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Film & TV Music, Documentary, Vinyl Soundtracks, & Game Music News
Nainita Desai is a British composer of film, television and video game music. Recent projects include the Oscar nominated and BAFTA and Cannes winning feature documentary FOR SAMA, Sundance and BIFA winning feature THE REASON I JUMP, an immersive cinematic exploration of neurodiversity, BAFTA nominated AMERICAN MURDER: THE FAMILY NEXT DOOR [Netflix’s most watched documentary of 2020], the IVT Crime drama series THE TOWER, and the Annapurna Interactive video game TELLING LIES. Nainita was born and raised in London by her Indian parents. She holds a degree in mathematics and studied sound design at the National Film and Television School. She started her career as a sound designer and has become known for scoring documentaries as well as feature films. 14 PEAKS: NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE explores Nepal’s deep connection to high-altitude mountaineering through the eyes of Nirmal “Nimsdai” Purja, a fearless, fun-loving Nepali climber on a quest he dubs “Project Possible” – to summit all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter mountains in just seven months, breaking the previous record of seven years. With a team of skilled Sherpas, he traverses Mount Everest, K2, and other iconic peaks through extreme weather, life-or-death decisions, and the emotional weight of his mother’s illness back home. 14 PEAKS is a thrilling, action-packed story about courage, perseverance, and pushing the limits of human endurance.
Watch the trailer to 14 PEAKS:
Q: How did you become involved in 14 Peaks?
Nainita Desai: Every project I score has to be different in regards to musical genre, and this film is actually different from anything I’ve scored before – it’s epic and symphonic. I’ve always wanted to score a mountaineering film as I was inspired by TOUCHING THE VOID. I had a meeting with the director who reached out and when he showed me some of the raw footage, and I jumped at the opportunity!
Listen to the track “Project Possible” from 14 PEAKS:
Q: What were the earlier discussions with the directors about the kind of music they wanted?
Nainita Desai: Well the story has it all – danger, tragedy, love, humanity, drama, intimacy, heroism. I felt there was enormous potential to represent the wide range of emotional highs and lows in the film with a large orchestral score. We could have taken it down a synth based approach but strings and brass felt natural and more organic for the images. I was inspired by the grandeur of the cinematography but more importantly Nims himself. He is an intriguing human being – driven, focussed, fearless with an inspirational level of self-belief.
Q: How would you describe your orchestral/musical palette for this doc?
Nainita Desai: As well as using mainly strings, brass and percussion, we also used silence and the natural sounds of the snow, atmospheres, and wind to portray the vastness of the landscape as well as music design for the animated sequences to create a more visceral connection to the storytelling. I have collaborated with the London Contemporary Orchestra several times before and they have an experimental aesthetic to their playing. I used the orchestra in a contemporary modern way. We utilized extended techniques which suited the wild chaotic rawness of some of the pieces and helped get across the danger and brutal hostility of the environment and landscape.
Large drums and percussion were really helpful in getting across the drive and epic nature of the ordeal.
Q: What is the thematic configuration for this score?
Nainita Desai: There are not one but two characters in this film – Nims and the mountains themselves. There are 14 mountains to summit in the film, and each mountain had its different musical challenges and difficulties. The scale of the story was also quite daunting. I felt I had to match the physical scale of the task at hand by painting with broad brush strokes. There is a theme for K2 which is quite heroic. One of the most powerful elements in the score is the very first musical sound you hear – a descending bass string slide that captures the vastness and dread of the challenge ahead of Nims. When watching the film, I want the audience to experience what I experienced when I was watching it: to find out what makes Nims tick, to put them right there in the action, to be terrified at times, inspired and most of all, to have a deep felt respect for Nims and his team’s astonishing accomplishments. I am proud to have helped shine a spotlight on this incredible human feat of endurance.
Q: What’s been most unique about scoring this project for you?
Nainita Desai: What may seem to many to be a large orchestral score and done many times before, for me it was a new experience and so I brought a fresh perspective and therefore treated it in a slightly different way with experimental string techniques and ethnic qualities. Mountaineering has traditionally been seen as hypermasculine and therefore much of the music can be perceived as being very masculine. However, I wanted to portray all the facets of what it means to be human. There are intimate moments and Nims had a special bond with his mother so I translated that relationship into a violin solo by Galya Bisengalieva that comes at the emotional climax of the film when they both reunite with joy.
Listen to the track “Mother and Son”
Q. This score contains very interesting aspects of ethnomusicology as you pay tribute to the cultural heritage of the Sherpas. What was your strategy for doing this?
Nainita Desai: Representation was important to me and the production team. The Sherpas have never truly been acknowledged for their contribution to mountaineering so it was important to highlight that by using occasional touches of musical ethnicity to shine a spotlight on their heritage and locale. You can hear the raspiness of the Asian strings in ‘Life Decisions,’ the plucked strings that you find in the region in ‘One Peak At A Time.’ Having learnt Indian percussion as a child, I subtly imbued unusual rhythms that are very natural to me. I also added slight touches of central Asian throat singing to the score.
Q: What was most challenging about scoring this doc?
Nainita Desai: Composing the score was like preparing for my own mountain climb. Each musical cue was epic in it’s own way. I knew strings would play a large feature because they can handle the vast landscapes of the region but could also be brought down to a singular violin for emotional connection. There is a great deal of tension in the story told with propulsion and energy, so I explored creating drama and tension using strong rhythms with the orchestra as well as percussion that is insistent and drives the story and Nim’s journey forward relentlessly. I composed and recorded the score through the pandemic, so recording at Abbey Road was a feat in itself. We had one of the first and largest since lockdown was lifted and socially distanced in Studio 1, the largest room. This project allowed me to go as big as we could possibly get in sonic size.
Listen to the track “Nothing Is Impossible”
Q: What’s next for you, that you can talk about?
Nainita Desai: My video game Immortality is launching at Tribeca Game Showcase – it’s a horror film trilogy and the score is being released by Lakeshore later in July. I also have a feature doc BODYPARTS that just premiered at Tribeca about sex scenes in Hollywood movies. It’s fun, deep, entertaining and I’m really excited about the score. In the fall I have a couple of drama shows releasing – CROSSFIRE, a BBC1 hostage thriller and FUNNY WOMAN, a SKY Studios comedy drama set in London in 1964. It’s a guitar band influenced score so it’s very different from anything I’ve ever written. Other than that I have some cool natural history series for Apple TV+ and Sky/Netflix in the works which won’t be out for a while, and a dream project for a streamer I can’t say much about at the moment.
Special thanks to Adrianne Perez and Dylan Venneman for facilitating this interview. The 14 PEAKS: NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE digital soundtrack is available from Lakeshore Records. See my earlier interview with Nainita about scoring AMERICAN MURDER: THE FAMILY NEXT DOOR in the October 2020 Soundtrax column, and my review of her THE REASON I JUMP soundtrack in the August 2021 Soundtrax.
Blake Neely is an award-winning composer whose work spans film, television, and the concert world. Born in Paris, Texas, he found music at the early age of four on the family piano. With piano teachers encouraging him to learn the classics but also write his own, he quickly found a passion for composing. Pursuing a career in music, among his early work on shorts and documentaries was a co-score for the sci-fi/horror comedy FROG-G-G!, which led to films like FIRST DAUGHTER [with Michael Kamen] and THE WEDDING DATE, and TV series like BROTHERS & SISTERS, DR. VEGAS, and the fantasy drama EASTWICK. He has received four EMMY® Award nominations, two for his main title themes for the series THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT and EVERWOOD, and two for his scores to the series PAN AM and the mini-series THE PACIFIC. He is especially known for providing the music for CW’s “Arrowverse” TV series, ARROW, THE FLASH, SUPERGIRL, LEGENDS OF TOMORROW, and BATWOMAN, and he’s also scored the feature films GREYHOUND, and Warner Bros. latest series, THE TIME TRAVELER’s WIFE.
The following interviews took place in 2015 and 2016 for a planned book project which is now being completed, but in which it turns out only a portion of our lengthy discussions would fit. The larger portion of the interviews are included here. -rdl
Q: You’ve become even more the go-to composer for DC Superhero shows on the CW – how does that feel and is it a bit challenging now to be juggling four series at the same time?
Blake Neely: It’s quite a challenge. I think I ended up being the go-to guy because Greg Berlanti seems to be the go-to producer for all these shows, and he and I hooked up fourteen years ago and started our run together. It’s funny – I said in an interview a couple years ago when we were about to debut THE FLASH as a spinoff from ARROW, and I said “I’m quite nervous about doing more than one superhero show at the same time, and I’ll run out of ideas!” – and here I am doing four this year! But what I find interesting, gratifying, and a way of doing it is to try and have their own voice and their own style and character because I might be writing about superheroes every week but I’m not writing four of the same score – hopefully! And they definitely keep the storylines interesting and separate, and when we crossover that is the most fun. When we do the FLASH and ARROW crossovers each year I just love that, and when they pitched this grand spinoff of LEGENDS OF TOMORROW, it felt like it’s going to be like one giant crossover every week of all of these themes and characters I’ve already scored and then some new ones. It’s fun to take these and do basically mash-ups with the themes. ARROW has one sound – it’s very dark and brooding with a slightly operatic sound, and it’s got a lot of electronics; then with THE FLASH I tried to do a different style, and with SUPERGIRL it started out being more traditional to the Donner SUPERMAN films, and then LEGENDS has become its own thing.
Q: Once Flash took off, so to speak, as a series, and you’ve got all of his interpersonal relationships to deal with and you’ve got the villains to deal with – what’s your process of integrating all of that?
Blake Neely: There are some composers who can’t hear a theme in a different key than they wrote it the first time. Because I don’t have perfect pitch, I’ve always been able to hear it in whatever key it is. So I can start writing an action scene that may have nothing to do with The Flash, he’s not even on screen, it’s a bank robbery. I’m starting the villain’s theme, it may be in the key of F minor, and when Flash comes in, it’s really easy for me to then put his action theme in, in that key. The longer answer is, it takes a lot of thought and looking at the screen and figuring out, ok at this time code he comes in, so his theme needs to start and it’s got to be at his tempo because by this frame he’s got to save the day, or the villain comes back and I’ve got to switch to the villain’s theme there. There’s a lot of give and take and passes and trying things, but what I try to do in the action sequences at least is make it seamless, because if you’re thinking, as a member of the audience, “Oh, there’s Flash’s theme, oh there’s the villain’s theme” – if you’re thinking that, then you’re not watching, and I just want you to be watching! You can feel that the right theme’s the right place, but I don’t want you to be consciously thinking of it. The harder work is to make it seamless.
Q: To what extent do you have to physically map all of this out? It sounds like there’s a lot of organization that you need to do to determine, before you can even start writing the actual cues, how you want to map this out thematically and integrate all of that.
Blake Neely: The mapping out of a cue has, after twelve, thirteen years of doing this, become a quick process for me, because I see so much film pass my eye. I watch the scene and then I’ll go through my template and mark things that I want to hit, things that I want to elevate. I might figure out a tempo at that point and the time signature, and then once I’ve literally made a road map of the cue and that’s mapped out, then I just start writing and putting in the themes at the right place. I do stay organized because I have to. I have templates with Flash’s theme that I can import and put in quickly, and then do a new arrangement of. Organization is key in TV because we have no time!
Blake Neely: They wanted to make it fun. It does take itself seriously, which is fine, but where ARROW was dark and broody and emotional, and FLASH is somewhere in the middle, it’s more I would say, epic popcorn superhero fun. They’re all emotional, though. You can’t make a show with Berlanti that is not about the human experience. It doesn’t matter if it’s superheroes or scientists and what have you, there’s always the human journey, so I can’t ever say that one show is emotional and another’s not, because they’re all very emotional and address real issues. As far as a theme, what I did on SUPERGIRL was a different approach. I took her heroic theme, which is a simple theme that is very easy to adapt into a slower arrangement. You take out the fast-pace of her hero theme and suddenly you have this nice cue that you can use between her and her sister Alex talking. It has to do with instrumentation and harmonics, and choosing when and where to use it. There aren’t any hard and fast rules to it; sometimes I think it’s not going to work, and I’ll delay it two seconds, and it then works perfectly. There’s no hard and fast rules – on ARROW, his theme pops out when he does something in a large, powerful way, and most of the time it’s reserved for that.
Q: How have you been treating the villains on these shows?
Blake Neely: On ARROW most of the villains have their own themes. On FLASH, you’ve got a little bit more of a villain-of-the-week instead – you’ve got the Reverse Flash – or we have a villain per-season. Like on ARROW in Season 2 we had Deathstroke, in Season 3 we had Ra’j as Ghul, and Merlin, so they all had their themes. Merlin’s was back in a big way, and where I just flirted with Merlin in Season 2, here I got to really develop him. That’s fun for me – and sometimes instead of writing a theme for the villain this week, I’ll decide to find a cool sound for the villain and sort of signature stamp him that way. On SUPERGIRL it’s been more of a traditional approach where we’ve got bad-stuff-is-happening music, so when you see fans on Twitter saying “Oh is that Reactron’s theme?” No. It’s not Reactron’s theme, it’s just bad-stuff-is-happening in the Supergirl world. In that way, as a composer, it allows you not to come up every week with a theme for a villain that’s going to be killed off and you’ll never see him again. STAR TREK used to do that, and they had the bad-stuff-is-happening-music and the good-stuff-is-happening-music and so, in that sense, the approach is a little more traditional.
Q: In some cases you’ve been able to score these long term arcs that go across an entire season. How have you found the ability to develop themes and enhance or develop them across x-number of episodes?
Blake Neely: I think you have to approach a season of television like a 22-episode movie, because certain shows have that kind of a through line. Like this year [Season 2] on THE FLASH we have Zoom as the major villain, and I can’t say that we start with a little bit of his theme and by the end of the season you’ll have his whole theme. It’s more like, when we present the character, here’s what his theme sounds like, and I’ll use pieces of it throughout the season and I’ll build on it or I’ll reduce it or I’ll expand it, so you know when you hear this that that’s Zoom. By the end of the season you’re either sick to death of it or it’s gotten so under your skin that you would hate to see that villain go.
Q: With LEGENDS OF TOMORROW, you’ve got a whole team of superheroes led by the Rip Hunter character. How are you treating them individually or as a team, musically, and how did that approach develop?
Blake Neely: For LEGENDS I wrote a main theme for the whole show, so when the team is working together I tend to call back to this theme. Rip Hunter… it comes out in the pilot that he’s put the team together for selfish reasons, he’s lied to them and said “you’re going to be heroes, come with me” but it’s really not, he owns up and says “I chose you because you amount to nothing in the future and you’re expendable and I just needed someone to help me catch this villain that took away my family years ago.” That becomes a real twist – you think you’re going to be watching a fun superhero show and you realize towards the end of the pilot, “Oh, we’ve all been duped!” Rip has his own theme, a much slower, sadder theme, the team has theirs’, and each character that comes to the show brought with them a theme from the show they came from, whether it was ARROW, you have Adam and Canary, Captain Cold and Heat Wave, and Firestorm from THE FLASH, they brought their themes, and what I’ve done is, some times, present them in the same way and sometimes put them in the sonic world of LEGENDS, which is a bit more synthy and a bit more rock-and-roll, electric guitars and stuff.
Q: How have you connected the dots between one show’s music and another when there’s a crossover episode?
Blake Neely: When FLASH appears on THE ARROW I bring in FLASH music and put it in the world of ARROW by taking the Flash theme but maybe more in the orchestration of ARROW, and vice-versa. And then sometimes it’s a mash-up, a literal combination of both themes playing at once.
Q: VIXEN is an interesting animated show tied to the DC universe but presented in a series of six 5-minute short episodes. How has the episode length challenged you?
Blake Neely: I don’t think it’s approached any differently. In that case, you looked at all six together and that’s thirty minutes, so it’s almost an episode of television, so it was about how we were going to approach that. Nathan Blume and I scored that together, and it also brought in Arrow’s theme and Flash’s theme because they also appeared in the VIXEN show. They said “give her something that’s not too throw-away – which is funny because well, I try not to ever do that! – because she just may come back, and indeed she did – she came back on ARROW two episodes ago [Season 4, Episode 15, “Taken”], she was introduced in live action, and we recalled her music from the animated series. They even had Oliver Queen say, about her, “Yeh we met last year and had a very animated adventure together!”
Q: How have you and Nathan shared scoring duties on VIXEN?
Blake Neely: Literally just split it down the middle. I’ll take this one, you take that one, etc. It was a lot of fun.
Special thanks to Blake Neely for taking the time out to discuss his Arrowverse scores in detail with me! For more info on Blake, see his website at https://www.blakeneely.com/
Sherri Chung’s compositional work includes both songs and scores for films, television, documentaries, commercials, musicals, and music libraries. Sherri studied Music Composition and Theory at Jacksonville University in Jacksonville, FL, and attended USC's Scoring For Motion Picture and Television Graduate Program in Los Angeles, CA. Sherri has also attended the Sundance Institute's Film Music Program as well as ASCAP’s Scoring Workshop. Shortly after moving to Los Angeles, she began assisting composer Walter Murphy and then continued as an orchestrator for his shows, FAMILY GUY and AMERICAN DAD. A long-time collaborator with composer Blake Neely followed; they have worked together on a number of scores, including those for CW’s ARROW, THE FLASH, SUPERGIRL, and DC’S LEGENDS OF TOMORROW, and she currently co-composes CW’s BLINDSPOT, BATWOMAN, and RIVERDALE with Neely. Not only a composer, Sherri is also a pianist, vocalist, and songwriter. She has recorded and produced 2 original albums and performs with her band in Los Angeles. As a vocalist, she has recorded for films, commercials, trailer music, and television. Currently her voice can be heard on NBC’s BLINDSPOT and the Netflix Emmy nominated documentary series THE KEEPERS, two scores she also conducted.
I recently interviewed Sherri about her experiences working on the Arrowverse series and her recent solo scoring of KUNG FU (2021) and GREMLINS: SECRETS OF THE MOGWAI (2022). See also my Special Column, The Composers Present: The Boys Presents: Diabolical (2022) in which I interview Sherri about scoring the episode “Boyd in 3D,” here.
Q: After serving as a vocalist and writing additional music for Blake Neely on ARROW and THE FLASH, what was your process of co-scoring with Blake and his team on CW’s other Arrowverse series?
Sherri Chung: When Blake was starting SUPERGIRL he was also starting another show that year, called BLINDSPOT. He and Greg Berlanti [co-developer/executive producer] talk all the time, especially before the beginning of a new season, and they discuss it’s development and what is coming up, how Blake and Greg are going to work together to do this particular season. So he let Blake know that there’s a lot of stuff coming down the pike, and he should get prepared. Blake told him that he’s going to need to bring in some people who are working very specifically with him and for him on these shows. So I got the call from Blake about, “Hey, I know part of your writing voice and I think some of it would be really great for Kara’s human side in SUPERGIRL. So he wanted me to come up and help him develop that part of the show with him. That was a huge compliment, because that was actually in some ways even more significant than doing simply additional writing – which isn’t to say additional writing is simple, I mean that just doing that it was actually like “Hey, I want you to come in and help me develop part of this show,” which is really amazing. Sometimes Blake himself will say that this is something that you’ve earned, Sherri. But I think, when you look at the industry, it does take a very special kind of composer to recognize and say, “I see your contributions, and I’m able to give you this credit.”
Sherri Chung: That’s a great question. I kind of marvel at the answer myself because, again, it was a lot of Blake designing the themes from the beginning, obviously with ARROW. The only time I ever worked on ARROW or FLASH, beyond as a vocalist, was when we were doing the crossovers. So for me it was always a really fascinating thing to watch: how do you architect something like that? And that’s how we all saw it. He was the architect of something and he’d say, “Here’s what I think the design should look like. Then we all did our thing according to that plan. With ARROW, we’re composers and we’re influenced by what we see. ARROW is a very dark show. It was the first of its kind and no one at the time even thought of it as being the first of a franchise. We just thought we were making this one show. From my own approach to being a film composer, and when each incarnation happened – each new show or spinoff – we’re in this world but it’s got to be something different. You’re influenced by the characters, even by the look of the picture.
SUPERGIRL has a much brighter, bouncier, sun-shiny look to it than ARROW, so what I’m thinking of when we’re looking at it is, “Oh yeah, it needs to sound a bit more like this.” What I certainly try to do on my projects, and I know that Blake does certainly on the Arrowverse shows, is that he tries to find that one thing that makes this show, this show. Obviously these shows were a lot more than the sum of a single idea, but I think something like that can start to make it unique, yet interchangeable. With SUPERGIRL, Blake was saying that “this is a different show, but we’re still in a superhero world.” I don’t remember when they started using the term ‘Arrowverse’ but I don’t think he went into it knowing that he had to create something that was of interlocking pieces.
Q: In LEGENDS OF TOMORROW where you have multiple characters, some are new, some are brought in from the Arrowverse; how did you and he and the other composers deal with creating themes or integrating previous themes within a group like that?
Sherri Chung: I think what was awesome about the way we were all working together is that we would literally sit together in a room and say, “Hey, I’m going to take this storyline,” or “What do you guys think? I have an idea for this storyline or for this character.” We obviously have themes that Blake has already written, or that another writer worked with him on it, but a lot of it was, “I have an idea for this character or this new one, and Sherri’s going to take this and Nathan’s going to take that, Daniel [James Chan] you do this,” and I will cover these characters. It just became very collaborative in the sense that we discuss it early on, and then we go away to our separate laboratories. There’s a lot of back-and-forth. Like with the Monitor – I did not write the Monitor’s theme, Nathan [Blume] did, so I would chat over to Nathan: “Hey, can you point me in the right direction of your Monitor theme?” and he’d say “Oh, yeah, look at this cue from this show and this scene,” or sometimes with Daniel he’d have it written down on sheet paper, so he’d say sure, here’s my theme for the Waverider, and he’ll give me a copy of his sheet so that I can use that theme in a scene that I have with the character that I’m working on.
Sherri Chung: We actually started that one together. Greg Berlanti and Caroline Dries, the creator/showrunner, actually came to us and said we want both of you to work on this. Blake said that he felt very connected to the character of Batwoman and wanted to write her theme and develop that; which made sense to me, and I was super connected to the villain, Alice. I definitely wanted to write something for her. So we’d sit and collaborate to work out a couple of things we thought about, and we went away to our rooms and each wrote. Then we come back and present each other with our ideas, and it’s amazing how much our ideas work well together. They’re not the same ideas – we can’t write the way each other writes – but these ideas come together. With BATWOMAN I have the same process as Blake, probably because I’ve learned it from him, but it also works for me, which is, once I see picture I write away from picture. I write obviously with the storyline and certainly look at the coloring and the characters and all that, but I don’t initially write with the parameters and confines of time and length, that kind of thing. I start free-associating, just to feel what works with this picture. Then I bring it down to fit the timings.
Q: How was the score affected for Season two when a new Batwoman actor or character came into the show?
Sherri Chung: That’s literally something that Blake and I had to talk about with Caroline. Season 2 was about the changing of the guard, as it were, and that’s how the show was treated. Batwoman is Batwoman. That was something Blake and I realized, that Kate Kane’s theme just didn’t work now, it literally does not work on Ryan’s character and the actress playing Ryan. It’s fascinating how that happened. That was definitely a discussion that was had with us, as composers with the music, but also with Caroline, and apparently we were all on the same page.
Q: Would you describe how you and the other composers worked out the crossover episodes, especially when characters from other CW superhero series, for example Black Lightning, came in with their own themes? How did that work out?
Sherri Chung: That was super fun! We went researching. I might have even reached out to Kurt [Farquhar, BLACK LIGHTNING composer] as well, but to be honest I can’t remember now. But I do remember that we went researching, either the soundtracks or the show itself. We definitely looked and had to learn what the themes were. This has happened before on other shows like LEGENDS when Constantine came onto the show. I wasn’t working on that show all the time, but this was something that we really value – Blake has definitely been spearheading this where we really value having that continuity here. They’re using the same actor, so we’ve got to use the same theme. I think it’s really fun to take other people’s themes and do a mash-up as well as doing an arrangement of it and working it into the scene. That was definitely something that required a lot of research to do. Even on SUPERGIRL, there was a time where Superman came on and we discussed whether he was going to have a new theme or are we going to use John Williams’ theme? And it settled on, no, Superman will have a new theme in his iteration on our show. So the continuity, consistency, and the authenticity has been really important to us the whole time.
Sherri Chung: I think the challenge is probably something that a lot of us film composers feel: episodes just keep going, in a good way, but because of that, for me, personally, there’s always been the challenge of how do we make something a little bit different. We’re seeing picture; we’re not necessarily seeing what the audience will see. The timing is locked, but sometimes we’re seeing black screen that just says “Supergirl blows up the building” or “now is the battle between the Anti-Monitor and Arrow” or something, but they’re only stick figures! But that’s just part of behind-the-curtain stuff, it’s what happens and it’s not a big deal. But there is a lot of responsibility for the music to really make something even more believable, because without it, it’s not. And this is not a slight to anybody, this is just how the unit works. It’s fun and it’s certainly rewarding but I think it can be a challenge for that reason.
Q: The new KUNG FU series was one you got to do on your own. Would you tell me about scoring that show, giving it some new themes, and if the original 1972 series theme was referenced in any way?
Sherri Chung: It was not. They were like, “Nope, we want a whole different thing.” What was really amazing about KUNG FU and what I particularly love about it is that it is a ground-breaking show in and of itself, because of the predominantly all-Asian cast. That hasn’t been done on a network show; I think they were the first ones, if I’m not mistaken. So it’s been really fun – especially for me, I’m half Chinese, and it was really great to be a part of what they’re trying to do on the show by creating a new narrative. We’re breaking ground and finding ways to do it the way that we as an Asian community feels that best represents this type of story. What I also love about the show is, while it does have what I call cultural specificity, and I really pay attention to that with the music, it also has universal themes. Very human themes, so there are times in the music where I specifically don’t do any kind of Asian influence or lean into what I’m calling cultural specificity because this is not what it’s about, this is about finding one’s destiny or doing the right thing. I think it’s a cool show and it’s really smartly done. Its creating this new narrative and it’s a very strong show.
Listen to Sherri Chung’s Main Theme from KUNG FU:
Musically I always like what I’m able to add to it, because they’re letting me get away with so much. That was something from the very beginning. I wanted to use authentic Chinese instruments, so I had a bunch of Chinese drums rented and brought into the studio and had them play – I played a little but admittedly I’m not a percussionist, so I brought people in to play. For three days we created a library and sampled all of these drums and created rhythms and grooves. It wasn’t just drums, we even had tongue drum and dharma bells and certain kinds of gongs, so it was a really cool thing. And then I work with an er-hu player named Karen Han*, and in preparation for the show I took, I want to say, lessons from her, but I wasn’t learning to play the er-hu, I was just taking lessons on how her instrument works, what are some ways it can be played. I had her point me to some YouTube videos where I could study how the instrument is played and used. What is interesting is that I didn’t want to use it in the traditional, Eastern harmonic language and structure; I wanted to try and develop using this very authentic instrument but in a very Western role – which in and of itself is not a novel idea, as many composers and many scores have done that type of thing, but I tried to find a different voice on this show. I also worked with an amazing quartet of string players. We recorded the same ones and Karen every week for every episode and it’s really been fun to develop some sounds with those tools. It’s been interesting to watch different characters as they grow and develop and become, in some cases, a little more deranged or a little more power hungry, or whatever the mystical power will do to them!
It's really been amazing to work with live musicians and have enough time during a session that I can say, hey what if we try this, or what if we try that. They’ve got the parts in front of them that are written, but it’s really great to be able to experiment and collaborate, especially when working with a specialist like Karen on the er-hu, you kind of have to work that way! I didn’t know that going into it – but you have to when you work with a specialist who has this unique instrument, because something that you write for them is going to sound one way if she plays it that way, but she will sometimes say “do you want me to try this, or what if I did this or slid into this note and put a little trill here?” – something that I wouldn’t know her instrument could do. Basically with her I’m capturing a performance. It’s not “Karen, go ahead and play exactly what I’ve written!” It’s more like “Play within the structure that’s there but improvise. That’s how we can capture this beautiful performance with her and the other musicians, and for me it’s really conformed my writing, as the composer; all that information influences a lot of my choices and a lot of what I know that Christina and Bob on the show are responding to.
I even interact with the actors as well, and it’s been such a fun ride. This season has had a slight musical interaction because there’s been a specific melody that one of the characters plays on the screen. I’ve worked with her and we talked about it. I’ve worked even with the props department – they have to get a certain kind of sheet music, they actually took it and developed it themselves, but I feel very integrated with the show that usually I don’t feel because composers are so far in post. It’s still far in post but in this season I was part of the actual production, which was a very special thing. I really value that, and it really inspired me.
Listen to Sherri’s track “Spilled Wine and Lost Battles” from KUNG FU:
Q: What’s it like being the lead composer on a series like this – and having your own additional music composers to work with?
Sherri Chung: It’s really great. I learned from Blake and I learned from other composers as well, and it’s good to build a team, especially if you are fortunate that you have other projects that go on as well. Most of Season 1 of KUNG FU I wrote everything myself, and I wrote most of the episodes in the second season, so I’m doing most of the writing, and it’s definitely something that I have a hard time needing help on because it's a show that I really connect with. But, I think, in a very logistical way there’s something different to being a leader. In a composing way, I’m now the architect on this. It wasn’t new to me on KUNG FU, really because I’ve been doing my own projects for many years, even before I was an additional writer for Blake. Most of the things I was working on were not high profile at all, so no one’s going to ever see them! But in terms of KUNG FU, yes, it’s definitely my first show of this profile, my first solo credit for a network show. I was nervous going into it, just because I think any time you try something new, there’s a little bit of anxiety because you want to do a really good job, you want to represent your ideas well, what your point of view is, and you won’t want to mess it up!
There’s so many other things besides writing the music that take place here, and I knew that already, but it’s a lot of different facets and aspects and elements to being a film composer. It’s not just the composer part. And that’s something I have experienced before, but having a solo credit like this, it suddenly felt like, wow, the training wheels are off! I’ve had some great mentors and I was given many opportunities to learn and try my hardest without the option of actually failing, you know? When you’re on your own it’s a great responsibility, but in a really good way too. I don’t mean this in any sort of arrogant way but it just fits me well to have this and sort of architect it, and being able to have the ownership, full stop. And that’s a great place to be when you’re an artist. It’s scary but it’s a good place to be in, and I love the collaboration as well.
Q: Finally I wanted to ask about scoring the animated series GREMLINS: SECRETS OF THE MOGWAI – is there anything you can tell me about your music at this point?
Sherri Chung: Yes! It’s fully orchestral. I have never done a score that’s fully orchestral – maybe in a couple of the early episodes when I was trying to solve some things for myself, there might have been a couple of synths in there but aside from that it’s really all orchestral. I record it with an amazing orchestra in Budapest, Hungary. I do it remotely – I’m not flying out there, although I would love to one day. But certainly not during COVID. I started it through the pandemic, and it is a wonderful show, I can’t wait for audiences to see this. It is definitely for nostalgic adults, it’s not just for kids – and it’s really special. I’ve had a huge blast working on it. I feel like I’ve really grown as a composer, so I have to hope it resonates with audiences, because it’s something that I am really proud of, and I know that the showrunners and the producers are also very proud of it. I do use a little bit of Jerry Goldsmith’s GREMLINS music. I won’t tell you where because I think fans will enjoy seeking it out! I mean, it’s obvious, I’m not hiding it. For the most part it’s completely original, but there are a couple of places that fans will notice, and it will be the right time for it. In some cases I was able to do a little Jerry Goldsmith/Sherri Chung mashup!
It’s been a challenge with KUNG FU, it’s been a challenge even on this movie I did a while ago, NANCY DREW AND THE HIDDEN STAIRCASE , and it’s a challenge certainly with something like GREMLINS, to take something that had been very successful in the past and say, “OK, now we’re going to put a different spin on it,” and it’s challenging to do that because you want to pay respect. I wanted to respect the previous movies as well as Jerry Goldsmith’s score, so I do hope that the fans respond to it all around – not just the music, but the show itself, because I feel like the creators wanted the same thing too. I can’t wait – I really think it’s going to be something that fans of GREMLINS are really going to love.
[The first episode will have its world premiere at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival on June 13, 2022, and the series will then air on Cartoon Network as part of their ACME Night block.]
Special thanks to Elizabeth Forrest and Andrew Cohen of Impact 24 PR for facilitating this interview. For more information on Sherri Chung, see her website: https://www.sherrichung.com/ This interview is lightly edited for clarification.
* Associated link:For more information on er-hu specialist Karen Han, please see my interview with her, published in Music from the Movies, archived on Karen’s website here. -rdl
COBRA KAI Seasons 1-4 – Leo Birenberg & Zach Robinson/La-La Land Records – CD
COBRA KAI is a martial arts comedy-drama television series and a sequel to the original THE KARATE KID films (1984-1994). It follows a middle-aged Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence decades after their 1984 All Valley Karate Tournament bout only to find themselves martial-arts rivals again. The series premiered in 2018 and ran for three seasons on YouTube Red/YouTube Premium; Netflix acquired the series in June 2020, and released the third and fourth seasons in January and December 2021. It’s since been renewed for a fifth season, which is set to premiere on September 9, 2022. Composers Leo Birenberg and Zach Robinson (former score coordinators/addl. music composers for Christophe Beck) have led the COBRA KAI music since its inception. “We’ve been on the show since Season 1,” Robinson said in a recent interview with Soundtrax. “It has really grown from Season 1, which was the closest thing to a half-hour comedy as the description would get it, and then after Season 1 it starts to go a little off the rails, and now we’re recording an 80-piece orchestra for every single episode! It is wall-to-wall action-adventure music, in the style of John Williams sometimes, mixed with hair metal elements!” Added Birenberg, “It feels like a once in a lifetime opportunity to write just something totally unique and insane – and I mean insane in the most loving way possible! It’s like a dream gig. Even though COBRA KAI on its face is not a superhero show or a movie, the way we approach the score is very much the way we would approach scoring ANT MAN [with Beck]. It’s a larger than life story, and the only way that you can buy into the story of everyone knowing karate is if you score it as big as possible! A lot of the lessons we learned at Chris’s and beyond are employed for this show.”
From the get-go in Season 1, the music for COBRA KAI is over-the-top, as the film’s wild mix of fighting action and comedy required. A heady blend of electronic rock, synths, and percussion-driven fully orchestral vitality gives the series its immersive sonic expanse, it makes for a splendid listening infused with terrific energy and passion. The two composers, working in separate studios but combining their efforts into a seamless whole, gave Johnny Lawrence’s character a strong mix of hard rock and heavy metal, while Daniel LaRusso is provided with Japanese flutes and percussion, and classical instrumentation that hearkens back to Conti’s treatment of them in the KARATE KID movies. For the Cobra Kai world in which Johnny and Daniel exist, influences from EDM and synthwave are predominant. All of this gives the scores thematic contrast and compatibility between their developing stories and challenges.
Season 1 includes more acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and synth-based measures (“King Cobra” is a splendid electronic rock track; “50th Anniversary” references Conti orchestrally, quite nicely) and many of the fight scenes are driven percussively; “The Cobra and the Mongoose” offers compelling sonic trajectory for a dojo fight). In Season 2, “Hawk’s Tattoo” and “Medal of Honor” are both subdued and poignant synth melodies conveying rich sentimentality; “Hallway Hellscape” is a ferocious action track with nicely integrated components from brasses, guitar, and some wild, pounding electronic drums; “Like a Dance” is one of several tracks based around a cool ‘80s disco beat, which contrasts nicely against the more potent action cues. Season 3 opens with the hard rocker “Miyagi Metal,” heavy prog guitars, orchestra, and vocals; “Diners, Drive-Ins, And Dojos” is a nicely maneuvered action track, ending in a calm sonority; “Look St Me” is an impassioned soliloquy for electric guitar over synth and bass; “Crane Technique” is a pleasing reprise of the main theme, while “The Cobra Effect” returns to the rhythmic hard rock commotion of the opening music. “Ouroboros,” at 4:48 the CDs longest track, is a dynamic mix of heroics and confrontation from full orchestra and choir. Season 4 opens with the anthemic “It’s Karate Time,” featuring some nice keyboard synth riffing before opening into drum-driven orchestra; “Passion and Principle” is a nice mix between sinewy synths, throbbing bass, and dour, growling pads ending in some threatening drum beats; “The Fellowship of the Dojos” is a soft, heroic measure for agreeable companionship that segues into the equally expansive “A Final Match for the Ages” which grows from tentative motives into a fearless challenge, itself segueing into the powerful drum-driven fight cue “Bonsai Badass.” The double-CD set ends with “Dungeon Lord,” a nicely resonant motif for horns, winds, and keyboard, associated with a video game one of the characters plays. This season’s CD 1 also includes the only song in the COBRA KAI series, Survivor’s “The Moment of Truth” from THE KARATE KID, here sung by Carrie Underwood.
Listen to “Awake the Snake” from the COBRA KAI: Season 1 Soundtrack:
“One of the first steps we took was a dissection of the original Conti scores and original film soundtracks,” Berenberg said in a Season 1 interview with vehlinggo.com. “We wanted to distill down what worked about those into a palette of colors that we could draw from while still writing original music. With a franchise like THE KARATE KID, we also tried to ask ourselves, ‘As fans of these films, what would we want to hear if we were watching?’ Zach and I have worked together for years now, so splitting work and trading ideas back and forth all day has become second nature.” Interviewed by vehlinggo again during the third Season, Robinson said, “Season 3 has a LOT of really cinematic moments – it’s a whole different ball game than our season 1 score. We have Daniel going back to Okinawa, so we knew we wanted to have a new theme there and feature some new instruments and orchestra styles… There are also just so many more set pieces in Season 3. The episodes are longer and the stakes are higher.”
La-La Land Records has issued CD soundtracks of each season of COBRA KAI, with Seasons 1 and 3 offering two discs of the composers’ music, while Seasons 2 and 4 provide exclusive CD-only bonus tracks on their single-disc presentations. All are tons of fun and enjoyable listening on their own. Seasons 1 and 2 include portions of Bill Conti’s original KARATE KID music as used therein. The CDs do not contain formal notes but each one includes brief comments from the creators or composers. “While the karate depicted in the series is not a real, traditional style of fighting, the characters’ movements are actually very real and are parts of different types of karate, merged together to form a style that is palatable and fun to watch. Cobra Kai is a non-traditional, fictional form of fighting made up for the sake of the film, which has elements from traditional Goju-Ryu and Shito-Ryu but doesn’t specifically belong to either of them.” – wayofmartialarts.com. See La-La Land Records here.
Listen to “It’s Karate Time” from the COBRA KAI: Season 4 Soundtrack:
COVID 19 Ground Zero/Marco Valerio Antonini/self-released
COVID-19 GROUND ZERO, which debuted at the DANCES WITH FILMS 2022 festival this month, is “a melancholic and brutally honest” (-filmthreat.com) movie that reflects the Covid-19 experiences of a frontline hospital worker and her performer boyfriend. “Based on true stories from frontline hospital workers in New York City, the drama ends up exposing how mishandled the whole pandemic was by individuals who exercise authority and influence,” writes FilmThreat’s Andrew Stover. The film is a French-American drama production directed by Kurdish French director Mustafa Ozgun and French-American producer Laura Weissbecker. The film was executive-produced by Donald Kushner, who is known for producing the TRON saga for Disney, and it’s about a couple in New York during the early months of the pandemic. Marco Valerio Antonini’s score provided a suitably subdued tone that echoes the feelings of the characters – and much of our own experiences – as we faced life and death during the early days of the COVID pandemic. “The score was recorded with a socially-distanced live orchestra in Budapest in 2020, so it’s quite significant in terms of quintessential pandemic-times workflow,” said Antonini. “The film is a love story mainly, with hope and light at its center, so the music reflects that side by side with the drama of the historical moment and the turmoil of the social unrest BLM demonstrations that were also going on at that time.” The music navigates the characters’ growing romance (the tracks “Taking Care of You,” “Back From Work,” “The Best Decision [Love Theme],” and “Turning Point” echo this quite nicely) while all around their story we are reminded of the dangers faced throughout the pandemic during its original peak (“Fighting the Virus,” “Lost Goodbye (dedicated to all first responders),” “Outbreak,” and the actively energetic “On the Frontline”) are scored more darkly, resonant of the challenges inherent within life during COVID-19. The score is rich in musical perspective and emotive resonance, with the dramatically jagged-edged string cadence of “Dedication” perhaps most energetically, musically, reflecting the experience of those on the frontline, while the concluding track, “Wake Up,” is a somber recapitulation of the events that have carried us through the movie. Based on strings and piano, this score is both affecting and effective in portraying a couple holding on to their romance during those struggling early days of COVID. The digital album is available from Amazon and YouTubeMusic and other streaming sources. Listen to the track “The Best Decision (Love Theme”):
LA DONNA DELLA CALDA TERRA/Carlo Savina/Chris’ Soundtrack Corner - CD
This German label (also a busy soundtrack retailer) has had something of a resurgence in recent months, with five notable Italian film scores released on CD for the first time (see Soundtrack News below for info on the other four)
Chris’ Soundtrack Corner has released the CD soundtrack to José María Forqué’s LA DONNA DELLA CALDA TERRA (aka LA MUJER DE LA TIERRA CALIENTE, or FURY). This 1978 film was a product of the revival of erotic cinema that took place during the 1970s, spearheaded by Sylvia Kristel's EMMANUELLE (1974). This Italian imitator starred Laura Gemser (BLACK EMANUELLE and several other Italian Emanuelle exploiters [note the single “m” in her films differentiating them from the original), who is here paired with Stuart Whitman, one of Hollywood’s top leading men of the 1960’s. The film, described by Gergely Hubai in his liner notes as “an erotic film with a bit more emotional scope than many of its contemporaries,” tells the story of two unnamed characters: The Man and The Woman, who end up hiding in the bed of a truck together during a long journey. The musical score was composed by Carlo Savina, whose filmography covers almost every genre Italian cinema had to offer from the 1950s through the 1980s. This is a delicious easy-listening score the way the Italians do it, with rich, lovely melodies and intriguing orchestrations. Strangely, the film’s music was heavily rethought during the editing and eventually the first half hour is left without music, except for the opening titles, with at least six tracks excised from the film. The album’s “Main Title” introduces a delicate flute melody, counterpointed against piano and then electric guitar and a splendid vocalise by an uncredited singer, then taken by violins just short of its midline. “Life is Sweet” and “A River Full of Memories” comprise very jaunty or breezy melodies. “Exotic Paradise” is given an intriguing South American flavor with unusual and compelling instrumentation. “Mónica” is a hefty motif for the full string section, associated with a subordinate character they meet on the journey, played by Pilar Velázquez. “Traveler’s Joy,” the first cue actually heard in the film after the opening credits, is a festive Latinesque motif accompanying a pair of truck drivers who are simultaneously stimulated by a friendly shopkeeper; the moody and engrossing “Salomon's Temple” lends an air of mysterioso to an erotic ritual imparted in by the Man; while the harpsichord melody of “Meeting Oreste” sets a provocative mood for a strange meeting with a one-legged man. While these scenes and their intriguing musical accompaniment might for a moment suggest a spirited, Fellini-esque kind of Neorealism, the film is actually far from that but Savina’s choice and variety of differing musical treatments, and their often celebratory nature, makes for a delightful listen. “Oreste on Top” which reprises the female vocalise from the main title, while “Prelude to an Act of Love” is a pleasing if more standard romantic melody. Despite the film’s erotic roots, Savina scores the romance and impassioned joy and discovery of shared passion, albeit momentary. “Love on the Road” reprises the main title in a more subdued manner, with pensive violins behind its softer flute melody; “Just a Dream?” offers the main title material from reverberant plucks of electric guitar. “End Titles” reprise the main theme much as it began in the first track. With literally half the score going unused in the beginning of the film itself, this premiere soundtrack album provided a unique opportunity to experience Savina’s playful variations of frisky thematic material, alluring tropical exotica, and a number of what Hubai rightly described as “highly melodramatic masterpieces,” all of which provides a sumptuous musical celebration of romantic abandonment. For more information, see CSC.
THE DROVER’S WIFE: THE LEGEND OF MOLLY JOHNSON
/Salliana Seven Campbell/MovieScore Media - digital
This Australian historical drama (which won the Asia Pacific Screen Awards Grand Jury Prize and Best Film nominee at the Sydney and Warsaw Film Festivals), is written and directed by Indigenous Australian actress Leah Purcell, who also stars in the title role, It is about a lonely bushwoman who struggles to raise her children and run the family farm while her husband is away. Purcell re-imagines Henry Lawson’s 1892 short story, “The Drover’s Wife,” re-imagining it through an Indigenous feminist lens, inspired by her own lived experience and the stories of her ancestors. The music is scored by Salliana Seven Campbell, who commented on the project: “What I loved most about the film is how raw it is and I wanted the score to match that. The score is full of fiddles, banjos, mandolins, piano and electric guitars. I’m also proud to say except for two guitar solos and double bass I played all the instruments. Being my first film I owe a lot to Leah and editor Dani Cooper for guiding my way.” Salliana is a freelance composer and multi-instrumentalist performing on five-string violin, nyckelharpa, octave mandolin, baritone bowed psaltry, piano, hammered dulcimer, hurdy gurdy, and vocals. Many of those instruments play a part in the DROVER’S WIFE score, which conveys the place and period of the film very nicely while making for an absorbing listen as these instruments are layered, offset, solo’d, and gathered into drones, melodies, themes, harmonic interludes, and other fascinating experiences for the ears. (review continues below)
Listen to the track “Molly’s Theme” from THE DROVER’S WIFE:
Some critics have called the score intrusive in its film, an argument I can’t comment on, not yet having seen the movie, but as a listening experience creating sonic images that musically convey the film’s substance in their own way I find the score captivating. Its style, texture, and mix of folk instruments with the occasional electric guitar interaction paints a melodic mix of sounds, and perhaps sometimes affords a dramatic confrontational resonance that to me suggests the rugged landscapes and difficult living conditions of the Australian bush of the late 1800s, and the driven self-assurance of the titular character. I find that the variety of themes and treatments in Salliana’s score creates an interesting mostly acoustic realm that perhaps necessarily calls attention to itself in the manner of a character in the film, as unyielding as the weather, the beating sun, or the rugged life experiences of a First Nations woman taking care of her kids on the edge of the sparsely-inhabited flat. Very highly recommended.
For more details on the composer and score, see MSM.
Listen to the cue “A Mother’s Scorn:”
THE ESSEX SERPENT/Dustin O’Halloran & Herdís Stefánsdóttir/Lakeshore Records - digital
This new Apple TV+ miniseries, starring Claire Danes and Tom Hiddleston, is a British thriller/romance drama based on the novel of the same name by Sarah Perry. The series follows wealthy London widow Cora Seaborne (Danes) who moves to Essex to investigate reports of a mythical serpent. In the process, she forms a surprising bond of science and skepticism with local pastor Will (Hiddleston). The series features an intriguing soundscape from Dustin O’Halloran (AMMONITE, TRANSPARENT, LION, THE OLD GUARD) and Herdís Stefánsdóttir (Y: THE LAST MAN, BLACKPORT, WE'RE HERE). The composers utilized electro acoustics and strings to create a mysterious score that evokes the darker depths of Victorian England. “From our first conversations with director Clio Bernard, we knew we would be creating something layered and multidimensional,” said the composers. “This was our first collaboration together as composers and it allowed us to explore subjects like fear of the unknown, the Victorian era where science and religion were in constant conflict, and the complexity of superstition. Even though it was a period piece set in the late 1800’s, we took a modern approach to the music and how we wrote and recorded it, accentuating the sound of the wood and bow of the strings, and went deep into capturing the sound limits of the cello and electro acoustic manipulation.” The result is a series of fascinating layers and tonalities that maintain an intriguing and apprehensive feel as the mystery story plays out. The storyline is more of a Gothic romance with a vague folk horror/mystery (that aspect of the series seems to be more of a macguffin than a major story point), with its primary conflict being between Cora’s scientific methods and Will’s
religious beliefs. From a musical standpoint, THE ESSEX SERPENT is quite liking, its contrast between the acoustic and the electronics, the mix of close-miked weaving of the strings and the layered textures of the electro-acoustic manipulation of those strings working very well together in maintaining an absorbing musical structure that is more than droning yet isn’t quite melodious, but works wonders in providing a harmonious semblance as the story advances. This isn’t a mix of acoustics and electronics, but more an acoustical string-based composition in which some of those string sounds are electronically enhanced, adding an intriguing sonority to their sound that fits the semblance of the miniseries’ scenario. I’m quite enjoying listening to the result. Listen or download at these links.
Listen to the track “The Devil Will Come For You:”
FIRST KILL/Kurt Farquhar/Netflix – digital
The Netflix horror series FIRST KILL is a supernatural teen romance drama in which falling in love is tricky for teens Juliette and Calliope: One’s a vampire, the other’s a vampire hunter and both are ready to make their first kill. This Sapphic YA vamp series is created by Victoria Schwab based on her short story of the same name and stars Elizabeth Mitchell and Sarah Catherine Hook in the lead roles. The show premiered on June 10, 2022. This is a modern vampire romance/horror score like only Kurt Farquhar can do it. “There’s a lot of interesting vocal components that in a lot of ways won’t even be recognized as vocal, because I’m processing so heavily on the show,” Farquhar told me in an interview in last February’s Soundtrax. “There are very few things that I am not touching and changing into something else. We’re basing a lot of vocal sounds on two featured artists, an artist named Barri and an artist named D’anna Stewart, and they bring such a magic and such a uniqueness to the score that only this show has.” The result, premiering June 10th on Netflix, supports a beguiling modern urban love story interfused with vampire attacks and a fair amount of blood-letting, but Farquhar has scored it with a contemporary array of urban percussive patterns, dappled sound structures, synth whorls over raspy tones and other intriguing effects. And those vocalisms, using the voices of his singers as instruments to layer and moderate moments such as the first attraction the two girls share for one another, then the significant differences when they become aware of what the other one really is, and how they choose to accept that pattern despite their different positions in the conflict between vamp and vamp hunter. In the midst of a wide plethora of pop songs that identify the “normal” suburban world of Juliette and Calliope, Farquhar creates the sonic world of the hidden (and not-so-hidden) vampires and other dark creatures. He builds a wash of ambient structured notes that are created synthetically in his studio and audibly by his singers, and then processed to become more… unworldly. In Episode 1 he uses an interesting vibe via water-droplet keyboard elements that accompany the girls during their first attraction, which gradually segues into more emotive and earthy vocal elements as a growing attraction is forged and later blossomed. It’s these unusual and unique musical patterns like that that give the otherworldly normality of the two girls, who are attracted despite their severe differences (Juliette the vampire, Calliope the slayer), their supernatural humanity as they strive for acceptance energized by discreet tonal vocalisms from the featured artists Barri and D’anna Stewart. It’s a difficult approach to describe, but it’s a very effective and creative device that lends the series and its primary characters a distinctive sonic design and flavor. The result is strangely intriguing, and highly innovative. A soundtrack was released by Netflix featuring selections of the original score from the show’s first season, available on Amazon and other streaming realms..
Listen to the track “They’re So Frail:”
THE IPCRESS FILE (UK TV Series)/Tom Hodge/WaterTower Music - digital
I am very much enjoying this limited British TV series, streaming on BritBox in the UK and on AMC+ in the US. It’s by no means a remake of the classic British Sidney J. Furie/Michael Caine spy movie and franchise from 1965; this is a more of a very loose adaptation of Len Deighton’s original 1962 novel The IPCRESS File. The story has been extensively reworked, with plot and some characters radically altered and a lot of new material added, making the TV series significantly different from Deighton's original. As the Cold War rages, ex-smuggler turned reluctant spy Harry Palmer finds himself at the center of a dangerous undercover mission, on which he must use his links to find a missing British nuclear scientist. The series does reflect the influence of the 1965 film, “most obviously by adopting the ‘Harry Palmer’ and ‘Jean Courtney’ character names coined for the film. Visually, director James Watkins makes several nods to Furie’s directorial style, with regular use of angled camera work, and in some places borrows almost shot-for-shot the framing of certain scenes,” [-wikipedia] but aside from these welcome homages, the story, drawn out to six 45-ish minute episodes, is essentially a thing of its own, and nicely presented with a fine cast (Joe Coyle as Palmer, Lucy Boynton as Jean Courtney, Tom Hollander as Major Dalby, head of Whitehall’s secret security unit, WOOC[P]), and well supported by a fine score by composer Tom Hodge (ROYAL BASTARDS: RISE OF THE TUDORS, THE MAURITANIAN, McMAFIA). The soundtrack provides 35 tracks, mostly short cues within the 1-2 minute range as per the needs of the series, but there are a fistful of longer ones and Hodge makes each of the tracks count, from the powerful cadence and instrumentation of his series’ theme to the variety of intrigue, danger, action, and drama posed within each of the tracks as necessary. (review continues below)
Listen to Tom Hodge’s main theme from THE IPCRESS FILE:
Hodge described his creation of the noiry jazz cue “A Token of Gratitude” in a short interview with thefilmscorer.com, which premiered the track ahead of the album release: the cue “sums up a lot of what I was trying to do in keeping a 60s vibe with a modern sensibility,” Hodge said… “I allowed myself Moog and Buchla as they were just coming into existence then, but I’ll go out on a 21st Century limb and say you definitely wouldn’t find this type of approach in a John Barry score! It’s more a kind of rolling ‘break’ that you’d connect with hip hop, breakbeat, or electronic music. [The track serves as a launching point for Harry, starting off as a] ‘let’s-get-to-work’ theme for our WOOC(P) team” and provides an introduction for other various team members’ activities (see link above for more details from Hodge on this cue). Elsewhere in the score, Hodge focuses on dark orchestral maneuvers, tonalities, and riffs, a variety of period jazz moods, and strident guitar, piano, and electronic notes, all of which builds suspense and foreboding as Palmer and his partners gather information, risk danger, and engage in their secret investigations. As a spy thriller, it’s closer to Ipcress than Bond, and Hodge’s music hits the right notes, offering effective tension for the agents’ subterfuge and stratagems. I quite like the score.
Listen to the album closer, the track “A Token of Gratitude”
Watch the trailer to THE IPCRESS FILE series:
MAIKA: THE GIRL FROM ANOTHER GALAXY/Christopher Wong/MovieScore Media - digital
This Vietnamese family science fiction adventure comedy directed by Ham Tran (ANGEL SIGN, KUMANTHONG, SHE’S THE BOSS) begins when a meteor falls to earth, after which 8-year-old Hung meets an alien girl from the planet Maika, who is searching for her lost friend. The alien helps Hung make new friends and heal a broken heart. But danger lurks everywhere. The film features a fine score by acclaimed Vietnamese composer Christopher Wong, who has established himself as the go-to composer for the rising generation of Asian American directors. (THE ROYAL BRIDE, CAMELLIA SISTERS, THE GUARDIAN, THE IMMORTAL, HOW TO FIGHT IN SIX INCH HEELS). This is the 12th soundtrack album collaboration between MovieScore Media and Wong, and it’s a fine largely orchestral adventure score. “Working on MAIKA was nostalgic in different ways, one in that it was directed by a long time collaborator – Ham Tran – and also in that the film pays homage to some of the great children’s adventure movies of the 80s,” said the composer. “The director and I both wanted the music to remind us of the great adventure soundtracks of that era by John Williams and Alan Silvestri, which was a thrill to write since it’s very rare these days that composers are asked to work in that style. Listeners will hear intentional nods towards one of the themes in E.T., as the story is also about an alien visitor who befriends a child.” With an array of spirited orchestral themes, performed by the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra (along with some synthetic orchestral elements necessary to keep the budget doable), the music fits the E.T.-esque friendship between Hung and the alien from Maika, and the story’s various permutations across its storyline. “King of the Skies” opens the score with a powerful and engaging overture, which unfortunately is not repeated elsewhere in the score (but at least it represents, at 4:40, the score’s longest track). Maika’s Theme is established in track 2, “Mother,” originally for strings and piano before opening into a fully orchestral presentation, and appears often throughout the score. Wong’s handling of action material remains superb and engrossing, while softer, emotional elements are heard in the tender strings and piano of “Moon Cake Story,” “Helpful Neighbor,” “Remembering Mother,” and “Forever in My Heart and Goodnight,” which starts out poignantly and is bridged by a powerful coda that ends the film. The score also contains synthetic elements, mostly in the comic treatment of “Video Games,” a motif repeated in “Pesky Fly,” the jaunty “Workshop Mayhem,” while darker elements saturate the pensive “Not Real.” As well as Wong’s compositions, the album includes five tracks by additional music composers Garrett Crosby and Ian Rees (Crosby also co-wrote “Sunworld” with Wong), whose work adds effectively to the overall sound mix. Rees’ “Samurai Honor” is a dark, slightly threatening track concocted from encroaching throbs of low strings and brass, tendrils of low winds, tremolo strings, higher flute filigrees, which creates a lightly splendid mysterious tone. He also does a great job on the action cue “Stubbles,” demonstrating a fine handling of instrumental interaction which proffers both eeriness and whimsy. Crosby’s “Arming Up” lends an urgent and powerful string-based ostinato punctuated by deft ratchet and triangle notes and a cool reverberated electric guitar wow just past its midpoint; while his use of Maika’s Theme in “Departure” adds a fine mix of poignant violins in between its more surging interpretations. Crosby and Rees both share the dynamic final action track, “The Chase,” with a splendid infusion of orchestral interaction and gusto. For more details and sample tracks, see MSM.
Listen to the track “King of the Skies” below:
LE TEMPS DES SECRETS/Philippe Rombi/Music Box Records – CD
Released to French theaters in March, 2022, LE TEMPS DES SECRETS (The Time of Secrets), is the fourth collaboration between director Christophe Barratier and composer Philippe Rombi after WAR OF THE BUTTONS, TEAM SPIRIT and FLY ME AWAY. Built around a beautiful waltz melody, Rombi has given this coming-of-age film a deliciously intimate, lyrical, festive, and exuberant score which is wholly captivating from its beginning. The main theme is presented in several interpretations and moods, while Rombi provides a pleasing variety of associated material in contrast. The film follows young Marcel Pagnol as he embarks on his last summer vacation before high school, returning to his beloved hills in Provence. His summer of boyhood adventures becomes one of first loves and secrets. The 21-track score is wistful yet fraught with mild, youthful dangers (the pensive “Dilemme”), growing into a rush of enthusiastic orchestration (the delightful “Le coeur battant/The beating heart”) as it revolves around a sumptuous, recurring melody for full orchestra, reprising the main theme in growing measures of delight and experience in Marcel’s vacation journey. “Le temps des punitions” (“Punishment time”) is an especially provocative track, initially faltering, then growing into a hesitant rendition of the main theme for piano and strings, growing more somber as the strings are layered over one another in repetition of the same phrase, followed by a dour, repeated figure on strings and piano until a soft and graceful choir resonates with peace and relief (listen below). With “A la recherche d’Isabelle” (Looking for Isabelle) Rombi adds a light choir intonation to his piano and string configuration which adds a sense of contemplation to the story; “Retour dans les Collines/Course au lièvre” (Back in the Hills/Hare Race) opens with an upsurge of orchestration and resonates with a powerful variation on the main theme, which then becomes a quietly animated treatment for flute and pizzicato, segueing into a luscious, dancing melody across the sections before ending in a wistful reverie before concluding with a final resolve of the swelling opening bars. “La grotte du Taoumé” (Taoumé Cave) is a thoroughly splendid dramatic cue, providing an absorbing mysterioso mood for sinewy winds, rattling, percussion, and low cello, erupting into a ferocious chase for sparkling brass and strings as a discovery is made. “Le serpent de Pétugue” (Pétugue’s Snake) opens tentatively for sinewy strings, flute filigrees, and a bit of brass accentuation, and then emerges into a raging chase scherzo until it slows into a brief, light treatment of the main theme that concludes the track. “Désenchantement” (Disenchantment) offers a final reprise of the “Taoumé” motif before settling into a conclusive rendition of the main theme at its end. The CD ends with “Final,” a lengthier arrangement of the composer’s themes and motifs here. I’ve found this to be a completely engaging score in every respect. The score benefits from being recorded by the prestigious Orchestre National d’Île-de-France and the CD possesses a rich, evocative sound. It’s a delightful and enticing listen. MBR’s release includes an 8-page CD booklet including statements (in French only) from the film director. For more details and sample tracks, see MusicBoxRecords. The film releases from Pathè on Blu-Ray in France on July 27, and hopefully an English subtitled version may follow, as the score sounds so rich and engaging that I’m eager to see the film now! Listen to the track “Le temps des punitions:”
TICO MARTINI, LA LÉGENDE DE MAGNY-COURS/Maximilien Mathevon/Plaza Mayor Co. – digital
Maximilien Mathevon’s latest score is for this new French documentary TICO MARTINI, THE LEGEND OF MAGNY-COURS, which is a unique film on the world of motor sports, specifically Renato “Tico” Martini, the noted French racing car manufacturer who served the racing circuit at Magny-Cours in the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s as mechanic, pilot, and eventually constructor in the creation of the Formula circuit in the ‘90s. Mathevon’s music for this documentary follows the film’s chronological evolution, shading its themes with the sounds and styles of the eras the doc crosses: from the Hammond organs and wah-wah pedals of the 1960s, ‘80s electro, up to modern techno and rock sounds. The composer’s main theme is an anthemic rock instrumental which is dedicated to Tico and the Magny-Cours circuit. Mathevon will revisit and vary this theme, adapting it for the chronological eras depicted in the doc while supporting the evolution of Martini’s efforts through music which is energized by his accomplishments and the thrill of auto racing. The historical trajectory with which the composer follows the historicity of the story, provides a unique opportunity to examine the evolution of popular music alongside Martini’s endeavors, which not only accommodates the periods being covered incrementally by the filmmakers, but offers a unique sonic travelogue of those period’s music, using various acoustic, electric, and orchestral means, across the album’s 24 songs and 42 minutes, which is a nice touch as well. Rock & Racing, Mathevon style. An accomplished and enjoyable score!
Listen to Mathevon’s “Il etait une fois a magny cours:”
The Recording Academy has announced five new GRAMMY Awards categories to be awarded at the 2023 GRAMMYs, including Songwriter Of The Year (Non-Classical) and Best Score Soundtrack For Video Games, among other new categories and changes. Read the details here.
In conjunction with the new FIRESTARTER (2022) film, released May 13, Varèse Sarabande revisits the glory days of 1980s sci-fi “synthwave” with a new edition of Tangerine Dream’s classic electronic score for FIRESTARTER (1984). This 11-track program – initially released on LP by MCA Records in 1984 and on CD by Varèse Sarabande in 1990 – has been newly remastered for this long-awaited reissue. FIRESTARTER came amidst the 1980s film-scoring heyday of German synth band Tangerine Dream, in their well-known lineup of Edgar Froese, Christopher Franke and Johannes Schmoelling. The band’s pulsating textures and ambient soundscape reinvented film scoring in films as varied as THIEF, RISKY BUSINESS, THE KEEP, LEGEND (U.S. version), THREE O’CLOCK HIGH, NEAR DARK and MIRACLE MILE, and have cast a long shadow on future styles. The band considered Firestarter one of their most challenging scores, as they needed to provide not only suspense and pace for the paranormal chases and powers, but an emotional sensitivity to the child protagonist. The new LP and CD packages also contain previously unused film stills and new liner notes; the LP edition comes pressed on stunning “Fuego” colored vinyl. Both the CD and LP are available now for pre-order and will release July 22; each format limited to 1,500 copies PRE-ORDER (US) PRE-ORDER (Int’l)
Laura Karpman, fresh from scoring Marvel’s WHAT IF… last year and scheduled to score THE MARVELS next year, is now scoring the latest Disney+/Marvel Studios series, MS. MARVEL. Premiered on June 8th, the series introduces Kamala Khan, a Muslim American teenager growing up in Jersey City. An avid gamer and a voracious fan-fiction scribe, Kamala is a Super Hero megafan with an oversized imagination – particularly when it comes to Captain Marvel. Yet Kamala feels like she doesn’t fit in at school and sometimes even at home – that is, until she gets superpowers like the heroes she’s always looked up to. The show is streaming exclusively on Disney+ with new episodes on Wednesdays. Disney has released a digital single, “Ms. Marvel Suite,” featuring music from Karpman’s score; listen to it below, via YouTube. The MS. MARVEL: Vol. 1 (Episodes 1-3) Original Soundtrack is set for release on June 22 and will be followed by Vol. 2 (Episodes 4-6) on July 13. Commenting on the track, Karpman said, “I can’t contain my excitement for the project that is Ms. Marvel! I’m thrilled that today she enters the world. In the upcoming weeks I’ll share stories about the fun musical collaborations that are featured in the score, but for now, take a listen to the theme for Ms. Marvel!!”
Launching another teen superhero show, Disney has also premiered ULTRA VIOLET & BLACK SCORPION, a superhero coming-of-age family comedy television series developed by Leo Chu and Eric S. Garcia and created by Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit, starring Scarlett Estevez, J.R. Villarreal, Marianna Burelli, Juan Alfonso, Brandon Rossel, and Zelia Ankrum. Violet Rodriguez, an everyday 13-year old Mexican American teen, is chosen by a magical luchador mask which transforms her into Ultra Violet, a superhero fighting crime. Eager to become famous, Violet sets out on a mission to collab with the city’s famous vigilante superhero, Black Scorpion. The series is scored by Tony Morales, an EMMY®-nominated composer who has traversed the worlds of drama, animation, comedy and documentary for both film and television. His latest project, the Eva Longoria-directed feature documentary LA GUERRA CIVIL, which premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Upcoming works include REACHER, the Amazon Prime drama series based on the best-selling series of novels by Lee Child, and NBC’s new thriller THE ENDGAME. ULTRA VIOLET & BLACK SCORPION series premiered on the Disney Channel and Disney+ on June 3, 2022 with at least 10 episodes of around 25 minutes each.
Watch the show’s trailer:
Quartet Records, in collaboration with StudioCanal and Capitol Records, presents the premiere CD reissue of the powerful score by Ernest Gold (EXODUS, ON THE BEACH, JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG, IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD) for Sam Peckinpah’s anti-war classic CROSS OF IRON (1977), starring James Coburn, Maximilian Schell, James Mason, David Warner and Senta Berger. Being one of Peckinpah’s best and most impressive films, CROSS OF IRON has achieved cult-classic status despite its failure at the box office in 1977. The story is about a squad of German soldiers on the Eastern Front during World War II – led by battle-hardened Sergeant Rolf Steiner (James Coburn) – fighting to survive Soviet attacks and dogmatic commanders in a chaotic and lethal environment. It is a sympathetic portrayal of a side of war not commonly portrayed in Hollywood movies.
This new CD release contains the same program previously released on LP by EMI in the UK. The album includes virtually all the music Gold recorded, with around 15 minutes more music than the film itself. Chris Malone mastered the audio from first-generation stereo album master tapes courtesy of Capitol Records, and the entire project was supported by help from the Ernest Gold Papers housed at Brigham Young University. The package includes a 16-page booklet with detailed liner notes by Jeff Bond. For more info see Quartet.
Quartet has also released the CD edition of the Marco Beltrami/Cieri Torgussen/Buck Sanders score to THE BOMBARDMENT (known in its original Danish release as THE SHADOW IN MY EYE, and released digitally under that title by MovieScore Media – see my enthusiastic review in the Dec. 2021 Soundtrax). The film tells the true story from World War II in which a British Royal Air Force raid was sent on a mission to bomb the Gestapo’s headquarters in Copenhagen, but some of the bombers accidentally targeted a school and more than 120 people were killed, 86 of whom were children. For details see Quartet.
The trailer has dropped May 26th for ANDOR, upcoming television series created by Tony Gilroy for Disney+. It is a prequel to the Star Wars film ROGUE ONE (2016), following the character Cassian Andor five years before the events of the film. The series brings forward the tale of the burgeoning rebellion against the Empire and how people and planets became involved. It’s an era filled with danger, deception and intrigue where Cassian will embark on the path that is destined to turn him into a rebel hero. Diego Luna returns as Cassian Andor and is joined by cast members Genevieve O’Reilly, Stellan Skarsgård, Adria Arjona, Denise Gough and Kyle Soller. The show’s music is composed by Nicholas Britell (CRUELLA, DON’T LOOK UP, THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, MOONLIGHT). ANDOR will be his first score in the STAR WARS Universe. The series begins streaming August 31st. Watch the new trailer here, via YouTube:
Intrada announced an expanded release of Jerry Goldsmith soundtrack for flavorful Joe Dante movie MATINEE, a charming homage to the great sci-fi and horror flicks of the 1950s and 1960s. John Goodman is at his uproarious best as the William Castle-inspired movie promoter Lawrence Woolsey, who brings his unique brand of flashy showmanship to the unsuspecting residents of Key West, Florida. It’s 1962, and fifteen-year-old fan Gene Loomis (Simon Fenton) can't wait for the arrival of Woolsey, who is in town to promote his latest offering of atomic power gone berserk, MANT! But the absurd vision of Woolsey's tale takes on a sudden urgency as the Cuban Missile Crisis places the real threat of atomic horror just 90 miles off the coast. The album of highlights originally saw release in 1993; now Intrada’s new CD features the entire Goldsmith score from pristine stereo mixes made by veteran engineer Bruce Botnick, vaulted at Universal. Several previously unreleased cues now appear, including the deft “Mobilization,” where Goldsmith takes a moment to exhibit for his signature musical military muscle, with crisp trombone fanfare-figures answered by equally crisp French horn, trumpet responses, steady percussion underneath. Also included are handful of alternate cues. The package design is by Kay Marshall and John Takis provides informative notes. For more details ands to order, see Intrada.
Intrada has also reissued James Horner’s 2-CD sci-fi classic, STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK which now joins the Intrada family of Star Trek feature soundtracks that include Trek’s IV, V and VI. This 2022 Intrada presentation of the 1984 Search For Spock soundtrack is identical to the previous 2-CD release from the FSM label so owners of that edition need not apply here. See details here [hyperlink: https://store.intrada.com/s.nl/it.A/id.12649/.f.
Also of interest from Intrada, the label has launched a new Kickstarter campaign, offering a new recording, conducted by William Stromberg with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, of Bernard Herrmann’s scores to ON DANGEROUS GROUND and Alfred Hitchcock’s THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH. With the exception of the “Main Title” recorded for a compilation and the “Storm Cloud Cantata,” which is not a Herrmann composition, his full score to the Hitchcock film remains essentially unreleased. But that is only a stretch goal to their main campaign – which is to pair the Hitchcock score with music for the 1951 film-noir classic ON DANGEROUS GROUND. Conductor Charles Gerhardt chose “The Death Hunt” from this score to open his Bernard Hermann compilation back in the 70s, giving the album an exciting, heart racing overture. The Film Score Monthly label later released the original tracks from aged, mono acetates, which while of historical significance didn’t make for the most pleasant listening experience, said Intrada. It’s a score that deserves to shine in a new contemporary recording, to allow all the thundering action and passionate playing of the solo viola d’amore to come through. The Kickstarter campaign needs to raise $50,000 to fund the recording OF ON DANGEROUS GROUND. “If we can raise an additional $10,000 to make it $60,000, we can record both scores. Join our crusade to get these two scores recorded by checking out our videos, clips and background on our kickstarter site. As with our past projects, we will work quickly to prepare the parts and get the recordings done and into you hands as quickly as possible!”
LUCK is an upcoming computer-animated fantasy comedy film directed by Peggy Holmes and written by Kiel Murray. The film stars Eva Noblezada, Simon Pegg, Jane Fonda, Whoopi Goldberg, Flula Borg, Lil Rel Howery, Colin O'Donoghue, and John Ratzenberger, and is about an unlucky girl who stumbles upon a never-before-seen world of good and bad luck; she teams up with magical creatures to uncover a force more powerful than even luck itself. John Debney has scored the film, which also features songs by Tanya Donelly and Mt. Joy. LUCK is scheduled to be released on August 5, 2022, by Apple TV+.
INFERNUM OBSCURA is a horror film about an abandoned school with a mysterious past. With its decaying rooms and dark hallways, Photographer Andrew Wyke sees the perfect backdrop to create his greatest photo yet, but the building may have other plans. Then film is written, directed, and produced by James-Michael Roddy (dir./producer of MONSTER KIDS: THE IMPACT OF THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT documentary; producer of THE SHARK IS STILL WORKING: THE IMPACT & LEGACY OF “JAWS” documentaries), and scored by Michael McCormack (composer for Roddy’s films cited above). INFERNUM OBSCURA was completed in 2021 but does not yet have release date according to IMDB. Listen to this soundtrack suite from McCormack’s score for the film Here:
La-La Land Records’ latest releases offer SCARFACE: Expanded Motion Picture Soundtrack, starring Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert Loggia, and directed by Brian De Palma with music by Academy Award-Winning composer Giorgio Moroder (MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, AMERICAN GIGOLO, CAT PEOPLE, FLASHDANCE). This limited edition 2-CD set marks the world premiere official release of Moroder’s original film score to the 1983 landmark screen gangster drama. Produced by Neil S. Bulk and Dan Goldwasser, and mastered in high-resolution by Chris Malone, this expanded re-issue of the SCARFACE soundtrack unleashes Moroder’s classic film score on Disc One, while Disc Two features the original mix of the 1983 Soundtrack Album, showcasing the film’s songs as well as Bonus Tracks that include source music, etc. Limited to 5000 units, this special edition features exclusive, in-depth liner notes by writer Tim Greiving and sharp art direction by Dan Goldwasser. The second release is a remastered and expanded CD release of renowned composer Marc Shaiman’s (CITY SLICKERS, THE ADDAMS FAMILY, HAIRSPRAY: THE MUSICAL) original motion picture score to the 1996 big screen comedy hit THE FIRST WIVES CLUB, starring Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton, and directed by Hugh Wilson. Shaiman’s rousing and Oscar-nominated orchestral score is a thematically rich and joyous affair with a New York City musical flourish – highlighting the film’s spirited comedy while never forgetting to dramatically anchor the story’s moments of pathos and import amongst the laughter. Remastered and expanded with previously unreleased music, this limited edition CD release of 1000 units is produced by Dan Goldwasser, mastered by Doug Schwartz, and the exclusive, in-depth liner notes are by writer Daniel Schweiger, featuring new interview comments from the composer. For details on both, see https://lalalandrecords.com/.
Michael Lira (BLACK WATER: ABYSS, WYRMWOOD: APOCALYPSE) has composed a splendid, orchestral score for the Netflix action thriller INTERCEPTOR, performed by the FAMES Orchestra of Macedonia. Elsa Pataki stars as an Army captain who must use her years of tactical training and military expertise when a simultaneous coordinated attack threatens the remote missile interceptor station she is in command of. The film is currently streaming on Netflix – hopefully it will be a hit and prompt Netflix to release Lira’s energetic soundtrack.
Director Scott Derrickson returns to his terror roots and partners again with THE BLACK PHONE. Finney Shaw, a shy but clever 13-year-old boy, is abducted by a sadistic killer and trapped in a soundproof basement where screaming is of little use. When a disconnected phone on the wall begins to ring, Finney discovers that he can hear the voices of the killer’s previous victims, and they are dead set on making sure that what happened to them doesn’t happen to Finney. Starring four-time Oscar® nominee Ethan Hawke in the most terrifying role of his career and introducing Mason Thames in his first ever film role. Mark Korven (THE WITCH, THE LIGHTHOUSE, CUBE, RESIDENT EVIL: WELCOME TO RACCOON CITY, THEM, THE TERROR: INFAMY) has composed the original music. Back Lot Music will release the official soundtrack album digitally on June 24, 2022.
From Academy-Award-nominated composers Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders (THE HURT LOCKER) comes the moody 1999 film score HIGHWAY 395, released on CD by Perseverance Records. Compared to Oliver Stone's U-TURN upon its release, the film’s desolate California desert settings provide the tapestry for the two composers to write one of their most unusual scores to date. Full of melodies, mood, and atmosphere, it reflects the musical styles of Ennio Morricone. The score is performed by the Hollywood Studio Symphony Orchestra with beautifully orchestrated guitar solos by Buck Sanders and violinist Belinda Broughton. See more details here.
Dubois Records has released composer Dominik Scherrer’s original soundtrack to THE TOURIST, a six-part character driven thriller series set in Australia. Following a car chase and being run off the road in the Australian outback a nameless traveler (Jamie Dornan) wakes in hospital alive but with no memory of who he is. As he searches for answers about his identity, he has to contend with merciless figures from his past pursuing him. Dominik’s music to the series incorporates acoustic elements including solo strings, guitars, choir and percussion which have been processed electronically, resulting in a brilliantly diverse score that showcases Dominik’s fresh and innovative approach to composing. The Tourist soundtrack album has been released simultaneously in both stereo and Dolby Atmos. The digital album is available on Amazon and other digital and streaming sources.
SPIDERHEAD is a genre-blending thriller directed by Joseph Kosinski and starring Chris Hemsworth, Miles Teller, Jurnee Smollett, Mark Paguio and Tess Haurbich. It released to Netflix globally on June 17, 2022. Netflix has also released the SPIDERHEAD Original Motion Picture Score, with music composed by accomplished composer Joseph Trapanese. The soundtrack is available on all digital service providers, here. A vinyl soundtrack will also be available – further details to follow. “From the moment I read the… screenplay, I was haunted by the sound of choirs, cellos, and bass clarinets, and immediately set to writing music for Abnesti’s laboratory,” said Trapanese in a statement. “I’m honored to share the score along with original sketches on this album release from Netflix Music.” Listen to the track “Acknowledge,” from the soundtrack, below:
The UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN original score soundtrack offers music from and inspired by the FX Series, composed by Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam and Josh Klinghoffer together with John Wicks and Josh Evans.
This soundtrack marks Ament’s first time composing for a major film/TV project and was created and recorded in his home studio in Montana. He noted: “BANNER was the perfect project to put to use an idea I’ve had for years – using the big room of my studio as an amplifier for a bunch of a low volume looper stations and composing and performing over tuned ambient beds. It was truly a dream to put music to this incredible story.” The music provides a powerful backdrop to the emotional story inspired by the true crime bestseller by Jon Krakauer, recalling the events that led to the 1984 murder of Brenda Wright Lafferty. The digital soundtrack was be released on June 10 by Hollywood Records and is available on Amazon and other digital music sources.
Christopher Young has announced he is to score the upcoming Apple TV+ original series ECHO 3. The show is written by Mark Boal (THE HURT LOCKER, ZERO DARK THIRTY) based on the Keshet Broadcasting series When Heroes Fly created by Omri Givon and inspired by Amir Gutfreund’s novel and stars Luke Evans, Michiel Huisman, Jessica Ann Collins and Elizabeth Anweis. The ten-part drama is set in South America against the explosive backdrop of a secret war and revolves around a brilliant young scientist who goes missing along the Colombia-Venezuela border and follows her brother and her husband as they struggle to find her. – via filmmusicreporter
Steven Price (GRAVITY) has scored MY POLICEMAN, an upcoming romantic drama film directed by Michael Grandage set in the 1950s in Brighton, in which a gay policeman named Tom marries a school teacher named Marion while being in a relationship with Patrick, a museum curator. The secret they share threatens to ruin them all. It is based on the novel of the same name by Bethan Roberts. It stars Harry Styles, Emma Corrin, and David Dawson.
Lakeshore Records has digitally released THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH: Themes and Sketches, featuring music by Emmy-winning and Grammy®-nominated composer Jeff Russo (STAR TREK: PICARD, FARGO, OSLO). From the Showtime drama series starring Oscar nominees Chiwetel Ejiofor and Naomi Harris, the tracks offer a fascinating listen to the original character and relationship themes found in the score as they evolved in their early stages – whether orchestrated differently or stripped down to piano or organ sketches. An Original Score album is forthcoming. Inspired by the Walter Tevis novel of the same name and the iconic David Bowie film, THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH series follows a new alien character (Ejiofor) who arrives on Earth at a turning point in human evolution and must confront his own past to determine our future. Harris plays Justin Falls, a brilliant scientist and engineer who must conquer her own demons in the race to save two worlds. Says Russo: “Releasing Themes and Sketches was a way for me to share the process of creating the motifs and themes for the characters of the show as they were originally conceived. You can see different ways the themes can be played which eventually play out in the score.” Listen or purchase from these links. THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH airs on Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Showtime. Watch the series’ trailer:
Ré Olunuga is a Nigerian-born composer of multi-genre orchestral and experimental music, residing and working between London and Los Angeles; though his heart lives in his hometown of Lagos. He recently had the opportunity to compose the epic score for the Disney+ film RISE, which is based on the triumphant real-life story about the remarkable family that gave the world the first trio of brothers to become NBA champions in the history of the league – Giannis and Thanasis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Laker Kostas Antetokounmpo, and their younger brother Alex. The film will debut June 24 exclusively on Disney+. With the heartfelt and complex music of RISE, Ré hopes to expand the parameters of what is traditionally known as African music, as well as the way audiences experience Disney films musically. He was able to establish the musical aesthetic almost immediately because he felt so connected to the Adetokunbo family’s story, but he still left room to develop it further. The music had to feel celebratory and triumphant, while remaining subtle and not overly dramatized. Watch the film’s trailer:
ABC’s 2021 reboot of 1988 classic sitcom THE WONDER YEARS is a coming-of-age comedy that tells the story of the Williams family during the late 1960s, all through the point of view of imaginative 12-year-old Dean. Don Cheadle narrates the series as Adult Dean Williams. The series airs on ABC and is available for streaming on Hulu and Disney+. Longtime collaborators and co-composers Roahn Hyltonand Jacob Yoffee have written and produced songs for the series as well as crafting an R&B groove-based score for this reimagined groundbreaking family story. Their title theme song, “All I Know,” is available for listening or purchase at these links. The series has been renewed for a second season.
Lakeshore Records has digitally released THE GIRL FROM PLAINVILLE original series soundtrack featuring music by Leopold Ross and Nick Chuba, currently streaming on Hulu. The score employs gently measured sounds with melodies that belie the intensity simmering throughout the dark drama starring Elle Fanning and Chloë Sevigny. The series is inspired by the true story of Michelle Carter’s unprecedented “texting-suicide”?case; based on the Esquire article of the same name, the limited series explores Carter’s relationship with Conrad Roy III and the events that led to his death and, later, her conviction of involuntary manslaughter. Leopold Ross describes the musical process in writing the score, “Our way into the story was Michelle Carter’s obsession with “Glee;” we took that and ran with it as our primary influence. But beyond that we became interested in the dual lives these kids were leading. The intense wells of emotion being typed into their phones were at odds with their somewhat mundane everyday lives. We wanted to reflect that duality by subverting gentle instrumentation such as breathy vocals and clarinets, giving the music a placid exterior that thinly veils complex layers of textural unease.” Listen or download the score at these links.
The soundtrack album for the Disney+ animated series THE PROUD FAMILY: LOUDER AND PROUDER has been released, featuring original songs from the show’s first season co-written by Kurt Farquhar (THE NEIGHBORHOOD, BLACK LIGHTNING, THE PROUD FAMILY). The album is available to stream/download on Amazon and any other major digital music services. The series’ first season premiered this past February and is now available to stream on Disney+; a second season is in the works. (see my interview with Kurt about scoring this show and others in my February, 2022 column). See the Vinyl news section below for info on the vinyl soundtrack from this show.
UNHUMAN is an upcoming made-for-television horror comedy film directed by Marcus Dunstan, and written by Dustan and Patrick Melton. Blumhouse Television and Epix bring viewers the story of a high school field trip gone bloodily awry. Seven misfit students must band together against a growing gang of unhuman savages. The group’s trust in each other is tested to the limit in a brutal, horrifying fight to survive and they must take down the murderous zombie-creatures... before they kill each other first. The film stars Brianne Tju, Benjamin Wadsworth, Uriah Shelton, Ali Gallo, and Peter Giles. It is set to be released as an Epix original film on their service, while Paramount Pictures simultaneously releases the film digitally on June 3, 2022. Horror specialist Charlie Clouser (SAW, (THE STEPFATHER, AMERICAN HORROR STORY, WAYWARD PINES) had scored the film. Clouser has previously scored Dunstan’s last two features, THE COLLECTION and THE NEIGHBOR.
- via filmmusicreporter and other sources
KRONOS RECORDS presents the soundtrack to BLOOD ON THE CROWN (aka STORBJU) from 2021, the story of which deals with the events that lead to the 7th June 1919 Maltese uprising against their British colonizers; that went down in history books as “Sette Giungo,” a revolt that started as a protest against the price of bread, that years later culminated with independence of the Maltese islands. The film stars 2 giants of cinema, iconic British actor Malcolm McDowell and Harvey Keitel. The music was written by French multi-award winning composer Laurent Eyquem (NOSTALGIA, COPPERHEAD, CLASH OF FUTURES, MOMENTUM). His highly eclectic and dramatic score dives into the psyche of the protagonists and energizes the brooding moods, the turns and events in both the smaller and larger scale of the story. The more tranquil pieces have a European flavor to them with a hint of Middle Eastern touches. The CD is limited to 300 copies. Pre-Order now from Kronos Records.
John Wyndham’s durable 1957science fiction novel “The Midwich Cuckoos,” source of several notable films including VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (1960 and 1975; and the former’s 1964 sequel CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED) has been adapted into an seven-part TV series by David Farr for UK’s Sky Max. The series stars Keeley Hawes as Dr Susannah Zellaby, and Max Beesley as a local police officer. The series score, an evocative mix of eerie suspense, aggressive synths, and delicate tonalities, has been composed by Northern Irish, Emmy-nominated composer Hanna Peel. Known for her solo electronic, synthesizer-based music, which often includes classical scoring and sound design, she has scored music for television, film, theatre, and dance, including GAME OF THRONES: THE LAST WATCH (2019 documentary) and the 2020 mystery thriller series THE DECEIVED. “Creating the [MIDWICH CUCKOOS] score was a constant endeavor to find the balance between darkness and light, fear and beauty,” explained Peel in an interview for the loudersound website. “It was a very fine and intricate equilibrium between the normal sunlit logical world as we know it, and a subversive unfamiliar musical language.” The soundtrack is currently available from Invada Records in the UK (see amazon.uk) and will be released on vinyl later in the year; it can also be ordered worldwide via the composer’s bandcamp page, here. Film music journalist Jon Mansell has described Peel’s score as “just as sinister as the children themselves, with Hannah Peel fashioning wonderfully haunting soundscapes that become an integral part of the unfolding story.” (see his review of the MIDWICH CUCKOOS soundtrack in his latest MovieMusicInternational column, here).
Listen to the track “Scared” from THE MIDWICH CUCKOOS soundtrack:
THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING is a 2022 fantasy film co-written and directed by George Miller (MAD MAX series, BABE: PIG IN THE CITY, HAPPY FEET 1 & 2). An adaptation of the short story “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye” by A. S. Byatt, the film stars Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton. The film is about an academic (Swinton) who while in Istanbul for a conference encounters a Djinn (Elba) who offers her three wishes in exchange for his freedom. Eventually, she makes a wish that surprises them both. The film is being scored by Tom Holkenborg (aka Junkie XL). The film had its world premiere at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival on May 20, 2022, earning the director and his cast a six-minute standing ovation, according to a report in Variety; it is scheduled to be released in the United States on August 31, 2022, by United Artists Releasing. A soundtrack the film’s music is said to be due on August 31st.
Watch the film’s teaser trailer:
Milan Records has released SHINING GIRLS (Apple Tv+ Original Series Soundtrack), an album of music by Claudia Sarne from the Apple Original series starring and executive produced by Elisabeth Moss. Punctuated by ominous sound bowls, sprawling synths, and looped percussion samples, Sarne’s expansive music reflects the cyclical nature of the show while slowly unfolding alongside the mind-bending mystery. The album features score music written by Sarne as well as an exclusive cover of Bob Dylan’s “One Too Many Mornings” performed by Angel Olsen specifically for the series. Listen or download the soundtrack here.
From the imagination of Tim Burton comes WEDNESDAY – a twisted new series coming soon to Netflix, based on the Charles Addams cartoons and the television and film adaptations thereof. The series stars Jenna Ortega in the title role, alongside Catherine Zeta-Jones (Morticia), Luis Guzman (Gomez). Gwendoline Christie and Christina Ricci also store. The new series is a sleuthing, supernaturally infused mystery charting Wednesday Addams' years as a student at Nevermore Academy. Danny Elfman and Chris Bacon (GNOMEO & JULIET, BATES MOTEL) are handling the show’s music – Elfman writing the theme and collaborating with Bacon to score the show. Watch the teaser trailer:
Joe Kraemer (MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION, JACK REACHER, THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT, PANDORA) has recently scored the upcoming thriller 88. The film is written and directed by Eromose (LEGACY) and stars Brandon Victor Dixon, Naturi Naughton, Orlando Jones, Thomas Sadoski, William Fichtner and Amy Sloan. The film follows the financial director for a democratic super PAC supporting a frontrunner presidential candidate as he investigates donations uncovering a conspiracy. The movie will premiere this coming weekend at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival. – via filmmusicreporter
Freeform has released the trailer for the third (and final) season for MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM, the sci-fi fantasy drama series about a trio of witches trained to become powerful weapons for the American military. Set in an alternate America where witches ended their persecution nearly 300 years ago during the Salem witch trials, after cutting a deal with the U.S. government to fight for their country, the series follows Raelle Collar, Abigail Bellweather, and Tally Craven, three witches who have enlisted into the U.S. Army. The series is scored by Brandon Roberts who had been a co-composer for veteran composers Bear McCreary and Marco Beltrami. Recently, on his own Brandon has scored THE A-LIST (2015), THE FOURTH DOOR (TV, 2015), the sci-fi drama BLACK BOX (2020), the forthcoming drama thriller ON A WING AND A PRAYER, is set to co-score, with Marco Beltrami, the new AMC sci-fi television series PANTHEON starring Paul Dano, Rosemarie DeWitt, William Hurt, and Aaron Eckhart, and is scheduled to score Lindsey Beer’s Untitled PET SEMATARY Project, currently in post-production. I interviewed Brandon about the first two seasons in my Nov. 2021 Soundtrax.
Watch the trailer for MOTHERLAND: FORD SALEM Season 3
Interscope Records has released Music From The Motion Picture TOP GUN: MAVERICK, available at all digital retailers, as well as CD. A Target exclusive CD of the soundtrack includes an exclusive cover and poster. With a combination of classics from the original film, new music and score, the album reflects TOP GUN’s past, present, and future all at once. It boasts instantly recognizable cuts such as the theme song “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins, while TOP GUN: MAVERICK star Miles Teller recorded a show-stopping live rendition of “Great Balls of Fire” showcased in the film and included on the record. Plus, it features original score tracks by the movie’s composers—Lorne Balfe, Harold Faltermeyer, Lady Gaga and Hans Zimmer. Interscope’s 12-track release offers songs and a few score tracks; a Japanese regular edition (available from ArkSquare) adds a bonus score track, “Canyon Dogfight”) to the tracklist.
Composed and produced by Oscar®-winning composer Michael Giacchino, the digital soundtrack to Disney and Pixar’s LIGHTYEAR is set for release on June 17, the same day the film opens in U.S. theaters. The film features the voices of Chris Evans as accomplished Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear, Uzo Aduba as his commander and best friend Alisha Hawthorne and Peter Sohn as Sox. Keke Palmer, Taika Waititi and Dale Soules lend their voices to the Junior Zap Patrol’s Izzy Hawthorne, Mo Morrison and Darby Steel, respectively, and James Brolin can be heard as the enigmatic Zurg. It is a spin-off of the TOY STORY film series, serving as an origin story for the fictional test pilot/astronaut character who the Buzz Lightyear toy/action figure featured in the main films was inspired by. An advance listen of the track “Mission Perpetual” from the film was released on June 3rd. Listen to it below. Commenting on the track, Giacchino said, “One of my favorite sequences is called ‘Mission Perpetual.’ It’s early on in the film when Buzz is trying to accomplish a mission and keeps failing. It was an exciting challenge for me because there were so many things the music needed to convey: Buzz’s frustration with himself and the sadness of being alone in his pursuit, but also his undying ambition and drive to achieve his goal. I went through a similar ‘mission’ myself to get this cue right, but once I did, it was incredibly rewarding.” The original score for LIGHTYEAR was recorded over 15 days with an 89-piece orchestra and a 39-member choir. The soundtrack features 31 tracks and will also be available in Dolby Atmos.
MovieScoreMedia’s latest releases include the original score from the acclaimed Canadian indie drama, JUMP, DARLING, which tells the story about a drag queen who finds his grandmother in steep decline yet desperate to avoid the local nursing home. The film has a lot of synth pop songs on its soundtrack, and the director’s brief to composer Harry Knazan was to “create a score that stood distinctly apart from this modern sensibility, with a clear, memorable and melodramatic theme invoking melodies and aesthetics of classic family dramas.” See more info at MSM.
Also from MovieScore Media is Guillaume Roussel’s score to C’EST MAGNIFIQUE!, the 2021 drama comedy feature film directed by Clovis Cornillac. “The music, inspired by Latin and world music, brings uplifting emotion and uses mainly ukulele, percussion like vibraphone, and strings. Finding a melody for the main character was important and I hope it helps the audience connect with him,” said the composer. More info at MSM.
In other Guillaume Roussel news, he has scored THE TAKEDOWN (Loin du périph), a French action comedy film directed by Louis Leterrier which is a sequel to the 2012 film ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TRACKS. It stars Omar Sy and Laurent Lafitte (reprising their roles from the earlier film), with Izïa Higelin. The film was released on 6 May 2022 on Netflix. Combining classic and modern sounds, Roussel here offers rhythmic and captivating themes, mixing together strings, percussion, electric guitars and brass. Inspired by the great standards of action films, Guillaume Roussel’s music renews the codes of the genre and gives the film freshness and intensity.
The soundtrack, released by Netflix Music, is available at these links.
Listen to the “Opening Title:”
German label Chris’ Soundtrack Corner presents the CD soundtrack to I GABBIANI VOLANO BASSO (aka SEAGULLS FLY LOW, 1978), directed by Giorgio Cristallini (under the Americanized pseudonym George Warner). The movie was influenced by the number of Vietnam Vet dramas coming out of the United States in 1978 such as THE DEER HUNTER and COMING HOME, and the Italian cinema didn't waste any time in seizing the opportunity to get in on the commercial potential of such films. The score was written by Roberto Pregadio; in much of his film scoring collaborations, it was Pregadio’s job to flesh out or transcribe the musical ideas of his co-composers who usually didn’t have the necessary musical training to do so. Such was the case with I GABBIANI VOLANO BASSO, where Pregadio is actually credited together with two members of the director's family, Paola and Carlo Cristallini, though only the latter is given credit. This release marks the first ever presentation of any of the music from I GABBIANI VOLANO BASSO. The CD is accompanied by a 12-page illustrated booklet designed by Tobias Kohlhaas and featuring detailed, exclusive notes on the film and its score by Gergely Hubai. For more details see CSC. (See above for review of CSC’s LA DONNA DELLA CALDA TERRA by Carlo Savina.)
The CSC label also recently released three other notable Italian film score CDs for the first time: two separate soundtracks by Danielle Patucchi, SANS SOMMATION (Without Appeal in the UK, Without Warning in US and elsewhere), a police thriller, and IL SORRISO DEL RAGNO (Web Of Deception, 1971), a crime thriller disguised as a travelogue (or vice versa), and Carlo Savina’s INGRID SULLA STRADA (Ingrid on the Road), a 1973 Italian psychological drama (confession: I wrote the notes for these last three CDs).
Four Flies Records announces the first 7" ever to contain the three grooviest and most danceable tracks from the legendary soundtrack to LA RAGAZZA CON LA PISTOLA (Girl With a Gun), Mario Monicelli's 1968 cult film depicting the mod subculture of 60s Swinging London and starring Monica Vitti in one of her most iconic roles. (In the mid-90s two of the tracks were compiled in the seminal compilation Easy Tempo Vol. 2.) Starting the party is “Girl With The Gun,” a mod-generation classic featuring a psych-funk rhythm section and an exotic-sounding theme played by a sitar. Next on Side A we find the danceable lushness of “Shake Balera,” a shake number clearly influenced by the London moods portrayed a couple of years earlier by Michelangelo Antonioni in BLOW UP, with Antonello Vannucchi on Hammond and Carlo Pes on guitar (the piece was later covered by Calibro35 in their first album). Last but not least, on the flip is the super intriguing “Rapimento in Sicilia,” which opens with a spy-movie vibe before switching to a hectic dance of sitar, electric bass and wild percussion. All tracks were written by Peppino De Luca and performed by his trusted and recurring musicians, the legendary super-group of Italian session players I Marc 4, who bring in their signature psycho-beat sound. For more information see FourFlies or Bandcamp.
Composer George Kallis reports that his score FIRST LOVE, a poignant look at a young man’s difficult entry into adulthood, directed by A.J. Edwards (THE BETTER ANGELS) and starring Jason Clarke, Diane Kruger, Brit Marling and Wes Bentley, has been released June 17th and can be pre-saved here. “Thanks so much to Voltage Pictures, producers Lucas Jarach, Nadine de Barros & Nicolas Chartier and director AJ Edwards,” wrote Kallis in a Facebook post. The score features guitars by George Solonos, orchestrations Apostolos Papapostolou, and soundtrack mastering by Siopismasters and orchestral recordings by East Connection Music Rec.
The Plaza Mayor Company has released the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to BROADWAY, composed by Gabriel Yared. The film, directed by Christos Massalas, is a story about dancers and thieves in modern-day Athens. The soundtrack is available from Amazon and other streaming music services.
Preview of portion of the score, via Plaza Mayor:
Italian composer Marco Werba is currently scoring Ridha Behi’s drama THE ISLAND OF FORGIVENESS (L’ile du pardon), starring Claudia Cardinale, Katia Greco and Paola Lavini. “After 33 years of activity I will finally have the chance to record with the wonderful musicians of the ‘English Session Orchestra’ at the ‘Angel Studio’ (Abbey Road) in London,” Werba said in a Facebook post. The film tells a story that captures the magic of the Island of Djerba in Tunisia. The title song will be performed by British singer Ellen Williams, and additional music is being provided by Bruno Di Stefano.
V FOR VENGEANCE is a 2022 horror film about two estranged vampire sisters who join forces to rescue their younger sister from a coven of wicked vampires. Directed by Kelly Halihan, the movie stars Jocelyn Hudon, Grace Van Dien, Sean Maguire, Pauline Dyer, Graham Greene, and Alix Villaret. The movie is scored by Rich Walters, a long-time music editor since 2000 who recently scored the thrillers CRAWLSPACE (2022), HEATWAVE (2022), the comedy DRINKWATER (2021), and all five seasons of the horror TV series VAN HELSING (2016-2021).
Endeavor Content releases WYRM Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, featuring music by David Boman (MOONSHOT, IT’S WHAT SHE WOULD HAVE WANTED). Written and directed by Christopher Winterbauer based on his 2017 short film of the same name, WYRM is about an awkward young teen named Wyrm who, in a mid-90’s alternate reality, must complete a school requirement in which students wear electronic collars that detach only upon engaging in their first kiss. Available at these links.
Netflix has release the soundtrack for Jeremiah Zagar’s HUSTLE by composer Dan Deacon. The album is available on all major streaming platforms. HUSTLE, now streaming on Netflix, tells the story of a washed-up basketball scout (Adam Sandler) who discovers a phenomenal street ball player Cruz (NBA player Juancho Hernangómez) while in Spain and sees the prospect as his opportunity to get back into the NBA. Deacon is a Baltimore-based recording artist and performer renowned for his five studio albums of innovative electronic music, his live performances in both contemporary and classical settings, and his extensive body of work in film scores.
This year’s Tribeca Film Festival runs June 8th through 19th, and among its presentations will be the world premiere of BATTLEGROUND. Directed by Cynthia Lowen, this provocative doc provides an inside look into three women who are leading the movement to overturn Roe V. Wade. Told with restraint and balance, Lowen seeks to clarify rather than condemn, and presents a new point of entry for this challenging topic. Composer Gil Talmi provides the stirring musical accompaniment for this film, which also features vocalists Petra Haden and Gisela Fullà-Silvestre. Talmi has also recently scored ESTHER NEWTON MADE ME GAY, a celebratory documentary that explores the life and times of a trailblazing cultural anthropologist and expert on LGBTQ+ spaces, captured by director Jean Carlomusto. The film will premiere at New Fest.
Speaking of Tribeca, composer Kathryn Bostic brings her musical voice to three films premiering at New York’s 2022 Festival: THE REBELLIOUS LIFE OF MRS. ROSA PARKS (based on the bestselling biography by Jeanne Theoharis), LIFT (New York Theatre Ballet’s Project LIFT program has been offering scholarships to homeless, home insecure, and at-risk children for the past 30 years and helps them develop talent they never knew they had), and LOWNDES COUNTY & THE ROAD TO BLACK POWER (in 1960, Lowndes County, AL – despite being 80% Black – had zero registered Black voters. This film chronicles the courageous men and women, famous and unknown, who put their lives on the line to secure the right to vote for everyone). Each of these films reflect Bostic’s commitment to collaborate on stories of people that have fought to effect change. Kathryn is the first black female composer to become a member of the music branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She continues to be an advocate for diversity and social responsibility. In addition to her Tribeca Film Festival premieres, Kathryn recently scored ABC’s limited series, WOMEN OF THE MOVEMENT, which is in Emmy contention. For more information, see her website https://kathrynbostic.com/
Sam Ewing (I AM MORTAL, co-scorer VICTOR CROWLEY, co-scorer THE WALKING DEAD 2019-22) recently scored the short documentary, DANI’S TWINS, which premiered in Telluride’s Mountainfilm Festival in early June. Directed by Brad Allgood and Steve Dorst, the film captures the pregnancy and early parenting journey of Dani Izzie, one of the few quadriplegics ever to give birth to twins. Complications prove dangerous, but when the pandemic strikes, it raises the stakes. The score is performed by a string quartet, and is now available on Amazon, Spotify, and other digital/streaming services. Listen to Ewing’s opening theme:
Narrated by Miriam Margolyes, the uplifting BBC documentary GENTLEMAN JACK CHANGED MY LIFE follows British women of all ages who’ve taken inspiration from Anne Lister, the 19th century, real-life lesbian at the center of the drama, with dramatic results. Anne’s courage to love a woman, and live openly with her, is inspiring women all over the world to embark on their own journeys of self-discovery. The doc’s musical score has been composed by Claire Batchelor, a British composer based in Camberley, Surrey who has scored a number of shorts and documentaries as well as, recently, Darren Rapier’s TV movie SECTIONS, a hard hitting, gritty drama based on the realities of a UK adolescent psychiatric unit in the 21st Century.
Riveting from start to finish, the new film TIGER 24 takes a deep dive into who is responsible when animals kill humans in the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve in India. The answer is a lot more complex than meets the eye. Filmmaker Warren Pereira introduces us to Ustad, aka Tiger 24. He has been labeled a maneater by the local government for killing more than one person, and his fate at the moment is unclear. The music for the doc is created by Kreng, a musical project often linked to the theatre group Abattoir Fermé, which is supervised by Pepijn Caudron. Prior to this their latest film work was the 2021 horror film HOTEL POSEIDON. TIGER 24 explores the ethics of the situation at hand through footage and interviews with locals. But, at its core, Pereira explores what can happen when proper measures aren’t put in place to ensure safety for all.
The Dutch film WOLF from Ispida Wildlife Productions documents the remarkable return of the wolf to the Netherlands. Directed by Cees van Kempen and narrated by Dutch journalist and television presenter
Matthijs van Nieuwkerk, the film has been scored by Matthijs Kieboom (WILD, BLOODY MARIE, PIRATES DOWN THE STREET).
Composer Cliff Eidelman has announced the first digital streaming release of OCEAN MEN (EXTREME DIVE), an IMAX film he scored back in 2001. It’s a large scale orchestral score which features the wonderful singer Francine Poitras who is known for her recordings with the Cirque du Soleil. The film takes viewers on a giant screen adventure into the world of two free-divers and their unique relationship to the sea. The film was released on Blu-Ray from Image Entertainment in 2013 but appears to be unavailable at this time. The soundtrack is now available on Amazon and all streaming platforms.
Listen to Eidelman’s main theme:
SERENGETI (aka SERENGETI 3D) is a forthcoming IMAX film from director Michael Dalton-Smith (VOLCANOES: THE FIRES OF CREATION, NOMADS OF THE SERENGETI, OL PEJETA DIARIES, ULTIMATE AFRICA I). The film’s score is being composed with a full orchestra of 72 musicians by Alan Williams (AMAZON, KILIMANJARO: TO THE ROOF OF AFRICA, ISLAND OF THE SHARKS, SECRETS OF THE SEA). The doc is produced by Definition Films, and is distributed by K2 Studios. For more information, see SERENGETI FILM. Alan Williams is also scoring the Afghanistan war documentary RONIN 3: THE BATTLE FOR SANGIN, in which twenty-five Marines stepped up to share their experiences about hunting for IEDs, murder holes, and violent insurgents with Darkhorse Marines and experience up-close combat footage in one of the most dangerous fights in Afghanistan. In addition to the score, he is composing a concert suite that will be performed by The President’s Own United States Marine Corps chamber orchestra in Virginia this summer.
The Australian streaming service Stan Stan has released a first look at the new original investigative documentary REVEALED: NO MERCY, NO REMORSE, which takes viewers back almost three decades as police hunt for one of Australia's most infamous serial killers, Paul Charles Denyer. In 1993, Denyer, who was 21 at the time, murdered three women in Frankston, Melbourne across a seven-week period. Denyer is currently serving three life sentences for the Frankston murders, but will be eligible for parole in June 2023; despite murdering three women, he could be allowed to return to the community he once terrorized. REVEALED: NO MERCY, NO REMORSE takes a deep dive into the police investigation, supported by a score from Australian composer Brett Aplin (THE BUREAU OF MAGICAL THINGS). Directed by award-winning filmmaker Terry Carlyon (THE BROTHERHOOD, CONVICTION) and featuring crime reporter John Silvester (THE AGE & SMH) it’s a fascinating insight and includes the original police record of interview, something that is very rarely ever made public. Thirty 30 years later, it is still considered to be a murder interrogation masterclass. The gripping documentary will premiere exclusively on Stan on Thursday, June 23.
TRUST NO ONE: THE HUNT FOR THE CRYPTO KING is a Netflix original doc directed by Luke Sewell, which follows a group of cryptocurrency investors who investigate the untimely death of their exchange’s founder, Gerry Cotten as well as the $250 million that they suspect he stole from them. David Schweitzer (Sewell’s HOOP SCHEMES) has scored the film, which was released to Netflix last March. “It was the perfect excuse to fire up my modular synths and get busy with some analogue bleeping,” wrote the composer. “I wrote quite a few of the tracks while the film was still being edited… so lots of my music was quite bedded into the film by the time they locked the edit. Then it was a case of developing some of the themes and bringing out the different characters and really pushing the ups and downs of the story.” A soundtrack album was just released this week and is available on amazon and other mp3/streaming services. For more details and some sample tracks from the album, see the composer’s website here.
Chris Roe (ARMSTRONG, SPITFIRE, AFTER LOVE, TRIGGER POINT TV series) has composed the score for the documentary LANCASTER, which tells the story of the British Lancaster Bomber, synonymous with the Dambusters and night raids on Nazi Germany during World War II, about the plane and the crews that flew her, featuring re-mastered archive and aerial footage of the RAF’s last working Lancaster in flight. LANCASTER is a deeply moving film that portrays the bravery of the young airmen and the complex and harsh realities of war. The film is directed by David Fairhead and Ant Palmer (2018’s SPITFIRE doc) and was released to theaters and on digital in the UK on May 27th. Dubois Records has released Roe’s soundtrack which is available on Amazon and other digital/streaming services (so is the complimentary doc SPITFIRE, by the way). Brian Viner of The Daily Mail described the film as a “brilliant documentary [which is] beautifully orchestrated, with stirring aerial footage (by John Dibbs) of one of the only two Lancasters still airworthy, and a terrific original score (by Chris Roe).”
Listen to the track “Squadron X” from LANCASTER:
Watch the trailer to LANCASTER:
LIVES NOT GRADES, a documentary featuring USC students at the campus’s Viterbi School of Engineering, was nominated for a Television Academy Emmy. KCET Los Angeles broadcast this important film showcasing the efforts by students to try to develop innovations that might improve the lives of individuals who are living as refugees. Composer Alejandro Briceno scored the film; he is a composer/producer/guitarist who began his career in Venezuela, playing guitar with various local bands when he was a teenager. Throughout his profession, he acquired extensive experience playing many different styles, from rock to Latin music. He composed additional music for the family comedy Bernie the Dolphin 2 (2019), scored by Joshua Mosley and served as a music production assistant on several projects for composer Edward Shearmur.
Mondo, in conjunction with Back Lot Music, is proud to present the final chapter of the Jurassic saga: Michael Giacchino’s score to JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION. Mondo has released all Jurassic World franchise series albums on vinyl to date and collectors can look forward to completing the trilogy with this JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION release. Custom artwork was designed by artist Justin Erickson of Phantom City Creative. The package will include liner notes from Jurassic World architect and director of DOMINION, Colin Trevorrow, and pressed onto 180-gram webstore exclusive color vinyl. For details, see Mondo.
Target Stores, via the Disney Music Group, is offering an exclusive vinyl soundtrack to animated series THE PROUD FAMILY LOUDER AND PROUDER in this violet colored vinyl LP limited exclusive. The package contains songs from the show as well as music from the soundtrack by composer Kurt Farquhar. For more details, see Target.
Varèse Sarabande Records has announced the LP release of THE IRON GIANT (Deluxe Edition) Original Motion Picture Score with music by Michael Kamen. The label has previously released Kamen’s THE IRON GIANT score as a 49-minute program single LP. This Deluxe Edition adds an additional 13 minutes of alternates, outtakes and rare demos – including a piano-and-guitar attempt at an unrealized song, “Souls Don’t Die,” based on Kamen’s theme, performed by Kamen and Eric Clapton. Tim Greiving’s new liner notes feature new interview material with director Brad Bird, music editor Christopher Brooks and orchestrator Blake Neely, going deep into Kamen’s working process and their adoration for the gifted, late composer. The 2-LP package taps directly into the ethos of the film, with a pull tab opening the Giant’s die-cut eyes on the front jacket. Depending on which inner sleeve has been slotted in the first position directly behind the cover, the reveal is different. Open the eyes in normal or defense mode! The album will release August 5. Pre-order the LP set here.
An unboxing video of the LP package can be seen here:
Waxwork announces that their 2xLP to 1981’s MY BLOODY VALENTINE, Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Paul Zaza, is available again and pressed to 180 gram Blood Red & Pink Smoke colored vinyl, featuring artwork by Ghoulish Gary Pullin. Zaza’s foreboding score is a mix of both minimal synth and orchestral compositions intertwined with bluegrass and country soundtrack cues. Expertly mastered by Thomas DiMuzio at Gench Mastering, the complete score clocks in at over one hour. See Waxwork.
Mondo presents BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES Volume 2. Sixteen of their favorite full episode scores from the hit show have been carefully curated, remastered for vinyl, and placed together in a beautiful 8XLP Box Set, with unique, brand-new artwork for each episode by Phantom City Creative’s Justin Erickson. Package offers 8 x 180 Gram 12" LPs housed in a heavy weight box set. Edition of 1,800. Each contains a set of six randomly assorted “Heroes of Gotham” 4x6 Screen-printed Handbills.
Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser opened this March in Orlando. Composer Jerome Leroy arranged John Williams’ music from the films for two 15-min guest experiences in the ship’s Engineering Room. Galactic Starcruiser is a fully immersive hotel and roleplaying experience where your decisions enable you to create your own story. It’s a two-night-long adventure that you can do by yourself, or with your family and friends. Watch “Dispatches From The Halcyon: The Story” to find out more about the whole experience.
In celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the video game Star Wars: The Old Republic, Legacy Of The Sith has been released as the eighth major expansion. This expansion represents a continuation of the storyline from Onslaught, where the player pursues Darth Malgus across the galaxy to uncover his plans, while participating in a major battle on the ocean world of Manaan which has been invaded by the Sith Empire. In Legacy Of The Sith, Jedi Master Denolm Orr and his Padawan, Sa’har Kateen, travel to the Temple of Nul on Elom to retrieve a special holocron before the Sith Empire can. They seem to have the upper hand, until an unexpected enemy appears… The music for this new expansion has been composed by Gordy Haab, Samuel JosephSmythe, and Marco Valerio Antonini. Read more about the Legacy of the Sith expansion here. A new cinematic trailer, titled “Disorder,” was released on February 2022. Watch here.
Listen to the track “The Padawan” from Star Wars: The Old Republic: Legacy Of The Sith:
The multiple award winning action-adventure game God Of War was first released in 2005, but became such an instant hit, that Santa Monica Studio created seven more versions of the game. The most recent one, released in 2018 for the PlayStation 4, focusses on main character Kratos' journey in the Greek world together with his son Atreus, following a path of vengeance as a result of being tricked into killing his family by Olympian gods. The official soundtrack won a BAFTA Award and is composed by Bear McCreary.. Inspired by Viking folk music, McCreary used exotic instrumentation and languages from various Northern European folk traditions, set up around themes he created around primary characters in the game. It resulted in a score featuring deep choirs, pounding drums, shrieking brass and features Faroese singer-songwriter Eivør (Pálsdóttir). Transmission Records’ new vinyl edition of the God Of War soundtrack is available as a limited edition of 1000 individually numbered copies on red & black marbled vinyl. This item will be released September 16, 2022. The package contains an exclusive mini-poster and insert with liner notes by Bear McCreary.
See Transmission Records
Skill Tree Records today releases the Peruvian-inspired original soundtrack to Sunwolf Entertainment’s 2D action-platformer Imp Of The Sun composed by Jose Varon (Immortal: Gates Of Pyrus, Arafinn: Return To Nangrim). Tapping into his musical heritage for Imp Of The Sun, the Peruvian/French composer combined modern cinematic sounds and world-class orchestra players with ancient ethnic instruments (recorded at the National Museum of the Archaeology, Anthropology, and History of Peru) in order to create the game’s unique soundscape and textures. “We recorded a wide collection of Quenas Chinchas, wooden trumpets (from Wari and Moche cultures), whistling bottles and Wayla Kepas (seashell trumpets),” explains Varon. “There are really no written records of what the music sounded like during the Inca period, so I took the sonic palette and made something new. One of my favorite instruments is the Cupisnique whistle, which also happens to be the oldest instrument we recorded (about 6,000 years old).” Each environment features unique sound elements and instrumental soloists. The game combines fast-paced combat and exploration set across a stunning Peruvian-inspired world, from the bright peaks of the Andean mountains to the dense Amazonian jungles and much more. The soundtrack is now available from these links. The game is available now on Steam, Epic Games Store, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X and Nintendo Switch; for more information see sunwolf.
Watch the behind the scenes video about the music of Imp Of The Sun:
Lakeshore Records has released a digital 3-track single of composer Sergio Ronchetti’s music for Depths of the Forgotten, a free major expansion for Eldest Souls, the critically-acclaimed action-RPG which introduces a new and perilous region, three new bosses, a selection of special weapons, and an all-new, obliterating ability. London-based, Spanish & Italian composer and sound designer Ronchetti boldly crafts scores dwelling within realms of dusky depth, mercurial mood, and aggressive execution, drawing upon his background in heavy metal and combining his lyrical tastes with more traditional, orchestral compositional techniques for a truly singular signature style. Rochetti’s debut score for the 2021 pixel-art, boss-rush, “Souls-like” video game Eldest Souls captures the lonely and desolate melancholy of the game world while also providing vigorous, combative battle music matching the intensity of the challenging gameplay and capturing the personality and essence of each iconic boss fight. He cites artists like Trivium, Machine Head, and Gojira as direct references to his Eldest Souls score – even if his instrumentations are far removed from theirs. Listen or download the single here.
Mark Griskey’s score for the videogame Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II – The Sith Lords (2004) has been released digitally by Walt Disney Records. The 29-track album is available from Amazon and iTunes and other digital sources. – via Soundtrack.net.
The unprecedented collaboration between the legendary music festival Hellfest and video game Ragnarock is now available. Presented during the Upload VR Showcase Summer 2022, WanadevStudio is delighted to announce the release of Ragnarock's new DLC, Hellfest RAID. This DLC includes 11 new tracks from Bands attending Hellfest 2022, a new playable environment dedicated to the world of the festival, new longships, and many other surprises, including a line-up of epic new music from The Offspring, Dragonforce, Nightwish, Gojira…
Watch Ragnarock - Hellfest Raid Trailerhere.
Randall D. Larson was for many years publisher of CinemaScore: The Film Music Journal, senior editor for Soundtrack Magazine, and a film music columnist for Cinefantastique magazine. A specialist on horror film music, he is the author of Musique Fantastique: 100+ Years of Fantasy, Science Fiction & Horror Film Music and Music from the House of Hammer. He currently writes articles on film music and sf/horror cinema, and has written liner notes more than 300 soundtrack CDs. He can be contacted via https://musiquefantastique.com/ or follow Musique Fantastique on Facebook.