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Soundtrax: Episode 2022-8
July, 2022

Feature Interviews:

  • Scoring THE TERMINAL LIST with Composer Ruth Barrett
  • Miriam Cutler: Scoring Documentary Films and

    Interviews by Randall D. Larson

    Overviews: Soundtrack Reviews:

  • THE BOURNE IDENTITY/John Powell/Varese
  • HIGHWAY 395/Beltrami & Sanders/Perseverance
  • THE FIRST WIVES CLUB/Shaiman/La-La Land
  • THE LEGEND OF LA LLORONA/Wynn/Movie Score Media
  • LEGEND OF THE FOREST/Alan Williams/Quinate Publishing (BMI)
  • LIGHTYEAR/Giacchino/Disney
  • \MORE THAN ROBOTS/Economou/Disney
  • NOPE/Abels/Back Lot Music
  • PREHISTORIC PLANET/Zimmer, Rozman, Talve & Christie/Lakeshore
  • THE RAILWAY CHILDREN RETURN/Farmer & Phipps/Movie Score Media
  • THE SECRET SERVICE/Barry Gray/Silva Screen
  • THOR LOVE AND THUNDER/Giacchino & Melamud/Hollywood/Marvel
  • Film & TV Music, Documentary, Vinyl Soundtracks, & Game Music News

Emmy-nominee Ruth Barrett has quickly become one of the most sought-after film and television composers in the UK. Her music is unmistakably original and eclectic, spanning feature films and high-end TV drama. Her film credits include CITY OF TINY LIGHTS and LEGACY, both directed by Pete Travis, HARRY BROWN (co-written with Martin Phipps) starring Michael Caine, TOAST directed by S.J Clarkson, and the gritty Paul Abbott penned feature TWENTY8K. In television, Ruth has amassed over thirty scores in her twelve years of composing, including the Pete Travis-directed series BLOODLANDS, THE SISTER for ITV, SANDITON – an 8-part series based on Jane Austen’s unfinished novel, Bodyguard – Jed Mercurio’s hit series for BBC, VICTORIA series 3 and THE DURRELLS series 4. Other TV projects include David Hare’s COLLATERAL (BBC) starring Carey Mulligen, CRITICAL (Sky), LOVE NINA (BBC) starring Helen Bonham Carter, WUTHERING HEIGHTS (ITV/PBS) starring Tom Hardy, WALLANDER (BBC), WHITECHAPEL (ITV), and LAW & ORDER: ORGANIZED CRIME. Ruth studied composition at The Royal Academy of Music and read music at Cambridge University. She started her career composing for theatre and commercials before setting up a music production company, Rubykon, with composer and engineer Ruskin Williamson. Between them, they have scored numerous documentaries, ad campaigns, and short films.
Based on the best-selling novel by Jack Carr, THE TERMINAL LIST follows Navy SEAL officer James Reece (Chris Pratt) after his entire platoon is ambushed during a high-stakes covert mission. Reece returns home to his family with conflicting memories of the event, PTSD, a possible brain tumor, and questions about his culpability. As new evidence comes to light, Reece discovers dark forces working against him, endangering not only his life but the lives of those he loves.
In the following interview, we discuss this project in detail.

Q: What brought you into scoring THE TERMINAL LIST?
Ruth Barrett:
I think Dave DiGilio, the writer, got obsessed with BODYGUARD (2018). He was listening to the soundtrack to that one as he was writing the script for THE TERMINAL LIST and decided to give me a call in the UK and see what’s up! It was literally like that. I chatted with Dave. I really liked the script. The psychological angle on it had a similarity to the tone of BODYGUARD, but then it was also of different spin on it as well – I think that was what drew him in initially.

Q: In your initial discussions with him, how was it determined the kind of score and musical palette they wanted for this show – and how did you apply that when you began writing themes and selecting instruments?

Ruth Barrett:
We talked about the tone of the show, in this first meeting. It was literally in the middle of the night that we met – for me, at least in the UK, because he was in L.A. We talked about what the sound of the brain tumor would be, and I said I’d really like to experiment with some modular sounds for it, to find something that was organic but also synthetic that could be that sound of the tumor. And then, making it kind of a personal soundtrack. Not like a bombastic, action-y score, although it’s got to hit really hard, but it wants to be about one guy against the world. That drew me to looking at using soloists and smaller groups. I used quite a small band to do it, but they were able to make quite a powerful sound that could also be really intimate as well. It gives it that tone of intimacy and warmth underneath all the killing that goes on. That’s why the guitar came about – that was my idea, because Chris plays the guitar in the show; and because there was also talk about outlaw country music – Johnny Cash, Sturgill Simpson, and that sort of thing – being bandied about. That fit his character, the Navy Seal and the guy who’s gone rogue. The guitar would feature as a way in to his soul. That’s what I tried initially on those first sketches, with a guitarist that I work with quite a lot, coming up with a theme quite quickly, which was about the guy’s feeling of loss. It went for the emotional stuff. And then all the crazy fight stuff – that was hard to do, actually. The first scene in the film, where they’re in the tunnels, we did a lot of experimenting with sounds and textures and approaches for that – it’s a mixture of what the sound team did and what I did with the music. But what I’m always looking to do with action is to always make it feel real – like you’re with them in that tunnel and it’s that feeling of jeopardy rather than “This is Hollywood and we’re going to give you some thick strings and big brass and take you on that thing!” It’s more of a spine-tingling what-does-it-feel-like-to-be-them in that moment; that’s what I’m always trying to say with music, and give it that layer.

Q: I wanted to ask you about that opening scene, which I found to be especially effective, setting up a gripping tension which turns into a solemn wash of melancholy when Commander Reece realizes the toll his company has taken. Would you describe how you came up with the musical accompaniment for this scene?

Ruth Barrett: For the beach scene where they get ambushed, we initially tried doing something heroic there, because he’s saving them. We had that in for a while, and it was almost euphoric, like this guy is saving his guys on his own and pulling them all out, and then Antoine Fuqua [Episode 1 director] is going, “This is wrong. This is just desperately sad – we need something tragic here.” I had already written the theme for the end of the episode, which is such a shocking end. I’d done a very simple string emotional cue, and we literally took that theme and put it on the beach. That theme became the family theme, but it also reflected the guys on his team, who are also his family. That was the idea; he’s a warrior, he’s a quite simple guy in that way, his allegiances are to his wife and kid and his guys. So it’s like they cut off a few limbs when they killed those Seals. That’s what I wanted it to feel like – as you said, a wash of melancholy, and before that building and building the tension because you don’t know what’s happening until it’s happened and you see the crazy bloodbath that they’re in – and also that he’s spinning out. Something’s happened to him, to his brain… APOCALYPSE NOW inspired me, that kind of cacophony of sound at least, taking the guitar and reversing it, slowing things down and speeding them up. I did a lot of that in the score, taking those little thematic moments and then messing about with them constantly, so it’s like the memories in his head that are twisting and turning.

Q: How did you continue to treat the character of Reece as his character and his mental status progresses through the series arc?

Ruth Barrett: There’s the emotional bit I mentioned, and then when he gets to the fight in the MRI, they wanted it to be a really drum-y and in-your-face action feeling. But I was asking what we could do to make it a bit different, and I started chopping up the drums so they sounded more like machine gun hits, and I’m thinking, this guy gets up and it’s like he’s switched on – he’s a Seal, he’s a weapon – so how can I make it feel like he’s a machine, almost, but a machine that’s got one part missing, because his brain isn’t all there. He’s like a Terminator that just won’t stop going. I love that fight sequence! I took the tempos and the drums I had and then I just pushed the tempo right up and right down. I did these massive sweeps to give it that kind of helter-skelter feel, like he’s on this disc that’s turning  around – I’m thinking of this scene from FLASH GORDON where they’re fighting on the disc, that’s what it felt like; that was the sort of inspiration for it! And all the way along I wanted to keep that feeling of him being this machine that is somehow coming unscrewed. There’s a drum riff there, and I would use that in bits of the score and screw with the tempos, reverse it and put it through lots of processing. I did that with some of the violin riffs – it’s almost a Hitchcock element there, which comes when you’re thinking, “Is he imagining this? Is this fight happening?” As an audience you’re supposed to be thinking, “WTF?!” You don’t know! The next Episode (2), when we get to the funeral, he’s struggling to comprehend: Was it him? Or did this happen to him? But musically we can’t play it too suspicious because there is a tragedy that’s happened, whether it’s in his head, whether he did it or not, and it’s still completely crushing to me, emotionally! So I’m always trying to tread the line between emotion and psychological tension, so at the end of that particular piece of music, at the beginning of Episode 2, it’s almost in three Acts – Act 1 was about the suspicion; Act 2 was about the emotion; Act 3 was about the vengeance – of him thinking, “Ok I don’t think it was me, so who was it? I’m going to get them,” and his eyes change from sadness into stone-cold determination. I wanted to follow that track of him, throughout the show. Again it divides into three episode chunks of what happened to him: there’s the tragedy, the middle section is the action, and then the last section being, not redemption – redemption doesn’t come, he goes deeper and deeper into hell, I suppose; it’s his journey, from a good guy who does really well in his job and then all this stuff happens to him and he takes this mission and, by doing it, he climbs further and further into somewhere really, really dark. Musically, that’s what I wanted to do with it, as well… I used a lot of percussion in it, so we start off with the tom-toms, in the middle section we’ve got the Samurai drums because he goes into full-on warrior/slasher mode, and then in the final act, using these early drums, it almost becomes biblical or something where he becomes a ghost of himself because he’s crossed the line and gone too far into the dark side. I wanted to take people on this arc, from light to dark and then darker – but not depressing!

Q: I find it fascinating the way you’ve done that, and the way you’ve got all these various permutations that follow the arc and constantly changing what the music does and says.

Ruth Barrett: It has to, because the story progresses and you want the audience to be with him, even when it gets horrific. It’s like this guy is messed up and he’s suffering and he’s chosen to do this, but also because of what’s going on in his head as well. It’s a compulsion, and I wanted to play the compulsion, the itchiness, in the score. The tempos are often building that tension to give the feeling that he’s compelled to do it, but underneath it all there’s a good guy, and the guitar is in there playing that wholesome tune, reminding us he’s still in there somewhere despite all the terrible acts that he commits. We go into Mexico in Episode 4, and I take all the themes and give them a Mexican vibe, which is quite fun. There’s a really good Sicario theme. I chose a Mexican rhythm to put on the action, again, just to give it that idea of “Ok we’re going to get these guys!” And the guys are just horrible mercenaries. It’s got that chunky, gung-ho feeling to it. I think in those scenes, you are reaching for them, so it’s got those kind of rock-and-roll grooves. There’s a nice bit at the end of Episode 3 where we take the theme into outlaw country. The theme we’ve got at the end of Episode 1 is the main theme of the show; we don’t always use it on the credits because they like to mix it up, but in Episode 3 I gave it that country vibe, which was quite fun!

Q: How would you describe your overall orchestral/electronic sound palette for this project?

Ruth Barrett: It’s all done with players and multi-tracks, because I feel you can get really interesting textures working with people like that. You’ve got the strings, violin and cello, various guitars including electric guitars, loads and loads of different types of percussion – lots of big, bad ass drums – and then lots of synths. My husband Ruskin makes modular sounds and we spend a long time making those sounds specifically for the show, just to give it that kind of “what the hell’s that?” sound to it! And lots of bass, we had to have that in it – that’s a personal sound!

Q: At nearly ten minutes, your Episode 5 track “EFP” (which refers to the “Explosively Formed Penetrator” of military use), is the longest, and the track includes some sound fx from the episode. How did this track come about and how was it created?

Ruth Barrett: Its for a scene that’s about making a bomb, so it was all about finding those metallic sounds. There’s a lot of that Samurai percussion that I wanted to put in, and then working with some of Ruskin’s modular stuff, putting that together; and then this baritone guitar that was really low strung and played with a fury! I was like, hit that bottom string like it’s going to come off, because at this point in the story he’s lost it. He’s enraged, and that’s it. It’s the ultimate betrayal in the story, so it had to have a pent-up progression feeling to it. And then the taiko drums are in there, because the whole sequence is him gearing up for the big moment where he’s going to get the guy, or one of them anyway. And then speeding up – there’s some acceleration in the track – and it was: how fast could I take it? Almost like, is the train going to come off the tracks? That sort of feeling – as a character, how far is he going to go? This sequence is in daylight, there’s loads of people around, what he’s planning to do is very, very high risk. So I need to get this feeling of being measured, and then it’s also like an unstoppable train. He’s going to keep going until he gets the guy. On the final furlong the tempo lurches right up. I think I got to 600 BPM!

Q: Without story spoilers, how did you ramp up your score towards the finale and the resolve of your closing track, “New Beginnings?”

Ruth Barrett: In the very final episode, I always find it nice to recap themes from the first episode, like it’s gone in an arc, and then you bring them back in and add some new elements to it. So I brought back the tunnel theme, I brought back the MRI theme and ramped it up even more, so it’s like super crazy, because you know at this point he’s on his last legs in Episode 8, revisiting all the good stuff. Then the ending is something new – it was sort of a variation of a theme but the tone of it was quite different. It’s almost like he’s been released; that kind of feeling. Then we did Episode 6 last, weirdly, so that music from Episode 8 actually informed Episode 6. There’s a kind of – this is going to sound a bit wanky, saying this – there’s a sort of Messiah moment in Episode 6, where he’s lost in the wilderness and I really like that music. It’s also used in the very end of Episode 8.

Q: What was most challenging or most interesting about scoring this project?

Ruth Barrett: Interesting: I was just experimenting with the sounds to find how to do an action film differently, to give it that identity, and that was probably the challenge as well! The funeral scene in Episode 2, there was like 17 rewrites on that! I didn’t want to be over-sentimentalizing it or sensationalizing it, but making it feel true and real, but yeah, that was hard. And cracking Episode 1 – Antoine was really busy on EMANCIPATION [his new film, set for 2023 release] at the very beginning, so we didn’t get a lot of time together. So when we did get on the call, it was like magic happened, because we then discovered the score in one meeting. I’d done a lot of experimenting and then he latched onto these ideas that I’d done, these really simple chords – he goes, “That feels ancient to me! That feels like a warrior.” I said, “yeah, that does – that’s his identity as a character.” So he latched onto things that helped me. I’d written the music for the brain scan scene and it had this descending line in it, and when he heard it, Antoine went, “That there! That’s our TERMINAL LIST score right there! You need to do that, but bigger. Orchestrate that bigger, you need to put that on the end. Do that, but really muscular.” So he helped to shape those early sketches into things that grew legs. That’s the beauty of collaboration, isn’t it? You can spend a lot of time when you’re on your own! And Dave DiGilio was also very cool and collaborative. They had their temp scores, as well, and that was a challenge because, a couple of moments they were quite attached to them, and for me the main thing is to pull them away and find what is really at the heart of the scene. That can be tough. But I think we did a good job.

Q: What’s coming up next for you, that you can talk about?

Ruth Barrett: I’m doing a nature show. It’s still early, but I want to use some drama techniques, characterizing them and creating some tension rather than imposing sweeping, lovely music; it’s like you’re with the animals. And I’m finishing off some UK series – I’m working on SANDITON and BLOODLANDS. And LAW AND ORDER as well – that’s been recommissioned for another season. That’s been an interesting ride, too. My mission on that, because it’s network TV, I record everything with live musicians, and that’s just not really done. They think we’re insane to do it, but it’s the sound and the character, and it really brings out the soul more, with real instruments. To me, it makes you connect with the characters, and even on a show like that, which they produce so quickly, it’s amazing what they do and the feelings you can get from it in a short space of time. It’s a good lesson in how to do things really fast. Special thanks to Alix Becq and Jana Davidoff of Rhapsody PR for facilitating this interview, and especially to Ruth Barrett for a comprehensive and enthusiastic interview! This interview is lightly edited for clarification and slight condensation. For more info see


Three-time Emmy nominated composer, Miriam Cutler, is passionate about documentaries. Her work includes HBO, CNN, PBS, Sundance, SXSW, Berlin FF, Tribeca, Emmy, and Oscar nominated films: RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg), LOVE GILDA, GABBY GIFFORDS WON’T BACK DOWN, ‘TIL KINGDOM COME, DILEMMA OF DESIRE, FLANNERY, DARK MONEY, THE HUNTING GROUND, ETHEL, LOST IN LA MANCHA, THIN, POSTER GIRL, VITO, KINGSPOINT, GHOSTS OF ABU GHRAIB, A PLASTIC OCEAN, LICENSED TO KILL, and many more. She’s been an advisor for the Sundance Documentary Composers Lab, doc juror for Sundance FF, Spirit Awards, AFI, and more; served on AMPAS Documentary Exec Committee, Film Expert/USC Cinema/US State Department’s American Film Showcase. A past TV Academy Music Branch Exec committee member, long-time former SCL Board Member and Co-Founder Alliance for Women Film Composers; serving on the board of Reel Change Film Fund – New Music USA. She’s co-produced live jazz albums including Joe Williams (nominated for a Grammy as co-producer), Nina Simone, Shirley Horn, Marlena Shaw. She’s most recently contributed two compositions to the Grammy Award winning album, “Women Warriors.” 

Gabby (Gabrielle) Giffords is an American retired politician and gun control advocate who served as a member of the US House of Representatives representing Arizona’s 8th congressional district from January 2007 until January 2012, when she resigned due to a severe brain injury suffered during an assassination attempt in 2011. Giffords has since recovered much of her ability to walk, speak, read, and write. The 2022 documentary GABBY GIFFORDS WON’T BACK DOWN, directed by Julie Cohen and Betsy West, looks at the former congresswoman’s courage and perseverance in the aftermath of the assassination attempt that left her partially paralyzed and with a language impairment, aphasia. The score is composed by Miriam Cutler.

Q: You’ve been particularly passionate about scoring documentaries. What led you to this specialty?

Miriam Cutler: I was in school during the second wave of feminism, and got very interested in social justice issues and things like that when I was in college. I was kind of heading towards a career in journalism or being a social justice lawyer. I tried to major in music but I hated my first theory class, so I changed my major to anthropology, because I wanted to learn about the world – and I really have no regrets about that, actually, because it gave me such a great worldview, a great way to see the world and organize my thoughts about it. I was always in bands; I always played music. I was in my own feminist band, which was like a vaudeville satire band, and then I was in the Mystic Nights of the Oingo Boingo with Steve Bartek, who was a friend of mine from college, and that was really fun because he and I had played in ethnic bands in college together. When I was in the Oingo Boingo I got an opportunity to play with really amazing musicians. I wrote all the charts, and did all that stuff. That changed my view about music and it did become more important to me, so I decided to stop my day job and become a full-time musician. It wasn’t exactly a money-making proposition at the time, but it led me into all kinds of things, and eventually, because I had my own songwriting studio, when someone came and asked me to score something, which was in the late ‘80s, I was intrigued. I said sure and started doing it and realized how much I loved it.

I got intrigued by that and more and more into it and then it turned out a friend of mine was creating these really bad horror movies for a really terrible low-budget film company, and that was my film school! I scored about fifteen films for them, and that’s when I realized that I could do this stuff. I always had wanted to write big orchestra stuff, and synths had just started coming out and so we were able to produce an awful lot at home. That’s when I got much more serious. So I did bad movies, I worked on industrials, corporate videos and things like that. I was making a living and I had a studio and I should have felt pretty good, but I thought to myself “My God! How far have I fallen from those lofty views?” I was literally on the verge of just stopping and trying to do something else, when I met this one filmmaker named Arthur Dong at one of my screenings and he told me about this film he was working on. At the time I didn’t know very much about documentaries – this was in 1997 and it was a total turning point in my life. Arthur started telling me about this film he was making, it was called LICENSED TO KILL. He was a gay man and he was interviewing men who had been put in prison for being serial killers or murders of gay men. He really wanted to explore that topic, and my head blew off. I just felt, oh my God I have to work on this film. I ended up meeting with him in his backyard and we talked about the film for hours, and at the end of it he asked me if I wanted to score it, and I said “Yeah!” So we ended up working together. After we finished it, I still had no idea that he was already an important filmmaker in the documentary world. He took me to Sundance and introduced me to this whole other world. The film won two awards, and it was mind-blowing, all these documentary filmmakers from all over the world and everybody I talked to was more fascinating than the next person. That’s when I realized what I needed to be doing was working in the documentary community.

So that really changed my life. Music’s something I’ve always been good at; it comes easily to me, and I love it. But I always thought my real work was going to be journalism or be a lawyer… so now I get to work on what I care about and do what I love. It’s been that way since 1997. I really focus on doc’s – I’ve done other things but as far as my work goes that’s what I want to work on.

Q: In general, how do you approach devising music for a documentary film? Do you have a particular technique to get started on composing for a doc?

Miriam Cutler: Over the years the main thing I’ve learned is to get out of my own way! There is, I believe, a certain amount of magic involved. I watch some of the footage, I’m very into working the picture, I try to explore the themes of the film with the filmmakers and really understand what they’re trying to achieve – what their narrative is going to be. I have a very broad background in music, all kinds of music – world music, I’ve been interested in everything. And I’ve also been a player in some unique bands, so I have a wealth of experience to draw from. A lot of times I’ll just be sitting there messing around on the keyboard, and something will trigger the process. I’ll just be playing stuff – nothing’s really taking, and then suddenly I hear a sound, and it feels like the right sound, so then I just start building on that one little kernel of an idea. Other times I might have a concept after talking to the filmmakers, like with GABBY. They really wanted it to be an uplifting film, which I believe it is because of Gabby herself. They wanted it to be focused on that but also to share the intensity of her life experience with this issue and what it’s meant in her life – and to give people a very personal view of what it’s like to get shot, the kind of damage that’s done to people, both psychologically and physically. They wanted it to have an uplifting feel but Julie and Betsy really loved to tell these stories of inspirational women, like with RBG, where they used a lot of classical music and opera. They like to share what the person listens to, and then my job is to tell the personal narrative in a more cinematic way. Sometimes it can be riffing off something that’s there and other times, like with RBG, that was a completely different direction, using similar sounding instrumentation some times, but a very different kind of music. So it’s really responding to sounds: hearing things That’s my strongest sensory, when I hear stuff its much stronger than my visual sense or anything. I’m very moved by sounds. Sometimes I’ll just be sitting and playing some chords and then all the sudden I’ll hit a combination that just makes me go, “Wow, what was that? That felt amazing.” So it’s really about listening and having instincts, and also trying to stay close within the narrative and the purpose of the music.

Q: What brought you into scoring GABBY GIFFORDS WON’T BACK DOWN?

Miriam Cutler: It was because I worked with them on RBG. I would have loved to do their film about Julia Childs, because I love Parisian swing! I used to have a swing band, like a Hot Jazz band, and I play clarinet so I would have loved to have done that. But I was so happy when they offered me GABBY because I really admire her so profoundly.
Q: How did you work with the film’s directors, Julie Cohen and Betsy West, in deciding when and what kind of musical palette this project needed?

Miriam Cutler: They had ideas about music going into it, starting with what the character listens to. They knew that they wanted it to be primarily up-beat, even though that was really tough stuff – we have to respond authentically to the difficult material, but calibrate how far to go with it and how much of it to have. It’s all in support of the narrative and keeping the viewer moving along with it, wanting to stay with it, and not being so freaked out that they have to turn it off. We talked about it in those kind of terms, and we talked about instrumentation. They were going to be using a lot of ‘80s rock music, because that’s what Gabby listens to, and what was fun. They really wanted me to have guitars and stuff, but not necessarily for me to do the ‘80s music. It just had to feel like it was part of the same movie. I always kind of sneak in my strings – I just think strings are so cinematic and make it feel like a film. I don’t use them unless it’s relevant, but I felt like for this type of film it adds a little heft. I love acoustic guitar. They really wanted it to sound warm but very lively. So I had a lot of fun with it.

Q: How would you describe your dramatic and emotional use of music on this project?

Miriam Cutler: That’s always in service to the story, the narrative; and it was within the realm of the vision of the filmmakers. We’re both telling the same story. I’m just really glad that I’ve done so many projects because if you’re really responding to the film you can’t do the same thing for every film. You have a voice but you have to be able to respond with instrumentation and different styles, and maybe something that isn’t even an actual style. I think that’s kind of what happened in this film. It’s not really an actual style – there’s music that responds to the tragedy of the shooting and the awful consequences, and I wanted it to feel subtle and make you hold your breath a bit, and I wanted it to have a strong theme – a melody that people could recognize. I like it to be actual themes and melodies and harmonic developments, and I feel very strongly about staying within the tradition. It actually makes a very cohesive score when you have ideas behind the music; a way of organizing the emotional content.

I do a lot of teaching and mentoring, because when I was first working in documentaries, I noticed that usually the filmmakers were way more sophisticated and advanced than the way the composers were dealing with the material. There used to be a lot of fear of music among directors; they were very afraid it wouldn’t be authentic and people would accuse them of leading the viewer. So I really tried to close the gap between filmmakers and composers, and help them realize they’re both doing the exact same thing: they’re telling stories, and they just have to get on the same page about how they’re going to talk about the music. I feel it’s come a long way; and that filmmakers are more open to using music in a powerful way and not being so intimidated by it, and composers are taking it more seriously. You don’t just lay out a pad and that’s your bed. It’s really come a long way, so it’s been a lot more fun to go to documentaries because now the music is up to par.

Q: The whole concept of music for docs has changed so much in the last twenty years. It used to be library music and such, but now we’re getting fully orchestrated scores and it’s fitting all this in a much more potent way.

Miriam Cutler: I agree. I’m so happy about it, because it really was hurting me that all these directors were either too afraid to give any leeway, or they didn’t have a clue of how to get what they were looking for from their composers. And unless the composers are very experienced, they can’t really lead the process. I wanted to make it so filmmakers could really direct us. I love it when they direct me – like, why should I just throw something up against the wall for three months until you find something?! It really speeds up the whole process and makes it a lot more enjoyable because you make progress.

Q: On this project, how have you mixed largely string-based acoustic instruments – guitars, bass, mandolin, strings, piano – with some subtle electronic tonalities?

Miriam Cutler: The technological development that happened in the ‘80s and early ‘90s really made my career possible. Before that, I had no access to hear my ideas or show someone my ideas. So I think it’s been great… I’ve always embraced the technology but I’ve always valued musical integrity. I don’t think there’s any reason why you can’t take modern sounds and use them in a musical way. I just did a score that’s coming out, THE HUMAN TRIAL, where they wanted it to be all electronic. At first I was disappointed, but it really got me going in a certain direction, and of course in the end I ended up mixing a lot of string stuff with these electronic sounds. It was really enjoyable to do and I think it was very effective for the film. Sound is sound, and I’m just so absolutely delighted in how much music has come back, and that’s true of video games too. They’re developing this young audience that really digs orchestras and I think that’s fantastic, and now they go to concerts and the music’s really good. Some of my friends are writing really good music for that. Recognizably good.

Q: Watching the film I found it highly emotional in its presentation of Gabby Giffords’ shooting and the processes of her remarkable recovery. How did these elements of the film lead you to some of the score’s most memorable and affecting moments?

Miriam Cutler: It’s interesting. As a composer, we have to refer to our own emotions a lot, but I’ve learned over the years that the emotions I’m having about something aren’t necessarily what the filmmaker wants. You have to be able to get outside your own emotions, and yet your own emotions are very valuable. First I thought they wouldn’t have music on some of that stuff, but it was decided that we should, but that it should be really subtle. So I tried to make it as subtle as I could, making it feel like you’re holding your breath, but having recognizable melodies so that it wouldn’t just be noise. They’re very good about where they choose to put music. I think that’s something they do really well; they make inspiring films about inspiring people and they tackle serious subjects but they don’t stay there – they really focus on the energy and the vitality of these characters, these women. So it can be hard when you have this kind of material – I felt like I had to make it kind of poignantly beautiful. If I can do that, maybe I can help move viewers through it, and perhaps put a little bit of energy into it even though it’s very difficult material. I stretched it out so it had a slow development and could be in the background but you could still feel movement. This is what I love about working in films with really talented people – and that helps it be better or helps point me in a different direction that’s better. I always feel like between all of us on the team, we’re going to have the best thing that we can have because we all are giving very valuable input, and making decisions together about how to best use our abilities to tell the story.

Q: As the composer for this, what would you like to have audiences take away from watching this film – and what were your thoughts while composing and recording its music to create a powerfully affecting and supporting musical accompaniment?

Miriam Cutler: My hope is the same as the filmmakers – that people are inspired by Gabby and hear her sharing her experiences and her message about gun safety. She started an organization; it’s so phenomenal because right now I think so many of us are so disheartened that we feel like our country is moving so far away from us that we don’t know how we’re going to stay here, and we feel like we can’t stop any of this… there’s such obvious things that could be done to make things better that won’t be done, and I think we all feel very disheartened. I think someone like Gabby reminds us that we can have power, we can change things, we can’t let ourselves get beaten down, we have to keep trying. That’s one of the reasons why I like working on docs, because I feel like it’s my small part in shining a light on important things. What I experienced when I went to the screening was people came out feeling very, very inspired to do something, and if that’s what they get out of the experience, that’s what we hoped they’d get. Gabby makes a difference with her organization – they take on the NRA on the state level and they’ve had a major victory. She’s like half paralyzed and has aphasia but she’s able to muster the will and collect people to support her and carry this work on throughout the whole country, so we have no excuses!

Q: What’s coming up next for you, that you can talk about?

Miriam Cutler: I have that film I mentioned, THE HUMAN TRIAL. It’s about medical technology that will hopefully create a cure for diabetes My mother died of diabetes at a very young age so I’ve had a first-hand experience about it, so that’s why this film is very important to me. A filmmaker I know, who is also a diabetic, made the film and it’s actually very promising and it has to do with stem cells and they’re getting into using CRISPR, where they reprogram the DNA, it’s unbelievable. So the film is really interesting because it follows the very first two people in the trial and we get to understand the experience of what having this disease is like and how amazing human ingenuity is if we can get out of the way.

Right now I’m working on a film about Shari Lewis and Lambchop

Q: Oh, wow, I grew up as a kid watching her show!

Miriam Cutler: Me too! It’s really interesting the reaction I get from people when I tell them. Then I’m working on a doc about Susan Feniger of Hot Tomales/Border Grill fame.

Special thanks to Chandler Polling and Kyrie Hood of White Bear PR for facilitating this interview and to Miriam Cutler for an impassioned and expressive interview.

This interview is lightly edited for clarification and slight condensation.

For more information on the composer, see her website at


Overviews: Recently Released Soundtracks

John Frizzell/La-La Land CD

Paramount+’s BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD DO THE UNIVERSE marks the animated duo’s first on-screen appearance in more than a decade. The occasion also reunites composer John Frizzell with the franchise. Mike Judge hired Frizzell for the first Beavis & Butthead film, 1996’s BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD DO AMERICA, which led to Frizzell composing Judge’s other projects including OFFICE SPACE, KING OF THE HILL, and TALES FROM THE TOUR BUS. I must confess I’m not a fan or a follower of the Beavis & Butt-Head cartoon franchise, but I am a fan of John Frizzell and propulsive science fiction orchestral scores, and this one has a terrifically vigorous score which has definitely aroused [heh] my enthusiasm. To create the score to BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD DO THE UNIVERSE, the music needed to reflect the emotional and physical journey our teenage slack-off heroes would embark on. To accomplish this, Frizzell composed an epic score and recorded with a 69-[heh] piece orchestra in Vienna. “While both films feature a large ensemble, the new film has a lot more music,” Frizzell told Jazz Tangcay of Variety in a recent interview. “The 1996 film has about 30 minutes of score and the new film has close to 60 minutes. The science-fiction aspect [of] the new film allowed me to really expand the intensity of the score, as dealing with time travel and parallel universes allowed for the music to be even more dynamic and expressive than the spy/action subject of the 1996 film. In particular, I wrote extensively for brass and was able to include a lot of powerful low trombones in addition to quite a few passages that feature trumpets.” (review continues below)
Listen to John Frizzell’s Main Theme from BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD DO THE UNIVERSE:

Frizzell’s score for the film is a rich assortment of fully orchestral drama and spacial action & verve. Integrating the classic sci-fi instrument, a Theremin, with the prowess of a 69-piece [heh] orchestra in Vienna, the score on its own, as much as it surely does in the film, provides a spacious and stalwart genre-influenced sound which makes for a very fine listen on its own. “I’m a fan of why the Theremin was used in science fiction,” Frizzell said in an interview on scoring this film with “When you think about it, it was the first instrument where you didn’t have to…  physically touch… That’s the type of thing I really get into with science-fiction music. You have the orchestra, but you also have the idea of this new technology coming…I’ve always loved electronics in music and experimented a great deal since the days of the [synclavier], which I worked on extensively [and] was one of the first high-powered digital workstations. I learned a lot about frequency synthesis and analog synthesis and programmed these things quite a bit.” (review continues below)
Listen to the cue “Disaster in Space” from

The result is an engaging and vibrant soundtrack full of energy, thrust [heh] with much to commend and enjoy in this score: intriguing moods of intrigue (“The Elaborate Dance of Seduction”), effective “spacial” effects with Theremin (“Smart Beavis and Smart Butt-Head”), an eerie mix of a pinch of Theremin added to choir and orchestra (“Your Situation Is Critical” and “Now Let’s Go Score”), a touching and heroic motif for flute joined by strings and noble brass (“Destroy Their Records”), extreme cosmic destruction excitement (“The Entire Cosmos Shall Perish”), a jocular bit of spacey festivity in “The Unicorn Ride,” a nicely quick dramatic intonation (“It Really Is Them”) followed by a cool Theremin treatment with choir (“It Is We!”), even a rapturous love theme (“Word That Starts With L”) and a beautifully elegant melodic rhapsody (“The Greatest Story Ever Told”), and the exciting festive pageantry of the final track (“We Celebrate!”). Frizzell said that his goal in the new score was to have practically no comedy. “The time I broke that rule was when the unicorn shows up!” he told Variety. “Although the score doesn’t sound like a comedy score, it is meticulously timed to the picture hitting very precise moments… Also, the score has a lot of variations in tempo with big accelerandos and rallentandos. I wanted the music to feel very fluid and natural.” The reality here is that Frizzell is not so much scoring Beavis and Butt-head as he is scoring a rowdy science fiction adventure that happens to feature these two cartoon figures, so whether you’re a fan of the double BB club or not, there is much to enjoy in this dramatic and soaring score.
Watch the featurette on the recording session in Vienna for BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD DO THE UNIVERSE:

THE BOURNE IDENTITY Tumescent Edition/John Powell/Varese Sarabande – CD
With this expansive new edition of his score to Doug Liman’s THE BOURNE IDENTITY (2002), John Powell has personally assembled what he calls a “Tumescent Edition” – demonstrating the evolution of some of the film’s cues. The film played a part in revitalizing the action genre in a notably thrilling, consequential fashion, and this is true both of Matt Damon’s performance as “Jason Bourne” (a man with no memory, but a ferocious set of fighting skills), the film’s expressive direction and action sequences, and John Powell’s explorative approach to scoring it, seeing the composer emerging from his start at Hans Zimmer’s Media Ventures (now Remote Control Productions) into a blockbuster film scoring career. He went on to score the first two BOURNE sequels (2004’s SUPREMACY and 2007’s ULTIMATUM, both directed by Paul Greengrass) and co-scoring the most recent iteration, Greengrass’ JASON BOURNE (2016) with David Buckley (Tony Gilroy’s THE BOURNE LEGACY in 2012 was scored by James Newton Howard, who’d composed two of Gilroy’s previous films). Powell’s music for THE BOURNE IDENTITY is an innovative mix of electronics, solo bassoon, and strings that powerfully express the film’s persistent anxiety and existential mystery while accommodating a vigorous, fluid “motor” theme that became the franchise’s signature. “Heavily improvised and shaped by digital technology, the music nonetheless captures the human heart of the film’s protagonist,” writes the label in its promo announcement; “and as always with Powell, is executed with great subtlety and taste.” This new “Tumescent Edition,” explains Brian Satterwhite in his liner notes, which feature a very thorough new interview with Powell, “features every measure John Powell composed for the picture including never-before-released alternate drafts of various cues.” The result is a fascinating revisitation of Powell’s BOURNE score, as it incorporates alternate and demo material alongside existing tracks to provide a comprehensive listening experience of the score in all of its creative fullness. The album is limited to 1,500 copies and is available on CD from Varese Sarabande.
Listen to John Powell’s main theme from THE BOURNE IDENTITY (this version from the 2002 CD):

Brett Aplin – digital (self released)
Season 2 of the Australian fantasy television series THE BUREAU OF MAGICAL THINGS continues the adventures of Kyra, a teenage girl who acquired magical powers when caught in a clash between an elf and a fairy. In this new series, when Kyra and Darra embark on a quest to find a legendary lost temple, Kyra’s orb magic accidentally awakens a dangerous object causing fairy and elf magic to malfunction. As the danger escalates, Kyra must risk everything to deal with a threat that endangers the entire magical world and brings her own identity into question. “I had so much fun returning to the world of ‘The Bureau’ and expanding on musical themes I developed for the first season,” said composer Brett Aplin, who returns to score the second series. “I think this series is possibly even better than the first, and certainly musically speaking is even stronger with new themes for temples and keys, cobras and chases and more!” Using both orchestral and popular musical treatments, Aplin carries over his main theme from the first season, honing it with a variety of elaborate and persuasive elements as the new episodes focus on further conflict between the magical and the human worlds. The score, like the show, is a teen-friendly one so the musical touches are light even when darker creatures try and impose their will on our young heroes. The music is a lot of fun, with a main theme that is rather delightfully festive and keeps the ongoing story both exciting and engaging. The soundtrack album is available from these links. For more information on the composer, see
Watch the opening credits, with Aplin’s main theme, for Season 2:

THE FIRST WIVES CLUB/Marc Shaiman/La-La Land – CD
Originally issued concurrently with the 1996 film on Varese Sarabande with 17 tracks, La-La Land has released a much expanded 35 track limited edition of Marc Shaiman’s poignant and delightful score, which earned the composer his third Oscar nomination for music. The social comedy film, based on the 1992 novel of the same name by Olivia Goldsmith, stars Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, and Bette Midler as three divorcées who seek retribution on their ex-husbands for having left them for younger women. Shaiman’s music begins with a number of pleasant, romantic cues, which soon follow the film’s change in attitude as they become appropriately spiteful once the ladies commence their retribution, with his main theme reminding us frequently of the ladies’ intentions with its purposefully vengeful tonality. Shaiman pulls out the stops by incorporating a variety of source music elements from classical, standard, and big-band music repertoires mixed into his own theme, which adds to the amusement and verve of the score in its climactic “Big Break In” sequence, which is a spectacular scherzo of various musical treatments wonderfully arranged and interpreted – a “loonily operatic approach [that] swings from mock sweetness to panicked suspense,” as Daniel Schweiger puts it in his liner notes). Elsewhere the music adopts martial militaristic variations, elements of jazz funk, a touch of stripper-esque jazz, a few riffs on Nino Rota and eventually ending in the triumph of “The Unveiling” which concludes previous dramatic elements from the film’s start. 23 tracks are devoted to the film’s official score, followed by six alternate or album versions of previous cues, and concluding with six original source cues of piano elegance, exuberant jazz, and easy listening, all of which is appetizing and nicely presented, and caps off a thoroughly enjoyable listening. The score is both fun and amusing, and a deliciously treat for well-intentioned revenge upon the men who have treated their women badly. Schweiger’s very thorough album notes cover the making of the film and its score in detail, incorporating a new interview with the composer. The new CD is a limited edition of 1000 copies, so don’t miss out. See La-La Land Records.

HIGHWAY 395/Marco Beltrami & Buck Sanders/Perseverance – CD
Also known as DEATH VALLEY, this 2000 film contains one of the composing team’s most unusual scores. The film is a scorching desert highway Western, directed by Fred Dryer (who also stars as the sheriff), set in California’s blistering portion of Highway 395 in the Mojave Desert. The highway is used as an access route for both the highest point in the contiguous United States, Mount Whitney, and the lowest point in North America, Death Valley, traversing the far eastern portion of the state and its northern neighbors. The desolate Californian desert setting provides a stifling tapestry where fugitives, hoping to lie low along a desolate stretch of highway, often face a lawman’s own brand of justice. The composers establish a sweltering sound design from the very start with oppressive electronic and tonal sound impressions, while immersing much of the film in a compelling Ennio Morricone-style orchestration performed by the Hollywood Studio Symphony Orchestra. The score features strikingly orchestrated guitar solos by Buck Sanders set against delicate string bowing from violinist Belinda Broughton, while a wide variety of treatments including organ tonalities, soft timpani and other percussive impressions, subtly eerie vocalise strains and other unusual elements give the setting and plot its atmospheric and mesmerizing mood. It’s a fascinating score by all respects.
Stream or purchase links, or see the label’s sales site, here.

Tim Wynn (SUPERNATURAL, FREAKS [2018], MECH-X4, TOTAL WAR: WARHAMMER III) has provided an effective spooky score to the 2022 horror feature film THE LEGEND OF LA LLORONA, directed by Patricia Harris Seeley, starring Danny Trejo, Autumn Reeser and Antonio Cupo. The latest iteration of the La Llorona/Weeping Woman myth from Hispano-American folklore, this film follows a couple and their young son as they travel from California to Mexico for a much needed vacation, but the legend of La Llorona immerses the town when the spirit begins to torment the family and their son. “When I first saw THE LEGEND OF LA LLORONA with director Patricia Seeley, we wanted to come at this genre a little differently,” said the composer. “The music really needed to convey how tragic this story is. The movie is scary, and it has supernatural elements but we wanted the emotion of the story to be front and center. Our first thought was that the score really needed to have a voice that could humanize La Llorona and I was fortunate to be able to collaborate with the amazing vocalist Aeralie Brighton. She really brings the score to life and adds an extra dimension to the music.” So the music works in two ways – it fulfills its obligation to support the suspense and scariness of the story line, while also serving the emotional element that remains dominant throughout the film’s spooky landscape. Using Brighton’s female vocalise along with pianistic arpeggios and drifting string transitions, Wynn settles into spooky sonorities that gradually increase in tension as he develops mysterious and frightening musical treatments. Low, growling orchestral movements adds to the expanding unease, while maintaining fairly tonal atmospheres with minimal but concentrated use of harsh percussive discord found in “A Distant Memory,” She’s in the Walls,” “Where Is Our Son?” with “Dead of Night” an especially tasty exercise in growing disquiet. Airy, sympathetic strings and classical guitar passages introduce opening measures of “La Llorona Is Real,” which grows more infused with vocalise and finally becomes nearly sympathetic when the legendary weeping woman makes her appearance. The conclusive “You Can Still Save Him” is perhaps the score’s most eloquent and emotive cue, bridged by a final bit of anxious fear, but resolving the score very pleasingly with lovely sonorities from winds and strings. This is a particularly excellent horror score in that its more horrifying elements are treated with restraint, but imposed when necessary; and thus allowing for empathy and poignancy to accentuate the family’s struggle with strength and tenacity.
For more details see MovieScore Media.
Listen to Tim Wynn’s main theme from THE LEGEND OF LA LLORONA:

LEGEND OF THE FOREST/Alan Williams/ Quinate Publishing (BMI)
Composer Alan Williams has scored the dramatic Chinese theatrical feature film LEGEND OF THE FOREST, providing a beautifully engaging and powerful score with a splendid main theme. The film is the epic story beginning in 1945 of Chinese POW Wang Haotian, who escapes his captors and is taken in by the indigenous Ewenki people of Northern China and Mongolia. Finding love from a beautiful Ewenki woman, the couple begin a hopeful life together. Their journey of love, tragedy, and redemption are set against the backdrop of the early days of China’s quest to preserve its giant forest region and the challenge of protecting the Ewenki way of life. Recorded by the Macedonian-based F.A.M.E.S. orchestra as well as with traditional Chinese instruments, the score showcases soaring melodies, intimate dramatic moments, epic musical themes of hope, and touching ethnic strains of melody to encapsulate the life story of Wang Haotian. This is a thoroughly engaging and powerful score, it’s thematic conceptualization and lovely themes make for rich accompaniment to the film and a captivating listening experience on its own. The soundtrack has been released digitally, and is available from Amazon, bandcamp, and other streaming services. See Documentary Score News below for more of Alan’s recent work.
Listen and watch the behind the scenes of the scoring session for the film:

LIGHTYEAR/Michael Giacchino/Disney - digital
An animated sci-fi action adventure and the definitive origin story of Buzz Lightyear, the actual human hero who inspired Andy’s spaceman toy from TOY STORY, this film follows the legendary Space Ranger after he’s marooned on a hostile planet millions of light-years from Earth, alongside his commander and their crew. As Buzz tries to find a way back home through space and time, he’s joined by a group of ambitious recruits and his charming robot companion cat. Complicating matters and threatening the mission is the arrival of Zurg, an imposing presence with an army of ruthless robots and a mysterious agenda. This is a fun and enjoyable film with a terrific score from Michael Giacchino. “LIGHTYEAR is not just a sci-fi movie – it’s a sci-fi movie that exists within Andy’s world,” says Giacchino. “I felt that the music needed to embody the love that Andy felt watching Buzz on screen for the first time. The more I thought about Andy in the theater seeing this movie, the more I realized that LIGHTYEAR is exactly the kind of movie that I would have loved as a kid. So, I tried to inject the music with as much fun and childlike joy as I could, to honor the spirit of kids – like me and Andy – seeing their favorite movies on the big screen for the very first time.” The score was recorded with an 89-piece orchestra and a 39-member choir, and every bit of those elements are heard on the screen and in the soundtrack album. The score is built around assertive themes for Buzz (an especially thrilling motif), the Hawthornes [Buzz’s commanding officer and her grown daughter], and the villain of the piece, Zurg. The four-note main theme is resonant throughout the score and is a fine piece of writing, speaking of Buzz’s heroism, dedication to duty, and perseverance even in the midst of multiple failures as he tries to rescue the marooned colony. I never get tired of hearing its heraldic reassurance. Gleaming with brassy engagements, melodic compassion, and fun excitement, the score is a delight from start to finish. “One of my favorite sequences is called Mission Perpetual,” says Giacchino. “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.” One of Giacchino’s best scores.
The soundtrack is now available at these links.
Listen to “Mission Perpetual” from LIGHTYEAR:

MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE REVELATION Vol. 2/McCreary/Sparks & Shadows - cd
The second volume of music from producer/showrunner Kevin Smith’s continuation of the 1983 HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE, based on the Mattel’s toy line, proffers not only a superior storyline to the franchise’s lineage, but outstanding animation and musical treatment from start to finish. Released digitally last November, we now have a beautifully resounding CD version to crank up at high volume from high definition sound systems. A spiritual sequel to the 1983–1985 series HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE by Filmation (while ignoring the events of 1990’s THE NEW ADVENTURES OF HE-MAN), the plot of REVELATION explores unresolved storylines from the original 1980s series. With a superb voice cast (featuring Chris Wood, Mark Hamill, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Liam Cunningham, and Lena Headey), the new series focuses on the final assault by Skeletor on Castle Grayskull, which caused his own demise while also putting an end to He-Man and simultaneously damaging the source of all magic in existence. After their battle fractured Eternia, it’s up to Teela to solve the mystery of the missing Sword of Power in a race against time to prevent the end of the Universe. Her journey will uncover the secrets of Grayskull at last. “I think this score should be epic, symphonic, and completely serious,” McCreary wrote in his CD album notes and in his online blog (the latter has much more detail about creating the score), quoting what he told Smith in his pitch as composer for the show. “I want to write music that sounds like Basil Poledouris collaborated with early Metallica to score CONAN THE BARBARIAN, with a little HEAVY METAL ‘81 thrown in.”
With Smith’s conceptualization and direction of this reboot, and McCreary’s richly thematic score, in which every character is given their own unique theme but never overplayed or worn out their welcome – and reinforced by his sturdy main theme – the music flavors the story and its characters while creating a dynamic sonic treatment which is nothing less than magnificent, with an hour of impactful orchestral music to savor and consume with delight. From the eloquent poignancy of “Randor And Marlena” to the rising heraldic choral sonority of “Celestial Apex,” strengthened by heavy brass and drums; from the extended congruity of “The Temptation Of Evil Lyn” with its own rhapsodic narrative and bolstering dramatic treatment from orchestra and choir, to the enthusiastic five-part, in all 25-minute “For Eternia” suites which dominate the latter half of both series and soundtrack, this is delicious, absorbing, and massively robust music. Along with his previous Volume 1 soundtrack, Bear’s latest triumphant work is a symphony unto itself; one that provides as much soaring drama and affecting instrumental as any fantastic chronicle of cinema we’ve experienced. The CD is available from La-La Land Records and as of press time autographed copies were still available. (See my review of the Season 1 soundtrack in my July-August 2021 column.)
Listen to “Birth of a Savage” from MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE REVELATION Vol. 2:

MORE THAN ROBOTS/Stephanie Economou/Disney – digital
This documentary from Disney+ follows four teams of teenagers from around the world as they prepare for the 2020 FIRST® Robotics Competition. The film is directed by Gillian Jacobs in her feature-length documentary directorial debut. Composer Stephanie Economou, whose score for JUPITER’S LEGACY [see review in my May 2021 column] and two episodes of the Marvel superhero doc MARVEL 616 really impressed me, has crafted a vibrant score for this doc. The music is effervescent in its optimism and encouraging timbre; the composer maintains a speedy, percussive dynamic that supports the enthusiasm and commitment of the teenagers as they engage in designing and creating their robots, while also keeping in mind the competition between the four teams to win the challenge. The penultimate track, “Global Disappointment,” reminds us that three of the teams lost the contest with an encouraging yet sympathetic air, yet recognizing their efforts and dedication. The music is fun, exciting, and makes for an enjoyable listen apart from its structured presentation on screen. Quite nicely done. For more information on the composer, see the bio in her website.
Listen to the track “Vitruvians Play to Win” from MORE THAN ROBOTS:

NOPE/Michael Abels/Back Lot Music – digital
This score marks Michael Abels’ third feature film score with director Jordan Peele, having scored the director’s previous thrillers GET OUT and US. This film is set in a remote gulch of inland California and follows two siblings (Daniel Kaluuya & Keke Palmer) as they experience a close encounter of the alien kind, complicated when the owner of an adjacent theme park tries to profit from the mysterious, otherworldly phenomenon. “NOPE is my most ambitious score to date,” says Abels in the score’s PR material. “There are elements from the genres of sci-fi, action, horror, and westerns, but always through the tonal palette of Jordan Peele’s unique vision. The lines between source music and score are blurred, as a good part of the score seems to be playing at the theme park, which is a key location in the story. The score is at times terrifying, yet also invokes the sense of awe and wonder that the characters feel as they realize what they are seeing. The film eventually becomes a grand adventure, and so the music expands into the larger than-life scale we expect of a summer blockbuster.” In an interview with Steve Greene at, Abels elaborates a bit further: “The idea of ‘bad miracle’ is an important theme of the film because it’s equal parts ‘Oh shit’ and ‘Oh my god!’ The music needs to have both those senses together. Both a little bit of a sense of awe like we would have looking at the Grand Canyon, but then also the urge to run far away from the Grand Canyon because falling in would not be good. That’s the dichotomy that’s present in the film. So in the music, you hear a sense of a little bit of awe and magic, and then there’s sheer terror. But then there’s also a sense of a real epic adventure towards the end and giant music that accompanies a giant, historic adventure.”
The mix of science fiction with horror and a touch of the Western milieu (thoroughly engaged in the delightfully Coplandesque “Jupiter’s Claim”) gives the score an interesting and likable contrasting flavor, although by the time the story gets going in full thrust, it’s the scarier music that takes the lion’s share of the riffing. Both film and score address the sci-fi/horror elements in stronger treatment than Peele’s previous two thrillers, and both seem to be enjoying stepping into unabashed sci-horror territory. The first eleven tracks set the stage for characters, environment, and situation, but with track 12, “Ancient Aliens” the mood begins to shift. At this point, with cues like “Holy Sh*t It’s Real,” and its furtively sustained strings, the increasing dynamic of “Progressive Anxiety,” “Blood Rain,” and the full-blown creepiness of “WTF Is That?” the score emerges powerfully into scare mode, while the earlier middle portion of “Man Down” is an effective action cue that propels a rising eeriness. That material is reprised later when Abels adds a choir to “Abduction” as it grows into an energetic, commanding cue of further active dynamic. There, the choir reprises both astonishment and dread, continuing after a break into the short terror tones of “Havoc” and the somber middle focus of “Em & Angel Fly.” Near the end, “A Hero Falls” offers a brief had of plucked respite and then French Horn, rising to a pleasingly powerful heroic crescendo capped with trumpet calls. Action moments follow with “Pursuit,” and then a somber woodwind melody intones amidst bowing strings with “Wishing Well” which rises to a swelling respite of its own. With the conclusive score track, “Nope,” we are returned to the Western territory with a whistler and a male choir intoning Morriconesque chanting and then full choir, which brings us full circle to a completely pleasing conclusion. A bonus track is added to the end, with actor Michael Wincott solemly intoning a few lines from Sheb Wooley’s ‘50s novelty song “The Purple People Eater” (here spelled “Purple People Reader”), concluding with some riffs from Abel’s suspense music. The soundtrack album also features five songs heard in the film. The digital album can be purchased and streamed from Amazon and elsewhere, and a vinyl version by Waxwork Records is forthcoming. An outstanding score by all respects.
Listen to the track “Nope” from NOPE:

PREHISTORIC PLANET/Hans Zimmer, Andrew James Christie, Anže Rozman & Kara Talve/Lakeshore - digital
This new documentary is produced for Apple TV+ by BBC Studios, featuring an original score by Anže Rozman (THE PLANETS, UNIVERSE), & Kara Talve (PERPETUAL PLANET: HEROES OF THE OCEANS) of Bleeding Fingers Music with Hans Zimmer; the main theme is by Zimmer & Andrew James Christie (THE FLOOD). Eloquently narrated by David Attenborough, the five episode series features astonishing photorealistic visual effects from MPC (THE LION KING, THE JUNGLE BOOK) applied to concept art created by Jellyfish Pictures (THE BOOK OF BOBA FETT, SPIRIT: UNTAMED) to bring the world’s most extraordinary creatures to life, like we’ve never seen them before. “Our whole goal with the score was to make dinosaurs feel majestic and otherworldly,” said Kara in a Behind The Score video interview [link below]. “We didn’t want to portray them in a scary way as they so often are.” The score was recorded with the ABC National Orchestra of Wales, which gives it a fine and very grand sound.
Combining award-winning wildlife filmmaking, the latest paleontology learnings, and state-of-the-art technology to unveil the spectacular habitats and inhabitants of ancient Earth for a one-of-a-kind immersive experience. Produced by the world-renowned team at BBC Studios Natural History Unit, the series presents little-known and surprising facts of dinosaur life set against the backdrop of the environments of Cretaceous times, including coasts, deserts, freshwater, ice worlds and forests. Aiding in bringing these ancient giants to life is the powerful score with its soaring melodies, inventive textures, and fascinating sonic accompaniments. Said Anže Rozman in an interview with Jazz Tangcay of Variety, about scoring the series, “We decided to try to make instruments out of bones, dinosaur bone replicas, fossils, and rocks. We bought a bunch of these at the shop in Sedona and started pondering what kind of creation we could make. We enlisted the help of Chaz (Charles LaBrecque), who has been building unique custom instruments for Hans for years.” Kara adds, “Soon Chaz helped us bring to life the Raptor Violin, Hadro Cello, Triserachord, Petrified Wood Xylophone, and The Fat Rex.” (review continues below)
Listen to the series main theme here:

With nearly two hours of music, the tracks are set up according to the creatures featured in each segment, and thus take their titles from those elements of the episodes. This results in very unique and differing musical treatments. From the powerful and compelling main theme to the festive dance of the theropod dinosaur Carnotaurus, the delicious elegant textures and vocalise of the “Bioluminescent Ammonite,” the soaring majesty of the flying “Pterosaurus” or the flavorful scherzo of  the bird-like ornithomimosaur “Deinocheirus,” the rhythmic prowling, dangerous growling tonalities, tentative keyboard notes and wiry strings of the “Velociraptors,” the woodwind flavors, extended electronic sustains, and delicate melodies for the “Ankylosaur Brothers,” the pounding, frantic orchestral and choral combat of “Mosasaur Battle,” the hushed, sensitive melodies of the duckbilled “Hadrosaur Nursery,” the mix of electronics and orchestra activities of the large-beaked pterosaur “Quetzalcoatlus,´the ponderous movement of the gigantic titanosaurian sauropod rightly named “Drednoughtus” with its lumbering brasses, male vocalisms, and respectful wind melodies, and so on. With 25 distinctive creature tracks and the opening main theme, this is a powerful and immersive soundtrack, equal to the size and temperament of the superbly CGI animated prehistoric creatures roaming across the series’ varied landscapes. It makes for a wonderful soundtrack experience. The digital album is available from these links. There’s a thorough Behind The Score video with Anže and Kara about scoring the show and how they created and played the unique custom instruments, here.
Listen to the track “Carnotaurus:”

THE RAILWAY CHILDREN RETURN/Edward Farmer & Martin Phipps/
Movie Score Media – digital

This 2022 drama adventure family film directed by Morgan Matthews has to do with a group of children who, being evacuated to a Yorkshire village during the Second World War, encounter a young soldier who, like them, is far away from home. The film, part-sequel and part-remake of the 1970 film THE RAILWAY CHILDREN (itself based on the E. Nesbit novel of the same name), stars Sheridan Smith, Jenny Agutter, and John Bradley and has been released by StudioCanal (UK) and Blue Fox Entertainment (USA). “Working with co-composer Martin Phipps and editor Rebecca Lloyd, we crafted a score which, I feel, is quite musical,” said Farmer. “Melodies have space to play out and develop, and several sequences were edited to early cues, giving them a strong connection to the film. I grew up about 20 miles from where the film is set, so I also had a great sense of the people and places that surround the story. Yorkshire often gets attention for its filming locations, but to me, it’s a place rich in culture, music, art, and generosity. It’s this spirit, combined with a sense of adventure, that I tried to capture in ‘God’s Country,’ and this melody develops throughout the score, featuring in the film’s great train-stopping climax.” The music is absorbedly moving and delightful, with a sublime, melodic main theme largely focusing on a brisk piano allegro supported by strings and winds, nicely integrated with penetrating textures and striking thematic elements. The theme is sturdy enough to maintain various subordinate treatments and pleasing enough to warrant repeated recurrences; while supporting motifs like “Conkers” (presumably referring to an English children’s game of the era) provides an enthusiastic dramatic energy, “Telegram” is introduced with an affecting violin solo, ending with a solo piano counterpart, and a brisk motif of strings, winds, and drums gives “Hide and Seek” a fun energy. “Dreams of Home” is both poignant and tentative; a somber horn arrangement over strings and fluttery winds depicts “Mr. Churchill;” “Abe’s Escape” reprises the main theme within an increasingly dramatic pattern; “Getaway” is a lively cue with a very affecting rhythm and beat and a rousing climax, then calms with a touch of the main theme’s piano motif. “Military Police” takes elements of the main theme and creates a strident sense of danger; “Evacuation Kids” adds a bit of thrill to the proceedings as the evacuation of children is both fraught with danger as well as eventual safety. The album concludes with “Release” and a reprise of the main theme for a happy ending. All in all a very fine score and a very enjoyable album. For more details see MovieScore Media.
Listen to the track “God’s Children:”

THE SECRET SERVICE/Barry Gray/Silva Screen – digital/CD forthcoming
The 7th album in the Silva Screen ongoing series of Gerry Anderson productions (a CD will be coming soon; see Silva links below) offers Barry Gray’s soundtrack to the 1969 science fiction series, THE SECRET SERVICE, created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and filmed by their production company, Century 21, for ITC Entertainment. This is the first ever commercial release of the soundtrack in any form – newly compiled, mastered, and designed by the creative team at Fanderson, The Official Gerry And Sylvia Anderson Appreciation Society. The show was a unique blend of live action and Supermarionation which followed the exploits of an elderly vicar, Father Stanley Unwin, a puppet character voiced by (and modelled on) the comedian of the same name, and his gardener, secret agents for B.I.S.H.O.P. (or British Intelligence Service Headquarters’s “Operation Priest”) which combats criminals and terrorists from overseas in the year 1969. To appropriately reflect THE SECRET SERVICE’s premise and compliment the gentle title sequence created to introduce the series, Barry Gray decided to write a three-part baroque fugue in the style of Bach. To perform the vocals, the Mike Sammes Singers were hired, the vocal group Gray had used on his SUPERCAR theme. Once coupled with soft organ and minimalist percussion, a unique musical piece was born to bookend Father Unwin’s adventures, perfectly capturing the off-beat nature of the series.
This show was Gray’s sixth sci-fi series for Anderson, appearing between CAPTAIN SCARLET AND THE MYSTERONS (1967) and the live-action series UFO (1970), occupying a single season in 1969. Vocal group The Mike Sammes Singers gives the main theme a poppy “dooby-dooby” chant over church organ and percussion, singing in the style of The Swingle Singers, who were originally considered until their fee was deemed too high to accept. The theme is re-introduced in “Calling Father Unwin,” in which the vocal material is mixed in with organ, tubular bells, and other instrumental treatments in a variety of measures. The 14-track single CD album offers about 42 minutes of music, some of it is more cheerful and comedic in style than previous Barry Gray Supermarionation series, as the show was intended to be more comedically oriented (in 1969 comedy fashion), but it’s fun to see Gray enjoying himself with some material that’s a bit lighter in form and function. It’s a welcome addition to Barry’s Gerry Anderson library, and that vocal title theme is definitely an infectious delight!  See Silva Screen US  or Silva Screen UK   
Watch the trailer to THE SECRET SERVICE via YouTube:

THOR LOVE AND THUNDER/Michael Giacchino & Nami Melumad/ Hollywood Records & Marvel Music/digital
Michael Giacchino joins Nami Melumad (STAR TREK: PRODIGY, STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS) to create an exciting and richly-textured soundtrack for Marvel’s new THOR movie, which co-features Jane Foster as the new Thor. The score for THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER was recorded over 12 days with a 94-piece orchestra and a 36-member choir. The orchestra included 12 horns and eight trombones, and, unusually, no woodwinds. “The first piece of music I wrote was the THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER suite, which appears on the soundtrack as ‘Mama’s Gotta Brand New Hammer,’” said Giacchino). “It’s basically one part heavy metal, one part electronic, two parts British brass band and a dash of Hollywood strings for garnish. There’s a point where the track suddenly transitions from orchestral to rock, and when I played it for the first time for [director] Taika [Waititi], he abruptly stood up and began playing air guitar. It was really important that this score was able to emphasize the emotional moments as well as the fun ones – and after Taika’s spontaneous reaction, I thought that this mixing of musical flavors just might work.” The result is kind of a mixture of electric glam rock and orchestral might which somehow seems to work effectively for this iteration of the God(s) of Thunder. There’s are enough thematic melodic material to satisfy the emotive elements of the characters and their stories, and enough thunderous power material to serve the film’s action needs, with the electric guitar work serving (aside from its simple placement as needle drops of various pop and rock artists [largely Guns ‘N Roses]), perhaps awkwardly (though Giacchino and music supervisor Dave Jordon manage the two elements pretty well) to give the film its supportive crescendoing drive. The soundtrack album doesn’t feature any of the needle drops, but Giacchino and Malumed incorporate their own rock elements into the orchestral and choral mix and I think it works fine as an integrated mix of tempo, rhythm, and sound, and the electric rock material is fairly minimized and becomes another element, like synths, added to the arrangement. “The Ballad of Love and Thunder,” which concludes the soundtrack, at 8-minutes plus, is a good example. (review continues below)
Listen to the track, “The Power of Thor Compels You:”

The film’s main theme has two parts: a noble element to convey the power and thunder of Thor, played on horns, and a more reflective piece played on solo cello for Jane Foster. “I did this to convey the effect Jane has on Thor’s life,” Giacchino explained. “She causes him to look within himself, and she brings out parts of him that he may not have known were there. So, while Jane’s theme is similar and connected to Thor’s, it offers a new perspective.” Paraphrased in an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Nami Melumad, who came onto the project with about two months to finish the score while Giacchino had another assignment, noted that the rock songs “were already part of the rough cuts she saw and she got to work to create ‘orchestral music with rock band elements,’ so that the score complemented the songs already there.” While this score is a far cry from Patrick Doyle, Brian Tyler, or Mark Mothersbaugh’s previous treatment of the THOR MCU film scores, it serves the film and Waititi’s presentation well, and in fact the rock material is fairly minimal on the soundtrack recording. There are also several more delicate tracks (“All’s Fair In Love And Thor” [yes, Giacchino named the track titles!], for example).
Listen to the track “A Gorr Phobia:

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING/Mychael Danna/Decca – digital/CD/Vinyl
This film is a coming-of-age mystery drama film, based on the 2018 novel of the same name by Delia Owens, directed by Olivia Newman. The film stars Daisy Edgar-Jones as a woman who raised herself in the marshes of the deep South and becomes a suspect in the murder of a man she was once involved with. Taylor John Smith, Harris Dickinson, Michael Hyatt, Sterling Macer, Jr., and David Strathairn co-star. Mychael Danna, long recognized for his evocative blending of non-western traditions with orchestral and electronic music, supplies a thoroughly enjoyable and persuasive score, fitting the period of the film with emphasis on strings, winds, and piano. The musical accompaniment called for unusual instrumentation to capture the sound of the marsh that is central to the storyline. Danna worked with a musician who collects shells, conches, and other natural marine musical instruments and set about matching their sonic effects with the traditional musical instruments of North Carolina, where the story is set, including banjo, fiddle, and autoharp. “One of the major characters in this story is the setting: the marshes of North Carolina,” Danna said. “Kya grows up here in the marsh, it is her life, her love, and her study. It was vital to Livi [Olivia Newman] and me to center the music in the natural world that suffuses virtually every frame of this film, as the marsh is at the heart of Kya and at the heart of the story.” This is a very delicate, wistful, and enthralling score, tonally and instrumentally very rich, gripping the listener’s attention from the start with its elegance and sensitive instrumentation.
(review continues below).
Listen to the track “Out Yonder Where The Crawdads Sing:”

The score begins with a wistful female vocalise in “Out Yonder Where The Crawdads Sing,” to which the sound of the resident cicadas become a vibe within the music, here and in later tracks, establishing the sound of the place and the mood of the landscape; the vocalise is reprised in “Snow Geese.” Danna gives Kya a reflective theme in “They Call Me Kya;” the sonorous “The Marsh Girl,” with its inclusion of bird cries also nicely configures the countryside (as with the crawfish in Track 2; the birds are heard again near the end in “It Was Always Tate”), while “Mussels For Jumpin’” with its banjo, acoustic guitar, and fiddle nicely sets the mood for the marsh environment in which she lives. “A Swamp Knows All About Death,” imposes a harsh, almost hostile cadence recognizing the predicament Daisy finds herself in. “Clothes From Miss Mabel” harbors a nice country tune for fiddle, guitar, banjo, and strings; the softly dramatic “Red Wool Fibers” proffers a tentative mix of piano, tremolo strings, and autoharp; “I Just Wanna Talk” lends an air of menace with imposing strains of violin, becoming more vibrato as it develops, and what sounds like fingers nervously tapping on a guitar or violin body; vocalise added at the end, in all a fascinating infusion of resonant sound. “We the Jury” reverberates with tension, then opens with a lovely melodic string harmony, presumably addressing a favorable outcome for Kya here. The score’s longest track at 4:30 mins is the penultimate “I Am Every Shell Washed Upon The Shore,” which concludes the album very nicely with a fine, reverberating vocalise added to its crescendo. The last track, “Teach You To Read,” suggests a kind of normalcy for Kya, and a happy end note with its mix of autoharp, piano, and strings. The score is very unobtrusive and often blends in with the film’s environment and story; listening to it on its own forms an intriguing resonant ambiance that brings the film to life even without its visual elements. Danna provided just what the film needs, and I quite like the score, especially its richness of texture and distinct clarity. The album begins with an original folk ballad, “Carolina,” written and performed for the movie by Taylor Swift. When the film’s promotional trailer was first released, she said that she “got absolutely lost in [the book] when I read it years ago” and “wanted to create something haunting and ethereal.” The soundtrack album is available digitally from Amazon or from Decca Records on CD and vinyl.
Listen to the track “They Call Me Kya:”



Nominations for the 74th  Emmy® Awards were announced on July 12, 2022. Here are the nominations for original music composition. For a list of all nominations, see Tune in Monday, September 12 for the 74th Emmy Awards on NBC and Peacock.

Outstanding Music Composition For A Series (Original Dramatic Score)
• THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT, “The Reykjavík Ice Sculpture Festival Is Lovely This Time Of Year,” Blake Neely, Composer
• LOKI ,”Glorious Purpose,”  Natalie Holt, Composer
• ONLY MURDERS IN THE BUILDING, “The Boy From 6B,” Siddhartha Khosla, Composer
• SCHMIGADOON! “Schmigadoon!,” Christopher Willis, Composer
• SEVERANCE, “The We We Are,” Theodore Shapiro, Composer
• SUCCESSION, “Chiantishire,” Nicholas Britell, Composer

Outstanding Music Composition For A Limited Or Anthology Series, Movie Or Special (Original Dramatic Score)
• 1883, “1883,” Brian Tyler & Breton Vivian, Composers
• MOON KNIGHT, “Asylum,” Hesham Nazih, Composer
• STATION ELEVEN, “Unbroken Circle,” Dan Romer, Composer
• A VERY BRITISH SCANDAL, “Episode 1,” Nathan Barr, Composer
• THE WHITE LOTUS, “Mysterious Monkeys,” Cristobal Tapia de Veer, Composer

Outstanding Music Composition For A Documentary Series Or Special (Original Dramatic Score)
• 14 PEAKS: NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE, Nainita Desai, Composer
• LUCY AND DESI, David Schwartz, Composer
• RETURN TO SPACE, Mychael Danna & Harry Gregson-Williams, Composers
• THEY CALL ME MAGIC, Terence Blanchard, Composer
• THE TINDER SWINDLER, Jessica Jones, Composer

Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music
• LOKI, Natalie Holt, Composer
• ONLY MURDERS IN THE BUILDING, Siddhartha Khosla, Composer
• SEVERANCE, Theodore Shapiro, Composer
• SQUID GAME, Jung Jae-il, Composer
• THE WHITE LOTUS, Cristobal Tapia de Veer, Composer


Soundtracks & Film Music News

Pinar Toprak (KRYPTON, CAPTAIN MARVEL, STAR GIRL) has composed the first new theme music for a National Football League package since John Williams penned “Wide Receiver” for NBC Sports in 2006. Toprak is also the first woman to compose an original theme for an NFL media package. She recorded the theme and multiple variations on July 8, conducting a 70-piece orchestra at Nashville’s Ocean Way studios. Read more details in Jon Burlingame’s interview with the composer in Variety.

Stars from Broadway and West End will pay tribute to 8-time Academy Award winner Alan Menken on September 23rd with a concert and on September 24th with a concert and award ceremony where the acclaimed composer and songwriter will be honored with the Max Steiner Film Music Achievement Award by the city of Vienna. The program for the gala includes highlights of Alan Menken’s career including, THE LITTLE MERMAID, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, ALADDIN, HERCULES, THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, and POCAHONTAS. Disney+ will stream the gala event globally, alongside Austrian Broadcasting ORF, for the first time in the ceremony’s history.

The upcoming science fiction/horror/action film PREY is the fifth installment in the PREDATOR franchise and a prequel to the first four films. The film tells the origin story of the Predator in the world of the Comanche Nation 300 years ago. The film is being scored by Sarah Schachner, the composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist best known for her energetic video game scores for the ASSASSIN’S CREED and CALL OF DUTY game franchises and films such as THE LAZARUS EFFECT (2015) and REMAINS (2011). The film is scheduled for streaming release on August 5, 2022 on Hulu.
Watch the trailer for PREY:

Bear McCreary has scored the new animated feature PAWS OF FURY: THE LEGEND OF HANK, about a down-on-his-luck hound (Michael Cera) who finds himself in a town full of cats who need a hero to defend them from a ruthless villain’s (Ricky Gervais) evil plot to wipe their village off the map. With help from a reluctant teacher (Samuel L. Jackson) to train him, our underdog must assume the role of town samurai and team up with the villagers to save the day. The only problem… cats hate dogs! The movie pounced into theatres on July 15 via Paramount Pictures. Read Bear’s blog for details about his scoring this film, here.
An animated short film called BAD HAMSTER precedes PAWS OF FURY in its theatrical release. This short, related to the animated BIG NATE series currently streaming on Paramount+, has been scored by Freddie Wiedmann and provided with an original song written by him in collaboration with Sarah Allan. “The music in the show is reminiscent of 90s garage band/rock music, with the occasional place for orchestral comedy,” Wiedmann told Soundtrax. “We also found interesting places to introduce Ennio Morricone style western music, as well as a ton of original songs in every conceivable genre. Overall this show is as versatile in music as it can be!”

In additional Bear McCreary news, Rolling Stone has revealed that Bear will score THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RINGS OF POWER, while Howard Shore returns to Middle-earth for the show’s theme tune. “As I set out to compose the score for this series, I strove to honor Howard Shore’s musical legacy,” McCreary told Rolling Stone. “When I heard his majestic main title, I was struck by how perfectly his theme and my original score, though crafted separately, fit together so beautifully. I am excited for audiences to join us on this new musical journey to Middle-earth.” THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RINGS OF POWER is an upcoming fantasy television series set thousands of years before Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in the Second Age of Middle-earth, and follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-Earth. The series is scheduled to premiere on the streaming service Prime Video on September 2, 2022, with new episodes released on a weekly basis. Amazon Music has revealed two of McCreary’s pieces for the show. The teasingly named ‘Galadriel’ and ‘Sauron’ —are available to stream here.
Watch the show’s trailer, revealed last week:

David Buckley (THE GOOD WIFE, THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM, PAPILLON [2017], GREENLAND, THE LINCOLN LAWYER) is scoring the upcoming Netflix original series THE SANDMAN. The show is based on Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel series, which follows the people and places affected by Morpheus, the Dream King, as he mends the cosmic – and human – mistakes he’s made during his vast existence. The series will premiere on August 5, 2022 on Netflix.
Watch THE SANDMAN trailer:

Amie Doherty (SPIRIT UNTAMED, UNDONE, BATTLE AT BIG ROCK) is composing the original music for Marvel Studios’ upcoming Disney+ original series SHE-HULK: ATTORNEY AT LAW. Based on the Marvel Comics character She-Hulk, the 9-part comedy follows an attorney specializing in superhuman-oriented legal cases who must navigate the complicated life of a single, 30-something who also happens to be a green 6-foot-7-inch superpowered hulk. The series is intended to be the eighth television series in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), sharing continuity with the films of the franchise. The show will premiere on August 17, 2022 on Disney+
-via filmmusicreporter and other sources.

In the new horror film THE SUMMONED, a young man and his rock star girlfriend are forced to settle a supernatural debt that dates back generations when they and another couple are summoned to an exclusive self-help retreat with a sinister side. The film is directed by actor Mark Meir (FEAR THE WALKING DEAD, IT’S IN THE BLOOD, UNDER THE WESTERN SON) in his directorial debut. The film has been scored by composer Brian Satterwhite, a professional film composer based in Austin, Texas. His many accolades include twelve gold medals and four silver medals from the Park City Film Music Festival; he has also composed a handful of scores for silent films performed by the Dallas Chamber Symphony including METROPOLIS (1927), THE CABINET OF DR. CALGARI (1920), the Buster Keaton short film THE SCARECROW (1920), and the Harold Lloyd feature A SAILOR-MADE MAN (1921) which was a finalist for a Jerry Goldsmith Award in 2013. In addition to composing, Brian is also an avid conductor, orchestrator, arranger, music engraver and author who writes extensively about film music for various web sites and liner notes for soundtrack albums.
Watch the film’s trailer:

Lorne Balfe has scored MAN VS. BEE, a new British television comedy miniseries created and written by Rowan Atkinson and William Davies. Atkinson stars as a down-on-his-luck man who finds himself entrenched in a battle with a bee while house sitting a rich couple’s modern mansion. A 20-track soundtrack was released alongside the series on June 24, 2022. Listen to Balfe’s bee-enfused cue “Euhesma” from MAN VS. BEE:

Balfe has also scored SECRET HEADQUARTERS, an upcoming American comedy-adventure superhero film about young Charlie Kincaid who, while hanging out with his friends after school, discover his father (Owen Wilson) is a superhero when they find a secret headquarters under his home. When villains attack, they must team up to defend the headquarters and save the world. The film is set to be released on August 12, 2022 on Paramount+. Watch the film’s trailer:

Balfe will also be also scoring DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: HONOR AMONG THIEVES an upcoming fantasy action-adventure comedy film based on the tabletop role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons, set in the campaign setting of Forgotten Realms, and serves as a reboot to its film series. This film is scheduled to be released theatrically in the United States on March 3, 2023, by Paramount Pictures. And he’s also been composing the original music for the upcoming DC superhero movie BLACK ADAM, with Dwayne Johnson in the title role as the titular anti-hero who first appeared in DC Comics in the 1940s as a power-corrupt villain and slowly became an anti-hero by the 2000s.
Watch the BLACK ADAM trailer:

Directed by actress/director Clara Gabrielle, THE UNCANNY is a horror thriller about a therapist who, after a life altering trauma, seeks a fresh start in a new home. As she attempts to focus on her own fledgling art career, she soon realizes you can’t outrun memories. The film has been scored by Miriam Mayer (composer for LIFE INTERRUPTED, TRIALS OF EMBER, BLOOD OF THE MUMMY, and numerous shorts). The film is scheduled for release on July 30th 2022.

DAY SHIFT is an upcoming horror-action film directed by J.J. Perry in his directorial debut. Jamie Foxx stars as a hard-working, blue-collar dad whose mundane San Fernando Valley pool cleaning job is a front for his real source of income: hunting and killing vampires. The film is scored by Tyler Bates (X, JOHN WICK series, WATCHMEN, SUCKER PUNCH, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY). The film is scheduled to be released on August 12, 2022 by Netflix.

Dynamic Music Partners (Lolita Ritmanis, Michael McQuistion, and Kristopher Carter have composed the music to BATTLE OF THE SUPER SONS, the new WB Animated film dropping on Oct 18, 2022. (See Soundtrack News below for more about these Dynamic composers.)

PREY FOR THE DEVIL (formerly titled The Devil’s Light) is an upcoming American supernatural horror film about a nun who is studying how to perform exorcisms when she encounters a demonic force. The film is directed by Daniel Stamm and written by Robert Zappia. It stars Jacqueline Byers, Virginia Madsen, and Ben Cross (his final film before his death in 2020). Nathan Barr (THE GREAT, CARNIVAL ROW, HEMLOCK GROVE, TRUE BLOOD, HOSTEL) has scored the film, which is scheduled to be released on October 28, 2022.

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA is the sequel to ANT-MAN (2015) and ANT-MAN AND THE WASP (2018) and the 31st film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Composer Christophe Beck, who composed the music for the first two ANT-MAN Films (as well as WANDAVISION and HAWKEYE [the latter with Michael Paraskevas]) is scoring the film. The new movie is said to focus more on the Quantum Realm, which was introduced in the first film and explored further in the second. The new sequel is scheduled for release in the US on February 17, 2023, as part of Phase Four of the MCU.

Composer Jeff Beal has launched his new music label, Categorical Records. “I’ll be consolidating and re-issuing previously self-released works  (such as POLLOCK, BLACKFISH, HE WAS A QUIET MAN, etc.), as well as many of my current catalog unreleased concert & dance pieces, and (of course) selected film scores in the coming years,” Beal said. First out of the gate is his score from the film GAMESTOP, RISE OF THE PLAYERS. The music is a bit of a mash up of Vivaldi meets Chip Tunes – listen here. The movie is available to stream on Hulu.  Follow Categorial Records on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

In Walt Disney Animation Studios’ BAYMAX!, the characters in the unique city of BIG HERO 6 get their own series, packed with adventures. The six-episode series introduces extraordinary characters who need Baymax’s signature approach to healing in more ways than they realize. The series has been scored by Dominic Lewis (THE KINGS MAN series, JOLT, PETER RABBIT 2: THE RUNAWAY), and a soundtrack has been issued by Disney, available now at these links. BAYMAX! is now streaming exclusively on Disney+.

SHE SAID is an upcoming American drama film directed by Maria Schrader and based on the 2019 book of the same name by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, journalists from The New York Times who exposed Harvey Weinstein’s history of abuse and sexual misconduct against women. It stars Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan. The film’s music is by Nicholas Britell (MOONLIGHT, CRUELLA, DON'T LOOK UP, ANDOR). The film is scheduled to be released in the United States on November 18, 2022, by Universal Pictures. Watch the film’s trailer below:

Lucasfilm’s STAR WARS: YOUNG JEDI ADVENTURES is the first animated STAR WARS series focused for preschoolers, grade schoolers, and their families. It is scheduled for release in Spring 2023 on Disney+ and Disney Junior. Composer Matthew Margeson (KINGSMAN SERIES, ROCKETMAN, MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN, PAM & TOMMY) will to score the series, which will be part of the era known as the High Republic, set centuries before the events of STAR WARS: THE PHANTOM MENACE. - via filmmusicreporter and other sources 

In SAMARITAN, a new action thriller launching globally on Prime Video on August 26, thirteen-year-old Sam Cleary (Javon “Wanna” Walton) suspects that his mysterious and reclusive neighbor Mr. Smith (Sylvester Stallone) is actually a heroic legend hiding in plain sight. The film is directed by Julius Avery (OVERLORD, SON OF A GUN) and features a score by Jed Kurzel (THE BABADOOK, SON OF A GUN, ENCOUNTER) and Kevin Kiner (PEACEMAKER, STAR WARS CLONE WARS, THE BAD BATCH).

The upcoming Disney sequel HOCUS POCUS 2 is being scored by John Debney, who composed the original 1993 film. Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, and Doug Jones reprise their original roles. Taking place twenty-nine years after the events of the original film, the sequel begins when three young women accidentally bring back the Sanderson Sisters to modern day Salem, and must figure out how to stop the child-hungry witches from wreaking havoc on the world. The film is scheduled to be released on Disney+ on September 30, 2022
Watch the film’s teaser trailer:

La-La Land Records presents JURASSIC PARK, a limited 2-CD re-issue presentation of John Williams’ score to the 1993 blockbuster film. This re-issue re-creates the original 1993 soundtrack album, which is featured on Disc 2 and is followed by the source music track “Stalling Around” (the composer’s homage to classic Warner Bros. cartoon music for Jurassic’s “Mr. DNA” sequence). Disc 1 showcases the entire main core presentation, which now includes, for the first time, the performances and mixes of “Journey To the Island” and “Dennis Steals The Embryo” as heard in the film. The label has also issued 30th anniversary limited edition 2-CD sets of James Horner’s PATRIOT GAMES and CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER. See

In additional JURASSIC PARK news, Michael Giacchino’s soundtrack to JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION is available on CD from Back Lot Music, via Amazon, which includes a 16-page booklet with orchestra info and some comments from director Colin Trevorrow.

James Horner’s beloved score to WILLOW, Ron Howard’s 1988’s fantasy adventure, is given expanded 2-CD set by Intrada. Horner took inspiration from rousing action and swordplay as well as the fantastic special effects made by ILM, including landmark early use of digital morphing technology, a CGI breakthrough. Horner showcases his energetic youthful big-orchestra vernacular on one hand while balancing with his newly-maturing severe, intense musical vocabulary, resulting in incredibly wide-ranging score. Besides its colorful array of material, the score is also notable for several lengthy cues, amongst the longest of the composer’s career. Massive pieces often play as movements of a symphony, developing ideas with cohesion, complexity, generating considerable tension, then relief. The original 1988 album generously featured over 70 minutes of music but the film’s wall-to-wall scoring included over 100 minutes of music – which is now available on this Intrada 2-CD presentation with some 107 minutes of music, including a wealth of previously unavailable cues.
For more details see Intrada.

The digital CD with the film score for A KIDNAP, by Italian composer Marco Werba, has been released. The film is about an adopted brother and younger sister who are kidnapped and must escape before the kidnappers and their twisted relationships implode. Listen to the score on Spotify.

SHE WILL is a 2021 British psychological horror comedy-drama film starring Alice Krige as an aging film star who goes to a healing retreat in Scotland with her nurse after a double mastectomy. It turns out the place where she stays is the site where women were burnt as witches in the 1700s; their ashes fill the land and give her the power to exact revenge in her dreams. What follows is a tale of empowerment and witchcraft drawn from the earth, which is both horrific yet uplifting. The film co-stars Malcolm McDowell, John McCrea, and Rupert Everett. The film has been scored by Clint Mansell. Mercury has released a digital soundtrack; a vinyl edition will reportedly be coming out on August 5 and is available to order from Amazon here. Mansell has also recently scored the BBC mini-series THE PURSUIT OF LOVE; the 3-parter premiered last month in the UK and is currently awaiting a domestic debut date.
- via filmmusicreporter and other sources.
Watch the film’s trailer on YouTube here.
Listen to Mansell’s track “Incantation” from SHE WILL:

Milan Records has released a soundtrack album for the Netflix original series RESIDENT EVIL, which premiered on July 14. The album features selections of the show’s original score composed by Gregory Reveret. Based on the horror franchise, the series is set in its own continuity separate from either the previous six Paul Anderson film series or the 2021 film. The story makes heavy use of flashbacks, set in both 2022 and 2036: the 2022 plotline involve teenage twins who move to New Raccoon City and realize their father may be concealing dark secrets that could destroy the world; the 2036 plotline takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, where Umbrella Corporation’s T-virus has spread across the world, mutating wildlife and the human population. It follows Jade, now thirty, in her efforts to survive in this world. Listen to Reveret’s main theme, “Venus Flytrap” (and below that, watch the series trailer):

Hollywood Records has released a soundtrack album for the Hulu original massively medieval action movie THE PRINCESS (think: Atomic Blonde in the Middle Ages), featuring the original music composed by Emmy Award nominee Natalie Holt (LOKI, OBI-WAN KENOBI, JOURNEY’S END). Also included is Bukola’s cover of Billy Idol’s “White Wedding,” arranged and co-produced by Holt and featured effectively in the film. THE PRINCESS stars Joey King, Dominic Cooper, Olga Kurylenko and Veronica Ng and tells the story of a strong-willed princess who is kidnapped and locked in a remote tower of her father’s castle after she refuses to wed the cruel sociopath to whom she is betrothed. The highly entertaining thriller premiered earlier this month and is now available to stream on Hulu. The soundtrack is available from Amazon and other digital/streaming sources.
Watch the exciting trailer to THE PRINCESS:

Produced in-house at Netflix Animation, the computer-animated adventure film THE SEA BEAST was released to select theaters on June 24, 2022, before debuting on Netflix on July 8. The film tells the story of a legendary sea monster hunter whose life is turned upside down when a young girl stows away on his ship and finds an unlikely friend in a terrifying sea monster. Composer Mark Mancina (SPEED, TWISTER, Disney’s TARZAN, PLANES, and MOANA, CRY MACHO) has scored the film. The digital soundtrack is available from Amazon, Spotify, and other sources.
Watch the film’s trailer:

Horror-soundtrack specialist Howlin’ Wolf Records announces Matt Cannon’s multiple award-winning soundtrack from 2020’s FORCE TO FEAR. The film pays homage to great action horror films of the ‘80s such as SILENT RAGE as it follows two kidnappers, a dealer, a group of college kids, and a killer who converge in an abandoned school. Once they cross paths, it’s a race to survive the night. Cannon’s score “contains a sound that we readily associate with horror films from the ‘80s,” wrote film music journalist John Mansell in the album’s liner notes. “There was a distinct sound that became standard during that decade and Matt Cannon has successfully re-created this sound, whilst also placing his own inimitable musical fingerprint upon the production, fusing both styles and putting them to effective and affecting use.” For more details and sample tracks, see Howlin’ Wolf Records
Also newly released from Howlin’ Wolf is the CD soundtrack of PSYCHO STORM CHASER, composed by Andrew Scott Bell (DEATHCEMBER, HOME SWEET HOME, WINNIE-THE-POOH: BLOOD AND HONEY). The film is about a serial killer who uses the cover of catastrophic storms as both inspiration and disguise for his crimes. Mansell describes the score in his liner notes as “dark and unnerving… the macabre or sinister-sounding pieces of music never outnumber or smother the more melodious interludes. Both variants bring much to the work and also complement one another as the score builds and progresses, making for a balanced and entertaining listen.” See Howlin’Wolf Records.

Anthony & Joe Russo’s latest thriller is THE GRAY MAN: When the CIA’s most skilled operative – whose true identity is known to none – accidentally uncovers dark agency secrets, a psychopathic former colleague puts a bounty on his head, setting off a global manhunt by international assassins. Henry Jackman has scored the film and the digital soundtrack has been released by Netflix Music. Interestingly enough, due to schedule conflicts, Jackman gave the film an effective and powerful score without having seen the film at all, based on discussions with the directors and from readings of the script. Read Jon Burlingame’s intriguing interview/report about the score’s genesis in the July 21 Variety.

Dynamic Music Partners – comprised of composers par excellence Michael McCuistion, Lolita Ritmanis and Kristopher Carter – have released the first soundtrack album on their own label, Dynamic Soundtrack Records, featuring their score from the animated TEEN TITANS series. Volume One features the team’s music from the show’s first season and is available at these links. The anime-influenced animated superhero television series, which played on Cartoon Network from 2003-2006, followed a team of five teenaged superheroes who save the world from many villains around their city while experiencing things normal teens face today.

Lionsgate Records has released a soundtrack album for the Showtime anthology series THE FIRST LADY, featuring the music of Emmy Award winner Geoff Zanelli (PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES, MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL, DISTURBIA, THE PACIFIC, INTO THE WEST). The film is a revelatory reframing of American leadership through the lens of the First Ladies. Starring Viola Davis as Michelle Obama, Michelle Pfeiffer as Betty Ford and Gillian Anderson as Eleanor Roosevelt, this series delves deep into the Ladies’ personal and political lives – exploring everything from their journeys to Washington, family life, and world-changing political contributions, the impact of the White House’s women is no longer hidden from view. The soundtrack is available digitally via Amazon and other streaming/digital sources.

Scott Glasgow’s latest score is for DEATH COUNT, directed by Michael Su. The horror film has to do with strangers who awaken in individual holding cells with no memory of how they arrived. They realize if they don’t acquire enough online “likes” in a timely manner, they’ll die horribly at the hands of a sinister executioner. Glasgow (COSMIC SIN, THE NINTH PASSENGER, THE CURSE OF SLEEPING BEAUTY, HATCHET III) has released the digital soundtrack on his label, Fourteen Kings Music, and is available here from Amazon US and UK, Apple Music, and other sources. It can also be heard on Spotify.

Back Lot Music has released a score album for the animated feature MINIONS: THE RISE OF GRU, composed by Heitor Pereira (THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE, PAW PATROL: THE MOVIE, BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA). He previously scored the first MINIONS movie and all three DESPICABLE ME films. [see my interview with Heitor on scoring animated films in my April 2017 column.] Decca Records has also released a separate soundtrack featuring the songs from the movie and a score suite.

Scoring Records International has released THE GOOD NEIGHBOR soundtrack with music by Enis Rotthoff (GUNS AKIMBO, THE SUNLIT NIGHT, WETLANDS). The film depicts how the budding friendship between two very different neighbors takes a tragic turn after one of them runs over a young woman and causes her death. The soundtrack was recorded with the Budapest Art Orchestra and showcases a 42-piece string ensemble and solo cellist Marianna Pleszkan. In order to add to the warmth of the orchestra Rotthoff opted for analogue synthesizers and partly mashed their performance up with today’s electronics and technology. On the string composition side Rotthoff tried to channel a retro thriller mindset; on the electronic side his approach was more radical and chaotic, experimenting with custom string instruments, electronic guitars and analogue synthesizers running them through effects and distorting them, adding textures, atmospheres, and impactful pulses to the music. The album is available at these links.

Klaatu Records proudly announces the world premiere release to the score for the cult-classic horror film sequel, HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT II by composer Paul Zaza (PROM NIGHT franchise, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, A CHRISTMAS STORY). Most of Zaza’s original score for the film was heavily edited and chopped up in the final film; for this release, the composer personally selected and edited the tracks to create a more listenable experience. This is a limited edition release of 200 units; pre-order now from Klaatu Records. The CD will start shipping the first week of October.

From June, Lakeshore Records released the digital soundtrack to BECOMING ELIZABETH, with music by Tim Phillips (SHINING VALE).  The score is a hybrid of electronics and string orchestra that showcases synths, choirs and strings to create a modern, yet familiar backdrop to the historical drama based on the young Elizabeth Tudor.  Becoming Elizabeth was created and written by Anya Reiss and stars Alicia von Rittberg as Elizabeth I. Says Phillips: “Anya’s scripts very deliberately referenced a wild palette of musical cues, which I thought indicated a desire to shake us out of any ‘period drama comfort zone,’ but also had the effect of plugging the story directly into modern day sensibilities. Parts of the score incorporate micro tuning and mimic animal sounds that the Tudors would have recognized. The theme tune is the central pillar of the score, which riffs on it in lots of variations, but different characters also have their own languages. We deliberately ignored any period instrumentation or compositional techniques and I think this gives the piece an energy and an immediacy that feels very contemporary.” The album is available from these links.

Lakeshore Records has also released MARCEL THE SHELL WITH SHOES ON, the feature adaptation of the animated short film interviewing a mollusk named Marcel, featuring a score by Disasterpeace (UNDER THE SILVER LAKE). Notes the composer: “The MARCEL score tries to be organic without using organic sources. The music is heavily influenced by the Japanese ambient music of the early 80s and took many iterations of stripping things away to find the right amount of emotional ambiguity. But even after the subduing process, there’s still a pretty fun romp in there.” See these links. Read Daniel Schweiger’s interview with Disasterpeace about scoring this film at FilmMusicInstitute

Released by Lakeshore on July 8th, WATCHER features the music of Emmy®-nominated composer Nathan Halpern. This thriller is about a young American woman who moves with her husband to Bucharest, and begins to suspect that a stranger who watches her from the apartment building across the street may be a local serial killer decapitating women. Says Halpern: “Director Chloe Okuno and I discussed the idea that the score for WATCHER would be driven by the protagonist Julia’s emotional state – her longing, solitude, and increasing paranoia. The opening title theme – played on strings, piano, bowed glass, and raw electronics – has a slightly Eastern European quality inspired by the film’s Romanian setting that Chloe described as feeling like a ‘warped fairytale.’ Elsewhere a theme for bells and dilapidated Soviet-era synths expresses Julia’s ennui and alienation in this unfamiliar city; pieces for warped strings and waterphone express moments of sheer terror; and bits of distorted driving synth pulse express key moments of assertion as she turns her gaze back onto the Watcher.” The album is available from these links.

1812 Recordings has released Daniel Pemberton’s score to BRIAN AND CHARLES. Directed by Jim Archer, the film follows Brian who goes into a deep depression after a particularly harsh winter; completely isolated and with no one to talk to, Brian does what any sane person would do when faced with such a melancholic situation. He builds a robot. Listen to the soundtrack on Spotify; listen or purchase from Amazon.

Madison Gate Records has released the soundtrack album for the third season of the Amazon original superhero series THE BOYS, featuring selections of the original score from the show’s third season composed by Christopher Lennertz (LOST IN SPACE, AGENT CARTER, HORRIBLE BOSSES, RIDE ALONG). Also included are the new season’s original songs co-written by Lennertz and performed by various cast members. The label has previously released two soundtracks featuring Lennertz’s music from Season 1 and Season 2, as well as the soundtrack to the animated anthology series THE BOYS: DIABOLICAL (see Soundtrax for my interviews with the DIABOLICAL composers).

Netflix has released the PERSUASION soundtrack by composer Stuart Earl (BLACK MIRROR, DOCTOR FOSTER Series 2, AND THEN THERE WERE NONE). Based on the 1818 Jane Austen novel, the series follows Anne Elliot’s decision to allow Frederick Wentworth – the one who got away – back into her life, or not. “Composing the score for PERSUASION and the creative process with [director] Carrie Cracknell was a complete joy,” says Earl. “I was brought on relatively early in the process, which was great, as it allowed me to work on ideas whilst they were still shooting, including writing the music that they dance to in one of the scenes… One of the real challenges with the score was getting the balance of tone between the lighter, comedic material alongside the more emotional journey that spans the film. This was something that definitely evolved over time during the editing process and swung between the extremes until we found a mix that seemed to sit well together and hold and deliver both of these tonal ideas together.” The soundtrack is available from these links.

Walt Disney Records releases the RISE Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, featuring a stirring score by Ré Olunuga. RISE 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 is streaming exclusively on Disney+. Ré Olunuga is a Nigerian composer of multi-genre orchestral and experimental music. With a unique approach to instrumentation that imbues his music with an unmistakable sense of engagement and tactility, Ré’s work spans across Film & TV soundtracks to ambitious art pieces and even a dalliance with the mainstream through collaborations with commercial recording artists. Stream the soundtrack here.

Silva Screen has released HOTEL PORTOFINO, Stefano Cabrera’s jazz-infused soundtrack described by The Daily Mail as a “romantic costume drama that’s as blissful as a good gin cocktail.” The glamorous series centers around a British family looking for a fresh start in Italy, just when Benito Mussolini’s brand of fascism was on the rise. The six-episode first season debuted in the USA on June 19th on PBS and is available to stream on all PBS platforms. See SilvaScreen for album links.

Disney’s sequel film Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 3 stars Milo Manheim as zombie Zed and Meg Donnelly as cheerleader Addison, who are beginning their senior year at Seabrook High in the town that’s become a safe haven for monsters and humans alike when, suddenly, extraterrestrial beings arrive in Seabrook, provoking something other than friendly competition. Composers George S. Clinton and Amit May Cohen return from the first two films to score the new Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 3. The film premiered July 15 on Disney+; with a Disney Channel premiere scheduled for August 12. The digital soundtrack including score and songs is available from these links.
(See my interview with Clinton and Cohen on scoring the first two films, here).
Watch the trailer to Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 3:

Lakeshore Records has released the original score to STRANGER THINGS 4, featuring music by franchise composers Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein. The epic 80-track score album is divided into two volumes that correspond with music composed for the two volumes of season four of the Netflix series. The prolific Texan musicians are responsible for a body of work that’s synonymous with the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, the supernatural everytown at the center of STRANGER THINGS. But as the small town becomes the unlikely site for a supernatural battle within the hit series, Dixon and Stein’s soundscapes, too, have expanded in lockstep. Lakeshore Records and Invada Records have released the album digitally worldwide with CD and vinyl versions forthcoming. The soundtrack is now available at these links.

Plaza Mayor Company has announced these new soundtracks: JUNGLE ROUGE, an animated drama with music by Nascuy Linares (Spotify here), the horror thriller MASTEMAH, music by Yvi Slan (Spotify here), the 2014 crime thriller MEXICAN GANGSTER, music by Andrés Sánchez Maher (Spotify here), and UÝRA: THE RISING FOREST, a documentary about a performance artist’s travels through the Amazon forest, music by Nascuy Linares (Spotify here)

Netflix has released the SPIDERHEAD Original Motion Picture Score with music composed by accomplished composer Joseph Trapanese. The soundtrack is available now on all digital service providers - see here. On this project, Trapanese reunites with director Joseph Kosinski with whom he previously worked on TRON: LEGACY, OBLIVION, and ONLY THE BRAVE. The film is a genre-blending thriller that takes place in the near future when convicts are offered the chance to volunteer as medical subjects to shorten their sentence; one subject for a new drug capable of generating feelings of love begins questioning the reality of his emotions.

Lakeshore Records has released HACKS, featuring music by multiple Emmy® and Grammy Award winner Carlos Rafael Rivera (THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT). The evocatively melodic score expands on two main character themes, of Deborah’s and Ava’s, that evolve throughout the series (inclusive of Season 2), which explores a dark mentorship that forms between Deborah Vance, a legendary Las Vegas comedian, and an entitled, outcast 25-year-old. Says Rivera: “This soundtrack presents our character’s themes with story-based variations. And although they may at first seem quite opposite (Deborah on her way out, and Ava on her way up) they have so much more in common than we may at first perceive. Available from these links.

Silva Screen has digitally released THE WATCH, composer Russ Davies’s soundtrack for AMC/BBC America’s TV adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s beloved Discworld book series. Rather than being a straight book adaptation, the eight-part series is inspired by characters created by Pratchett. Underlined by Cyberpunk visuals, Season One takes place “somewhere in a distant secondhand dimension” and follows the misfits of The City Watch, a police organization in a city ruled by crime guilds. Davies (BBC1 series THE WAR OF THE WORLDS) brings together a diverse range of influences and genres to create unique modern compositions. He describes his music for THE WATCH as a “fantasy themed score, with an energetic fusion of orchestral layers, analog synthesizers and electric guitar, aiming to be as leftfield, unconventional, and as colorful as the show is itself.”
Watch the trailer for THE WATCH:


Documentary Soundtrack News

Notefornote Music announces PENNYWISE: THE STORY OF IT Original Motion Picture Soundtrack with music by Sean Schafer Hennessy. This documentary goes in depth about the 1990 Stephen King TV movie, IT. The digital soundtrack is available from Amazon.

Watch the doc’s trailer:

Disney has released the soundtrack to the documentary series THE SKETCHBOOK, which takes viewers onto the desks and into the lives of talented artists and animators. Each episode focuses on a single artist teaching us how to draw a single iconic character from a Walt Disney Animation Studios film. As we learn the steps to drawing these characters, we also discover that the artists themselves each have a unique story to tell about how they made their way to Disney and their chosen character. From the creators of “Chef’s Table,” this exclusive experience will give viewers of all ages a new understanding of how these beloved characters come to life on screen while introducing them to a new cast of real-life characters along the way. The music is written and produced by Scott Michael Smith and Michael Dean Parsons, it is available from on Amazon and elsewhere.

Australian composer Brett Aplin’s latest soundtrack release is from the documentary NO MERCY, NO REMORSE which is now available to stream at these links. The film is a forensic examination of the events surrounding the capture of ‘Frankston Serial Killer’ Paul Charles Denyer who murdered three women in Frankston, Melbourne across a seven-week period in 1993. While parts of Brett’s musical score had to evoke the violence and terror of Denyer’s crimes, the film is more focused on the loss and devastation he caused. This meant that the music had to speak not only for the victims and their families, but for all those affected by the events of 1993, especially the police who are still haunted by the case some 30 years later. Aplin describes the score as predominantly ‘felt’ piano and unusual solo and small ensemble strings, but also features textural and electronic elements, fitting loosely within the ‘Neo-classical’ genre. 

Alan Williams has scored SECRETS OF THE SEA, a new IMAX documentary from writer/directors Jonathan Bird and Howard Hall (DEEP SEA 3D, ANCIENT CAVES, UNDER THE SEA 3D) for MacGillivray Freeman Films and narrated by American actress Joelle Carter. Released last June, the film is a giant screen doc featuring the ocean’s strangest and most spectacular creatures. In the ocean, each species is dependent upon many others for survival. Captured in locations all over the world, the film demonstrates the critical importance of marine biodiversity by illustrating the astonishing ways different marine species interact with each other and their environment. Williams’ soundtrack is available from Amazon, Spotify, and other streaming/digital sources. Also new this year from Alan is the 3D IMAX film SERENGETI, which is the home to most of Africa’s iconic animals and hosts one of the world’s greatest natural events – the annual wildebeest migration. Every species has a very distinct role to play in a larger story – the balance of an entire ecosystem. Observe that through the eyes of the youngest members of our animal cast as they imitate their parents and learn about the mighty roles they’ll play.  

FIRE OF LOVE is a 2022 American-Canadian documentary film, directed, written, and produced by Sara Dosa. It follows the lives and careers of volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft, who (spoiler:) ultimately die in a 1991 volcanic explosion. The doc had its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival on January 20, 2022 and was released on July 6, 2022, by National Geographic Documentary Films and Neon. French musician Nicolas Godin, best known for being half of the music duo Air, has composed the film score. He previously composed the soundtrack for French series A VERY SECRET SERVICE (2015–2018) and the 2015 terrorist thriller TAJ MAHAL.


Vinyl Soundtrack News

Four Flies Records has released a 12” single edition in vinyl of revered Italian composer Piero Umiliani’s Discomania (Jolly Mare Lifting). One of Umiliani’s most dance-y tracks ever is finally available again on 12’’ vinyl, both in its original version and in a special edit retouched by Jolly Mare that further increases its dancefloor potential. Discomania was recorded by Umiliani in 1978 under the moniker Rovi (one of the many aliases he used at the time to avoid saturating the Italian library music market with his name), and sounds wonderfully in tune with the then-emerging cosmic disco scene, brimming as it is with Afro, disco and black music influences. In short, it was expressly conceived as music fit for the discos of the time (or the idea that Umiliani had of them). Moreover, Discomania enjoys a special place in Italian pop culture, having entered the collective imagination of national TV viewers between 1981-1987, when it was used as the closing theme song for RAI television football program 90° Minuto. This single launches Reloved, a new series from Four Flies in which accomplished DJs and producers rework tunes from Italian golden age soundtracks and library music. Listen to the tracks, and/or order the single, from Four Flies Records.

Varèse Sarabande announces the LP release of THE OMEN with music by Jerry Goldsmith, conducted by Lionel Newman. This special LP reissue features the original, 12-track 1976 soundtrack album on red vinyl with black splatter. The album is available now for pre-order and will release on September 23. The score is one of Goldsmith’s best (and his only Oscar winner): not just the “Ave Satani” chants, but the way he incorporates them into his modernist, thrilling action music in tracks like “Killer’s Storm,” “The Demise of Mrs. Baylock” and “The Dog’s Attack.” But Goldsmith was always attuned to the human warmth behind the chills and thrills – and the score features hopeful, loving moments for the ambassador’s family, including a song version of the love theme, “The Piper Dreams,” with lyrics and vocals by the composer’s wife, Carol. See details here.

Netflix and Diggers Factory announce the release of the HUSTLE (Soundtrack from the Netflix Film) LP with music by composer Dan Deacon. The Adam Sandler dramedy is about a basketball scout who discovers a phenomenal street ball player while in Spain and sees the prospect as his opportunity to get back into the NBA. The vinyl release is available here.

Transmission Records announces the release of Dario Argento’s latest giallo OCCHIALI NERI (Dark Glasses) in exclusive red & black vinyl. Pressed on Blood and Smoke colored vinyl, this item will be released September 2, 2022. “When I learned that I was going to compose the soundtrack of the next Dario Argento film, I immediately thought of the music of Goblin and Claudio Simonetti, who have composed more than ten films under the direction of the Italian maestro,” said OCCHIALI NERI’s composer Arnaud Rebotini. “I obviously had the bells of SUSPIRIA in mind, the introduction sequence of PROFONDO ROSSO, its gothic organ, or of course the electronic sounds of TENEBRE. I composed an entirely electronic soundtrack, mixing dark themes and sequences with more pop music. Like Goblin did with funk and disco, I added a more personal touch with more contemporary sounds from electro and techno. For this soundtrack, I wanted to follow the tradition of the classic Giallo while trying to bring a personal and modern vision.” The release is exclusive to Mondo in the USA (300 copies) and Transmission Records in the UK/EU (200 copies). 194 are now available for pre-ordering – see Transmission. Mondo’s availability of the vinyl album will be announced shortly – see Mondo.

Laced Records announces the box vinyl set, Assassin’s Creed - Leap Into History featuring 70 tracks from 12 mainline Assassin’s Creed games, following the historical timeline from Odyssey to Syndicate. Music by Jesper Kyd, Lorne Balfe, Brian Tyler, Michiel Schrey, Seán Dagher, Nils Brown, Chris Tilton, Sarah Schachner, Elitsa Alexandrova, Austin Wintory, The Flight (Joe Henson and Alexis Smith), and Einar Selvik. As part of AC’s 15th anniversary celebrations, Ubisoft and Laced Records have created this special 5-disc vinyl box set spanning 12 games from the historied series. This Limited Edition (exclusive to the Laced store) features ‘gold nugget’ discs, a custom slipmat with the brand new 15th Anniversary logo, and a 12” art print. Shipping estimate is January 2023. Pre-orders now available, see Laced Records.

Waxwork announces an exclusive 2-disc MOTHRA soundtrack variant in black and white swirl & black and red swirl. This score by Yujui Koseki features booming orchestral pieces that accompany Mothra in her mission to protect her people countered by waves of clairvoyant and electronically performed compositions including sci-fi sound effects. Sprinkled throughout the score, The Peanuts sing ballads to their beloved winged kaiju, recognized by their iconic vocal doubling. Waxwork’s MOTHRA double LP album marks the very first time that the complete original soundtrack has ever been released on vinyl, anywhere. See more details at Light In The Attic, here


Video Game Music News

Winifred Phillips reveals that her latest project is the musical score of the video game JURASSIC WORLD PRIMAL OPS. The game has released worldwide alongside the theatrical run of the mega-hit movie JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION. “I got to compose lots of high-stakes intense action music for this game,” she said.

Sample some of her music from the game:

The soundtrack to the videogame F1® 22 is now available on Lakeshore Records, featuring music by Ian Livingstone and additional music by Miktek. F1® 22 is a racing video game developed by Codemasters and published by EA Sports. It is the fifteenth entry in the F1 series by Codemasters. The game holds an official license of the 2022 Formula One and Formula 2 championships. Livingstone is a British Ivor Novello award winning composer, musician, and music producer. He has composed over 100 scores for multi-million selling game titles and franchises including Battlefield, Lego, Formula 1, Warhammer, Total War, Batman, Forza, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Disney & Marvel. The soundtrack is available from these links.


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 or follow Musique Fantastique on Facebook.

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Special thanks to Benjamin Michael Joffe for copyediting assistance.