Nainita Desai: Scoring
AMERICAN MURDER: THE FAMILY NEXT DOOR
Interviews by Randall D. Larson
Orlando Perez Rosso: Re-Scoring 1916’s
20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA
• SNAPSHOTS: Soundtrack Reviews:
1BR (Landa/Lux/Eon Records), ALONE (Wiedmann/Kaleido Sound), BAD HAIR (Bowers/Lakeshore), CALAMITY (Di Concilio/2DD Music Group), ENEMY LINES (Phillip Jakko/MSM), HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON Deluxe (Powell/Varèse), JAY SEBRING: CUTTING TO THE TRUTH (Beal/Notefornote), KNOCK (Aufort/Quartet & MSM), THE LAST FULL MEASURE (Klein/Filmtrax), LILLY’S BEWITCHED CHRISTMAS (Dern/MSM & Kronos), MAN AT THE TOP (Budd/Caldera), OPEN 24 HOURS (Church/Notefornote), RAWHEAD REX (Towns/Silva Screen), SPEER GOES TO HOLLYWOOD (Ilfman/MSM), THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO/Patrick Williams/La-La Land), THE WILD WILD WEST (Bernstein/Varèse Sarabande), THE WITCHES (Silvestri/WaterTower), THE WRETCHED (Burrows/La-La Land)
Book Review: Ennio Morricone Master of the Soundtrack Maurizio Baroni
Soundtrack, Vinyl, & Game Music
In this nontraditional biopic, director Julie Taymor crafts a complex tapestry of one of the most inspirational and legendary figures of modern history, Gloria Steinem. Based on Steinem’s own memoir My Life on the Road, THE GLORIAS (Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander, Lulu Wilson, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, each one playing Gloria at a certain age) traces Steinem’s influential journey to prominence—from her time in India as a young woman, to the founding of Ms. magazine in New York, to her role in the rise of the women’s rights movement in the 1960s, to the historic 1977 National Women’s Conference and beyond… “The emphasis in the film is not on the singular woman but on the multiple GLORIAS represented in the film, writes director Julie Taymor. “And ultimately for me, THE GLORIAS are not just of the Steinem bloodline but, by the end of the film, are also in effect, ‘WE THE PEOPLE.’ What inspired me to do this story, this life, was how it introduced me to all these varied women and girls. Her life is the women in the story.” Elliot Goldenthal received an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for his score for FRIDA and Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for his music for Neil Jordan’s INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE and MICHAEL COLLINS. Also notable among his more than 30 film scores are Michael Mann’s PUBLIC ENEMIES and HEAT, Neil Jordan’s THE BUTCHER BOY for which he received the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Music, Joel Schumacher’s A TIME TO KILL and BATMAN FOREVER, Gus Van Sant’s DRUGSTORE COWBOY and Julie Taymor’s THE TEMPEST, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, TITUS and THE GLORIAS which premiered at Sundance in January 2020 and became available for digital download and streaming via Prime Video on September 30, 2020.
Q. The film utilizes a very interesting and effective narrative style. How did the concept of having four actors play the roles of Gloria through the film’s timeline affect or influence how you would approach composing the film’s score?
Elliot Goldenthal: All the problems I had to figure out was a challenge, because there is a timeline going from the 1930s to 2017! Within that there’s a magical Greyhound bus that carries these four Glorias of various ages, and they’re able to interact with each other, and that’s out of time, so to speak. So that gave me a reference point, and I realized that I don’t have to refer to any particular time period. I used the amplified guitar in a very soloistic, personal way, a very, almost introspective way of playing guitar, as well as other instruments like accordion, glass harmonica, cello harmonics, and things like that. The guitar created a contemporary feeling that we’re all familiar with, having grown up in that amplified guitar age since the 1950’s on, but it also provided a timelessness, which I can play off of as constant. The first thing you hear in the movie is the amplified guitar, and the last thing you hear in the movie, over a big majestic orchestra, is also amplified guitar, so it had a binding factor in the movie.
Q: Your score hits each time period of the score uniquely and yet the music, like the film, possesses an overarching unity that seems to flow across the storyline through Gloria’s internal perspective. How would you describe your major thematic ideas for the score, and how they intersect as the story is told?
Elliot Goldenthal: On a musical/technical level, the first melody you hear with the little girl and the jukebox tied on the back of the car is played in an almost 1940s Hot Club of France style of playing, on an acoustic guitar. That melody goes through a series of transformations, you hear it again when the little girl is leaving her house in Michigan, by the lake; you hear it in the scene when she’s with her mother when The Andrews Sisters didn’t show up and she’s kind of forlorn because it’s raining and she tells her father the bad news about the cancellation of the concert. Then you hear it when she’s dancing with her two former boyfriends in her 50th Birthday scene later in the movie. It’s the same chord changes—so it had a subconscious unifying affect also, with the motivic material there, and that takes us through various chronological stages of her life, and the music that represented that time.
Q: The score has a variety of palettes which contribute musically to Julie’s visual storytelling style. How did you choose your use of bluesy electric guitar, moments of jazz, string quartet, instrumental R&B…
Elliot Goldenthal: It might sound like various styles to us right now—we’re looking at that through a microscope, in the sense that we all grew up through that. We lived it; it’s very much part of our lives. There’s a kind of folky instrumental sound when you see Bella Abzug campaigning, which is very representative of the feeling—the kind of infectious brashness that you felt in that period of the late ‘60s, with Bella and just the streets in general. The sound of the ‘60s also included kind of a free jazz saxophone type of thing, heard when Gloria went from a rural environment to a cosmopolitan environment—so I’m just saying, in the course of our lives… for me, I was a little boy but I attended Woodstock, and I was also in subway distance to go to the Village Gate and hear Miles Davis a number of times in a very intimate setting, and hearing the classics, hearing orchestral string quartets, all these things I grew up with. So that’s very much a part of what I breathed in, in my life. If you look back—way back—on Mozart for example, your hear Italian styles, German styles, Turkish marches and this and that; it’s not as unusual for composers to just reflect what they hear in their lives. But, especially in this movie, it took on years and years of life in very separate environments, from a long highway on a Greyhound bus, reflecting Middle America or the Great Plains or the Big Skies of the Northwest to the cosmopolitan environments and also the big, majestic ideas of freedom and personal human rights that’s beyond personal—that’s represented as more of a yearning.
Q: Especially at the end, where you’ve got this striking symphonic passage that augments moments of the film’s emotional landscape and then gives the ending such a powerful, emotive flavor…
Elliot Goldenthal: It’s very interesting that you ask that, because I held off on giving Gloria—during her speech at the Women’s March on Washington , it was the day after the inauguration of the President. That moment, she was speaking to a vast crowd, I think there were four hundred and seventy thousand people in Washington, but it was a worldwide event, so I held off on making Gloria like a big, iconic figure. Instead, the big orchestral themes come in on the crowd reaction, when she said “The Constitution doesn’t begin with, ‘I, the president,’ it begins with, ‘We, the People” and that gave a kind of majesty to the ideas that audience, the people at the March and worldwide, were yearning for.
Q: There’s a couple of really unique surreal moments in the film I wanted to ask about – the exotic “red tornado” dream sequence prompted by a tv interviewer’s distasteful comment. Like much in your score, this sequence musically gets creatively pretty wild and fits Julie’s unique cinematic storytelling style beautifully. What do you recall about composing the music for this sequence?
Elliot Goldenthal: I originally composed something for that sequence, during that tornado, where the TV announcer was playfully tortured—but nothing cruel, I should say. I played that scene from the perspective of the announcer’s trepidation, and I made it really, really scary. But Julie said “No, don’t do that. I want you to compose something that has a fun flavor to it, a kind of a playful menace. That’s the way she put it. The orchestral writing is very sardonic and kind of based on a tarantella but gone wild—gone mad a little bit. And it has some flavors of circus music, klezmer, and then goes into a rapid-fire rhythmic change in the middle that has a certain abandon to it. Of course I’m nodding to THE WIZARD OF OZ, but in a fun sense of that. When we were kids, that sequence was a little scary to us, you know? We were kids! But now it makes us smile, and it has a sweetness to it.
Q: Another is the animated Hindu goddess dance sequence during the Ms. Magazine sequence. It’s short but it’s just a wonderful bit.
Elliot Goldenthal: That’s played by a wonderful percussionist named Jamey Haddad. That little sequence was meant to have the slightest, slightest feeling of the origins in India but also to make you smile a little bit. It’s not the all-encompassing, scary Kali, it was more of an uplifting mother Kali at your back, a being able to represent a woman’s feminist causes.
Q: What particular instruments did Jamey use on that?
Elliot Goldenthal: He plays musical clay pots, hajime—also various hand percussion, frame drums, and little Agogo bells.
Q: That’s a delightful sequence. You’ve got the situation of this political movement that is so meaningful to so many people, and yet you can take an aside for something that’s very fun and energetic before going back into the drama. The Kali dance, I think, is a great example of that.
Elliot Goldenthal: The other sequence is the conveyor belt sequence…
Q: Yes, the “Treadmill Agitato” scene.
Elliot Goldenthal: That one was deadly serious. It’s the pent-up frustration one can have on the road and trying to push forward ideas of human rights and have the same racist crap being thrown at you. She’s lashing out at anyone but all you see are the miles and miles of road that she clocked in while trying to get things right. Julie’s model for the visuals there was Escher, the painter. That was played with a string quartet and, again, amplified guitar.
Q: The final sequence on the bus, when it shifts from black & white to color and the camera pulls back down the aisle, past the four Glorias and the other characters on the bus to reveal the fifth Gloria – the real Gloria, of today – and the music’s soft tones are joined by that electric guitar, which in turn segues to this emotionally-packed, rising orchestral anthem that plays over Gloria’s speech at the Women’s’ March and concludes the film with such a, dare I say it, glorious! resonance. What can you tell me about creating the music for that final emotive sequence?
Elliot Goldenthal: It all begins with the death of Gloria’s friend, Wilma Mankiller, who was a great feminist and first female Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton. She’s at her deathbed, and the music had to take you from the intimacy of that to the intimacy of the next scene, where Gloria’s writing in her study in Manhattan. We’ve gone all the way from Cherokee Country Oklahoma to New York City, to a bus, to an arrival at the Women’s’ March in Washington, so all of that has to be covered in a very, very intimate, internal way. I thought the string quartet was the most delicate way of bringing them through the death of a friend, the voice-over of Gloria, with a slow, slow building of textures to the reveal of the real Gloria Steinem, and then opening up to an orchestral texture. As I mentioned before, I was saving the big, majestic aspirational theme to the cuts to the audience—not on Gloria.
Q: How did you configure the various elements of your score into the soundtrack album, which really represents the score well as a listening experience on its own?
Elliot Goldenthal: It’s pretty directly translated from the movie. Sometimes there are scenes that were very close to each other, chronologically, in the movie, that have similar themes, so I combined them together. I featured some more of the sections of the orchestra that were hard to hear when you have sound effects, etcetera, but it’s basically the same score you’re hearing in the movie. With the “Slow Dance With Two,” the romantic dance in her birthday sequence, you hear the whole thing, which was recorded at more than three minutes in length, but unfortunately we only used about one minute in the movie, so you get to hear the whole thing on the album. But otherwise it’s exactly the same. The last chorus is exactly the same as it appears in the movie.
Q: Finally – You’ve accomplished a lot in a variety of musical endeavors, which include commissions to compose Oratorios, Operas, Ballets, musicals and more. Where does film music fit in your various composing opportunities these days?
Elliot Goldenthal: The film projects take up a lot of time. Between that and orchestral commissions and very personal works like that I have to carve out the time. Right now I’m working on a commission for an orchestra in Poland, a song cycle for soprano and orchestra on this poet named Barbara Sadowska; she passed away but her poetry is based on the occupation of Poland by the Soviets and her son being tortured and dying in prison. A very dark subject, but out of that reflection upon that period in Poland came very, very beautiful poetry. Not violent poetry but beautiful, lonely poetry. That should be about 35-40 minutes in length. I don’t know, as you can see from my complete resume, I am kind of a third/third/and third guy! I like theater, I enjoy composing for theater, concert stage, opera and ballet, and film. I guess that goes from the beginning of my career when one of my teachers, John Corigliano, said to me “A composer has to go where he or she is wanted.” So I’ve found that various media supplied me with my immediate work.
Q: Miklos Rozsa has said he was leading a “Double Life,’ – one foot in film music, another in concert music. Are you reflecting this kind of duality?
Elliot Goldenthal: I don’t think so. It’s the requirements of doing the work. I don’t separate my life too much. For example, my ballet “Othello,” I had to limit my ideas and the length of pieces in the ballet to human endurance. I couldn’t have an adagio that lasts for 25 minutes! Everything has its limitations. Classical music has less limitations, but the real limitation on that one is you probably have a little rehearsal time. Everything has its own limits, but I’m alive in this time, as I said before, and I’m able to do it. With films, I feel comfortable because every film project is completely different from the other.
Special thanks to Jeff Sanderson at Chasen PR for facilitating this interview, and to Elliot Goldenthal for taking the time to answer my questions.
A 16-track soundtrack for THE GLORIAS has been released by Zarathustra Records and is available digitally from Apple Music and other streaming sources.
Nainita Desai’s musical foundations are rooted in world music, which informs her experimental, multi-instrumental and creatively diverse approach. This, coupled with experience with sound design and technical innovation, informs Nainita’s powerful and immersive scores. Her creative process involves deeply-researched collaborations to find those voices that are not usually heard, and sounds that are truly unique. Working at the forefront of a new wave of emerging artists, RTS- and BIFA-nominated composer Nainita is a BAFTA Breakthrough Brit, Ivor Novello 2020 nominee, and the International Film Music Critics Association Breakthrough Composer of 2020. She has scored numerous BAFTA, Oscar, and Emmy acclaimed productions. The PRS placed Desai at No 2 in their Top 10 female writers whose work was most used in Film & TV through 2018. She has also been awarded Best Original Music at the Music+Sound Awards 2019 and Naturvision Film Festival 2019.
The Netflix documentary, AMERICAN MURDER: THE FAMILY NEXT DOOR, tells the horrifying true story of the 2018 Watts family murders when seemingly devoted suburban father Chris Watts murdered his wife, Shannan, as well as their two daughters and unborn son. Using social media videos filmed by Shannan Watts herself, along with footage taken from other publicly available sources including police body-cam and interview footage, director Jenny Popplewell created a harrowing account of the family’s last weeks that’s consistently ranked among the streaming service’s Top 10 most-watched programs since its September 30 premiere. “I went straight to Shannan’s Facebook page, and she’s still alive on there and feels like everybody else,” Popplewell told Yahoo Entertainment in an October 13th interview. “I decided that rather than our film telling people what to think, we could just show them.”Nainita Desai turns in an excellent, somewhat understated and sensitive score which did a fine job supporting the tension and revelations as they were depicted in the narrative.
Q: How did you become involved in this project? I believe this was your first time working with director Jenny Popplewell?
Nainita Desai: Yes it was our first collaboration. A mutual director colleague of ours introduced us when Jenny was looking for a producer. I think Jenny had heard my score for SAMA. After a couple of really interesting conversations about the musical concept for the film and how I would approach the score, Jenny brought me on board. The commission for the film came during lockdown in March 2020 and so I had to be resourceful and recorded the score remotely with the London Contemporary Orchestra (LCO).
Q: Instead of talking-head interviews, for the most part, the film documents a particularly heinous murder through police body-cam footage, interview room video, the family’s home videos, the victim’s social media posts and emails, etc., which put the viewer there, directly in the midst of the investigation and the family life as it’s depicted. How did you determine where and how the music would find its place through this stylistic collage of telling the story?
Nainita Desai: The initial brief from Jenny was to create a score that sounded like a fairytale marriage and that as the film developed, the music would get darker and darker. Jenny didn’t want the music to portray Chris Watts as a monster but to be neutral and understated but still full of character.
Q: The story is both delicate and straightforward in its narrative. How did the sensitive nature of the story or its telling affect how you and Jenny decided the music should operate?
Nainita Desai: One of the first decisions we made was to tell the story mainly from Shannan’s point of view, as the story is told mainly in the first person. The hardest challenge was to find a balance between the “happy families” music that illustrated the good times in the relationship, against the darker aspects of the film. The two extremes needed to sit together and work harmoniously. As the early stages of the story unfold, we didn’t want to give too much away.
That being said, the case is very well known and so the film wasn’t just another procedural true crime story. It’s really about giving Shannan a voice—so we wanted to handle the film sensitively. Despite the sensitive nature of the story, I still wanted the score to have a strong bold character. It really needed to drive the story forward as there are some rather dry images of stills, and graphics of text messages on screen.
Q: What was your instrumental palette for this score, and how did specific scenes or revelatory moments in the story dictate the kind of instruments to be used?
Nainita Desai: The score is largely built around a string quintet surrounded by electronic elements. However as the film is based on social media and the mobile phone, I decided to use found sounds from the film into the score for authenticity. So I brought in a percussionist Hugh Wilkinson to play various bits of handmade percussions and phone tapping on mobile phones with fingers. I then created percussion tension rhythms made up from these found sounds. You can hear them combined with the strings in the ‘letter reading’ scene or moments where you see a phone texting message on screen. It just brings those moments to life and makes it all the more real. There are also oil tanks in the film where the bodies were found and I used these sounds of oil drums and sound effects to create ambient tension for those moments in the film. There are also modern electronic sounds but it’s a mainly organic acoustic score to empathise with the emotional relationship of the couple.
Q: The film is at once both a police procedural, a record of this young woman’s life and its ending, and the exposure of a terribly cruel homicide. Was this a unique or a challenging film to compose?
Nainita Desai: It was all of those things! The music has to help drive the story forward with momentum, drama, and delicacy but still emanate sensitivity. The visual and audio quality of the footage also varies greatly in quality. The interrogation room scenes in particular were tough because the audio quality was so poor. So it was a fine balancing act.
Q: Would you describe your score’s thematic/motific architecture?
Nainita Desai: There is a theme for the main title and the aerial shots in the film. It’s a brooding, string ostinato sequence layered with high strings that descend in pitch to create an uneasiness. You also have a recurring theme over the screen cards that indicate the number of days before or after the murder. As the investigation progresses, the pace picks up. The string ostinatos create a real sense of mystery, momentum, and drama to the proceedings. The edgy texture of the live instruments also adds to the texture of the film. The final scene in the film allows us to come full circle to the beginning of the film with Shannan, so we decided to repeat the title theme there. Likewise, with the end credits we do justice to Shannan’s memory and a nod to happier times with her children.
Q: The tonal nature of the music is both immersing and understated, which adds some tension to the progressing narrative while also providing a mix of emotion and distress to the family life as we watch it from home videos. How did you arrive at this approach?
Nainita Desai: Towards the latter half of the film, the film becomes very dark.
Q: Was it difficult to immerse yourself in the dreadful nature of this story? Was there a need to configure the music to support viewers as they follow the investigation into this shocking crime?
Nainita Desai: I tend to have an immersive approach to scoring and so inhabiting a dark musical space comes naturally to me. This film wasn’t about Chris Watts so much, but honoring Shannan’s story—so treating it with delicacy was crucial. When you realize how things have unfolded with the murders, it actually made me feel quite ill. I created some dark, almost atonal textures with found sound of Oil drums—the sounds from the location—and extended string techniques played by the LCO orchestra. The audience is really taken on twists and turns with the polygraph and the interrogation, and finally with the court room trial. For example, with the interrogation room I wanted to emphasize the tension in the room with the sound of time passing with the ticking clock type sound. The constant rhythm.
We recorded the score remotely during lockdown. I would be in my studio, the engineer in his home, and the musicians were recorded individually in their homes one by one, with all the recordings layered like a cake. The engineer would remotely control their mobile rig. And we would all communicate via WhatsApp, Zoom, or texting—rather apt for this film based around texting and social media! We recorded the cello first; those parts would be sent to the violas, who would listen to what the cellos had played. Finally the violinists would record their parts on top of everyone else’s recordings. So instead of spending a day in the studio all recording together, we spent a week recording and a lot of time afterwards editing and mixing it all together. It produced a unique sound.
In an ideal world we would all be recording together but it’s remarkable what technology will enable us to do. Where there’s a will…!
- Thanks to Nainita Desai for taking time out to discuss her music on this film with me. - rdl
Released by the Universal Film Manufacturing Company (later to become Universal Pictures), 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (1916) is an epic adaptation of Jules Verne’s classic novel, shot on location in the Bahaman Islands. Directed by Stuart Paton (THE GRAY GHOST, CLIPPED WINGS, THE HOPE DIAMOND MYSTERY), the film stars Allen Holubar as the domineering Captain Nemo, who rescues the passengers of an American naval vessel after ramming them with his iron-clad submarine, The Nautilus. The film also stars Dan Hanlon as Prof. Aronnax, Edna Pendleton as Aronnax’s Daughter, Curtis Benton as Ned Land, Matt Moore as Lt. Bond, and Jane Gail as “A Child of Nature.” Incorporating considerable material from Verne’s sequel novel Mysterious Island, Paton’s film also follows the adventures of a group of Civil War soldiers whose hot-air balloon crash lands on an exotic island, where they encounter the untamed “Child of Nature.”
Calling itself “The First Submarine Photoplay Ever Filmed,” this is a superior science fantasy-adventure film of the silent era with very extravagant special effects courtesy of John Ernest “J. E.” & George Maurice Williamson, who in addition to various visual effects also constructed a 100-foot Nautilus out of sheet metal that could submerge just below the waterline (all the scenes of the submarine on the water were directed by J.E. Williamson). The film is highlighted by stunning underwater photography—indeed, the first ever shot for a motion picture—including an underwater funeral and a deep sea diver’s battle with a giant cephalopod.
Released on Blu-Ray by Kino Lorber, the film was restored by Universal Pictures, via a 4K scan from a nitrate 35mm print, and now possesses a clarity of image which, apart from some of the underwater scenes, is remarkable for its age. An excellent audio commentary is provided by Anthony Slide, noted author and editor of dozens of books on the history of popular entertainment. His detailed examination of the film and all of its parts is fascinating, and he also reminds us that the film’s title does not actually refer to a journey to a depth of 20,000 leagues (which equates to about 72,000 nautical miles, and far exceeds the depth of the ocean); but is actually referring to a journey spanning a horizontal distance traveled “under the sea.”
A significant note about the film, from reviewer Don Tabor at cinapse.co, is worth reproducing: “One thing to keep in mind before watching the film is its historical context, and its use of brownface, which some may find problematic. While there are black background actors, Nemo, who is Indian, and the young feral girl who is also a person of color, are both played by Caucasian actors in makeup. While historically it fits the norm for two prominent roles be treated as such, one thing I did find rather progressive was, unlike a certain Disney adaptation, they didn’t whitewash Nemo or his heritage and kept his race from the book. Also, while the character is brooding and a bit eccentric, it’s not simply racial caricature either.”
Universal’s 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA premiered in 1916 with a musical score created by the studio’s then-music director Wedgewood Nowell, who became better-known as an actor with 152 film credits from 1915 to 1947. It’s unclear if the film’s original score was newly composed by Nowell or (more likely, it would seem, as I can find no record of a specific composer) was assembled from a music library or other previous sources. Over the years, various VHS, DVD, and live music-to-screen presentations contained new scores; for this release, Kino has commissioned composer Orlando Perez Rosso (2018’s THE NANNY, addl. music for Michael Abels’ US, SEE YOU YESTERDAY, ALL DAY AND A NIGHT) to provide a new score, and it’s a thoroughly engaging, enticingly textured, and melodic orchestral score that maintains a continual rhythmic flow throughout the 86-minute story.
Rosso’s score is a live orchestra presentation, recorded with a chamber ensemble in Budapest during October 2019. “Last year, the Music Department at Universal Pictures invited me to score the project,” Rosso told me. “At that time they were restoring various silent films from their catalog and one of those was 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA. I was very interested in the project from the beginning not only because of the plot of the movie but also because of the importance of this film as being the very first motion picture to ever use underwater cinematography. Also, I was really excited about ‘traveling in time’ and scoring a 100+ year old film.”
The score is thematically rich, with a number of themes recurring through the film’s narrative to identify and support the doings of the various characters, and the remarkable journey and its encounters as well. “As my approach for scoring this film was based on motivic/thematic development, I wrote themes for characters other than Nemo as well, including Nemo’s daughter, which I based on the same musical scale of Nemo’s theme but used a much more lighter instrumentation and harmonic language,” explained Rosso. “I also created themes for the Expedition itself, Professor Aronnax, the Nautilus, the Underwater Scenes, and the Mystery Island Invaders. You can hear all these themes interacting and battling with each other with multiple variations throughout the film.”
Rosso’s music sustains even the film’s more protracted scenes, such as the lengthy flashback telling of Nemo’s backstory in India when he was a Prince, and gives those sequences a musical cadence that keeps them interesting and moving forward. “I started my process by thinking what was the best way to represent Captain Nemo musically,” said Rosso. “It was very important for me to not reveal much about his nationality too early. However, I still wanted to give the audience a hint of who he was. With that in mind, I wrote a theme that had a little Indian flavor in its melodic contour but I decided not to use a traditional Indian instrumental palette during the first two acts of the film as this would reveal too much. The first and only time I used a more traditional Indian ensemble was during the third act when Captain Nemo reveals he was Prince Daaker of India and tells the story of why he left his town and decided to build a submarine.”
The score is thoroughly engaging and likeable; it works beautifully with the film, and as a necessary wall-to-wall musical accompaniment for the silent film, it makes a fine continuous listen all on its own from the Blu-Ray. “I always thought that using a more traditional structure for the score with the use of leitmotif and variations would let me help narrate the story and it would let the audience dive deep into the oceans of this historic piece,” Rosso said.
The necessarily wall-to-wall musical accompaniment for this film enlivens and illuminates the story’s structure as well as the interactions and emotional contours of its characters. Orlando Perez Rosso has turned in a very impressive long-format score, and I’ll be eager to hear what he has coming up after this. Rosso’s score to the 1916 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA will be released next month via Back Lot Music.
1BR/Ronen Landa/Lux/Eon Records - digital 1BR is a psychological horror/thriller directed by David Marmor in his feature film debut. The film follows a young woman newly relocated to Los Angeles in an apartment complex occupied by people who are all great friends with each other, only to learn that she’s become trapped amongst a community of cultists and is tortured until she agrees to assimilate into their forced lifestyle. Landa’s score starts out with a pretty piano piece but then shifts gears into something terrifying as the woman realizes her predicament; at which time the musical design builds and then maintains a potent tension with jarring instrumental textures and frightening musical designs. “This film has a laser-like focus on a single character’s perspective, and I felt that the score should really function as an extension of her mind and psychological reaction to everything she experiences—or maybe I should say endures,” Landa told me in a recent interview for musique fantastique. “I arranged the [piano] theme to match the edit and added coloristic touches so that we understand that this world is not quite ‘right.’ As the score progresses we develop an instrumental landscape full of warm and recognizable sounds—a female voice, deep woodwind tones, a pump organ—but they’ve all undergone some shapeshifting and now feel almost as if they are straight out of the uncanny valley. Like Sarah’s apartment complex, the sounds feel familiar, but something beneath the surface is so terribly wrong.” Landa’s sonic configurations for 1BR build an effective psychological underpinning for the story, moving from the neighbors to the woman herself as she becomes immersed in the cult’s lifestyle despite her attempts to escape. It’s an intriguing musical journey that provides a very interesting musical treatment, and a absorbing listen.
ALONE/Frederik Wiedmann/Kaleido Sound - digital Frederik Wiedmann (THE DRAGON PRINCE, GREEN LANTERN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, numerous DC Animated Movie Universe films) has released a soundtrack album for the horror thriller ALONE. The movie (which is available for rent or purchase through Amazon Prime) revolves around lonely surfer Aidan who one day awakens to find that a global pandemic has turned most of humanity into bloodthirsty zombies, trapping him in his small apartment. Wiedmann merges horrific sonics (the pounding percussion slams and elastic synth pads that create the cacophony of “Day 42” and “Pandemic,” the disturbing aura of “The World Outside,” and the ghoulishly-designed “Infected,” identifying the rampaging hordes of mindless, hungry, zombies raging about in the apartment corridors and parking areas below) with sympathetic tonal orchestrations of synths over languid piano notes (such as “Isolate” and “Stay Alive”) that represent the primary character’s social isolation and struggles to remain living once his water and food have run out. These dual purposes help keep the story moving forward and provide the emotional resonance for the character in his isolation. When Aiden discovers Eva, another survivor in the adjacent apartment building, Wiedmann’s compassionate “Making Contact” (whose melody later backs the closing song that plays over the End Titles), a third element of the score is brought in—Aidan’s commitment to rescue her above all else (“I’m Coming For You”), and Eva’s partnering with him to assure their slim opportunity of mutual survival (“Your Future,” the frightening “Behind The Door”). Wiedmann hits all the right emotional and menacing notes, and the score is quite a fine one. (Trivia: ALONE, which had its film festival release last March, was adapted into the Korean film #ALIVE. Screenwriter Matt Naylor co-adapted his script for ALONE with Korean director Cho Il-hyung, who then made #ALIVE, which released last June in Korea. The result was two similar films in different styles [their second halves diverging from one another] based on a very similar script.)
BAD HAIR/Kris Bowers/Lakeshore - digital
It’s 1989. Anna is an ambitious young woman who gets a hair weave in order to succeed in the image-obsessed world of music television. However, her flourishing career may come at a great cost when she realizes that her new hair has a mind of its own—and a thirst for blood. Written, directed, and produced by Justin Simien (DEAR WHITE PEOPLE), BAD HAIR stars newcomer Elle Lorraine (in a truly breakout performance as Anna), Vanessa Williams, Lena Waithe, Kelly Rowland, Blair Underwood, Laverne Cox, Robin Thede, Michelle Hurd [STAR TREK: PICARD], and James Van Der Beek. The film’s interesting social drama shares equal time with its more horrific side; its disparate elements have been criticized by some but I found it to be a valid look at a number of things as Anna tries to succeed in her workplace, fighting for recognition and promotion. Supported by an apprehensive score by Kris Bowers, things do get a bit… hairy for those dreams to be fulfilled. Most of the characters are African American, and the issues they face on the road to success are conveyed in a realistic fashion, with racism coming into it mainly via the TV channel’s owner, a friendly enough white man (Van Der Beek) but who ultimately is seen as having a connection to an intriguing mythology which is subtly woven onto the story. Anna’s history-teacher father loans her a book about slave folktales, through which Anna learns about the myth of “the moss haired girl” and what is truly responsible for the haunted hair that she and several other workers at Culture have become infected with, and which knowledge helps her fight back. It’s this larger mythology that makes BAD HAIR a far from an ordinary horror film, and whose sizeable backstory gives it an intriguing depth of legend and narrative.
The film has been scored by Kris Bowers (MRS. AMERICA [see review in my July-Aug column], WHEN THEY SEE US, Simien’s DEAR WHITE PEOPLE, THE SNOWY DAY [Daytime Emmy Award for music; and he is set to write with Hans Zimmer the score of the 2021 film SPACE JAM: A NEW LEGACY). Bowers’ score is as intense as the film itself, maneuvering the absorbing tones and shifts that follow the story’s intriguing dramatic storyline and well serve the hairy horrific sequences (some of which are deliciously over-the-top and are likely what gives the film it’s official genre listing of “comedy-horror;” although I think “horror-drama” suits BAD HAIR just fine). The score is awash with intriguing textures and dark, tonal fragrances, impressionistic treatments like “Tenderheaded” which, after a very short bit of dialog from the scene in question (in which Anna suffers during the new hair weave, reliving a painful experience in getting a hair style as a pre-teen), is accompanied by a wiry violin strain over painful and high register string squeals, musically rendering the image of the twisting, coursing hair tugging and entwining around Anna’s real hair and tender scalp as rude brays of punishing, electronic laughter suggests the salon crowd’s ridicule. In contrast, the following cue is the luxurious “New Hair,” which exemplifies Anna’s newfound confidence and the admiring looks from passersby and co-workers with her long, smooth dark strands. But as those moody fibers begin to exert a dangerous influence on her, not to mention a dangerous amount of death to those around her, the music is colored in far darker shades, entwining the story, and Anna’s confidence, in shrill ringlets of violin, creepy, elongating tufts, sinewy strands, and terrifying tresses that underlay a variety of musical structures that build the terror and shock with an explosive mane of dark ferocious fleeces. The score’s blend of intricate and imposing musical patterns maintain a constantly-building intensity that suits the film, like the climax of “Forget Your Coat” which erupts in a blaring cluster of fluttering brasses over an ominous bottom of dark, threatening sound. That cue carries us into the final track, “Before Your Histories Began / She Looks Happy” and a conclusive reprise of the story from the book of slave folktales, that legend of the moss-haired girl and of the white man who owned the property on which the witch-cursed hair is gathered from trees and used for nefarious, disquieting purposes. Director Simien keeps that coda rather subtle so it’s easy to miss its meaning to the story that has gone before, but it explains a lot. Kris Bowers’ contribution to BAD HAIR’s thoughtful drama and untangling horror makes for a very likable album, and the inclusion of five songs used in the film are kept together at the start of the disc, allowing the score to begin with Track 6 and proceed uninterrupted through to its end. BAD HAIR had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and is now streaming on Hulu. Listen to or purchase the soundtrack via these links. Watch the film’s trailer below:
CALAMITY/Florencia Di Concilio/2DD Music Group –
digital & vinyl The French animated film CALAMITY, A CHILDHOOD OF MARTHA JANE CANNARY (or simply CALAMITY; who is none other than Calamity Jane, the famed 18th Century American frontierswoman), is directed by Rémi Chayé, with score composed and orchestrated by Florencia di Concilio. The music is an intriguing mix of bluegrass & symphonic orchestra which combines to give the score both a sensitivity to its time period and a sumptuous emotional size as conveyed by the resources of the orchestra. Di Concilio’s main theme is a lovely, period-flavored folk tune for banjo and fiddle which is captivating each time we hear it, suggestive of both Jane’s perseverance and assertiveness as well as the journey she takes with her family across the American plains. The theme is rich in Americana colors but at the same time carries a captivating sense of innocence. “Becoming Jane” is a slow-burn introducing the perils of the trail, with Jane’s emerging into the confident and self-reliant young woman that will become “Calamity” Jane. There is an exciting bluegrass track with “Hot Springs” while “Jonas” is an especially melodic and appealing mix of solo fiddle and symphony orchestra, as jaunty as it is emotively moving. In between the thematic tracks, there are some very good tense elements that provide substance to the more dramatic moments of the story. “Who Do You Think You Are?,” “Ostracism,” and “Lock Her Up!” for example, craft some excellent pensive moments of despondency and worry, the latter providing some especially gloomy gravitas for low cello and what sounds like echoey, scratchy metal guitar or piano strings. “Escape” carries a pensive mood, opening with furtive banjo plucks and hesitant violin bowing, counterpointed against warning incursions of circular, piping winds; “The Vein” whispers with a near-ghostly refrain; “The Haul” reprises some of the scraped guitar strings from “Lock Her Up!” to spooky effect. But as the darker story resolves, the score becomes reacquainted with its main theme and conducts a brighter journey to the story’s finish line. “Epilog” is an especially flavorful cue, opening quietly for piccolo, fiddle, and banjo, until the orchestra joins in, carrying the cue into a fine, powerful resonance; broken by a final bit of action and danger until resolving again with the orchestra’s emotional resolution. The main title is reprised for the “End Title,” followed by a vociferous song, sung in French by Calamity and chorus, “Je m’appelle Calamity (My Name is Calamity),” which is both cute and possesses a mischievous attitude, a perfect reflection of Calamity’s character; its chorus gallops along towards the end, where the song concludes with a happy chorus of children. The album ends with a bonus track, a fine reprise of the main theme performed by a modern violin and guitar. This is a thoroughly engaging score which has already become a favorite of mine. With the exception of the 5:17 “Epilog” most of the tracks are short but flow together well, making this is very satisfying listen on its own.
Florencia Di Concilio recently finished scoring INFLUENCE, a feature-length documentary directed by Diana Neille and Richard Poplak, which follows the rise and fall of the London-based public relations firm, Bell Pottinger, that became infamous for its meddling in political and media landscapes in countries across the world.
For more about the composer, see https://florenciadiconcilio.com/about
Listen to the track, “Epilog,” below, courtesy of di Concilio’s YouTube page:
ENEMY LINES/Phillip Jakko/MovieScore Media - digital
MovieScore Media once again teams up with French composer Philippe Jakko (ALLIES, KAUFMAN’S GAME) who returns to the war genre with music that balances military might with an elegiac tribute to the plight of those fighting the conflict. Directed by Anders Banke, ENEMY LINES takes place in the frozen, war-torn landscape of occupied Poland during World War II, where a crack team of allied commandos are sent on a deadly mission behind enemy lines to extract a rocket scientist from the hands of the Nazis. As the composer recalls: “The main inspiration for this score was Oliver Stone’s PLATOON, specifically his use of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings as I wanted to find something universal which can fit the core of the story and add another dimension more oriented towards fate, war madness, sorrow without using the army snares and solo trumpet cliché. I wrote different versions of this main theme to fit the story and composed a couple of themes around it, specifically action, adventure, and emotional cues. For the German camp and the menacing snowy forest, I provided something mysterious, contrasting some post-romantic harmonies with my adagio theme while remaining a symphonic musical writing.” The score was recorded by a 48-piece orchestra, conducted by the composer. This is a very elegant war movie score, with Jakko’s “Adagio” paving the way for the music’s character and tonality at the very start. Most of Jakko’s cues are sympathetic and impassioned pieces of music—“The Battle,” for example, avoids the energetic agitato one might associate with wartime conflict; instead the composer provides a growing harmonic cadence of string and brass steps which gives the battle a thoughtful perspective of loss and futility, a factor shared by the titular-named track “Enemy Lines.” There’s a bit of percussive propulsion given to “Ambush Part 2,” although the cue’s second half resolves down to hushed tension. A march through “Woods and Snow” proffers a subtle adventurous sonority for brass and strings. A soothing and heartfelt piano melody over strings is heard in “Love,” not quite carefree but peaceful; it’s reprised hesitantly in the sympathetic “Little Girl at the Piano.” The sympathetic and sorrowful “Mothers Death” wafts like low clouds across the soundscape, reverently and honorably. Elements from most of the album’s 18 tracks are reprised in an eleven and-a-half “Suite from Enemy Lines” which makes for an excellent long-form presentation that concludes the album. It might seem to be a misnomer to consider this a gentle and soft-spoken war movie score, but it works; Jakko’s centering his score on an “Adagio” does indeed ground the score, and thus the film, in a sensitive, meaningful and compassionate perspective which looks past the warfare itself into the hearts of the men and the meaning for which they fought. For more information and sample tracks, see moviescoremedia.
Listen to a promotional suite from the score below:
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON Deluxe Edition/John Powell/Varèse Sarabande - CD
A Dragon has made its way into Varèse Sarabande’s CD Club, and it’s a large one, having grown from its original 25-track size into a gregarious 42-track girth that stretches across two CDs, offering a dragon’s hoard of additional music, including alternate versions and demos. This dragon, of course, is John Powell’s magnificent fully orchestral film score for Dreamworks’ 2010 animated hit HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, one of the finest and most exciting fantasy scores of its year, generating the composer’s first Oscar nomination among other awards and accolades, prompting a pair of sequel films, five short films, a television series, a number of performances of his scores for all three feature films on CD. But it’s his score for the first film that set the standard, and it’s a massive, swashbuckling romantic adventure that also incorporates elements of Nordic and Scottish music to suit the film’s characters and setting (the film is set in Scotland but has to do with a village of Vikings, so there’s a cultural mixture of Nordic and Celtic personalities; Powell’s family background included a lot of Scottish music, and his love for Celtic music has flavored his symphonic sensibilities). The score is thematically rich, favoring large orchestral maneuvers, choir, and creating unique musical textures to maintain an inventive use of standard orchestra mixed with Scottish and Celtic material, even going so far as bringing in 20 bagpipes and recording them together in the same room for one cue.
The score’s best musical maneuvers are those reserved for the adult dragon when it fully takes flight, portraying its exuberance as it prances through the air and exhales fire with hearty breaths. In comparison with the dragon of the 2010 album, this impressive and enlarged version is the mature dragon fully grown. The themes are just as powerful, exciting, majestic, and fun, but the extra musical material and alternate variations form a sturdier winged reptile who delights in the freedom to expand his territory. He offers us a bellow-full of vibrant, powerful music, allowing scales to ripple and dance across one another as muscular legs drum mightily, breathy winds circulate with piping filigrees, and mighty gestures of brass howl tremendously with each expansive flap of its wings. It’s that kind of dragon. Powell wields the strength of his large orchestra and sets his themes for reptile and Vikings alike in a remarkable pageantry of musical color, emotion, and lavish design. Powerful stuff, and more of it. A very welcome expanded release of a treasured work already enjoyed by many. The 2-CD set is limited to 3,000 copies, and includes detailed liner notes by film music journalist, Tim Greiving. For details, see varesesarabande.
JAY SEBRING: CUTTING TO THE TRUTH/Jeff Beal/Notefornote – CD+24K digital bundle This documentary film presents the life of artist, designer, and entrepreneur Jay Sebring, who was murdered alongside Sharon Tate and others by followers of Charles Manson. Directed by Jay Sebring’s nephew, Anthony DiMaria, the film illuminates the man behind the tragic 1969 headlines to tell the real story of an innovator who revolutionized hair salons for men. As DiMaria states in the film’s trailer, “Very few people today know who my uncle is. He was forgotten, he was erased. He’s been lost in the shadow of Charles Manson. But who was he?” The film undertakes to answer that question, to relate the unique individual that was Jay Sebring. Writing in The Hollywood Reporter, journalist Frank Scheck noted that, “As the news media put it so dismissively in headlines after the Manson Family murders, actress Sharon Tate was murdered along with ‘four others.’ Those ‘others’ were in fact Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, Steven Parent, and Jay Sebring... The filmmaker is Sebring’s nephew, adding a deeply personal and heartfelt patina to a film that seeks to expand the portrait of his uncle beyond being a tragic victim in one of the most sensationalized crimes of the 20th century.” This documentary is meant to rescue its subject from being little more than a historical footnote. Jeff Beal’s score is an intriguing mix of jazz and pop influences that both suggests the time period and the world Sebring spent his time in. The music is engaging and stimulating, most of it fast paced and reflective of Sebring’s busy and in-motion lifestyle. “Childhood” is a precocious number for piano, clarinet, smooth strings and other colors playing over a bed of pizzicato. “The Sebring Method” is a stimulating piece for bass guitar and multiple drums; it sounds quite like a jam. Jay’s passion for hair styling is captured at a fast clip in the enthusiastic “Cutting Hair,” comprising a constant undercurrent of fast-bowed string maneuvers with trumpet and saxophone taking turns playing figures over the top. Other tracks like “To Tell the Truth” and the lustrous “Love Nest” are drenched in the orchestral romantic pop of the era. “Polanski” is characterized by solo trumpet over dour strings and rattling percussion; but then the cue straightens out into a smooth violin and piano riff which goes through several variations and changes, ending with a crisp trumpet figure over a wavering violin choir. “Sharon Tate,” on the other hand, is characterized by a soft and seductive tune shared by piano and Dan Higgins’ woodwinds over brushed snare drum. The inevitable moment, etched in awful history, is treated musically with the opening gentle piano noodling taken over by harshly beaten hand drums, ending with the horrible finality of piano, cymbals, and a group of bizarre percussion instruments serving to occupy the silence with something discordant and in disarray. This is followed by “Seeking Justice,” which portrays the aftermath through low, resonant Herrmannesque chord progressions weaving in morose cadence, counterpointed by a series of musical bits, from rapid string bowing to a haunting trumpet melody, close-miked piano, a variety of percussion textures and distorted synth pads; patterns reprised or imitated in “Jay Went After Him” (referring to Jay’s attempt to protect Sharon, only to be shot and stabbed by Tex Watson). Beal’s handling of these moments is both sensitive and necessarily truthful, musically, but the following tracks return to the more effervescent jazz and pop that reflects Jay in better days, alludes to his interests and passions with music that is articulate, modern, intelligent, and genuine. “Remarkable People” reprises the driving structure of “Cutting Hair” with a variety of instruments taking their place over the propulsive undercurrent of strings—trumpet, percussion, saxophone, and much else seeming to take a turn in this structured cadence of respect and admiration. It’s quite a remarkable score, giving the documentary an intriguing and affecting musical personality, and each track in turn offering something to savor on CD.
Watch the film trailer at YouTube here. Buy the soundtrack digitally or on CD from Amazon or buy both in a bundle from Notefornote Music.
KNOCK/Cyrille Aufort/Quartet Records – CD; MovieScore Media – digital Pardon my delay in giving this marvelous 2017 release its proper respect until now; it only recently came to my attention and I was so charmed by it I had to say some belated words of enthusiasm. Based on a classic French play which has already had several prior screen adaptations, Lorraine Lévy’s KNOCK is graced with a playfully energetic score composed by Cyrille Aufort. The story has to do with one Doctor Knock (Omar Sy) who arrives in a town whose patients are too healthy. By using his charming personality and cunning deceit, the good doctor convinces everybody that they have some sort of great illness, until he meets the beautiful Adéle (Ana Girardot), which threatens his plans. Aufort’s score is active and nearly always in motion, from the opening main theme for Knock with its fast-tempo for piano over rushing waves of strings backed with powerful horns, to the theme for Adéle with its seething and provocative music-box melody which becomes a rich arrangement for strings. A separate, romantic motif for impassioned strings and piano is provided when attraction brings Knock and Adéle closer together. To this primary trio of motifs is added menacing strains from weaving violins for Lansky, who threatens Knock because he knows the truth about him; in the second half of “Lansky,” the repugnant man’s theme is also taken by a sneaky delivery of keyboard and light percussion. The interaction of these themes, particularly in the climactic “Promettez-moi d'être heureux” (Promise to be happy), provides a colorful and pleasing score which makes for a completely enjoyable listen on its own.
THE LAST FULL MEASURE/Philip Klein/Filmtrax Ltd. – digital Philip Klein (WISH DRAGON, GROWING UP AND OTHER LIES, orchestrations on THE MANDALORIAN, JOKER, FANTASTIC BEASTS, RED SPARROW, and more) has written a gracefully moving orchestral score for this 2019 film, which follows the efforts of Pentagon staffer Scott Huffman and many veterans to see the Medal of Honor posthumously awarded to William H. Pitsenbarger, a United States Air Force Pararescueman who flew in helicopter rescue missions during the Vietnam War to aid downed soldiers and pilots during Operation Abilene, one of the bloodiest battles of the conflict. Filmed in Thailand, Costa Rica, Georgia, and Los Angeles, the film boasts a fine cast, headlined by William Hurt, Christopher Plummer, Samuel L. Jackson, Amy Madigan, Ed Harris, Diane Ladd, John Savage, Sebastian Stan, LisaGay Hamilton, Bradley Whitford, and Peter Fonda (in his final role). The film possesses a powerful emotional quotient in telling its story—which is enforced by a fully orchestral and highly meaningful score.
“When I first discussed the score with [director] Todd Robinson and the filmmakers it was very clear that they wanted a theme that was both conspicuous and orchestral—certainly a sound that is less and less common in today’s films,” Klein told Soundtrax. “Once I found the right notes for the theme I began pacing the score so that we hear echoes of it throughout the development of the film but save the largest statement until the last sequence of the movie when Pitsenbarger is finally recognized with the medal. We recorded both adult and children’s choirs throughout the score to bring the fragility of these men’s sacrifice to life and illustrate how most were still children when they faced this war. I featured solo English horn, cello, fiddle, and French horn extensively to help give specific characters sonic identities. The orchestra was ultimately the heart and soul of this score as it’s hard to top the raw emotion that comes from them. Todd and I never wanted the music to push too hard, but rather respect the performances and dignify these men’s stories.”
The music is emotive, empathetic, and sensitive, which honors the character and the sacrifice of Airman 1st Class Pitsenbarger, and maintains that focus throughout the film’s length. His main theme dominates the score, from its introduction at the start of the film, with a number of restatements and variations throughout the film, reinforcing the heroism and tragedy of Pitsenbarger and the survivors and those lost during Operation Abilene. There’s also a theme for Scott Huffman, the Dept. of Defense staffer who is tasked with investigating a Medal of Honor request for Pitsenbarger (Huffman is a fictional character, very loosely based on Parker Hayes, a historian who’d sent in the Medal of Honor recommendation to the Pentagon); his motif is a fast-tempo, synth-heavy, driving rhythm piece suitable to the Dept. of Defense bureaucrat on the fast track to potential promotion; as he becomes more passionate and dedicated about the Pitsenbarger case, he begins to reflect more of the main theme. But the music for the soldiers—both on the ground in Vietnam and their older selves dealing with the fallback of the war 32 years later—is wholly orchestral and emotive. “It needed the heft of an orchestra behind it,” Klein said in a featurette about the music on the film’s DVD release. Similarly, Klein eschews any kind of action music, instead creating the pace and percussiveness of the battles out of gunshots and the sound of helicopters. “Music is like jet fuel—when you put music on a scene it moves so much faster, and in a way we didn’t want those [battle] scenes to move fast. [By adding] just one little layer of complexity [it] made you feel just a little deeper,” Klein explained in the DVD featurette.
Samuel L. Jackson’s character of Takoda is represented by a fiddle, reflecting the woods of Virginia where he lives as much as it reflects Takoda’s guilt over a decision made during the battle. “It’s a complex film, emotionally. It’s not just happy [or] sad, it’s guilt, it’s resilience… It’s saying, ok, what does sorrow sound like? What does shame sound like? We need to feel euphoria here, but it needs to be underpinned with a sense of doubt,” said Klein on the DVD. “Tully at The Wall” is an especially poignant piece for piano and string choir, heard when Huffmann helps Tully (William Hurt), who was Pitsenbarger’s partner in the helicopter during the battle, overcome his self-blame for what happened to Pitsenbarger. “Avalon,” rich in colorful winds, solo violin, and hushed choir is heard when Huffman flies to Vietnam to interview a former soldier saved by Pitsenbarger who later returned to live in Vietnam, where he built a butterfly sanctuary on the site of the battle. The final two tracks, the 13-minute “The Last Full Measure,” and the 8.5-minute “These Things We Do, That Others May Live (End Credits)” are the most potently emotive of the score, the spacial length of each track giving Klein an opportunity to express the full emotional recognition that Pitsenbarger, the medal finally bestowed, gained 32 years after his death. The score is a captivating work, offering a gentle cadence and a fitting sense of honor towards its story.
The digital soundtrack is available from Amazon. For more information about the composer, see http://philipkleinmusic.com/ For more information about William H. Pitsenbarger and Operation Abilene, see here and here. For information comparing the film story against the historical record (it’s an adaptation but sticks pretty closely to the spirit of the reality), see here.
Listen to the main theme, from Philip Klein’s YouTube page, below:
LILLY’S BEWITCHED CHRISTMAS/Anne-Kathrin Dern/MovieScore Media (digital), Kronos (CD) Released last Christmas on CD by Kronos Records (and in 2018 digitally by MovieScore Media), the latest film in the German Lilly the Witch franchise, LILLY’S BEWITCHED CHRISTMAS (Hexe Lilli Rettet Weihnachten), is the third live-action film in the children’s “Lilly The Witch” movie series. It was preceded by LILLY THE WITCH THE DRAGON AND THE MAGIC BOOK (2009) and LILLY THE WITCH JOURNEY TO MANDOLAN (2011), with an animated TV series broadcast in Germany in 2004-07 and 2014, all based on a children’s book series. Klaus Badelt composed the main theme for the three live action films, the first two of which were scored by Ian Honeyman. Anne-Kathrin Dern (THE JADE PENDANT, FEARLESS, HELP I SHRUNK MY PARENTS) stepped up to the third film, providing a very enjoyable holiday fantasy score. In the film, Lilly conjures Ruprecht (Santa’s Little Helper) to learn more about Christmas customs. The scary looking Ruprecht soon runs amok to teach the children of today some manners concerning respect and decency. This is a treasure of a score, courtesy of rising star Anne-Kathrin Dern, which maintains its youthful delight through Badelt’s captivating main theme and much pleasing music performed by orchestra and choir presented in a splendid John Williams style.
“LILLY’S BEWITCHED CHRISTMAS was my first collaboration with the wonderful producers at Blue Eyes Fiction who specialize in movie adaptations of well-known children’s books,” said the composer about the project. “I loved the opportunity to write a very warm traditional Christmas score full of magical melodies and seasonal orchestrations. The music was elevated by the marvelous performance of the Brussels Philharmonic at the prestigious Galaxy Studios in Belgium. It only felt slightly odd to be writing Christmas music in the middle of July in the Southern Californian desert heat…”
CD (limited to 300 copies): http://www.kronosrecords.com/K99.html
MAN AT THE TOP/Roy Budd/Caldera - CD 1973’s MAN AT THE TOP is the only feature film made by British director Mike Vardy, known for his extensive work on television. Based on Joe Lampton’s 1957 novel Room at the Top, the film starred Kenneth Haigh, spun off from the television series Man at the Top which itself was inspired by the 1959 film ROOM AT THE TOP and its sequel LIFE AT THE TOP. When Joe Lampton (Haigh) is appointed Managing Director of ChemExport, all is not well; six months later, it emerges that Lampton’s predecessor committed suicide. Slowly it becomes clear to Lampton that he might have been appointed to take the blame for a massive marketing blunder that could crush not only him but the whole company. Budd’s score for MAN AT THE TOP is a sparse one, constructed around a simple motif for the titular character which is introduced on a cimbalom and recurs throughout the whole score. The dark plucks of the Hungarian chordophone, noted especially for its use in Miklós Rózsa’s THE POWER (1968), John Barry’s THE IPCRESS FILE (1965) and the ITC TV series THE PERSUADERS! (1971), Carmine Coppola’s THE BLACK STALLION (1979), among others; provides a unique and darkly hewn texture that underlines the dangerous path Lampton’s new job takes him through. A tense atmosphere is additionally maintained through Budd’s clever use of strings, flute, harp, piano, and percussion throughout the score, but it’s the cimbalom that imparts the lion’s share of the score’s moody character. Some lively jazz and pop pieces, “Bossa Nova,” the funky “Demo Jingle,” the instrumental R&B of “You Can Never Trust a Friend,” and the brief rhythm section track “Pipe Tobacco” lend a brighter mood as source cues. “Bedtime” is a gentle piece for acoustic guitar over keyboard and gentle wafts from strings; the mix of flute, harp, vibraphone, piano, and strings during “In the Woods” provides a mysterious but compelling ambiance; as does the opening of “Change of Plan” in a similar way, but halfway through it segues into a very cool, fast-tempo jazzy interlude for harsh piano chords and snappy tambourine. But it’s the omnipresent cimbalom plunks that evoke the strongest tension in the score. Track 5’s “Man at the Top” is an especially provocative cue with its suspenseful mingling of strings, low string chords, furtive snare half-fills, and rising danger imparted by cimbalom over strings and quick piano glissandi create a mesmerizing sonic environment. All-in-all, a thoroughly intriguing and very likeable dramatic score.
For more details, see caldera.
OPEN 24 HOURS/Holly Amber Church/Notefornote – CD+24K digital bundle
Holly Amber Church provides a likably dark, moody, and intense score for this latest horror film from director Padraig Reynolds (DARK LIGHT, THE DEVIL'S DOLLS, RITES OF SPRING, all scored by Church [see my review of her DARK LIGHT score in the July/August column]). The film was made in 2018 and had its festival run, and is now streaming on Amazon Prime. The story follows Mary, a delusional woman troubled after being forced to watch her serial killer boyfriend commit multiple murders. Released to probation, she gets a job at a remote gas station, but is still haunted by frightening flashbacks. Then her ex-boyfriend escapes from prison, eager to renew their one-sided partnership. The movie has some serious problems with internal logic, but the cast is great (especially Vanessa Grasse as Mary) and Holly’s score is dark, moody and intensely suspenseful. Mary is given a somber theme that reflects the trauma she went through while also echoing sympathy for her attempts to recover psychologically (she is subject to delusions), compounded by the horror of having her psychopathic ex show up insisting she rejoin his murderous escapades. Mary’s theme is the only theme in the film, properly enough; as the rest of the score needs to provide an aggressive mix of distorted, reflective, gritty, percussive, and sonically disturbing musical sound design to support Mary’s trouble with delusions and the bedlam caused when those delusions become dangerously real. This material is abundant, creative, and effectively applied to the film as events become progressively more dysfunctional. The concluding track, “End of Shift,” provides a bit of emotional respite for a time for piano, but then the film ends on a final note of disturbiana, which Holly accommodates by switching the piano into a minor key and added a grating descent of reverberant dark synth to conclude the score. For details and sample tracks see Notefornote.
RAWHEAD REX/Colin Towns/Silva Screen – CD, digital, vinyl Released in 1986, the horror film RAWHEAD REX was based on a story by Clive Barker, a British writer noted for his raw, potent, and visceral brand of horror fiction; he wrote the film’s screenplay which George Pavlou (TRANSMUTATIONS, LITTLE DEVILS: THE BIRTH) then directed. Rawhead Rex is a demon, alive for millennia, trapped in the depths of hell, and waiting for release. He is held by an ancient seal, imprisoned for centuries in a barren field near the hamlet of Rathmore, Ireland. In time, this gruesome legacy has been forgotten, dismissed as an odd pre-Christian myth until Nicholson, a local farmer, decides to plow the field his ancestors knew better than to disturb. The seal is broken and an unspeakable evil is unleashed – on a rampage of blood and pagan carnality, much of it centered on a local church where the demon has targeted its verger to become his Renfield-like acolyte. While Barker has disowned the movie, it remains a persuasive horror film, and the central themes of its narrative—religion, ritual-and-sex, fertility and destruction, parental heroism/parental impotence, life and death—are effectively captured in the film adaptation, despite Rawhead’s gawdy mask-like appearance in closeups.
The music for RAWHEAD REX was provided by former rock band keyboardist, Colin Towns, who has gone on to become a prolific film, television and theatre composers as well as a songwriter, arranger, and producer. He is known for his scores to FULL CIRCLE (aka THE HAUNTING OF JULIA), THE PUPPET MASTERS, VAMPIRE’S KISS, THE WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE, SPACE TRUCKERS, and many more. Towns’ music is powerful synth material, its main theme based on the thunderous footsteps of the enraged demon, and is fully the equal of Rawhead’s ferocious presence throughout the movie. “The first film I scored was FULL CIRCLE, which starred Mia Farrow and is still in the BFI top ten for best score for horror films,” Towns said, quoted in Silva Screen’s news release. “I felt that film was more of a dark scary mystery. RAWHEAD REX on the other hand was clearly a horror film 100%. I visited the film set in Ireland during the filming to take in the atmosphere and meet the actors after which I decided to record the music at CTS in London with a sixty piece orchestra plus electronics. I have always orchestrated my own work and had a wild time with RAWHEAD which is what I really love doing.”
Rawhead’s first bloody incursion at “Nicholson’s Farm” is pretty heady and high-power stuff, a mighty riot of pounding synths and percussion; this element will recur in most of the demon’s ritualized attacks, Towns’ synths working well combined with the orchestra to create both trepidation and terror. There’s a bit of religious music to accompany the scenes in the local church, and some very lovely melodic symphonic material associated with the innocent vacationing family who are tragically brought into the dreadful doings in Rawhead territory.
Like the rise of Rawhead Rex out of the barren field in Rathmore, Silva Screen has at last unearthed this roaring musical treasure for our sonic consumption.
For more details, see SilvaScreen.
SPEER GOES TO HOLLYWOOD/Frank Ilfman/MovieScore Media – digital MovieScore Media continues its exploration of fascinating documentary subjects with SPEER GOES TO HOLLYWOOD. Chronicling the life of Albert Speer, the head architecture of the Third Reich, the documentary by Vanessa Lapa explores the life of the notorious “good Nazi” after he was one of the few people who escaped the death sentence during the Nuremberg trials. “As second generation holocaust survivors, working on SPEER GOES TO HOLLYWOOD was a very demanding and emotional experience,” recalls Ilfman about the project. “We wanted to play him as the ‘good Nazi’ that he was pretending to be with parts of the score. The thought was to make the audience who are not familiar with him to be taken on a journey discovering his manipulation. The score is devised of a main theme and a secondary theme representing his scheming but also the sadness of his victims with all parts coming together in the main suite. The score was written for a large orchestra and choir and was recorded at Air Studio on Holocaust Memorial Day, with the orchestra performing the Adagio for String and Harp I dedicated to my father, bringing all of us to tears by the end of the recording session.”
This is a marvelous orchestral score that is highly impassioned about its subject, emphasizing a powerful string choir enhanced by brass and winds, mostly focused on the lower registers. These dark colors, haunting resonance, and measured pacing emphasize the film’s subject matter and what Speer the “Good Nazi” wrought, with a secondary theme featuring high violins over low strings and higher keyboard arpeggios representing the victims of Speer and the awful Reich to which he held obeisance. It’s a very affecting score, creating a necessary grief that also echoes with compassion.
For sample tracks and to order, see MovieScore Media
For more information about the film see http://speergoestohollywood.com/
THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO/Patrick Williams/
La-La Land – CD Volume 3 of The Quinn Martin Collection provides a handsome handful of Patrick Williams’ music THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO, the classic 1972-1977 CBS detective series starring Karl Malden and Michael Douglas in which a veteran cop with more than twenty years of experience is teamed with a young Inspector to solve crimes in San Francisco, California. This limited edition 2-CD set, showcasing Emmy-winning composer Patrick Williams’ (THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, THE BOB NEWHART SHOW, LOU GRANT) original score tracks from the series produced by legendary Quinn Martin. It’s a hefty soundtrack, with 44 tracks on CD1 and 39 on CD2, although the tracks tend to be short, roughly about 2 minutes on average. But that’s plenty of time to enjoy the show’s musical charms. Williams’ signature main theme, a catchy mix of funk and jazzy rhythm section, makes frequent excursions throughout the track list. Most of CD1 contains jazz-based musical material, while CD2 shifts a little more into William’s take on a kind of Schifrinesque tense action music with jazz overtones. The collection contains some of the era’s finest musicians under Williams’ jazz expertise, providing the show with irresistible energy and bounce, and lots of compelling musical articulation and an abundant mix of action, suspense, and scene-setting music. Since it’s all Patrick Williams, unlike some longer series that have numerous composers contributing to their scores, THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO maintains a consistency of musical scope, while finding room for plenty of variety in its individual episode nuances. The release also includes Williams’ music from “The Seduction Squad” episode of A MAN CALLED SLOANE, which was to be the last Quinn Martin series. Produced for La-La Land Records by Jon Burlingame, and transferred and mastered by Doug Schwartz, this deluxe 2-CD set is limited to 2000 units and features in-depth liner notes from Burlingame and the arresting art direction of Dan Goldwasser.
THE WILD WILD WEST Deluxe Edition/Elmer Bernstein/
Varèse Sarabande – CD While a commercial and critical disappointment, this 1999 film, loosely adapted from 1960s THE WILD WILD WEST television series, featured composer Elmer Bernstein’s last Western feature film score. A genre he held mastery of for decades, his score for WILD WILD WEST is primarily (and most welcomely) a Western score in the traditional sense, although he did add new contemporary electronic touches here are there, and in fact never really considered the film a bona fide Western, but a mix of several different genres (for example, in the end the gunfighter and his gal ride off into the sunset on the back of a giant spider!); despite that and a few sonic anachronisms against its time period, its musical essence is clearly a product of the Western genre, or perhaps Elmer’s wealth of experience within it. Originally released in 1999 in a 30-minute CD of just 10 tracks; Varèse Sarabande’s generous deluxe edition of 47 tracks and 76 minutes of music makes for a splendid listen. A major working difference for Bernstein on this score in contrast with his Westerns of earlier decades is that WILD WILD WEST’s score, like many films of the late ‘1990s/early ‘2000s, consisted primarily of short cues, without the length to let a composer really sink his or her teeth in and fully develop a long, melodically structured cue. Even the film’s climax, which contains 12 minutes of near continuous music, is comprised of two-something-minute cues stitched together. The soundtrack is therefore most welcome; while it keeps the cues separate, the gaps between them are short and it plays magnificently without interruption across the entire disc. Eight tracks are composed by Peter Bernstein (who helped his dad with additional music, adapting his father’s thematic elements into new tracks to help get the score done by its deadline); all but two of them included Elmer’s theme. A short track, featuring the original TV series theme by Richard Markowitz, which was left off the original 1999 CD, is included in this deluxe release (as “Big Ride,” track 26). It’s an admirable score by any measure, and this expansive release from Varèse Sarabande gives the music the expressive presentation it deserves. Remastering by Chas Ferry provides The Hollywood Studio Symphony’s performance a properly rich and nuanced sound. Kudos to Tim Greiving for insightful and informative liner notes, including comments from Peter Bernstein about working on the score with his father and younger sister Emilie (who orchestrated).
THE WITCHES/Alan Silvestri/WaterTower Music – digital
Alan Silvestri’s latest collaboration with director Robert Zemeckis is this classic orchestral score for the diabolically reimagining of Roald Dahl’s THE WITCHES. The grimly humorous story was first filmed by Nicolas Roeg in 1990 with Angelica Huston superbly playing the lead witch; Zemeckis gives us a grandly wicked Anne Hathaway as Lilith, the Grand High Witch, featuring some pretty cool makeup for herself and her several dozen bewitching underlings. The story, pretty faithful in essence to Dahl’s original, is set in 1968 Alabama, where orphaned Hero Boy stumbles across a conference of witches while staying with his grandmother at a fancy hotel, and gets transformed into a mouse by the Grand High Witch when he discovers her plan to turn all children into vermin. Octavia Spenser is marvelous as Grandma, who just happens to be a retired witch-hunter, and Chris Rock serves as young “Hero Boy’s” adult counterpart who narrates the tale. The film is fast-paced, full of delightful effects, and is quite family friendly. Silvestri eschews a fantasy/supernatural/eerie/mysterioso witchcraft type of score in favor of providing a full-on eagerly articulate action/adventure score for large orchestra (recorded at Abbey Road Studios) and choir (The London Voices) that steps up the excitement and family frenzy inherent within the storyline and the enthusiastic direction of Zemeckis. The resultant soundtrack album offers a lively, transportive musical experience that accelerates the setting, characterizations, and fantasy of the story.
The score’s primary motif is a rising/falling theme for the witches, first hinted at in “Chickenafied,” when Grandma tells Hero Boy about the time a witch turned her childhood best friend into a chicken. This motif will grow into the full-potioned theme heard when the two of them confront the witches during their vacation at the Grand Orleans Imperial Isle Hotel. There, the music for the collective witches—who assemble for their annual coven conference, though they really intend to use a magic mixture to turn all the children into mice—is a provocative gathering of string figures, woodwind filigrees, and brass intonations, driven by soft tympani beats. This opens into the theme proper, a deliciously dark cello and violin concoction as sinewy and slinky as the witches themselves appear to be on the surface (but not yet as malignantly malicious). The track “Enter The Witches” is actually occupied primarily by the grand motif that welcomes Grandma and Hero Boy to the Grand Orleans and their bits of business upon arrival; the witches turn up at approx. 3:10 as the elite enchantresses are introduced marching in disturbing formation into the hotel lobby. For their entrance, Silvestri provides a strident percussive march and a menacing, serpentine motif that evokes single-minded sinister intent. The following track, “Grand High Witch,” first covers the scene where Grandma, unaware of the witches that have just arrived, defines for Hero Boy (and we, the audience) the characteristics of witches. The scene closes as the camera pulls back and we see that Precious, Lilith’s black feline familiar, has heard their conversation through the windowpane, and slinks back to inform her mistress of the presence of the witch hunter, accompanied by a languid, ominous variation on the witches’ theme, and a fast-paced tick-tock chiming substance of keyboard arpeggios (those chimes were introduced in the beginning of the movie and on the album’s first track; now Silvestri begins to put the various elements together as the story solidifies into its full plot). Every villain theme needs a good contrasting hero theme, and Silvestri develops a powerful one initially built around an ascending three-note brass figure, first heard briefly, in a minor chord, during “What You Saw” when Grandma informs Hero Boy that the strange woman who worried him in the grocery store must have been a witch. The motif comes to its own, expanded into full six-note treatment from here on, in response to the boy’s encounter with the witch coven at the Grand Orleans and after he’s been turned into a mouse by Lilith; it becomes associated with him and the two friends he makes at the hotel as, with Grandma’s help, they operate together to fight Lilith (“Lets Make A Potion,” “The Mission” [with militaristic snare drum added, of course]). The two themes, Witches versus Heroes, will interact with tension, danger, gusto, and ultimate victory through to the end of the film, with Silvestri’s animated orchestration building crescendos and reflecting the fight in dazzling musical color and zest. I enjoyed this score thoroughly and felt it worked well in the film and makes for an especially exciting listen on its own.
THE WITCHES (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) is now available digitally at these links. Watch the film’s trailer at YouTube here. Listen to the track “Enter the Witches” below:
THE WRETCHED/Devin Burrows/La-La Land – CD Ben (John-Paul Howard), a defiant teenage boy struggling with his parents’ imminent divorce, faces off with a thousand year-old witch who is living beneath the skin of, and posing as, the woman next door. The Pierce Brothers’ eerie tale of contemporary witchcraft focuses on a dangerous witch with the ability to make people forget the musing siblings or spouses she takes away and feeds on. Composer Devin Burrows has turned in a superlative, fully orchestral score that really gives the movie the dramatic musical energy that it needs. A student of classical composers like Ravel, Stravinsky and Prokofiev, Burrows score balances a mix of classical influences, classic Hollywood scores from the Golden Age, and the aesthetic innovation of avant-garde, the score for THE WRETCHED is spooky, provocative, and palpably potent as it delivers strong degrees of tension, unnerving panic, heroism, and soothing warmth where it’s needed. The music’s acoustic base and carefully-designed textures and timbres really coincide with the film’s woodlands, lakeshore, and rural neighborhoods that occupy the storyline. One can almost taste through the music the dingy fruit cellars, the wet, muddy burrows beneath forest root systems, the crack of bone and sinew as the witch occupies and configures herself to fit the body of Ben’s neighbor Abbie (Zarah Mahler). Hermannesque chord progressions offer both homage and bolsters unease very effectively in a number of tracks that contrast against the more brutally horrific measures when the spooky becomes the horrid and an aggressive agitato is needed. “Not only is THE WRETCHED a psychological thriller in the Hitchcock vein but it becomes an action one in Spielberg’s as well,” Burrows told writer Daniel Schweiger for the CD album notes. “I made sure to give the early ‘horror film’ scenes music with a common harmonic language that could evolve for the latter stages as the orchestra becomes more pronounced, then turns to full force.” Burrows also makes fine use of the sarangi, a bowed Indian instrument that resonates, not unlike the Chinese er-hu, the haunting sound of a human voice, intensifying its sound with computer software to serve as a motif for the witch’s stag-head symbol, seen throughout the film as a rune drawn on trees and cellar doors, and as a dried-out skull worn by Abbie near the film’s climax. THE WRETCHED is a rare horror score that really offers a compelling listen on its own, without succumbing to endless electronic padding and raucous atonality that, while effective in their films, don’t always afford pleasurable home listening. It’s also gratifying to see a horror score such as this actually get a CD release, when so many are only delivered digitally. Thanks to La-La Land for giving this score the physical presentation it really deserves.
Watch a short YouTube video on making the music for THE WRETCHED:
New Soundtracks & Film Music News
Read my interview with composer Walter Mair on his score for the recent horror film THE UNFAMILIAR at musiquefantastique. In THE UNFAMILIAR, Mair’s music incorporates original Hawaiian instruments combined with a bespoke instrument called ‘The Octo Bass’ – a custom made double bass twice the size of an orchestral double bass. Other tracks feature a live recorded string orchestra and string quartet for the more intimate and emotional scenes in the film. We also discuss his work on FORMULA 1: DRIVE TO SURVIVE, LUCID, and 3 LIVES.
Hildur Guðnadóttir and Nicholas Britell, respectively Film Composer and TV Composer of the Year, win again at the World Soundtrack Awards. The Belgian composer 1 De Maeyer is also victorious for his original music in TORPEDO (see my review in the Nov 2019 column). The other winners are Joshuah Brian Campbell and Cynthia Erivo, Bryce Dessner, Alfonso G. Aguilar and Ana Kasrashvili. Gabriel Yared was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. For more details, see worldsoundtrackawards.
Noted for his music for Stuart Gordon’s Lovecraftian films like RE-ANIMATOR, FROM BEYOND, CASTLE FREAK, DREAMS IN THE WITCH HOUSE (from MASTERS OF HORROR), Richard Band has completed scoring a new film based on an H.P. Lovecraft story, THE DEEP ONES. Directed by Chad Ferrin (for whom Band scored EXORCISM AT 60,000 FEET last year), the film tells of a married couple who rent a beach side Airbnb only to be surrounded by peculiar neighbors and occurrences. They soon find themselves in the grips of a mysterious cult and their ancient sea god. “It’s definitely a sort of throwback tribute to ‘80s type films, although it is a contemporary movie,” Band told me recently. “I took a slightly different approach with the music and made it a little more contemporary although it’s still very Lovecraftian in nature.” The film has been playing the festival circuit in Europe and the US and should have a general release shortly.
THE EMPTY MAN is an American supernatural horror film written and directed by David Prior, based on Cullen Bunn and Vanesa R. Del Rey's graphic novel of same name published by Boom! Studios. The film follows a group of teens from a small Midwestern town who begin to mysteriously disappear. The locals believe it is the work of an urban legend known as The Empty Man. As a retired cop investigates and struggles to make sense of the stories, he discovers a secretive group and their attempts to summon a horrific, mystical entity, and soon his life—and the lives of those close to him—are in grave danger. The film features a soundtrack by veteran genre maestro Christopher Young. “Working with director David Prior was an absolute honor, his vision and my music was a perfect marriage.” Hollywood Records has released a digital soundtrack album, available from Amazon and other services.
Watch the film’s trailer:
Intrada has released the CD soundtrack to the Netflix series THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR composed by The Newton Brothers. Playing as a follow-up to the 2018 series THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE and part of the HAUNTING anthology series, THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR is based on Henry James work, primarily his gothic classic The Turn Of The Screw. Paramount Music released a digital soundtrack earlier this month, but the news of a CD edition is much to be desired. The composers have fashioned their haunting and nostalgic score for string orchestra with solo piano featured throughout. There are moments of dread and fear in their music, as with the Lady Of The Lake’s talisman, one of numerous such occult objects spread about the manor, but moving lines for piano within the haunting string orchestra anchor. Worthy of spotlighting are three climactic, back-to-back “Beginning Of The End” movements which bring thematic material into focus. The label has also announced for November a reissue of James Horner’s THE LAND BEFORE TIME, will include both major cues Horner dropped from the original MCA release, totaling 15 minutes of new music. Also slated for November release is Jerry Goldsmith’s 2001 action drama film directed by Rod Lurie, THE LAST CASTLE offering the complete score plus Check for details at Intrada.
A digital soundtrack for Amazon’s wicked super heroes series THE BOYS, Season 2, by Christopher Lennertz has been released by Madison Gate Records; the same label also issued a digital soundtrack for the show’s first season. The series tells the continuing story of a group of vigilantes who set out to take down corrupt superheroes who abuse their superpowers. The album features selections of the original score from the show’s second season along with original songs heard in the show. CD versions of both series will be released later this month by La-La Land Records.
Speaking of La-La Land, in September they released a limited edition of the musical score to MUNSTER, GO HOME (1966) composed by Jack Marshall. The film was the big-screen, feature-film debut of the beloved TV series hit THE MUNSTERS, starring Fred Gwynne, Yvonne DeCarlo and Al Lewis. This release marks the world premiere release of this music in any format. MUNSTER, GO HOME was produced immediately after the television series completed filming its original run. With Marshall’s score to THE MUNSTERS TV series (1964-66) a vital part of the show’s massive appeal, it made perfect sense that he score MUNSTER GO HOME, once again bringing his irresistible swinging version of mock-macabre… except this time, taking full advantage of a larger orchestra recorded in stereo. The result is a full-bodied, joyful musical exploration of THE MUNSTERS that finally shines here in its world premiere debut in a limited edition of 3000 units. Also new from the label is the premiere CD release of John Powell’s music for the 1999 big-screen romantic comedy FORCES OF NATURE, starring Sandra Bullock and Ben Affleck, and directed by Bronwen Hughes. A pleasant cocktail of live strings, percussion and piano, Powell’s score is an intoxicating breeze of edgy romantic fun that marks its world premiere official release with this CD presentation.
For October, La-La Land has released an expanded version of Bill Conti’s score for THE KARATE KID PART II, Harry Manfredini and Fred Mollin’s music for FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD, and the first release of the score for the 1990 Stephen King adaptation GRAVEYARD SHIFT, with music by Anthony Marinelli and Brian Banks (YOUNG GUNS).
Emile Mosseri’s ear-worm music for Miranda July’s delightful new film KAJILLIONAIRE has been released digitally by Back-Lot Music. Starring Evan Rachel Wood, Mark Ivanir, Gina Rodriguez, Richard Jenkins, and Debra Winger, the movie is about a woman whose life is turned upside down when her criminal parents invite an outsider to join them on a major heist they're planning. A vinyl edition of the soundtrack is also available (See vinyl section below).
Buy the digital album from Amazon.
Brian Tyler has reteamed with director Justin Baldoni (FIVE FEET APART) for the Disney+ movie CLOUDS, directed by Justin Baldoni. Based on a true story, the film is about follows 17-year-old Zach, Sobiech’s son, who is diagnosed a second time with Osteosarcoma, a rare form of pediatric bone cancer, but this time it’s terminal. With limited time, he finds the courage to date and fall in love, and follow his dream to make an album, unaware that it will soon be a viral music phenomenon. CLOUDS is a biographical adaptation of Laura Sobiech’s book Fly a Little Higher: How God Answered a Mom’s Small Prayer in a Big Way. Actress Neve Campbell plays Laura Sobiech in the film. Disney has issued a soundtrack album that includes a 9-minute score suite composed by Tyler along with songs from the film; the album, as with the film, is mostly songs written by Sobiech, many of them produced by Tyler. A full length soundtrack of Tyler’s score will be released by Disney on November 6th.
Bear McCreary has reunited with director Christopher Landon to score the forthcoming horror comedy FREAKY. The film stars Vince Vaughn, Kathryn Newton, Celeste O’Connor, and Misha Osherovich, in a horrific body switch tale: after swapping bodies with a deranged serial killer, the teenage high school girl discovers she has less than 24 hours before the change becomes permanent. Working with McCreary, former music assistant Jason Akers provides additional music to the score. “Composer Bear McCreary offers up an excellently crafted score,” wrote Ryan Larson [no relation] in his review of the score for the Consequence of Sound website. “[McCreary’s] ability to switch vibes on a dime, all with the simple change of a tune, is not to be taken lightly.” McCreary has previously scored Landon’s last two features, the darkly humorous horror thriller HAPPY DEATH DAY and its satisfyingly science fictionesque sequel HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U for Blumhouse. Watch the film’s trailer:
WaterTower Music has release a 62-track LOVECRAFT COUNTRY, featuring music from the series’ first season, which airs on HBO Max, and is based on Matt Ruff’s novel of the same name. In addition to 11 tracks performed by the show’s cast in the first season, the album showcases a generous 52 tracks from the original score by multiple Emmy Award-winning composer Laura Karpman, whose career spans film, television videogame and concert music, and Grammy-winning, Oscar- nominated producer/ musician/ songwriter Raphael Saadiq. Karpman discussed working on the show and the soundtrack: “I am so proud to be a part of this project along with my partner and brother Raphael Saadiq. We both owe a huge debt of gratitude to [LOVECRAFT COUNTRY Executive Producer] Misha Green, who gave us a wide palette to musically explore every conceivable genre while focusing on the hearts and souls of our heroes. The album is organized by episode, hopefully taking the listener back to many visceral moments in this remarkable series.”
Lakeshore Records will release a digital soundtrack album for the Netflix original film REBECCA, featuring the movie’s original music composed by Clint Mansell. The film is based on Daphne Du Maurier’s gothic novel of the same name, which was famously filmed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1940, and is about a young newlywed who moves to her husband’s imposing estate, where she must contend with his sinister housekeeper and the haunting shadow of his late wife, Rebecca. Watch the film’s trailer at YouTube here. Read an interview with Mansell on scoring REBECCA at slashfilm. Sample a track, “Rebecca, Always Rebecca” from the score:
The label has also released THE WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW the digital original motion picture soundtrack composed by Ben Lovett (THE RITUAL, THE WIND). The album is a strikingly orchestrated, multi-faceted work inspired by old school Bernard Herrmann-era suspense thrillers reflecting all the dimensions of the offbeat horror film—from darkly comedic to tension-fueled terror to oddball mystery caper. The album includes the newly reimagined cover version of “Little Red Riding Hood” originally performed by Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs in 1966, and given a seductive and thoroughly haunting treatment by Lovett and indie artist Valen. “On a score like this the aim is to be referential without being derivative, to celebrate the influences instead of trying to hide them,” Lovett said. “I like folding a love letter into what I’m doing but try to keep from getting too caught up in that, ultimately I’m just chasing an instinct about a sound and feel that hopefully expands on the personality and character of the film.”
* Related: See my review of Buckley’s ANGEL HAS FALLEN score in my October 2019 column; see my interview with Buckley on scoring PAPILLON in my December 2018 column)
Equity Distribution has released a digital soundtrack by Anne-Kathrin Dern to FEARLESS, a new animated comedy about a teen gamer who is forced to level up to full-time babysitter when his favorite video game drops three superpowered infants from space into his backyard. The movie is directed and co-scripted by Cory Edwards (HOODWINKED!). There’s a full original score album of 21 tracks available through Amazon and other sources (but, if you want the whole score, be careful of a “music from” album that contains just three of Dern’s score tracks along with five hip-hop songs used in the movie.
The 38th CD-release of Caldera Records is a world premiere: Zbigniew Preisner’s score for the motion picture ANGELICA from 2015, directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein. The film tells a story of a couple living in Victorian London who endure an unusual series of psychological and supernatural happenings following the birth of their child. Preisner’s music pays tribute to the elegant romanticism of the 19th century, while at the same time weaving experimental elements into it. The composer decided against creating specific leitmotifs for the individual characters—instead, his music follows the story as it progresses, with a number of variations on the themes as demanded by the story. The CD soundtrack features a detailed booklet-text by Stephan Eicke and elegant artwork by Luis Miguel Rojas. For more details, see Caldera.
Constructive (a new sister label of SN Variations) has announced its first official soundtrack release: Adrian Corker’s original score for the third season of the Sky original drama TIN STAR, co-produced by Gaumont Television UK and Kudos and created by Rowan Joffe. The London-based composer’s bold, heavily textured score for TIN STAR: LIVERPOOL is given a limited release on 300 neon yellow vinyl. Working with a 12-piece string section as well as brass and percussion, Corker draws out a rich palette of volatile sonics from the very edge of playable. Analog tape processing helps re-shape things further, slowing and stretching the sound giving rise to unusual shapes and colors. And woven amongst all this are field recordings by Corker and renowned sound recordist Chris Watson, who also did field recordings for HBO’s CHERNOBYL series soundtrack by Hildur Guðnadóttir. “TIN STAR: LIVERPOOL is the last chapter in TIN STAR and moves the location from the wide-open spaces of Canada to the urban landscape of post-industrial Liverpool in the U.K. I knew that I wanted to replace the predominantly acoustic ensemble sound from the first two seasons with something that reflected this, while retaining some of the original TIN STAR feel,” says Adrian Corker, who goes on to explain how he accomplished this sound: “12-piece string ensembles are combined with a trio of brass, percussion played on oil drums, and Russian synthesizers. Ensemble recordings made in London, were then played back in different locations and rooms that were used for the TIN STAR shoot in Liverpool and re-recorded using a 360-degree mic array by Chris Watson. These were then used for composition alongside the other recordings, combined with analog tape processing and some more of Chris's field recordings.” Sample the digital or pre-order either the digital or the vinyl soundtrack here; both albums release November 20, 2020.
2067 is a 2020 Australian science fiction mystery thriller, set on earth in the future, after it has been devastated by climate change, with its human inhabitants forced to use artificial oxygen to stay alive. Ethan Whyte is an arrogant tunnel worker who journeys through time to save the world. The film is scored by Kenneth Lampl with his Danish composing partner and wife Kirsten Axelholm. Milan released a digital soundtrack of the 2067 score last September, currently available on Amazon. Watch the film’s trailer on YouTube; and sample the score track “Breathe” below:
CHI CHI EM EM is a 2019 Vietnamese psychological thriller following the story of Kim, a radio talk show host, who is going through a difficult phase in her marriage with Huy when she offers a room in their opulent home to runaway teen Nhi, unaware that the girl has dangerously ulterior motives. The film is directed by Kathy Uyen, making her directorial debut, produced by Timothy Linh Bui, and composed by Jerome Leroy (THE HOUSEMAID, KILLERS WITHIN, THE THROWAWAYS, Disney Junior’s animated series VAMPIRINA). A digital soundtrack (CD to follow) will be released September 29th. My notes for the album have been posted on Jerome’s web site – read all about the movie and its score here.
LOVE & MONSTERS, directed by Michael Matthews with Shawn Levy and Dan Cohen serving as producers, takes place seven years after the Monsterpocalypse, during which Joel Dawson (Dylan O’Brien) along with the rest of humanity have been living underground while giant creatures infest the land. After reconnecting over radio with his high school girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henwick), who is now 80 miles away at a coastal colony, Joel begins to fall for her again. As Joel realizes that there’s nothing left for him underground, he decides against all logic to venture out to Aimee, despite the dangerous monsters that stand in his way. The monstrous score for Paramount’s LOVE AND MONSTERS, composed by Marco Beltrami and Marcus Trumpp, releases on CD October 30th by Quartet Records. Paramount has already released a digital album.
British composer Blair Mowat will be scoring a second series of the UK series MCDONALD AND DODDS, a British crime drama television series based in Bath, England and starring Tala Gouveia and Jason Watkins as mismatched detectives. Mowat (Doctor Who spinoff CLASS, AGATHA AND THE MIDNIGHT MURDERS, HAPPY!, SPACE'S DEEPEST SECRETS) also scored the first series. “Just to prove I also write for non-genre shows, there are no aliens or ghosts!” Mowat remarked in a Facebook post at the end of the first series.
Australian composer Nerida Tyson-Chew composed the score for the family drama H FOR HAPPINESS. The film is about a twelve year old girl with boundless optimism and a unique view of the world, who is inspired by the strange new boy at school and sets out to mend her broken family—whatever it takes. Adapted from Barry Jonsberg’s acclaimed young adult novel, My Life As An Alphabet, it is a warm-hearted hug of a film, unafraid to tackle serious themes while remaining laugh-out-loud funny and sweetly uplifting. A soundtrack album has been released by Air-Edel Records and is available from Amazon US and Amazon UK. “Writing the score for ‘H is for Happiness’ was loads of fun!” said Tyson-Chew in the label’s announcement. “With an emotional range from the whimsical, exuberant joyfulness of our unforgettable heroine’s exploits, to heavy-hearted reality with sensitivity, John Sheedy’s vision of a heightened, colorful and unfiltered world was a delight to create musically.”
Film composer Elia Cmiral (RONIN, SPLINTER, PULSE, SAFE INSIDE) has completed the first movement of Altered Mind of 20-20. It is the first part of a planned three movements of a music-visual poem. It is written for a classical string quartet—two violins, viola and cello, performed with electronica. The ensemble was recorded by the Epoque Quartet in Prague, Czech Republic; the electronic sound design is created by Elia in his studio in Los Angeles.
Although still a work in progress, the first movement (tentatively titled “Desolated City and its Living Shadows,” has been posted along with an accompanying video to vimeo, and can be watched here.
“All film images are from Prague, my native city,” Cmiral explained. “As the title suggests, the music reflects feelings and changes of our minds under the pressure of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is about us, our human relations, and the world forced by the virus to its knees, with consequences we cannot even see or understand at this moment. The first movement of the poem is quite dark and is a personal confession that reflects my personal crisis, feelings of hopelessness and despair during the Covid-19 crisis. It is emotionally tied to the city of Prague, which although I had once left, I still return to in my dreams and thoughts. The music, string quartet, and city of Prague are the main protagonists of the film and will merge all parts into one poetic unit.”
Cmiral is continuing the project into a full three movements. “The first movement theme is destruction and desperation, the second emotions and tears, centered around the river Moldau (the longest river within the Czech Republic, also called the Vltava), while the third movement will confront fears and finally hope and acceptance,” Cmiral described. “I hope that my music and film will inspire, resonate, and encourage a complex of emotions that will speak to people on their life journey.”
Based on Vikram Seth’s 1300-page book following the fortunes of four large families, the six-part series A SUITABLE BOY is directed by Mira Nair (SALAAM BOMBAY!, MONSOON WEDDING). The score was composed by Alex Heffes with Anoushka Shankar, world renowned sitar player. Previously paired on Mira Nair’s 2016 Disney Film QUEEN OF KATWE, Alex knew how important the music score is to her. “Careful consideration was given to how to integrate orchestra into the Indian musical world, often having to learn to follow the phrasing and bending of the sitar,” Heffes explained. In search of character’s music themes, Alex arranged experimental sessions with some of the UK’s best classical Indian performers, combining tabla, mridangam, kanjeera, ghatam, and many other percussion instruments with bansuri (classical Indian flute), tanbura and the sitar, and determined which instruments would best suit each of the major characters in the film.
DOCUMENTARY SCORING NEWS -via DOCUMENTING THE SCORE group on Facebook. Jeff Beal scored the Netflix the original docuseries CHALLENGER: THE FINAL FLIGHT, which premiered last Sept. 16, Regarding this series, Jeff says “Scoring these episodes brought back my personal memories of the tragedy-- but the series celebrates the brave individuals who accepted the challenge of space flight. I was honored to compose music for their stories. For Francis, Michael, Ronald, Ellison, Judy, Gregory, and Christa... thank you .”
Watch the trailer:
Composer Brian Keane’s score to the new Ric Burns directed documentary, OLIVER SACKS: HIS OWN LIFE (2019), has just had its soundtrack released by Valley Entertainment. The renowned neurologist and literary giant Oliver Sacks is posthumously celebrated in this profound, highly engaging, deeply personal memoir. Sacks shares intimate details of his battles with drug addiction, homophobia, and a medical establishment that accepted his work only decades after the fact. Sacks was a fearless explorer of unknown mental worlds who helped redefine our understanding of the brain and mind, the diversity of human experience, and our shared humanity. Soundtrack available digitally from Valley Entertainment (Amazon link). Listen to the soundtrack at Spotify. Watch the trailer at YouTube
Jay Moffatt’s original soundtrack album to the fashion designer Pierre Cardin documentary HOUSE OF CARDIN is out now on all streaming services through the incredible Earth Libraries. “To compose the score for this film was a dream come true for me and it’s truly some of the best music I’ve ever written,” Moffatt said in a post to the Facebook DOCUMENTING THE SCORE group. “I also got the chance to collaborate with a lot of incredible musicians to bring these ideas to life and record musicians around the world including a live orchestra in Bulgaria.” Digital soundtrack available from Earth Libraries (Amazon link). Watch the film trailer here.
Via Coolmusic Ltd. on Instagram, composer Steven Price has scored the documentary DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: A LIFE ON OUR PLANET (2020) which will begin airing on Netflix on October 4th. The documentary is a powerful first-hand account of humanity’s impact on nature and a message of hope for future generations. In his 94 years, Sir David Attenborough has visited every continent on the globe, exploring the wild places of our planet and documenting the living world in all its variety and wonder. Now, for the first time he reflects upon both the defining moments of his lifetime as a naturalist and the devastating changes he has seen. Price’s soundtrack for the film has been released by Decca Records and is available to stream, download, and purchase on CD (see Amazon). Sample some of the music on Spotify.
PRAY: THE STORY OF PATRICK PEYTON tells the inspiring true story of a humble Irish priest whose quest to create family unity through prayer led him to Hollywood and then around the world. Hailed by the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers as a “Composer to Watch,” Los Angeles-based composer Grant Fonda (THE PERFECT RACE, THE HOUSE THAT ROB BUILT, DOWN THE FENCE, THE DATING PROJECT) provides an acclaimed score. Recorded in Los Angeles with the world’s finest musicians, a soundtrack album is available – sample it at AppleMusic.
Composer Mark Isham has stayed busy this year; he saw four of his scores land within 6 months: AMAZING STORIES (April) LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE (April), BILL & TED: FACE THE MUSIC (August), and now HONEST THIEF. We already know this is a Liam Neeson action film, so if you’re looking for a lively score, then look no further. Directed by Mark Williams (A FAMILY MAN), the film has to do with a notorious bank robber who turns himself in, wanting to lead an honest life, only to be double-crossed by two ruthless FBI agents. Music.Film and Varese Sarabande have released the soundtrack digitally on all major music services.
Quartet Records announces two new releases, devoted to premiere CDs of previously unreleased scores by Italian maestros Mario Nascimbene and Franco Bixio. The Nascimbene collection includes music from COMMANDOS (1968) and DONNE SENZA PARADISO (1962, aka The Story of San Michele) via the only available material and were previously included in an exceedingly rare 1968 Cinevox LP. LA CONGIURA DEI DIECI (1962, aka SWORDSMAN OF SIENA) and I LANCERI NERI (1962, aka THE BLACK LANCERS) have never been previously released in any format. The four scores offer symphonic, action and romantic music in the way only Nascimbene could write it. The Bixio CD contains scores to DESERTO DI FUOCO (1971, Desert of Fire), the erotic thriller ISTANTANEA PER UN DELITTO (1975, Snapshot of a Crime), the women-in-prison drama DIARIO SEGRETO DA UN CARCERE FEMMINILE (1974; aka WOMEN IN CELL BLOCK 7), and the ribald sex comedy IL TUO PIACERE È IL MIO (1973, My Pleasure Is Your Pleasure). Both CDs are in stock at www.quartetrecords.com and are strictly limited to 300 units each. The label has also released an EP of Pedro Almodóvar’s 30-minute short film THE HUMAN VOICE, based on the play “La voix humaine” by Jean Cocteau. The music is by Almodóvar’s usual composer Alberto Iglesias. The film is about a woman who “watches time passing next to the suitcases of her ex-lover (who is supposed to come pick them up, but never arrives) and a restless dog who doesn't understand that his master has abandoned him. Two living beings facing abandonment.” The digital EP is available from Apple Music and Amazon.
Composed by Maximilien Mathevon, the new French documentary film FROM CHARLIE HEBDO TO THE BATACLAN, THE LAST SECRETS OF THE 2015 ATTACKS (De Charlie Hebdo Au Bataclan, Les Derniers Secrets De Attentats De 2015), looks back on the worst wave of terrorist attacks in France five years ago. Directed by Jérôme Korkikian, the film gives voice to those who were at the forefront of these tragedies, in particular the former President of the Republic, François Hollande, the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, the Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve, the public prosecutor François Moulins, as well as General Denis Favier and Jean-Michel Fauvergne, the boss of the RAID. Several victims also come to bring their moving testimony of the horror in the face of religious fanaticism. “I decided to use very modern musical ideas, sometimes very close to sound design, but I tried to sustain the heart and emotions of the documentary by also using traditional piano, solo cello and solo violin sounds,” Mathevon told Soundtrax. “The music had to be kept low key, minimalist and also respectful for such a subject matter.”
British/Persian Los Angeles-based film composer Ram Khatabakhsh has composed the music for SKYLIN3S, the third and final film of the science fiction series that began with SKYLINE (2010) and BEYOND SKYLINE (2017). The new film is written and directed by Liam O'Donnell (who co-produced all three SKYLINE movies) and stars Lindsey Morgan, Rhona Mitra, and Alexander Siddig. This third film is about a virus that threatens to turn the now earth-dwelling friendly alien hybrids against humans, prompting Captain Rose Corley must lead a team of elite mercenaries on a mission to the alien world in order to save what's left of humanity.
Edwin Wendler (DEAD ANT, UNNATURAL, (RING OF ELYSIUM video game, HOME THE HORROR STORY) provides an original score for the fun, low budget creature feature, DRAGON SOLDIERS. The film is directed by Hank Braxtan (SNAKE OUTTA COMPTON, UNNATURAL, CHEMICAL PEEL), written by Dan Sinclair (CHEMICAL PEEL, DEAD ANT, co-writer, story), the film stars Autuone Torbert, Ruben Pla, Arielle Brachfeld, Dan Sinclair, Heath C. Heine, Tarkan Dospil. “For me, this score represents a very happy time, just before the pandemic hit,” Wendler said in a Facebook post. “I was given the opportunity to write a massive-sounding, symphonic action score, and I got to be a bit nerdy by paying homage to some of my musical idols and writing dodecaphonic music for the titular dragon.” Wendler anticipates a soundtrack album to be forthcoming. For more information on the composer, see http://www.edwinwendler.com/
Watch the film’s trailer here.
Nima Fakhrara (THE SIGNAL, BECKY, THE GIRL IN THE PHOTOGRAPHS) has self-released a soundtrack of hi music to John Hyams’ thriller ALONE (no relation to Frederik Wiedmann’s isolationist zombie thriller ALONE). Hyams film is set in the Pacific Northwest wilderness and follows a recently widowed woman who, fleeing the city in a desperate attempt to cope, is kidnapped and locked away in a mysterious man’s cabin. Currently available via Amazon.
Lakeshore Records has released the soundtrack to MONSTERLAND, a new horror anthology series on Hulu. The 28-track album features the score by two-time Academy Award winner Gustavo Santaolalla (BABEL, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN). The score “evokes elements of horror, science fiction, and gore in creatively unnerving fashion—subtly twisted orchestration, unsettling electronics and echoing instrumentation all come together to striking effect,” described the label. MONSTERLAND is an 8-episode anthology series based on the collection of stories from Nathan Ballingrud’s North American Lake Monsters. Encounters with mermaids, fallen angels, and other strange beasts drive broken people to desperate acts in an attempt to repair their lives, ultimately showing there is a thin line between man and monster.
Composer duo Rebekka Karijord & Jon Ekstrand have created a compelling, hybrid score to the intimate portrait of teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, I AM GRETA, by Swedish director Nathan Grossman. “With the music for I AM GRETA we aimed to find a sonic counterpoint to the friction between the shy, contemplative inner world of Greta, and the unbounded energy of the natural world and climate change movement,” described the composers. “From the start we found it useful to separate the score into three distinct voices: Greta´s Voice, the voice of the natural world, and the voice of the climate change movement.” Through the sketching process, Rebekka and Jon discovered that when they set more melodic music to the pictures it just did not meld: “It came off as too sentimental in relation to Greta as a person. Too leading, somehow. So we chose to work with repetition and persistent musical patterns, often illustrated through energetic string arpeggios. This we felt helped underline the remarkable persistence and focus Greta has on the climate issue, as well as that of the relentlessness of nature. Then we found a few places throughout the score, where more melodic aspects could be introduced and carry the story through its dramaturgical journey. It allowed the melodic aspects to shine through when they are introduced.”
The film premiers on Hulu on November 13; the soundtrack album will be available from Oona Recordings on all streaming platforms.
Varèse Sarabande Records has announced the upcoming soundtrack release of the Netflix film THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7, written and directed by Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Aaron Sorkin (MOLLY’S GAME, THE SOCIAL NETWORK). The album is comprised of the original score by Daniel Pemberton and three original songs performed by breakthrough Polydor recording artist Celeste. Pemberton and Celeste co-wrote the film’s focus track “Hear My Voice,” as recently announced by Variety. Varèse Sarabande will digitally release THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7 album on October 16, the same day the film debuts worldwide on Netflix; a CD release of the soundtrack scheduled for November 20, is also available for pre-order starting today. The film tells the story of the violent clash with police at the 1968 Democratic National Convention; in what was intended to be a peaceful protest, the organizers were charged with conspiracy to incite a riot, leading to one of the most notorious trials in history. “The first time I met Aaron Sorkin to talk through our ideas for the film, he’d already formulated the entire plan in his head,” Pemberton said. “He knew the moments where the music should be strong and bold, and then also the ones where it should take more of a subtle and supporting role. I wanted there to be two worlds juxtaposing against each other—from the perceived restraint and control of the courtroom to chaos of the riots, which were some of my favorite moments to score.”
UK composer Alexandra Harwood has composed the music for the current the Channel 5/PBS Masterpiece series, ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL (2020). The series is a remake of the 1978-1990 BBC series which depicts the numerous adventures of a friendly staff at a country veterinarian practice in 1930s to 1940s Yorkshire. The series is based on the autobiographical books by James Herriot. Harwood is a BAFTA Cymru Award-winning composer, whose films have screened worldwide. Most recently, Alexandra completed scoring Mike Newell's feature THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY starring Lily James. Prior to this she composed the scores for feature film THE ESCAPE, directed by Dominic Savage and starring Gemma Arterton and Dominic Cooper, and GROWING UP WILD, a feature documentary for Disney/ Netflix USA. A soundtrack has been released through All3Media & Playground Television which is available from amazon US and amazon UK.
Maisie Music Publishing will release a soundtrack album for the Netflix original film THE HALF OF IT. The album features the movie’s original music composed by Anton Sanko (RABBIT HOLE, THE POSSESSION, OUIJA). The coming-of-age dramedy premiered this past May and is now available to stream exclusively on Netflix—it’s about a shy, introverted, Chinese-American, straight-A student who finds herself helping the school jock woo the girl they both secretly love.
-via filmmusicreporter <<which see for tracklist and trailer.
Composer Raphaël Gesqua reports that “PREMIÈRE LIGNE (First Line), the feature film by Francis Renaud for which I had the pleasure to compose the score, will be in official competition at the Festival Polar de Cognac 2020, in the category Grand Prix Cinéma Feature Film. Not bad, for a feature film entirely made with a smartphone!” For more information see the film’s Facebook page.
Maya Records has digitally released SNEAKERHEADS Original Music from the Netflix Series by Haim Mazar for purchase and streaming, featuring a whopping 31 original tracks from the hit Netflix comedy series, now streaming. Mazar, with contributions by Paul Ottinger (aka knownwolf), utilized traditional film-scoring techniques peppered heavily with Trap and Hip-Hop sensibilities. “Hip-Hop influences have become increasingly popular in today’s film-music genre,” said Mazar, speaking about his experience. “This is definitely the first time I’ve ever done something like this, and hopefully not the last.” The series focuses on ex-sneakerhead Devin, played by Allen Maldonado (BLACK-ISH), a stay-at-home father who’s lured back into the game and is almost immediately placed $5,000 in the hole after an old friend—Bobby (played by Andrew Bachelor a.k.a. King Bach)—pulls a get-rich-quick scheme.
The HACKERS Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is now available on an expanded 2-CD set as well as a vinyl edition. This highly anticipated first time release comes from Varèse Sarabande Records in celebration of the 25th Anniversary of Iain Softley’s groundbreaking film. Of the HACKERS soundtrack, Softley says, “It is indelibly interlinked with all the other elements of the film and played a crucial part in the creation of the distinctive world of the movie.” Most of the music in the film, including much of the techno and electronic music, was composed and performed by UK film composer Simon Boswell, whose “Hacker’s Suite” is included in this release along which much of the pop/rock music featured in the movie as well.
Watch a video on YouTube featuring Iain Softley and composers Simon Boswell and Guy Pratt share personal stories about the creation of the ground breaking electronic music soundtrack, here.
For more details on the album, see Varèse Sarabande.
Leo Birenberg (COBRA KAI, SON OF ZORN) has scored DreamWorks Animation’s new kid-friendly Netflix original CGI-animated series JURASSIC WORLD: CAMP CRETACEOUS. The show follows a group of six teenagers who are invited to attend a state-of-the-art adventure camp on Isla Nublar and must band together to survive when the dinosaurs break out of captivity. Birenberg has previously scored DreamWorks Animation’s TV series KUNG FU PANDA: THE PAWS OF DESTINY.
Beat Records of Italy has announced Teo Usuelli’s score for IL FISCHIO AL NASO (aka ‘‘The Seventh Floor ‘‘). The 1967 movie was directed by Ugo Tognazzi, and is about a successful business man who occasionally develops an unusual physical disturbance: his nose whistles whenever he breathes; because of this peculiar circumstance, he enters a private, luxurious hospital. The whistle is cured, but new problems, real or unreal, are discovered by the hospital's staff. The label presents Usuelli’s score for the first time on CD (total duration 44:21), assembled using the mono master tapes of the recording session, archived at Universal Music Publishing Ricordi srl.
The label also presents the soundtrack to Bruno Corbucci’s 1971 caveman comedy QUANDO GLI UOMINI ARMARONO LA CLAVA E... CON LE DONNE FECERO DIN-DON (“When Men Carried Clubs and Women Played Ding-Dong”). The title seemingly refers to the two Pasquale Festa Campanile films set to music by Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai (WHEN WOMAN HAD TAILS, WHEN WOMEN LOST THEIR TAILS, respectively), but this Corbucci film has nothing to do with those productions. Composer Giancarlo Chiaramello provides a pleasant score, providing ethnic atmospheres that fit the film’s comedy while fight and battle scenes utilize distorted electric guitars with a rock-beat flavor. There’s also a recurring love theme with a lounge flavor.
For more details, see http://www.beatrecords.it/
EMMY Award winning composer Carlos Rafael Rivera (A WALK AMONG TOMBSTONES, GODLESS) has handled scoring duties for Scott Frank’s new Netflix limited series THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT. Based on the book by Walter Tevis, the series is about eight year-old orphan Beth Harmon, who is quiet, sullen, and by all appearances unremarkable. That is, until she plays her first game of chess. Her senses grow sharper, her thinking clearer, and for the first time in her life she feels herself fully in control. By the age of sixteen, she's competing for the U.S. Open championship. But as Beth hones her skills on the professional circuit, the stakes get higher, her isolation grows more frightening, and the thought of escape becomes all the more tempting. In their review of the series, The Hollywood Reporter said of Rivera’s score: his “soaring work does more heavy lifting than any TV score this year.” The 7-episode series dropped in its entirety on Oct 23rd. “Having such a complex protagonist as Beth Harmon, I wanted to avoid writing a ‘Beth Theme,’ but rather themes for different aspects of her character: addiction, genius, mischief, growth, etc.,” Rivera said. “By resorting to these, I could apply and develop them throughout the seven episodes, as Beth herself developed, helping create a more holistic representation of her character.” Maisie Music Publishing, LLC has digitally released Rivera’ music from THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT—listen or purchase it at these links. Listen to Rivera’s main title music:
FOUR KIDS AND IT is a 2020 British family fantasy film directed by Andy De Emmony and written by Simon Lewis and Mark Oswin, based on the novel Four Children and It by Jacqueline Wilson, which was in turn based on the novel Five Children and It by E. Nesbit (and previously filmed in 2004 as FIVE CHILDREN AND IT with Eddie Izzard as the voice of “It”). Ivor Novello and Emmy-nominated composer Anne Nikitin has composed music for the new film, which stars Paula Patton, Matthew Goode, with Russell Brand and Michael Caine. Lakeshore Records has released Nikitin’s score, which is now available at these links. Nikitin is best known for her work on Bart Layton’s critically acclaimed heist movie AMERICAN ANIMALS and the 2012 BAFTA-winning documentary THE IMPOSTER. She was recently named “Composer to Watch” on Classic FM Radio and “composer who should be on your radar” by Film4.
CheeWei Tay (ZERO CALLING, SINGAPORE ARCHIPELAGO, BRING BACK THE DEAD) has composed the score for TOUCHING THE ASTEROID, an episode of NOVA that aired October 21st on PBS. The episode focuses on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft mission to grab a piece of an asteroid and bring it back to Earth to uncover secrets of the solar system. (The mission, accomplished on October 19th, was a success. After orbiting the near-Earth asteroid Bennu for nearly two years, OSIRIS-Rex successfully touched down and reached out its robotic arm to collect a sample from the asteroid’s surface, and is now returning with it to Earth.)
Gil Talmi’s original score for WHITE NOISE is now available on Bandcamp, with 100% of the net profits from the soundtrack sales donated to the Heather Hayer Foundation until November 1st. Directed by Daniel Lombroso, WHITE NOISE is the definitive inside story of the alt-right, its rise and the consequences thereof. It is the first feature documentary from The Atlantic which Screen Comment called “a scathing damnation of white supremacy.” Talmi’s score is tense and tonal, reflecting the characters in the documentary with an ambiance of pensive unease, echoes of growing xenophobia, and a martial air of sonic arrogance. Not an easy listen but a significant one. -rdl
For more information, see The Atlantic.
Milan Records has released the soundtrack to the drama film THE NEST, with music by multi-instrumentalist, producer, composer and Arcade Fire member Richard Reed Parry. Written, directed, and produced by Sean Durkin and starring Jude Law and Carrie Coon, the film is about an entrepreneur and his American family whose lives begin to take a twisted turn after moving into an English country manor. The film marks Parry’s debut feature film score as solo composer. “When I watched the very first rough cut of THE NEST without any music, I could feel right away what I wanted the score to be: music that sounded like it was written and played somewhere within the massive old manor house that so much of the film centers around,” Parry explained. “I am very grateful to my fantastic musical collaborators, and for Sean Durkin’s trust in my own intuitive musical process and the artistic space and freedom he gave me to explore the musical landscape of his film.”
Also available from Milan is the soundtrack to OVER THE MOON, an album of music featured in Netflix’s animated film, due out October 23. The album features a mix of original songs from the film as well as score tracks composed by Oscar winner® Steven Price (GRAVITY, SUICIDE SQUAD, FURY, ATTACK THE BLOCK). The film, directed by Oscar winner® and animation legend Glen Keane, is now showing globally on Netflix. Said Price of the score, “Every sequence in the movie is filled with so much imagination and heart that it was a constant joy to write music for, and I can’t wait for audiences to see the film. The process of working with Glen, talking about these characters and feeling the music and visuals evolve together as the film reached its final form was one of the great delights of my life, and I’m so proud and grateful to have been involved in this beautiful, emotional story.”
Lakeshore Records has released the original soundtrack to TEHRAN, the Apple TV+ series, featuring music by Mark Eliyahu. One of the most respected figures in Israel’s music scene, Eliyahu utilizes his mastery of the kamanche, an Iranian bowed instrument, with pulsating electronics to striking effect. TEHRAN is a new espionage thriller from FAUDA writer Moshe Zonder that tells the thrilling story of a Mossad agent who goes deep undercover on a dangerous mission in Tehran that places her and everyone around her in dire jeopardy. The series premiered globally on September 25, exclusively on Apple TV+. See the album purchase link, track list, and series trailer here.
The label has also released Benjamin Wallfisch’s soundtrack to the Apple TV+ docu-series TINY WORLD. Tiny World is narrated by Paul Rudd and showcases nature’s lesser-known tiny heroes – spotlighting small creatures and the extraordinary things they do to survive. Sample, stream, or download the album from Apple Music/iTunes.
The German film 80.000 SCHNITZEL tells the story of an elderly woman and her adult granddaughter—two women from two generations; hence from two different worlds—who are fighting to keep their family farm alive. Director Hannah Schweier relied on the dreamy, melancholy synth pop universe of UMA’s Ella Zwietnig to provide the film’s musical center: “80.000 SCHNITZELS features two timelines: a nostalgic one referring to the shiny past of the ‘80s and ‘90s, a period full of hopes, promises and family holidays in Italy; and another one more related to the present, still beautiful and hopeful, yet also bound with heavy labor, misfortune and broken dreams,” said Zwietnig. “For almost all memory-based sequences, we decided to look for a joyful, uplifting sound, listening to lots of synth music and Italo disco.”
Termitas Records and Filmax Music have released a soundtrack album for the Spanish thriller CROSS THE LINE (No matarás). The album features the film’s original score composed by Federico Jusid (THE SECRET IN THIER EYES, NERUDA, LIFE ITSELF, WATERSHIP DOWN ) & Adrian Foulkes ((WILD DISTRICT, THE ALCÀSSER MURDERS TV series, LOOP). The soundtrack is now available to sample/stream/download on Amazon. The movie revolves around a good-natured man who has an unexpected deadly confrontation. Instincts kick in to clean up the mess caused in the name of self-defense—but does one really get away free after killing someone?
- via filmmusicrecorder
From Japan’s King Amusement Creative (formerly StarChild) NEON GENESIS EVANGELION Soundtrack 25th Anniversary Box (5CD box set) featuring Shiro Sagisu’s music from the original soundtracks of NEON GENESIS EVANGELION has been released last October 7th. The set is available from ArkSquare.
Mondo, in partnership with Back Lot Music, presents the soundtrack to Miranda July’s 2020 film KAJILLIONAIRE, featuring the score composed by Emile Mosseri (THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO; HOMECOMING: Season Two). Pressed on 180 Gram White Vinyl (also available on 180 Gram Black Vinyl), the vinyl version of the soundtrack features artwork by artist Charlie Engman and liner notes by writer/director Miranda July and the composer. Mosseri’s score for HOMECOMING: Season Two has also been cut on a 2XLP housed in a die-cut gatefold sleeve. Liner notes by series director Kyle Patrick Alvarez. Pressed on 2x 180 Gram Crimson Red Vinyl. Limited to 500 copies worldwide. For both, see https://mondoshop.com/
In celebration of the film’s 85th Anniversary, Waxwork Records announces the premiere vinyl release of the original soundtrack recording of THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN as a deluxe album featuring re-mastered audio, new artwork, and likeness approvals from famed actress Elsa Lanchester’s estate. Franz Waxman’s original recording of his BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN score (as distinct from a number of previous re-recorded releases) was first released on CD by La-La Land Records in 2019 (see my review in my November 2019 Soundtrax column). Sourced from the original master acetates housed in the composer’s archives at Syracuse University and original masters from Universal, the soundtrack album has been meticulously restored and re-mastered. The vinyl album features new artwork by Phantom City Creative, a 12”x12” booklet including artwork and original scoring session photography, and liner notes by album producer and restoration engineer Mike Matessino. The album was pressed on 180 Gram Black and White Swirled Colored Vinyl and features Old Style Tip-On Gatefold Jackets with Satin Coating.
The album is currently on pre-order and is expected to ship January, 2021. For more details, see Waxwork.
Varèse Sarabande Records presents the upcoming first-ever LP release of THE HOLIDAY, composed by Hans Zimmer. Originally released in 2006, THE HOLIDAY has since become a modern-day annual holiday classic for movie enthusiasts around the world. Of Zimmer’s timeless soundtrack, Screen Rant says, “Utilizing strings and pianos to perfection, the music really does blend together nicely.” The LP will be pressed on snow white vinyl discs, and will be released on November 6, 2020. For pre-orders, see varesesarabande.
Celebrating the 30th anniversary of the landmark science fiction blockbuster TOTAL RECALL, Quartet Records and Studiocanal present Jerry Goldsmith’s thrilling score for the first time in a 3-LP deluxe edition. The 3XLP set is a limited collector's edition of 1000 units and will be available on November 27th, but is now available in pre-order at www.quartetrecords.com
Italian record label Spikerot Records has announced the release of SEI DONNE PER L’ASSASSINO (aka “Blood And Black Lace”), the soundtrack to one of the earliest and most influential giallo films and pioneer of the later slasher style, directed by the Master of Macabre Mario Bava in 1964, with sublime music by Carlo Rustichelli. This score contains the full session of music composed for the film over half a century ago, 31 tracks remastered from the original master tapes preserved in the CAM archives, finally available on vinyl for the first time in its entirety. Limited to 400 copies on grey 180g LP, housed in a elegant Gatefold Sleeve. Includes extensive liner notes by Lamberto Bava and Andrea Fabrizii (Dannata Balera) with a stunning artwork by Eric Adrian Lee.
Mondo, in partnership with Walt Disney Records, has just announced the 10th anniversary pressing of the soundtrack to the film TRON: LEGACY. Composed by Daft Punk and arranged and orchestrated by Joseph Trapanese, the score took over two years to complete in a purpose-built studio created by Disney for the iconic duo. It features a intricate mix of electronics fused with a more traditional 85-piece orchestra. The score is not only a living, breathing character within the film, but also one that works as a stand-alone record away from the visuals it soundtracked. Mondo’s edition is newly (and exclusively) remastered by James Plotkin and contains the entire score plus bonus tracks split across four sides. Featuring all new artwork by Matt Taylor, housed in a spot-varnished die-cut O-Card, and pressed on 2x 180 gram colored vinyl. Also see https://mondoshop.com/.
Film Music Books
News: Soundtrax and Musique Fantastique author Randall D. Larson was invited to contribute a chapter on John Carpenter’s film music to Troy Howarth’s new book, Assault On The System: The Nonconformist Cinema Of John Carpenter. The hefty paperback, edited by Tony Strauss, and illustrated by Jolyon Yates, has been published by WK Books, publishers of Weng’s Chop Cinema Megazine and Monster! Digest.
The book charts Carpenter’s trajectory from screenwriter-for-hire to director of low-budget oddities like DARK STAR (1974) to his meteoric rise and fall within the very system he came to distrust. All of Carpenter’s films are analyzed in detail, including his forays into made-for-TV fare, and his various sideline projects as a writer, a composer, and a producer are also examined. Also included are guest essays from Matty Budrewicz & Dave Wain, Lee Gambin, John Harrison, Robert Russell LaVigne, Francesco Massaccesi, Paul Poet, and Nick Smith. Brand new interviews with Carpenter, his wife Sandy King-Carpenter, and actor Keith Gordon also help to provide a glimpse into the man, his methods, and what makes him tick. In addition, there are hundreds of eye-catching images, including theatrical posters, stills, behind the scenes shots, and more. The end result is a comprehensive celebration of one of America’s great, yet oft-unsung auteurs, and a true independent spirit in his chosen medium.
The book is now available on Amazon in its color edition (a budget-minded black-and-white edition, with color cover, is also available).
Review: Ennio Morricone Master of the Soundtrack
Maurizio Baroni, Texts by Germano Barban
Gingko press, Hardcover, October 2019
368 pages, 8 2/3” x 12”, $69.95
This large, thick hardback is the first major work dedicated entirely to the discography of the maestro Ennio Morricone. Unique in its genre, Ennio Morricone: Master of the Soundtrack originates from the idea of the collector, author, and cinema expert Maurizio Baroni, who draws on his own archive to give life to a rich selection highlighting over fifty years of a prestigious career, largely unseen before, which includes handwritten scores by the maestro himself, the original album and single cover sleeves from his soundtracks, and much more.
In addition to Baroni’s exhaustive capsule comments on Morricone’s soundtracks, each accompanied by examples of album artwork, he has accomplished getting twenty single- or half-page thoughts of the Maestro from a variety of filmmakers from Dario Argento, John Boorman, Quentin Tarantino, Giuseppe Tornatore, Liliana Cavani, and John Carpenter to singers such as Edda Dell’Orso and Gino Paoli, actors like Lisa Gastoni and Franco Nero, composers like Nicola Piovani and Daniele Furlati, and others—each covering a unique aspect of Morricone they especially admire or have witnessed. A myriad of full color images run throughout the book to accompany each of the pages that cover individual recordings, and can be also accessed via an index at the back of the book; entries are sorted chronologically and separated into decades from 1961 through 2016. Baroni doesn’t attempt to list every individual edition of each of Morricone’s soundtracks (something H.J. de Boer and Martin van Wouw attempted quite exhaustively with The Ennio Morricone Musicography in 1990, and something the website soundtrackcollector.com continues to provide, for all film soundtracks). What Baroni has compiled and focused on is a useful, accessible, and annotated illustrated discography of Morricone’s recorded musical output. The result is admirable as a reference source and a browse-as-needed guide seeking an overview of the composer’s musical output.
This thick, heavy, and oversize book serves as both a tribute to the late composer (he was still alive when the book was published, and reviewed a draft with enthusiasm), and an overview with commentary of his prodigious discography of his soundtrack work. The book focuses on providing the reader with a hefty illustrated guide that provides a welcome abundance of perusable material to enjoy, study, or find what’s needed to try and fill gaps in one’s own Morricone soundtrack collection. Pouring over it becomes an enthralling opportunity to admire the composer anew and examine the art design of record sleeves over a 55-year period, and recollect the magnificent music houses within those cardboard or paper sleeves.
Based on the famous 1915 Franz Kafka novella, METAMORPHOSIS is a video game in which players are Gregor, turned into a tiny bug and set out on an extraordinary journey to unravel the mystery of his transformation. The game is a first person adventure set in a surrealist world where your newfound abilities are your last and only hope for redemption. Popular game composers Mikolai Stroinsky (THE WITCHER 3 Game) and Garry Schyman (BIOSHOCK, DESTROY ALL HUMANS!) have collaborated to compose the score to the game. “This very unique game takes place in a bizarre and nightmarish world inhabited by insects and a corrupt bureaucracy,” said the composers. “The game gave us an astonishing opportunity to write music inspired by the expressionist era of art and music in the early 20th century. Composers Arnold Schoenberg and Alban Berg, as well later composers such as Bernard Herrmann were inspirations. We incorporated techniques of the era such as Sprechgesang (half spoken half sung), 12 tone, aleatoric, tonal and atonal harmonies to invoke a past age that worked perfectly for the world of Metamorphosis.”
The game is now available via Steam. For more details and the game trailer, see https://metamorphosisgame.com/.
Read my interview with Stroinsky & Shyman about creating the unique musical world of METAMORPHOSIS, at musiquefantastique.
Watch the game’s trailer:
Siddhartha Barnhoorn has released the soundtrack to his video game score to ANTIOCH, an online cooperative interactive fiction game. The soundtrack was finished back in 2017 but the game has not been released yet, and a release date remains uncertain. But, with concurrence with the game’s producer, Barnhoorn has released the soundtrack, available on his bandcamp page, here. “The game itself was set in an 80s-like/dystopian atmosphere and I tried to create a similar atmosphere musically using mainly vintage synths from the 70s and 80s,” Barnhorn said in a Facebook post. “I also composed the song Scarlet Bay with the help of Lara Ausensi, who also wrote the lyrics and did the vocals, in a synthwave style way for the game. The beautiful artwork was done by Nico Terlon.” For information on the as-yet released game, see https://antioch.midnightmoodstudio.com/
Sample the music from ANTIOCH:
STAR WARS: SQUADRONS is a space combat game set in the STAR WARS universe, developed by Motive Studios and published by Electronic Arts. The game’s music by Gordy Haab lends excitement and authenticity to these adventures within the STAR WARS universe. Haab has composed numerous scores and contributed music for numerous STAR WARS, HALO WARS, and WALKING DEAD video games, including STAR WARS JEDI: FALLEN ORDER and games in the STAR WARS: BATTLEFRONT and STAR WARS: THE OLD REPUBLIC series, as well as films such as THE LAST BEYOND (2019) and DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT 2 (2015).
Describing his work for video games in an interview for the British Mandy website, Haab described: “When you’re dealing with these larger IPs, like STAR WARS or HALO, or something that people really know, you’re dealing with a built-in fan base that has high expectations for every part of the game including music. It’s often daunting, the amount of people who are expecting you to do a good job. That can be overwhelming at times and it can be a really strong motivator as well.” A digital soundtrack has been released by Walt Disney Records, now available on Amazon and other streaming and digital sources.
Yu Peng Chen has composed a luxurious orchestral score for the video game GENSHIN IMPACT: THE WIND AND THE STAR TRAVELER, an action role-playing game developed and published by miHoYo which features a fantasy-based open world environment and action based battle system, using elemental magic, character switching and uses gacha game monetization for players to obtain rare characters, weapons, and other resources. The game was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Android and iOS on September 28, 2020. The digital soundtrack album, comprised largely of fairly short but lovely themes, is available from Amazon.
Listen to the main theme:
TANGLE TOWER from Steam features music by Raphael Benjamin Meyer (DETECTIVE GRIMOIRE, HAUNT THE HOUSE: TERRORTOWN video games). TANGLE TOWER is a murder mystery point-and-click game developed and published by SFB Games. It is a sequel to the 2014 game Detective Grimoire. Players unravel a thrilling mystery by exploring a strange and twisted mansion, discovering curious clues, interrogating peculiar suspects and solving unique puzzles. Meyer’s fully orchestral score is available digitally on bandcamp.
SPIN has posted a cool interview with Cris Velasco about his score for the videogame CARRION. As announced in my July-August column, CARRION, published by Devolver Digital, is a subversion of the sci-fi/horror genre, putting the player in control not of the human survivors but rather of the monster attacking their facility. Check out the game here and check out what Cris has to say about scoring it, here.
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.