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Soundtrax: Episode 2019-5
October, 2019

Feature Interviews:

  • David E. Russo: From GOTHAM to PENNYWORTH
  • Arturo Cardelús in the Labyrinth of the Turtles

• SNAPSHOTS: Soundtrack Reviews:

ANGEL HAS FALLEN/Buckley (Milan), CHILD’S PLAY/McCreary (Sparks & Shadows/La-La Land), CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA/Taylor (La-La Land ), CURSE OF BUCKOUT ROAD/Shore (Ryan Shore), DARK CRYSTAL: AGE OF RESISTANCE/Pemberton & Sim (Music.Film), DEAD ANT/Wendler (Notefornote), ERICA/Wintory (Bandcamp),  FREAKS/Wynn (MovieScore Media), LE PLUS BEAU PAYS DU MONDE - LE SANCTUAIRE/Rob (Music Box), LOST AND LOVE/Preisner (Caldera), PETER PAN (1924)/Carli (Kino Classics Blu-ray), POP BLACK POSTA/Werba (Plaza Mayor), SWAY/Pakk Hui (Howlin’ Wolf), SWOON/ Méchaly (Music Box-MovieScore Media), UNTAMED ROMANIA/Desai (Silva Screen)

• Soundtrack, Vinyl, Film Music Book News

The PENNYWORTH music team in the control room during the recording sessions. L to R: Ashley Revell (music editor), David Russo, Danny Cannon (director/writer/exec. producer/writer), Dominik Hauser (orchestrator), Daniel Kresco (scoring engineer), Tom Hardisty (2nd engineer), Elle Sassenrath (producer). Photo by Troy Conrad, courtesy David Russo.

David E. Russo is an American film and television composer best known for his work on GOTHAM (co-composing with Graeme Revell for the first two seasons), NIKITA, THE TOMORROW PEOPLE, and DARK BLUE (with Revell). Russo has been scoring films and television since the early 1990s (his first score was 1990’s SPACED INVADERS). As a musician he has toured with Sheryl Crow and is a founding member of the alt rock band Sun 60. Russo is currently scoring the GOTHAM spin-off series, PENNYWORTH, which tells of the early life of Alfred Pennyworth, a former special-forces officer living in London and working for Bruce Wayne’s father in the 1960s. PENNYWORTH is shown in the United States on the MGM-owned premium cable and satellite television network Epix, premiering on Sept 4, 2019 (its first season will conclude with its tenth episode on Sept. 29). In Canada, the series premiered on Showcase on September 4, six weeks behind the Epix schedule.
I spoke with Russo on Sept 8, 2019 about his adventures scoring for PENNYWORTH and what connection the show and its music might have with GOTHAM.

Listen to the main title theme from PENNYWORTH:

Q. How did you become involved with PENNYWORTH—and did your scoring
of GOTHAM make you a contender for the new series?

David Russo: I owe so much to [exec. producer/writer/director] Danny Cannon. I’ve been working for Danny steadily for literally 18 years. I started working on CSI MIAMI in 2001, and I’ve been working with Danny ever since. So I’m really lucky that I know him and he gives me a chance because the canvas that he creates for GOTHAM, and for this show, there’s nothing more interesting to me on TV. I’m only limited by my imagination if he has the door wide open to whatever I can come up with, so it’s a really fortunate friendship for me.

Q: What were the initial discussions you had about the type of music they wanted for PENNYWORTH, and how did the score develop from those early talks?

David Russo: Danny and [creator] Bruno Heller were very precise about the specific era. So when I first started talking with Danny they gave me a list of the source pop tunes that they liked, and they were also really specific about what they didn’t like from the era, which really helped. Bruno and Danny certainly know this era so well so that was a great education, just in terms of the sensibility and then watching a lot of those early Michael Caine films around that era, we’re definitely paying homage to that, and listening to a lot of John Barry. There’s no question that I’m making a homage to one of my absolute heroes, so I’m just trying to do justice to the form, and Danny was very specific about the palette. At times it’s about eliminating what will not work, so everything is performed, there’s always samples and MIDI happening, but I’ve also been recording—my entire living room and kitchen are now just a recording studio with percussion and guitars and piano, everything. It’s a lot of performing stuff.

Q: Is there any correlation, perhaps just in spirit, of the music for GOTHAM and how you’re treating PENNYWORTH, or is it totally separate?

David Russo: I think it’s totally separate, although we’ll see where the series goes, and certainly tonight’s [Episode 7] episode turns a corner that is GOTHAM-esque. Really anything can happen. I think they’ve established something that was much more about the era, but if the show sticks around I can see it getting pretty wild—and then we’re in GOTHAM territory. There’s no limit, because the characters on GOTHAM were so wild, and musically there was no limit to it—although Danny always wanted a very organic, non-electronic palette for that show, and certainly the same is true for this one. So at this point there is no direct correlation. I did sneak a couple GOTHAM motifs into some of my new themes and I’m waiting to see if anybody notices!

Q: How did you treat the character of Alfred Pennyworth, being the younger version of the man we know so well from GOTHAM, being introduced in his early life?

David Russo: I think there is a useful hopefulness and optimism about him, but there’s also a lot of sadness and wistfulness. We hear about his ten years in the Army, and allude to how difficult it was and the scars that he still carries, which you can see on his body and psychologically he also carries scars. We keep flashing back to those ten years. If he’s 26 now that means he went into the Army when he was 16. We also see what Dave Boy is going through in the first few episodes—the guys are struggling. So, thematically, it’s trying to find all of that… he’s charming, he’s arresting, and he’s certainly heroic, he’s got a little swagger to him, so I’ve been exploring all that. And also there’s a paternal quality that we certainly see in his relationship with Bruce Wayne and you see it with his friends now, and there’s that strength that he has and that paternalism that’s heroic, and it’s really inspiring. So it’s just finding some way to embody that musically. The young actor is just fantastic.

Q: Knowing the character as well as you do from GOTHAM, what was your initial take on providing a theme for him here on PENNYWORTH; he’s a younger man but you know him pretty well from your experiences on the previous show.

David Russo: It’s funny, I think one of the very first things Danny did was to decide he wanted to come up with a main title sequence. That’s something that we’ve never done before on any series I’ve ever done for him, so this is the first time we have an actual main title. We decided early on we need to come up with a cracking theme for Alfred, so I did a bunch of demos trying to come up with something that felt heroic, that felt maybe perhaps British, filtered through my silly American mind, and we came up with something that everybody seemed pretty happy with, and that has become Alfred’s theme. There’s a couple of sub-themes and certainly a love theme, but that central theme, it’s a simple theme that seems to work in a lot of instances, and we’re happy with it so far. We’ll see where it goes.

Q: Was there any temp score involved that you had to deal with in scoring PENNYWORTH?

David Russo: Not really, because I came in quite early on the pilot. I started writing months before I saw any footage. I wrote about an hour of material and gave demos of everything to Danny, so they were able to temp that into the pilot, and I got the pilot pretty early. They tried to give me footage early on—so, no, there wasn’t really much temp score. They threw a couple of John Barry things in there, early on, but I was really lucky in that regard.

Q: How would you describe your overall thematic structure of the score as it developed through the first season and how other characters were defined musically?

David Russo: I came up initially with themes for Alfred, for Bet Sykes, for Lord Harwood, Martha Kane… I wrote a theme for Thomas Wayne that was a bit mysterious and I was surprised at the Thomas Wayne that I eventually saw on the screen. He’s funny, he’s a little slippery, he’s a bit of a con man, while Bruce is so very stalwart and honest, very different; that was a bit of a surprise for me, and also because Thomas Wayne is essentially a side character, he’s not doing stuff heavily thematic, although as his relationship with Martha deepens that’s changing. So those were the essential themes, and then I also dealt with things that I imagined might happen, because I knew about Harwood’s trajectory, and so I wrote a series of pieces that were what I imagined he would go through and I was really happy when Danny shot the finale, he told me the pieces that I wrote slotted in really well. That’s really satisfying when you come up with a theme and you don’t know what the eventual thing is going to look like and then the piece actually fits with the action and the drama. I think I wrote about fifty different themes and moods; there was one called “Quiet Conversation” because there’s a lot of these discreet conversations in small rooms where people are plotting—a lot of things like that, as well as mysterious pieces. I wrote a long piece for when he goes and meets the Baroness Ortsey [Felicity Kendal] that ultimately worked really well.

Q: I watched that episode last week—that was really excellent.

David Russo: Getting those bass flutes and alto flutes and all that kind of stuff, it was lucky we were able to do a really nice recording session at Warner Bros at the Eastwood Recording Stage and a full orchestra. Danny’s such a supporter of live orchestra, so we had a lot of good material to work with.

Q: How large of an orchestra were you able to use and how did you integrate that with the digital samples you were using?

David Russo: I think it was about 60 pieces. It’s wild, because the clock is always ticking and you’re trying to record as much material as you can in the time given and it’s a blur, but I knew that there were some essential string things that I could record by themselves and then dress up in different ways later on. I did a lot of that; I recorded the different sections separately when we had time, and sometimes the entire ensemble played together, but that’s always a balancing act and it’s just making decisions in the moment as you watch the clock tick down.

Q: As with GOTHAM we’re seeing these characters and it’s unavoidable to realize these are the younger versions of the people we know in previous Batman films, in the same way that you’re doing in PENNYWORTH—these are the characters we know from their transition into GOTHAM and then their transition later into the current world of Batman. Is there any correlation between the music you’re writing here to nod toward the future, or will there be, without giving away any spoilers?

David Russo: I think that, luckily, one of the reasons that PENNYWORTH is so interesting and exciting is that it is really free of the whole superhero world, and Bruno, who wrote all but two of the scripts for this first season [with Bill Finger], and had a complete vision of this alternate London and this world that Alfred inhabited, so luckily for me it’s completely new and it’s a London I’ve never seen. So I’ve actually felt totally free and not encumbered by any requirements to fulfill any idea of GOTHAM or the Batman legacy. At this stage, for this first season, it’s really the story about meeting this young 21-year old, watching him fall in love, learning about his friends, his family, and this odd world, and these really interesting villains that are not supernatural villains, they’re just interesting characters, so I felt completely free to try to create something new. Hopefully the show will stick around, and if it does I’m sure that road with how it connects to GOTHAM will be laid out. It will make sense once I get there, but for now its feeling complete just to try to inhabit this world and do the story and the characters justice.

Q: How did the use of 60s era pop/rock song interact with your score—or vice versa? For example in episode 7 with “Inna Gadda Da Vida” which builds a sense of chaos during Aleister Crowley’s party?

David Russo: And it worked so well!  And then we did that transition to score. Perhaps because the score is completely organic—I think I had a little Hammond B3 organ, but otherwise there hasn’t been any synthesis in it at all—the transition between the pop songs and the score has been really seamless. I haven’t done a lot of guitar work, because that just didn’t feel appropriate; that put it too much in the era. But there is almost a jazz element to the score that has worked well as a transition between the pop stuff.

Q: Is there a particular musical sequence you’ve found especially rewarding to score, this far?

David Russo: Ooh! You know, it’s funny. I think the one that moved me the most was when Alfred and Esme reconciled after she gave him back the ring. I love that stuff, and when he proposes to her, that really moved me, and also I love the scene where Alfred and Martha kiss, and then we transition to seeing Lord Harwood on the streets of London with his nose gone and his feet chopped off—that was really interesting to me how it was a bit romantic and then it turns and Alfred immediately feels guilty and then we see Lord Harwood and it turns again. I like that sequence at lot.

Q: The biggest emotional moment thus far is what happens to Esme in Episode 4. Would you describe how you treated that sequence in the score?

David Russo: They had that great song playing, “The Look of Love,” sung by Dusty Springfield, and it transitioned into score when Alfred enters the apartment and finds her. A big part of my job is to make the transitions feel organic and that the architecture and the punctuation in every scene is right. So I worked a long time just trying to find something that seemed to come out of that song well and bring it to the end of the show as he’s cradling her. I think that worked pretty effectively for that scene.

Q: What’s been most challenging for you about scoring PENNYWORTH?

David Russo: Most challenging? I think for me it’s what I find every time on every job I do: the most challenging thing is to try to do something that’s worthy of the show. Everything on this show is top notch—the writing, the characters, the cast, the direction, production design, costumes, everything. Just trying to rise to the level that the production is at, that’s the most challenging part. Living up to how great the show is.

Q: What can you tell me about the final episode of GOTHAM and the challenges giving that series an epic conclusion that would also speak for the character of Bruce Wayne as he becomes the Batman in that amazing finale?

David Russo: You know, one thing about TV is that the scenes are short, compared to feature films. In a feature film you would have much more time, especially for the big set pieces, but we can never do long set pieces on TV, because of budgetary concerns and the time constraint. If you have a scene that’s longer than a minute, it’s rare. Things usually move. So the challenge for me was to try to give the show the weight that it has to have within the constraint that we have with time. I would have loved to have spent more time on Bruce as Batman at the end, but we only got a few seconds. I loved the fact that at the very beginning they told us, “The last show of this series is going end with Bruce Wayne as Batman looking at the city.” Finales are always so hard, but I felt that they did a great job of bringing us to the end, and I thought they did it very elegantly.

Listen to David Russo’s climactic finale from the final episode of GOTHAM:

Thanks to David Russo for taking the time out to chat with me about his work on PENNYWORTH.


Arturo Cardelús’ “stunning” (Variety), “unforgettable” (The Wrap), and “lush and beautiful” (IndieWire) score accompanies Salvador Simó’s animated feature, BUÑUEL IN THE LABYRINTH OF THE TURTLES. The film has been the recipient of high critical praise and multiple awards on the festival circuit, with Cardelús awarded Best Music Award at Malaga Film Festival and Best Original Music at Annecy International Animation Film Festival. Summary: Paris, 1930. The infamous surrealist filmmakerLuis Buñuel is left penniless after the scandalous release of L’AGE D’OR, which leads to a falling out with collaborator Salvador Dalí. On a whim, Buñuel’s good friend, sculptor Ramón Acín, buys a lottery ticket and promises to devote his winnings to fund Buñuel’s next film. Incredibly, Ramón wins the jackpot, sending the two friends to the remote mountains of their native Spain to film the documentary LAS HURDES: LAND WITHOUT BREAD. Driven by mad artistic impulse and haunted by childhood memories, Buñuel must confront the specter of mortality looming over the lives of his subjects –and his own. In a stranger-than-fiction tale befitting the master filmmaker, BUÑUEL IN THE LABYRINTH OF THE TURTLES tells the true story behind a fascinating episode in cinematic history, utilizing sensitive performances as well as excerpts from Buñuel’s filmography to present a deeply affecting and humanistic portrait of an artist hunting for his purpose. I spoke with Arturo Cardelús’ about his score for this film on September 9, 2019.

Watch the film trailer, from youtube:

Q: What brought you into scoring films and how did you transition from composing concert music into composing for cinema?

Arturo Cardelús: I think it was my love for movies. I had actually been thinking of trying to be a filmmaker at some point, but then I got into classical music and piano. So then it was my interest in movies that brought me into composing for films.

Q: You’ve scored a number of short films early in your career. What were these experiences like for you?

Arturo Cardelús: They were a safe environment. They were very small projects and I made many mistakes, but I learned many lessons. It was good because there was not a huge budget and the filmmakers were not afraid of losing lots of money so for me it was the best opportunity to start learning about film scoring, how to develop themes, and things like that.

Q. How did you become involved in BUÑUEL IN THE LABYRINTH OF THE TURTLES?

Arturo Cardelús: It was through the main producer, Manuel Cristóbal. He’s a big producer in Spain and he heard a piece of mine that I had recorded with a Berlin Philharmonic soloist, called “Grace.” It was a piece that I composed for my daughter. We recorded that here at Warner Bros in 2016—the Berlin Philharmonic had a concert at Disney Hall and the day before the concert they had a free day. One of the violinists contacted me and said “Why don’t you write a piece and we will record it in L.A. while we’re there?” So I wrote this piece for string sextet and piano, and it was a great experience, we put it on youtube and this producer heard the piece, and that’s how I got the job.

Watch Arturo’s sublime and powerful concert piece “Grace,” which attracted producer Manuel Cristóbal to his work, from youtube:

Q: This film is an animated feature but it’s a very serious film which is part biography and part movie-about-making-a-movie, which also focuses on the humanitarian issues that concerned Buñuel when he filmed LAND WITHOUT BREAD. How did you and the filmmakers determine the kind of music that would best support this film?

Arturo Cardelús: The first thing the director told me was that, in Europe, animation is not a genre like it is here. Here, if it’s animation it means it’s a family movie for kids; in Europe it’s an art form. So the first thing they told me was “You have to forget that this is an animated movie. It is like a normal movie but we’re using animation.” I remember, when I was sending the director the first themes, he thought I was doing too much. I was used to the animation here where the music is very active and follows the plot closely. He said, “I need you to do less. This is not an animated movie like Disney.”

Q: With that in mind, how did you work with the director to determine the style of music they wanted and what palette they were looking for?

Arturo Cardelús: Here we have two very different characters, Luis Buñuel and Ramón Acín, and they wanted to create two very different musical worlds. The one for Buñuel is a crazy world full of atonal music, very active counterpoint, and some very complex textures. Ramón is the opposite type of character; he’s very simple, he’s a good guy, he doesn’t have the craziness that we find in Buñuel, so the music for him is in major, it’s a very simple texture, we have a simple melody on top and then strings or maybe a choir, but nothing like Buñuel had. So that was the beginning, to create two different worlds. The next step was to find a charismatic melody for Buñuel. We wanted to have a melody that you could remember even after hearing it once, and that took us a while. I think it was like a month and a half trying to find the proper melody, and when I wrote the Luis Buñuel Waltz, which is this waltz that we hear throughout the movie, we knew right away that was going to be our melody.

Also, although the themes for Ramón and Buñuel are very different from each other, it was very important to give them a kind of unity. We built unity just through the instruments, so even though the style of music is very different, the instrumentation—the ensemble—doesn’t change, and that makes it coherent. At the beginning of the movie the guitar is mostly used for Ramón, and then as we move around the story the guitar starts also going along with Buñuel. That happens also with choir—at the beginning we have choir with Luis Buñuel, and then we close the movie with choir for Ramón. That was for instruments or timbre, but in terms of melody or harmony they don’t touch each other. The music for Buñuel stays with Buñuel and the music for Ramón stays with Ramón.

Watch a short video in which director Salvador Simó describes working with Arturo on the BUÑUEL film, with clips of the recording session at Abbey Road Studios, from youtube:

Q: When you were scoring to the film, did you get completed animated sequences to compose to…?

Arturo Cardelús: Oh no—that would have been really good! I came in very early and they were just in the very beginning stages of the animatic, so there were scenes where I was actually scoring to what the director was telling me about the scene. They send you this scene where you see [storyboard] drawings and sometime it’s really hard to understand where the character is in the scene. Sometimes they are moving around but you can’t see that—you’re just seeing arrows all over the place. So I had a meeting with the director and he would explain and I ended up scoring his vision, his story of the scene, but not the scene itself.

Q: There are a number of emotional layers as Buñuel is challenged in making his movie, and he’s having flashbacks and nightmares; how did you approach these more introspective moments of the character through your music?

Arturo Cardelús: That’s the part of the score that was purely atonal, where we have a lot of dissonances. We have the choir creating these layers of harmony that are fighting with each other. To me that was the most interesting part of scoring the film; because Buñuel was finding his voice there, when he did his movie, he wasn’t the world famous director that he became; he was just someone who wasn’t well-known and he was fighting to find his voice. I was really glad that the director let me take this atonal direction for these scenes because I think it gives the movie a depth that it wouldn’t have if we would just have done a tonal score.

Q: An especially striking musical moment occurs in a dream scene where Buñuel is being haunted by childhood memories, with delicate piano and eerie choral vocalise; it’s alternately spooky and fascinating.

Arturo Cardelús: That was really fun to record, because we had this choir but we didn’t have very much time with the choir in the studio. The music so was so complex, it was impossible to keep in time with, so I came up with a solution—we had a keyboard in the studio connected to everyone’s headphones—every member of the choir had headphones. I was at the keyboard and I would assign notes to singers and play them, but those notes were not being recorded because they were just going straight to their headphones. So we were creating this cluster that is very, very hard to perform with sight reading, but if you have someone giving the notes to the choir on the spot, they were able to do it. We even recorded some of the scenes in one or two takes; they are very complex but it was easy to do because we had that keyboard giving them the notes.

Q: One of your most affecting musical moments occurs at the end of the film where Buñuel gets the telegram about Ramón having been killed; again you have the piano melody with an emotive female vocalise that opens into a rich choir. Would you describe how you decided on that music to accompany these final scenes?

Arturo Cardelús: That was a big moment. It took a lot of conversations with the director and the producer because they had decided at the end of the process that this movie was actually about Ramón and not about Buñuel. Ramón is the hero of the movie and that’s why we use his theme at the end. We recorded it with a 50-voice choir along with the full orchestra, and I think it’s a very special moment because it’s when Buñuel learns that he lost the friend who helped him make his documentary, and that’s when the theme comes in forte with a choir and soprano. Musically and dramatically it’s a very special moment.

Listen to the finale music from BUÑUEL IN THE LABYRINTH OF THE TURTLES,
from youtube:

Q: Is there a particular musical sequence you’ve found especially rewarding to score?

Arturo Cardelús: Yes, it’s on the soundtrack and it’s called “Perdido.” It’s a scene where we hear the theme that I wrote for Buñuel as a child. It starts with that theme on the piano and strings, and then on top of that I put the waltz melody in the guitar; that’s the only time in the whole movie that both melodies appear together, and it’s during a very meaningful moment in the movie, because that’s when Buñuel stops being a jerk—he was actually being very difficult with Ramón—and he really starts doing the type of things that will make him famous. I really like that track.

Listen to the track “Perdido,” from youtube:

Q: There’s another film you scored that I wanted to ask you about. It’s a science fiction film called ON THE RUN—I tend to write a lot about science fiction and fantasy film scoring, so I’m interested in how you created this dramatic score within a science fiction-esque genre.

Arturo Cardelús: It was awesome. It was my first time doing this kind of film. It was a very sci-fi, very weird kind of score, but I think it worked well with the movie. It was a TV movie produced by Robert Rodriguez’s company for the El Rey Network; he challenged five upcoming directors to do a movie with only $7,000, for a reality show. My friend Bola Ogun, I had worked with her before, she contacted me and asked I wanted to score the movie. I think we had only two weeks to do it, and I did it with another composer, Rickie Lee Kroell—sometimes we collaborated—and it was fun. We used a lot of electronic sounds along with some weird sounds we recorded. We had all these going on, but underneath the layers of crazy, weird stuff we had a classical harmony—something almost like Handel. In that way we supported the drama and also the science fiction elements of the film. It was a very refreshing project for me because it was something completely different from what I usually do.

Q: What are you currently working on or looking forward to doing next?

Arturo Cardelús: I’m working on a thriller now—my first time to score one of those—and also a dramedy, which is also my first time in that genre. I’m looking forward to doing another animated film, so maybe that’s becoming my thing! But I will be happy to become a composer for animation.

Special thanks to Ray Costa and Lana Lay at Costa Communications for facilitating this interview.
The soundtrack album for BUÑUEL IN THE LABYRINTH OF THE TURTLES is available on CD from Rosetta Records.
For more information on the composer, see his website at


Reviews of Recently Released Soundtracks

ANGEL HAS FALLEN/David Buckley/Milan – digital
Milan Records, an imprint of Sony Music Masterworks, has released the soundtrack to ANGEL HAS FALLEN, featuring music by composer David Buckley (THE GOOD WIFE, JASON BOURNE, PAPILLON, THE NICE GUYS, THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM). Directed by Ric Roman Waugh, this is the third movie in the turbulent, heavy action thriller series (following 2013’s OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN and 2016’s LONDON HAS FALLEN, both of which were scored by Trevor Morris). “When Ric and I first discussed the direction for this score, he was keen for the music to remain in a dark space as our hero becomes a fugitive,” explained Buckley. “There is some light and shade as the drama unfolds, but for a lot of the film my job was to portray a man not only on the run, but one who is fast approaching a mental and physical breaking point. But there is a theme that represents light and hope, for Mike Banning’s wife, for his child, for the President and for his country.” Buckley’s music is a mix of percussive action, sympathetic measures, and gallant heroism, which follow the film’s storyline while also making for a quite provocative listen on its own. In this third film, Gerard Butler’s Secret Service agent hero Mike Banning is in the midst of another attack on the US President (Morgan Freeman) only this time, being the sole survivor of the attack with decimated his team, Banning is set up as the suspect and must stay alive long enough to clear his own name while taking out the true perpetrators. Buckley begins by setting up a revolving two-note, foghorn-like ostinato set amidst a churning arrangement of brass, strings, and percussion introduced in the opening track, “The Kill Zone.” There’s a sturdy, dominating rhythmic and reverberating presence to the music, further developed in “Drone Attack,” along with a sympathetic violin motif in the track’s second half, resonating with Banning’s innocence and integrity in contrast to the power and malevolence of the villains, who are pulling the strings and designing their own destructive agenda (this graceful motif is later personified in the poignant rhythm cues, “Home Life” and “Fishing Trip.” In “Deep Regrets” it faces off against the bad guys’ motif in powerful confluence, with the hushed marcato strings and soft brass whisperings of “Resurrection” regenerating Banning’s ability to fight, its texture bristling with integrity and commitment, which “Accepting Betrayal” further illustrates). The score proceeds from this motivic pairing, focusing on the characters on each side of the conflict. Buckley’s percussive material directs the forward motion of his action material, while his heavy brass orchestrations and assured string choirs wash across the battering underbelly of drums and synths. A good example of this occurs in “Hospital Breech,” wherein the bad guys’ ostinato is nicely folded around the heavy conflagration of drums that build the cue’s direction. In the beginning of that cue, also heard at 0:57 in “Final Chess Match,” there’s an interesting percussive cluster, like a fist grasping a bunch of dry kindling, which makes an intriguing sonic transition which I quite like. Along with Banning’s sympathetic motif, Buckley’s bending villain ostinato, reflective of the cycles of a short Shepherd tone, keeps the focus on the inherent players within the story’s conflict. The final three tracks, “Coup de Grace,” “No More Secrets,” and “Angel Has Fallen” give the score a very satisfying and conclusive resolution.

For all of the film’s explosive violence, deceitful subterfuge, impossibly narrow escapes, and increasingly enormous action sequences, Buckley humanizes its primary characters—the good ones, at least—with a score that, in the midst of its ferocious orchestrations, manages to reflect Banning’s daring integrity and confidence against the seemingly insurmountable hordes of counter-agents who remain one step ahead of him until the story’s final moments. The bombastic orchestral action music is tempered by strands of percussive electronica that maintain a purposeful direction. It’s exaggerated, exciting, and often times elegant. The film is a lot of mindless fun; in his own way, Buckley’s score harmonizes the movie’s choreographed violence to keep us focused on the central characters at the heart of the film’s battle between honor and hubris. Despite its character as a wall of aggressive orchestration there is an effective ornamentation in the score’s thrilling gestures, and a favorable layer of sympathy and humanity that glimmers through quite positively.

CHILD’S PLAY (2010)/Bear McCreary/Sparks & Shadows-La-La Land - CD
Bear McCreary has provided a very creative musical accompaniment for Lars Klevberg’s reboot of the CHILD’S PLAY/Chucky series, crafting a unique orchestra together to fit the diminutive and demented Chucky doll. “Inspired by the Chucky’s toy-store origins, I’ve assembled a ‘toy orchestra,’ of toy pianos, hurdy gurdies, accordions, plastic guitars, and otamatones, that will be featured prominently in the score,” McCreary said. “I hope that these creepy, unique tones will help terrify the next generation of CHILD’S PLAY fans!” Fortunately, the carefully-wrought sound design fares better in this movie’s mix than the textured nuances of Bear’s magnificent GODZILLA score did in that movie’s massively effects-heavy sound mix—but I digress. Chucky’s music for his new generation has its rubber tongue gently placed against its molded cheek, providing both an ironic musical counterpoint to the doll-sized mayhem and the horrific deaths caused by the vengefully misprogrammed Buddi doll, as well as very straightforward shock, suspense, and horror music for the violence caused toward Andy and his family and friends by the jealous doll’s maddened mayhem. The album opens with Mark Hamill’s voice of Chucky singing the toy’s anthem, “Buddi Song,” and concludes with the Buddi manufacturer’s corporate jingle, “Kaslan Theme,” which has Chucky’s theme sung via la-la’s by an enthusiastic choir; as well as an arrangement of Joe Renzetti’s “Child’s Play Theme” from the original 1988 movie—performed by McCreary’s toy orchestra and choir in a track produced exclusively for the soundtrack album.
The CD is released through McCreary’s own boutique label and distributed by La-La Land Records. For more details on McCreary’s CHILD’S PLAY score, including the legendary hurdy-gurdy string break that happened on its very last cue, read his online blog. In addition to the official CD soundtrack, the music is also available via digital download from Amazon and Apple Music.

While WaterTower Music has released the songtrack album of various pop tunes used in the series, La-La Land Records has rescued the original underscore for the show’s first season. The acclaimed series, CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA, is based on the Archie comic book horror series of the same name, launched in 2014. The new series is a darker take on the characters and setting of the TV series SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH, based on the lighter, youth-friendly Archie comic series that debuted in 1962. Composer Adam Taylor (THE HANDMAID’S TALE, I THINK WE’RE ALONE NOW) creates an enjoyable musical soundscape that gives the series a macabre musical vibe that’s as fun as it is foreboding. As with the show, the score never gets spooky enough to really be frightening, but it does possess the spirit of the comic it’s named after and thus may be said to unleash a magical enchantment here and there, especially in its soaring, Theremin-driven main theme. “The score for CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA is more in line with Sabrina’s youth and energy, with any quirkiness coming from her Aunties or friends being more light-hearted,” Taylor said in an interview with James Collins at “Intense moments are right out front, with no veil or coyness—they sound evil or malevolent. The scale is [large], using choirs, larger groups in the orchestra including woodwinds and brass, percussion and bells.” With 24 tracks and 42-minutes of music, these Chilling Adventures possess a likable flow and an agreeable focus of dark adventure and moderate menace. Taylor captures a good sense of cohesion by using the stroking violin riffs in the main title as a recurring motive for action and daring-do. “Academy of the Dark Arts” benefits from a gothic opening embellished by intricate violin bowing beneath a haunting choral dynamic along with a measure or two of the title’s Theremin motive, while “Madame Satan” conjures a sultry, dangerous ambiance. The heavy shards of percussion in “Astral Projection” convey a potent sense of danger, while “the Acheron” is infused with hushed choral overtones above delicate keyboard notes and dark synth rustlings. “Blackwoods Twins” possess a dark discomfort, and the disconsolate tone of “One Last Kiss” maintains a sour pattern that evokes some doom-full vocalisms from the choir at its end. “Sabrina vs. Ambrose” is all dark textures and tonal rhythms, growing more forceful until evaporating to a full stop, and “The Witch Hunters” intone an expanded sense of power and danger as the cue grows into a high, loud register, fading out into whispering mists. But the album’s best track is the conclusive “Sabrina, Sword of Satan,” as our lady hero battles on both sides of the gates of Hell amidst choirs both insolent and delicate, eerie squeaking synth incursions, and massive drumming over rising shrieks of the string choir in a massive sonic climax. The album is produced by Adam Taylor and mastered by Doug Schwartz, with art design by Dan Goldwasser. This is a limited edition of 2000 units. To order or to sample tracks, see lalaland records. Listen to Taylor’s main theme over the show’s opening credits:

THE CURSE OF BUCKOUT ROAD/Ryan Shore/Ryan Shore – digital
Ryan Shore has self-released his latest horror score, the very creepy music for THE CURSE OF BUCKOUT ROAD. This scary movie tells of a college class project on creation and destruction of modern myth, which turns terrifying when a trio of young people come to realize the urban legends surrounding the famed Buckout Road may, in fact, be REAL. After two years gaining traction on the festival circuit, THE CURSE OF BUCKOUT ROAD has just negun its theatrical and streaming presentations in selected theaters through Vertical Entertainment, and as well as Video On Demand. The music builds a slowly accumulating mass of tension, from the intricate low string figures and sustains and delicately reverberant piano notes, embellished by suspended voices, percussive impositions, growing into increasingly harsh integrations of sonic suspense and sudden shock. A recurring motif, or perhaps ostinato, is most prominently heard as a dampened three-note electric guitar motif but elsewhere developed or extended via strings or piano, which serves as a pivot for the score’s inherent fearful purpose. “The Devil’s Path” proffers a compelling rhythm via a pulsating bass across which a graceful piano melody imparts a reprise from the anxiety. Another soft cue is “Tell Me What Happened,” in which a high harmonic tone, suggestive of a glass harmonica, resounds with a reverberant ringing over harp to set a reflective tone, later joined by piano and the three-note guitar motif. With 42 tracks and just under an hour’s worth of music, the tracks tend to be short (with a few exceptions), but when played as an album the musical structure is quite intact and makes for a beguiling listen. “The Fire Shall Cleanse” is the capitulation of the score’s developing horror while “Five Years, Five Souls” richly embodies a mix of powerful orchestral brass and strings that envelops the story’s climax in a near-heroic measure of triumph; these two tracks, exceeding three minutes, are the score’s longest and most interestingly designed, the latter especially. The digital album is available on Amazon. “Are You Afraid” elegantly accumulates much of the score’s unsettling palette into a single cue. Have a listen:

Daniel Pemberton & Samuel Sim/
Music.Film  -  
digital; cd and vinyl forthcoming

This new 10-episode series from Netflix is a prequel to the groundbreaking 1982 fan favorite THE DARK CRYSTAL, and takes place many years before the events of that film. Here, three Gelflings inspire a rebellion after discovering a horrifying secret behind the Skeksis’ lust for power. The series was shot in the U.K., and stars an ensemble of fantastical, state-of-the-art creatures brought to life by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, makers of the original film, and designed by Brian Froud, the original feature’s conceptual designer. Both are aided here by a terrific voice cast of highly esteemed thespians. The soundtrack has been released in two volumes, the first features the original music by Daniel Pemberton, while Volume 2 consists of tracks by Pemberton and by Samuel Sim; Pemberton composed about 75% of music, bringing in long-time friend Sim to help out with the rest [see Daniel Schweiger’s interview with Pemberton about the score at film music magazine].   [review continues below]

Listen to Daniel Pemberton’s main theme:

“I wanted the music to be as magical as Thra itself—organic, imperfect, strange, mystical, otherworldly, and wonderful,” said Pemberton in the soundtrack album’s press release. “I wanted to create new sounds that felt like they came from the world itself, as well as using thematic large scale orchestral elements to bring an emotion to the journey of the characters. I wanted music and sounds that would fill you with wonder, but also terrify you. It was very important to me that all the sounds felt like they could only be from Thra itself—no grand pianos or overtly electronic elements. Every sound had to feel organic and visceral, from the dark detuned glissando cello sounds made for the Skeksis, to the upbeat flutes from the Podling’s bar. We created noises out of wine glasses, metal chains, wooden drums, metal sculptures on a snow covered mountain and old creaky medieval instruments to try and make a sonic world as unique as the visual one.”
Added Samuel Sim: “Although nearly all the sounds in the score come from an acoustic or ‘real’ source, a huge amount of time was spent twisting, morphing, and detuning them to create something completely new and surprising. For example, there are places in the score where flutes and clarinets were pitched down 5 octaves to sound like tubas and bass trombones. Nickel harps and cellos were put through guitar amps and at one point we even took the sound of chirping crickets and slowed it down so much that it created weird otherworldly pads and drones.”
All of this makes the AGE OF RESISTANCE music texturally and structurally compelling. Pemberton offers a wonderful call-back by quoting a bar or two from Trevor Jones’ theme from the 1992 DARK CRYSTAL near the end of the introductory “Story of The Dark Crystal,” which is a lovely moment of recognition and respect; elsewhere this iteration of the concept is taken into its own musical direction. A briefer Trevor Jones quotation is heard in the Vol. 1 closer, “The Dark Crystal: The Age Of Hope” and the beginning of Vol. 2’s “The Scientist Engineers,” nicely evoking the story’s musical heritage. [review continues below]

Listen to Daniel Pemberton’s evocative “Story of the Dark Crystal:

This is an inventively textured score that immediately transports the listener to the exotic world of Thra, exploring it in new details and dimensions, brimming with evocative timbres and grand, sweeping orchestral maneuvers.  Pemberton and Sim do a great job of musical world-building, crafting an assortment of motifs and set-pieces for the world of Thra and its various kingdoms and the growing adversarial conflict between the Gelflings and Skeksis, as well as lesser creatures that also share the domain. All of the tracks contribute to the series’ atmosphere in dramatic as well as environmental and character terms, and there’s a lot of terrific music in both albums’ combined total of 2 hours and 20 minutes. Among the standout cues are these: Pemberton’s opening title music and its marvelously-textured assembly of rich, Thra ethnic village music energized by pounding drums, ancient-sounding horn wails, and flurries of strings and other components, seguing into his magnificent main theme for full orchestra; his energetic and compelling action cue “Together We Fight,” its cadence rising higher and higher until it transforms into clusters of wailing horns, emerging after several measures with a bit of ethnic drumming to capture people and place before reprising the previous orchestration and resuming the charge. “Into The Catacombs” is a marvelously creepy echo chamber of spooky sound design, while “Aughra Returns/Pepper Beetle Ceremony” is a cavernously deep, reverberant mix of dark harmonics growing into a mass of dizzying ethnic percussion. “What Lies at the Dreams End” begins with haunting, sinewy synth cries (a recurring motif across several tracks, including “Puppet Show,” a Sim and Pemberton collaboration, and in the “End Credits”) before passing through a bed of violin figures and evolving into a magnificent climax for the full orchestra. The previously mentioned “Puppet Show” also grows into a powerful climax created by growing cycles of string figures, hand drums, choir and piping winds. Samuel Sim’s “Sisters” is a delicate duet between harp and flute over strings, evoking both medieval court music and the emotive bond between the characters; while “The Mystics,” is a captivating blend of strings, mandolin, airy choir, and gleaming synth reflections associated with the ancient race of the urRu, while “The Skeksis Arrive” is an arrogant, malevolent slow march, full of thick gesticulations and scowling grimaces. The poignant and honorable “All-Maudra,” theme for the Queen and leader of all Gelfling clans, the arrogant and sizzling “The Skeksis Arrive” with its soft gongs and growls and menacing, low winds, and the striking, wiry action track “A Few Traitors.”
Listen to Samuel Sim’s “The Skeksis Arrive:

DEAD ANT/Edwin Wendler/Notefornote – cd and digital
It’s THEM! versus a power metal band! It’s cool, crazy, and captivating in its own clever way. DEAD ANT is an over-the-top horror-omedy, in which the members of a metal band get a chance at a comeback when they are invited to perform at a popular desert rock festival. When they become stranded in the desert, they discovery the region is inhabited by marauding number of giant ants, which invade their campsite reverie and, before anyone can say “No-achella!” the amazing colossal ants set their compound eyes upon the delectable attendees of the rock festival. Edwin Wendler has provided a powerful and potent score that mixes the idioms of rock with orchestral film music to generate an ideal accompaniment for Ron Carlson’s fun fear film. “One could describe me as a mild-mannered person, yet I absolutely love living out the craziest things through my music,” Wendler writes in his composer’s note in the album booklet. “Mean critters hold a very special place in my heart, which is why I thoroughly enjoyed composing music for this wild ride of a movie.” The score relishes and exhibits that predilection: exaggerated musical movements are offset by garish stingers, slashing like shards across the soundscape, while the mixed band of fully-dosed rockers and their hangers-on are identified by a variety of electronic shredding (“So Cantankerous,” for starters) and even a cool power ballad (“Power Ballad Rant”). And of course Wendler has a Theremin handy to evoke the enlarging size of the vicious members of family Formicidae. It’s a vastly fun album, sharing the movie’s enjoyable audacity, crazy array of characters, and nicely-crafted carnage. Wendler covers a variety of moods and situations as the story rages on, including the dynamic poignancy of “The Enchantress,” the horrific and miasmic  conglomeration that is “Irrelevant Bass Player,” the straightforward cinematic tension of “Unpleasant Transaction” the pleasing pulses of a paean for amputated “Antennae,” and the maneuvering jolts and feints during the ant skirmish in “Inconstant Attacks.” The conclusive “Anthropic Decimation” is a compelling orchestral piece for gutturally deep harmonic echoes, rapid charges of strings and brass, choir, uilleann pipes, electric guitars, and power drumming. In addition to Wendler’s film score, the composer has supplied two bonus tracks that aren’t heard in the movie, including a fully fleshed-out version of the composer’s dynamic rocker, “Dead Ant Triumph,” especially arranged and recorded for the album. The score ranges from traditional suspense configurations to rock-driven agitato—more of the latter than the former, given the characters and storyline—but it’s an enjoyable score, retaining and augmenting the fun of the film.
For more details and to sample tracks, see Notefornote music.

ERICA/Austin Wintory/Bandcamp - digital
ERICA is a live-action immersive video game developed by Flavourworks and published by Sony Entertainment. Eschewing 3D graphics, the game possesses a very cinematic quality, meant to make players feel like they are interacting with a film. The game involves a woman dealing with a childhood trauma that has been carried with her and continues to haunt her as an adult. An old friend believes that Erica’s memories are the key to identifying a killer on the loose and contacts her; but when the killer contacts her also, Erica becomes caught between two truths and must decide who to trust and what to believe. “ERICA is a game unlike any I’ve ever worked on, or indeed ever played,” said Wintory. “I underestimated how challenging it would be to simultaneously juggle all the demands of both film and game. The result is probably among the most technically complex scores I’ve yet written. The game’s branching demanded huge amounts of player agency [without] sacrificing fidelity. It must FEEL like a film score while bobbing and weaving like an adaptive game score.” Wintory’s music is largely organic, featuring close-miked solo cello (performed by ever-transcendent cellist Tina Guo) and solo violin (the marvelous Caroline Campbell is the featured violinist); their striking performances integrate nicely with the more ambient background orchestrations and occasional percussive intersections necessitated by gameplay. As an album, ERICA makes a most provocative listening experience—I can imagine the challenge the composer faced making it fit the interactive requirements of game play, while keeping its musical structure intact. The score is enriched with its depth of layered sound; the music is in constant movement and it’s an aural pleasure. It evokes a near-constant sense of the mysterious as Erica deals with the situation she’s become involved in, and that is a sense that Wintory designs deliciously throughout the score. Erica’s journey is fraught with danger and distress, but her music is a thing to be savored as we walk beside her on the way.
For more details or to purchase the album, see Bandcamp. You can hear the main theme on Soundcloud here, and watch a cool three-minute video of the recording session on Wintory’s Bandcamp page, embedded below:

FREAKS/Tim Wynn/MovieScore Media - digital
FREAKS portrays the story of 7-year-old Chloe (a striking performance by then 7-year old Lexy Kolker), who lives in fear under her father’s (Emile Hirsch) protective and paranoid control, while being fascinated with the outside world, where “Abnormals” create a constant threat—or so her father tells her. When a mysterious stranger (Bruce Dern) offers her a glimpse of what’s really happening outside, Chloe soon finds that while the truth isn’t so simple, the danger is very real. The music is by Tim Wynn, a long-time associate of Chris Lennertz who co-composes TV’s SUPERNATURAL with him, among other additional music work. “The most important piece in the score is Chloe’s theme,” described Wynn. “It’s only a five-note theme but it had to be used in so many different ways. You really get inside her head, the joy of being outside for the first time… and what that feels like…I wanted to evoke that childlike awe and love of life but at the same time I had to add a little un-assuredness because there is still that dark element.”  Wynn’s score offers a dark and mysterious perspective for FREAKS, as it builds to blend a string quartet and full string ensembles with a variety of synthetic colors and custom sounds. This is a pleasing orchestral score which remains fluidly melodic and calm, even during the film’s more agitated moments on screen, setting down a rhythmic pace that is pretty consistent throughout; the more active sequences are accompanied by a growing cadence and force, but the music itself maintains the calm and wondrous perspective of Chloe as she discovers more about the outside world and learns about the telekinetic powers that she possesses. Chloe’s theme is quite often presented with a ringing, reverbed piano, which gives it a kind of subliminal effect; Wynn’s use of suspended sound also contributes to this effect, especially as it relates to Chloe’s ability to slow time in tracks like “Missile Launch” and, accompanied by the piano, “Time Bubble” (the album tracks are not in film order).While it’s a thematically-designed score, there’s a lot of variety throughout, which makes for an attractive and interesting listen on its own.
For more information on the FREAKS score, see my interview with Wynn posted recently at musiquefantastique.

French composer Rob [Robin Coudert] has provided a wonderful score for this documentary film, also known in its English version as SHE WOLF. Directed by Frédéric Fougea (known for WILD FRANCE 1 and 2), the film is a broad look at the French Alps and its wildlife, from bears to vultures and frogs to a lonely she-wolf cast out of her pack, Fougea shows how those who live in the Alps must outsmart each day the natural hazards of this extreme environment. Rob’s score is richly melodic and dramatic, creating an earthy vibe through drums and low cadences, rumbling electronic rhythms, alluringly deep cello bowing, with a delicate air realized by haunting female vocalise, while the curving descent of synths occasionally create a mesmerizing aura to the orchestration. It’s a powerful work, as modern nature documentaries tend to be, and makes for a lively and meaningful soundtrack and a tantalizing listen on its own. The CD is limited to 300 units. For details and sample tracks, see music-box records. Listen to the track “Shewolf Calling,” posted on youtube by the composer:

LOST AND LOVE/Zbigniew Preisner/Caldera Records - cd
Directed by Sanyuan Peng, 2015’s LOST AND LOVE tells a harrowing (and apparently true) story of a lost love between parents and their children. Hong Kong superstar Andy Lau plays against type by portraying Lei, a poor fruit-grower, who for 15 years has been searching for his child, traveling through the vast country in the hope of being united with his offspring. On his way from one end of China to the other, he meets up with a young mechanic who goes by the name of Zeng Shuai (played by Jing Boran). The latter is also searching, although not for his child but for his parents. For her feature film debut, Peng chose Zbigniew Preisner as composer who has written a delicate yet passionate score which is rich in themes and variations thereof. The score opens with a delicate “Lullaby,” its music box-like melody extrapolated for winds and strings, is later heard in various fragrances across the score. Preisner’s main theme derives from that lullaby, and it too will be present in numerous variations elsewhere in the score as it orients the music around both characters. It’s poignant and passionate, evoking the pain, hope, and love which guide both characters in their quest. “The Beginning of the Story” provides another intriguing melody, first for strings and then for what sounds to be an ocarina, its hollow sound reflecting the simplicity of history. This and other tracks, such as “Memories of Youth,” and much of the main theme’s treatment, are elegiac in nature, carrying the emotions of the story in their wistful tonalities—through to the triumphant delight of the conclusive “Lost and Love - Main Theme 3” and the following “End Title.” Here, the main theme sounds from flute, oboe, and then strings, gently soaring across a fragrant bottom of acoustic guitar and growing into a powerful summation. LOST AND LOVE is an expressive and engaging work with a sturdy classical structure; its tantalizing melodies evoking both sympathy and strength as the story proceeds along its course.
For more details on the soundtrack, see Caldera records. For more information on the composer, see

PETER PAN (1924 silent film)/Philip C. Carli/Kino Classics – Blu-ray movie
Kino has released a Blu-ray of one of the 1920’s most popular films, the1924 silent version of PETER PAN, in its Kino Classics series. This first live action version of J.M. Barrie’s timeless fantasy draws from the original stage play, which was still in its original run when the movie was made. Directed by Herbert Brenon (1913’s DR. JEKYLL AND MR HYDE, 1913’s IVANHOE, 1926’s BEAU GESTE, 1928’s LAUGH, CLOWN, LAUGH with Lon Chaney, 1940’s THE FLYING SQUAD), the movie starred Betty Bronson who is marvelous as Peter Pan, Mary Brian as Wendy, Virginia Browne Faire as Tinkerbell, and Ernest Torrence as Captain Hook. It’s an excellent rendition—elegantly restored—with many enjoyable nuances and delightfully pantomimed performances. Among its many fans during the 1920’s was Walt Disney, who 29 years later would make his own animated version. Composer Philip C. Carli, who has written piano or orchestral accompaniment for nearly one hundred silent films, composed a score for the 1996 restoration of the movie, performed by his Flower City Society Orchestra, which was used for Kino’s 1996 DVD version as well as this new Blu-ray edition. The score is played by an orchestra of approx. 13 musicians, with Carli on piano accompanied by two violins, a violincello, contrabass, clarinet, two flutes, two cornets, trombone, and percussion [thanks to reviewer Dr. Stephen Larson (no relation) for the instrumental intel.]  Carli’s composition makes for a charming score which thoroughly engages with the storyline and personalities of the characters, while also fitting into the musical style of the 1920’s period. Carli’s rich thematic elements accompany the Darling, the daring, and the dastardly characters with very effective interplay and supportive contrast. With the film being silent, the Blu-ray also serves as a splendid 102-minute soundtrack presentation of Carli’s music which is a complete enjoyment. Kino’s release, a 2K restoration from the film’s 35mm film elements, also includes commentary by film historian Kat Ellinger, a printed essay by Frederick C. Szebin, and an audio interview with actress Esther Ralston (Mrs. Darling). Film and music both are highly recommended.

POP BLACK POSTA/Marco Werba/Plaza Mayor – cd and digital
Marco Werba’s latest orchestral score, POP BLACK POSTA, has been released by Plaza Mayor. The film is an evocative Italian mystery thriller directed by Marco Pollini and starring Antonia Truppo, Annalisa Favetti, and Denny Mendez. A woman kidnaps some people inside a post office, apparently without a reason. Only at the end do her motivations, and the anger that had pushed her to make this gesture to extreme consequences, will be understood. “There are two schools of thought for thriller soundtracks; the first is based on a symphonic orchestral music, the second on an experimental electronic music,” Werba described. “In this film I tried to merge the two schools of thought together, mixing the Bulgarian National Radio Symphony Orchestra with disturbing electronic sounds to wrap the viewer and make him more involved in this compelling storyline.” This is a very powerful and atmospheric score, conveyed with a thick layering of strings; Werba’s mix of electronics and symphonic strings carries a persuasive heaviness, which works very well in maintaining an aura of menace and hidden madness as the story develops. There’s something of a Hitchcockian vibe in the music, as well, which comes across in Werba’s suspenseful approach. “Alessia’s theme,” for piano and strings, is the cornerstone of the score, a delicate and mysterious melody set amongst disturbing electronica, suggesting the schizophrenia that seems to exist within the woman, played by actress Antonia Truppo. “Fear and Madness” presents Alessia’s theme via harsh strings and brass, while in the conclusive score track, “The Arena,” the piano rendition returns, declarative and resolute. After 14 well-presented score tracks, the album concludes with four songs heard in the film.
The soundtrack is available on CD from CDbaby and digitally via iTunes and Amazon.
Watch a video about the score:

SWAY/Pakk Hui/Howlin’ Wolf – cd
Written and directed by Rooth Tang (2017’s GOOK), this sensitive 2014 drama examines the lives of three generations of Asian immigrants that play out across three different cities. In Bangkok, a young couple is making the move to the US; in Los Angeles, a woman marries into the family of a Japanese widower; and in Paris, a young man returns to his girlfriend as family trouble brews back home in L.A. Hong Kong-born, Los Angeles-based composer Pakk Hui (SHATTERED, INNER FEAR) supplies a poignant and emotive score, favoring strings and piano. The latter creates a love theme that follows all three characters, while three different motifs represent the three locations in which the story takes place. By allowing the score to evolve emotionally rather than thematically, Hui’s imparts a number of minimalist, often ethereal melodies to convey the sense of isolation felt by the characters. It’s a quiet, and thus very introspective score, but there’s something compelling in its languid structure, the music is akin to floating gently in air, painting a portrait in sound of loneliness and despair. Yet the motives are lovely in their soft cadences, peaceable, gently parking in their own subdued beauty. A nice very work; Liner notes by Zach Tow provide insight into the film and its score.
For more information and sample tracks, see Howlinwolf records

SWOON (“Eld & lågor”) /Nathaniel Méchaly/Music Box – cd;
MovieScore Media – digital

French composer Nathaniel Méchaly (Liam Neeson’s TAKEN series) rejoins directors Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein, creators of the Swedish/French crime drama series MIDNIGHT SUN (2016), which Méchaly scored, to compose the music for this extravagantly produced romantic drama. SWOON is a new reimagination of the Romeo and Juliet story with John and Ninni growing up in resentment of each other due to their families’ competing amusement parks; the plot complicated by a varied course of events and feelings in “a staggering tale of war, rivalry, betrayal, and forbidden love.” When they meet again as adults in 1940, their renewed attraction is undeniable, but… there are complications. Méchaly’s score is lavishly melodious, with breezy melodies and impassioned progressions; it grasps the listener’s interest and carries them away with delightful sonorities and thrilling advances. There’s also joy and trepidation, heartfelt motives, and worrisome rigidity as the story plays out, making the musical journey interesting and involving. “Sad Love” is a particularly strong forceful cue with its marcato strings and strident rhythmic gestures gaining traction and building with a passionate energy; the following “Saving Them” is full of a powerful rhythmic dynamic as trombones and horns grasp against rolling cadences of timpani and furious strokes from the violins. “Don’t Go” is full of yearning from revolutions of strident piano beneath melodious strings and soft choral enhancement; it’s followed by “Love Kiss” and “Grand Finale,” which resolve and enthusiastically celebrate a happy resolution. Writer Gergely Hubai provides informative liner notes for the CD edition’s album booklet, featuring comments from the composer.
Listen to Méchaly’s track, “Sad Love,” from youtube:

UNTAMED ROMANIA/Nainita Desai/Silva Screen – digital, cd to follow
This is a 90-minute cinematic journey into Romania’s natural beauty and bio-diversity, and from the brief clips I’ve seen it’s a fascinating and beautifully-photographed audiovisual tour of the Romanian landscape, ranging from the Carpathian Mountains and the forests of Transylvania to the Danube, enriched marshes, and wide plains. British composer Nainita Desai has created a marvelous musical pattern beautifully performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, which enlivens, colors, and uplifts the amazing images with a score that is every bit as breathtaking as the imagery emblazoned on the screen. A powerful main theme for full orchestra and choir introduces and closes the score, reappearing from time to time (as in “Magnificent Beast,” “Piatra Ridge,” “The Carpathians,” “The Apuseni Mountains,” “A Sleeping Giant Returns,” and a piano arrangement in “Stork Delivery”) to provide wondrous musical statements across the soundscape, although most of the score within its thematic bookends are uniquely composed set-pieces for vignettes of the varied flora and fauna of the country’s wildlands, and as much as I am impressed by her majestic main theme, it’s these distinctive musical sequences for that give the score its integral substance—the sonic feast within the sturdy skin of the thematic curtain rise and fall.

“I wanted to take the viewer on an emotional journey throughout the film with varied color and textures. I developed a lyrical thematic score using melodies to pull the film together,” explained Desai. “Normally for documentary, film makers don’t want strong, bold melodies that guide the audience emotionally and I’m often working on very sensitive subjects where the music has to be empathic to the story. Here though it was the reverse! I have always loved melody and therefore I basically saved up all the tunes I’d ever written over the last 10 years that I had never used, and used them all in this film! It was an opportunity to bring out a different side to my creative voice.”

The first of many enchanting cello solos by Richard Harwood, dappled with Desai’s own murmuring voice, is heard in “A Chrysalis Awakens.” A heady grouping of very low horns accompanies an intrusion of “Wild Boars.” The “Legend of the Fire Salamander” grows from its tentative flute soliloquy to powerful, full-blown orchestral configuration, evoking within it her musical motif for Transylvania. A streaming consolidation of strings and piano introduce “The Danube,” which flows into a full orchestral reprise of the main theme, which is swept along with waves of harp glissandi and soaring undulations. A different, captivating mix of marcato strings and close-miked piano lend elegant propulsion to “Ancient Histria.” An anxious, percussive riffing amidst piano, winds, and flowing strings provide concern for “Chicks in Danger” that is powerful enough to fit into a contemporary thriller, while the poppy, Gershwynesque scherzo for “Bear Mischief” is a fun aural delight, reprised in “Curious Bear Cubs” and “Apples and Bears,” capturing the gangly amble of the caniforms with a sheen of jazzy clarinets and comically woozy brasses; they are given a much more sobering tonality in “Bears and Wolves”); “Catch the Mayfly” is a charming dance equally filled with humor from clarinets, strings, rhythmic cymbal tapping, and a cute statement from low bassoon. Harwood’s masterful cello returns with a very emotive lyricism in “Autumn Approaches.”  Desai introduces a festive cue for flutes over strings in “Lynx Cubs” early in the score, then reprises it with a mature timbre for acoustic guitar and cello in “The Lynx” near the end, tying the separate sequences for these wild cats together.

The score is richly organic, though Desai does incorporate a slight bit of sound design to represent the captivating dynamic and nostalgia of 80’s synthesis in “Mayfly Season” as well as lending textures to the underground cave sequences in “Strange Caterpillars.” The score makes a thoroughly engrossing and fascinating mélange of melodies, motifs, and modulations. Silva Screen is set to release the soundtrack digitally on October 4th, with a CD to follow at a later date. Watch a Making-Of the Score video:


News: Forthcoming Soundtracks & Film Music News

In the new horror/mystery thriller READY OR NOT, a bride’s wedding night takes a sinister turn when her eccentric new in-laws force her to take part in a terrifying game which she may not survive. “It’s done as a completely old school, classic score, like a Hitchcock movie,” said composer Brian Tyler in a red carpet interview
during a special screening of the film. “The comedy and wackiness [of the movie] plays against this really classic, old school score, all symphonic… and [then] it tweaks by the end.” The digital soundtrack album has been released by Fox and is available on amazon, Apple music, etc. Tyler has posted to Facebook and YouTube his scoring session video featuring his main theme to READY OR NOT. Watch it here:

Additionally, Lakeshore Records has released the digital soundtrack of Tyler’s score to RAMBO: LAST BLOOD. Sample the opening title track:

Alan Williams’s score to short 2019 film THE DOCTORS has won a Silver Medal from the Global Music Awards for Best Score.  Congrats Alan!

Premiering on PBS’s NATURE on Weds October 2nd, OCTOPUS: MAKING CONTACT [see trailer here] is a new documentary produced by Passion Planet. About an Alaskan professor who raises an octopus in his home and makes several remarkable discoveries about its extraordinary intelligence, personality, and skills, the film has been scored by British composer Fraser Purdie (ATTENBOROUGH’S LIFE THAT GLOWS, TERRA MATER, WILD SHETLAND: SCOTLAND'S VIKING FRONTIER). Watch a preview clip from the show, showing how the sleeping octopus changes color while dreaming:

Varèse Sarabande Records has announced the newest additions to their CD Club, which are now available exclusively through the Varèse Sarabande website. The #1 most requested CD Club title is finally here: AIR FORCE ONE: The Deluxe Edition with music composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith, offering 46 tracks across 2 CDs. This is a limited edition of 4000 copies. Back by popular demand: STAR TREK: The Deluxe Edition was originally released in 2010 as a greatly expanded 5000-copy special packaged limited edition version of Michael Giacchino’s score. Since the last copy was purchased almost a decade ago, there have been requests for a reprint, which are now answered. The packaging has been streamlined to a standard jewel case, but the track listing remains identical. This is a limited edition of 1500 copies and likely to sell out fast. The third title in the CD Club’s September 2019 releases is the 1975 film ROOSTER COGBURN Deluxe Edition, which featured the return of John Wayne’s booze-swilling, eye-patch-sporting, rough-and-tumble U.S. Marshal that was first introduced in the 1969 western TRUE GRIT. The score was composed by the Oscar®-nominated composer Laurence Rosenthal. Much of the ROOSTER COGBURN score was inspired by either Stephen Foster or Aaron Copland. This is a limited edition of 1500 copies, and is the first time any music from the film has ever been released. For more details and to order see

Composer David Sardy, who scored the original 2009 ZOMBIELAND, has returned to re-invest the new sequel, ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP (set for an October 19 release) with brain-crunching flavor and zombie-fleeing excitement. Sardy is a Brooklyn born-and-raised composer, musician, songwriter, and record producer; he came to prominence as the leader of 1990s noise rock band Barkmarket before turning mostly to production work, often with alternative and hard rock related genres, and began scoring films in 2008 with Robert Luketic’s heist drama 21. For more details, see

WaterTower Music has released a digital soundtrack to THE GOLDFINCH. The Warner Bros. Pictures and Amazon Studios film, from director John Crowley (BROOKLYN), features an original score by composer Trevor Gureckis (BLOODLINE, VICE) that is a mix of modern electronics blended with contemporary orchestra. Trevor’s goal was to create music that enhanced the already amazing storyline and work on screen. “Writing THE GOLDFINCH was thrilling not only because of the huge orchestral forces at hand, but also for the opportunity to explore rich textural details with the use of electronics in service of the story,” said Gureckis. “There are moments of vivid impressionism in the orchestra, as well as tapestries of glowing and burning synth textures. A real turning point in figuring out this score was when John Crowley realized we needed The Goldfinch to appear in the music itself, not just visually in the film. It would be our North Star. Just like the painting of the bird chained to its post, this theme is suspended harmonically throughout the entire score resolving only in the final moments of the film.”  The soundtrack is available on both CD and mp3 from Amazon.

Kathryn Bostic (DEAR WHITE PEOPLE, MIDDLE OF NOWHERE) has been tapped to score the upcoming Netflix original movie HOLIDAY RUSH. Directed by Leslie Small (KEVIN HART: WHAT NOW?), the comedy follows a popular radio DJ who moves in with his aunt after he gets fired, bringing along his four spoiled children, and a plan to return to the airwaves. The film will premiere later this year exclusively on Netflix.
-via film music reporter

Composer Raphael Fimm’s soundtrack to the short mountaineering documentary ‘MONT BLANC’ (2019) has been self-released as a digital album, and is available on Amazon and iTunes. Listen to a sample from youtube here:

- via Documenting The Score on Facebook

Also: posted on the official Documenting The Score Soundcloud page are samples of composer Nicholas Singer’s score to the PBS/Smithsonian Channel-produced documentary WHEN WHALES WALKED: JOURNEYS IN DEEP TIME (2019). The program is an exhaustive look at the evolution of some of history’s most amazing animals species and Singers’ “effectively-crafted music is a major contributor to helping engage the viewer and creating emotional narrative that draws their attention to the show’s scientific details.”

In additional documentary score news, Paul Leonard-Morgan’s soundtrack to AMATEURS IN SPACE has been released digitally to Amazon. This 2016 Danish documentary film is about two friends and their shared boyhood dream of travelling into space in their own home-built space rocket. If they succeed, the two Danes will write themselves into the annals of history as the world’s first amateurs to go into space. But the two enthusiasts soon realize that rocket science is the least of their problems.

Danny Bensi & Saunder Jurriaans (FEAR THE WALKING DEAD, NOS4A2, AMERICAN GODS, THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE) will score HBO’s upcoming limited series THE OUTSIDER, based on Stephen King’s novel of the same title. The series, which will premiere in 2020, stars Ben Mendelsohn, Cynthia Erivo, Jason Bateman, Bill Camp, and Mare Winningham, and centers on a seemingly straightforward investigation into the gruesome murder of a local boy that leads a seasoned cop and an unorthodox investigator to question everything they believe to be real, as an insidious supernatural force edges its way into the case.
-via filmmusicreporter

Paramount Music has released the original television score soundtrack from 13 REASONS WHY (Season 3), featuring music by Eskmo (LA based music producer & composer Brendan Angelides). The 16-track album is now available for purchase and streaming on all digital platforms. 13 REASONS WHY, is a Netflix series which has grown into a dark murder mystery; Season 3 “is a continuation of the moods and themes we have felt leading up to here and there are moments to turn the themes into dark and murky explorations,” said the composer. “I went deeper into the paranoia while wanting to balance the heart of it all. I turned some of our main themes of Clay, Hannah and the surrounding characters into shadow versions of them[selves, and] turned some of the previous shadow type of sounds into warmer more soothing places. Ultimately, it’s still a story about love, loss and becoming adults.”

Kronos Records has announced the CD release of RWANDA by Davide Caprelli, a 2018 award-winning Italian drama film taking place during the Rwandan genocide. Caprelli’s score is often subtle and creepy, then growing into high dramatic moments in a very melodic and melancholic Italian fashion. For trailer/track list see Kronos
Also from Kronos comes LAVENDER BRAID, a surreal short film scored by Italian composer Eugene, who creates an ambient, minimalistic score that features the solo voice of Susanna Buffa, also featured in the label’s HERE WE GO AGAIN RUBINOT. For trailer/track list see Kronos
The CDs are both limited to 500 copies and will be released in October.

Composer Germaine Franco (DORA AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD, with John Debney), has scored the CURIOUS GEORGE: ROYAL MONKEY feature film. The film is the first film in the Curious George franchise to be comprised of a predominantly female music team, with Franco as composer and Michele Brourman and Amanda McBoom as its songwriters. “I was asked to create a whimsical world of music from George’s point of view,” Franco remarked. “The story involves a case of mistaken identity between George and the Simiana royal monkey, Phillipe. I wrote distinct themes for each monkey. George’s theme has a signature sound of plucked stringed instruments, while Phillipe’s theme involves muted trumpets and snare drums, as if it were written for a toy solider. The score alternates between lively rhythm instruments with hand percussion to denote a Caribbean influence from the island of Simiana, mixed with chamber and orchestral instruments to establish a royal sound.” The digital soundtrack album has been released by Back Lot Music.

In collaboration with Gaumont and Mahi Films, Music Box Records presents the world premiere CD release of the score for Nicolas Boukhrief's TROIS JOURS ET UNE VIE (Three Days and a Life, 2019) composed by Rob (MANIAC, SEULS, MADE IN FRANCE). Based on the best-selling novel written by French author Pierre Lemaitre, TROIS JOURS ET UNE VIE recounts the tragic events that opressed a peaceful little village in the Belgian Ardennes. Limited edition of 300 units; Music Box’s CD includes an exclusive bonus track not on the French Gaumont digital release. For more details and to sample tracks, see musicbox-records

Decca Records has released the soundtrack to the new feature DOWNTON ABBEY, scored by Scottish composer John Lunn. Composed in a similar style to Lunn’s two-time Emmy Award-winning music from the TV series, the feature film score is richly orchestrated, with the familiar title theme making appearances throughout. “I was delighted to be approached to create the feature-length film score to a series which has had a huge impact on audiences and fans all over the world,” said Lunn. “At first it was like discovering a long-lost friend, but gradually I realized that we’d never really been apart; by the end it was just such a joy to revisit this material and have the opportunity to take it to a whole new level.”

Milan Records, an imprint of Sony Music Masterworks, announces SEIS MANOS (Music From The Netflix Series) with music by Grammy® Award nominee Carl Thiel (FROM DUSK TILL DAWN: THE SERIES, THE TELLER AND THE TRUTH, SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR). Set in Mexico in the 1970’s, SEIS MANOS centers on three orphaned martial arts warriors who join forces with a DEA agent and a Mexican Federale to battle for justice after their beloved mentor is murdered in their tiny border town. Available Friday, October 4, the soundtrack features music from the Netflix original anime series, which makes its debut on the streaming platform Thursday, October 3. “It is definitely the most expansive project I’ve worked on in terms of styles,” says Thiel of the soundtrack. “It’s certainly expanded my musical palette—with all the different worlds, the Chinese background, the Mexican elements, the magic and religious overtones, references to the Blaxploitation genre, the Grindhouse vibe and that special brand of humor from the ‘70’s… it was such a blast to score. At the same time, I loved shaping the musical tone of the more serious, intimate and heartfelt moments; that passion, which represents the driving force of the Manos.”
Milan has also announced the soundtrack to THE LIGHTHOUSE with music by Gemini and Genie-Award winning composer Mark Korvan (CUBE, THE WITCH, INTO THE TALL GRASS). Available Friday, October 18, the soundtrack will feature music from the Robert Eggers-directed horror film and is composer Mark Korean’s second collaboration with the director following his score for Eggers’ directorial debut THE WITCH. Willem Dafoe and Robert Patterson star. Of the soundtrack, composer Korean says, “Robert [Eggers] and I were rather like the two wackies that went insane in The Lighthouse, musically speaking. We travelled to some very dark harmonic and textural places. We both enjoy not just breaking the rules, but blowing them to smithereens. The spirit of experimentation was always present.” Sacred Bones Records will be releasing a vinyl edition of The Lighthouse soundtrack. It’s available to preorder here.

Oscar nominated composer and Grammy winning musician Mark Isham brought his acclaimed background in jazz, big band, and orchestral music to his score for the new series GODFATHER OF HARLEM, which premiered September 29th on EPIX, produced by ABC Studios. Isham drew on the rich musical tapestry of 1960’s Harlem for inspiration. To further mimic the period, the score was recorded at Capitol Records where legendary performers including Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett have recorded. Created by Chris Bran Cato and Paul Eckstein (NARCOS), and starring and executive produced by Oscar® winner Forest Whitaker, GODFATHER OF HARLEM is inspired by the story of infamous crime boss Bumpy Johnson (Whitaker), who in the early 1960s returned from eleven years in prison to find the neighborhood he once ruled in shambles. 

La-La Land Records and Universal Studios present the sixth title in the acclaimed Universal Pictures Film Music Heritage Collection—the world premiere official release of the original motion picture score to the big-screen 1990 horror sequel, CHILD’S PLAY 2, Directed by John Labia and starring Alex Vincent, Jenny Agutter, and Christine Elise. Acclaimed composer Graeme Revell (DEAD CALM, THE CROW, TITAN A.E., GOTHAM) fashions a knockout orchestral genre score for the first sequel to the landmark 1988 horror hit CHILD’S PLAY, utilizing a 90-piece orchestra to unleash Chucky’s possessed-doll rampage with notable fury. Presented here for the first time, the score orchestrated and conducted by the late Shirley Walker and recorded by Bruce Botnick, is a revelation—arguably one of the best horror film scores of its decade. Produced, edited and mastered by Mike Matessino, this special CD release, limited to 3000 units, features exclusive, in-depth liner notes by Zach Tow, which include new interview comments from the composer. Art design by Dan Goldwasser.

Madison Gate Records has released the first soundtrack album for the AMC original series PREACHER. The album features selections of the show’s original music composed by Dave Porter (BREAKING BAD, BETTER CALL SAUL). The soundtrack is now available to stream and download on Amazon Music, where you can also check out audio samples.
-via filmmusicreporter

Marco Beltrami and Brandon Roberts have scored the forthcoming science fiction horror film, UNDERWATER during summer 2018 but the movie got stuck in the Fox/Disney merger. The film is now set for release on January 10, 2020. Directed by William Eubank (THE SIGNAL), stars Jessica Henwick, Kristen Stewart, T.J. Miller and Vincent Cassel, is about a crew of underwater researchers who must scramble to safety after an earthquake devastates their subterranean laboratory and awakens something dangerous.
Watch the trailer:

Speaking of Marco Beltrami, eOne Music has announced CD edition of SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK, composed by Beltrami with Anna Drubich, which is currently set for release on November 1st. The label previously released a digital download soundtrack of the score on August 30. The CD, marked as a deluxe edition, will also include the 1966 song “Season of the Witch” by Scottish folk/pop singer Donovan, performed in the film by Lana del Rey. The CD edition can be pre-ordered from Amazon. The digital soundtrack can be ordered here.

Deutsche Grammophon has released a digital single of Max Richter’s original composition “To the Stars” as featured in the science fiction drama AD ASTRA, which is available from amazon, iTunes, etc. Lorne Balfe, who is one of several composers credited with providing “additional music” to the score, reports on twitter that a full soundtrack album will be forthcoming. No other details yet provided.

Back Lot Music has released Rupert Gregson-Williams’ score for the animated comedy ABOMINABLE as a digital album.

Composer Jefferson Friedman, who along with Craig Wedren scored the short-lived super-hero-related sitcom POWERLESS (2017), will be scoring the forthcoming BIRDS OF PREY: AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN animated series. The show stars BIG BANG THEORY’S Kaley Cuoco as Harley Quinn, Diedrich Bader (Batman), Alan Tudyk (Joker), and Lake Bell (Poison Ivy), and also features Ron Funches, Tony Hale, Wanda Sykes, Jason Alexander, Natalie Morales, and others. The series is scheduled to premiere in October on DC Universe.

Italy’s Beat Records presents for the first time on CD the complete edition of the soundtrack by Nino Oliviero and Bruno Nicolai from IL PELO NEL MONDO (released in the US as GO, GO, GO WORLD!); this film is part of the “mondo documentary trend” identified most popularly by 1962’s MONDO CANE and its famous score by Riz Ortolani and Nino Oliviero. At the time, C.A.M. issued a 33 rpm (Cms. 30-090) with 22 selections in mono; the same material was re-issued in America by the Musicor Records label (MM 2059). For this release, the label has been able to use the master tapes of the mono recording session, permitting the inclusion of 19 unreleased tracks that bring the CD to a total duration of 68:45. Throughout the 41 tracks, the listener will be immersed in fascinating sound dimensions that describe musically all the visual stimuli in the documentary. Available packaged in a jewel case with a 12-page booklet designed by Daniele De Gemini with mastering and liner notes by Claudio Fuiano. For details and to order, see beatrecords.

Lakeshore Records has released the original soundtrack to Wolfe Releasing’s ADAM, composed by Jay Wadley (INDIGNATION, TALES OF THE CITY). In this coming-of-age comedy, awkward teen Adam spends his last high school summer with his big sister, who throws herself into NYC’s lesbian and trans activist scene; accompanying her, Adam falls for Gillian, who mistakenly assumes he is trans. Flummoxed and enamored, he haplessly goes along with her assumption, resulting in an increasingly complex comedy—and tragedy—of errors he’s ill-equipped to navigate. In an early review, Variety said, “Adam has a pleasingly goofy, sweet, modest tenor amplified by Jay Wadley’s dweeby lo-fi alt-rock score.” “Working on Adam with Rhys Ernst [Director] was such a wonderful experience. Rhys was super generous and open creatively, but had a clear sense of the sound he was looking for, which really makes my job fun when diving into new material,” said Wadley. “We talked about bands like Young Marble Giants and Broadcast, who have this really special lo-fi bedroom pop vibe. One of my favorite words Rhys used to describe what he wanted the score to sound like was ‘mildewy.’ We used a lot of vintage Casio, Fairlight CMI, Mellotron, guitar, bass, and drum machine sounds and ran some of those through an old Marantz cassette player to get that lo-fi degraded feel.”

MovieScore Media takes a 75-year trip back into the past with Alfonso Cortés-Cavanillas’ SORDO: THE SILENT WAR, featuring music by Carlos Martín Jabra. The movie takes place in Spain, 1944, and is about a rebel fighting against Franco’s dictatorship who turns deaf after a failed sabotage, then tries to escape from the military forces that prosecute him. “SORDO’S process has been a lot of fun… Hard work, but fun,” said the director about the score, “Carlos’ composition is just what we had been talking about for so long. Perfect. Precise. Epic. It’s a great soundtrack. But [it’s] also a small tribute to one of the most important contemporary composers, maestro Ennio Morricone. Carlos and I were fortunate enough to see him in concert in Rome and he surely inspired the great Carlos Martín to compose this wonderful piece.”
Watch a video featuring a suite from the score:

Academy Award winner Dario Marianelli (ATONEMENT, DARKEST HOUR, BUMBLEBEE) is composing the original music for the upcoming fantasy drama THE SECRET GARDEN. The movie is based on the children’s novel of the same title by Frances Hodgson Burnett and follows a 10-year-old orphan who is sent from India to live with her reclusive uncle and his strict housekeeper in an eerie mansion, where he finds a hidden garden and bonds with two other boys and a stray dog over a shared fantasy world. The film is expected to be released in 2020. As previously reported, Marianelli also has Matteo Garrone’s PINOCCHIO coming up.
-via filmmusicreporter

France’s horror soundtrack specialist Omega Prods announces the release of Daniel J. White’s score for Jess Franco’s FEMALE VAMPIRE (La Comatose Noire) on CD, vinyl, and digital download, on October 31st. In this film, Lina Romay starred as a beautiful female vampire who lures men to their doom. “The music composed by Daniel J. White will finally be accessible in the best possible listening conditions, from the master bands and bookstores of the musician,” wrote the label on its Facebook page. The album will also include a second score by White—directed by Jess Franco and with Lina Romay again in the lead role—which has not yet been identified.

Gil Talmi’s soundtrack to the compelling Netflix documentary THE GREAT HACK has been released to all digital platforms. The film explores how a data company named Cambridge Analytica came to symbolize the dark side of social media and influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election and Brexit vote. “I composed the score using a unique combination of Modular Synths and Orchestral Elements to convey the motifs of technology and human elements within the story,” Talmi said. “This highly evocative music is a sonic exploration of what it means to live in a data driven world in which we are continually being called to examine our rights as pawns in corporate and political ecosystems.”

See Amazon


La-La Land Records has announced its October soundtrack releases: First off is their world premiere release of the original 1935 Franz Waxman score recording of THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, which is kicking off with a special screening of “Bride” at Sleepy Hollow International Film Festival in Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown, New York on Sunday, October 13th, 5PM, at Tarrytown Music Hall. See details at musiquefantastique

In addition, the label has announced a fully expanded 2-CD edition of John Williams’ score to Steve Spielberg’s MINORITY REPORT, the second volume in “The Quinn Martin Collection” produced by Jon Burlingame, which includes premiere releases of the soundtracks to TV’s THE INVADERS (1967), and Lorne Balfe’s new score to the Will Smith science fiction thriller, GEMINI MAN. These four releases will begin shipping on October 17; pre-orders should become available on October 14 via the label’s website at



Film Music on Vinyl

Waxwork Records presents Christopher Young’s soundtrack to PET SEMATARY (2019). Young’s music is dark, dissonant, and synth-driven to create an atmosphere of dread and grief that spirals violently out of control. The composer sonically captures the ominous supernatural element of the film and its story with his decades long experience of expertly scoring some of the most notable and beloved horror movies, ever. The vinyl edition is a deluxe double LP featuring 180 Gram “Church” colored vinyl, new artwork by Christopher Shy, composer liner notes, old-style gatefold jackets, and printed inserts. See waxwork records

The Original Motion Picture Score for BLADE by award winning composer Mark Isham will be released for the first time on vinyl on October 4th and is now available for pre-order from varesesarabande and other retailers. The LP’s jacket, inner sleeve and labels thematically reference the infamous warehouse rave scene of the vampire thriller from 1998. “The score needed to have an epic super-hero quality but with a very dark side, and it needed to be able to live next to the world of 1990’s electronica—The Prodigy, Chemical Brothers, Aphex Twin etc.” described Isham. “We used a large symphony orchestra supplemented with electronic synthesizers and samplers for a unique musical vocabulary. I did a lot of sampling of weird and strange sounds as well as programming my synth collection. We recorded at the Fox stage which is a wonderful room. The process went smoothly as I had worked tirelessly with Steve Norrington, the director, during the demo process to get what we both wanted. We recorded some sections of the score in smaller segments—to be edited together later—as a lot of the visual effects hadn’t been completed yet.”

Death Waltz Recording Co., in conjunction with Back Lot Music, is excited to present the original motion picture soundtrack to MA, featuring the synth score by award-winning composer Gregory Tripi. Tate Taylor’s psychological thriller finds Octavia Spencer offering suspicious generosity with some warning signs—a classic tale of what happens when something seems too good to be true. Tripi’s fantastic, mostly electronic score is laced with the type of ambient beauty, ominous energy, and berserk passages that a story this unhinged requires. He uses analog synths, along with elements such as a live cello, pitched wine glasses and a ukulele, made from a bento box, to craft a score that, like Spencer’s Ma character, lulls you in with a false sense of security before stopping you cold with a deeply crushing sense of terror that hits you at your core. Limited to 500 numbered copies, the album is available digitally on streaming platforms via Backlot Records.

Composer Simon Boswell announces the forthcoming extended double-vinyl soundtrack of his score to SANTA SANGRE. The is the composer’s 30th Anniversary Edition featuring 78 minutes of music, including the complete score, previously unreleased cues, songs performed by cast, and—for the first time ever—all of the music recorded on the set of the film in Mexico City, PLUS new orchestral versions by Boswell and the Gringo Orchestra. The 1989 Alejandro Jodorowsky fantasy-drama has to do with a former circus artist who escapes from a mental hospital to rejoin his armless mother (the leader of a strange religious cult) and is forced to enact brutal murders in her name as he becomes “her arms.” The package is for a mid-November release from Flick Records, the UK label associated with Boswell’s music. The release is limited to 500 copies and purchases include a free digital download code. Pre-orders suggested – the first 50 sales will be signed by the composer. For details, click here.

Quartet Records announced a pair of new deluxe limited edition LPs from sumptuous thriller scores by Riz Ortolani (Non si sevizia un paperino, Lucio Fulci’s 1972 giallo) and Piero Piccioni (MARTA; aka Dopo di che, uccide il maschio e lo divora) are now available for order and shipping at

Mondo is proud to present The Dust Brothers’ soundtrack to FIGHT CLUB on vinyl for its 20th Anniversary pressed on 2X 180 Gram Pink Soap colored vinyl. The Dust Brothers’ only film score to date, FIGHT CLUB is arguably one of the most enjoyable soundtrack albums to come out of the ‘90s. The score weaves all of the films cues from the film into 16 songs. Featuring one-of-a-kind interactive album artwork by the incomparable Alan Hynes, the album is pressed on 2X 180 Gram Pink Soap colored vinyl.

Waxwork Records, in partnership with Sacred Bones Records, announces their exclusive and limited edition variant of HALLOWEEN (2018) Expanded Soundtrack by John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, and Daniel Davies. This deluxe edition features the 2018 soundtrack with more than 28 minutes of previously unreleased music from the film pressed onto a pair of Jack ‘o Lantern Orange with Black Splatter vinyl records! New artwork by Marc Aspinall and lavish new packaging, including an optical illusion lenticular gatefold jacket, gives the package that special touch.

Mondo Music, in partnership with Hollywood Records, presents Ludwig Göransson’s Oscar-winning score to BLACK PANTHER—the complete score for the first time on vinyl in a 3-LP, featuring stunning artwork by Martin Ansin. Housed in a tri-fold Silver Foil jacket. Liner notes by the composer. Pressed on 3X 180 Gram Silver and Black colored vinyl. Also available on 3X 180 Gram Black vinyl.  Available through Mondo.

In conjunction with Lakeshore Records, Burning Witches Records announces their release of the beautiful and dissonant score to the horror/thriller WHAT KEEPS YOU ALIVE, featuring music by actress/writer/producer and now composer Brittany Allen. The LP was remastered and cut at Abbey Road studios. 180g vinyl, with insert print & liner notes by the composer. See burning witches records.

Music Box Records, in collaboration with Musiques & Solutions, presents the vinyl release of the original motion picture soundtrack of Roger Kahane’s THE LOVE MATES (1970; aka MADLY) composed by Francis Lai. Produced by Alain Delon and directed by Roger Kahane, the film advocates for sexual freedom (at least from a masculine point of view) and a new conception of the couple. After the commercial success of LOVE STORY, Alain Delon chose Francis Lai, the famous collaborator of director Claude Lelouch to work on the project. The score features many neoromantic pieces that allowed Francis Lai’s gift for melody to shine (combined with Christian Gaubert’s ultra-elegant arrangements). This restored and remastered vinyl reissue includes an essay by Nicolas Magenham discussing the film and the score based on recent comments by Francis Lai and Christian Gaubert. This LP release is limited to 300 units.

For more details and track list, see musicbox-records


Film Music Books

I announced this book last month but now that a copy is on hand I can discuss it in more detail. Stephen Eicke, otherwise known as the man behind Caldera Records, and prior to that was the editor-in-chief of Europe’s Cinema Musica magazine, has been exploring the making of film music for many years. The struggle that Eicke is concerned with and examines in this book is that of skilled film composers being hampered in their art, being held back by the very nature of commercial cinema, the stigma of work-for-hire, and the myriad changes of motion picture scoring in the digital age where old school styles have been overcome by the influence of mechanistic, remote control composition techniques. In his introduction, Eicke quotes composer David Raksin who late in his career bitterly complained that “It should be news to no one that many people believe the industry has been plundered, ruined by incompetence, and left to twist slowly in the wind by men whose principal interest… [does] not lie in filmmaking.” He also quotes Elmer Bernstein who in the late ‘90s stated, “I think it’s unfortunate that composers have a very difficult time getting a chance to write real film music, good film music.” These are not just grievances of semi-retired composers, wishing things were as they were in times past. Eicke also quotes Oscar-winning composer Mychael Danna, who remarks “There are a lot of forces that have made it more difficult to make scores that are serving the picture as well as they could, and second of all move the art forward,” while Emmy-winner Marco Beltrami seems similarly distressed when he states “I feel bad for the young composers who are up-and-coming. They have to deal with these problems.”

Intrigued by such concerns over current conditions in their profession, Eicke sought to investigate the merit of these claims and determine how changing conditions in technology, musical styles, commercial interests, the insistence on intensive mock-ups of film scores early in the process, the rising trend of digital samples replacing the purity of live orchestra performances, and production techniques dampening the skill and artistry of film composing in favor of imitating trends, embracing redundancy, and demanding more with less, is really having a negative effect on the art and science of film music. This book is a mostly objective assessment of the state-of-the-art of film music, incorporating interviews with more than 40 composers, editors, sound designers, and directors who provide their views about conditions under which film music exists in the current film industry.

In the end, Eicke seems as disillusioned as Danna, Beltrami, and the others he’s spoken to. He recognizes how, in our digital age, virtually anyone with a computer and an understanding of creating musical sounds on it can eke out a film score that may not be inherently musical but may suffice lending a workable mood, and indicts the role of the temp score (as many do) as hampering creativity in favor of mimicking preexisting music [see composer Penka Kouneva’s guest article in my June 2019 column for an alternative viewpoint], and he offers a whole chapter in evaluating in detail how Remote Control Productions has changed the landscape of modern film music. Eicke writes in his concluding Summary that, like Elmer Bernstein recognized, “As society changes, so does the film industry, and with it, naturally, film music and the working conditions for its composers. It has always been a process of progress and setbacks.” Eicke closes with, “Political and societal changes will influence how we consume art and what kind of art we will consume. Will the result be more freedom for composers? Or even less? Everything is evolving. And so it goes.”

Eicke’s perspectives are informed and well-intended, although perhaps overly pessimistic. I’ve found in my own interviews with hundreds of film composers over the last 45 years that composers tend to find very creative solutions to the problems they are often beset with in the industry, which is not to say the problems do not exist, but that good composers writing good film music tends to overcome them, but then I’ve maintained a pretty positive outlook over those 45 years, possibly to my own ignorance concerning actual working conditions, or perhaps not. Bottom line, Eicke’s book is a very interesting one by investigating a topic not elsewhere covered in film music books and daring to point a spotlight at struggles that lie within the film music workplace. There’s enough information at hand here to warrant consideration, and to lend some understanding of conditions under which composers have to work.

Music by Max Steiner, by Steven C. Smith
Hardcover, Oxford University Press, 2020.
In Music by Max Steiner, the first full biography of the composer—acclaimed for such timeless scores as CASABLANCA, KING KONG, GONE WITH THE WIND, THE SEARCHERS, NOW, VOYAGER, and many others—Steven C. Smith (author of A Heart at Fire’s Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann) interweaves the dramatic incidents of Steiner’s personal life with an accessible exploration of his composing methods and experiences, bringing to life the previously untold story of a musical pioneer and master dramatist who helped create a vital new art with some of the greatest film scores in cinema history.
This book is not yet published; it is available for pre-orders and will ship on March 31, 2020.

For details, see: Oxford University Press.


Video Game Music

Annapurna Interactive’s TELLING LIES – Original Video Game Soundtrack by Nainita Desaihas been released digitally alongside the video game’s launch on Friday, August 23. TELLING LIES is an investigative thriller game with deep non-linear narrative storytelling that revolves around a cache of secretly recorded video conversations. The score was performed by the London Contemporary Orchestra and features an intimate string section, woodwinds, piano and harp, as well as unique extended playing techniques such as ‘Spectral Scrubbing,’ for an airy floaty feel. Additionally, Desai utilized modern classical music techniques, introducing an element of chaos and visceral edginess. “The tone of the music is quite intimate and cerebral and needed to compliment the complex Machiavellian plot and varied narrative threads, to make the game experience feel almost voyeuristic and warm,” said the composer. 

Watch the teaser trailer for TELLING LIES: 



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.
Special thanks to Benjamin Michael Joffe for copyediting assistance.

Randall can be contacted at

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