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May Soundtrack Picks

Vr, 18/05/2018 - 01:33

Soundtrack Picks: “LOST IN SPACE” is the top soundtrack to own for MAY, 2018


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


1) (CARGO)

Price: $20.97

What Is it?: From being stuck in a grave or a car trunk, thrillers with confined spaces often yield interesting scores that mix claustrophobia with a far bigger, suspenseful world outside of the character’s entombment. In the driving hands of Tangerine Dream musician Thorsten Quaeschning and his band Picture Palace, “(Cargo)” has a pulsating, sumptuous groove that opens up the sinister forces outside of its metal container, while playing the increasingly crazed escape efforts of a perhaps not-so-innocent business magnate. Intense character actor Ron Thompson (“American Pop,” “Baretta”) makes a major tour de force comeback in director James Dylan’s impressive debut film (available to watch HERE August 14th) as his air, and patience run thin.

Why Should You Buy It?: Making a far easier breakthrough in “(Cargo)” is Quaeschning, whose time spent with Dream-maker Edgar Froese shows off considerably with a score that brings to mind such classic TD soundtracks as “Thief,” “Near Dark” and “Miracle Mile.” Like his prog-rock mentor, Quaeschning shows a powerful, propulsive ability to run with ever-building melodic ideas. Quaeschning palpably conveys the developing panic, then fury of its antihero, his music atmospherically reflective for one stretch, the furiously spinning from one potential avenue of release to the other. Avoiding any chance of “(Cargo)” being a long haul, Quaeschning’s enveloping score visualizes the one-man show’s torment, enraged heirs and insane chases that are cleverly conveyed via cell phone with sharp dialogue and sound effects. It’s a well-modulated approach that segues from psychological refection to desperate action with the film’s gliding camera moves, with cues that are long (with one even coming in at sixteen minutes), but continuously mesmerizing.

Extra Special: “(Cargo)” might be a literally slightly bigger than small film, but packed with an enveloping energy in all respects. Quaeschning and Picture Palace makes it a fun ride by opening up a far bigger sonic world multitrack rhythms jam to the haunting simplicity of piano, voices and an orchestral presence with composer’s electrifying feature debut that not only pays tribute at the stylistic altar of Tangerine Dream, but more importantly charts cool new paths for alt. scoring’s post-Froese future.

2) COBRA KAI (Available May 22)

Price: $15.98

What Is it?: In 2018, everything 80’s is new again, the decade’s pop entertainment first given a wonderfully uncondescending valentine with the potpourri of references within Alan Silvestri’s era-summing score for “Ready Player One,” Now composers Leo Birenberg and Zach Robinson’s offer total recall of Bill Conti’s classic “Karate Kid” soundtracks for “Cobra Kai,” while kicking deeper to play far more realistic characters than we’d think possible – in this case a bullied kick who seemingly got the last laugh and his butthead tormentor who’s desperately trying to find redemption.

Why Should You Buy It?: “Cobra Kai” is likely to win this year’s TV tournament as it reveals a seemingly endless amount of layers to a pop culture surface, paying homage while growing up at the same time in a way that’s real, yet cheeky. That musical feet is terrifically pulled off by a duo who trained at the dojo of Chris Beck, a composer equally adept in strong orchestral themes as well as a multiplex pop groove, an approach they assisted with on their additional scoring on the likes of “Ant Man” and “Edge of Tomorrow” before moving onto the TV world with “Adam Ruins Everything,” Son of Zorn” and “Sing!” With YouTube Red’s “Cobra Kai” (already renewed for a second season), Birenberg and Robinson have created a force of extraordinary magnitude in joining Bill Conti’s “Karate Kid’s” heroically emotional with the anthemic rock grooves of a hit soundtrack that featured Survivor’s “The Moment of Truth” and Joe Esposito’s “You’re the Best Around.” It’s an approach evolved from the 80’s for a new generation of bullied students, but very much alive with the groove of their opposing sensei’s whom haven’t grown up nearly as much as they think. It’s also music that thematically sums up Johnny and Daniel’s respective tutelage of kicking ass and showing tenderness. Current and retro keyboards rock out with electric guitar in pop ballad style, while Mr. Miyagi’s spirit powerfully lives on with Asian winds and percussion. With a show that’s impressively well produced for a channel that made its bones on amateur videos, Birenberg and Robinson also get a real orchestra to create a sense of epic excitement, particularly in the breathless cues for its fights, which like the original, take on the sense of the world itself at stake. An unequalled composer at depicting the underdog from “Rocky” to “The Karate Kid,” Conti’s trademarked brass sound is also taken to the next level to plays the characters’ emotional stakes for real. Better yet, Birenberg and Robinson are sure to use Conti’s themes, most touchingly when Daniel remembers his mentor. With its once-teen foes finding renewed passion from the chance for a new battle in the form of teen surrogates, the score repeatedly goes ballistic with martial arts shouts driving the excitement, as well as the music’s clever sense of homage.

Extra Special:
Whether its updated power pop energy or heartfelt emotion, Birenberg and Robinson are playing “Cobra Kai” for real, capturing the same sense of enthusiasm and discovery that made the first “Karate Kid” its music live on for decades, opening up a whole new soundtrack dojo to sweep the ear with.



Price: $11.29 / $14.98

What Is It?: The danger of space has never been more exhilarating than when captured by two composer swiftly rising into the stratosphere of their craft, as Bear McCreary and Christopher Lennertz continue to show Netflix as a realm to find some of the most surprising, and powerfully symphonically-grounded scores on the big or small screens with “The Cloverfield Paradox” and “Lost in Space”

Why Should You Buy It?:
Though the third time wasn’t the charm for the “Cloverfield” franchise, one can count on Bear McCreary to deliver a terrific score for J.J. Abrams somehow interconnected saga – here given the centrifugal force of a space station’s reality warping energy run amuck. Where McCreary’s big, Herrmann-esque suspense and concluding sci-fi style action really opened the bomb shelter surroundings of the last, vastly superior “12 Cloverfield Lane,” there’s significantly more scope for him to play here. Taking “Lane’s” epic dimension to truly inter-dimensional lengths here, McCreary’s dynamically rhythmic score conveys the excitement of an earth-shattering discovery, while at the same time darker, choral tones swirl about to sing with the time-honored adage of things not meant to be tampered with by science. It’s powerful writing, as mixed with electronic beats that reach that accelerates with wonder and fear, the space rift dynamically rupturing in the score with eerie male voices and nerve-tingling tones as creatures and disembodied limbs compound its astronauts’ troubles, yet always with strong themes in accompaniment to emotionally ground the action – no more so than in the score’s breathless space walk highlight. As he’s showed in “Battlestar Galactica,” “Europa Report“ and now a score that really keeps Abrams’ “Cloverfield” franchise afloat, McCreary captures the final frontier by way of the twilight zone with thematic aplomb.

Extra Special: While he’s mainly been busy with funny animals, naughty supermarket produce and crass humans, you can tell from Christopher Lennertz’s energetic talent that he’s been yearning to blast off into the John Williams stratosphere. With Netflix’s reboot of “Lost in Space,” he captures the spirit of a symphonically starstuck, sci-fi loving kid who’s been in waiting for the chance to become a rocket man. Lennertz delivers on the Danger Will Robinson action, while more importantly emotionally centering his music on the show’s family dynamic. It’s by no coincidence that the original series unmatched first season was distinguished by John Williams’s orchestral scoring and themes – a soaring nobility and sense of fun that Lennertz brings to this new generation – of course with Williams’ iconic theme wrapped into his own main title, and showing up in the score at just the right moments. While Netflix’s “Space” spent no small amount of time finding its sea legs in terms of pacing and casting, there’s no denying its excellent production value on every single level, especially when it comes to Lennertz’s work that effortlessly alternates between the sense of optimistic wonder that lies within the unknown and the environmental threat of it. Right from the noble brass of his main theme, Lennertz mixes peril, excitement and tenderness into just about every well-chosen cue on Lakeshore’s compilation. With the show taking a self-consciously adult direction from the original’s camp appeal, Lennertz’s mature, if no less boyishly enthusiastic writing plays the fantastical cliffhanging situations for real, yet with a sense of the epic. At its most symphonically resplendent, Packed with both nostalgia and vibrant freshness, Lennertz raises the ante of the Robinsons future TV adventures with sumptuous work that will hopefully net him bigger screen constellations to play in.


Price: $13.98

What is it?: Horror anthologies were all the rage back in England during the 1970s with “Tales from the Crypt,” “Asylum” and “The House that Dripped Blood.” Given a horror subgenre that was all about fright, it was only a matter of time before some higher minded Brits would re-enter this vault of horror, delivering chills and smarts via Israeli composer Frank Ilfman, who’s anything but straight-jacketed by “Ghost Stories” artier attitude.

Why Should You Buy It?: Making his international breakthrough with a rousing, Herrmann-esque score for his country’s acclaimed pitch-black torture horror dramedy “Big Bad Wolves,” Ilfman has since excelled in nasty business. Putting a devilish grin on “Abulele’s” surprisingly nice giant furball, then creepily cohabitating with the ghost of “Sensoria,” Ilfman most recently took a murderously fun retro route with “68 Kill,” For “Ghost Stories,” Ilfman takes the musical point of view of a foolishly disbelieving ghost buster, the kind of religious guilt schlub for whom things never work out in this sort of film. Travelling from one distraught witness to the next, Ilfman’s score effectively depicts a haunted guard with daughter issues, a gibbering teen hitting the worst kind of victim with his distracted driving, and a cocky businessmen who sees the price his wife paid for trying to give birth. Starting out with a quite lush, and lovely main theme, Ilfman shows terror as well as class with scratched, pierced sampling to convey the menacing corners of a mental hospital, then jumps into berserk Danny Elfman-esque choral territory before going for a tingling, psychological presence of a potential toddler gone wrong. Ilfman saves the real nightmarish stuff for last with the kind of beyond awful ending anthologies relish in. With a keen talent for melody as much as abstractionism, Ilfman shows far more perceptiveness for creeping about the phantom zone than his luckless leading man. It’s an approach that beckons equally well for the increasingly dissonant expressionism of musical horror as it does old school fans’ yearning for majestically awestruck orchestrations. The result of his gleeful jump-scares and lavish writing is the kind of rare soundtrack the wraps itself around your imagination to create its own haunting tales – a knowing cavalcade of horror scoring tropes that are juiced up with the chanting, creaking door, symphonic pouncing and the rousingly melodic grand guignol of musical storytelling. It’s a soundtrack to warily be played with the lights off as it gleefully, and sumptuously illuminates its characters’ nightmares and the ghoulish talents of its musical crypt keeper.

Extra Special: Binding together Ilfman’s stirring music is clever snatches of dialogue for a film that originally began its haunt on the English stage. But it’s the singing voice of the UK’s decidedly happy Anthony Newley whose cooing tale of clinging love gets put to ghastly ironic use with “Why,” while the utterly goofy and beloved Boris Karloff-esque annunciated “Monster Mash” becomes positively chilling as an end credit song following a particularly awful fate that for “Ghost Stories’” Doubting Thomas.

5) RAIN MAN (1,000 edition)

Price: $19.95

What Is it: No composer had taken a road trip through America like Germany’s Hans Zimmer, whose Afro-centric rhythms turned highways into a funky, synth-fueled Serengeti in his Oscar-nominated score for 1988’s Best Picture winner. But then, he was hearing through the eyes of an autistic math savant with a particular love for Qantas airlines, hence his smartly imaginative star making film with a score that put an alternative world beat approach on the Hollywood map.

Why Should You Buy It?: Zimmer was no doubt infused with ethnic creativity as a wingman for the great, unsung English composer Stanley Myers on such scores as “My Beautiful Launderette,” “Castaway” and “The Fruit Machine” before his first major solo score on the Apartheid drama “A World Apart,” a score which caught director Barry Levinson’s ear for “Rain Man’s” temporary soundtrack. Zimmer’s final music went well beyond Africa with its powerful tribal groove for percussion and winds. But then, “Rain Man’s” musical charm has always been in its oddball approach, one that hears the magic of a beautiful mind, and ultimately the tragic acknowledgement that it won’t function in the familial way that Tom Cruise’s morally reborn cad desperately hopes for. With synths ruling the 80’s, Zimmer had an lush, Fairlight synth sound uniquely his own, used here in a poetically wistful, whimsical and haunted way. Oriental winds, Australian Didgeridoo, rock guitar and eccentric rhythm gave “Rain Man” its mesmerizing, toe-tapping drive – with the ultimate destination of Las Vegas a dazzlingly gaudy bash of rock guitar and wailing voice. “Rain Man” essentially laid the groundwork for Zimmer’s dynamic sound that has continued to grow in even more esoteric directions. But for many, the 90’s keyboard-powered likes that followed with “Black Rain,” “Broken Arrow” and “Green Card” are a heyday of Zimmer’s sense of discovery – a voyage here given a sense of magic for his “music from Mars.”

Extra Special:
Though only given a couple of cuts in its first soundtrack incarnation, “Rain Man’s” initial release of Zimmer’s score crashed and burned with one of the worst, muddy-sounding soundtrack releases in history. It was sonic carnage that no one thought could’ve been cleaned up. But leave it to Notefornote to accomplish the impossible. With their first release being Zimmer’s somewhat more traditional grrll power drive through the southwest with “Thelma and Louise,” the label now rolls the speedometer back to turn “Rain Man’s” Edsel into a beautifully remastered Rolls Royce, especially when liner note specialist Randall D. Larson is holding the roadmap. This is the “Rain Man” album fans have always hoped. It doesn’t take a math genius to tell them to get one of these limited CDs edition before it reaches the vanishing point.



Alan Silvestri’s boldly thematic orchestral style was perfectly suited for Marvel, an old school patriot sound at first perfect for “Captain America” and then for the “Avengers” team effort. Now tasked with Marvel’s equivalent to Disney’s annihilation of Bambi’s mother on a cosmic scale, Silvestri unleashes all of his mighty orchestral forces in service of “Infinity War” to legendary effect. With his main characters quadrupled at the least, Silvestri smartly takes a utilitarian approach by giving everyone a noble force of personality, with only his original “Avengers” motif quoted at the most impactful moments. It’s a near-constant burst of energy that not only play the cosmic battles, but more importantly link all of the stories through emotion as opposed overtly indulging in themes for an impossible amount of heroes. Silvestri’s score works by turning everything into its own set piece, much in the way the movie is somehow able to give every superhero their own spotlight. But when it comes down to it, Silvestri’s “Infinity War” is most impressive when dealing with unimaginable emotion. Capturing Thanos with the wrath of a god, Silvestri not only connotes his low brass villainy, but the feeling of a bereaved dad who thinks he’s doing the universe a favor by evaporating half of it. Indeed, the numerous, seeming deaths on infinity gloved hand wouldn’t be so devastating if the music didn’t capture how personal they are to the film’s stunned audience, no more so than in Thanos’ own terrible sacrifice.

But for all of the complex operatic excitement, what’s easily the score’s most effective moment is its final one where the bombast is stripped away to a solo violin to play Thanos’ melancholy triumph. It’s an utterly brilliant, and spare conceit that shows the kind of imagination, and skill that shows how Silvestri’s kept on scoring blockbusters when so many of the talented composers of his time have seemingly vanished to nothingness – and will certainly keep on playing with Wagnerian panache to make Marvel fans realize that there’s nothing like an orchestra to resound with the stuff of comic book legends come to life (or gone from it until next year), especially given two hours of Silvestri’s “Infinity War” score as digitally offered on Disney’s deluxe edition.

. DEADPOOL 2 (Score Album)

As the musical captain of the wise-ass Guardians of the Galaxy (not to mention Netflix’s decidedly unsmiling Punisher), Tyler Bates certainly has a set of skills at playing heroism at both its bullshit and true face value. Now suited up in red and black for the Merc With A Mouth, Bates proves he’s no man’s sloppy seconds with “Deadpool 2.” Granted that it’s not easy to take on the retro music mantle of Junkie XL from the first film, Bates doesn’t even try to. Instead, he takes on the ultimate self-reflexive assassin in far more traditional way, but with a middle finger behind his back. Leaping into the fray with the X-Force, Bates has a great, charge ahead theme that certainly wouldn’t be out of place amongst his outer space antics. But like a lifter who’s OD’ing at 24 Hour Fitness, “Deadpool 2’s” action stylings are sweatily over-exuberant to the point of veins blowing out, right down the chanting chorus. But where most soundtrack lyrics are nonsense anyways, Bates gleefully earns the first ever-parental advisory on a score album by having his singers chant “Holy Shitballs!” over and over with increasingly hilarious frenzy. Likewise the score’s drummer seems ready to explode as he hammers out testosterone action to raging strings, with Thanos-worthy brass, all the better for Josh Brolin’s scowling Cable. Yet make no mistake that for as in your face as “Deadpool 2’s” soundtrack is, Bates delivering on exactly the kind of rhythmic testosterone you want from a superhero soundtrack, and surprisingly some genuine emotion at that. On his second score round, this slaphappy assassin is his own instrumental man for a soundtrack that’s no joke.


A spiritual break gives way to sexual awakening in the beautifully sensual scoring of Matthew Herbert, who reteams with his “Fantastic Woman” director Sebastian Lelio for another transgressive portrait of empowerment. Our heroine in “Disobedience” breaks the barriers of England’s walled-off Jewish Orthodox community, fully claiming the hand of a youthful attraction that caused her to leave a cult-like existence. “Disobedience” hears the cry of its opening Shofar as the awakening of forbidden love that the music will erotically embody. With its flowing harmonies, “Disobedience” works equally well as an example of modern classical music at its most thankfully harmonious, Herbert dresses strings lines over each other with gossamer delicateness in a way that’s also reminiscent of the hypnotic film works of ephemeral composer Michael Convertino (“Bed or Roses”) in a way that awakens with its womens’ growing self empowerment, also calling to the ear such diverse, ultra-melodic composers as Claude Debussy and Richard Wagner. Yearning brass gains strength with the orchestra to help a character orgasmically break her shackles, her emotion pouring forth with voice-like effects, ethereal electronics, rubbed glass and scraping metal to coalesce into a newfound conscience. In its musical way, “Disobedience” as a spellbinding breakthrough for Matthew Herbert, who shows a whole other language to express love for a feminine spirit whose attraction at first daren’t speak its name, and finally does with a sense of gorgeous, holy passion.


“Midnight Meat Train” director Ryuhei Kitamura turns a bunch of desert-stranded young adults into a sniper’s produce section in this Shudder Channel thriller, effectively also stalked by composer Aldo Shllaku. Having provided way more satiric action beats for Kitamura’s gonzo live action adaptation of the anime character “Lupin the 3rd,” Shllaku wipes the smile from this score’s face by suspensefully switches the clutch from dark percussion to ghostly ambience in a way that hearkens back to Mark Isham’s seminal tormented motorist classic “The Hitcher.” If anything, Shllaku’s approach is weirder and more savage, turning gun metal itself into thrashing, body piercing hits, while sampling evokes moments of uneasy poetry from the wasteland that hides a killer. Long stretches of “Downrange’s” road are filled with angry rock guitar and pounding militaristic grooves, with even a Theremin adding to the panic. Thankfully grounding the musical attacks and tense rhythms is a sense of emotion that conveys a group of friends whose bonds are bloodily blown apart, with a lonely, poignant piano among the soundtrack’s most effective moments. Unsettling from nightmarish start to finish, “Downrange” is a nerve-jangling score that definitely guarantees you’ll keep driving with a flat tire while not picking up stragglers should this be playing on your car stereo in the middle of nowhere.


A barely legal Lolita uses her wiles to ensnare her awkward stepbro’s allegedly molesting teacher in the latest round of black-humored indie movie nymphets in “Flower.” It’s another neat score in the blossoming career of Joseph Stephens, who’s given interesting, eccentric scores to the distinctly misbehaving adults of Jody Hill’s bad boy crew ins “Observe and Report,” “Eastbound & Down” and “Vice Principals.” If you didn’t know “Flower” was snarkily set in the present, you might assume this was some lost score from Tangerine Dream’s 80’s teen synth heyday of “Vision Quest” and “Three O’Clock High,” so dead-on is Steven’s capturing of that electronic groove. “Flower” blooms with one neat electro-beat after the other, yet one that shows feeling at the heart of its anti-heroine’s ‘tude. With darker, sustaining tones that also bring to mind John Carpenter’s work from back in the keyboard day, “Flower” gets across the hatching of an improbable set-up to nab the perceived perv teacher, a tone that effortlessly segues from breeziness to haunting melancholy with the dramatic self-realization of its bad girl. Pulsing, offbeat, uniquely dramatic and unexpectedly thematic, “Flower” is a captivating, crystalline listen, especially for fans of the school of composers making retro scoring sing in new, haunting ways when in the company of self consciously hip characters getting themselves into a world of humorous trouble.


The prolific and quirkily attuned character actor Daniel Roebuck (“The River’s Edge,” “Lost”) not only proves himself equally adept at directing with the same offbeat vision for “Getting Grace,” but also as a quite adept music supervisor as well. Though it might seem to be another fatal illness flick, “Grace” benefits greatly from a humorous, eccentric approach that also makes its soundtrack radiant in rounding up some of Pennsylvania’s best indie acts for a common vibe of empowering, lyrical humanity. The strumming, sparkling folk-pop of Alyssa Garcia’s “Loved Actually” sums up the heroine’s whimsical self-empowerment, while her emotional “Better Life” is performed for all of its poignant, violin-topped worth, building slowly to a powerfully soaring finish that subtly getting across “Grace’s” faith-based nature. It’s a lyrical, rural quality that also inflects the Brett Harris’ sweetly strumming, accordion-topped “Wish” of being able to fly, his ballad “Up in the Air” sending Grace skyward. Country rock via Pennsylvania is provided by Switchback Mountain’s “Rabbit Hole” and “Ali K,” with their ballad “Kehoe” recalls the acoustic power of Eric Clapton. Heidi Ott sings a lovely, longing ballad with “Linger” to express Grace’s longing, a church-like organ providing an ironic backing. Even Mozart and a selection from his “Requiem” show up to have some fun with the stuffiness of dying. Composer Alex Kovacs, whose work includes such shows as “Designated Survivor,” “Minority Report” and “Scorpion” has a similar, sweet gentleness to his nicely melodic themes, his use of piano, organ and bell percussion bringing to mind the wacky one-man-band work of “Punch-Drunk Love’s” Jon Brion = and the satiric classicism of “Rushmore’s” Mark Mothersbaugh. Kovacs also shows a potent serious side in the film’s flashback setpiece, as his piano melody builds with the devastating youthful loss that leaves Roebuck’s funeral director a shell of a man. Managing to find an uplifting, smiling quality from songs to score in the midst of a decidedly serious situation, the thematic thread of this wonderfully eclectic, nicely tuned album is of finding the best in life at the end of it. That makes “Getting Grace” far more than a pleasant, rustically groovy indie listen as song and score touch the heart of a won’t-quit character in a way that’s anything but downbeat.


Alexandre Dumas might have been spinning like the Tasmanian devil in his grave at the thought of having Disney’s iconic mouse, dog and duck raising their swords together. But I imagine Erich Wolfgang Korngold, let alone the likes of Johann Strauss smiling upon hearing how Bruce Broughton teams the sound of Hollywood’s classic swashbuckling composer with any number of classical and operatic pastiches in the service of 1600’s France and Disney’s 2001 DTV movie. Having brought an anvil-crashing orchestral impact back to TV cartoon scoring with “Tiny Toons,” Broughton’s wonderfully lush score for “The Three Musketeers” has melodies waltzing with fluttering flutes aplenty, or springing forth from castle parapets with cliffhanging thrills. You’d actually think this was the real Errol Flynn thing if it wasn’t for the tip offs, like rousing trumpet fanfares leading to Carl Stalling-worthy pratfalls. But perhaps these “Musketeers” hearken back the most to the “Silly Symphony” cartoons that made Disney popular with the classical pastiches. Here is turning Bizet’s “Habanera” from “Carmen” into Goofy serenading a cow with “Chains of Love,” having evil Pete as the King of France stomping about to Edvard Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain King” or combining Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” and “Romeo and Juliet” into “Love So Lovely.” Even Beethoven shows up to send Mickey to his ever-lovin’ doom in “This is the End.” At its thematic best, “Three Musketeers” captures a sense of thrilling innocence that hearkens back to Broughton’s masterpiece “Young Sherlock Holmes,” of which this unsung gem now stands tall in comparison. Goofy these “Musketeers” might be, but most certainly not in the way that Broughton wonderfully bringing a grown-up classical appreciation and daring wit to score their antics with.

. MONKEY SHINES (1,000 Edition)

George Romero was one of horror’s more wackily eccentric directors. But in his annals of unholy transformations, the devilish Capuchin of 1988’s “Monkey Shines” just might take the cake – not to mention being one of the more unexpectedly sinister entries in the credits of its composer David Shire. Even in a career that’s ranged from the funk crime of “The Taking Pelham One Two Three” to the quiet conspiratorial tones of “The Conversation” and the heartwarming empowerment of “Norma Rae,” one might not expect a classic horror score for such a potentially absurdist plot. But credit Shire’s inherently humane approach for making “Monkey Shines” one of his unexpectedly great works. Devilishly starting with perhaps the best fake-out happy orchestral cues ever written, Shire uses African percussion and subtle, monkey grinder rhythm to increase the intelligence of an animal companion to our paraplegic hero, whose little buddy is soon going on a murderous rampage thanks to the psychic experiments of a scientist who really should know better. Shire’s score has witty humor that subtly realizes the zaniness of the concept, as well as string and guitar compassion for a man dealing with his own self-pity before he has to do physical battle with his helpmate gone terribly wrong. Along with Richard Band’s “House on Sorority Row,” Shire’s melody for “Monkey Shines” is also one of the most deceptively beautiful written for a horror film, a motif that the composer uses through the score, finally to symphonically sweeping effect – if of course not without the last second studio-mandated shock ending. Shire’s animal instinct for string-driven suspense is just as keen, joining his orchestral score with exotic Asian flutes, an Australian didgeridoo and primal brass and ethnic percussion, all of which sell an inescapably darling creature as the embodiment of man-created evil. But then, it’s likely impossible to imagine any score for simians great and small taking a different approach since Jerry Goldsmith’s “Planet of the Apes.” While that classic score no doubt had a twisted sense of irony. Shire’s scampering, stalking work for a monkey you expect to be holding a dime in its hand as opposed to a razor blade has the skill offers humor, drama and genuine scares. Now surfacing again in a newly expanded and remastered version via France’s Music Box label. “Monkey Shines” proves its especially worthy of rediscovery as a highlight of Shire’s composing career, that was anything if not versatile, and unexpected.

. OVERBOARD (Score Album)

The jaunty Alan Silvestri-scored comedy from 1987 gets reboated and role-reversed to pleasantly target a cross-cultural audience as a smug Mexican lothario getting tossed into the drink, this time to the delight of an Anglo woman he’s given no end of trouble to. It’s a pleasant ethnic spin that rhythm-centric composer Lyle Workman (“Superbad,” “Get Him to the Greek”) runs with in a delightful instance of musical cultural appropriation akin to his Spanish strumming work on the Netflix series “Love.” “Overboard” really opens up those stylistic waters to give its Latin Lover shmuck a much-needed makeover. Starting out with a jaunty Mexican feel, Workman continues to thematically build onto the soundtrack’s comic ethnicity with Zydeco, Django Reinhart-styled Gypsy violin and la-la-la’ing female voices for a sad sack feeling of a guy getting his character-building just deserts. But what’s really nice here is the genuine emotion that comes with the music’s development as tender strings turn to a full, gently suspenseful orchestra as the lead must decide from a return to an empty life of babes or the true love over the wall and down the socio economic ladder. While there’s no surprise to that choice, Workman’s “Overboard” offers genuinely unexpected choices that are about the comedy of character development as opposed to playing pratfalls. If there’s any composer to be recalled here with Workman’s sweetly deft use of ethnic music, then it goes all the way back to pleasant, jauntily romantic likes of Henry Mancini, as channeled by a musician who sweetly revels in it, much like an Anglo teaching her naughty amnesiac charge new musical tricks in what it really takes to charm a lady, a la Española.


One of the most gigantic movie disappointments ever gets super-sized into an infinitely better sequel, especially given Lorne Balfe’s score that’s determined to make you hear the human hearts beating within titanic, monster slaying robots. But then, composer Lorne Balfe certainly has put pedal to the metal before with his percussion-crunching score for “Terminator Genisys,” making him ideal to take on this way sturdier Jaeger assignment. Mostly minus the numskull goofiness and with the big plus of mostly taking place in the daylight this time, it’s like Balfe’s been given spanking new machines to play with for his “Rim” shot. Given that these certainly aren’t the only rock ‘em sock ‘em robots in town, what’s even more impressive about Balfe’s approach is that he gives “Uprising” a strongly distinctive voice that combines serious symphonic nobility, a haunting electric cello and the power chord guitar attitude of stomping on cities and punching through Kaiju hide. With no small time spent in Hans Zimmer’s company, Balfe certainly knows his futuristic gear, and creates a throbbing electronic sound that’s wired to the score’s stirring orchestral components with biomechanical finesse. He’s also got his receptors firmly tapped into a youth multiplex sound with trip-hop rhythmic attacks against giant brass villainy. “Pacific Rim” manages the neat feat of working as both music and shear propulsion, with the beat positively jetting about with Balfe’s alternately pulsating and patriotically soaring thematic approach, as suited up into state-of-the-sonic boom action writing. It’s a dynamic burst of high-tech, old school sci-fi scoring that truly makes these the robots you’ve been waiting for.


After such releases as “Race for the Yankee Zephyr” and “Thirst,” Dragon’s Domain Records continues on their Brian May kick with a double header that showcases the composer’s talent for kid’s adventure and cheeky adult fun. As the composer who essentially put film music from Down Under on the Hollywood map with the likes of “The Road Warrior,” May’s richly orchestral voice was perfect to accompany America’s “E.T.” star Henry Thomas as a kid discovering aboriginal myth and a potential monster in the submerged quarry that gave the movie its original title of “Frog Creek” (though wisely changed to “The Quest” for its stateside release). In service to filmmaker Brian Trenchard-Smith after the insanely objectionable “Turkey Shoot,” May’s score is a fine example of how to play up to a young audience. Given a bright theme to send the kid off on various creature and myth-hunting adventures that would freak out The Mystery Team, May brings a sense of charm and fun to the score along with genuine peril, with a distinctly throttling brass-lead sound (resoundingly performed by The Australian Symphony Orchestra) familiar to any fan of his Mad Max scores. Indeed, That “The Quest’s” suspenseful, snake rattling cues and its symphonically thrashing confrontation with the “monster” could fit into Max Rocketansky’s post-apocalyptic universe says much about how Miller takes the movie seriously, yet with a sense of magic and child-like sympathy well suited for the age range. May impressively burst on the scene with 1975’s “The True Story of Eskimo Nell,” a nudie cutie “western” based on the “womper” of a dirty Aussie ballad. Similarly debuting helmer Richard Franklin would climb several levels higher with May in more prestigiously thrilling entries like “Patrick,” “Road Games” and “Cloak and Dagger.” But that doesn’t mean that May’s debut is any less rip-roaring as it veers between the “Tale’s” goofier musical antics to the more musically straight-shooting adventures of Deadeye Dick and Mexico Pete in their pursuit of the outback wench. There’s a nice, lush quality to their ribald antics, whose galloping orchestra and harmonica blowing captures the distinctly American western spirit renowned by the likes of Elmer Bernstein. In a bit of ingenuity, he even uses the jaunty theme for the musical number “The Womper Song,” then trudges it along as a piano-topped tragic, trek. Thematically packed with swooning romance, dastardly brass villainy and even Arabic rhythm for a camel, “Eskimo Nell’s” delightfully sexy pastiche shows off May’s nakedly effusive spirit to come in more ways than one.


He may have been a liberal, but whether he’d like it or not, Jerry Goldmsith will certainly go down in American scoring history as the MAGA composer to rule them all with the white, blue, and bloody red of the flag-waving music he gave to Sylvester Stallone’s iconic avenger.

While John Rambo might have always been getting pulled back in, Goldsmith’s elegiac music for the character would evolve from the brooding sound of a wounded Vietnam vet exacting payback on police brutality to the brass-fueled, Asian-inflected excitement of single-handedly winning the Vietnam War in “First Blood Part II,” one of the most deliriously exciting scores of Goldsmith’s career. However, it could be argued that the character was on the wrong side of the fight with “Rambo III,” as he’d make Afghanistan safe for The Taliban while again wiping out most of Russian’s imperialist army in the process. Given just how many times all of the scores have been released, leave it to Intrada to have the final sonic word on Goldsmith’s mighty soundtrack trilogy with a gloriously remastered “Rambo III.” What’s particularly interesting given the score’s now-77 minute running time is just how truly diverse it is, its wealth of themes pointed out in producer Douglas Fake’s liner notes. Of course bringing back the noble trumpet theme of the first “Blood,” along with the body count hungry snake rattle of the second film, Goldsmith brings particular exoticism to this third outing. Beginning with stick fighting Oriental percussion, Goldsmith goes in country to Afghanistan with shimmering Arabic rhythm. Reflecting the grimness of the Russian occupation that the filmmakers were unaware would give birth to an even worse extremist state, Goldsmith conveys a grim, militaristic atmosphere, with string tenderness getting across sympathy for the civilians. His expansive orchestra and mighty brass also convey a pride for the tribal society that brings forth welcome memories of the composer’s majestic score for “The Wind and the Lion,” but with Rambo’s theme given the desert warrior treatment. You can even here just a touch of V’jer mystery as Rambo and the ever-faithful Colonel Trautman wipe out of a bunch of Russkies in a cave. Effortlessly blending electric percussion with a sweaty orchestra, Goldsmith’s most expansive “Rambo” score is the kind of full-charge testosterone music that the composer behind the officious likes of Patton and McArthur did so well. With “Rambo III,” he delivers rousing, ripping payback with maximum grunt force efficiency, but with a powerful sense of location and emotion for this somewhat unsung score in the trilogy, which now really gets to flex its thematically sweaty militaristic biceps.


“Revenge” is a score best served cold, and retro by Robin Coudert, a French composer whose pulsating, electric breakout arrived with 2012’s most definitely not feminist friendly “Maniac.” This time the lethal keyboard rage is on the other shoe of a woman who definitely isn’t the fairer sex, trudging across the desert for to exact rapist blood in this subversively acclaimed thriller. Like a heroine whose cloths (though not certainly not spirit) are reduced to tatters, Rob swings between unplugged, savage intimacy to enveloping trance beats. “Revenge” is scariest when reducing those rhythms to his “Maniac” essentials. His music’s synth heartbeats, sizzling percussion, warped ethnic beats and beyond-dark tonal atmospheres could easily fit inside the dead repairman’s suit that The Shape in “Halloween” wore as he went to town in Haddonfield – if certainly groovier here. There’s a grim, determination to Rob’s old school state of the electronic art that captures a character’s single-minded desire to become executioner in lifeless surroundings. Rob not only makes her spirit animal John Carpenter, but also captures the seminally American 70’s – 80’ final girl sound, as well as the hallucinatory style of Euro horror prog rockers like Goblin and Fabio Frizzi. Fans who dig that vibe will definitely want to be check out the hardcopy release from France’s Music Box Records (the source of nearly all releases Rob) to wander through an transfixing grindhouse synth desert, waiting for for the big payback.


Beyond doing an exceptional job of restoring and re-recording scores that showed Jerry Goldsmith well into his assured film scoring career with the likes of “The Blue Max” “Hour of the Gun” and “The Salamander,” producer James Fitzpatrick and The City of Prague Philharmonic have also played his powerful television epic “QB VII.” But perhaps even more interesting is how they bring a lush, fully symphonic score to Goldsmith’s smaller ensemble work for his Emmy-nominated work on “Thriller,” one of the golden age anthology shows like “The Twilight Zone” and “Playhouse 90” that the rising composer made his bones on. As opposed to Alfred Hitchcock presenting his macabre tales, horror icon Boris Karloff gave equal sinister aplomb to episodes of murder most foul during the 1960 – 62 run of “Thriller,” for which Goldsmith scored 17 shows. This follow up album continues dissecting his impressive run with six more blood-chilling entries. Listening to Goldsmith’s slow-burning invention that makes especially striking use of strings and brass, it’s easy to hear what Bernard Herrmann saw in this kid. Each selection on this CD has its distinguishing flourish. The Spanish guitar, castanets and Latin rhythms of “The Bride Who Died Twice” shows off Goldsmith’s western talents that could also be heard on “Rawhide” and “Have Gun, Will Travel.” You might even receive shades of “Planet of the Apes’” “The Hunt” in the shaker percussion trademarked ostinato piano and gonging bells that signal nothing good will come of the “Late Date.” “The Weird Tailor” develops with surprising violin and harp tenderness that you might imagine him knitting a “Patch of Blue” with, while the unsteadily building, death-tolling rhythm of “Masquerade” foreshadows any number of Goldsmith-scored monsters on the prowl before its suite dances maniacally about.. And in the most ferocious of the bunch (yet lyrically ending with a piano and violin sonata) “Terror in Teakwood,” you can imagine the shrill brass cry of a gremlin that would grin outside of John Lithgow’s plane window when Goldsmith got to revisit his TV alma matter with “Twilight Zone – The Movie.” Altogether going far more for brooding psychological hair-raising stuff with his uniquely trailblazing orchestrations, “Thriller” shows off Goldsmith as a master of suspense sowing his chilling oats, his atmospheric effectiveness made all the more impactful with a gloriously full, if still-intimate sound of the Prague Orchestra in a way that a limited TV ensemble of fourteen players wouldn’t have afforded back in the day. Given just how much music that Goldsmith composed for TV back then, I’d be looking forward to more musical resurrections from the boob tube that Tadlow now does so well, especially as perceptively chronicled by TV soundtrack expert Jon Burlingame.


Since his directorial debut with the Diablo Cody-scripted “Juno,” filmmaker Jason Reitman has shown interestingly quirky choices in both score and songs, particularly when attuned to feminine yearning. Now Reitman reunites with the screenwriter for the baby blues of “Tully” for a soundtrack that speaks to Generation X fading into the twilight of their dreams, even as it gives birth new life. There’s a wistful nostalgia to The Velvet Underground’s “Rise into the Sun” and Rufus Wainwright’s “Teargarten,” even as The Jayhawk’s “Blue” has an ironically upbeat energy. The gentle, folksy voice and guitar vibe of Beulahbelle gently sums up the sense of life passing by in the face of a new birth with the poetic “Let You Go.” But the undeniably brilliant song choice here is her whimsical rendition of “You Only Live Twice.” Written way back when by John Barry and Leslie Bricusse for a certain British secret agent, there’s no denying the somewhat melancholy nature of the theme song playing after a seeming death. With the lush orchestra of the familiar Tina Sinatra version stripped away to a guitar and keyboard, the tune becomes an smart ode to the ultimate reveal of “Tully,” while lyrically capturing the hopes and dreams of its free spirit have drifted away, even as a new love appears. It’s a song choice that’s not only brilliant in being a strikingly unstrung version of an 007 theme, but in showing the song’s lyrical reach into white suburbia. Reitman also has an exceptionally female friendly composer in indie scoring star Rob Simonsen (“Age of Adeline,” “Gifted”), who similarly downsizes for a lovely, rhythmically poignant approach that uses guitar and ethereal, off-kilter synths to capture a woman who’s life has become a dazed series of child care repetition – her former rock and roll attitude now mainstreamed into lyrical strumming, or drifting through bubbling melody. Yet it’s a vibe that’s perfect for the impossibly glowing spirit of a young helper who brings new spark to a woman submerged by a three-kid household. For a woman confronted with the draining reality of unassisted momhood, the songs and score of “Tully” combine for a dream-like enchantment that reveals that third time motherhood just might be her charm.


In his ear catching, off-kilter career spent mostly outside the norms of conventional scoring, Radiohead musician-turned-composer Jonny Greenwood has played no end of borderline psychotic characters, from a finally murderous oil magnate to a mindhead cult guru and a drug-addled P.I. But the child rescuing vigilante-for-hire of “You Were Never Really Here” must take some kind of psychotic cake. Fans who thought Greenwood was softening up just a little bit with his surprisingly melodic score for the tailor fetishist of “Phantom Thread” will be quickly thrown back down Greenwood’s distinctive rabbit hole as he conveys a drug-addled, violence-engulfed breakdown for Lynne Ramsay’s confrontational film that upends the sort of antics that are usually the realm of direct-to-video. Nearly every cue in “Here” is discombobulated in some way, whether it’s a strumming guitar being jolted by electroshocks or ethnic percussion going all over the place. Sampling city sounds, or speaking a title track of sorts, Greenwood’s score never lacks for mad invention. It’s anti-music that simultaneously repels and intrigues with the warped equivalent of rave beats, door-slamming percussion and anguished, neo-classical chamber music that recalls the seminal Avant-garde music of Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu. Yet bookending the bizarreness is a quite lovely, drifting theme that captures a dream-like optimism, a melody that’s like a desperate cry for normalcy from a war-scarred character never able to attain it. For a composer who can inventively transmit insanity like few others in the stranger-than-strange scoring business, it’s a theme that keeps us from going crazy in Greenwood’s pit of nightmarish invention that he singularly occupies.

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 Nima Fakhrara

Di, 15/05/2018 - 20:41

When the story choices of major videogames seem limited as such to modifying weapons, choosing spells and roaming territory to collect kills and prizes, the ever-evolving narratives of director David Cage was evolutionary for the genre. With character decisions leading to entirely different stories and fates in “Heavy Rain” and “Beyond: Two Souls,” Cage made it seem like fate itself was in the player’s hands as a choice in dialogue, or the decision to act violently or thoughtfully was the gateway to an any number of ever-branching realities.

In fact, the appeal of Cage’s games hearken to the dinosaur of print with the kid-centric series of “choose you own adventure” books, where a flip of the page could lead to a completely different path for a character – if one’s whose journey was limited by the number of pages. But beyond this novelty, Cage’s futuristic games also offered heady food for thought about the nature of humanity itself, a theme that now offers any number of possibilities within the storylines of three androids seeking their place in the world of “Detroit Become Human.” As part of its novel approach, Cage has hired three different composers to embody the synthetics that the player puppet masters, with Philip Shepard (“The Fear of 13”) the voice of the servant Kira and John Paesano (“The Maze Runner”) the synthetic Spartacus named Markus.

Launching our voyage into “Detroit” is Nima Fakhrara’s Connor, an ersatz Blade Runner tasked with unconvering his fellow androids’ increasingly violent malfunctions. Possessed with explosively rhythmic and eerily brooding voice as our choices allows, Fakhrara takes us through the clues and confrontation of a hostage situation for a soundtrack whose retro sampling will steadily recall the synth heyday of Vangelis and Hans Zimmer, all with Fakhrara’s own distinctive sampling that makes his “Detroit” work distinctively mesmerizing.

Hailing from Iran, Fakhrara has impressed with both his instrument-making skills and his talent for capturing uncanny subjects with “The Signal,” “The Pyramid” and “The Girl in the Photographs.” His game work also contained a haunting approach that would lead him to “Detroit” as Fakhrara dealt with his country’s regime change in “1979 Revolution: Black Friday,” then created the immersive musical experiences for the VR games of “Blindfold” and “Fire Escape.” Now the composer’s love of electronics rivets us into the headspace of an android discovering the importance of true flesh and blood for a city and score that pave a multiple-choice way to a brave new future of video game composing.

Tell us about your musical beginnings in Iran, and what led you to composing in Hollywood?

I was born in Iran and grew up learning Persian classical music and the instrument Santoor, with some of the masters in the field such as Maestro Saeed Sabeet, Faramarz Payvar, and Parviz Meshkatian. During my studies, due to the restrictive nature of the “Persian Classical Music” repertoire, I always believed there shouldn’t restrictions set on music you want to play or write. A musician should be able to explore the far boundaries as well as how to break these boundaries and explore the unfamiliar spaces. Therefore I always tried to create opportunities to and explore something fresh and new. After moving to the U.S., I wanted to be a performer of Persian Classical music and create a chance to introduce Persian Classical music and the Santoor to the western culture and incorporate it into the music and create something unconventional. Unfortunately, I realized performing Persian classical music doesn’t have many financial opportunities so I tried to discover a new field within the sector I love so much.

Nima and the Santoor

One of my other passions was movies and Hollywood action films. In Iran, due to the sanctions, my family would have Hollywood produced films delivered illegally by a gentleman called “the video guy” in VHS format. “The video guy” would provide the bootlegged movies door to door in a briefcase to households willing to take the risk involved in the transaction. When I moved to the U.S., I stumbled upon the film “Black Hawk Down,” where I noticed the use of Middle Eastern music complimenting Western sounds, particularly Hans Zimmer’s use of Persian Classical musicians such as Ali Tavallali playing Tombak within the score. After listening to this score, I realized there could be something within the world of film music where I could explore the possibilities I always imagined. That led me to work and learning from some of the most significant composers and musicians in the film music world.

How important was your time spent assisting composers like Christophe Beck (“The Seeker”), Mychael Dana (“Rendition”) and Hans Zimmer (“Sherlock Holmes”)?

I am thankful that I had the opportunity to work as an intern and assistant for these fantastic composers. This experience allowed me to be in the same room with some incredible filmmakers and understand the ins and outs of the film music industry. I tried to sponge up everything I could from these great composers. Michael Levine, Christophe Beck and Hans Zimmer were absolutely integral mentors of mine and I hope to work with them again in the very near future.

You began showing a particular ability for horror and science fiction. Are you musically attracted to the genre?

Nima and his studio

Being an admirer of the composers mentioned above and following their paths on how to succeed in the field of film scoring I realized I had to be a chameleon and be well versed in different genres. The fantastic filmmakers that I have had the fortune to work with have allowed me to work within the horror and sci-fi genres. Nick Simon, an excellent director and a good friend of mine, gave me one of my first opportunities to score his film, a thriller called “Removal,” that allowing me to experiment with orchestral sounds in the film. Within the thriller / horror genre, I become part of the storytelling aspect because the music is usually at the forefront. It got me excited to see the different possibilities of sounds that can be incorporated in these genres. With that said, I like projects that can explore new sounds and techniques that break the boundaries of todays music.

But to answer your question a bit more precisely, I like project that I could have the opportunity to explore new colors including but not limited to experimental orchestral works, vintage, modern and modular synthesizers and create custom instruments.

Your first major studio score was for 2014’s “The Signal.” Do you think the “retro” electronic feel of that soundtrack, plus the idea of “meta human” characters would be a precursor to “Detroit Become Human?”

The music, especially the exploration of custom instruments became an essential factor of both projects. One of the first conversations I had with the creators of “Detroit” was exploring custom instruments and creating new colors. Connor is an android, and just like humans, build androids and program them to do what they want, I wanted the instruments constructed to give off the same effect for the score; as if the sound was made solely for the android.

Were you a gamer before you first started scoring them? And what was the biggest difference you found between that realm and live action?

I am a big gamer. As a young kid, I had every gaming console imaginable, especially the Commodore 64, which for me was hours and hours of fun. I have also been fortunate enough to be able to work on games and franchises that I have been a fan of the game, as well as the creator, before creating their music and being involved with them, such as “Resident Evil” and David Cage.

To acclimate yourself with director David Cage’s multi-choice styles, did you played “Heavy Rain” and “Beyond Two Souls?” And if so, what were your impressions of the games?

I have been a big fan of David Cage and his storytelling style within the video game world and have followed his work and played his games. I always thought David’s way of storytelling is very fresh and new, which always fascinated me. I was excited to have the opportunity to work with him.

How did you become involved with “Detroit Become Human?” And what do you think it was about your music that made you ideal to take on the role of Connor?

I received a call regarding the project from Mary Lockwood, who was the music supervisor of the project. She was inquiring about my interest for the game, and as a fan of the project and the company’s previous works, I said yes without hesitation. The worlds of exploring custom instruments, as well as the sound synthesizers, were essential factors discussed with David and Mary at very early stages of the score. I like to explore new worlds of music, colors, and sounds, which are very difficult to verbalize. Creating new colors for a new world, especially the world of an android, was vital for the project.

David Cage

While the other android characters of Kara and Markus as rebels as such, how did you want to get across the idea of Connor as being the authority figure in the group?

Connor is an android officer who is questioning the world and the unfamiliar emotions he is having throughout his entire journey. The idea of an android being able to have emotional feelings without programming and go beyond the scope of its build was the driving force for the score. The other androids are rebels, but Connor is a little different. Although he is always in pursuit of the mission at hand, he is also trying to figure out if what he is doing is right and I had to make sure I address this self-doubt through the music.

Sci-fi has long been fascinated by the idea of androids that perceive themselves as human. What do you think that “Detroit” adds to that mix, especially when it comes to the music? And was it a given that your score would be predominantly electronic?

In today’s world, androids, robots, and AI are more relevant than ever before. In the game, the androids are a norm within households, providing an avenue to ease the lives of any individual. We already have virtual assistants and such, but I can see technology growing to this extent in our current world within the next 10-20 years. With the music, I wanted to create something that feels real but also stay true to the world of “Detroit” with the artificial vibes. David and the creators encouraged me to explore the sounds of this “future” world without any limitations. Most scores that you hear these days consist of prominent orchestral sounds. For “Detroit,” not only did I choose to forgo an actual orchestra, but I tried to record each instrument in different ways to give it the robotic authenticity I was looking for. I utilized orchestral instruments but made sure they all have an electronic feeling and factors to them such as an electric violin and cello.

Were you given the chance to play any of “Detroit Become Human” before starting the project?

I received videos and original story ideas. I also had the 3000-page script that David wrote that consisted of the different outcomes that the story can take. One of the more critical factors of this project was to make it feel like a storied journey and focus less on the fact that it is a video game. Although people are playing each character, we wanted them to live in a world of “Detroit” and really become immersed in the game.

The game starts off with your score for a hostage situation involving Connor, which was the first footage shown from the game a year ago. How important was it to nail that sequence?

The hostage scene was the first scene I scored for the project. This scene is essential as it introduces all of Connors themes and motifs in an abridged excerpt. Without giving away too much of the story, by the end of the scene, Connor begins to question different philosophies which become essential throughout the rest of the score and story.

Could you talk about the evolution of the score as the game progressed? How long did it take for the whole project to be completed?

As Connor’s story develops so does the score. You hear more and more “emotions” within the music, with more organic instruments as the pendulum swings from the robot android to the emotional Connor. I did that by transitioning from a heavy electronic score to more of a noir natural feel – which I still created with electronic devices. I worked on “Detroit Become Human” for about a year, which provided me ample time to build and create many different instruments.

Was it dizzying thinking of all of the story “branches” that the score could go off into at any given second? How was that accomplished both melodically, and technically?

Connor’s journey evolves and changes as the player makes choices, so the music had to do the same. Since the musical approach from the beginning was to think about branches, and I how I would create them, it was all planned and the score written with that in mind. Collaboration with the sound team of Mary Lockwood and Aurelien Baguerre was critical. They allowed me to write music the way I wanted without thinking about restriction. Once I developed the music in full, we delved a bit deeper into how these branches will feel and sound.

How did you split your musical character of Connor the score’s other composers Philip Sheppard (Kara) and John Paesano (Markus), while going for a soundtrack that was cohesive?

It was an interesting creative choice to not allow access to the music of the other two composers so that we could each stay true to our characters. To our pleasant surprise, the score is very cohesive, and I have to acknowledge the vision of the creative team that had this plan and executed it flawlessly.

Could you talk about the gear, and sampling that went into the score, especially when engineering a cool “Blade Runner”-esque sound at points?

The primary instrument for Connor is a Vintage Moog Voyager. I created most of the melodic elements of the score with a vintage Juno 60 and an Ob6. The majority of the electronic rhythms I composed with a combination of the multiple Moog Mother 32’s and the custom Connor Guitar I built.

The Connor Guitar

The idea of the Connor guitar was by thinking of what a sub-harmonic guitar can sound and how I would be able to create that sound. I had a conversation with my welder, whom I have worked with before, and we mapped out a 20-foot guitar with a contact microphone attached to it. Another instrument that its sound is used for is the rhythmical elements, especially when Connor is investigating, are two instruments that a great company out of Portland called Resonant Garden and Masculine. These are electro-acoustic instruments with modular synthesizer abilities. I modified these instruments a bit as well to stay true to the world of Connor.

The Garden Resonator

What was the importance between varying your music between rhythmic action, and the more interior, emotional aspect of the score?

The importance of keeping the music accurate to the environment as well as the changes that occur as the character evolves was some of the most difficult and challenging parts of the process. The way I handled these changes was through creating thematic ideas and making sure these ideas can shift and evolve to whatever is necessary so the music stays fresh.

The Mescaline

Tell us about your use of strings in “Detroit?”

As I mentioned, I didn’t want to use the orchestra. However, I still wanted to achieve some emotional tone that can translate into an “artificial emotional.” The instruments that I used consisted of un-amped electric violins and cellis. The Electric string instruments, unless played with amplifiers, do not make noticeable noise. They create a faint sound that I manipulated to meet the emotional needs. I also used a solo acoustic violin, and a viola. These instruments were also modified. I customized and restrung the violin to have the range of a viola, and the viola restrung to have the range of a traditional bass.

How did you technically map out how the music so it could spin off into different variables with Connor’s story? Or were you going for more of a cohesive sound?

To achieve the cinematic feel as well a cohesive sound, the initial planning of why and how each one of the branches can change was part of the thematic approach. Since the preparation came early, the thematic writing became easier without thinking of what the musical branches would do.

How did you want to get across a sense of Connor’s discovery about his place in the world?

The discovery of new ideas and philosophy by a human is always exciting and surprising yet unexpected. As human’s, we are taught to discover and be curious. But for an android like Connor, this is a deviancy from the mission. So the discovery of new philosophies for Connor can be described as new beginnings and new ideas that are open-ended.

What was it like to finally bring together Connor and his music with the other main characters? And did you meld your music with the other composers when doing so?

To my surprise when I heard the music of John and Philip, I was happy that our sounds were somewhat similar, not compositionally but by way of musical production colors of the score. Once again, without giving too much away, there are sections of the game where the music from the different characters had to cross over. So by mixing the music of the Kara and Markus and adding elements to and from each other to make the scene change was necessary.

Given all of the variables, how long did your music actually end up being, along with the rest of the score?

I believe I wrote about 2 hours of music, give or take. But it is difficult to calculate as the branches had to be developed and fleshed out.

A theme of “Detroit” is of androids being “outsiders.” As an Iranian in America, can you personally relate to that? And do you hope to be given a project that would return you to your Middle Eastern roots?

I would love to work on a project that takes me back to my roots! There are times in certain circumstances where I can definitely relate to Connor and the feelings of being an outsider. There are many challenges carried by individuals who immigrate to America. As a Middle Eastern composer in the entertainment industry, there are certain scenarios you have to face daily where you have to prove yourself as an individual, on both a musical and personal level. At the same time, these experiences have allowed me to have a unique take on different projects and adjust the music accordingly to fit the situation, and for that I am grateful. This makes me different, my experiences, my culture and where I come from, this gives me my unique voice.

The most important task I have as a composer is to stay true to the story, environment, and authenticity of the project. Although I use different styles, I still like to incorporate the unique sounds of Middle Eastern instruments to convey fresh music that breaks the monotony of today’s scores.

I do hope that I get the chance to reflect on my roots and score something where I could showcase the true culture of the environment where I grew up. It is very important for me to give back to my heritage and create something that is reflective of my upbringing. The Middle Eastern culture is a beautiful one with fascinating stories, and I would love to be able to tell one of those with genuine authenticity for a complete experience.

What do you think that “Detroit Become Human” shows about the future of video games, and what comprises the idea of “playing” them?

The world of video games and VR has evolved into a storytelling platform, and that is very important to understand. The creators of video games and VR are creating things that they sometimes can’t convey in the traditional format. I believe we are in a world that the idea of platform bending is near and we have and will see that progress soon.

Given how quickly “Detroit” might be over if Connor were played in a gung-ho manner, would you recommend that people use the most introspective choices to hear the most of your score?

No actually! I recommend the player to play the game however they choose, and it is their choice and decision on how to go about their journey. But I do recommend to go back and play it again with the opposite set of rules to get the full effect of the game. Like I said, no two stories end up being the same, and as a result, the games goes beyond the traditional linear story mode to add a variety for people.

Get a download of Sony Interactive’s deluxe edition of “Detroit Become Human” HERE, and receive its multiple character scores as part of the game.

Listen to Nima’s original android “Signal” on Varese Sarabande HERE

Visit Nima Fakhrara’s website HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with John Massari

Wo, 02/05/2018 - 15:28

In the annals of absurdist 80’s kult films, there’s only one movie that combines a bonkers alien invasion with a universal fear of clowns. That distinction belongs to 1988’s “Killer Klowns from Outer Space,” wherein a carnival of comically grotesque creatures descend upon a small town – turning the wonderful stuff of Big Top themed-entertaining against us with a lethal arsenal that includes mutant cotton candy, shadow puppets and popcorn. The Klowns were given life from the wonderfully deranged minds of Chiodo Brothers Charles, Edward and Stephen (who’d take directing reigns as well), their talents truly bonded with the devilishly child-like glee they brought to makeup and stop motion animation in such projects as “Critters,” “Freaked” and “Robocop.”

Yet any circus would be half as effective as creating kid-scarring nightmares if not for its music. The same could also be said for any cult movie minus its loopy score. A big credit for “Klowns’” endurance goes to its NYC-born composer John Massari. Scored at the relative beginning of career that was already showing eclectic promise with the likes of “Hart to Hart,” “The Wizard of Speed and Time” and “Lust for Freedom,” Massari devised a virtual sideshow of styles for the Chiodos. On one white-gloved hand, there was the symphonic-styled bombast of a 50’s creature-on-the loose flick. The others would show off circus calliope music and rude punk rock energy – an attitude hilariously summed up by The Dickies title song. Like “Klowns,” Massari refused to let his imagination be constrained by any budgetary limit, helping the movie live on in the WTF annals of genre cinema.

In the 30 years since “Killer Klowns,” Massari has racked up over 100 credits that have touched upon every iconic personage from Sweeney Todd to Johnny Quest and a virtual Jesus Christ. But it’s arguably the Chiodos’ twisted characters that remain Massari’s most memorable subjects. Now with their anniversary, Massari’s imagination has ignited “Killer Klowns’” music into true orchestral invader status with a “Reimagined” album. Igniting the project through a quickly-funded social media drive, Massari has gathered numerous instrumentalists (including “The Walking Dead’s” Bear McCreary on accordion and flutist Sara Andon) into The Bridge Recording Studio to conjure an orchestral impact worthy of “It Came From Other Space,” mixing his symphony with such instruments s the organ and rock guitars to take his score into into a bigger, better musical dimension that’s lost none of his original lo-fi charm. With The Dickies returning to sing a souped-up title track, The result is all treat and no trick when it comes to a reconceptualization that will blow away longtime fans and likely gain new Klown cultists.

“Klowns’” three-ring celebration begins with Arrow’s special edition blu ray, continues on with a live score-to-picture performance in LA on May 19th,and concludes with a formidable special presentation on Varese Sarabande Records, whose releases includes such bonuses as Massari’s way-back-when demo and a new grrll power tune, it’s an all-in celebration of a carnival from interplanetary hell whose sinister appeal has kept on giving – particularly for a composer who ran away to join a hilariously sinister circus.

What sparked your imagination to turn you into a composer?

Mixing the reimagined Killer Klowns soundtrack

It all started at a triple feature of “The Time Machine,” “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and “Mysterious Island” when I was 6 years old. The music from those films struck me like a bolt of lightning and gave me such a transforming experience that I began to learn how to recreate that musical experience for both myself and others. I immediately started playing the piano, trying to capture and relive the sounds and sensations I witnessed.

Right before “Killer Klowns” you scored a quite wonderful feature version of “The Wizard of Speed and Time,” which grew from a short that was a favorite at comic conventions. Could you talk about the movie, and working with its wizard Mike Jittlov?

That is a wonderful question and I have very fond memories of the experience working on that film and directly with Mike Jittlov. What stands out in my mind the most is that I was asked to act in the film when I all I wanted to do was concentrate on the music score. Thanks to academy award winning cinematographer Russell Carpenter, I received expert coaching in how to face the camera, a memory I shall hold dearly and never forget. My daughters watched the movie several times and did not recognize me because of my Frank Zappa hairdo and mustache. One day I came home and while pointing at me exclaimed, “Dad! You’re the pizza guy!” I feel that this question in of itself can be an article. All I can tell you now at this time is that Mike is doing well. I spoke with him a few weeks ago and we are embarking on a small project together that I very much look forward to.

When you were approached with “Killer Klowns,” what was your first reaction?

I was struck by the brilliance and originality of not only the idea and concept of the movie, but the visual landscape that the Chiodo Brothers created. I just knew that fate would bring me to this movie somehow, and I expressed that in my first audition demo – which was thankfully well received by both the studio and the filmmakers.

Did it strike you how many styles could be part of the score?

Immediately! At the time I was listening to a great deal of Frank Zappa, Eddie Van Halen’s guitar work and The Beastie Boys. While at the same time being fascinated with the later symphonies of Shostakovich and Prokofiev’s Scythian Suite. I schemed a plan to somehow combine all these styles to create the perfect pastiche!

Given how wonderfully ridiculous the concept of “Klowns” was how important was it for the music to walk the tightrope between having fun with the material, while not hurting it with musical condescension?

John’s Wildcat Studio in 1987

Staying on that tightrope was of the utmost importance because if we fell off, we lost our audience. So the strategy was to play the comedy with serious music and strategic pauses in the music to allow visual and verbal gags to breathe.

Did you have a favorite Klown to score for?

Really? You are going to force me into a King Solomon style decision? Each and every Klown is my favorite. I hold each one dear as though they were one of my children. They each have charms of their own that I cherish.

John and the Chiodo Brothers at Monsterpalooza (L-R Stephen Chiodo, Charlie Chiodo, Shorty, Slim. Fatso, John Massari and Edward Chiodo)

Tell us about working with the Chiodo Brothers, and what you felt made them distinctive.

Working with the Chiodos made me feel like a 12 year old kid again. Their enthusiasm and artistic expertise is infectious. Each of the Chiodo Brothers has a distinctive expertise, so watching them work and discuss concepts together was quite illuminating. There would be times that they would all be talking at the same time, yet come to a conclusion together. It’s a beautiful thing to behold.

How did The Dickies come into the picture for the infamous theme song?

John and The Dickies at the Viper Room

Prior to the films first day of shooting, music Director Bob Hunka brought The Dickies on board and communicated the basic concept of the movie at which point Leonard Grave Phillips wrote this perfect badass song that completely defines the film.

How was the original score for “Klowns” produced, especially when it came to how orchestras were sampled back in the 80’s day?

Back in the 80’s samplers that produced realistic believable acoustic instrument sounds of were very rare. The reliability was not 100% – as it would be today. You could never achieve the true orchestral sound as you can today. Bearing that in mind, we made a consciousness decision to not use a live orchestra and instead use synthesizers and samplers of the day in a unique stylized fashion to create an orchestra-like sound without sounding like an orchestra. The Chiodo brothers were very precise in their direction, especially Charlie, who specified that he wanted an elegant orchestral sound and classically-motivated music coming out of unfamiliar-sounding instruments.

What gave you the idea of doing an orchestral version of “Killer Klowns?”

Bill Begley

Five years ago I met fans for the first time that were totally in love with the movie and its score. One person in particular, Bill Begley (who sadly is no longer with us) remarked on how the classical influence attracted him to my score and he said how wonderful it would be to hear it performed by a live orchestra. Therefore the seed was planted and began to grow.

This “Klowns” was made possible by crowd funding. Did you look at similar campaigns from other composer’s “concept” album “fund me’s” in putting yours together?

Oddly enough what fascinated and inspired me were campaigns that had nothing to do with orchestral film music. One was James Lopez’s ‘Hullabaloo” a 2D animated steampunk Film by distinguished Disney veteran 2D animators. And secondly, actor and producer, Wilson Cruz’s “Out of the Box” LGBT documentary Series.

How did you want to expand the score for this version?

Komposing the original Killer Klowns

My original plan was to stay true to the score as it originally stood but performed by an orchestra. The only tow pieces of music that were expanded upon was the classic Killer Klown March – it appears several times thru the film as a motif, which no version lasting longer than a minute. It was a great experience to expand it to a full six-minute piece of music where I could develop the music to my heart’s content. I added variations and ended with a slow epic metal ballad played by guitarist Jonathan Padilla. Alex May on drums, Margaret Maria on electric cello and myself playing keyboard and bass. The second was Muscle Car Klown performed by myself, Jonathan Padilla and composer Bear McCreay, all produced with my new Cinematic Steampunk sound.

A lot of the charm of the 80’s synth, or small orchestral scores is their stripped down nature. What was the challenge of symphonically expanding your original without losing that low-fi magic? And what new instruments could you add into the mix?

Sara Andon on Flute with the Klowns Wind Section

In order to meet that challenge I had to approached the recording session as though it was 1958 recording session – with a full woodwind and brass section, percussion, harp and keyboard and a small string section. Everything from the placement of the musicians in the studio and microphone techniques were precisely set as in the late 1950’s to early 1960’s television scores. When you add to that mix some of the greatest musicians in the world, it resulted in a very gratifying production. My aim was to create an atmosphere of fun, affording the musicians a bit of leeway to ham-it-up. Overall we had a very fun and rewarding recording session. Each performance was accomplished on either Take 1 or Take 2.

What were the recording sessions like? And what do you think the musicians made of the score?

When I woke up the morning of The Bridge Recording Studio session, I blasted out of bed and could not get to the studio fast enough. Granted I stopped at Porto’s because an orchestra moves on its stomach and is motivated by good food (also Noah’s Bagels delivered). Many of the musicians grew up watching this film as kids. They were very familiar with it and their focus and enthusiasm was infectious.

John Konducts the Klown Orchestra at The Bridge Recording Studio

I particularly loved the big organ sound for this album. It’s an instrument you never seem to hear enough of on any score. Do you think there’s an automatically scary connotation to it, especially when it comes to clowns?

That is a very good observation. I imagine the big cathedral organ to be a giant circus calliope, which matches our Klown world perfectly.

What do you think of the true big top nature that the orchestra gives to the score’s “Klown” component?

When the composition changes textures and moves on the turn of a dime, the orchestra helps create a wild ride.

John and the Walking Dead accordianist Bear McCreary

How did the score’s punk rock attitude grow for this album?

These past few years I have been working on a project called Cinematic Steampunk, which is distributed by A-List Trailer Music. This sound grows from the many influences that I have experienced during my musical life. It is my own odd combination of raw energy and classical music that I most admired from composers such as Frank Zappa..

Tell us about the album’s bonus tracks.

Marcus LaCroix

I could not resist including the my original audition demo. The contrast to the re imagined score is quite drastic. This demo captures my raw initial impressions which struck me like a bolt of lighting. It was composed in one day and recorded the next. The choice of this scene to score was crucial. In this scene we get to know our main characters, we seen the inside of the Klown ship as Klowns chase our heros prior to the invasion of Cresent Cove. “Escape into Klown Kathedral” gets an old fashion theatre organ treatment inspired by loyal fan fan and classical Organ connoisseur, Marcus LaCroix. It is fun to image that Kliller Klowns may have been a classic horror film in the early days of Hollywood’s silent era. This interpretation lends well to that reminiscence. Re orchestrating and performing the orchestra version for theater organ was quite a thrill. “Tell Me What is Real” was a collaboration between my very good friends Larry Goetz and Robin Levy Goetz. The lyrics are inspired by a story my Grandmother told me when she came to America as a little girl. Larry was the lead vocalist and Robin sang back up and atmosphere voices. The musical themes stem from the iconic Killer Klown march. It was important for me to personalize the music for Klowns in some way. The “Killer Klowns” score was the last score of mine that my Grandmother heard before she passed away.

The full scope of the Killer Klowns orchestra

What did the Chiodos think of your musical re-imagining?

They were completely caught by surprise as they sat inside Eastwood Scoring Stage at Warner Brothers, unaware of what was about to happen. When they heard the first blast of orchestration, they looked like three little boys at Christmas time.

Tell us about the live event for the score that’s been put together for Los Angeles?

I am excited about the circus atmosphere where people can dress up in costume, have fun, be entertained and have a sense of a homecoming. The concert is taking place on the very day the movie premiered 30 years ago. At the moment, I am drowning in preparation. But seriously, all hands are on deck, armed to the teeth to make this concert a success. I am certain of one fact, when I walk onto the stage. I will pull out my baton and give a spectacular performance. My fellow brother and sister composers have been supportive and are excited for me. We all envision events such as this becoming a tradition, such as Burning Man and Coachella.

What do you think this album shows about how 80’s cult scores can be re-imagined in a more “traditional” was as such? And what other ones can you hear getting this kind of treatment – even if they might be from movies you scored?

Fans of any particular cult film could anticipate reinterpretations of their favorite music performed live. It would be fun to hear John Carpenter’s scores orchestrated and performed by an orchestra and play in concert, as well as all the classic horror films of the 1980’s like “Nightmare on Elm Street,” etc…

There’s a “Return of the Killer Klowns from Outer Space in 3D” now listed on the IMDB. Do you think this might actually happen, and how do you think they’d freak out a new generation that’s all about Cirque De Soleil as opposed to The Ringing Brothers when it comes to real life big tops?

All I can say is that this moment is that I’m held to a non-disclosure agreement!

Get tickets for the live score and Q & A “Killer Klowns” 30th anniversary event at Los Angeles’ Montalban Theater on Saturday May 19th HERE

Pre-order John Massari’s re-imagined “Killer Klowns,” available May 25th on Varese Sarabande HERE

Purchase Arrow Video’s new special edition of “Killer Klowns” on blu ray HERE

Visit John Massari’s website HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Audio: Interview with Andrew Lockington and Brad Peyton

Vr, 13/04/2018 - 00:36

ON THE SCORE is sponsored by La-La Land Records

When it comes to rock ‘em sock ‘em collaborations, two increasingly fierce talents in the Hollywood effects Thunderdome are Canadian-born composer Andrew Lockington and filmmaker Brad Peyton. A protégé of musician Mychael Danna on such scores as “8MM” and “Felicia’s Journey,” Lockington’s own star rose from such lyrical indie scores as “Saint Ralph” and “Frankie & Alice” to take on a far bigger sound with the likes of “City of Ember” and “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” Starting out with the Claymation series “What it’s Like Being Alone,” Peyton’s talent for family entertainment saw him direct “Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore.” Far bigger things were ahead for both artists when they first teamed with 2012’s “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” which entertainingly modernized the Jules Verne classic as a vehicle for The Rock to ride giant bees on to the tune of Lockington’s symphonically adventurous score. Taking a more twisted turn with the unique exorcism thriller “Incarnate” and its chilling score, the duo next upped their visual, and musical scale as The Rock survived everything the earth could throw at him in “San Andreas.”


Yet even The Big One has nothing on the Rock-plus triumvirate of massive beasts that Peyton and Lockington now unleash with “Rampage.” Easily the most ambitious adaptation of a classic arcade game, this Chicago city-buster gives impressive CGI life to a once eight bit white ape, flying wolf and lethally spiked crocodile. But no matter its scope, “Rampage” would be all sound and fury if not for the fun and emotional heart that Peyton and Lockington bring to the movie. As Peyton makes us root for the albino ape to get his sanity back, Lockington delivers a chest beating score full of symphonic weight. With an accent of Africa, the epically thrilling score truly gets its chance to roar with furious brass and angered themes that also convey a heroic race against time. It’s a “Rampage” that delivers the popcorn goods, as done by two artists who aren’t afraid to let their rousing talents go to town.

Now on new episode of “On the Score,” Andrew Lockington and Brad Peyton reveal an ever-building scale to a partnership that reaches heights with “Rampage.”

Click above to Listen Now or Click Here to Download

Andrew (L) & Brad (R)

Buy the Soundtrack: RAMPAGE Buy the Soundtrack: SAN ANDREAS Buy the Soundtrack: JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND Buy the Soundtrack: INCARNATE Visit Andrew Lockington’s Website

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Marco Beltrami

Wo, 04/04/2018 - 23:55

In a long scoring career that began by musically shrieking for a Kafka-masked killer as his intended victims did their damndest to stay silent, Marco Beltrami has spent quite a bit of time making memorable musical noise in the service of terror. Whether the maniacs he played were vampires, werewolves, goblins or cyborgs, Beltrami’s full-throated style has known how to stalk and rip asunder with no shortness of invention. But perhaps the need to have his often raging soundtracks shut it up for humanity’s sake has never been put to quite as cleverly a sinister twist as “A Quiet Place,” where the composer himself would last about a millisecond if he practiced his craft in the movie’s post-apocalyptic world.

Thankfully, the family of this acclaimed horror film knows better, having seen the rest of humanity shredded by near-invincible creatures from God knows where that attack at the slightest sound. As played by real-life wife and husband Emily Blunt and John Krasinski (who also serves as star, co-writer and co-producer), Evelyn and Lee Abbott lead an extremely tenuous life with their two kids, where every activity is centered around being as quite as a church mouse. But fraying tensions, and the fact that Evelyn has a baby on the way make it a certainty that air waves are going to be rent asunder to horrifying results for all of the sonic home proofing that Lee has put into place.

For a composer, whom along with Buck Sanders, had to hold his breath to Oscar-nominated effect in “The Hurt Locker,” Beltrami shows his effectiveness in tension that you could cut with a razor blade. Pounding heartbeat suspense fills the soundtrack’s unbearable builds, made all the more unbearable with the jump the audience knows is coming. Relentless, stomping terror attacks with waves of grinding electronics, howlingly mutated samples and ferocious brass, the kind of rhythmic rampaging that Beltrami does like no horror-friendly composer’s business. Yet for all of its monstrously powerful orchestrations, what makes “A Quiet Place” especially powerful is a solo piano that conveys what very well might be the last people on earth, unexpectedly lush strings the lyricism of children facing a very bleak future.

Imagine the guttural savagery and poignant solitude of Beltrami’s “Logan” score as taken to new, primal lengths, and you’ll get an idea of his effectiveness at conjuring a world gone mad not only because of constantly prowling beasts, but by the impossible, muted restraint they’ve caused. Powerfully balancing melancholy melody with nerve-splitting dissonant effects, Beltrami’s “Quiet Place” goes from a whisper to a scream with terrific inventiveness, as only a composer seasoned by decades of hiding from, and facing off against evil knows how to – especially as given his most thematically novel twist yet.

You’ve had a rewarding collaboration with actors-turned-writer/directors like Tommy Lee Jones. Would you say it’s more interesting to deal with multi-hyphenates, especially when the stakes are extra-personal to them?

Actor-hyphenates that have a vested interest in the project are extra enthusiastic about their work and about the process. They’re more receptive to originality, and not constrained as much by a lot of the people around them that could surround a normal project. So you have the possibility for coming up with unique, creative musical approaches.

How did you become involved with “A Quiet Place?”

My agent Laura Engel got a call from Randy Spendlove, the president of music at Paramount who mentioned that there was this project shooting in New York. He wanted to know if I’d be able to read the script, and if I liked it, then maybe meet with John where they were shooting. I read the script and was blown away, because I had never read anything like this that really had very little dialogue in it. As soon as I went to the set and saw what they were doing, I thought that had a lot of interesting possibilities musically and that it could be a lot of fun. Coincidentally, I was going to be in New York anyway!

Noise has always attracted monsters on the prowl, but “A Quiet Place” raises that premise up several notches. Given the idea of sound equaling instant death, was there ever the question of wondering why there should be music in the film in the first place –as it would be a “third wall” alert to the killer creatures?

Well, this is always the question in a movie. In Hitchcock’s “Lifeboat,” they’re in the sea. Hitchcock says to Hugo Friedhofer, “Why would there be music? Where’s the orchestra? They’re out in the lifeboat.” Friedhofer’s reply was, “That’s a good question, so where are the cameras?” I think the same thing applies here. It’s a movie. You’re not supposed to necessarily be aware of the music, but it manipulates the audience just like the lighting, or the cinematography, or the acting. It obviously has to be used carefully, and there’s definitely attention to silence and how silence is used. It also has a place for the emotional undercurrent of the movie and the arc of the characters developing that.

Tell us about your collaboration with John Krasinski. And how would you describe his taste in music?

I very much enjoyed working with John, because he, approaches music not from a traditional point of cinematic view, but more from what inspires him on an emotional level. After meeting with him and coming back to LA, he sent me a couple of pieces of music that he liked. One of them was the cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes.” That is what started me thinking in terms of the family theme for “A Quiet Place.”

You’ve done some very effective scores set in the apocalypse. Do you think there’s a mournful loneliness that comes with the territory, especially in “A Quiet Place?”

Well, there’s definitely a mournful loneliness to “A Quiet Place.” I don’t want to give away the movie, but the family has a strong sense of loss that pervades everything that they do. It’s sort of like a non-spoken heartbreak between everybody. So there’s definitely a sense of mournfulness to the score because of that.

Before the finished shots of the monsters came in, what kind of picture did you create in your imagination?

They had diagrams that gave me an idea of what the monsters were going to look like, though I wasn’t aware of their final concept until quite late. They had an important impact for the direction of the music. Actually, some cues that were based on the monster’s initial pictures had to be reworked to capture their final realization from a sound point of view.

How did the film’s rural setting play a part in your score? And would you say that it connected it to your scores in the disturbed western genre like “The Homesman?”

The rural setting is important to the story of the movie, because it’s sort of going back to basics, in many respects, of a time when a family had to provide for themselves with shelter, food, water, and comfort. In that respect, the score has a very traditional aspect to it. I wasn’t actively trying to emulate my “Homesman” score, though there’s a scene with them all having dinner together that may have a little bit of that Americana feel to it.

You’ve often used interesting techniques to capture musical sound design. How did you collect samples for “A Quiet Place?”

In a few ways. I had a session early on where string players came to my studio, and we recorded them just doing gestured type things that we could later manipulate electronically, and have an acoustical source for. I wanted all the electronic elements to be derived from an acoustical source. All the stuff that you hear in the monster suite is derived from acoustical sources. Then I took a piano and detuned all the black notes by a quarter-step and used that for the theme, so, something’s slightly off about its sound. We just had to be careful and use it sparingly, because a little bit of that goes a long way.

In that respect, would you say you’re one of the more “environmental” composers out there?

I’m very aware of the sound world that we’re working in and how the music and sound are going to work together. So in that sense, I’m definitely aware of the environment that we’re working in. I also find it fun to discover sources that are relevant to a film’s score, but that are slightly unique.

Given that people have to express emotion internally under pain of death, did that place even more importance on the score? And how do you think it reflects the family dynamic of people buckling under the father’s authority?

I think the fact that the actors are able to convey all of the emotional things that they do without dialogue is a testament to their acting ability. The music is supportive in some of these areas, especially when there is a subtext or something that needs to be reinforced or commented on. There are also plenty of emotional scenes in the movie that have no score.

Tell us about the use of percussion in “A Quiet Place.”

There’s a drum that we took and manipulated electronically that became the source of the rhythmic pulse. There’s a little bit of other percussion in some of the more active scenes later on in the movie especially, but I wouldn’t say this is a percussion-heavy score.

With many horror scores just turning to plain old dissonance, how important has it been to keep a sense of melody for your genre efforts?

Well, the emotional parts of the score are definitely melodic, and there’s a melodic theme. For the alien component of this movie, it’s more motivic than it is melodic.

How did you want to spot, and orchestrate the score in terms of figuring out the right moments for the music would be at its most sparse, or employ fuller strings?

The spotting of the music changed as the film was edited, as it was in a constant state of evolution and flux. Scenes that originally may have had music may not have had music later, and vice versa. Scenes that originally might have been silent would end up with music. One of the things that I find interesting working about working with actor/directors is that there’s a constant search for perfection and originality, especially with John. He was never content to rest on “this is good enough.” He wanted to strive for perfection as best he could in all aspects of the moviemaking process. It’s demanding but rewarding at the same time.

You scored “Mathilde,” a romance about Czar Nicholas that caused quite a stir in Russia. Could you talk about the challenges of working on an envelope-pushing Soviet production, and your work for it?

That was an amazing, unique experience working and recording in Russia with probably one of the most famous conductors in the world on a post-production schedule that took about a year. Since our director Aleksey Uchitel didn’t speak English, we communicated through music and through picture. It was one of the best, most unique scoring experience that I’ve had.

Having made your bones with horror films, how do you think movies like “A Quiet Place” push the genre, and the role and sound of music in it? And in that way, do you think you’ve become more of an experimental composer in that realm than how you started out in it?

The “Scream” movies, which were among my first ventures into horror genre, were a much different type of film, much more over the top and strictly orchestral. I came from a place of working only with orchestra. Electronics is something new, and I didn’t really pursue them until later as we went along with Buck Sanders as my partner. Little by little, the search for unique instrumental timbre has shifted from just being possible to do with the orchestra to now being able to do with musical technology. It’s allowed us to be able to really get some amazing things from all sorts of sounds including these environmental sources that you mentioned. I guess, in that sense I have evolved my approach. But at heart, I still think it’s the same visceral response to picture that guides what I try to achieve musically, even if the method is a little different.

As a composer, is it important to find moments of complete silence in your life – though for your sanity as opposed to avoiding creatures?

Yes, of course. I’m haunted by noise in my head, and it’s important for me to learn to find ways to dampen it down to a minimal volume as best I can.

“A Quiet Place” tiptoes into theaters on April 6th, with Marco Beltrami’s score available digitally on April 6th from Milan Records, and then on CD on May 11th HERE. Then listen to Beltrami romance the Russian royals with “Mathilde” HERE

Visit Marco Beltrami’s website HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Garth Stevenson

Wo, 04/04/2018 - 02:03

The ghosts of the past, and a future tragically cut off are very much alive with eerie, sad beauty and infuriating political relevance in “Chappaquiddick.” Digging up a past the Kennedy family wish would stay buried in the waters off their oceanside sanctums, director John Curran revisits a series of bad decisions made by their remaining golden boy Ted (Jason Clarke), the president-to-be who ends up driving campaign worker Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara) off a small, island bridge, leaving her to die horribly while he wanders off to get his head together on the best way to make his political aspirations survive. The ensuing cover up is a powerful lesson on how the well-appointed and beyond-rich can get away with just about everything while preserving their all-important image.

Painting a musical picture that’s intimate while reaching from the nation to the moon itself is Garth Stevenson. Having made his film scoring debut for Curran with the psychologically expansive Aussie outback journey of a woman and her camel in “Tracks,” Stevenson has continued his own, alternative-oriented soundtrack voyage with characters trying to find their place in the world in “Red Knot,” 10,000 Saints” and “Tater Tot & Patton.” Given the real-life players of “Chappaquiddick” that do their best to keep a crime quiet as their own morality sinks into a quagmire, Stevenson takes a haunting, introspective and thematic approach to a conspiracy that plays itself out against the backdrop of a man submerged by family expectations and a nation waiting for one giant leap for mankind.

Capturing the kind of poignant piano and orchestral presence of such modern classical composers as Arvo Part, Stevenson weaves together slow, echoing themes that convey the movement of water, a drifting lack of conscience and star-filled wonder. Organ and voice become the presence of a woman’s life cut short, tense strings the rage of a stroke-silenced patriarch and determined rhythm a conspiracy of silence trying desperately to save a president-to-be even as he fumbles their plans. It’s an emotionally affecting, spectral presence of a score that likely will build many viewers’ sense of betrayal while bringing to the surface the darkest chapter in a Camelot’s legacy cut short. Yet, the one secret that this “Chappaquiddick” will not hold is the melancholy, mesmerizing ability of a truly interesting composer on the independent scene, a musician gifted here with a strikingly lyrical sense of observation to an American tragedy.

Tell us about your interest in music, and what led you to scoring?

II started playing piano at a young age then switched to double bass in high school because our jazz band needed a bass player. I think it’s safe to say many bassists got their start this way, simply because there was no one to play bass. I fell in love with the instrument and a few years later I was leaving Western Canada for Berklee College of Music in Boston. Partway through my first year at Berklee I developed severe tendonitis from over playing, usually in the eight hours a day range. I was devastated and switched my degree from performance to composition. In hindsight the tendonitis was a gift. I dove deeply into studying composition and when I finally recovered, I had the path of both a bassist and composer to follow.

While in Boston I began working with an older generation of master improvisers including drummers Nat Mugavero, Bob Moses, and Bob Gullotti, saxophonist George Garzone, guitarist David Tronzo, trombonist Hal Crook, and my bass mentor John Lockwood. Most of the concerts and sessions I played with these musicians were completely improvised. There was an expectation that any music you had been working on or practicing at home would be left at the door and all that you could rely on was deep listening, sensitivity and trust with your fellow musicians, and allowing the music to unfold naturally. As a composer, many interesting concepts came from these group improvisations like having multiple tempos happening simultaneously, having themes or fragments of themes being passed around the ensemble, how to swing when there’s no tempo, the balance of density and sparseness. These are all concepts I work into my scores now.

In 2005 I moved to New York and continued working in the improvised music scene and formed a trio based in Poland with pianist Marcin Masecki and drummer Ziv Ravitz called TAQ. Our concerts were a mix of completely improvised pieces and improvisations based off of themes we had composed. It was in this ensemble I started using effects and looping pedals on my double bass. Back in New York I started performing solo bass concerts with live looping which ultimately led me to start recording my own solo albums. When I released my second album, “Flying” in 2010 the recurring feedback I received was “This music would be perfect for film.”

Your first major soundtrack was for John Curran’s “Tracks.” How did you meet? And what was the challenge of playing an introverted woman’s crossing of Australia by camel, from writing the score to the songs?

One day I received a phone call from someone with an Australian accent who asked to speak with Garth Stevenson’s agent. I answered, “You’re talking to him!” (That was just before I signed on with my amazing agent Sarah Kovacs at Kraft-Engel). The next day I spoke with John on the phone. He told me how the week prior he was driving with his editor, Alexandre De Franceschi, who had my CD of “Flying” playing in his car. They had been struggling to find the right sound for the temp score and when John heard the track “Dawn,” they threw it against picture that day and it worked well. He asked if I was interested in scoring the entire film and I of course agreed. At that time I only had one documentary and one feature under my belt so I was very appreciative of John taking a chance on me for such a major film.

In “Tracks,” I really wanted to find a unique and appropriate sound for the desert. It needed to be harsh, full of beauty, mystery and have a sense of timelessness. I found it easy to relate to the character of Robyn because, although on a much smaller scale, I have spent a lot of time alone in nature doing short, solo camping trips. I understand the need to be alone in nature and how self reliant you have to be if there is no one around to help.

What were your perceptions of the Chappaquiddick incident, and Ted Kennedy before you started the film? And once you got it, did you do your own research into it?

The first time I really started researching the Chappaquiddick incident was when I performed at the Chappaquiddick Summer Music Festival in 2005 with a jazz quartet featuring George Garzone, Ayn Inserto and Richie Barshay. We stayed on Chappaquiddick for four days, digging for clams, rehearsing, and jogging over the famous bridge. We were invited back in 2007 and I continued to explore the island. I loved staying on Chappaquiddick because it was incredibly beautiful and was much quieter than Martha’s Vineyard. When John contacted me to work on the film I dug deeper into Ted’s career and the incident.

How did you lay the thematic groundwork for “Chappaquiddick?”

Structurally, John already had a strong sense of what scenes should be connected thematically. The opening scene of the film has a piano melody that introduces two of the main themes we developed throughout the score.

Given a sense of betrayal that’s sweeping America, would you say that your own reactions to the current political climate played into the score?

No. My job was to help tell the story that Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan wrote and John directed. Bringing my own political views or drawing comparisons to the current political climate would have been a disservice to the film.

What did John want this score to achieve? And was your collaboration different on this film? Or given the kind of atypical films he’s made, do you think he’s naturally more open to composer experimentation?

John was looking for the balance or coexistence of darkness and lightness in the score. To hear the devils and angels overlapping within cues. Ted is haunted and tormented by Mary Jo, the bridge, his complex relationship with his father and the weight of being the only surviving Kennedy son who everybody expects to run for president. The score had to support this feeling. The score also had to support the farce that unfolds in the middle of the film.

I truly love collaborating with John. He has incredible ears and hears detail in the same way a seasoned musician does. This allows us to go deeper and communicate on a high level. Our creative process is all in. We are on the phone at all hours of the day and night bouncing ideas off each other.

Garth Stevenson and John Curran at the LA premiere of Chappaquiddick. March 28, 2018

Yes, John encourages experimentation and taking chances. The last thing he wanted from this score was for it to sound formulaic or generic. Sonically he wanted the score to have hints of the 60s. I have a good collection of old Hammond organs that we used throughout the score. The organ was also featured in some of the needle drops so it tied the source and score together nicely. I also did a lot of re-amping of the percussion, piano and voice through old guitar amps with spring reverb and tremolo. A few years ago I found wooden organ pipes on craigslist that somebody was selling as lumber. They were over one hundred years old from a church in Framingham, MA and it felt sacrilegious that they were being cut up for home repair projects. After watching the scene of Mary Jo’s funeral in the church with pipe organ I knew I had to finally use my pipes. I didn’t have a blower for the pipes and my lungs only had enough capacity to hold a note for half a second so I ended up using a fully inflated exercise ball for the air reservoir. My studio is in Western Massachusetts and I tap my own maple trees every winter. It just so happens that a standard tap fits perfectly into an exercise ball and the hoses that run from tree to tree fit perfectly into the pipe. The resulting sound was a haunting, pitched wind tone that was mixed subtly into the score.

How do you think the oppressiveness of the Kennedy expectations that are smothering Ted come across in the score – especially in relation to his father?

In the film, Ted felt like he was never good enough for his father. Like he was a failure in comparison to his brothers. Even though Joe was hard on him Ted still loved him and looked to him for advice and guidance. I think the scene when Joe slaps Ted and tells him “You will never be great.” is one of the most emotional moments in the film. The score plays the darkness and heaviness of Joe’s character while also allowing room for emotional melodies to play Ted.

Mary Jo Kopechne has been almost an “incidental” person who was submerged once again in the cover-up. How did you want to give dimension to her character, and aspirations that are cut short? Or do you think the loss of the film is as much about her as it is of what Kennedy could have achieved if this didn’t forever taint his chance of becoming president?

When Mary Jo is drowning, the score again aims to allow the dark and light to unfold simultaneously. Her emotional theme is played on high violins that are in counterpoint to a repetitive low bass line of double bass, brass and Hammond organ that feels like a powerful low foghorn. Her theme as she drowns should feel like the final breath of a beautiful, innocent, intelligent and angelic character. With the exception of a flashback later on in the film, Mary Jo’s character does not return to the picture. In the score however, Mary Jo drowning is just the beginning of her character. She returns musically in the form of female voice, sung by Annie Lynch, as one of the main characters of the score. This ghostly voice haunts Ted throughout the film. We hear it on the aerial shot after the diver recovers her body through Ted being in a removed mental state at the restaurant. It appears when Joey and Paul are trying to rescue Mary Jo from the car and Ted is lying on the bridge repeating, “She is already dead.” It also returns faintly on the shot of her picture in the Kopechne’s living room and the scene with the hearse. Another important use of her ghostly voice theme is on the night shots of the bridge and even in the opening credits as Ted drives over the bridge. We wanted to drive home the haunted quality of the bridge and how that bridge hung over Ted for the rest of his life.

How did you want to musically evoke the feeling of water?

Production wise, I used heavy reverbs, delays and parts played in reverse or slowed down to accent the feeling of being underwater, especially when Joey and Paul are trying to get Mary Jo out of the car. The other water related moment is in the opening title sequence when Ted is on the ferry. I matched the tempo of the paddlewheel of the ferry and incorporated it into the percussion track for the rest of the cue.

The Kennedy team is also hoping that the moon landing will draw attention away from Mary Jo’s death. Did that extra-terrestrial element play into the score?

Absolutely. The Apollo mission played into the sound of the score, especially the mix. I recorded a bunch of static and glitchy sounds on the organ.

There’s a haunted sense of the past that your samples evoke. How did you achieve this quality?

Ben Gerstein and Garth Stevenson playing at Harriman State Park (Photo by Ben Gerstein)

I don’t use samples in my scores. Every sound is recorded from scratch. The haunting quality comes from production. Some of the female voice parts for example were played in reverse. Any imperfections in the vocal performance like dips in intonation were magnified and looped instead of being edited out. Experimenting with reverbs, delays and re-amping all played into the ghostly sound.

Could you talk about the score’s other instrumentation, which also makes effective, unexpected use of the organ and voice?

“Chappaquiddick’s” organ pipes. (Photo by Garth Stevenson).

I’ve talked a decent amount about the voice and organ so I would like to draw attention to the brass. The brass parts were played by my long time collaborators Ben Gerstein, trombone and Dan Brantigan on trumpet. Both Dan and Ben are master musicians who in my opinion have completely transcended their instruments and have created unique voices. Ben doesn’t sound like trombone. He sounds like Ben. To create a foghorn sound I had Ben play extremely quietly right against the ribbon microphone. My only instructions were to try to make the sound 10% tone and 90% air or wind. Any brass player could tell you that playing as quietly as possible in tune is challenging. For the written statement and night bridge scenes I recorded pump organ. I played and recorded it in a way that captured equal amounts of breath sound from the bellows as tone. My instructions for Dan were: I want you to play in unison with the pump organ part but you have to get it in the first take and you’re not allowed to see the sheet music…and make sure your trumpet doesn’t sound like a trumpet. The result was not a true unison but more of a shadow unison chasing the organ part, which I was after. This is the advantage of working with someone I’ve been playing and recording music with for fifteen years.

Once Ted and his enablers hatch upon the idea of getting rid of the story as quickly as possible, how did you want to convey their machinations?

Part of what John was looking for in the cover up theme was a sense of humor. The dream teams of lawyers were constantly having to absorb mistakes Ted made into their story. Like when Ted decided to wear a neck brace to the funeral but was caught twisting his neck to see who was sitting behind him or when they told the Times reporter that the doctor treated his concussion with sedatives, which they later discovered could kill someone with a concussion. I think the hints of jazz in the organ part bring out the humor while the ticking percussion portrays the well-oiled legal machine.

Where other composers might have taken the score in more of an orchestrally direct approach, why did you take “Chappaquiddick” in a more of an alternative, existential one?

This is what John was looking for. He tried some orchestral music in the temp score and it was glossing over Ted’s character instead of getting deep inside him.

It’s a shame that this movie couldn’t have been made while Ted Kennedy was alive. If he were, what do you think he’d make of it? And If you had been able to meet him, what would you ask him?

If I had had the chance to meet Ted I would not have asked him about Chappaquiddick because surely he would have been done talking about it by then. I would have asked him about his encounters with my wife’s grandfather who was a lawyer on the Cape that helped JFK with his campaign. He was invited and attended JFK’s inauguration and apparently knew Ted personally. There were a bunch of strange coincidences about this film like Annie’s grandfather, or the fact that I got in a small car accident on my way to play music on “Chappaquiddick” with the same drummer that recorded on the score, or that Lexie Roth who played one of the boiler room girls, was at our wedding on Edgartown pond, or that we signed our marriage certificate in the same room that Ted signed his written statement in the film, or that Olivia Thirlby whom I spent a month in Antarctica with, was also in the cast.

What’s coming up for you? And do you see yourself continuing on a path of offbeat scoring for character-oriented movies?

After “Chappaquiddick,” I scored a feature called “The Grizzlies” that takes place in Kugluktuk in Northern Canada. It was directed by Miranda de Pencier and I got to work with an amazing Inuit artist named Tanya Tagaq who I was familiar with from her work with Bjork. Now I’m working on a film called “Them That Follow,” which is a love story set in the south in a snake-handling religious community. It’s directed by Brittany Poulton and Daniel Savage. Once that score is complete I’m headed to Europe for a short solo bass tour. I’m also open to scoring any genre of film. I worked on the pilot of a sci fi thriller directed by Alan Taylor a few years ago and would be interested in further exploring that direction.

“Chappaquiddick” opens in theaters on April 6th, with Garth Stevenson’s score released on Varese Sarabande Records HERE. Then take a musical voyage via camel through Australia’s outback in Garth’s score for “Tracks” HERE

Visit Garth Stevenson’s website HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Laurent Perez del Mar

Wo, 21/03/2018 - 03:13

Conjuring a siren call that transports the listener to some fantastical place capable of magic and heartbreak, France’s Laurent Perez del Mar’s ability to enchant is impressively proving itself as a window into a character’s surreal headspace. It’s a place of lush melodies, ethereal atmospheres and hauntingly beautiful voices where both reptiles and giants break into their world. But behind their exotic embodiments lay something far more god-like, or devastatingly personal as a character’s view of reality might have it.

Creating nearly the only sound heard over the silence of one man’s island in the Oscar-nominated animated masterpiece “The Red Turtle,” del Mar now crosses the ocean to his first English language film with “I Kill Giants.” Here Danish director Anders Walter (a co-Oscar winner for his short “Helium”) adapts the graphic novel by Joe Kelly and Jen Niimura, their story centering on the bunny eared, weapon-swinging Barbara (Madison Wolfe). Though she might be scorned in school, and resist the friendship of all who try to get close to her, Barbara is determined to save her seaside town, and earth itself from the rampaging giants crashing from the ocean and into the woods – where she’s placed any number of ingenious booby traps and talismans to stop them.

Del Mar’s score just might be the best friend that this young monster slayer might have. His score sings with moving sympathy and towering danger as his emotional themes sweep into Barbara’s perilously determined existence of taking on creatures and even worse bullies – the biggest, and worst of them given a toweringly fearsome orchestral presence. Del Mar’s score is the clash of this sorcerous, mythical music with the gorgeous tenderness of a child facing what she can’t comprehend. Building upon the soundscape of “The Red Turtle,” del Mar has now conjured a score that’s lyrical as an emo film and as big as a blockbuster fantasy when need be. The captivating approach of “I Kill Giants” soundtrack once again marks him as a scoring force to reckon with for films caught between reality and fantasy, in much the same way as a raging, poignant girl coming to grips with the big difference between both worlds, as well as childish things and the frightening specter of growing up fast.

Tell us about your musical beginnings, and how you found your way into composing?

I started music at the age of five. My parents put me in conservatory because they found that I was very sensitive to music. Where some parents would put their children in front of an iPad today if they had too much energy, my father would put headphones on my ears as soon as I was two, and I could stay still for two hours without moving. I listened to hours and hours of classical music in the way. When I was eight years old, we went to see “E.T” at the movies and I had my first love of score music, then a year later, with “Return of the Jedi.” I told my dad that I wanted to write music for movies at that time.

Do you think melody and lyricism are something that’s innate for the musical language of French composers?

I think that there is a French way of writing music that is delicate, well thought, and I think that the French culture with its fineness and its romanticism guides us naturally towards that. However, a lot of French composers score with textures, without obvious or unforgettable themes.

You caught many people’s attention with your beautiful score for “The Red Turtle.” Can you talk about scoring a nearly silent film, especially given the kind of mystical sound that would later play into “I Kill Giants?”

It is a dream for a composer to have the opportunity to write the music of this kind of film. It is silent but it has such an emotional and existential power. In this context, music can really have its own voice, its narrative role, be sometimes clearly listened to, and other times more discreet and be rather evocative. I had the impression of being able to decide of the feelings’ intensity that Michael and I wanted to share with the audience. And what excited me the most is that this film is universal, it’s a masterpiece. So when you’re offered to be part of this kind of project that will stay in the memories, you can only rejoice.

“I Kill Giants” is your first score for an English language Hollywood film. How did you become involved with it, and what did the director Anders Walter want the score to accomplish?

Anders heard about me from one of the producers, and then he saw “The Red Turtle.” He loved the music and put it all over “I Kill Giants,” as well as music I’d written for other films. Then my American agent told me about the project in February of 2017. I went to Los Angeles for the Oscars, where I was approached for “I Kill Giants.” As soon as I got back to Paris, I wrote what I thought was the theme of the film and everyone liked it so much that I was not allowed to change it anymore – not even a single note! Anders wanted this score to bring emotion to the film, to make us feel empathy for Barbara, to project us into her own world, and to infuse a little bit of mystery too. I also wrote a theme a little “psycho”, to suggest by small touches to the viewer that it is perhaps not quite reality, without revealing anything.

Were there any fantasy scores that proved inspirational to you here?

No, not really, we talked about John Williams, but since it was my scores that were temp tracked on the film, Anders did not go through other references.

Tell us about your main themes in the score.

There are mainly three themes in the film. The main one is Barbara’s theme, Barbara’s psycho theme, and the giants theme. The main theme is simple, childish and very emotional, with a mix of analog textures. It is always on the verge of strangeness and mystery. It’s a thin line. Barbara’s “psycho” theme features an arrangement of instruments such as marimba, prepared piano and cimbalom, that create a “quirky” character. It was a request from Anders to bring the necessary insanity in order for the public to understand that Barbara’s psychic functioning may not be totally normal. This is the theme we hear on the first part of the soundtrack with “I Have To Go.” The theme of the giants includes an octobass mixed with analogical textures in its arrangement that pitches towards the very grave, which all together add to the monstrous side of these characters.

Could you talk about the more monstrous aspect of scoring the giants?

I wanted to make the monstrous side vibrate in the music, especially when Barbara seems brave. But deep inside her, these giants petrify her, and the music should help that feeling that in the moments in which she seems extremely determined and controlling the situation. There is always this quest to feel with music (even physically with infra low) to make us hear what we don’t see in the images.

Barbara is a character who purposefully pushes people away, while trying to protect them from giants at the same time. What’s the difficulty in making her character sympathetic, especially given the chance that she’s a mentally ill girl whose booby traps might cause someone to come to harm?

For me Barbara is not mentally ill. This is circumstantial, given the situation she goes through. Everyone in her shoes would somatise things, each one in a different way, and she expresses it in this way of fighting giants. So I tried to portray as much empathy as possible through music for this little girl in distress, writing a very sensitive theme in restraint.

Was it important for the score to keep the audience guessing if Barbara’s visions of giants are real or not?

Yes very, it was one of my priorities. That’s why we decided to play the card of fear when it was necessary to introduce doubt regarding the peculiarity of Barbara’s psychology, which is shown with tiny touches so as not to reveal everything.

If you have children, does being a father affect how you scored the film, especially being privy to their “world?”

I have three children, and it turns out that my oldest daughter (then 9 years old) was going through a very difficult time when I wrote the music for the film. She was very isolated in her school and was experiencing some form of harassment. Everything is settled today, but this situation made me upset and it nourished me deeply and intimately when writing the music, especially for the main theme. I told Anders right away, after watching the movie about how it really shook me because of that.

Did you want to musically separate the real world from the fantasy one?

No, because I choose Barbara’s point of view and she does not make the difference. The only situation for which I am more grounded in reality is for her sister Karen’s theme.

Like “The Red Turtle,” you have a particularly haunting female voice in this score. What do you think gives this approach so much power?

I use the human voice as an instrument in an abstract way, and I do it when the situations are beyond us, when we touch something almost mystical. In “The Red Turtle,” I use it at a time when life is created, during the love scene allegory between the two protagonists. In “I Kill Giants,” it’s a moment when we think that life will be taken from Barbara. I think that the power of these two sequences result from the synergy between what is happening and the music with the use of the voice.

Another connection with “I Kill Giants” and “The Red Turtle” is that both characters live by the sea. How did the power of water, and what lies within it, translate to your score?

I did a search for analog textures that evoked the aquatic environment, and I mixed systematically with the strings of orchestra. The strings and textures always play the same score and that makes us feel constantly that we are never far from the water, without thinking about it.

Given the often-raging emotions in “I Kill Giants,” was it important for the score to not become too intense?

Yes, that’s why I try to maintain a form of permanent and growing restraint in the music of the film. I always avoid crossing the red line of cheesy, given the increasing emotions throughout the narrative.

In addition to your use of the orchestra, there are also interesting electronic elements to the score. Was it important to make “I Kill Giants” a hybrid soundtrack for a character caught between ancient myth and a contemporary youthful world?

Yes that’s exactly it. I looked for a form of modernity and a form of timelessness. The mix of textures and symphonic orchestra, in this way, made me feel like I was getting both at the same time. That’s also why I talked about London Grammar to Anders for one of the two songs in the movie. They are able to anchor both in modernity, and I think that their songs will not grow old.

In the end, would you describe “I Kill Giants” as a fairy tale score?

From the way it went with Anders, the producers, the post-production team, yes it was really a fairy tale. It was a very kind set, with a lot of enthusiasm. I loved to work with this team. Regarding the music itself, I do not know what we can call “fairy tale music,” I would say that it is a music of a giants’ tale …

Do you hope that “I Kill Giants” puts you on a further path to score fantastical films? And do you think the genre offers a composer more opportunities?

Yes I hope. It’s a kind of movie where you can express very different things, and often with a lot of intensity. It was an extraordinary experience for me and I had been hoping for a long time to have this kind of opportunity, I hope to have other opportunities very soon.

“I Kill Giants” opens in theatres and on VOD March 23rd. Watch it HERE

Listen to Laurent Perez del Mar’s score for “I Kill Giants,” available on Varese Sarabande Records March 30th HERE. Then take a swim to visit “The Red Turtle’s” enchanted island on Quartet Records HERE

Visit Laurent Perez del Mar’s website HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Geoff Barrow

Vr, 23/02/2018 - 18:44

As sci-fi scoring reaches new realms of transfixing weirdness, perhaps no composing team is pushing the outer limits like Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury, both in the service of adult-themed genre auteur Alex Garland. Even when Barrow began his music career as one of the founding members of the alt. band Portishead, it wasn’t hard to hear a film noir vibe in such soundtrack favorite songs as “Glory Box” and “Roads.” Salisbury has a more traditionally scored road to the big screen with numerous TV documentary scores for the likes of “The Life of Mammals,” “Life in Cold Blood” and “Ocean Giants.” But put together their talent for surreal grooves with more conventional scoring, and the fusion is the sound of the experimental soundtrack future, as done for a critically acclaimed filmmaker who’s about mad science at its most meditatively profound.

Mixing the visceral with the esoteric in his writing credits for Danny Boyle’s zombie and solar apocalypses in “28 Days Later” and “Sunshine,” Garland’s directing debut on “Ex Machina” was a technologically sterile chamber piece in which two scientists find themselves seduced by a sensual avatar of artificial intelligence. “Machina’s” calculating mad science was given a spellbindingly cold score by Barrow and Salisbury, their haunting, high-tech sound drawing on the rebirth of classic 80’s synth stylings, evolving it with the calculating melody of the ghost within their state of the art gear.

Geoff and Ben

Now the composers are given a far bigger stage to play on with “Annihilation,” as an alien force steadily transforms our planet into a region of life forms both beautiful and terrifying. As a team of female scientists is sent into “Area X” to discover the origins of this weird, multi-colored force, Barrow and Salisbury create their own, eerie world of tonalities that fuse organic sound into another sonic life form. As opposed to going for the rugged adventure that might distinguish an eye-candy Hollywood approach to the material (based on Jeff VanderMeer’s “Southern Reach” book trilogy), “Annihilation” takes an unexpected route thanks to the pensive approach that signifies Garland’s voice.

Given a colorful force that’s warping reality, Barrow and Salisbury create an ever-shifting wall of sound – yet one that still isn’t too far afield from the musical world that film audiences inhabit Female voices dance about eerie metallic effects, hushed strings and a humane guitar, the score building with a sense of spellbinding revelation and washes of retro electronics. In a sci-fi scoring world ever-intent on creating an utterly unearthly sound with the likes of Mica Levi’s “Under the Skin” and Johann Johannsson’s “The Arrival,” Barrow and Salisbury’s own unique synergy makes for a soundtrack that’s its own weirdly evolved animal – harmonically strange, but thematically accessible – all in service of a filmmaker who’s doing his best to regress the genre back to its philosophical glory days. It’s a twilight zone that “Annihilation’s” eerily involving tonal score hypnotizes us into entering.

When you helped start Portishead with Adrian Utley, did the band strive for a “score” sound?

No, but we’ve always been influenced by film scores. We loved the Italian gangster stuff and John Carpenter scores. Composers like John Barry influenced us as well. Adrian and I also loved Jerry Goldsmith’s work on “Planet of the Apes.”

Portishead – Adrian Utley(L) Beth Gibbons(M) and Geoff Barrow(R)

Portishead songs like “Roads,” “Scorn” and “Glory Box” have been used in movie soundtracks from the days of “Tank Girl,” “Stealing Beauty” and “The Craft.” Do you think that was because of the songs’ cinematic quality?

There were a lot of needle drop points here and there. I think it was more for the mood, really. The most recent one was in Ben Wheatley’s “High Rise, for which we did a cover of Abba’s “S.O.S.” We kind of used that song as a cry for help in the film, which worked out quite well. We get people asking us if they can use “Glory Box” for a sex scene and we just tell them “No,” because they don’t get what the song is about to begin with.

One of your first scores was for “Exit from the Gift Shop,” a fun documentary about the prankster artist Banksy.

It was on that film that I met my composing partner Ben Salisbury. We’d played soccer together, but someone we had no idea what we did for our livings! Originally they were going to use stock film library stuff. But when they found out they couldn’t, I was called in to “Gift Shop.” I knew very little about scoring, but I did understand where the music would go to what was onscreen. I learned a lot working with Ben on that movie, and I’ve been at it ever since. Ben’s got a lot of experience writing for television and films, so I’ve learned a lot from him. And because I’ve brought a lot of my own musical oddness to him, we’ve made a good team. We next did music for Alex Garland on his pitch for a Judge Dredd film. But the financers did not like what we were doing so we walked off it, saying that we didn’t want to play music that the producers didn’t like to hear on their film. The good thing Is that we released it as an album called “Drokk: Music Inspired by Mega-City One,” and it did really well.

What was your experience like with Alex and Ben on “Ex-Machina?”

It’s wall-to-wall atmosphere, and not like your typical score where it’s all blaring at you. “Ex Machina” crosses the line with sound design, where it can be like an air conditioning unit making that sound – it all goes hand in hand. Alex is very generous with sharing ideas, very open to suggestion from the whole team—to have everyone work for the film as a unit, not just departmentally. Ben and I loved doing John Carpenter-styled scoring with “Ex Machina,” as if we were scoring a film from the 80’s. Ben and I just did “Free Fire,” where it was a Lalo Schifrin kind of score. That was really fun.

How would you describe Alex’s brand of sci-fi?

Alex is a serious filmmaker. He’s been in the business for over 20 years and has got a voice and people really like. That’s because they want to see interesting science fiction, not the kind where it’s robots smashing into walls. His work is subtler, and has more depth.

Filmmaker Alex Garland

How did you want to make your minimal approach for “Annihilation” interesting?

At first we were not sure if it was interesting at all! But we knew it was to be about a journey the characters would take, knowing that something wasn’t quite right. The original “Blade Runner had that sense of growth. These days you have films where it opens up big with an amazing shot of the city. But if it doesn’t have a big battle scene in the beginning, where do you go from there? It’s like you just blew all of your marbles. With both “Ex Machina” and “Annihilation,” we hope that we got to bring across some sense of growth to both the score and the story – so that when you get to the end, you get the feeling like you’ve been taken over with something, both sonically and visually.

The female voices and metallic sampling you use in “Annihilation” certainly get you into that trance state.

Well, hopefully not to the point where the music might take you out of the film. Ben and I have always tried to stay away from “stock” scoring. If go to see a Marvel film, you kind of know what you’re gonna get. But not on “Ex Machina” and “Annihilation.” Here we wanted to move away from synths, which have become the stock, go-to instruments to compose with. We wanted to go about this score in a completely different way that would make this film its own story.

What was your ensemble on “Annihilation?”

It was acoustic guitar, which I don’t really play well at all. Though we brought in far better guitar players, we ended up with mine! We also used the water phone a lot, which we tried to make tunes out of. But while I really wanted to make the score exclusively with the water phone, it has way too many limitations. Eventually we used some small string sections as well. With the choir we tried not to be too religious sounding. We ended up doing some different recording tracks to give it a more immersive sound.

Do you think there’s a trend where some composers try to “out-strange” the other in creating these utterly bizarre and alien musical environments like “Under the Skin” and “The Arrival?”

I don’t think it’s about getting “weird.” It’s more about being interesting. You think about how many years film scores have been around. I don’t know if some of these scores are helping the film or not, because I think that the audience has tuned out. It’s gotten so predictable that sometimes I don’t think that the audience can hear the music anymore.

How did you want to both be interesting for “Annihilation?”

Ben and I are literally like the alien from “The Thing.” We’ve absorbed each other. What you’d think would be by me, and what you’d think would be Ben, is now all mashed up. We do both do of each other’s stuff now. Ben brings the ability to really write, and to have that non-stop ability of bringing his musical understanding to the project with an effortless talent. As a producer, I have more of a musical overview, knowing what might work and when we might need something else.

What do you think about “Annihilation” going to Netflix overseas, while getting a theatrical release in America?

It’s a real shame for the rest of the world not to experience it in theaters. I think that the people feel that Alex has made a great film with this because it’s so subtle. I don’t understand the politics of film distribution. But I think they were wrong about how they handled it, because people are intelligent, especially when they’re fed with so much rubbish these days. I think that audiences will love “Annihilation” and “Ex Machina” equally.

You work for Alex has been about evolution. In “Ex Machina,” it’s a robot transforming in a human. And in “Annihilation,” it’s an alien force that’s transforming the earth. How do you see your and Ben’s music evolving in the way?

It’s really positive. We’re currently about to start a series. Delivering under that pressure should be interesting. We’ve gotten a few ideas and it looks like it’s working out nicely. Ben and I are both learning every day. And that’s a great thing.

Venture into Area X with Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury for “Annihilation” on Lakeshore Records HERE. Then listen to them turn a turn a robot into a real woman with “Ex-Machina” HERE before venturing to “Mega City One” HERE

A special thanks to Alexander Portillo for transcribing this interview

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

February Soundtrack Picks

Wo, 21/02/2018 - 20:38

Soundtrack Picks: “ZOMBILENNIUM” is the top soundtrack to own for February 2017


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




Prices: $9.99 / 14.98

What is it?: Not only is Jeff Russo just about the hardest-working composer being heard on television right now with the likes of “Waco,” “Ghosted,” “Power” and “Counterpart,” but he’s also one of the most continually interesting at pushing its scoring’s outer limits. That can mean taking Carter Burwell’s approach for “Fargo” into completely new realms of portentously humorous and dramatic scoring (netting Russo two Emmy nominations and a win in the criminal process), or hearing the many insane personalities of the mutant named “Legion.” It’s in the sci-fi genre where Russo has been doing some of his most impressive work, especially when casting his ear towards musical futures where every old concept is made new again in sad, rain-filled tones or a reborn franchise’s new sense of musical discovery.

Why Should I Buy It?: Adapted by Laeta Kalogridis (“Birds of Prey”) from the first entry in Richard K. Morgan’s book series, “Altered Carbon” makes a “Matrix” like impact for Netflix, bending oft-repeated “Blade Runner”-isms, cyberpunk and bloodily gushing scenes of sex and violence into a complete new and stunning Private Dick animal. It’s a future noir show that’s just as haunting for spectacular visuals as the deeper psychological ramifications sleeved beneath the eye candy. It’s into those haunted ears that Russo goes with his meditations on virtual eternity. Given a propulsive theme graced with the voices of Ayana Haviv, Tori Letzler and Holly Sedillos, Russo’s aching electric cello, guitar and orchestra set a quasi-religious tone for the show. Percussion, eerie samples and humming are his version of an unhappy limbo where death is just a dream for a jaded populace that can clone jump on a whim. Given a hero’s who’s tortured in both body and mind by his inability to save his loved ones, Russo does much to give poignancy to this sullen bastard. Voices are the thematic, Ligety-like link that migrates through the cues with the fluidity of the human frame, strings providing a somber, subtly emotional counterpoint to the often gleefully adult, very black-humored material on screen. Using Asian-styled flute playing to create the character’s original Asian body, and his distinctly screwed-up sister. Russo’s music is an eerie, empathetic ghost in the machine. It’s a hypnotically elegiac layer of “Carbon” that I wish this had way more music on this album, especially given what could have been gleaned from ten beyond-binge-able episodes. But what’s here is a tantalizing taste for sure, distinctively abetted by “Altered’s” songs. A twisted, reverberating lullaby plays “The Patchwork Man” where Sune Rose Wagner brings techno-rock to “Let My Baby Ride,” and a “Halloween”-esque rhythm to the Katana-swinging “More Human than Human” for a character who really knows how to make an entrance. Providing a mythic end is the jangling, guitar western ode of Renee Elise Goldsberry’s “Ain’t No Grave,” a song that hits the regret of a tragedy-cloaked, ever-wandering hero on the head with the throaty impact of a six gun.

Extra Special: The bright, and mostly optimistic first TV voyage of “Star Trek” was renowned for distinctive themes that have become an indelible part of pop culture – a musical boldness that was completely lost in space for every series variation since by network brass that had as much love for melodic themes as Klingons had for tribbles. Now, the mostly noodling musical voyages since have finally reached a promised land, thanks to Paramount, which at at last allows a composer to go boldly for the franchise’s pay-platform venture with “Star Trek: Discovery.” The series itself got out to a decidedly rocky start for the first half of its insanely violent, and overly dark first season (before doing a significant course correction within the mirror universe), “Discovery” shined right off the bat by being powered by music that isn’t afraid to be music. Russo certainly captains the optimistic Federation spirit with a main orchestral theme that promises “Discovery,” an almost ironic brightness (of course topped off with a salute to the famed Alexander Courage TOS theme). It’s an undeniable warmth, and nobleness that made the season’s faulty start watchable with its theme-driven approach. If anything, Russo’s music is so good here because he’s scoring an epic “Trek” movie as opposed to any series – a domain that rejoiced in the melodic likes of Jerry Goldmsith, James Horner, Cliff Eidelman and Michael Giacchino, when the small screen versions mostly hit an anti-melodic force field, no matter the shows’ quality. “Discovery’s” music takes what’s best about that feature work with big screen sonic polish. Using strings and horns to heroic effect, Russo’s music is about the stalwart bond of characters thrust into war, with the nasty Klingons given a brooding, ethnic sound that Goldsmith pioneered from their first, jagged-headed appearance in “Star Trek – The Motion Picture.” Russo runs with that twisted, primal sound as he goes for the symphonic excitement of space battles and the mystical wonder of exploration, all with a hopefulness that’s positively O.G. OTS. Throughout “Discovery,” there’s the sense of enthusiasm that really cuts through on this album, from alien atmospheres to intimate piano and pokey synth controls, with all points leading back to the very human musical mission that Gene Roddenberry set his composers out on. The melody on constant display here truly unites the show in a way that even the episodic nature of the first three TOS seasons couldn’t do with their repetitive, budget-mandated tracking from a distinctive music library. Indeed, “Discovery” has the most musical cohesiveness of any “Trek” show. I can only hope that Russo’s truly epic scoring of “Discovery’s” terrifically redemptive episodes make for a second album on a TV pay-for voyage that I now hope goes way beyond four years.


Price: $21.99

What is it?: Firing off the last major bottle cap missile when it comes to releasing every last piece of Jerry Goldsmith’s most-requested arsenal, Intrada comes up with an ingenious solution on how to finally quench a seemingly unrecoverable holy grail in the composer’s repertoire. Sure Goldsmith had conjured the American apocalypse with the likes of “Planet of the Apes” and “Logan’s Run,” but rarely had his combination of primal eeriness, rousing patriotism and kick-ass staccato action been put to the wonderfully berserk test as it was in 1979’s “Damnation Alley.” Reteaming with director Jack Smith after his loopy black comedy score for “The Traveling Executioner,” Goldsmith also found himself behind the wheel with his “Blue Max” star George Peppard, here down to scorched earth as he pilots a giant all-terrain vehicle called The Landmaster (once a familiar site to any commuter on the 101 making the nightmarish trek to LA). His destination under irradiated magenta skies is the utopia of Albany, New York, and damned if this terrifically exciting score isn’t going to get us there.

Why Should You Buy It?: Goldsmith was certainly gaining a new audience of fans in the late 70’s, and “Damnation” isn’t to be slighted amidst the sci-fi likes of “Alien” and “Star Trek – The Motion Picture” Treating the likes of mutants, giant scorpions and killer cockroaches with epic seriousness, this also just might be Goldsmith’s most terrifically noble militaristic score outside of “Patton” as the soundtrack’s swelling timpani and brass hits the ex-military nature of its team. But amidst the desert forbidden zone this soundtrack traverses, it’s Goldsmith’s music for killer cockroaches that just might be the score’s standout, a wonderfully nightmarish, over the top attack of horns, gnarled voices and hissing, until his throttling theme comes to the rescue. Along with his unique orchestration for orchestra and electronics, there’s also a quite lovely, bucolic melody that makes you also recognize this is the composer who wrote “Lilies of the Field” and “Patch of Blue,” the score’s hope for humanity providing the rousing kind of deliverance heard in “Logan’s Run,” soaring melody that’s a reaffirmation of the human spirit against all the harsh tonalities the apocalypse can throw at it.

Extra Special: It’s exactly those ultra-70’s synth parts that have prevented “Damnation Alley” from getting the album it should have had long ago, as that electronic music was lost While that didn’t prevent Varese Sarabande from doing an impressive re-performance of “Alley’s” symphonic music on a compilation CD, Intrada has now ingeniously, and seamlessly had score restorationist Michael Matessino join the existing orchestra’s surround tracks with a spot-on keyboard re-performance by Leigh Phillips. The result of retrofitting the symphony with state of the art “old” synths is true genius in finally letting the full-on musical Landmaster reach long-denied fan ears. “Damnation” at last has found salvation, fully revealing a succinct, powerful score that showed a composer who inventively knew how to pilot a score through a post-nuke landscape like no one’s business.


Price: $14.98

What Is it?: The official soundtrack to “Goodfellas on Ice,” or at least the kneecapping skater version of it, “I, Tonya” knows that nothing captures criminal attitude like the classics. Where Martin Scorsese has always been sure to give mobsters a mix tape drawn from the hits of 50’s into the early 70’s, “I Tonya” picks up that attitude from the bad hair days of the 70’s to skate with it right through the 80’s in a colorful blur of jukebox favorites and more cleverly unusual song choices.

Why should you buy it?: Whether you’re talking about “Goodfellas” murderous R & B intent or Simon and Garfunkel’s poetic folk for nice boy Benjamin Braddock, any memorable song-driven soundtrack tells the story of its (anti) heroes. And “I, Tonya” has a doozy with a lower class trash-talking snow queen out to prove herself to the Olympic snobs. Or at least that’s the impression everyone’s had of her, as the lead off of Cliff Richard’s “Devil Woman” immediately gets across. A triumph of song storytelling, the electric guitar attitude of Bad Company’s “Shooting Star” Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” (also put to great use in last year’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”) get across Tonya’s take-no-prisoners attitude on her way to the top, an inner, mom-created rage that fuels her every move in the rink. But as opposed to being painted as just a hellcat, more lyrical songs like “Romeo and Juliet” and Chris Stills’ “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” paint a far more tender picture of a little girl lost who just wants to be loved, and the pathetic romantic aspirations of her abusive husband. Where her squeaky clean rivals chose Prokofiev for their musically boring routines, leave it to Tonya to pick En Vogue’s “Free Your Mind” and Heart’s “Barracuda,” hip hop and hard rock that put fire into her impossibly great moves, while projecting a big middle finger from her hand-made outfits to the stuffed shirt judges. Other album selections are terrifically ironic, from the lyrics of Supertramp’s “Goodbye Stranger” that question “the undisputed truth” to Siouxsie & the Banshee hearing Tonya as “The Passenger.” As squeaky-clean Doris Day innocently coos “Dream A Little Dream of Me,” “I Tonya’s” astounding soundtrack asks us what’s the price of being a tabloid celebrity that dragged ice-skating into the tabloid fire? Whether the tunes are deluded, or aware of her actions, all are as sharply to the point as an iron bar to the leg – if with an impact that’s way more fun.

Extra Special: Perhaps “I Tonya’s” biggest scream of rage is made by composer Peter Nashel, whose score might be brief, but certainly makes a rude impression. A smart, under-the-radar composer who’s work has graced the likes of “The Deep End,” “Dirty Sexy Money” and “Marco Polo,” Nashel gets some cool exposure here with his brief, but truly impactful work. “The Incident” hammers in rapid-fire metallic percussion with a growing sense of outrage as it tracks Nancy Kerrigan’s kneecapping, the rhythm and howling all evil determination and then outright panic of the criminals who couldn’t shoot straight. Nashel’s “Tonya Suite” uses a surprisingly elegant classical piano rhythm to launch into a Philip Glass-like rhythmic theme that behooves an evil ice queen, complete with organ, eerie strings and sleighbell percussion. It’s ruthless, mastermind stuff, hammering in the contrast between “Tonya’s” truth and fiction with no small sense of humor, deliciously bombastic music for an outsized, sports villain if there ever was one in the rink of public opinion.



Prices: $11.19 / $11.98

What Is it: As the composer whose gift for melody made film music appreciated the world over like never before, John Williams stands as the modern Mozart of his craft, a composer whose populist touch spans generations past and future as his energy continues unabated into his astounding 86th year. Williams understandably never fails to bring award nominations with each one – splitting the difference in 2018 with Oscar gold recognition for the latest edition of an intergalactic saga that truly put film scores on the map, and Golden Globe recognition by foreign entertainment “journalists” to a score for American reporters who put their jobs, and potentially their vocation’s freedom on the line.

Why Should You Buy It?: Though he’d long been handling blockbusters before “Star Wars,” George Lucas’ odyssey was truly the soundtrack that allowed Williams to put grand orchestral scoring on the map like never before. Thankfully the seemingly eternal Williams has remained along for the ride as the “Star Wars” saga has swung from happy ending optimism full of victorious rebels to an ever-darkening future with a skeleton crew of survivors. The latter ending is perhaps why “The Last Jedi’s” hope against all odds has made this one of the best “Star Wars” films, especially coming off of a painfully infantile “The Force Awakens,” where no one was functioning at their best capabilities. “Last Jedi” director Rian Johnson’s course correction is nothing less than astounding (in spite of dissatisfied fanboy raving), allowing Williams to create a mature score that draws its power on his ability to write one terrifically memorable theme after the other. His force of leitmotifs is the stuff that binds this score together, drawing on a wealth of heroism and villainy, and playing it somewhere in the middle of deeply flawed valor and evildoers we can sense the good in. Like Luke, Williams’ “Jedi” is brooding and intensely emotional. When Skywalker’s theme pulls Leia back from space or Yoda’s melody shows up to give his novice one last lesson, it’s like being amongst old friends, our love of the saga rushing right back in to tearful effect, or an amusing one as a gambling planet’s jive recalls a dive on Tatooine. It’s also certainly busy as Williams’ orchestrations make you feel every dip and dive of its spaceship battles and light-sabre swinging. If there’s one fault for “Jedi,” it’s that the action music is tremendously exciting, but lacking the cohesive flow of an asteroid chase or Endor forest battle, with a central melody keeping pace from beginning to end. Here, it’s all about the character themes, which certainly do the Jedi mind trick, especially in an epic choral face-off as such between Luke and his pissed protégé. That Williams will hopefully be able to finish the third “Star Wars” trilogy is astonishing in itself. That the force is really back with him and these films (despite the dreadful thought of J.J. Abrams returning to the franchise) is truly reason to rejoice beyond admiring that a man of his seasoned years can still keep delivering with an energy half his age, especially given a saga, especially for this entry that isn’t afraid to go way beyond the kid’s stuff to reach the dark side sweet spot.

Extra Special: From “Munich” to “Lincoln,” Steven Spielberg has been interested in politics of the past with a resonance in today’s climate, no more so than in the battle for press freedom as depicted in “The Post.” Though far better in good intentions than as an actual movie, the suspense of publishing The Pentagon Papers in the face of presidential wrath certainly is a great opportunity for Williams to play in the real world of “the little guy” going against an Empire of government avarice. It’s territory Williams has impressively trod for Oliver Stone with “JFK” and “Nixon,” a suspenseful, humanistic sound that makes a welcome return to headline “The Post.” Though the film itself is mostly comprised of positively civil whitebread breakfast meetings, Williams relatively sparse score plays the events as if America’s liberty itself was at stake (which it arguably was). Pulsating synth rhythm and dark orchestral flourishes suggest that anyone who touches “The Papers” will meet a fatal end from Tricky Dick’s administration. “Nixon’s Order” carries a feeling of solemn gravitas, while “Mother and Daughter” shows Williams’ talent for the tenderness of piano and strings to reach the emotional heart of a relationship. In lighter moments like “The Oak Room, 1971” and “Two Martini Lunch,” Williams gets to return to his “Johnny” jazz roots, But the score’s undoubted highlight is “The Presses Roll,” Williams’ brass propels us through the printing process, the anxious orchestra turning to sweeping triumph with the publication of the vital issue, brass finally announcing itself like a Lincoln address about to happen – a yearning nobility that pays of with a vindicating “Court Decision.” Its music poignantly, and patriotically urges us to stay vigilant before the score dramatically swirls again with the film’s one truly inspired moment of becoming a prequel to “All the President’s Men.” “The Post” is stirring, important, though not self-aggrandizing “news on the march” scoring that packs the momentum of history, as well as a sense of craftiness about how to literally sneak the news out from under Nixon’s long nose.


Price: $19.95

What Is It?: If you were longing for American kiddie creature bashes like “Mad Monster Party” and “Hotel Transylvania” to have real comic bite, then a journey to France’s ghoulishly hip theme park “Zombillenium” is in order. But if that admission is unlikely until this quite wonderful, often cruelly funny (and very French) cartoon gets exported to the English language, you’ll definitely get a great sense of the cheeky enjoyment that lies within from the rambunctiously clever score by Eric Neveux.

Why should you buy it?:
Having given clever flight to the animated “A Stork’s Journey” (also on Quartet Records), while also being on live action display for his score to Lebanon’s Oscar-nominated “The Insult,” Neveux hits a new high note for this wonderfully stylized film and soundtrack. Here a greedy businessman gets his comeuppance after being killed by a vampire, then is essentially turned into Hellboy in the service of the big boss downstairs. Given a film that has fun with glitteringly handsome bloodsuckers and union difficulties in equal measure (while almost strangling a disagreeable big-nosed teacher in front of a terrified daughter’s eyes), Neveux seamlessly treads comedy and horror action with a 1950’s rockabilly attitude. The musical genre tropes delightfully abound amidst electric guitar with deathly gongs, mock sympathy violins, organ, moaning choruses and metallic samples that play the ultimate fiery furnace. Neveux also gets across an unholy carnival atmosphere with loopy calliope music and Theremin-like wailing and of course a greaser music twist on Handel’s funeral march. It’s this who-gives-a-damn damned scoring attitude that makes “Zombillenium” particularly delightful in its often transgressive humor, while also hitting the emotion of an scarily transformed dad and his orphaned daughter, somber melody getting across that he’s really, really sorry for being such a dick to get into this horned spot, especially as a chorus beats out a doomed march to the ultimate theme park sub-basement. For the big zombie versus vamp finale, Neveux lets his orchestral rhythm fly to exciting heights, the dramatic stakes zooming about with the speed of a Goth witch’s broom. Where such great horror-comedy scores like “Young Frankenstein” symphonic horror homage, Eric Neveux certainly has that spirit in his golden ticket to “Zombillenium,” paying delightful thematic homage to stalwart horror musical trademarks of the past with a hellbent for leather attitude that energizes the score with more energy than a mad scientist’s laboratory.

Extra Special: Songs also play a fun part in “Zombillenium” with Matt Bastard’s hard rocking “Rosemary” and the catchy, empowering anthem “Stand as One” that captures “Zombillenium’s” message of monster power. But perhaps no tune hits the transgressive sweet spot like Mister Modo & Ugly Mac Beer’s “Diggin’ in the Crates.” It’s definitely not the kind of safe urban tune you’re going to find on a “Hotel Frankenstein” soundtrack, a rap tune that’s sure to delight hip kids while making their parents’ mouth drops with the impact of one F-bomb after the other, which is exactly what the trickster spirit of this theme park is all about.



The most infamous ruling family next to Donald Trump’s got its back stabbing, conspiratorial laundry aired out over three seasons on Showtime, beginning in 2011. For this European co-production about Italy’s murderous clan, Cyril Morin (“The Syrian Bride,” “The Sentiment of the Flesh”) was chosen to make cruel history come alive over the twelve episodes of its first season. He delivered a vibrant, contemporarily painted tapestry that’s now collected into this sumptuous release from Editions Musicales Francois. “The Borgias” Showtime ancestor from another bloody reign was “The Tudors,” for which composer Trevor Morris used a combination of modern electronics and traditional orchestra to make Henry V come alive for the tastes of contemporary listeners – an approach powerfully expanded upon by Morin. A luxurious feeling of being masters of the Renaissance world, and doing anything to get there resounds through the music, which employs instruments of the era from hurdy-gurdys to classical guitar, viola de Gamba and wooden recorders, all creating an richly mesmerizing acoustical feeling that joins with strings and contemporary keyboards in a way that’s accurate, while pulsating with a menace that thankfully isn’t anachronistically hip for the period. Rather, it enriches “The Borgia’s” sound, which giving the family’s seat at the head of the church a dark spirituality as it relishes in the pleasures and pains of the flesh. Gorgeous, Latin chorales and organs create a melodic sense of holiness that’s increasingly taken to sinful places, sinister percussion leading to the next kill on the ascent to absolute power. Beyond conjuring its Italian settings, a strong Middle Eastern sensibility also fills “The Borgias,” making interesting use of Morin’s talent for the region in such scores as “Little Jerusalem” and “Zaytoun.” Through a succession of over 100 cues over 4 ½ hours, Morin’s score, comprised of both music used, and unheard in the show, never ceases to mesmerize as it creates a lush ever-darkening tapestry that never ceases to be relevant as composers the world over tie in today’s rulers to ancestors just as cruel and conspiratorial.


Having ravaged Alaska with a terrifying combination of metallic sampling and orchestra for the fury of an unholy polar bear in “Unnatural,” Edwin Wendler shows he’s equally adept at waging The War for Xmas in “Christmas With a Capital C” (the C standing for “Christ” of course). That the film itself is strident Christian agitprop against heathen Daniel Baldwin bringing his atheist, manger display-shattering ways to town is no reason to think that Wendler’s score is on that bandwave. For divorced from religion and relegated to pure listening pleasure, Wendler’s “Christmas” is indeed a very pleasant gift. A Vienna native with a musical bloodline firmly rooted in the orchestra (with this one very nicely performed in Prague under the watch of Prometheus contractor James Fitzpatrick), Wendler conjures a warm, sensitively reassuring score packed in lush, flute-tied themes, with just a bit of country guitars to spice the eggnog. With trouble afoot in snow-covered paradise, Wendler brings interesting, electronic effects into the mix, while also using such Christmas score stalwarts as cheerful bells, angelic voices and peppy rhythm, all in a way that recalls Tom Newman in rustic mode. Overall, it’s a score that’s nicely sedate for the jingling jingoism on screen, using just the right, light comedic touches, magical warmth and tender emotion to make his Christmas work with a Capital M, as in melody. Whatever your religious persuasion or complete lack of it, it’s nicely enchanting music pure and simple that would charm even a godless Grinch.

. DOV NON HO MAI ABITATO (Where I Have Never Lived)

Many foreign composers come to leave an indelible mark on American genre cinema, only to return to their home countries, leaving behind a mystery to their whereabouts to match any movie they’d score. In the “Where are they now?” annals, Pino Donaggio casts a particularly lush, suspensefully romantic shadow given his De Palma collaborations on “Carrie,” “Dressed To Kill” and “Blow Out” (though he’s resurfaced here and there with the decent thriller scores for “Patrick” and De Palma’s “Passion”). But if you really want to hear Donaggio return to his classic Hitchcockian heyday, then look no further than the domestic drama “Dov Non Ho Mai Abitato.” While broken hearts instead of bodies might reside within its residence, Donaggio is stalking in his most gorgeous form in years here. While “Dov” might not fly to the lavish, uber-orchestral heights of “Dressed to Kill,” that spirit is very much present as pianos tenderly lead the strings into lush anguish, his melody circling about with a sense of poignant, anguished discovery. While you’ll need to go to Donaggio’s most visceral scores for his “Psycho”-like menace, “Dov” is like a gorgeous cornucopia of his distinctive sensual sound. Gliding themes bring back imagery of museum seductions and spying on lonely housewives immediately to the ear of American fans pining for the composer’s glory days. The assured performance of the Bulgarian National Radio Symphony Orchestra certainly abets this romantically suspenseful score, one that’s all about the gorgeous anguish of broken hearts as opposed to Donaggio’s talent for plunging knifes, razors or power drills into them. For with the hushed melancholy of “Dov,” Pino Donaggio is back like never before, showing a mystery continued en Italia as opposed to stopping when he left Hollywood.


It’s a musical culture clash between stone and bronze age, as played on the field of football (or soccer as we Yanks call it), quite wonderfully tag-teamed by Brit composers Harry Gregson-Williams (“Shrek”) and Tom Howe (“Professor Martson and the Wonder Women”). Williams certainly knows his way around the cute stop motion style of England’s Aardman Animation given his wackily robust scoring on “Chicken Run” and “Flushed Away,” while Howe is now making inroads to the ever-ironic realm of kid’s entertainment with the forthcoming “Charming.” Though they might be dealing with inch-high figures, Williams and Howe bring an eccentric sense of the epic here in this match off between a pathetic tribe and low-tech civilization. The zeroes-to-heroes side is embodied with primal grunts, sad sack orchestrations and daintily strumming instruments that might make you think you’re in Italy. Putting them under the iron boot is a gigantic, brass-fueled orchestra and imperious, imposing themes as loopy, cartoonish strings unite the humor. The score’s rousing climax is the big game, a competition for civilization itself that’s heard with real, emotional stakes and suspenseful excitement that could befit any live-action sports comedy. Trumpeting fanfares kick it with charge-ahead symphonic writing and a biblical chorus, with ears keenly on the melodic ball for sweeping impact. In Aardman’s annals of cheeky scores, “Early Man’s” music stands tall amidst sheep, dogs, rodents and bald human simpletons with its rousingly fun approach. Indeed, if these clay cavemen had these kind of inventive musical smarts, they wouldn’t be in their situation in the first place.


Just as John Powell changed the face of action soundtracks with his world beat for “The Bourne Identity” series, his musically hip, wackily orchestrated forays into the talking animal kingdom with the numerously distinctive likes of “Chicken Run,” “Kung Fu Panda” and any number of “Ice Age” scores have made animated soundtracks an eccentric wonderland where just about every composer tries to out-hip the other. But there’s no matching the O.G. musician who built a Noah’s Ark of ethnic rhythm and boisterous orchestrations, as “Ferdinand” continues to prove with delightful style. Taking on the legend of a bull who didn’t want to fight that’s now Oscar-nominated for Best Animated film, “Ferdinand” is virtual fiesta of Mexican-centric scoring. Powell has certainly run with a Latin beat in such adult fare as “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” and “Knight and Day,” but there’s a particularly luxurious joy that he gives his plethora of musical piñatas here. With trumpets singing, castanet percussion clopping away like hooves and Spanish guitar strumming on top of a symphony, the red-baited “Ferdinand” might just as easily be wearing the black cape and mask of Zorro the Avenger (or occasionally the Spaghetti western sombrero of Clint Eastwood) given its boisterous heroism that positively swings into the fray. Yet given a bovine that wants nothing but peace, Powell’s score has an unusually relaxed mood through a good deal of the soundtrack, a nice sense of siesta and smelling the flowers that the often antic demands of his animation don’t allow. But there’s plenty of Powell’s trademarked humor and energy here as well, from making fun of the strides of arrogant Lipizzaner horses to the swaggering brass of Bull Olympics and the rousing orchestra that takes us to the arena, music whose drama also hears the appalling cruelty of bullfighting. All paths lead to the dizzying, twelve-minute “Madrid Finale” as Powell shows how he can charge from one escapade to the next in a way that would make Carl Stalling jealous, yet with a terrific control of melody, and thematic footwork that pulls his scores for the peppy genre together. An equal match for Michael Giacchino’s Mexican fiesta in “Coco,” “Ferdinand” is a delightful celebration of musical culture, as heard through Powell’ especially festive voice – a composer who can dance with the rhythms of cartoon scoring with the dexterity of a peaceful toreador with an approach that hits new heights in “Ferdinand.”


While I wouldn’t say that Danny Elfman has been shackled by being best known for his darkly magical and often rambunctious collaborations with Tim Burton, the composer has an equally memorable talent for drama in such Oscar-nominated scores as “Good Will Hunting” and “Milk.” But it’s likely his explorations into the real world have never reached as big of a sensually appreciative audience as when opening the red room of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” movies – which now reaches it climax (as the ads have coyly exclaimed again and again) with “Fifty Shades Freed.” It’s difficult enough to play sex in a Hollywood multiplex cinema that’s mainly shied away from explicit erotica in favor of outright violence since the glory days of “Two Moon Junction” and “9 ½ Weeks” let alone to musically embody the more outré reaches of passion as depicted in these fairly restrained S & M forays. Given the delicate job of treading between pleasure and pain, Elfman wisely chose an overall romantic, if somewhat tense approach, as embodied by a theme seemingly capable of every erotic variation. “Freed” stretches his motif like never before as the series enters thriller territory with its even-darker counterpart to Christian Grey. At once brooding, tender and threatening as the sex scene or suspenseful moment calls for, Elfman’s string and piano melody is the bed, or rack, for him to lay down techno rhythms, a gauzy orchestra or lyrical violin to keep the scores interesting, especially here given the treat of real danger. With a heroine who wants an emotional connection and an impossibly rich bohunk who’s terrified of truly bonding with anyone despite the wedding ring, Elfman’s biggest accomplishment with “Freed” to get real feeling from the gloriously silly appeal of these female-centric “dirty” movies. As waves of orchestra come in to tie the whole thing together with Anastasia’s final flashbacks, the feeling is beautifully nostalgic. It’s music that could have sent a couple with more old-fashioned tastes to a straight and narrow conformist future as they reflect on their times together. And that might just be the most subversive musical message of all in these hit movies whose appeal is teasing their audience with transgressiveness – all while showing Elfman’s skill at both master, and submissive in knowing how to create thematic ties that lyrically bind, this time with true love.


By the late 60’s, studio releases were swimming in a romantic wave of French composers, among them Maurice Jarre (“Gambit”), Georges Delerue (“Anne of the Thousand Days”) and Michelle Legrand (“The Thomas Crown Affair”). What united their unique voices was a talent for lush orchestration and memorable, theme-driven scores. Few would hit the universally tearful heights of Francis Lai, whose lyrical theme for 1970’s “Love Story” (its soundtrack just out on Quartet) won an Oscar, even as his other American-financed efforts were a bit more obscure, if just as lyrically rewarding. Now France’s Music Box Records does their part to shine a beautiful light on the musician’s English-language pictures with a captivating, two-CD release of a Lai triptych. Set in England, 1969’s “3 into 2 Won’t Go” is about an unwitting love triangle between Rod Steiger’s salesman, who sets up house with his Judy Geeson’s wild child hitchhiker and an at-first oblivious wife (real-life mate Claire Bloom). Lai concentrates on a uptempo, classically-themed approach for lush strings and harpsichord-like percussion, distinguishing characters’ longing in an unhappy residence. Yet there’s a mod quality for a much more youthful, swinging London that the Geeson’s new romantic blood embodies, with the main theme’s rhythm picking up with harpsichord-like percussion, mod organ and bits of lounge jazz – a musical meeting of adults lost in a hopeless relationship and the unlikely promise being afforded to the man of the house, all three showing the composer’s romantically perceptive approach. Lai was on his home turf as a body in the Seine starts off the French / Italian international fascist conspiracy of 1969’s “House of Cards.” Cooing voices, strong cimbalom-esque percussion and threatening brass create a lovely, waltz-like melody that will drive the ever-stacking suspense. But even at its most threatening, Lai can’t help but paint Paris is lovely tones, as his use of symphony, lilting harps and keyboard exoticism brings to mind John Barry’s intrigue for “The Ipcress File.” The spirit of Lai’s own eternal theme for “A Man and a Woman” also graces the opening titles (no more so then in its lovely French performance by an unknown vocalist) , from its more classical variations for string quartet to groovier bits for the rock guitar and organ .Lai’s similar, if more poignant foray into spy vs. spy action yields a terrific score with 1970’s “The Berlin Affair,” a TV movie featuring Darren McGavin and Fritz Weaver as two operatives mixing love and murder during The Wall’s lethally cold height in the 1960’s. Roaring out of the gate with pulse-pounding brass action, Lai brings fun exoticism to the setting in a style familiar to any fan of such Cold War shows as “Mission: Impossible” and “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” Lai comes up with two memorable themes here, one for hard-edged danger, and the other a far more romantic one that sings with regret, at one point with a female voice. With East German repression heard with taut, string suspense, what makes the score fun is its very mod sound for sitars, psychedelic organ and swinging jazz – if not in a ragingly shagadelic way. But as always with Lai, it’s the romance that makes the most impact, romantic pathos for flute and guitar giving real empathy to a world of hardened hearts. But no matter the setting of Lai’s all-too few forays into Hollywood, it’s a universal language of melody that unites these three captivating and unsung scores that are now given new vibrancy in this long-overdue album debuts, the stories behind these obscure Universal co-productions fascinatingly chronicled by foreign score specialist Gergely Hubai.


Having gone solo from the musical collective of Pale 3 alongside Tom Tykwer and Reinhold Heil after “Run Lola Run,” “Perfume” and “Cloud Atlas,” German composer Johnny Klimek has found a potent Aussie director collaborator with Greg McLean, the creator of the particularly nasty “Wolf Creek” survivalist slasher series. Having provided the visceral score for its sequel as well as the director’s Native American exorcist movie “The Darkness,” Klimek now ventures with him into the Bolivian “Jungle” that’s littered with body horror, a repertoire that for poor Daniel Radcliffe includes fire ants biting at his skin and worms burrowing from his head. But as opposed to what one might think will be a grisly cannibal movie, that fact that its true Israeli hero was on his lonesome makes this far more of a spiritual odyssey, which in turn gives Klimek a score that’s as potent for its fear as its emotion. Beginning with gentle strings and lyrical ethnic instruments that promise adventure to a young man possessed with wanderlust, Klimek’s meeting of indigenous Latin music with orchestra nicely recalls Guastavo Santaolalla’s guitar-centric work on such scores as “The Motorcycle Diaries.” But soon enough more ominous rhythms are entering the musically scenic picture, a foreboding that’s practically a warning sign to turn back. Yet proceed its young man must with a German guide who’s hiding the fact that he’s out of his element. With the kid soon enough left to fend on his own, Klimek brings in dark drumming and nerve-rending electronics, the score progressively getting more hallucinogenic with the illusions that come with absolute hunger and isolation. But through even its most nightmarish passages, Klimek doesn’t forget to let the orchestra be the guide to salvation. As intimate string and piano tenderness mix with swells of symphonic hope and the sinking, sampled feeling of throwing in the towel, Klimek’s score makes the listener truly feel the struggle for survival, and a moving, religious sense of deliverance. Really coming into his composing own in the most haunting, solitary ways in this “Jungle,” Klimek and McLean create a “Revenant” worthy quest that makes the audience feel they’ve been through green hell, and heaven.

. LE MAGNIFIQUE (500 edition)

Jazz-centric French composer Claude Bolling (“Borsalino,” “The Gypsy”) essentially got to do his version of “Casino Royale” for Jean-Paul Belmondo’s super spy for this screwball comedy, known in America as “The Man from Acapulco.” Where Burt Bacharach had The Tijuana Brass at his disposal, Bolling’s beyond zany score offers a Latin fiesta for the imagined adventures of Bob Saint, the macho alter ego of positively boring espionage novelist Francois Merlin. Transforming his lame reality into swinging, Bondian adventure down Mexico way is just the excuse that Bolling needs to delightfully jump from one style to the next, matching “Royale” for its 007 absurdity. Festive mariachi tunes join with brassy spy skullduggery as sexy lounge music and groovy Shagadelia lures the ladies, of course along with a Parisian accordion. The effect is joyously dizzying giving so many short cues, as united with hangdog Latin trumpet theme and even a classical, derring-do concerto to boot. Yet even as Bolling dexterously swings between spoof to mundanity with the height of absurdity, there are nice themes that give the stylistic escapades a sense of cohesiveness. Indeed, there’s a quite lovely, understated romantic whimsy at play in the musical contrast’s most affecting moments, especially in the love theme’s tender piano. But if all of the rapid-fire cues of the original “Magnifique” score prove to be a bit dizzying for you, Music Box Record’s two-CD release also includes the original album presentation, with longer tracks that show the more luxurious method to Boling’s spy spoof madness. It’s all a delightfully madcap score just as well suited to a French agent in Acapulco as it might be Peter Sellers in Bond get-up, or Austin Power’s in full shagadelia costuming for that matter.

. MULLY / THE RENDEVOUS (500 editions)

While Varese Sarabande puts out major Hollywood scores, some of the label’s most impressive offerings can be found in their vastly reduced run of limited edition releases, albums for under-the-radar movies that resound with their composers’ passion – two notable cases in point being “Mully” and “The Rendevous.” In the first case, the documentary about a Kenyan mogul is musically ironic in that Benjamin Wallfisch spent the better part of 2017 terrorizing children with his scores to “It” and “Annabelle: Creation.” Perhaps that’s why “Mully” is so full of rich, enervating melody that’s all about the saintly help given to street kids by a man who came from less than nothing. Having powerfully dealt with the humanitarian crises of “Bhopal’s” chemical spill in India and artistic expression breaking free of Iran’s repression in “Desert Dancer,” Wallfisch knows how to bring a common, universal voice for finding light in the midst of darkness. Avoiding making the score African-centric as such, Wallfisch softly uses piano and strings, both joining with a lush orchestra and angelic chorus. However, that doesn’t avoiding the awful reality of the children’s’ situations, as heard through gritty strings and eerie, hushed atmospheres. Like the best composers working in the emotional arena, Wallfisch knows the fine line between inspiration and manipulation, the strength of his main theme guiding Mully’s charges to the Promised Land. With “Mully,” Wallfisch captures a real spirit of melodic empathy for a deeply moving and captivating score, his theme given powerful voice through both the children’s native tongue and the beautiful title song “Love Will Be Your Shelter,” an Oscar nominee that should have been written by Wallfisch and its singer Siedah Garrett.

Having first joined forces with Jordan-born filmmaker Amin Matalqa for the tender orchestral score of “Captain Abu Raed” before venturing to hipster LA with the beyond quirky soundtrack to “Strangely in Love,” composer Austin Wintory returns once again to the director’s home turf with “The Rendevous.” Now he journeys to far sandier, and humorously adventurous locales for this Showtime treasure hunt that features the unlikely pairing of Stana Katic’s Jewess with Raza Jaffrey’s dashing Muslim government agent. It’s a bickering odd couple who’s cliffhanging pursuit for the dead sea scrolls will of course ultimately end with romantic sparks, which gives Wintory license to particularly recall Henry Mancini, a composer who certainly knew how to navigate sensual jazz and energetically romantic caper music with ethnic rhythm and an orchestra. Wintory has that West meets Middle East vibe down with style to spare for this “Rendevous.” Arabic winds join with sumptuous strings to convey the time-honored tradition of musically seeking melodically glittering treasure and lost civilization. Percussive avarice creates a wealth of scoundrels in rhythmic pursuit of our couple, a sound that also playfully expands his horizons to Spanish guitar fandangos, giving “The Rendevous” a true sense of musical discovery as the composer shows off his old school orchestral chops among some eerier effects and woozy brass, There’s also a fun John Williams-esque vibe to the score as we reach the cliff-carved destination of Petra, it etched-in-stone city familiar to any fan of “The Last Crusade.” At once dusting off theme-driven, argumentative-couple-on-the-run scores like “Charade” with the cliffhanging vigor of Indiana Jones, Wintory’s score is at once traditional and wackily off beat, It’s just the latest “Rendevous” in a collaboration where Wintory never fails to delight with his increasingly loopy sense of discovery, all while unearthing another fun homage to ancient soundtrack albums, as well as a particularly touching tribute to Matalqa’s wife that gives the soundtrack its special resonance.


Taking a stylistic 180 from helping Churchill convince Britain of the advancing storm clouds of Hitler’s evil, composer Dario Marianelli has his sweetest hour with the adventures of England’s favorite ursine. Taking up the honey trail from Nick Urata the last time we saw Paddington, Marianelli creates a lovely, utterly charming child’s eye view of the closest thing to a talking bear, Toy piano percussion and gentle melody ingeniously fills his CGI stuffing in a way that’s nicely sweet without being saccharine. Given how Paddington’s essentially Mr. Bean with fur, Marianelli accompanies his path of innocent destruction with loopy fiddles and brass. Where guitar and soft-shoe percussion is used for window cleaning, even more mischievous is the way in which Marianelli employs religious voices for an unusually attractive nun, or to convey the wonders of marmalade. Where pizzicato skullduggery and rousing chases accompany the ever-humiliated villain’s antics, “Paddington 2’s” pursuits are never too musically threatening, even taking on a waltz-like rhythm with ticking clocks to set the time. There’s an irresistible sense of joy that runs through “Paddington 2”’s score, one that doubtlessly helped this become the best-reviewed film ever on Rotten Tomatoes. But then as Marianelli has proven with the diverse likes of “Sense and Sensibility,” “Atonement” and “V for Vendetta,” thematic melody is a thing that comes with seeming ease to the composer, who’s at his magical best here. Popping in just as delightfully is the calypso duo of Tobago And d’Lime, their jazzy kettle drum rhythm urging Paddington to “Rub and Scrub” teaching him to “Love Thy Neighbor” and giving new groove to everyone’s favorite Beetlejuice standard “Jumping the Line” for the album’s finale. The Teddy bear-filled likes of “Sesame Street” should be lucky enough to get these Rasta dudes. The same can be said of children’s scores when it comes to this composer.


Whatever one thinks of the idea that “film music should be invisible,” Johnny Greenwood has certainly decided to be heard. One of the more daring composers in service of the one of the more increasingly pretentious filmmakers, Johnny Greenwood’s scores for P.T. Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood,” “The Master” and “Inherent Vice” weren’t exactly stitched from rapturous melody, but rather the need to say something strange for the sake of being unique. While that certainly resulted in interesting scores for an array of obsessive Anderson characters, these soundtracks often called attention to themselves in a way that yanked the viewer into the hauntingly weird music itself as opposed to watching the movie – which is the case again with Anderson’s typically confounding, if more accessible “Phantom Thread.” But while the score might be sometimes be grating in the film, it’s easily more beautifully listenable than Greenwood’s other albums. The fact that “Phantom Thread” is so ravishingly melodic in parts is certainly owed the movie’s setting of haute couture for an English fashion fetishist, who gets more out of assembling the bonds of dresses than any S & M enthusiast in the “Fifty Shades” franchise. For a man who inhabits a world of ritualistic, impeccable taste, Greenwood draws on classical music in all of its elegant varieties, from chamber to a full, ravishing complement of strings. With most of the cues centered on the intimate, Greenwood’s use of strings is often pitched to the highest, nerve-rending reaches, a piano joining in the rhythm to get across its antihero’s beyond anal-retentive personality. Listening to the weaving of one lyrically skewed piece after the next here is like attending a recital where the cellist’s bow seems ready to go out of control, a poetic approach on the edge of a nervous breakdown, yet still melodically hiding its madness. The full use of strings show Greenwood’s ability to be lovely beyond measure, providing a lush balance to the near violin-claw on a blackboard cues that speak for the film’s increasingly masochistic relationship. Though the music is dolloped over one scene after the next to the kind of confounding effect that Anderson delights in, “Phantom Thread” as an album is nothing less than ravishing, masking its lunacy in pointed refinement, even as it distracts in another medium.


Michael Kamen made his Hollywood bones on exasperated American cops wreaking mayhem in Los Angeles, establishing a muscular, melodic sound that would finally put him in Sherwood Forest to play England’s most iconic robber-hero – even if he had a flat American accent. That being besides the arrow point “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” would gift the composer with perhaps his most beloved and popular score next to “Die Hard” and “Lethal Weapon,” mixing derring-do with a rich sense of history. Given Yank director Kevin Reynolds’ slightly revisionist take on the material (updated with a Muslim warrior buddy and a not-so comely Maid Marian), Kamen wasn’t exactly going to go swinging about the trees previously rappelled to classic effect by Austria’s Erich Wolfgang Korngold. But then, Kamen’s gloriously entertaining scores of this type weren’t about stopping the show to launch into bold, swashbuckling music. It’s an approach as organic as Sherwood Forest, letting one melody roll into the next with music that surrounds the listener with romance, excitement and environment, a melodically dense approach that now really lets listeners get lost in those atmospheric, thematically thick woods. Of course it’s not like fans won’t recognize that Korngoldian touch in Kamen’s sense of adventure that comes swooping in and out of the two hours of score, brass trumpeting as Robin and the Merry Men dispatch the minions of the lovably snide Sheriff, whom Kamen last shoved off the Nakatomi skyscraper with celebratory jingle-bell brass. Here the tone is of Olde England. But as opposed to going for “historic” instruments, the composer with a proven taste for period films captures that spirit with his lush orchestrations. Indeed Kamen may never have been as gorgeously lyrical for a blockbuster as he was in “Robin Hood,” capturing a bucolic sense of romance in his theme that gave birth to the Oscar-nominated hit Bryan Adams tune “Everything I’ve Done, I’ve Done For You” (which you’ll have no trouble finding outside of this otherwise packed special edition). As a composer whose rock and roll background took orchestral scoring into an exciting new direction during his heyday in the 80’s and 90’s, “Robin Hood” more than ever shows how Kamen took bold new steps into with a more adult approach to time-worn material. The result is a “Robin Hood” score that gave new, thrilling voice to an action legend.


As the mournful, joyous and angry musical voice of Spike Lee, jazzman Terence Blanchard has become the de facto composer of the modern black movie experience, as chronicled by its brashest director. “Music for Film” highlights the choice cuts from this creatively incendiary collaboration by showing how surprisingly diverse it is. As much a student of the Aaron Copland Americana as he is trumpet-graced vibe of New Orleans, Blanchard’s orchestral music is distinguished by just how melodically thick it is, a solemn approach packed with the wages of sin and social oppression. It’s tragedy at its most musically stirring, whether it’s for a white criminal returning to prison after the fall of the twin towers in “25th Hour,” conveying the weight of somber history in “Malcolm X,” or making time in the drug trade with “Clockers.” Few composers have given such impassioned voice to the trumpet and the brass section as Blanchard, instruments that add to much of the selections’ soulful melancholy, casting a spell of film noir to listeners who might not be familiar with Lee’s work. Yet there’s a fun, jazz groove to be had on this excellent compilation, especially in two of Lee’s most underrated movies with the sultry sax and castanet groove of “She Hate Me’s” sexy dramedy to the wistful main theme of the commercial satire “Bamboozled.” Another impactful unreleased track is the main theme from “Chi-Raq’s,” which has a swelling sense of nationalism for the allegorical Chicago-Greek streets. But it’s likely that no Spike Lee joint had as much personal resonance to Blanchard as When the Levees Broke,” an excellent multi-part HBO documentary about the catastrophic New Orleans floods, and following government indifference that laid waste to the composer’s family. Blanchard’s use of trumpet and orchestra is hauntingly evocative, calling forth the spirit of Alex North’s Orleans-set score to “A Streetcar Named Desire,” as the music of man-made disaster ranges from jazz improv to plaintive strings. It’s some of Blanchard’s best, and most elegiac scoring that I can only hope will see a full release (along with his atypically creative action score to “Bunraku” among the many genres he can explore). But fifteen minutes of “Levees” is certainly one of the reasons to pick up Silva Screen’s memorable trip though Blanchard’s distinctive scoring, which getting an excellent impassioned performance by conductor Dirk Brosse and the Brussels Philharmonic.

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 Alex Gibson

Vr, 16/02/2018 - 23:56

If the art of composing is akin to being a general following creative orders dictated by the director, then that bigger budget leader must have a stalwart support staff who knows the specific troops need to be recruited, how said formations need to be maneuvered, what equipment is necessary to win the battle. Of the multitudes needed from positions ranging from programmers to orchestral contractors and music mixers, a vital, if often unsung rank belongs to music editor. Helping to set the tone with temporary music, taking down director’s notes, or even creating “new” music from various elements the composer’s already recorded, the editor ensures the battle will be won, or at least make it to safety in some semblance. Hence the historic accomplishment of Alex Gibson, a vital lieutenant in the acclaimed, Oscar-nominated collaboration between composer Hans Zimmer and filmmaker Christopher Nolan that now reaches its metaphoric, Oscar-nominated apex for “Dunkirk.”

Starting his career in the booming LA punk scene as the guitarist and songwriter for The Little Cripples and B People, Gibson made an electrifying scoring debut with the ragingly authentic punk soundtrack for Penelope Spheeris’ 1983 cult film “Suburbia.” After the album “Passionel” and one more score for 1988’s noir satire “From Hollywood to Deadwood,” Gibson segued into a prolific career as a music editor. With Hans Zimmer’s scores to “Point of No Return” and “I’ll Do Anything” among his first credits, Gibson worked with such composers as Elmer Bernstein (“Devil in a Blue Dress”), John Lurie (“Get Shorty”) and Mark Isham (“The Getaway”), working on any number of genres from comedy (“My Big Fat Greek Wedding”) to musicals (“That Thing You Do”) and political suspense (“Thirteen Days”). Now as an editor at Formosa Music Group, Gibson has established himself as a go-to guy for Hollywood action blockbusters, among them “Live Free or Die Hard,” “Mad Max Fury Road,“ the Transformers” series and the forthcoming Zimmer-scored “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” among his prolific credits.

Alex Gibson (second left) and The B People

First teaming with Christopher Nolan on the David Julyan-scored soundtracks to “Insomnia” and “The Prestige,” Gibson would turn from these flowing, suspenseful approaches to the rhythmically hard-driving sound of Hans Zimmer when the filmmaker began working with the composer on “Batman Begins.” Spanning the bat-flapping percussion and atmospheric superhero noir of “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises.” Gibson would help chart the beyond-complex thematic dream flow of “Inception,” then take an organ-fueled spaceship through “Interstellar’s” wormhole.

With “Dunkirk,” that synergy falls to earth for the first, true time to grasp victory from utter defeat as the British army receives a last second rescue from the shores of France. Time is of the essence to Zimmer’s hypnotically rhythmic approach, as far afield from any traditional war score as one might imagine. But abetting in a composer-director partnership that’s all about defying convention is what Gibson’s partnership has been all about in this case, literally keeping track of a time-jumping structure to help Zimmer ensure musically seamless momentum. “Alex is our creative brother,” the composer enthuses, “’Dunkirk’ was mind-blowingly complicated and stretched us all to the limits of the possible. Chris made a hugely experimental film, and it takes a truly adventurous spirit like Alex to embrace what so often during the process seems to be the impossible. Sometimes the phrase ‘I couldn’t have done it without him’ is far from an exaggeration.”

While Gibson has certainly received numerous professional accolades for his work among industry peers, it’s in the sound design of “Dunkirk” that he’s truly reached above the line with an Oscar nomination for Sound Editing. Shared with Richard King, Gibson’s achievement is a first for recognizing music editing as a vital part of the entire sound process, the kind of achievement made on his dual talents for insuring both invisibility of music cutting and its maximum impact. As the general of his own troops, Gibson now reflects on a partnership that’s helped his profession take its most visible leap yet, very likely on the stage of the Dolby Theater on March 4.

You began your music career in the seminal punk wave of Los Angeles. Could you talk about that experience, and how it led to you scoring “Suburbia” for Penelope Spheeris?

Coming out of art school in the late 70’s, a group of us formed a band that got good reviews but wasn’t a big seller. It was in the arty side. I wrote most of the songs. We were playing a gig on La Brea when Penelope Spheeris approached me and asked if I would score her movie. Of course I said yes.

How did you make the transition from film scoring to music editing? And do you think starting out that way helped distinguish your approach?

I did not transition directly from scoring to music editing. I did try to make the band work. But I needed an income, so an opportunity to get into film editing came about and I took it as an assistant on “Point Break” and “After Dark, My Sweet.” It was from there that I transitioned from picture editor to music editor, because I enjoyed it more

Your initial films with Christopher Nolan were on “Insomnia” and “The Prestige,” which David Julyan scored. What were your perceptions of Christopher, and his taste in film music?


I thought Chris had his own clear likes and dislikes. He’s adventurous, and willing to take giant risks if he believes the music is working for his film.

The partnership of you, Hans and Christopher truly started with “The Dark Knight.” Was there an instant synergy there, and how did it differ from your previous music editing experiences?

The Prologue to the film with the “clowns: robbing the bank was going to dub in two days, and Hans gave Chris a piece of music that he couldn’t connect with, frankly not liking it all. He was going to just put something together from “Batman Begins.” I said I’d like a try with Hans’s new piece,
So they printed it as wide as they could and I cut away at it all night long, using the bits I liked and the ones I thought Chris would like. I totally rebuilt a new cue. It’s what’s in the movie, and that was the beginning of our process.

Hans is known for the team effort that goes into his work. How would you describe the dynamic of his process?

With his team, they can generate a lot of material. And that suits my approach perfectly.

“Inception” was an especially ambitious collaboration that truly started the heavy use of music, and time-jumping framework in your work for Chris and Hans. What was it like finding that thematic rhythm that could hold an audience’s “place” in the film?

That’s Hans’s job. He had the simple piano motif. I suppose the wacky,spaced-out Edith Piaf was a thematic element as well. Really the rhythm of the scenes is also the doing of Lee Smith, who was the picture editor. He went first, and then we danced around that.

Alex Gibson and Oscar nominated Dunkirk editor Lee Smith

“Dunkirk” stands as Christopher’s first film based on true events. Yet it’s also very much one of his movie’s with its narrative structure. What were the first explorations like into how its score would sound?”

The endless rhythmic lines came first and was examined and tested before any tunes came. We also had Elgar’s Nimrod that we turned inside out.

Tell us about your own team on “Dunkirk.”

Well, it was me, fiddling around and Ryan Rubin keeping it all together. It would have fallen apart if he weren’t involved.

What was it like to create a temporary soundtrack for “Dunkirk?”

Chris doesn’t really do temps in the traditional sense. Our temps are suites and ideas from Hans that are used to track it out. It’s actually the beginning steps of the final score, which is just the end result of that first temp.

Hans has often used rhythm as a ticking clock in his scores, but perhaps never to the all-important degree he does in “Dunkirk” to represent the limited time the troops have. How did you help in that pace?

Ryan Rubin and myself laid down these ever increasing rhythms. From there we could see what tempo each “cue” would need to be to remain in sync. Then we had to redo cues if picture changes affected it too much. As we did all that, Hans would be still writing material as we put it together. Remember, Hans hasn’t gotten picture in the last few movies with Chris. He writes to what he remembers in s screening or script. He doesn’t write synchronized cues. We put his music to picture.

What was the most challenging sequence to edit in “Dunkirk?” And would you find yourself creating score sequences from Hans’ material?

Alex and Hans

The final action scene was difficult, mostly because of where we were in that variable tempo rhythm. A lot of precise cutting was needed to keep sync and hit the action beats. We were not allowed to cheat the underlying rhythm.

How did Elgar’s “Nimrod” come into play for the score?

That was Chris’s idea early on. I then started to see how far we could get cutting it, changing the phrases and having it played 1/4 speed. Once we had disguised it to Chris’s liking, then it went in. “Nimrod” stays hidden until the very end of the movie.

Given how contentious the use of source can be in a score when it comes to determining Oscar eligibility, was there ever a worry that Elgar could knock “Dunkirk” out of the running?

Well, we thought he would not receive a nomination. We were convinced. So apparently the percentage of source to score or whatever they use to determine this, was fine and “Dunkirk” was allowed to compete in The Oscars.

Hans Zimmer and Christoper Nolan

A music editing relationship often leaves the editor out of the actual process of helping to create a score. Were you surprised in how that would differ with Hans and Christopher, especially in the case of “Dunkirk?”

No, I’m not that surprised. That’s been the process of late. Hans writes and Chris and I create the cues to picture. Then Ryan and myself do these ideas with precision (we have to follow that underlying rhythm). There were many scenes that I would work on myself, and then show Chris. Ryan was a part of that as well.

How did you work with fellow nominee Richard King in making sure that the sound effects and music would work in tandem?

Dunkirk Sound Editor Richard King

We were fortunate to start the final on the first temp. We all had material and having that time allowed us to experiment, discuss and assign the various sounds to either music or sound fx. Richard had tonal elements that sounded like music and carried many different sounds cut to the variable tempo. Boat motor idling was our main one. Those are all in sync with the rhythm, so we could go from boat to plane. Some of the fx stay in sync to our rhythm. The results were interesting for sure.

Music often plays a second seat in the final mix. Given how Christopher likes to favor the score, what extra importance does that give to your job?

Well, it certainly makes it hard to hide edits! Everything has to be properly worked out.

“Dunkirk” marks the first time a music editor has been included in the award for Sound Editing. What do you think that says about your work on the film, and the potential for music editing to become more visible to the general Oscar viewer?

I think my inclusion as a co-sound supervisor is a direct result of how Chris uses music in his films. It seems my style plays into what he wants. I don’t know about the chances of another music editor to follow this specific path because the Academy thought this was an unusual case. “Once in a lifetime,” they said. Hopefully music editors will find paths into the Oscars, because the last I listened, music was sound. We should be a part of the sound-editing award.

In many ways, “Dunkirk” is Christopher’s most popular film with both critics and audiences. Why do you think it’s hit such a popular note, especially given it’s a “historical” film? And what part do you think music and sound design plays in that?

Christopher Nolan and Kenneth Branagh making Dunkirk

I’m not sure why it was more popular, but sound (music included) plays a huge roll in his movies, and that does translate to audience approval.

How has your work for Christopher and Hans stretched you as a music editor, and where do you see the collaboration going in terms of pushing the traditional boundaries of the editor-composer-filmmaker relationship?

It has certainly given me a lot of creative input. With Chris, anything can happen. He will explore boundaries and will keep taking huge risks in his approach with music. A composer that can work in that way, following the director closely, and still pushing their capabilities, will allow the “team” to go into uncharted territory in film music.

Could you see yourself stepping back into scoring?

I think about that a lot. But having a style that gives me a lot of creative input is enough for me now.

Buy Hans Zimmer’s Oscar-nominated score for “Dunkirk” HERE and take a walk on the wild punk side with Alex Gibson’s score to “Suburbia” HERE

Visit Alex Gibson and the score editing troops of Formosa Music HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws

Interview with Ludwig Göransson

Do, 15/02/2018 - 22:45

From “Ant-Man’s” groovy 60’s spy hijinks to the retro 70’s and 80’s eccentricity of “Deadpool” and “Thor Ragnarok,” Marvel Movies have certainly allowed some interesting takes on the superhero scoring standard – which today usually means a big, old-school orchestra joined at the caped hip with pop-friendly electronic rhythm. But if Marvel’s unrivaled success in their domain has come from playing a different tune, perhaps no soundtrack entry in this hit fiefdom has gone as powerfully off-field as the African sound that Swedish-born composer Ludwig Göransson has magnificently captured with “Black Panther.”

Where many attempts at musically conveying the Dark Continent have now become a clichéd singer on the ethnic drum savannah, Göransson’s soundtrack for Marvel’s most critically acclaimed film yet is the real street deal for the imagined kingdom of Wakanda and their black-suited ruler T’Challa. It’s a land, and character where ancient nobility meet high tech. Chanting voices, furious drumming and echoing wind instruments bring a raw, primal power to “Black Panther,” musical authenticity that creates a costumed, avenging animal totem on the prowl. Percussion and howling, grunting singers play action and nobility where a symphony otherwise might to thrillingly naturalistic effect. Given his Grammy-nominated production chops in the world of urban beats for the likes of Donald Glover’s Childish Gambino, Haim and Chance the Rapper, “Panther” is just at home in the world of black grooves.

But then, this is a comic book movie score after all. And Göransson knows what that audience digs by bringing on beyond-mighty orchestral excitement, creating a fusion of brass muscle, future rhythm and rich string emotion for a hybrid genre score unlike any other, melody and primal percussion joining with gee-whiz thrills that satisfy fanboys and socially conscious, authenticity demanding listeners with equal, thrilling measure. Sure “Black Panther” might not be the O.G. black superhero film or score, but it’s hard to imagine either before this landmark.

“Black Panther” hits a new high for the collaboration between Göransson and filmmaker Ryan Coogler. First meeting at UCLA, Göransson brought a muted, alternative approach to Coogler’s debut “Fruitvale Station,” an understated approach that made its depiction of police brutality all the more devastating. The simmering anger was made palpable with the triumphant punches of “Creed,” Coogler’s excellent entry in the “Rocky” franchise that brought out a new orchestral power from Göransson, allowing him to hit with Apollo’s son in a way that played a black vibe while being in the spirit of Bill Conti’s iconic score, brilliantly dancing in the ring with the new soundtrack’s take on “Gonna Fly Now.” Now Göransson fearlessly takes on another iconic pop culture figure, leaping with T’Challa and his kingdom with an assurance that makes this innovative composer to the Wakandan musical throne born.

As a kid in Sweden, what was your exposure to film scores like, and were there any scores that particularly inspired you? Could you see a future as a composer, even back then?

I probably didn’t understand at the time, because I was a small child, but Danny Elfman’s “Edward Scissorhands” really got to me emotionally. It was only when I was twelve that I truly understood that it was the music that really drew me into the movie. And that’s when I discovered film scores. I went from “Edward’ to “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and then onto the John Williams scores. When I was in high school, I got the impression that if you actually worked as a film composer, then you could get to write in all different kinds of genres. But I didn’t know how to go about getting a job like that.

Ludwig Goransson & Ryan Coogler

How did you first meet Ryan Coogler?

Ryan’s from Oakland, and we both met at the University of Southern California. I was a music major, and he was a film major. I had just moved from Sweden, and our backgrounds were extremely different. But as soon as we met, Ryan just started telling me about his favorite Swedish bands! And I was like, “How do you know about all of these Swedish artists?” So the start of our collaboration was this friendship.

Your first major score was with Ryan for “Fruitvale Station.” It’s a subtle score for a brutal instance of police brutality. Why did you choose to downplay your approach, and how do you think the film helped you establish an enduring creative relationship with Ryan?

Ryan and I had done two student movies before “Fruitvale Stations,” and both were extremely realistic. They didn’t need a lot of music. The first cut of “Fruitvale Station” was exactly the same. I told him that I didn’t think it needed any music at all. We ended up just experimenting and putting score in different spots. From the very beginning, Ryan told me how he wanted the sound of the BART train to be a character in the movie. I said, “Well, if you want that sound, let’s try to sample it and bring it into the musical world.” It ended up coming in and out of the score to make the film even more uneasy and unsettling.

Even before “Black Panther” came along, you both worked on another iconic character with Rocky Balboa for “Creed.” What was it like for you to come up with a truthful urban vibe for Apollo’s son, but yet so wonderfully integrate the Bill Conti sound as well as the song “Gonna Fly Now?”

It was difficult. Here you have this iconic music for Rocky. And now here comes a 28-year-old filmmaker and a 29 year-old composer. We were just hungry to create something new, and this story was completely different from the other “Rocky” films. Right from the very beginning, Ryan was like, “Let’s just focus on creating something new.” It wasn’t in his mind that we needed to pay musical homage, or use any of the original themes. It was a really creative way of starting that score with a blank slate like that. Then as the movie and character grew on us, it was just natural to put in some of the old, original themes, especially for Rocky and also the special moment at the very end, where Creed stands up. You really needed to give the audience a musical payoff there that they’d been waiting for.

I think a lot of people hear the “Creed” score and think that it pays homage to Bill Conti. But I think the way of using a jazz tonality language worked in a way that made the score feel fresh. So, for me, the sound that we eventually ended up with on “Creed” was nostalgic, but also new in the same way. Ryan and I were both very happy with that.

Even though you’ve been doing “serious” scores, you’ve also in the meantime done a bunch of straight-ahead comedies and TV shows like “Central Intelligence,” “We’re the Millers” and “New Girl.” Is it fun to take that “lighter” break?

I think the nature of being a film composer, is being able to move like a chameleon amongst genres. That’s one thing that I’ve always been drawn to, like in the way that I can move from producing a hip-hop album, to scoring a 30-minute sitcom. That’s two extremely different experiences as a workflow. But I’m still writing music. It’s just for different genres, and that’s the joy of my work, and why I love being a film composer. It’s being able to move around and do different stuff.

Before you were even signed on to do “Black Panther,” what was your reaction as an audience member to seeing the character first appear onscreen in “Captain America: Civil War?”

I just thought he was a badass. As soon as he came in, I just felt like the shift of the movie had changed. It was in the way he moved, and the way the Russo brothers shot him and the kinetic energy that he brought into the movie, He just lifted the film. I had no idea at the time that I was going to write his main theme or score his personality. But The Black Panther was definitely one of my favorite characters in the Marvel Universe before I got to do this project.

Once you got the film, what kind of research did you do for it?

I’ve worked with Ryan for almost 10 years now, and he begins by sending me the first draft of his scripts. He not only directs, but he also writes all of his movies, So when I got his initial script for “Black Panther,” I was like, “Okay, if going to do this movie justice, then I have to go to Africa to start my research there, before I can even write a single note.”

“Black Panther” is certainly one of the most authentic “African” scores I’ve heard.

I think what’s significant about T’Challa’s country of Wakanda is that it was never colonized. So what would music sound like in an African country that didn’t have Christian music influences? Essentially, we all know that all music comes from Africa. So my goal was just trying to research and discover as much “pre-colonization” music that I could. And go to places where you still had the “Griots,” which is the African term for “musician.” They come from a bloodline of musical families that go thousands of years. And being able to talk to them, and to be around them was my goal in researching the score. But at the same time, Wakanda is also the most highly advanced technological country in Africa, and the whole world. So that opens up the doors to Western classical music, modern production and this whole melting pot of music. But it was always important that the skeleton of “Black Panther’s” musical foundation be come from pre-colonization African music.

How long were you in Senegal for? And were there any kind of “Eureka!” moments where you truly got the sound of the score?

Baaba Maal

I was in Senegal for three weeks in the end of 2016. A friend of mine introduced me to this well-known, esteemed African musician named His name is Baaba Maal, I got his number, and called him a few weeks before my trip, and told him, “Hey, you don’t know who I am, but I’m a film composer working on an African superhero film, and I’d love to meet you and do some research.” Baaba invited me to come on his tour he was going to do on in Senegal and some of its smaller villages. My fiancée Serena and I bought plane tickets to Dakar, where Baaba’s assistant picked us up at the airport. After traveling for 20 hours in the car, we finally arrived at three in the morning in a little stone house, where he was sitting and waiting for the concert to start Baaba started playing at four in the morning. People had been waiting months and months for this concert. And as tired as we were, the energy he brought to that room turned it into an out-of-body experience for us. We were just mesmerized. And ever since that first moment, when I heard him for the first time, I was like, “That’s the feeling that I’m going capture in this score.”

From there we followed Baaba around for five more days, and we started to get to know his band and his musicians. He then he invited us to his house and to some amazing musicians. He let me use his home studio. And one of the instruments that really stood out to m there was the talking drum, which is the first type of communication device. You can basically say it’s the first type of telephone. It’s a drum that you put it on your shoulder and hit. You can, can basically pitch it with your arm by pressing on it in different ways. And you can “talk” with the drum. Hundreds and hundreds of years ago in every village, you always had a talking drum player. So, when the tribal leader had a message that he wanted to deliver to his tribe, he always called the talking drum player to his house, and told him, “Can you let everyone know tomorrow at 8:00 PM we’re gonna have a council meeting in the village.” Then the talking drum player goes into the middle of the village and starts playing that message, and everyone at the same time hears it, and understands exactly what’s going on, and what the message is.

The Talking Drum

So, I was talking to Baaba Maal’s talking drum player, whose name is Massamba Diop, and we decided to put together a six-person talking drum ensemble, which I recorded for a day. Something else that kept running through my head was how do you say “’T’Challa’ on the talking drum?” I asked them to play that for me on the talking drum. It’s basically three hits with different pitches. That was my “Eureka!” moment, because I knew this would be a really interesting color for T’Challa’s main theme, to be heard every time his name came up.

Another sound that comes back and forth is an instrument called the Fula flute, which comes from a tribal name. It was like its player was talking, and sometimes screaming into his flute. I got goose bumps on my arms because it sounded so mysterious, impulsive, and dark. I knew that sound would be perfect for the movie’s villain Killmonger. So I pulled the player aside and told him about Killmonger’s character, how comes from Africa and how he wants to take over Wakanda. Then the player improvised. He started screaming “Killmonger!” into the flute, and just kind of turned into this other person. I was so mesmerized. And that became Killmonger’s theme.

Unlike film scores, which have to be written, true African music is improvised, just like it’s later form of jazz. How did you want to adapt such an untamable voice into the strict nature of a movie soundtrack?

One of the biggest differences in Western classical music and African music is that “our” music isn’t considered music until it’s written down on paper. African music is someone creates a rhythm for a specific moment, say a ceremony for a king, and then the rhythm is there for everyone to play. There’s no sheet paper for it. It’s a knowledge that passes on through families, and through tradition, and through ceremonies. So essentially, all traditional African music has rhythms with a specific meaning to them. There are thousands of different rhythms that are written for a coming of age ceremony. There are thousands of rhythms that are written for confirmation ceremonies. I wanted to know how you could use that rhythm for a challenge in this film? I asked a master drummer, “Can you play me some different challenge rhythms?” He was able to match real traditional rhythms that are used for real ceremonies into the specific scenes of this movie. That authenticity was very important.

But yet, on the other end, this is a superhero movie. And superhero movies have a western orchestral tradition. How did you want to bring those worlds together here?

That was the biggest challenge of the movie. Because as soon as you start including an orchestra over African sounds and rhythms, it stops to sound African. So, how can you infuse an orchestra into the African sounds and rhythms, in way that doesn’t hurt the African mood? That was really difficult. I just kind of reconfigured my brain in the way of writing western music, where we have counterpoints, melody and harmony as a music theory. In African music, you do have counterpoints and melody, but that’s all in the percussion and rhythm. African music has 10 other polyrhythms and counter-rhythms that goes under that. So, how can you use the orchestra in that way? That’s what I was trying to do, but still keep it in a way that was big and cinematic, because that’s obviously very important to this kind of movie.

Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER
L to R: T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan)
Credit: Matt Kennedy/©Marvel Studios 2018

In “Civil War,” T’Challa is pretty much invincible. How did you want to make him both physically and emotionally vulnerable here?

This movie is basically about finding your identity and knowing what your purpose is. That’s a theme in the music, which I create by writing a string melody for him. I’d say that T’Challa has two themes. One is this big, brass fanfare with the talking drums that announces that this is T’Challa. It’s my “royal” theme. T’Challa also has a more emotional theme that’s a lot longer as It plays with him trying to find his way in life. There’s also an ancestral string theme that comes anytime he has any disbelief or struggles to find out who he is. A fragment of that theme is also Killmonger’s theme, which is played by the flute in a “broken” way. They’re musically connected characters with the flute and talking drum. When you put a big orchestra on top of that, it makes the whole score come together for their climactic battle.

As T’Challa is the king of Wakanda, there’s a regal, and mystical majesty to the score.

Definitely. His theme is extremely rhythmical. It’s more a rhythm than a melody, sometimes.

With your background as a producer on urban albums, how those production techniques play into this score?

It’s a big part of the score, as Killmonger is an American. He’s a very complex, strong-minded and impulsive character. So for his sound, I was really playing around with in a modern African-American production way, which is more of a hip hop, rap type of production, which I do have a lot of experience with, because I produced a bunch of rap and hip hop artists. It’s a sound that I’m very familiar with which I’ve incorporated into other film scores. It also couldn’t be better to do with an African-themed movie, because if you can break the sore down, with a lot of these rap beats, if you just change the sound, it’s African drums. So, when you come into the battles towards the end of the score, you have these crazy rhythms and patterns, just in African percussion, but then suddenly it comes in with modern hip hop production, and it doesn’t take you away from the purpose of the music. It still feels like it’s one piece, It’s really fun for me to combine an orchestra with hip hop sounds in a way that hasn’t been done before.

After “Black Panther,” you’ll be scoring another iconic avenger with Paul Kersey in Eli Roth’s remake of “Death Wish.”

Bruce Willis in Death Wish

I wasn’t familiar with “Death Wish” at first until Eli Roth called me up and asked me to score it. I was totally fascinated by the script, and watched the original movie, which has an amazing score by Herbie Hancock. So now I really wanted to do the movie! It’s such an interesting score. Herbie used these string quartet pieces in there, and there’s some crazy percussion. My score ended up feeling extremely dark. It’s an organism of itself because I was trying to create something that sounded like the really twisted part of someone’s mind. Just listening to my score alone would probably feel extremely claustrophobic, because it’s hearing a man who thinks he’s healthy, but is definitely not. He’s just going crazy. And hopefully I was able to create the sense of that with my “Death Wish” score.

What do you think your “Black Panther” score shows people about how unique a composer can be when coming from a production background like yours?

I started out very early as a musician and songwriter when I was just writing music for myself on the guitar. And then in high school, I got the opportunity to start writing for orchestras and have classical training. I wrote a piece for a symphony orchestra in Sweden in last year of high school, which kind of opened up my mind to that world. Then I started to do a lot of training in theory, and classical music. In college, I put all my time and effort into studying improvisation in jazz, and theory at one of the best colleges in Europe. Straight out of college, I had my own jazz quintet, where I wrote these crazy jazz songs. I toured all over Europe with that group. So jazz was in my background, as it is with many composers, like John Williams. So, I guess in that way, maybe I come from a different background, but I never really saw myself as an outsider.

Marvel is often very hands-on with their music. Given how unusual your approach for “Black Panther” was, were they extra watchful?

No, I couldn’t have had a better experience. Ryan and I work right from the beginning. I scored the first version of his director’s cut, which was four hours long. We didn’t use any temp music during the process. And through it all, Marvel was extremely supportive and so excited to hear something that was different like this, especially when they heard the mash-up of all these styles. From day one they were supportive of Ryan’s vision. He’s one of the most incredible geniuses I’ve had the pleasure to work with because he has such a clear vision of what he’s doing. This was the music that he envisioned.

Venture to Wakanda with Ludwig Göransson’s “Black Panther” score album on Hollywood Records, available for digital download on February 16th HERE. Take a tragic trip to “Fruitvale Station” HERE before triumphantly standing in with ring with “Creed” HERE

Categorieën: Filmmuziek nieuws