Past Columns

Soundtrax: Episode 2016-1
January 12, 2016

By Randall D. Larson



  • ROQUE BANOS - Music from the Heart of the Sea

Soundtrack Reviews


Directed by Academy Award winner Ron Howard, Warner Bros. riveting sea adventure film IN THE HEART OF THE SEA is based on true events that inspired the classic tale, Moby Dick. In collaboration with the London Metropolitan Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios, Roque Baños has scored IN THE HEART OF THE SEA for sixty string instruments, ten woodwind instruments, sixteen brass instruments, and four percussion instruments over a period of nine sessions. As his biggest artistic undertaking to date, Baños combined traditional thematic elements with never-before-heard sounds and textures tailored specifically to Howard’s film.  “Music, for me, is another character in the movie,” Baños says, “that’s always sitting beside you and telling you how to feel. So it has to be noticed, and needs to be present, and needs to be colorful.” Baños co-conducted rehearsal sessions and produced the recordings, recalling of the process, “This was my first big studio movie, and the most produced, powerful music that I ever composed.”

Interviewed the week before the film opened on December 15th, Baños discussed with me in detail his approach to scoring the film and the unusual sound pallet he developed for the score.  We also discussed his recent scores for Alejandro Amenabar’s REGRESSION and Kevin Reynold’s RISEN, as well as earlier work such as CANTINFLAS and TORRENTE. - rdl


Q: IN THE HEART OF THE SEA is one of your biggest scoring endeavors to date. How did you become involved in this film?

Roque Baños: They needed a European composer [the movie was filmed mostly in Spain]. There were two people who recommended me to Ron Howard, and I have to be very, very grateful to them – they were Hans Zimmer and Guillermo Del Toro. I met with Ron and I showed him some music of mine, and he liked it so I got involved.

Q: What elements of the film gave you the initial concepts for what the music should be?

Roque Baños: After reading the script I felt that what we had to do with the music was to have it become a living force of nature.  When I shared this thought with Ron he was very excited, he loved that the music would represent the side of nature.  It was not only thematically, but we were using sounds that came from nature like blowing wind, or sounds of water and air, and sounds from the ship.  We had the idea of using sounds from the ship as our percussion section. I asked the studio if we could have everything that they used from shooting on the ship, so we basically rebuilt a whole ship inside of Abbey Road!  We had the decks, we had the harpoons, the ropes, the sails, and we were making sounds out of all that. So we had these wood sounds, the sound of a sail with wind blowing into it, and I included all that into the music, so the music actually sometimes sounds like’s it coming from what we see on the screen, like the sea, the wind, the ship… I also wanted to reflect with the music what these people, especially in the third act, were suffering. I wanted to put a sound of the heat from the sun, like how the sun burns their skin, and wanted to create the sound of starving, so we were investigating how we can reflect these in the music.

Q: Did you sample those sounds in the studio and then add them to the orchestra recordings?

Roque Baños: Yeah. That is something that we have the advantage of with today’s technology. I put all those sounds into a sampler program so then I had each of those in my keyboards, but at the same time we made these recordings with real percussionists, so I would also make them do patterns and rhythmic stuff which we could mix with the orchestra. We had actually percussion players playing on the ship. It was really cool seeing how the ship was sounding together with the orchestra!

Q: How closely did you work with Ron Howard on developing the score?

Roque Baños: We were mostly working in the same environment. I was in London for five months with him, so we met very readily. Working with Ron Howard has been one of my greatest experiences, and he is one of the best human beings I’ve ever met. He always encourages you to do the best you can do and he has this ability where he forces you to look deeper into your creativity. At the end of the day it’s something you really appreciate. The input that he was giving to me was: let’s make this beautiful, let’s make it memorable. He wanted to have some memorable themes, not just music that attaches the audience to the story.

Q: Did knowing you had the resources of the London Metropolitan Orchestra and Abbey Road Studios affect where you were going with the score?

Roque Baños: Not really, because I’ve been working in London at Abbey Road several times before. What really gave me the possibility to do something different and something special was that it was a Ron Howard movie, it was Warner Bros’ biggest production of the year, and they were taking really good care of the score, more than I ever had. I had the support of Paul Broucek [President, Music] and Niki Sherrod [Sr VP, Music] from Warner Bros, they were always supporting me and what we needed for the music in the logistic side, and then I had Ron Howard in the creative side. Everything together was the best experience I’ve had doing a score.

Q: How would you describe the thematic arc of the score, and what elements of the story did you feel the need to address thematically?

Roque Baños: We had two clearly different worlds here. One was the whaling business, which was a very industrial thing done by people who wanted profit by going out to sea and hunting whales, so thematically we have this theme that I used repeatedly throughout the movie which I call “The Whalemen. We hear it when they are hunting; it’s a very tough and very strong pentatonic based-melody, more like savage music, as if they were actually hunting lions or something. It’s music that’s ancestral. It’s associated with how humankind hunts.  And then on the other side we had nature, and that theme is more melodic and more calm.  Both themes have an evolution, though.  For instance, the Whalemen theme starts very hard and very tough at the start when we see the Nantucket port for the first time, it’s very strong and very determined, but it becomes a love theme at the end of the movie, when they return to Nantucket and find their families waiting for them. It’s the same melody. It evolves to these people making peace with nature.  And then, the whale/nature theme, starts out very, very dark and mysterious, giving a sense of nature as this big, primal thing that you can’t change and you can’t control. When we see the whale for the first time, and many places where they refer to the whale, we wanted to show this kind of music that is very reflective of something uncontrollable, something huge, something ancient.  And it becomes the very peaceful music that we hear at the end of the movie in the end credits.  I arranged a tranquil version of the theme, hoping that people would listen and maybe be conscious of the idea that we all live here, we all need to spend our lives in peace with everything on earth. Or something like that.


Q: The score has some engaging and unique musical textures – how did you derive them and what unusual instruments or synthetic sounds were used to achieve them?

Roque Baños: We didn’t want to use period references for the score. I wanted to stay away from referencing instruments from that period or what kind of music they had then. The most important matter to focus on in the music was, like I said before, the hunger for success, profit, like that was its own force of nature.  There is a little bit from an Irish fiddle at one point, but if you listen closely you’ll see it’s just that, because all the rest of the sounds are harpoons hitting a deck!  The Whaleman theme didn’t need to set up the place and the time, because you can hear this kind of folk music today. It was more to set up a place and a mood – a mood of fortune, of people moving, each one in his own way, to succeed.

One of my favorite moments is in the very first music of the movie, where the first thing we hear is a high pitch. It’s a mysterious sound but it’s not orchestra, it’s kind of a crystal. We used a lot of organic crystal sounds here, bowing on crystal, which sounds like something alive, and I also used bells.  Bells are a kind of call, you know – whenever we hear bells, it’s a call for mass or it’s a call for lunch, or whatever.  So the next thing after those high pitched sounds were bells, like the call from nature.  And then we get into this low drone, like it comes from the heart of the earth or from the heart of the ocean, which gets bigger and bigger, and then when we see the whale for the first time, we hear that huge ominous sound that reflects nature as something big, powerful, and uncontrollable.

Q:  You recently scored REGRESSION, a mystery thriller.  How was it working with Alejandro Almenabar on scoring this film?

Roque Baños: That was really nice.  I’ve been an admirer of his work for many years. Also he composed his own scores, so that was also a challenge for me. Working with him was really nice. He enjoyed coming to my studio and sitting there when I was composing in real time.

Q: The film begins as a detective story and soon becomes more of a dark horror thriller as the hero begins to investigate the satanic cult responsible for the murders. How did you musically capture these changes in tone and create the right atmosphere when the film shifts into these darker moments?

Roque Baños: Due to the film there is a bigger reason for doing this change.  It’s the regression, it is a journey into the mind. What the movie demonstrated was that what is in your mind doesn’t always have anything to do with reality – you might have pictures in your mind, but when you look back you realize they don’t mesh with reality or with your own experiences. So what I tried to do with the music in REGRESSION was to get into the character’s mind and to support this journey. In the beginning of the movie, the detective wasn’t really up to believing all this, but then he gets caught up into all these things and he starts to believe what he’s seen inside his mind, about these satanic cults. The music was kind of making the same journey as he does, into the mind.

Q: On a much lighter note, I wanted to ask about scoring CANTINFLAS, and how you musically represented this wonderful comic actor in your score? How did you reflect the character, the time periods, and the world of movies he was involved with in your score?

Roque Baños: I also enjoyed that very much  It’s not the life of Cantinflas in that movie, but it’s based on his experience in the Hollywood industry during the making of AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS. We wanted to represent with the music his experience in Hollywood, so the music is very much in the Hollywood style, like all this music from the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s where you could see the life coming from Hollywood. Another part of it, since he’s Mexican, is the Mexican influence involved in this score. Because he played a torero, a bullfighter, and he was making fun of it, then we also had music that sounds in a bullfight environment.

Q: What kind of musical tone did Spike Lee want from you for his remake of the Korean film OLDBOY, and how did you address the character’s predicament and mental challenges as the story develops?

Roque Baños: We wanted to make a thriller out of it, so the way we created the score was thriller-like, but it is true that the movie also has a strong emotional content. There is some deep emotional impact on the character, so I had to create a theme that was very dramatic when he finds out the truth [about why he’d been imprisoned].  But at the end I put another version of the theme that is more hopeful, because the message that Spike wanted to give is that sometimes it’s better to not interfere for the good of the people that you love. 

Q: There’s this whole resolve at the end where he voluntarily goes back in, deciding this is the best thing for everyone, and the music makes that clear as far as what he’s thinking and what his motivations are.

Roque Baños: It gives him a heroic tonality after all.  He’s been a hero and has confined himself for his honor.

Q: You’ve scored most of the action comedies involving the ex-cop Torrente.  How did you reflect this character musically in your score, and how did the music develop across the sequel films that you have scored?

Roque Baños: We had a clear thought about this.  TORRENTE is what we call an anti-hero, it’s the opposite of a hero.  But we wanted the music to be very funny, and it made us laugh. The music was as if he was a hero, as if he was superman, sometimes!  So even though if you see him doing something that was awkward or bad, the music would go over him!

Q: It’s like the music reflects what HE is thinking of himself.

Roque Baños: Yeah. In his mind it was that way, so we always wanted to be with him, and what he feels and what he thinks and that is what makes it very funny.

Q: You’ve recent completed scoring RISEN, for Kevin Reynolds, about the resurrection of Christ.  How are you approaching the score for the oft-filmed topic?

Roque Baños: This story is seen through the eyes of a Roman, who is the main character, so we had to reflect in the music his change from beginning, not believing in all this, and then when he’s changed by what he witnesses. The music is also mysterious, and I did the same thing as in HEART OF THE SEA, I used the sounds from nature that you would hear in the desert, like the sand, the wind through the sand, the heat from the sun.  I created these atmospheric environments to create a dramatic theme to represent this Roman, to give the mysteriousness and all of this. But I used a big theme, like in the old biblical movies, so there is a sweeping, dramatic melody that is reflecting the power of what the main character finds.

Q: What’s coming up for you next?

Roque Baños: I’m working on another movie with Fede Alvarez, who did EVIL DEAD, his next movie is called A MAN IN THE DARK – a great movie, it’s an amazing story and it’s a movie that’s going to make people talk!

For more information on the composer, see

- Thanks to Azalea Mendoza at Costa Communications for facilitating this interview


Snapshots: New Soundtracks in Review

ASH VS EVIL DEAD/Joseph LoDuca/Varese Sarabande - CD
Along with intrepid chainsaw-handed everyman Bruce Campbell, composer Joseph LoDuca has joined the STARZ original series which follows up on Sam Raimi’s classic 1980s horror franchise, THE EVIL DEAD.  After absorbing the musical languages of the East to enhance his university studies in NYC, LoDuca began his film scoring career with the first EVIL DEAD film and made a career out of scoring fairly quirky and unique films and television with his uniquely textured and world-music enhanced musical approach.  His music for ASH VS EVIL DEAD contains the same kind of miasmic palette that the original films did, and the result makes for a constantly changing tonic of morphing flavors, tonalities, rhythms, and textures.  “What makes the EVIL DEAD saga unlike any other franchise is its ability to jerk the audience between horror and humor,” LoDuca stated. “Bruce coined a term for this unique genre: Splatstick. The score is like [the] films in its approach: The music plays the straight man. That means the drama is dead serious; the action is intense; and the horror is treated with shock and dread. As a result, the humor lies in its juxtaposition to the music, and only on rare occasions does the music give in.” With ‘70s guitar twang and shimmering reverb interoperating with orchestral passages, bleak yet affecting melodies, sinewy voices, reflective sound design, and inventive harmonic interpretations, LoDuca’s latest makes for a fascinating and constantly changing listening experience on CD.

A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY/Alex Khaskin/Lakeshore digital + CD
Alex Khaskin (COLD COMES THE NIGHT, REPLICANT), a Russian-born and trained composer now living and working in Canada, has provided an engaging and intriguing score for this yuletide horror picture.  With a creative sound palette, Khaskin mingles orchestra, a lyrical lullaby-like carol, and brash sound design to support the story in all its varied nuances. The crashing dissonances tend to be quite jarring during listening apart from the film itself, but the overall effect is a likable mix of sinewy Holiday lyricism set against darker strains of something malevolent at foot. “The idea was to stay with the traditional warm Christmas sound to counterpart that the film is actually a horror,” said Khaskin. “A well-known Ukrainian carol was transformed into a big orchestral score because the mood slowly developed into a massive danger score.” Originally, the directors wanted Khaskin to go radical by creating a heavy metal or dubstep style score, but to make it truly unique, while staying true to himself, Khaskin made it orchestral. However, each character helped shape the style of the overall theme. “There were several themes, actually, since the movie has four different stories and each story had its own style of scoring.”

DA VINCI’S DEMONS SEASON 3/Bear McCreary/Sparks & Shadows – digital + CD
This third helping of music from the third and final season of the STARZ TV series completes the direction Bear McCreary developed over the previous seasons, building to a richly harmonic and structural denouement that serves as a profound resolution to what has gone before, gathering together and concluding the musical elements into a rich conclusive weave.  In fact, at least on its album presentation, Season 3’s music is not so much a gathering of episode tracks as it is a culmination of various musical threads and thematic arcs brought into a definitive finish. The final track, “People of Accomplishment,” is McCreary’s summary glance back at the series and his accompanying music, resolving all into a highly profound and affecting musical statement, culminating in a finale of exuberant accomplishment.   There are a couple of especially notable tracks that punctuate the journey: the 10.5-minute orchestra and chorale piece, “The Tank Farm,” followed by the equally profundity of “The Battle of Otranto” (a kind of epic sturm-und-drang variant of the earlier “Invasion of Otranto”), the thunderous “Death Beneath the Horns,” and the sublime chorale beauty of “Lucrezia.” Included on this album is an extended variation of the series’ main theme, as well the Season 3 main title music, which is about 20 seconds longer than that of the first two seasons, and, unlike the original arrangement, doesn’t introduce the pounding drums until almost midway into the track, which allows it to expand with an added weight and propulsion as the music develops. There isn’t as much music on this release as on the previous Season 1 and Season 2 albums (reviewed in my Nov. 2013 and Jun 2014 columns, respectively), both of which reached 2 CDs worth of music, but Season 3’s single disc is filled to the brim with an hour 11 minutes of music, the heft of which may well make up for its comparative brevity.

THE FINAL GIRLS/Gregory James Jenkins/Varese Sarabande - digital + cd
Todd Strauss-Schulson’s THE FINAL GIRLS is a fun parody of lakeside camp slasher movies, particularly the FRIDAY THE 13TH variety. The daughter (AMERICAN HORROR STORY’s Taissa Farmiga) of a former actress noted for her role in a cult slasher movie goes to see the film during its anniversary showing and, through means not explained during a fire in the theater, she and her friends escape by going into the film – becoming a part of it, and having to use what they know about slasher movie tropes to survive and keep the others, including the heroine’s mom, alive as well (all of them the “final girls,’ in essence). The music, of course, reflects slasher movies in general and, in particular, FRIDAY THE 13TH with its echoed verbalisms. Composed by Gregory James Jenkins (THE LUCKY ONE, A VERY HAROLD & KUMAR 3D CHRISTMAS), the score is a mix of parody music played straight and straight ahead horror film music, played via synths and electronic instruments of the 1980s to reflect the kind of music that would have been heard in the movie the heroes have become a part of. It’s fun and a little bit camp, and Jenkin’s ‘80s textured stylisms are often pretty dazzling.

THE FOREST/Bear McCreary/Sparks & Shadows – digital + cd
The composer’s boutique label has released his score to the feature film THE FOREST as a digital download, with a CD version due out shortly. The film, which stars GAME OF THRONE’s Natalie Dormer and is produced by David S. Goyer (for whom McCreary scored DA VINCI’S DEMONS and CONSTANTINE), is a supernatural thriller set in Japan's legendary Aokigahara Forest, where Dormer’s character journeys in search of her twin sister, who has mysteriously disappeared.  Despite everyone’s warnings to stay on the path, Sara enters the forest to discover her sister’s fate. “When I first heard of Japan’s infamous Aokigahara Forest I was immediately fascinated by this terrifying place that is inexplicably the site of numerous suicides each year,” said McCreary. “The film draws heavily from Japanese folklore, in particular the tales of Y?rei, beings similar to Western legends of ghosts. I wanted my score to support this connection to Japanese culture incorporating Japanese music.” McCreary brought in his friend, instrumentalist and composer Osamu Kitajima, who in turn introduced McCreary to music producer and world-renowned percussionist, Hiromitsu Nishikawa. They set up an internet connection from McCreary’s studio in Los Angeles to a studio in Japan. “I asked Nishikawa to find a children’s choir to sing traditional folk songs, and he brought in a talented group of kids ranging in age from seven to nine,” he explained. “With him [Kitajima] translating my requests into Japanese, I encouraged the children to sing softer and softer, slower and slower. Their schoolyard songs took on other-worldly qualities. Their gentle little breathy voices were genuinely frail and creepy, more effective than I could have ever dreamed. I used their songs throughout the film, as a cornerstone of the score.”  The resulting score is tonally based, heavy on strings with creepy embellishment from Japanese percussion, and the frequent incursion of that children’s choir, which emanated a powerful atmosphere while also personifying the forest as a place of menacing souls. One particular song McCreary used in the score was “Toryanse,” a traditional folk song frequently played in Japan by traffic lights when it is safe to cross.  “The melody is rooted in a common Japanese modal scale, with asymmetrical phrasing, unusual to Western ears,” McCreary said. “When slowed down to a crawl and whispered by children, ‘Toryanse’ becomes quite terrifying!”  The tune is featured throughout the film, especially in the End Credits suite. The score ranges from the eerily creepy to the forcefully perilous, as percussion and drum-driven sonic assaults bring the forest spirits into aural clarity while ramping up the terror into a purely visceral force, with a concluding suite remixed into a provocative rock and rather elegant beat.  An excellent horror score that is also a compelling musical journey worth savoring.  Perhaps alone, in the dark.

THE HATEFUL EIGHT/Ennio Morricone/Decca cd + digital
Ennio Morricone’s Golden Globe-winning score specially written for Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, THE HATEFUL EIGHT, is an effective and quite brilliant work; arguably among the composer’s most provocative compositions and performances.  You’ll hear no maranzano (Jew’s harp), electric guitar, or whistling, nor other familiar trappings of the “Spaghetti Western,” and those who hoped THE HATEFUL EIGHT would generate a return to the kind of Western score that Morricone essentially invented in the early 1960s have not been paying attention to what Morricone has been saying and doing the last four decades – he’s done that and he isn’t interested in repeating himself.  Morricone is a composer of constant growth and forward progression. “The creative process isn’t easy,”

Morricone said in an article by Joe Utichi, who interviewed Morricone and Tarantino together for “I have to go into a crisis and question myself. I have to doubt and question and form a very important theoretical basis for the music I’m going to produce, because this music will have the moral strength necessary for each score, regardless of the importance or relevance of the film. In The Hateful Eight, there are some sounds that are quite simple, but there’s an underlying spirit that is very complicated.”  

In fact, THE HATEFUL EIGHT isn’t necessarily a Western film, despite its setting and situation. “THE HATEUL EIGHT is not a Western film – it’s an adventure movie,” Morricone told Charley Locke in an interview at “The only reason why people tend to call it a Western is because the story is not set in our time.” I’ll go one further: THE HATEFUL EIGHT is a thriller: a mystery story that unravels first psychologically and then, brutally and violently. Its thrills are not in visual action, but are most definitely found in the psychological interplay between the characters and the violent manner in which the story plays out, the mystery unravels, and ultimately resolves. For this engrossing, characterization-derived thriller, Morricone has provided a brilliant thriller score. Despite what Tarantino writes in the album booklet (“In its own way, just as important and meaningful and friggin’ cool is the fact that my movie has a Spaghetti Western Soundtrack album by Ennio Morricone”), there is little in common between his score here and what we have come to recognize as a “Spaghetti Western” score; but what it clearly represents is the kind of approach Morricone has brought to thrillers: the driving, almost staccato propulsion, the straight ahead sustained rhythms, and the percussive beats that flow like a dissipating bloodstream as it gushes out of a newly-severed artery flowing so freely from a Tarantino film. THE HATEFUL EIGHT score is saturated with a degree of tension that keeps anxiety high throughout the film’s 167 minutes (187 for the roadshow version). With a primary theme that emphasizes a unique, nasal whine of solo bassoon (“In the first notes of the main theme I use the bassoon in a very different way,” Morricone told Joe Utichi. “It’s the first time I scored a piece of music like that with the bassoon, and this was also true for the other parts of the music because I wanted to give Tarantino a soundtrack that was all his own.”), Morricone introduces and builds this uneasiness as the characters gather and their destiny plays out in the isolated environment with the broken door. The theme emphasizes isolation and hidden agendas and untrustworthy characters, while a secondary motif entitled “Neve” (“Snow”) emphasizes the environment, the cold, the lousy coffee, the increasing spaces distance between the characters as death reduces their number and brings the drama continually closer.

The performance of the Czech National Symphony Orchestra in recording the score is quite good and Decca’s soundtrack album, despite the inclusion, or interference, of dialogue extracts and a three-fingered fistful of pop songs, is a thorough presentation of the score as written by Morricone for the film. It includes all 50 minutes of music reportedly written for the film, inspired mainly from the screenplay and composed prior to filming, and divided into 16 tracks.  Scattered among them are three songs licensed for use in the film (The White Stripes’ “Apple Blossom” heard effectively enough early in the film as the stagecoach makes its way through the birch forest; David Hess’ “Now You’re All Alone” [originally written for 1972’s THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT; now there’s a thriller for you], heard when one of the minor characters flee through the snow after gunshots ring out from Minnie’s Haberdashery, and Roy Orbison’s “There Won't Be Many Coming Home,” heard near the end of the film), which are of varying interest here, and nine inconsequential dialogue excerpts from the movie, including the Australian folk tune sung by Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character during the drama. Three other tracks of Morricone’s were licensed for the film which are not, nor were necessary, for inclusion: and included a short excerpt from “Regan’s Theme” (one of Morricone’s loveliest compositions) from EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC, which plays early in the film after the stagecoach has picked up Samuel L. Jackson’s character, and the tracks “Eternity,” “Beastiality,” and “Despair” from John Carpenter’s remake of THE THING, which heighten the dramatic tension, physical coldness and isolation that wraps the storyline like a torn blanket. The score’s effect in the film is splendid and imposing (the songs, less so, although Leigh’s folk tune has its place in the storytelling); its representation on album, if best listened with the songs and dialog excerpts unselected, results in a satisfactory and mesmerizing listening experience.

Richard Band/La-La Land - cd

Horror specialist Richard Band returns to the no-strings-attached franchise his brother Charles Band started in 1989, with 2012’s tenth film (in release order; 4th film chronologically) AXIS RISING showing members of the anthropomorphic puppets (animated by an Egyptian spell) fighting with and against Nazi puppets and humans alike.  Band scored the first two PUPPET MASTER films, provided partial scores for the next three, was represented via his main theme in PUPPET MASTER VI (CURSE OF-) through VII (RETRO-) which were scored by Jeff Walton and John Massari, respectively, then returned to provide full scores for films IX (AXIS Of EVIL) and X (AXIS RISING) [the unofficial SyFy PUPPET MASTER VS. DEMONIC TOYS was scored by Peter Bernstein without musical reference to the Band themes). Band is continually in good form, especially in this latest score.  Budgets restricted his work to synths and samples but they’re so good in AXIS RISING that in much of the score you’d be hard-pressed not to assume they’re live orchestral performances. Band’s main theme, composed with an Eastern European flavor that reflected the puppets’ creation during World War II, is used very effectively here, in both its minor Puppetmaster melody and its secondary, playful “puppet” motif. Despite being performed synthetically, Band has orchestrated the score magnificently and given it a thoroughly engaging dimensionality and textural dimension, with powerful horn runs and the occasional rise of Asian instrumentation (“Kamikaze in the Alley” is a fine example, before it segues into a powerful rendition of the main theme; also the striking eruption of koto, shamisen, and shakuhachi in “Blitzkrieg” is a wonderfully textured moment).  Overall, the music evokes the tone and texture of ‘40s and ‘50s war movies, with powerful passages in the horns and strings, and its reliance on furtive/aggressive major/minor shifts (“Danny Leans in and ‘SARGE’ Enters” is a sparkling example). It’s a straightforward dramatic composition that gives the bantam-budgeted production a sizeable sonic sensation and makes for a powerhouse score on its own merits. Accompanying AXIS RISING is Band’s score for the “lost” Charles Band film THE EVIL CLERGYMAN, based on twisted H.P. Lovecraft tale of sex, death, and profane resurrection. The short film was made in 1987 for an anthology film that never got finished when Empire Pictures crumbled into the dust. Thought lost, a workprint of the film was found in 2011 and restored for DVD release. Where AXIS RISING is powerful and propulsive, EVIL CLERGYMAN is subdued and quietly haunting, favoring piano, strings, and faint refractions of choir. Band’s main title alone is a splendid mix of alluring heartache and irresistible menace; elsewhere hysterical working of strings impel panic and atonal confrontations of choir and sound design create an otherworldly habitat. Both of these scores are among Band’s best work of recent years, and their release by La-La Land is a most welcome occasion.

Edwin Wendler/Howlin’ Wolf – cd

While this remake series of the original 1978 exploiter has pretty much settled into a style of revenge/torture porn, this third film continues the revenge plot but also takes the time to examine how Jennifer, the protagonist from the first film, after being tormented by her brutal assault and harrowing survival in that movie and now in therapy, distrusts men and begins to go on a roaring rampage of revenge toward abusers of women, actual or simply perceived. New to the franchise, composer Edwin Wendler (UNNATURAL, TALES OF HALLOWEEN, NON-STOP), noted for his knack at integrated unusual electronic and ambient textures, provided an effective, mostly ambient score, supporting and upping the ante on the film’s creepy and prelude-to-horrible-violence moments. “Jennifer needed a theme that sounded mournful, but also noble and somewhat twisted, all at the same time. Her intentions are very understandable, almost virtuous, so the melody needed to reflect that through a certain amount of beauty and lyricism, yet I asked vocalist Aeralie Brighton to sing as though she was pissed off.” The result is a mixture of poignancy and rage, the music most often mirroring Jennifer’s perspective (all but three of the album’s dozen tracks reflect one of the other characters in their titles), exploring her viewpoint as she interacts with each of them in her journey from victimization to self-confidence – and beyond. The music has its chaotic moments, but most often it’s quite attractive and intriguing in its evocative textures and pleasing rhythms… until less savory-sounding instruments and tonalities assume the fore and carry the music into more disturbing territories.

POKER NIGHT/Scott Glasgow/MovieScore Media – digital
In his latest thriller score, Scott Glasgow (LO, ROBOTECH: THE SHADOW CHRONICLES, SECRETS OF A PSYCHOPATH, etc.) provides a stylistically varied thriller score for an investigation unraveled in flashbacks. Written and directed by Greg Francis, POKER NIGHT is a uniquely structured dark crime thriller centered on a rookie cop being captured by a serial killer and held in a dungeon – all the while trying to remember the stories from the titular poker night where veteran cops all discussed their most difficult cases, hoping for a helpful lesson for his own survival. “The score to POKER NIGHT was a bit of a challenge,” Glasgow wrote in the digital album notes. “The producers of the film wanted an electronica/orchestral score blend. Something new for me but also a fun challenge musically. However after watching the film I realized it was much more of a dark thriller serial killer cop drama which needed something else score wise which included dark orchestral textures too. I set out to create a score with electronic elements blended with some 20th century composer techniques & architectural musical structures.” The score is a multifaceted amalgamation of tonal layers, textured pulsations and shards of sound, and raucous discord, all coherently maneuvered into a progressive sonic atmosphere, its mix of orchestral sounds and brutal synthetic textures keeping the listener/viewer constantly on edge. From the shadows emerge occasional melodic violin phrases while guttural, liquid moans emanate vocally amidst electronic pulses, pounds, and deep, close-miked and reverberated scrapes of grimy stone and metal.  It’s a difficult score not always suitable for enjoyable listening, but it’s a splendid musical accompaniment for the film’s situational disturbances. Glasgow’s layered and shifting timbres are carefully choreographed, maximizing their effect in refracting both the psychology of the imprisoned rookie cop and his desperate thoughts for a way of escape, or survival, and thus maximizing the impact of the film’s storyline as it plays out.   

REINDEER GAMES/Alan Silvestri/Music Box Records - CD
France’s Music Box Records presents the world premiere release of Alan Silvestri's original score to the 2000 action thriller REINDEER GAMES in a thorough package of 65 minutes of never-before-released music.  John Frankenheimer’s heist thriller is about an ex-con who assumes his dead cellmate’s identity in order to hit it off with his girlfriend, only to find himself the reluctant participant in a casino heist; it was to have been scored by Jerry Goldsmith (it would have been their fourth and final collaboration; Frankenheimer died in 2002) but, while the director was satisfied with Goldsmith’s mock-ups the producers were not, and they were successful in ousting him from the film. Alan Silvestri, fresh off of light comedies like THE PARENT TRAP and STUART LITTLE but with a rep for action thrillers like VOLCANO, JUDGE DREDD, and THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT, was brought in to replace him.  As Daniel Schweiger writes in the liner notes, REINDEER GAMES’ “twisted nihilism [gave] the composer the chance to play the darkest score of his career to that date… The icily humorous score is packed with rhythmic orchestral suspense and electronic minimalism.”  The score is methodical and precise, as furtive tension cues give way to moments of momentum and chase music, while a lushly ironic romantic melody surrounded the ex-con with the reality that his dead cellmate’s babe is far from the sweetheart he imagined her to be. Some of the pensive music, fine in the movie, is a bit drab on the disc, as their stationary substance and low volume quiets theme severely; on CD, the score is as its best in its more active moments. Still, as a rarity in Silvestri’s released output, this is worth savoring.

STONEWALL/Rob Simonsen/Lakeshore - digital
Rob Simonsen continues to impress me with his sensitive and often pop-infused approach to scoring contemporary films like ALL GOOD THINGS, WISH I WAS HERE, and SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD.  His new score for STONEWALL, a drama about a fictional young man named Danny caught up during the 1969 Stonewall riots, follows the trend; while about half of Lakeshore’s album comprises source music songs featured in the film soundtrack, the final seven tracks are devoted to Simonsen’s score, which reflects Danny and his experiences leading up to the riots, and where their aftermath left him and the LGBT community in New York City. The music is tender and empathetic, yet carries an aura of regret or disillusion, spoken through the sound of popular instruments of the period. “We discussed embracing the sounds that were prevalent at that time,” said Simonsen. “Electrified instruments were the basis for most popular music at the time, electric guitars, Fender Rhodes, electric bass. Also drum kit, acoustic guitars. We wanted to capture an ‘on tape’ sound and feel like the score came from the era a bit.”  The score is both immediate in its connection with time and place, sharing both instrumentation and a performance style with the time period, while conveying a sense of sympathy for the situation in which Danny finds himself. It’s a very pleasing work on its own and makes for a quite enjoyable listen.

THE WIND GODS/Pinar Toprak/Caldera - cd
Pinar Toprak’s elegant documentary score comes to CD for the first time in this nicely designed album from Caldera, the German label’s twelfth release. The 2011 American documentary chronicles the 10-year quest of famous entrepreneur Larry Ellison who set sail with his 'Oracle' to win the America's Cup and therefore bring the prestigious sailing prize home to the US after it had been won by foreigners in the past years. The Turkish-born composer’s gift for sumptuous and poignant melody and orchestral harmony is just as vivid and striking as it was in her scores for THE LIGHTKEEPERS (reviewed Sept. 2011), THE RIVER MURDERS (reviewed June 2014), and SAY IT IN RUSSIAN (reviewed Dec. 2014), and others. Toprak “delivered a grand, sweeping and epic score which shows how exciting the music for a documentary can be: filled with several memorable themes, a detailed orchestration, and a lot of swashbuckling action, the music brims with masculine forces and female sensibilities,” as the label writes on its web site. The Turkish-born composer deservedly was awarded the IFMCA award for Best Documentary Score in 2011 from the International Film Music Critics Association.  Its large-scale presentation, recorded with the 70+ piece Hollywood Studio Symphony conducted by Jerome Leroy, gives it a marvelous scope and presentation, and makes for a completely satisfactory and compelling home listen. The CD release features a detailed booklet-text by Gergely Hubai and elegant artwork by Luis Miguel Rojas, and the CD includes Caldera’s customary audio commentary from Pinar about this score (“I wanted to keep it traditional, I wanted it to feel timeless. We’ve had two or three cues that I’ve had some electronics on, but for the most part it’s very thematic orchestral”).


Soundtrack & Music News

For those readers in the SoCal area, you may be interested in the latest film music autograph-fest going on this coming January 16th at 2PM at Creature Features, 2904 W Magnolia Blvd, Burbank. The event celebrates the release by Intrada of a special expanded CD release of Charles Bernstein’s score to CUJO, the Stephen King novel about the rabid St Bernard who traps Dee Wallace in her broken down car.  On the 16th, Creature Features is hosting a live panel on CUJO, featuring director Lewis Teague (ALLIGATOR, CAT’S EYE, JEWEL OF THE NILE), star Dee Wallace (E.T., THE HILLS HAVE EYES, THE STEPFORD WIVES), and composer Charles Bernstein (THE ENTITY, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, APRIL FOOL’S DAY). The CUJO soundtrack salute takes place at Creature Features in Burbank on Saturday, January 16th from 2:00 – 3:15 PM, and will be limited to 50 people, with purchase of the CUJO CD required for seating. A regular, unlimited signing will be held afterwards with Wallace, Teague, and Bernstein. Dee Wallace will also be signing fans' photos and memorabilia that fans bring for a separate fee. For more details, see:

My new interview with composer Paul Haslinger about scoring FEAR THE WALKING DEAD has posted to the musique fantastique web site.

Ready for another eloquent and haunting horror score from Spanish Maestro Fernando Velazquez? Varese Sarabande will release Velazquez’s score for PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES - was set for Feb. 5th, same date the film opens, but reported has been moved back to Feb 12 - via

Speaking of Varese Sarabande, next week the label will release the TV soundtrack to creator/producer Moira Walley-Beckett’s FLESH AND BONE,featuring the show’s music by composer Dave Porter (BREAKING BAD, THE BLACKLIST). “Moira [Walley-Beckett, creator/exec prod.] challenged me to be more overtly emotional than I usually am,” Porter said, “to use the score as a powerful force to enhance the stakes of the drama, but always encouraged me to find my own way of expressing it.”  On a series with a background of ballet, Porter felt the score should feature classical orchestral instruments, but in order to distinguish it from the more traditional ballet music around it he chose a more modern direction.

Hollywood Records has released a soundtrack album for Marvel Television’s ABC series AGENT CARTER. The album features selections from the original music from the show’s first season composed by Christopher Lennertz. The drama is set in the 1940s and follows Peggy Carter as she finds herself marginalized when the men return home from fighting abroad and must balance doing administrative work for the covert SSR and going on secret missions for Howard Stark. The series’ first season premiered earlier this year and the show will return for a second season on January 19, 2016.
- film music reporter

Warner Music of Italy will release Ennio Morricone’s score for Giuseppe Tornatore’s 2016 drama IL CORRISPONDENZA (The Correspondence) on February 16th.  Pre-order it from Amazon Italy here

The British Label Vocalion has reissued Elmer Bernstein’s rocking jazz score to THE SILENCERS (1966), first of four motion pictures starring Dean Martin as Matt Helm, novelist Donald Hamilton’s government assassin.  Vocalion’s release is the world CD premiere reissue of the original RCA LP, includes 11 score tracks and 2 songs, including the title tune, written by Bernstein and Mack David and sung by Vicki Carr.  Let’s hope the next three Matt Helm scores, MURDERER’S ROW (Lalo Schifrin), THE AMBUSHERS, and THE WRECKING CREW (both Hugo Montenegro) may soon follow (although the latter two are fairly doubtful, having not been issued on LP at all; only a 45-rpm single of AMBUSHERS has previously been issued).

Composer Christopher Lennertz has written the score for RIDE ALONG 2, collaborating with accomplished musicians Arturo Sandoval and Sheila E. He previously collaborated with director Tim Story on RIDE ALONG, THINK LIKE A MAN, and THINK LIKE A MAN TOO. Additionally, Lennertz is returning to GALAVANT for season 2, collaborating with Alan Menken and AGENT CARTER which will have its season premiere on January 19.
- film music reporter

Spain’s Quartet Records have announced their January releases. For January 14th, they’ll release an expanded, remixed, and remastered edition of Gato Barbieri’s LAST TANGO IN PARIS and Diego Navaro’s score for the animated sci-fi feature, CAPTURE THE FLAG. For January 28th, they’ll offer Gabriel Yared’s score for the new film CHOCOLAT, a history of the late 19th century clown Chocolate, the first black circus artist in France, and Henrik Scram’s music for the Danish historical comedy/drama, TORDENSKJOLD & KOLD

Lakeshore has released Charlie Clouser’s music to the SyFy miniseries CHILDHOOD’S END digitally, with a CD version to follow on Jan. 29th.  The score is something of a surprise, given that the former Nine Inch Nails’ keyboardist has been associated primarily with electronic and sound design scores for films such as the SAW series, which he did very well.  Clouser switches gears with CHILDHOOD’S END, however, providing a richly atmospheric symphonic score.  For background on Clouser’s score, see this interview posted recently at

Hans Zimmer is reteaming with Christopher Nolan on the director’s upcoming World War II action thriller DUNKIRK. The project, Zimmer’s sixth collaboration with Nolan, is set to shoot later this year at many of the actual locations of the events and will be released in July 2017 by Warner Bros.  According to, the composer has already started working on the film.

Sony Music has released George Fenton’s soundtrack to THE LADY IN THE VAN, a period drama based on writer Alan Bennett’s celebrated memoir about the irascible elderly Mary Shepherd who took up residence in her vehicle in Bennett’s front garden for two decades.  Of the score, Fenton said: “The Lady in the Van was a unique experience for me, writing a score for a story about someone I actually know (Alan Bennett) and someone I met (Mary Shepherd). The film not only tells an amazing story, but also celebrates an extraordinary character - her triumphs and failings.  I've tried to show both sides musically.”

On February 26, Silva Screen will release Debbie Wiseman’s sumptuous score for the new BBC drama production, DICKENSIAN. Launched on Boxing Day [Dec 26], this ambitious 20-part series is set within the fictional realms of Charles Dickens’s critically acclaimed novels. It brings together his most iconic characters such as Scrooge, Miss Havisham and Fagin, with all the action taking place soap style in a lavishly recreated 19th century cobbled street. Pre-orderable from amazon-UK

Beat Records of Italy releases on CD the complete edition of Claudio Simonetti's original soundtrack from the 1988 Italian splatter movie NIGHTMARE BEACH (La Spiaggia Del Terrore),directed by Umberto Lenzi. Also available now is a first-CD release of Armando Trovajoli’s score the science fiction movie I PIANETI CONTRO DI NOI
(Planets Around Us).

From Japan’s Cinema-kan label comes Bloodthirsty Music: Toho's "Bloodthirsty" Series Music Collection. This new release contains composer Riichiro Manabe's music from Toho's Bloodthirsty Trilogy: FEAR OF THE GHOST HOUSE: BLOODTHIRSTY DOLL (1970; better known in the US as THE VAMPIRE DOLL), CURSED HOUSE: BLOODTHIRSTY EYES (1971; LAKE OF DRACULA) and BLOODTHIRSTY ROSE (1974; EVIL OF DRACULA). [Note, per a reader: originally it was stated that the disc would contain the complete scores to all three films; but this is not the case, as it’s VAP's ten disc Toho SFX Champion Festival box set that actually contains the complete scores.  That said, Cinema-kan’s “Bloodthirsty” Collection, is still a solid collection, providing the most important cues of the trilogy; it also contains five bonus tracks (alternate takes) that were previously unreleased].  Available from (click NEW ARRIVAL then SEARCH for “bloodthirsty.”)

Benjamin Wallfisch's soundtrack to the undersea thriller PRESSURE, previously issued only digitally by MovieScore Media, is now available on CD. It’s a limited edition of only 300 copies.

Lakeshore Records will release Ben Lovett’s score to SYNCHRONICITY digitally on January 22 and on CD in February; the composer’s sixth collaboration with writer/director Jacob Gentry. “Jacob and I were both raised on 80’s movies and the music of John Carpenter, Wendy Carlos, Vangelis, Jean Michel Jarre and others who pioneered the sound of that era,” said Lovett. “Since the visual tone of SYNCHRONICITY is very much inspired by science fiction films from that time period, we wanted to approach the music with similar reverie to reinforce the overall aesthetic goals of the film.”  Lovett opted to work exclusively with vintage analog synthesizers, his first entirely electronic score. “The word ‘synchronicity’ refers to seemingly related things which are casually unrelated, and I wanted to echo this as much as possible in the music,” Lovett described. “While there are recurring melodic elements related to specific themes in the film, there’s also a thematic repetition of individual sounds which come and go, sometimes never playing more than a single note.  The interplay of these smaller peripheral elements and the way they change slightly over time are kind of a roadmap for the time travel loop that occurs in the movie.”

Also newly-issued by Lakeshore are Frederik Wiedmann’s music to the DreamWorks Animation series ALL HAIL KING JULIEN, depicting the further adventures of the lemur King from the MADAGASCAR franchise, and a pair of digital and CD albums with Brian Reitzell’s music from TV’s HANNIBAL,Season 3

Germany’s Kronos Records announces its next three limited CD releases: Stelvio Cipriani’s score to THE BLACK SPIDER (previously issued only digitally, in 2013 by Octopus Records), Salvatore Sangiovanni & Susan Jean Dibona’s music to Domiziano De Cristopharo’s THE TRANSPARENT WOMAN (“The composers have created a musical ambience and style that is not a million miles away from the sound created by a number of renowned Italian film music Maestro's but predominantly the musical trademarks of [several] composers…”), and Alexandar Randjelovic’s (St. George Shoots the Dragon) for the Serbian thriller TRAVELATOR). All of Kronos’ CD releases are limited to 300 copies.

Click here to watch an intriguing interview with Quentin Tarantino and Ennio Morricone about the scoring of THE HATEFUL EIGHT at

Toho Studios has announced that the composer of their new Shin-Gojira kaiju epic, GODZILLA: RESURGENCE will be Shiro Sagisu who scored "ATTACK ON TITAN". For some sample trailers from the new Gohjira movie (not yet scored) see

Ludwig Goransson’s original score to the new Rocky film CREED was announced as the runner-up for Best Original Score at the Boston Society of Film Critics 2015 Awards. Ludwig’s score includes both orchestral and hip-hop music and at times he is able to combine the two genres in an incredibly unique way. Watch an exclusive video of Goransson working on the score here.

Shawn K. Clement's soundtrack music from the hit TV series WORLD'S WILDEST POLICE VIDEOS – the show that started the reality TV craze - is now available from cdbaby.

Tadlow will issue two new albums on February 15th: first is a two-CD collector’s edition of a concert celebrating the music of Miklós Rózsa, powerfully performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic, featuring some of the composer’s finest themes, from THE THIEF OF BAGDAD, EL CID, and BEN-HUR, to THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD and THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES. The other is also a 2-CD edition featuring the premiere new recording of the complete score by Jerry Goldsmith to the World War I aerial drama, THE BLUE MAX. The album also includes a recording of “Themes and Suites from other fabulous Goldsmith Scores.” See for more details.

The latest recording of film music from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, on its own specialty label, is Hollywood Blockbusters 2, which celebrates the multi-award-winning scores of blockbuster films, taken from 2012 and 2015 performances, conducted by Nic Raine, that include THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, THE KING’S SPEECH, LINCOLN, and WAR HORSE. The disc also features music from recent family-favorites, including PADDINGTON, FROZEN, THE HOBBIT and HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2, along with excerpts from INCEPTION, THE BOOK THIEF, INTO THE WOODS and ANNA KARENINA. A highlight of the album is the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance of the iconic theme from SKYFALL - the twenty-third film in the famous James Bond series. See


Film Music on Vinyl

The popularity (and fidelity) of vinyl LPs continued to gain traction and interest with a number of new (and old) labels releasing limited, high-quality premium pressing record albums. The sci-fi/horror genre in particular is reaping a growing harvest of scores available in the resurging format.

Intrada comes full circle after 30 years, bringing vinyl back in welcome fashion - with Richard Band’s score for the 1986 Empire Pictures frightfest TROLL a dynamic turntable spin. Featuring orchestra and chorus, TROLL eschewed the usual album norm of a series of short film cues but in the then (and still) rare form of an extended five-movement "symphony". Lengthy sequences are cohesive, flavorful, playful, exciting, tuneful, intense – with “Cantos Profanae” featuring solo child's voice, large chorus intoning English, Italian, Latin text plus orchestra as the score’s centerpiece.  Intrada’s 180 gram premium vinyl pressing, limited to 500 copies, is packaged with deluxe (UV-coated) gatefold jacket, newly-commissioned artwork, plus plethora of color stills inside. Musical contents are identical to Intrada’s 2006 CD release. See:

Lunaris Records proudly presents the original motion picture soundtrack for the 1994 Michele Soavi cult horror film, DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE (aka CEMETERY MAN) composed & performed by Manuel De Sica. The 150g Ignis Fatuus color vinyl edition (clear with white streaks), featuring all-new artwork and English & Italian liner notes by Fabio Capuzzo, has been mastered at 45RPM on 2xLPs for best sound quality.  A deluxe cassette tape edition is also available.Available from: (Europe),
 (North America).

One Way Static Records offers their own release of Stelvio Cipriani’s iconic motion picture soundtrack for Joe D’Amato’s 1978 PAPAYA, LOVE GODDESS OF THE CANNIBALS (Papaya dei Caraibi) Once again OWS heads deep into cannibal territory with this amazing release for the first time on vinyl & cassette. Feast on the guts, the gore, the music: here.

Sony Classical offers three new, definitive editions, in three formats, of the original six STAR WARS soundtracks:
Star Wars: The Ultimate Vinyl Collection includes each of the six film soundtracks in deluxe gatefold sleeves faithfully replicating the original artwork.
Star Wars: The Ultimate Soundtrack Edition includes the original six soundtracks in mini-album jackets, plus a bonus CD featuring audio interviews with Harrison Ford and John Williams. Also included is the DVD Star Wars: A Musical Journey, a one-hour special highlighting select musical themes alongside key sequences from the films. Rounding out the set are a fold-out poster and three collectible stickers.
Star Wars: The Ultimate Digital Collection features a bundle of the six original soundtracks available for the first time as high-definition downloads.
All composed by John Williams, these unique collector’s sets have just been released worldwide as of last Friday, January 8.

Silva Screen offers the extended version of the Jerry Goldsmith score from Ridley Scott’s 1985 cult fantasy film LEGEND in its vinyl debut. Special edition with new artwork,180g black vinyl dlp, black inners, gatefold sleeve.

Mondo has released their BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES VINYL BOX SET, an 8-LP vinyl box set containing the complete score for 16 episodes, each album houses in its own liner with gorgeous brand new artwork for each episode by Justin Erickson of Phantom City Creative. 

The set is limited to 1,200 copies. See: .

Cargo Records of Germany has released Bernard Herrmann’s famous PSYCHO score on 180 gram vinyl; see their web site here. For further reading, see Tony Giles overview of the Top 10 Horror Soundtrack Releases [on vinyl] of 2015, posted at



Film Music Books

Published by The Scarecrow Press in 2013, Composing for the Cinema: The Theory and Praxis of Music in Film is co-written by Ennio Morricone and Sergio Miceli, translated from Italian by Gillian B. Anderson. Based on a series of lectures presented by celebrated composer Morricone and musicologist Miceli on the composition and analysis of film music, which has been transposed and adapted into this 300-page book, it’s not an easy book. Its thickly worded paragraphs are extremely academic and professorial, even with Anderson’s translation into relatively simpler conversational English. Without any images or music samples, it’s not as practical a how-to manual in the way that On The Track, by Rayburn Wright and the late Fred Karlin, is – but it’s worth wading through to not only get a glimpse at Morricone’s intelligent focus on musical form but also to grasp some of the theoretical principals about making music for cinema that can then be applied through the benefit of further hands-on study. 

There is much of value here indeed, preparatory to the practical part of putting pencil to paper (or finger to keyboard, as the case may be). “The composer has to make a structural analysis,” Morricone explains in Chapter 3, Production Procedures, using himself as the example. “He has to analyze the editing and cutting of the montage, the motion picture camera, and the manner in which the film is shot and runs, but above all he had to analyze the psychological makeup of the protagonists. I think not about their obvious character, but also about their thoughts, about their reflections, about their human or inhuman depth, according to the people with whom they associate. From there I arrive at compositional choices.” (p. 53).  What follows in succeeding chapters, which run in detail through topics such as Audiovisual Analysis, Production Procedures, Premix and Final Mix, Compositional Elements, and an intriguing Appendix on “Writing for the Cinema: Aspects and Problems of a Compositional Activity of Our Time,” is a mix of narratives attributed to both authors and sections in which Miceli interviews Morricone for further detail and clarification (the final chapter is, in fact, an extended collection of interview Q&As that serves to conclude their analysis and ensure no loose strings are left untied in their comprehensive dissertation).

Morricone often makes examples from his own film music experiences to emphasize matters, which also allows us to glean a bit about how some choices were made (or happened) in some of Morricone’s most popular works.  One example: Discussing how the interactive collaboration between director and composer can often enhance meaning in both visual and musical elements in a film, Morricone cites the famous moment in Sergio Leone’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST where we first hear “Jill’s Theme” as she disembarks the train, walks through the station, and emerges into the town beyond. “When Leone told me about the film, he said absolutely nothing about the fact that there would be a close-up of a clock on the station building,” Morricone states, having in this case created the music before the scene was shot. “For that scene I composed a piece that used vibraphone and celeste. By his placement of the visuals with the music, Leone made that casual choice become like the sound of a clock. This was very far from my original intentions...” He describes the classic dolly shot that rises above the station’s roof line to reveal the town beyond, and Jill walking out of the station below and down the street. “For that point I had written a musical bridge, with a crescendo that I carried over to the reappearance of the theme. I did not know that Leone would transform that musical bridge into a cinematographic bridge. The woman enters the station, disappears, and next is seen reframed at the exit, at the opposite side. This is the work of the director. I only wrote the music, but the revision of this episode verified how much more effective the music could become with this type of treatment by the director.” (p.59-60).

The book is also a fascinating opportunity to learn about Morricone himself, how he thinks and how he approaches the art and science of applying music to film, and how his own unique interpretation and focus in the process has been used to achieve so much in the way of his music’s application and relationship to cinema.


Games Music News

VGM Online has announced their 2015 nominations for their Sixth Annual Game Music Awards.  “The AGMAs are intended to celebrate achievement across the game audio industry and give recognition to the incredibly creative people working in it,” reports VGM Online. “While ‘best music’ and ‘best sound’ categories are featured in other video game awards, the majority of these awards only commemorate top-selling video games and overlook other often-excellent productions (e.g. import and indie soundtracks).” The winners will be announced during the week beginning February 1.
See the nominees here

Throughout 2015, composer Winifred Phillips continued to create some propulsive and profound game music. Her music for Spacetime Studio’s Call of Champions MOBA game consisted of only three pieces of music, yet each are powerfully muscular and dynamically produced, while anchored by a heroically anthemic primary theme.  The game itself was named a 2015 Game of the Year by Pocket Gamer. All three tracks can be heard via Soundcloud links on Winifred’s web site, which also contains additional details on the creation of the score:

Winifred also composed the music for the Clash of Kings real-time strategy game - one of the top-grossing mobile games, having been downloaded over 100 million times worldwide and being named by Facebook as its 2015 Game of the Year. Winfred’s music here is superbly immersive and dimensional, with vigorous orchestrations, massive choirs, and reverberant drums that really drive the music with power and strength. Two tracks from Clash of Kings are available for listening (if you have a set of headphones, definitely wear them for optimum listening impact):  

No Man’s Land, the official mobile game of AMC’s THE WALKING DEAD, currently available on iOS and Google Play, features original music by Finnish composer Tuomas Kantelinen (THE LEGEND OF HERCULES, MONGOL). “What is cool about the musical world of AMC’s THE WALKING DEAD is that it’s incredibly sparse and creepy, rather than full-on action, most of the time,” said Kantelinen. “The soundscape after the zombie apocalypse is often extreme silence, as there just aren’t that many human beings left and they can’t function like before. Throughout the franchise, the key to the sound is subtlety, and this sonic landscape works perfectly for creating a game for a mobile platform. Writing music and themes for a game is quite different from film scoring, as a lot of repetitive loops are needed, and subtle changes in them up the tension - or, like in the camp, let the player have a moment without that much suspense as she/he is surrounded by other survivors and zombie ambushes aren’t as likely,” Kantelinen described. “The beauty of this kind of mobile game is that it can be played anywhere - sitting in the bus, on a flight - and the music should support the gaming experience without being too distracting or overpowering.”

Composer and music producer Tom Salta, noted for his music to four previous Halo game soundtracks,. has scored Halo: The Fall of Reach, a new animated series set in the Halo universe. His third solo outing in the iconic sci-fi franchise, Salta's score for Halo: The Fall of Reach supports the origin story of the Master Chief and expands the legacy sound of the series with new themes while complementing Halo's musical blueprint of ethereal choral arrangements (including performances from the Keystone State Boychoir and members of the New York Film Chorale), piano motifs, synth ambience, and sweeping sci-fi orchestral compositions. Sample tracks can be streamed at
Furthermore, Salta composed, arranged and produced the first original pop song in the franchise's history, "Take This Life", featuring Jillian Aversa (Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary) on vocals and lyrics written by Frank O'Connor, Franchise Development Director of the Halo franchise. The song is available exclusively on Halo: The Fall of Reach's soundtrack.


Randall D. Larson was for many years senior editor for Soundtrack Magazine, publisher of CinemaScore: The Film Music Journal, and a film music columnist for Cinefantastique magazine. A specialist on horror film music, he is the author of Musique Fantastique: A Survey of Film Music in the Fantastic Cinema and Music from the House of Hammer. He currently writes articles on film music and sf/horror cinema, and has written liner notes for nearly 300 soundtrack CDs. A wholly re-written and expanded multi-book Second Edition of Musique Fantastique is being published:) the first book is now available from Creature Features and Book 2 coming up next Spring/Summer from Midnight Marquee Press. See:

Special thanks to Benjamin Michael Joffe for copy editing assistance.

© 2015 - the Soundtrax column is copyright by Randall D. Larson; all rights reserved.

Randall can be contacted via -Your Store to Buy Hard To Find Film and Television
Music Scores and Soundtrack CDs!