him being like Spider-Man or Superman.

Ironically, your last score was for the Netflix “Die Hard” spoof “Game Over Man,” where you also got to satirize your approach for scoring this kind of stuff.

Right. That’s a good point. I went from one “Die Hard” movie to another “Die Hard” movie. That one was totally like “We’ve got trumpets, we’ve got woodwinds, now let’s just go all out and send it to these male maids! Because to these “Workaholics” guys, this was a big Hollywood thing where they could be these badass heroes. So I treated that with just a little bit of tongue in cheek – like having the trumpets send in the “big theme” when they beat the bad guy. “Game Over Man’s” score was just meant to be fun. Where “Skyscraper” could also be fun, we didn’t want to ignore the fact that Will is essentially just trying to save his family, and they happened to be in the tallest building in the world, which is on fire. Even if they were stuck in a hole in the ground somewhere. It would be the same musical premise. So that’s where we started with the score and took it from there. We weren’t trying to, say, “This is a big throwback action movie.” It was important for Rawson to not to overplay the music as well. Will is a wounded character in the beginning because he’s had a tragic experience where he loses a leg. That sets a different tone than “Game Over Man.” I liked that Rawson set up “Skyscraper” that way with Will having to redeem his past mistake.

After scoring the real life disaster of “Deep Water Horizon,” you’re also replaying a movie that has another giant explosion in it, with people trying to make it through lots of burning metal as the result. Was there any kind of lessons that “Deepwater” taught you about how to score “Skyscraper?”

Yeah, definitely. The fact that “Deepwater Horizon” dealt with real people was partially why I almost didn’t get the film because the director Peter Berg told the studio straight away that he didn’t want to have a “Hollywood” score, or a big Hollywood composer. So I just called Peter up and said, “Look, if, if you give me a shot at this, I can do other things than what you might expect. I’m not going to put big horns in this movie. This is a real life story. People died. Other wives and brothers and sisters and husbands of these people who died will see this film, and the last thing I want to do was to trivializes the death of their loved ones by overplaying over melody or making things melodramatic, I wanted to create a score that would keep things more real, and that’s why I went less “big” for that score. Now “Skyscraper” is obviously not a true story, but that approach is closer to what Rawson wanted. And I thought that made sense, because Will is an everyday guy – even though he’s bigger than any other human being on this planet!
The Rock is pretty much the size of a building.

I always joked that he could have just picked up the building and tilted it. Then everything would have been fine. For Rawson and me, Will is a “real” guy who does crazy things when he’s put into impossible situations. He knows how awful it is, and isn’t going, “Yeah, I’m going to kick ass!” He just wants to survive so he can find his wife and kids. So in that respect this score is similar to “Deep Water Horizon,” which I think Rawson heard and liked. That’s part of the reason my name came up for “Skyscraper” in the first place.

Steve & Rawson

This is the second score you’ve done for The Rock that has him in a bit of departure from the super-confident action hero you’d expect, especially after “Pain & Gain.”

In that movie, The Rock is like a gentle giant who gets sort of victimized by Mark Wahlberg’s character in this.. I came up with this super innocent, little simple thing for him in that which was innocent but emotional, because his character was a religious, naïve guy who gets involved in this terrible thing. When I saw The Rock in “Pain & Gain,” I thought, “Wow, this guy can do something other than just being ‘the big guy.’ “Pain & Gain” was also the film that opened Rawson’s eyes to the Rock being able to do comedy before he directed him in “Central Intelligence.” For this film, I tried to ignore that The Rock was as big as a house, and to just scores him as a father who’s trying to save his family from this horrible situation. The idea of family was also very important to him in how he’s been promoting “Skyscraper.” We had a screening where I saw this guy standing there with a baseball cap. He was big, but he didn’t strike me as being The Rock. Then a producer introduced us. I told him that because the movie was so early on that my music was only in 25% of what he saw. He asked me if it was in the scene where we first meet Will and his family, and I told him that was indeed one of my cues. Dwayne said, “Oh great! I loved that music. You don’t really hear scoring like that in action movies these days.” I gave him a big thanks, because just the fact that he even noticed he music there showed that he was very sensitive to how music sold the emotion apart from all of the big explosions.

It’s interesting how you score this super futuristic building in an almost science fiction-y way in the beginning of the film, especially as it looks like some spaceship that’s landed in Hong Kong.

The thing about scoring a film like this is that generally composers don’t really get to see what’s happening, as the visuals are still being created. But while I didn’t really get to see The Pearl, I created a theme for it and the billionaire who owns the whole thing. I wanted it to be sort of awe inspiring but also mysterious and not too “science fiction-y.” I didn’t want the music to make you feel like this movie was taking place a hundred years in the future. You really hear that melody when Will is riding up the elevator for the first time and seeing all of this cool, amazing stuff in the building and how amazing it is. I can’t wait to see those effects myself!

Did you want to reflect the film’s Hong Kong setting in the score?

Rawson and I talked a little about that in relation to The Pearl’s owner. But in general, unless the music’s specifically called upon to reference an ethnic character or background, I don’t think it’s necessary to do that – though I certainly did for the fourth “Transformers” movie that was partially set in Hong Kong.

The first big musical setpiece in “Skyscraper” is when will has to evade the police and climb up “The Crane” to get into the Pearl. How difficult was it to score that scene?

At first I thought it would be interesting to center the scene around one instrument, as Will is one guy trying to do all of these things. So the music starts with a solo cello, processed to be “weighty,” because it wouldn’t quite sound right if it was just sort of a classical cellist playing this riff against these big images. I also had the idea of making the music go “up and down” with The Rock to literally mirror how he’s trying to get into The Pearl.” Then as he progresses, the orchestra would slowly come in as his strength and confidence in beating the odds builds. Rawson thought the music should also treat the scene in a way that showed how Will was having “fun” with all of this. So I did a rhythmic thing for that which could play the scene’s tension and tempo. It changed a lot during the course of the process, but I always knew that scene was going to be great and wanted to just help it as much as I could.

Another musical setpiece is where Will has to get past the Pearl’s massive energy-creating turbines.

The first time I scored that scene I thought it would be scarier for the audience if the music was minimalist and intense, letting the wind and Will’s breath carry the tension. I played that approach for Rawson, and he didn’t think enough was going on. So looking back, I took that first idea too far, because Rawson was absolutely right. I amped up what I’d already done by 75% without going overboard, making the music “seasick” in a way that goes in and out of tune. It’s subtle, but it just makes you a little uneasy in creating a sense of vertigo. I also used pulses to hit the slips and the scares. One important moment is when Will ties the rope on himself. He’s sort of standing there frozen as he’s about to repel down the building to get to the turbines. Rawson wanted the music to shock the audience that he actually does this, with a big, nasty orchestra hitting when he finally takes that leap. I think by the end we got to a pretty good place for that sequence.

How did you want to play the bad guys here?

Because the score’s focus is on Will, I played them “dark,” without any kind of “big bad” theme. The villain here really isn’t like Hans Gruber in “Die Hard,” which was much more about pitting him against John McClane. There is a bit of that in “Skyscraper,” but all Will wants to do is get to his family. So the bad guys are just part of this scary adventure.

You’re a composer who’s known for his rhythm. What’s the trick of creating your sense of musical propulsion in a way that satisfies both “Skyscraper’s” action and emotion?

It’s a very tricky balance, and I worked very closely with Rawson and his editor on it, because they’re all about the storytelling’s rhythm. They were really smart about how they wanted to place the music, especially given that the movie is going so fast that the emotional moments are over pretty quickly. There are few places to create big, musically sweeping emotion in “Skyscraper,” because they didn’t want the audience to lose sight of the danger that lurks around every corner of the movie. So we just picked our little emotional moments that could happen without the story losing steam. I think we found a decent balance between the two.

There are some interesting use of the piano, and the chorus in “Skyscraper.”

I thought it would be cool to have a few notes of the piano in the beginning of the film, and then have them at the end for Will’s connection to his family. I also used the choir to play that bond. I originally thought I’d be using more voices for The Pearl, but it ended up not really being the place for that because it seemed over the top.

Like “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” “Skyscraper” represents another film you’ve scored to show the partnership between Hollywood and Hong Kong. Where do you think that might take your music?

I guess I’ll find out. I am excited about that prospect though, because I, I’ve seen in the last few years how important China has become in making big summer movies. I’m doing the “Skyscraper” album with Milan Records, and they’ve shown me all of this marketing that they’re going to do specifically for China. I think that’s very smart because it’s, it’s a huge market for these films, which have Chinese stars in them to bring in those audiences. I’m excited because I’ve loved Chinese cinema of since I was young. I’ve been watching John Woo and Chow Yun Fat movies forever. I’ll never forget going to Hong Kong as part of the “Transformers” premiere, and having people scream “Steve!” as I walked down the red carpet and wanting to take selfies. Hollywood audiences can be so jaded, because there’s a premier every night, which made it especially cool to be around thousands of movie fans who were just so excited that we were there. So I’d love to be involved with more movies made between Hollywood and China, or any foreign production.

With “Skyscraper,” do you feel that you’ve now gotten to score both “Die Hard” and “The Towering Inferno?”

Photo by Jason Kempin

Those are two great, unique movies. And it was never Rawson’s idea to rip them off, but to pay homage to them with a script he wrote himself. I think he did a great job with without copying either movie, because he’s a really thoughtful director, and was truly excited to record the score at London’s Abbey Road Studio. It was also great to score a big action film with The Rock. He’s the real deal, especially when it comes to caring about the music of his films.

“Skyscraper” opens on July 13th, with Steve Jablonsky’s score available now digitally, and on CD August 3rd from Milan Records HERE

Listen to Steve Jablonsky pump iron with The Rock for “Pain & Gain” HERE, then score the oil explosion of “Deepwater Horizon” HERE

Visit Steve Jablonsky’s official Facebook page HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Christophe Beck

Wo, 04/07/2018 - 02:16

If you thought DC’s movie universe was depressing, Marvel’s cinematic superheroes are in even more dire straits thanks to a finger snap from Thanos. So what better season than summer to reverse the infinity glove and jump back into Christophe Beck’s musical microverse for a giant-sized burst of comic book fun with “Ant-Man and the Wasp.”

Having scored supers before with the teen likes of Buffy and Percy Jackson, Beck make his first Marvel entry with the moody martial arts vibe of 2005’s “Elektra.” But it was 2015’s “Ant-Man” that truly marked Beck’s splash for the company, with infinitely more acclaim. As directed by Peyton Reed (responsible for the sweet 60’s kitschfest “Down With Love”), “Ant-Man” was even then a throwback to the days when superheroes weren’t filled with berserker rage. One of Stan Lee’s goofier, and less-known silver age concepts paid homage to the past while freshly filling his boots with a well-meaning cat burglar who bungles upon the miniaturizing tech. Beck ran with the opportunity of a retro hero passing the insect-controlling torch to this unlikely Avenger with a delightful score that mixed heist funk with surf guitar, while not forgetting the brassy, orchestral muscle of do-gooder scoring. For where Marvel had focused on a fairly traditional approach to conveying might, “Ant-Man” was truly one of the studio’s first scores to broke the mold in a humorous, though without the kind of musical camp that had once relegated the superhero genre to kid’s stuff.

Now with “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” Beck has teamed again with Reed for one of the rare sequel cases where bigger is truly better in more ways than one. Here Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) finally gets her wings, and wrist blasters to show who really wears the suit in her relationship with Scott Lang (Paul Rudd). Searching the microverse for her seemingly lost Wasp mom Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), this dynamic duo face off against the decidedly glum Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), a white-garbed villain out to steal their technology. Given a bigger cosmic scale that sees Scott and his malfunctioning suit shrink him to kid-size, then propel him to Goliath scope, Beck runs with the sweeping thematic opportunities to inject his score with way more symphonic dimension, while reprising his first soundtrack’s memorable, rocking theme. Electronics also come to fore in both the sinister capabilities of Ghost and the eerie quantum universe that holds the keys to the long-vanished Janet’s whereabouts.

A huge bundle of superhero scoring enjoyment in an increasing world of superhero gloom and real-life doom, “Ant-Man and the Wasp” reflects the delight of a composer running with the franchise opportunity in a prolific career, one that also finds Beck holding stylistically very different, and powerfully unexpected cards up his own sleeve.

“Ant-Man” was one of the first scores that stylistically broke the “Marvel” soundtrack mode with its fun retro sound. Did you have the sense that you were going into new territory with that movie?

Yeah, and that’s what made it exciting. The whole heist aspect of the first film was really an easy way to kind of get my hooks into a style of music that was distinct from the other Marvel movies, which made it a natural fit for me. I didn’t have to stretch in any direction that felt artificial because it lent itself quite naturally to that retro 60’s and 70’s sound, but at the same incorporating some of the more traditional Marvel sounds. There’s still a strong heroic theme, but it’s presented in a more fun, high concept style than most of the company’s other scores.

How did you and Peyton want to expand the musical scope of Ant-Man with the sequel, especially as he becomes Giant Man in it?

Well, mostly it’s the idea that this isn’t an “Ant-Man” movie anymore. It’s about the team-up between him and The Wasp. So there was a conscious decision at the beginning of the process that whenever there was an opportunity to play a theme, then you’d have the choice between the two characters We chose to tilt the scales a little to bit to establish The Wasp’s sound, which goes into the score’s balance between the old and new. You don’t want to completely ignore Ant-Man’s musical identity. Otherwise there’s no continuity. But at the same time, you want to make sure there’s enough newness in the score to feel like it’s going new places, and isn’t just some retread.

How did you want to musically capture The Wasp?

Well, “Ant-Man” used an odd meter for that character, which was the signature of that score. I felt like I wanted to continue that idea to connect the themes for both him and The Wasp. Another thing that makes this score different is that this isn’t really a “heist” movie like the last one, Here, The Wasp is finally able to come onto her own as a hero. For Hope, it’s, it’s an exuberant experience. So my goal was to make sure that she and Scott had had a superhero theme that’s even more fun than the first movie’s. The first time we see her kicking as is in a restaurant where she basically takes out a whole bunch of bad guys. It’s also the first time we hear her theme first in all its glory. It’s just very high energy and and exuberant.

Would you say kind of the musical difference between the characters is that where Scott isn’t completely sure of his abilities, Hope certainly knows what she’s doing?

Absolutely. You get the feeling like Hope’s been waiting her whole life to do this. And when she finally gets a chance to, she just makes most of it. Whereas Scott has fallen into it unintentionally, which is reflected in his music.

The musical scope of “Ant-Man and the Wasp” has definitely increased in size.

Oh, absolutely! You know, the fact that they’re small doesn’t change the fact that they’re big heroes. I mean they are as powerful, even in their small size as your average normal-sized superhero, which was true for the first movie as well. I don’t think at any time I made either of these scores sound “small.” But now hearing myself say that, I think there is one exception involving his daughter. The score also does get “big,” and funny because Scott becomes intoxicated due to the stress of becoming Giant Man. Taking all of his mental resources to maintain that size make him act like he’s drunk, which was another opportunity to go for laughs. But except for those two moments, the score is really about a man and a woman teaming up to save the world.

Tell us about their arch nemesis the Ghost.

Her music went through an evolution during the process of writing the score. I wanted the maximum contrast between her and the fun music of the Wasp, to make sure that the Ghost felt dangerous and unstoppable. That’s the way her music was for a while. But over the course of not just the writing of the score, but the editing of the film, we came to the realization that the Ghost’s music was maybe working a little too hard, and belonged in a different movie. So I toned the relentless, unstoppable “Terminator” aspects of her character a little bit down. That’s because the core of her character is a tragic one. She lives in chronic, constant chronic pain and goes through a bittersweet character arch.

The electronics in “Ant-Man and the Wasp” have an eccentricity to them that matches the superheroes’ technology.

I’m a big fan of electronic music, and I relish the opportunities to flex those muscles when I can. I also try to make sure that when I incorporate electronic elements that they very much represent that very personal side of myself. So these aren’t store bought samples out of the box. They’re things that I create.

What was it like to introduce the O.G. Wasp into the score?

You only get to see Hope’s mom in a flashback in the first movie, with my theme for her only heard over a photo of Janet Van Dyne. It’s not even Michelle Pfeiffer’s picture. So having her in the present made for a really delicious musical opportunity to restate that theme in a very kind of epic way.

There are also some really cool moments in the score where you get to ethereally explore the quantum world that the original Wasp disappeared into.

I wanted to make that really electronic based, and to be ambient and amorphous about exploring those sounds. We realized that there were some moments before they get to the quantum realm where we wanted to plant some seeds that could become something a little more distinctive. So I used the technique of overlapping chords in the orchestra, particularly with muted brass. The best way to describe it would be if you took a regular chord progression and just mashed it all together. You’d hear two chords at the same time, but still get the feeling of a chord progression. It all culminates when we hear a big version of that quantum realm music.

The chorus also makes a big appearance towards the end.

That’s right. It’s used pretty sparingly until then, which I think gives the score just the right amount of seriousness. There are some moments in the quantum realm that are really beautiful with the chorus, so that place isn’t musically all doom and gloom. The chorus was really a nice way to just evoke a little bit about the spiritual nature of what goes on down there at the subatomic level.

“Ant-Man and the Wasp” comes after the gigantic downer of the end of “Avengers: Infinity War,” in which those hero doesn’t appear. Were you aware of what would happen in that film in relation to this picture’s continuity?

Absolutely. Marvel’s movie head Kevin Feige planned these far more breezy and light-hearted films that come out right after a really heavy Avengers movies, first with “Age of Ultron,” and now with “Infinity War.” Without giving too much away, there’s a tie into the events of “Infinity War” and this movie that’s extremely clever and well done. When I started working on “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” “Infinity War” hadn’t come out yet. When it did, I just didn’t have time to go and see it. I just relied on Peyton filling me in about it.

You really got to indulge in your love for electronic music with the Netflix sci-fi movie “Anon,” whose characters’ privacy is almost completely wiped away by technology.

“Anon” was a terrific experience, especially because I don’t often get to do pure electronic scores. It’s writer and director Andrew Niccol, whom I scored “Good Kill” for, is really great to work with. I’m especially proud of “Anon’s” score because I got to incorporate a lot of elements from my work with modular synths. It’s normally is difficult, because when you make music with a modular synth, it’s only there once – then is gone as soon as you take the electronic patch down to create another one. So the only way to really work with that material is to capture as much of it as possible and make a library out of it. There were some moments in “Anon” that called for some very experimental, otherworldly textures, which was also perfectly suited for my modular synth work. It’s one of my most personal scores in terms of what I love musically.

“Anon” has an insane detail in its visuals. How did that affect your score?

Christophe Beck’s modular synthesizer – Photo by Francesca

Any time you’re seeing a character’s point of view, you’re also seeing someone seeing the electronic display overlaid on top of it that could have given me all kinds of information as a composer. But the truth is that it mostly wasn’t there when I was working the film. It was there for a few shots, so I had an idea. For me, I was treating the score to have the classic feel of a film noir detective as opposed to being too slavish about reflecting the technology that’s on display. I think that was really the right way to go, because film scoring is at it’s most powerful when it’s really dealing with the human condition.

Yet “Anon” is a very cold movie about dehumanization.

Yes, it’s a very grey movie for sure. But there is a love story that gets played by a solo violin. It’s heavily processed, and may not even sound that acoustic. However, the heart of that instrument is still there, which emotionally grounds the score amidst all of the pure electronics.

Another personal, and truly “out of the box” score, and film for you is Harald Zwart’s “The 12th Man.” After you scored “The Pink Panther 2” for him, he went back overseas to make a film about a Norwegian patriot’s incredible struggle for survival in the face of overwhelming odds from both nature, and Nazis. It’s about as far from your score to “Frozen” as you can get.

It’s all about icy and snowy textures, so in a way “The 12th Man” is pretty close to “Frozen.” No, thank you for that. I love working on Harald’s movie. Doing it is one of those great Hollywood stories with a happy ending. I’m an avid reader of history books, particularly military history and particularly ones about World War Two. One of my favorite books is called “We Die Alone,” and it’s the story of Jan Baalrud, who was forced out of Norway during World War Two when the Germans invaded. He returned to sabotage and harass the German troops. And before he ever even got a chance to do any of that, they caught him and his resistance fighters. He was the only who wasn’t captured and killed and had to make his way on foot over the course of three months to Sweden, which was a neutral country. While the Germans couldn’t follow him there, they followed him all the way to the border during that whole time. Jan underwent some really excruciating ordeals on his journey.

Jan’s story is as much a part of a national culture in Norway as some of our greatest warrior stories here in the US. I mentioned this story to Harald at the wrap party for “Pink Panther 2” because I knew he was from Norway. His eyes lit up, and he said, “Oh my gosh, I’ve been wanting to make that movie my whole life. I’m still working on it. It’s my, it’s my passion project. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to do it, but I really hope to one day to call you about it.” Of course, Hollywood is the place where people make all kinds of promises that are not kept. But then, almost ten years later, that’s exactly what happened. It was mind-blowing that Harald got to make the film, and that fact that he kept his promise. “The 12th Man” was a wonderful collaboration.

It’s actually a beautiful, subtle score in spite of the often-horrific events that happen to Jan.

Harald came to my studio to talk about the film, and got really excited when he saw the modular synth. He encouraged me to use that any way I could. Of course, we also knew that we wanted this to be primarily an orchestral score. I deliberately tried to develop my orchestral voice for this film so I could adopt a more visceral and minimalist approach, especially for the action sequences. But at the same time, “The 12th Man” is a very emotional story. So I spent a lot of time working on, on themes and I think it’s one of my most thematic scores for all of the minimalism and electronics in it. The experience was extremely rewarding. And it also gave me an opportunity to revisit the indigenous music that I’d used for “Frozen” as well. So there’s a little bit of what you could call “Norwegian yodeling” in it.

What’s coming up for you?

Well, I’m, I’m just starting a Christmas movie for Netflix that stars Kurt Russell as Santa Claus. It’s being that’s being produced by Chris Columbus, whom I’ve worked with as a director a couple of times. It should be a really fun project. Then after that will be the sequel to “Frozen,” which I’m excited about.

In the end, do you think it’s important to have truly lighthearted superhero movies like “Ant-Man and the Wasp” among far darker movies in the genre?

Absolutely. When you’re making a mega-franchises the way Marvel is, you want to have as many different kinds of movies in there as possible in it so that you don’t repeat yourself and end up getting superhero fatigue. That’s why I think it’s brilliant to follow their heaviest superhero film with this particular franchise.

“Ant-Man and the Wasp” opens July 6th with Christophe Beck’s score available digitally on Walt Disney Records HERE


Listen to a solo “Ant-Man” here, join the human web of “Anon” HERE and watch “The 12th Man” HERE

Visit Christophe Beck’s Official Website HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Hildur Guðnadóttir

Di, 26/06/2018 - 22:15

While not a movie specifically about immigration, 2015’s “Sicario” depicted the drug war and its effects on both sides of the Mexican / American border with a deeply unsettling truth uncommon to the multiplex – showing why a terrified Latino populace would do anything to flee. Hammering home the converging stories of victims and aggressors was the Oscar-nominated score by Jóhann Jóhannsson, his music comprised of nerve-jangling tonal effects and the haunted emotion of morality gone astray, tension that built with unbearably suspenseful power.

Now after the tragedy of Jóhann son’s sudden passing, it’s his fellow Icelandic collaborator Hildur Guðnadóttir who picks up the nightmarish musical torch, expanding on the suspenseful, and emotional sound of “Sicario” for its sequel “Day of the Soldado.” Here, the hot button issue of illegals is flamingly front and center as the drug cartel’s aid to jihadists has an enraged American government decided to turn Mexico’s illegal empires against each other at all costs. Their two blunt instruments are government agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and his personally crafted weapon Alejandro Gillick (Benicia Del Toro), a lawyer turned punisher by the drug lord’s annihilation of his family. But when Washington’s plan to kidnap a drug boss’ daughter goes lethally astray, the resulting order to wipe the evidence suddenly gives a Sicario who thought nothing of wiping out a dealer’s kids an unexpected note of humanity as he tries to get his young target back across the border.

Having been an integral part of the first “Sicario” score, Guðnadóttir expands Jóhannsson’s mix of primal percussion, knife-cutting tension and brooding lyricism to new, subterranean heights with “Soldado’s” journey through the heart of darkness. Creating a veritable horror score, Guðnadóttir’s lurching themes, grinding metallic percussion and ever-escalating sustains throw the full weight of a government driven to murder and another country where corruption is a way of life down on characters where good and evil are one. It’s a sonic web of treachery, with melody creating a sad sense of morality lost, and just the sliver of redemption. It’s an uncompromising score for an action fictionalization of a reality that will only seem to get worse, but is no less transfixing for it as Guðnadóttir stretches the limits between melody and merciless sound design that gives “Soldado” its unbearable tension and sadness.

Like Jóhannsson, Guðnadóttir began her career in the alternative scene. Staring as a child prodigy on the cello, she’d parlaying her growing talents as a composer and singer into such conceptual solo albums as “Mount A,” “Without Sinking” and “Saman,” as well as playing with such bands as artists as David Sylvian, Throbbing Gristle and cello on Ryuichi Sakamoto’s score for “The Revenant.” Writing for theater and opera, Hildur’s made an impression on the stage of real world-based crime with her score for 2012’s acclaimed Somali piracy film “A Hijacking.” As she collaborated with Jóhann Jóhannsson on the mesmerizing, and sometimes confrontation soundscapes of “Prisoners,” “Sicario” “Arrival” and the forthcoming “Mary Magdalene,” Guðnadóttir’s own voice impressed with her work for the Oscar-nominated documentary “Strong Island” the biopic of the iconic S & M artist “Tom of Finland” and the World War I drama “Journey’s End.” But it’s “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” that not only represents the Icelandic composer’s biggest venture to Hollywood, but also how she’s so capably taken a score’s unique, often terrifying voice into her own melancholy domain, giving new direction into the no-man’s land that a people will do anything to traverse, let alone a killer following his own code of morality.


What particularly interested you in the cello? And what do you think makes its sound stand out among all the orchestral instruments?

It was certainly not the size of it! I think the width of sounds and colors it is capable of producing is what has made me stick with it. The cello can be a very lyrical and romantic boyfriend, but it can also be a very dry and husky aunt. It has been a part of me since I was a baby, so the connection has become very deep and engraved in me.

Through your classical training, what unique “voice” do you think you brought to the cello? And how did singing and choral music get added to your repertoire?

It never suited me to play the way I was “supposed” to play. It made me terrified of doing something wrong and it really got in the way of music for me. My last teacher probably taught me the most by hammering into me that I should “JUST PLAY!” That taught me there is no wrong playing. If I were bringing anything unique to the cello, it would probably be that. I´m just playing it.

Photo by by Antje Taiga Jandrig and Rune Kongsro

I sang in a choir for most of my childhood and my first job was as a solo singing child. I must have been about 8 or 9 years old when I started doing that. And I started singing in bands as a teenager. So singing has always been a part of me. When I first started making solo records, I felt the cello needed more space but the voice was always hidden in the back, to add color to the cello. If you listen carefully you´ll hear it. In my later works it felt like the voice needed a bit more space, so I allowed it to have that.

How did your alternative collaborations and solo work lead you to become interested in film composing?

In my practice I try to be open to what comes my way. I think that film found me more than I found film. I never had any ambitions to become a film composer. I got approached to make music for film about 10 years ago, and since I´m very interested in story telling it seemed like a fun thing to do. Music plays a big part in telling the stories in films and I still enjoy that a lot.

How did you begin your musical partnership with Jóhann Jóhannsson, and why do you think it worked so well?

Jóhann and Hildur

As you can imagine, the Icelandic music scene is pretty tiny. I met Jóhann through mutual friends in Iceland about 20 years ago and our ideas about music and sound instantly resonated very well. From the very first time we worked together we were very much in tune with each other and we ended up working together on almost every single project we both did in some shape or form. If not directly involved we´d always lend each other an ear. We became a bit like each other’s extra set of ears. When you work together so closely over such a long time you form a bond that is like nothing else. You’re able to communicate with a non-verbal ease and trust that only comes with time and practice. I think we also complemented each other in the difference of our personalities and musicality. His strengths were my weaknesses and vice versa.

Right from your own solo composing start, you dealt with real-life, international crime with “A Hijacking,” which was about a Danish ship hijacked by Somali pirates. What particular talent do you think you brought to the genre?

Communication is key in any kind of collaboration and I had an incredibly good and effortless dialogue with the director and editor of “A Hijacking.” Right from the start we were in agreement about what we thought was right for the film. I think it´s always a good sign when you don´t have to fight for your ideas, when things just fall naturally in place it feels like the story is being told in the way it wants to be told. I was just one element of telling that story.

Do you think there’s a natural mournfulness to your Icelandic homeland that adds to your darker works?

Where you come from is naturally always going to influence who\ you are and what you do. But I haven’t spent much time in Iceland in the last several years, so it is definitely not a conscious influence.

What was it like for you and Jóhann to first collaborate with director Dennis Villeneuve on “Prisoners?” especially when it came to developing a dark sound that would evolve for “Sicario?”

It was a really lovely experience and the dialogue was great and effortless. I wasn´t in contact with Dennis Villeneuve myself, but I was in very close contact with Jóhann about the process and music. It seemed evident that dark strings were needed for “Prisoners” and I think “Sicario” was a natural evolution of those dark strings. They got darker and the tonal material was stripped down.

How did you get the solo assignment of scoring “Sicario: Day of the Soldado?” And given how much of Hollywood hit that film was, did the expectations for a sequel make it particularly challenging?

Jóhann was unable to do the score for the sequel, so he suggested that I would take that on since I was a big part of the first score. The first “Sicario” score was obviously a massive success and it´s being copied in such a vast amount of films these days. I definitely did not want to make yet another copy of its cue called “The Beast,” but still wanted to stay true to the sound world we had created for the first film. So in a way it was both challenging and not challenging, if that makes any sense!

How would you say this films’ director Stefano Sollima differed from Dennis? And how much of the original “Sicario” sound did he want to continue with while exploring new musical dimensions for the characters?

It was important to Stefano that the emotional side of the characters was drawn out. So there is more emotional underscoring in “Soldado” and it is also twice the length of the previous score. It is obviously a very different way of scoring, since the music in this film has a very different function. Stefano wanted to keep elements of the heavy dryness of the previous score but he was very keen on adding “romantic” and sweeter elements to the mix. This decision was based the characters showing more emotion than in the previous film, with Alejandro´s unexpected emotional side probably being the best example of that.

How important was the score in tying together the film’s various stories, especially when contrasting the Mexican daughter of a drug kingpin an American-Mexican teen pulled into human smuggling?

It was a pretty important part of the story telling using the tried and tested way of scoring so that each character has a sound and/or theme. That can often help the audience following who is who and how they connect.

If anything, “Soldado” throws us deeper into the world caught between sound design and score. How did you navigate between them?

I´m very happy to hear you say that. I think it´s hugely important to connect the music and sound design, especially in a film like this where the sound design often takes up a lot of space. You really don´t want to fight it, but try to compliment it. So for example in the very big shooting scenes with a lot of percussion, it was important to me that the percussion resonated with the types of guns being shot.

There’s often a distorted, lurching quality to the score that could easily be mistaken as belonging to a horror movie. What do you think that says about playing a situation of real, unimaginable terror that’s being inflicted on two countries, but particularly in Latin America?

I am in no way an expert on the situation in Latin America, but watching from afar what is going with drug wars and how immigrants are being treated it often does seem like a horror movie. But it is real.

What was your approach to keeping the onscreen violence “real” without delivering the kind of “fun” that audiences would want from the genre?

I don´t think either of the “Sicario” films have a lot of space for “fun,” so it was quite an easy decision for me to steer away from that. I suspect that the audience will gather from the first film that there is no “hasta la vista baby” equivalent in this film either.

There’s an unbearable amount of musical tension to the score, particularly in the way the score builds with sustains and rhythm. What’s the art to that?

The only way that I can explain the art of any element of scoring is that you try to follow and enhance the story that is being told. There is a lot of tension building up from the get go in “Soldado,” so it felt natural that the music would help enhance that. Exactly how you do that is of course different between films. You just try to listen to what kind of sounds will help the image and try to create that with any means possible.

How did you want to capture the high-tech weaponry, and military planning that goes into the drug hit squad?

For me it feels very cold and merciless. So I tried to use only sounds that I feel are of that quality, played in quite a ruthless way.

Tell us how you used metallic effects and percussion in the score. And just how merciless did you think you could be with them?

We basically used any sort of scrap metal we could find for the percussion. There´s not a whole lot of “regular drums” in the score. One of the star instruments is an old metallic film casing that was beaten to death and bowed to pieces during the recording process. We played a vast amount of objects and instruments with various bows for a lot the higher register elements and percussion; pianos, harps, kalimbas, pizza boxes, shelves, left over pieces of wood and random bit and pieces of metal. The biggest star instrument is the Halldoraphone, which was built by Halldór Úlfarsson. It’s a cross over between a cello and a soaring feedback monster. It is one of my main instruments these days and is responsible for a large amount of the ruthlessness of the score.

How did you want to play the innocence of the youths caught up in this nightmarish world?

Those were drawn out with simple and naive melodies.

How did you want to gradually bring melody into the score? Do you think it would have been bearable without it?

The melodies were brought in to help us sympathize with the emotional side of the characters and underline the helplessness of a young innocent child that is forced into this hellish drug war world. I think the use of melodies probably does help with that.

In a way, do you think “Soldado” fools you into thinking what kind of score it will be, especially in the way it develops to reveal the unexpected use of the orchestra?

I think I am not the one to judge that. I am sure people will already have their expectations based on the original “Sicario” score before even going to see “Soldado.” The only thing I can hope to have achieved is to have served the story in a way it deserves.

What was it like to work on the film from your homebase, and how important was it to have an LA-based music editor?

Photo by Antje Taiga Jandrig and Rune Kongsro

I really love my studio in Berlin and I feel very much at home here which allows me a lot of freedom while creating. It was really great to be working with Lee Scott, who was the film’s music editor in Los Angeles, because he could be my connection to the editing room when things started to heat up closer the end. That was very helpful.

Does scoring relentless subjects like “Sicario” take a psychological toll as you often capture the worst of humanity?

I think it probably does in some ways. But you also detach yourself a bit from the subject in order to get through it. I think you to put up a bit of a shield when you are working for months on end on a scene where 50 people are being killed, because at the end of each day, you still need to go home and cook dinner for your child with the hope that your tears are not going to be the only salt in the dinner. I prefer sea salt.

How do you see your scoring of “Soldado” in the greater international fight to bring more work to female composers, especially when it comes to dark, aggressive material that producers might not see a woman scoring?

It makes me unbelievably happy that women are finally being heard in the film industry. I feel like there´s an actual change happening at the moment and if I can be a part of that of that change nothing would give me greater joy. I have lost the count of times that it has been said to me that I couldn´t possibly have written “this kind of music being a woman”. Music should in my opinion be free of gender. It is simply a form of communication. I think everyone has a soft side and a darker side and all genders should be free to express both sides. Its just freedom of speech.

Would you like to continue working as a featured soloist on other composer’s scores, as you did with Ryuichi Sakamoto on “The Revenant?”

I choose projects based on the communication I have with the people involved and not the title I have. I absolutely loved working with Sakamoto on that score. He is such an incredible person and wonderful musician.

Had Jóhann heard your own “Sicario” work before he passed? And if so, what was his reaction to it?

Yes he had heard most of it. He really liked it. His first reaction was actually giggling and saying “Jesus Hildur, you make all of boys look like kittens!”

Can you tell us about “Mary Magdalene,” which is your final collaboration with Jóhann?

Her story is such an incredible one and it is heartbreaking how she was judged and portrayed as an evil prostitute. The score is the polar opposite to “Sicario.” It´s much more based on melody than texture.

Do you think it’s ironically fitting for a spiritual score to represent your lasting musical bond? And in your way, do you hope to capture the music that would have kept evolving from Jóhann, especially given that he likely left unfinished projects?

I guess there is some irony in that. We were musical soulmates for so long. Growing up together as we did, he will always be a big part of me. I will never be able to capture his music. I can only hope to capture the music that is given to me. But I think he was too stubborn to leave me for good, so I am sure that he´ll be dropping by. And knowing him, he´ll definitely have a thing or two to say about what´s being made.

What’s coming up for you? And what kind of film and performance work would you like to explore?

There are quite a few exciting things on the horizon. I´ll be writing the music to an HBO series about Chernobyl, which is just the most incredible and terrifying story. They are shooting it now. I also have a few pieces I´m working on that are not film related – a new record, an opera and a composition for organ and strings.

Would you like to see your composing branch out for Hollywood movies with “Soldado?”

I would like to see my work continue branching out for projects that I love and find interesting. Those are not necessarily Hollywood movies. A good story is a good story whether it is made in Hollywood or not.


“Sicario: Day of the Soldado” opens in theaters on June 29, with Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score available on Varese Sarabande Records HERE

Listen to Hildur and Jóhann ’s soundtrack for “Mary Magdalene” HERE and Hildur’s “Without Sinking” HERE

Visit Hildur Guðnadóttir’s website HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Announcing Screen Music Connect, September 24th 2018

Di, 26/06/2018 - 21:03

Screen Music Connect is a new event series set to explore and celebrate the richly diverse world of Screen Music – from Film and Television through to Video Games and Virtual Reality.

Screen Music Connect is aimed at the music production communities of all media industries – from pro, semi-pro and amateur composers though to producers, engineers, music supervisors and audio directors – plus fans of soundtracks and anyone with an interest in the evolution of screen music.

Screen Music Connect‘s inaugural event will take place on Monday 24th September at the Purcell Room, Southbank Centre, London.

For more info, please click here

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws