Sharon Farber – BRAINWASHED: Cinema Culture,
Women, and the Camera’s Gaze
Steve Jablonsky Corrals The DC LEAGUE OF SUPER-PETS Interviews by Randall D. Larson
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Douglas Pipes is a film composer in Los Angeles whose feature films include the Academy Award nominated Sony animated feature MONSTER HOUSE (2006), and the Warner Bros/Legendary Films cult-hit TRICK ‘R TREAT (2007); his score for the latter has become something of a modern horror classic, frequently included in “best of” horror scores lists (and has been revived to play in theaters this Halloween season). Other genre scores include KRAMPUS (2015), THE BABYSITTER (2017), AWAKEN THE SHADOWMAN (2017) Trained as a pianist and working in electronic synthesis, Douglas was given an opportunity to score a feature film from French/American filmmaker Alan Ruffier and quickly found it to be the perfect medium for his approach to musical creation. After scoring a handful of indie-films, Douglas put his film-scoring career on hold to immerse himself in the art of music composition, orchestration, and film scoring. While working with a UCLA film student, Gil Kenan, Douglas forged a relationship that would lead to his first studio feature, the Amblin/Imagemovers/Sony animated feature MONSTER HOUSE. Pipes’ awards include “Best Comedy Score” for KRAMPUS from the International Film Music Critics Association (2016), “Compositor Revalacion” at the 3rd International Film Music Conference in Ubeda, Spain and “Best Animation” at the Royal Television Society in the United Kingdom. Nominations include “Discovery of the Year” at the 2006 World Soundtrack Awards in Ghent, Belgium, “Best Music” at the 2007 Saturn Awards, “Best Horror Score” and “Best New Composer” from the International Film Music Critics Association (2006 and 2010), and 2010 Gold Spirit Award for “Best Horror Thriller” at the International Film Music Festival in Ubeda, Spain. Among Pipes’ television scores are two of the episodes of THE DOLLANGANGER SAGA mini-series and two installments of the Blumhouse/Hulu series INTO THE DARK (2019-20). He has also composed two concert film scores commissioned by the Dallas Chamber Symphony, Buster Keaton’s 1926 silent film THE GENERAL and Alfred Hitchcock’s THE LODGER. This interview was conducted in Oct of 2017 and intended as an exclusive for a forthcoming book in my Musique Fantastique series, but as those books became delayed for a number of reasons, I decided this would make a proper Halloween interview for this column.
Q: You’ve done a significant amount of scores in the fright genre. What can you tell me about your overall consideration of scoring a fantasy/horror film, and how you utilize the orchestra and its instrumentation and electronics to create the right sense of fear, fright, suspense, in the films that you’ve done?
Douglas Pipes: Basically, with all the films, one of the beginning steps has to do with less focus on using the horror aspect… and more attention to the character aspect or the general overall mood. With almost all the scores I’ve done, the primary focus is melody – thematic music that can help tell the story as opposed to just focusing on the visceral, in-the-moment action-oriented horror elements. Those are really just the accents and icing on the cake once the score has been much-more fleshed out from a storytelling standpoint. On the beginning stages of any particular score, it’s always working on themes that will work across the variety of experiences of the characters for which that theme is being utilized. So a theme that can run the gamut of emotions, and has the ability to vary and be developed in a way that becomes interesting as the characters go through their respective arcs. As for the horror stuff, then it really just becomes a question of balance between setting the audience up. I’m a huge Jerry Goldsmith fan, and he would set the tone with mostly calming, melodic elements – themes for the characters that would lull you into a sense of security, and then when the horror moments come they hit harder when you’re not expecting it. The dynamics of it work better when it’s not always trying to be a horror score.
Q: Do you consider yourself a melodist or more of an atmospheric composer in this genre, or does it depend on the film?
Douglas Pipes: Definitely melody and thematic use is much more important to me than just pure textural or sound design. I do that when it’s appropriate, but I find that sound design is just as effective at being visceral and the job of music is to be emotional – to get what’s happening behind the hits on the scene. If you need a jump scare, sound design can also accomplish that rather effectively. But the scoring of the film lets you know either if you’re going to foreshadow it a little bit or you really want to set up a jump scare, and you want there to be a real sense of calm before it, or no music at all. The use of score in telling the perspective of the characters is much more effective than trying to mimic something from sound design that is just matching what your eyes see.
Q: There seem to be a number of ways to create scares in modern horror films… how do you approach not being influenced by everything else that’s been out in the theater three weeks before and making sure you keep your own voice in what you’re doing?
Douglas Pipes: I don’t feel like I’m ever chasing what’s happening right at the moment, and I’ve been fortunate enough to work with filmmakers who aren’t looking for that as well. The intention of every film score I’ve ever done is not to feel of-the-moment – because it’ll be more timeless if you watch the film and you can’t say “Oh, I can tell you what year this was made by the sound of the score or the style of writing” and that kind of thing.” And there are times when that’s certainly interesting and effective, but I haven’t really worked on a project that’s like that, and more often than not I’ve worked with directors who like to hearken back to the film scores that really did use music as a vehicle for helping elevate and illuminate the storytelling, not so much just sound design to make impact and try to over build-up tension.
Q: I’m glad there are directors who do that kind of thing. Sometimes you tend to get lost in all the trends that are coming back…
Douglas Pipes: There is a danger with technology, in that you really have access to as much as you want to throw at it. So restraint is always helpful. I try to keep a restrained approach… I think, stylistically, even though things can get big and bombastic, but they’re there when they need to get there, but be restrained and keep the dynamic such that, if the entire score is big, then the big moments aren’t that effective as a technique. Dynamics are really important to me, and I know that, in almost every movie I’ve ever been in, I’m always looking for places to delete music, because that makes the places that do use music more effective.
Q: Listening to some of your scores, you have a sense of finesse, you’re not throwing everything in it. As you said earlier, these are character-based stories and if the audience can’t have an emotional response to the characters then they’re not going to have a lot of interest in what’s happening to them…
Douglas Pipes: Right. In this recent movie, THE BABYSITTER, there are a lot of songs in the movie and there’s a lot of action/horror-ish writing but I think the most gratifying result of that score from a composer’s standpoint is having been able to elevate the relationship between the babysitter and the protagonist in a way that people are responding to – there are some sweet and tender moments in this movie, and without making it too over the top or melodramatic, the intention was to be very subtle and just lightly let the audience engage with their friendship.
Q: How did you get involved with the BABYSITTER? I don’t think you’ve worked with the director, McG before...?
Douglas Pipes: Yes this was the first time. I got a call back in, I think it was late April, basically really just worked on it through the month of May for four or five weeks on it, and I think the reason I was brought in as because of the approach to horror comedy. This had horror and comedy elements, and having been through enough… you know, Michael Dougherty’s movies (TRICK ‘R TREAT, KRAMPUS) are peppered with humor and he’s a huge film music fan and we really carve out those scores in ways that help tell the story and leave room for the humor – they can be horror scores when they need to be and be touching and warm scores when they need to be. I think that was what drew them to me, to that emotional level in the scoring, it’s not just horror scoring. In fact I almost don’t consider any of my scores to be horror scores; they’re much more dramatic than what we consider to be horror scores.
Q: Was BABYSITTER an orchestral score, or what did the budget allow you to have on it?
Douglas Pipes: It is a full orchestral string score, so it’s a combination of a 40-piece string orchestra and choir – and that was important to me, to have the real instruments. I wanted to use a choir for that theme, because the group is a satanic cult and I felt the theme for that was best executed with choir – and then most of the other scoring elements are done with vintage synthesizers. I worked with my collaborator John Clement Wood. In the case of this score they had some areas where they had songs, and McG is a fantastic music-minded director, and so he had a lot of areas where he knew the type of feeling he wanted to get through those songs. Some of those were more song-style cues, so my collaborator would work on some of those cues and they might be drum-machine oriented, so he would work with tape effects and different analog effects to recreate vintage drum machines and vintage synths. Then, on my end, I was using vintage synths and piano and electric pianos and other vintage gear on the non-string stuff, and then once it gets into the more horror writing it shifts into the string orchestra, choir, and analog synth approach. With THE BABYSITTER, it starts off very innocuously, as a nice coming of age story. And then it starts beating you over the head! It takes an absolute U-turn, musically. It becomes a horror score around track 15.
Q: What prompted the use of the vintage synths? Does the story take place in a particular era?
Douglas Pipes: It doesn’t, but in the case of these synthesizers, they do have a nostalgic feel… they’re somewhat timeless in themselves. They’re used a lot now, but they don’t take up lots of sound space, where there are some modern synthesizers that do all kinds of things – you press a button and it makes a huge sound. But these are much tighter and organic sounding. The other aspect of it is, in this process I was using a Memorymoog and not just twisting the dials and finding the right patches – and then not saving the patches and making sure that everything throughout the whole movie was completely new and unique and organic. A lot of this is working on the low end of the frequency spectrum to create some of these bottom end hits and low pulses and other ominous effects with the synthesizers while the strings are working, the upper ends, the piano, the choirs.
Q: What synths have you used in this score?
Douglas Pipes: Aside from the Memorymoog, I used a Rhodes electric piano, a Jupiter 6, I have a Prophet 600, and I have a new analog synth which is a Prophet 12. But almost all of it, the core of it, was done on the Memorymoog.
Q: How would you describe the thematic architecture of THE BABYSITTER score?
Douglas Pipes: There are several themes that run through it. One of them is a very simple theme that follows Cole’s journey and his relationship with his babysitter in a way that is just very lightly commenting on and just propelling him through his coming of age. It has little moments of awkwardness in its theme that shows that it’s not always an easy path through those years. There’s a choral theme for the satanic cult and the book from which they derive all their actions. There is a lovely theme for the babysitter herself, from the view of Cole and another one of the characters, Samuel, that is basically just this angelic, idolized version of Cole’s vision of her, in a sort of angelic way. There are some good, old fashioned, straightforward horror themes when the mayhem breaks out that are, once again, my homages to Bernard Herrmann and Jerry Goldsmith.
Q: Being that the film is a mix of comedy and horror, some writers that I’ve known have described comedy and horror as two sides of the same coin, because they both deal with set-up and punchline – in one sense you’ve got something funny and then on the other side of the coin you’ve got something dreadful or terrible. How did you work on or deal with the comedy elements musically or did you stay away from those versus being a little more dominant on the horror?
Douglas Pipes: The music never tries to be funny. It’s completely dramatic scoring that leaves space for the comedy, it doesn’t interfere with it and also it doesn’t try to comment on it. That wouldn’t be effective. And I think of comedy writing more towards a movie that’s made for a younger audience, to let them know, hey this is funny or this is silly, but there’s none of that in this movie. The music in the movie is played straight; it’s straight drama and straight with the emotions of Cole’s character and then the visceral side of it is very aggressive horror music.
Q: KRAMPUS is one of several Christmas horror movies that came out in 2015, and one of my favorites. How did you and Michael Dougherty determine the musical design that he wanted for KRAMPUS?
Douglas Pipes: We spent a lot of time talking about Christmas themes and making sure that the KRAMPUS score never left sight of the fact that it was a Christmas holiday movie. So it was very important to us that at no point did it veer away from having some sort of element of holiday and Christmas in it. So there are lots of nuggets of little Christmas themes peppered throughout it, but then also in the instrumentation, with sleigh bells and other bells and chimes, and Wintery-snowscape-sounding approaches to instrumentation, and using Christmas themes and creating a score that felt chilling at times but also warm at other times, while also being something that reaches the levels of the myth of Krampus.
Q: How did you thematically treat the family, the boy who’s the cause of all the terror that comes up, and then the demon that creates all that horror for the family?
Douglas Pipes: There’s a constant Krampus theme that gets developed throughout and it’s played in a variety of ways throughout the movie. That’s the theme that runs through the entire film, that Krampus is always lurking from very early in the movie – it happens just as the boy throws the letter through the window, and after that the Krampus theme becomes omnipresent throughout the rest of the movie, sometimes in very subtle ways and sometimes straightforward ways. But then the rest of the thematic approach is really a nostalgic sense of Christmas, because Max doesn’t want Christmas – he wants Christmas how he remembers it. He’s at that age we all get to where the Christmas magic is starting to feel different, and so we wanted the music for Max to feel like it’s hearkening back; it has that sense of Christmas magic and that nostalgic warm feeling of the Christmas that we all long for. And just a nice, sweet, warm Christmas theme that uses fragments of existing older traditional melodies.
Q: Once the demon starts his onslaught and it becomes worse and worse, how did you contrast the themes and amp up the horrific elements of the story?
Douglas Pipes: The themes become more aggressive in how they’re played, and more aggressive in how they’re orchestrated. They become bigger and darker and start to really come out from the bottom end of the orchestra. In the beginning it’s much lighter in tone, and then it becomes really big and weighty, and then I coupled that with some sort of pagan sounding drums and heavy percussion and it becomes a very, very strong score – strong in terms of weight and aggressive approach. When Krampus comes down the chimney, that’s a full monster music theme, in a grand, dark way.
Q: How big of an orchestra did you have on this film?
Douglas Pipes: We were fortunate to use the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, and that was in the neighborhood of a 70-odd piece orchestra, and because we did it in a couple different configurations, we had, I think, a 24-piece choir, around there. So nearly a hundred musicians on it. We didn’t have very much time with them, but they were wonderful, and conductor Marc Taddei was brilliant.
Q: TRICK ‘R TREAT was a fun film, a kind of anthology or portmanteau film, with five interwoven stories. How did you treat each individual story and how did you link them musically, if that was your approach?
Douglas Pipes: One of the earliest things that happened in TRICK ‘R TREAT was coming up with thematic ideas – coming up with that mutated children’s chant of the main theme. That became the glue to the whole film that would connect all of the stories. Basically, that was Sam’s theme, since he and Halloween are everywhere. So that Trick-’r-Treat theme is used again in various ways across all the stories. It’s the unifying element and the glue and the constant thread throughout them all. Instead of approaching in a way where each story has its own separate music and tone, the music is all Halloween and we’re just looking at it from different angles. It’s all Halloween in that town, and it’s all that same night. So the music doesn’t need to go different places; our eyes just go to different scenes.
Q: Were there any elements of the individual stories that needed to be treated uniquely?
Douglas Pipes: I would say the most horror-styled theme was Mr. Kreeg’s [Brian Cox] story, and the most fantastical one is Laurie’s (Anna Paquin) story. The bus massacre stories, those are both more fantasy stories with fantasy style writing, and the opening is more just traditional old-school high style writing. By that I mean sort of the simple, creepy horror style, whereas Mr. Kreeg’s is more the aggressive horror style.
Q: In a film like this, is there also a necessity for the music to help with the audience’s suspension of disbelief, and somehow help them, whether emotionally or atmospherically, buy into the fantasy they’re seeing up on the screen?
Douglas Pipes: Yeah. I also think a great responsibility of the music is to get us to invest in the characters, to feel they’re emotions and play into what they may be experiencing and help us to care for them. In order for a horror movie to work you have to care what happens to the characters… my favorite approach to horror is a dramatist’s approach, where the story arcs are clear, the characters are well-developed, and you care about them and you don’t want bad things to befall them. Maybe with some of the characters you do want bad things to happen to them – and then you want the audience to know which ones may be more deserving of the fate as opposed which one’s your rooting for! Music can certainly help that too.
Q: MONSTER HOUSE in 2006, was a fun score. How did you get involved with this film?
Douglas Pipes: Actually, before that I wanted to go back and improve as a composer, so I stopped taking on projects and I went to university to study composition and orchestration. Not film scoring but actual classical music composition. I really wanted to get a handle on writing for the orchestra and study music and harmony and get more of a background in that. All scoring is standing on the shoulders of the great composers of classical music, so I wanted to study that and be able to approach it from that perspective. So as I was in school, I met Gil Kenan who was an animation student at UCLA. I worked on his short films and his masters thesis film. We recorded with a chamber ensemble and that got the attention of Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis and he got the directing job for MONSTER HOUSE, and he made the brave, bold move of bringing me on board to score his film – even though I had never done anything of that level, a full orchestral score. We’d always just grabbed two or three players and it’s thirty minutes long! Although in the case of his thesis project, we did have a 30-piece string section and it turned out really nice. But this was a whole different animal, and he trusted my musical instincts. We had a great musical vocabulary between us, and he brought me on. The producers, Robert Zemeckis, Steve Starkey, and Jack Rapke, they set it up so that I could compose the music for the movie and then let Sony hear it all composed and then approve it, in a step-wise fashion. If I was able to compose an effective score in the mock-up stage then they would continue the deal and hire me on to finish the film and record it with an orchestra. So we went through the whole process, as the film was being cut together, I scored it and then they did some test screenings which went well with the score that I had put in there, and I ended up getting the gig. But it was almost unthinkable that it happened! To this day, obviously, my heart goes out to Gil Kenan and Steve Starkey and all the others for doing everything they could to believe in me and trust in me.
Q: To what extent that it was an animated film affect your process of scoring?
Douglas Pipes: Fortunately it gave me time to learn a little more on the job. I’d never done an animated film, but animation takes time – not that scoring animation is different, but there’s going to be more music in an animated film, generally. What I had to learn was not the writing but the presenting of the music in mock-ups and some of the technical sides of it, so that gave me a chance to ramp up that level of my ability, because that’s a time-consuming process.
Q: How would you describe your musical approach for the theme of the story – with these kids saving the neighborhood from the unbelieving adults…
Douglas Pipes: I would say that this film is clearly between TRICK ‘R’ TREAT, KRAMPUS, and THE BABYSITTER. Of those types of scores that are comedy oriented, this is also comedy oriented, but the score, because it’s geared toward a younger audience, is more playful. There is comedy writing in THE MONSTER HOUSE, in terms of letting the audience know that it’s an adventure for these kids, and as much as they’re scared, the idea is that it’s a fun ride for everyone involved. So the score is meant to hearken back to kind of a GOONIES type movie approach, and again the idea was that the film score would be a little more timeless than maybe something that sounded like it was written with all the modern technology of that time. So it goes back to a nice, orchestral score; there’s even some theremin in there and some other nice synthesizer touches and a fantastic 85-piece orchestra.
Q: I think the fact that it’s melody-based, again, it treats the mystery/suspense of the score with a less threatening measure. You can have fun being scared with everything else that’s going on, because there’s all this melody here – and when the melody needs to get aggressive it keeps from getting too out of hand.
Douglas Pipes: Yeah. If you were going to not have visuals and you wanted to tell a scary story, some of the more sound-design approaches may not tell the story as interesting or as effectively as a melody-based score to help tell character-based stories. A reaching melody can be used to show a certain character reaction and take on a variety of different methods.
Q: You also worked with Michael Dougherty in 2011 for a short film, TRICK ‘R TREAT: MAKING FRIENDS. How did that come about and did the music reference the feature film score or was it something wholly new?
Douglas Pipes: At the time there was a cable television channel called FEARnet, and they were doing a 24-hour Trick Or Treat marathon on Halloween. And that was meant to be a short two-minute film to promote the upcoming Trick Or Treat marathon, and they were all basically using the theme of TRICK ‘R TREAT, and that was very much an extension of that movie.
Q: You’ve also scored, earlier in 2017, the recent genre film AWAKEN THE SHADOWMAN. What can you tell me about that score and that film?
Douglas Pipes: That film was released a few months ago and the score for the film is one of my more, shall I say, atmospheric. It’s almost entirely a vintage synth score – analog synths, piano and choir and chimes and bells and such, but it’s very different from anything I’ve done in the past. There’s some sort of full string orchestra cues in there, but it was a micro-budget film. We didn’t have the money for a string orchestra throughout, so there are a couple cues that have that and the rest of them don’t. It’s a very unsettling and eerie score. The perfect complement to counterprogram the rest of my October listening experiences – this one would be a great one to put on as well in between some of the other ones, because it’s much more ambient and moody and dark and unsettling. I adore this score, I actually love it. La-La Land released the CD. The film is very much a slow burn; I don’t know if “horror” is the exact right description, because it’s a very moody psychological thriller, much more suspenseful.
Special thanks to White Bear PR for facilitating this interview, and my thanks to Douglas Pipes for taking the time out to discuss these scores in detail. For more information about the composer, see his website https://www.douglaspipes.com/
A member of the Executive Committees of both the Motion Pictures and TV Academies, four-time Emmy Award nominated, board member of ASCAP, GRAMMY winner (for her music on the GRAMMY winning album Women Warriors: The Voices Of Change), VP of the Alliance for Women Film Composers, winner of the Society of Composers and Lyricists Award for “Outstanding work in the Art of Film Music,” the Visionary Award in Music by The Women’s International Film & Television Showcase, and winner of the Telly Award, composer Sharon Farber is a celebrated Film, TV and concert music composer. Sharon’s latest score for award winning director Nina Menkes, “BRAINWASHED: SEX – CAMERA – POWER,” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and the Berlin Film Festival. She recently completed the score for DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF: THE KRISTINE CARLSON STORY for LIFETIME TV. She is also signed to score director Gev Miron’s feature doc SOLAR WARS as well as a slate of films from Aegis film Group. “If the camera is predatory, then the culture is predatory.” BRAINWASHED: SEX – CAMERA – POWER investigates the politics of cinematic shot design, and how this meta-level of filmmaking intersects with the twin epidemics of sexual abuse/assault and employment discrimination against women in the film industry, using over 175 film clips from 1896 to 2020 – from METROPOLIS and VERTIGO to PULP FICTION and LOST IN TRANSLATION – to show how shot design is gendered. The documentary features interviews with an all-star cast of women and non-binary industry professionals including Julie Dash, Penelope Spheeris, Charlyne Yi, Joey Soloway, Catherine Hardwicke, Eliza Hittman, and Rosanna Arquette. The result is an electrifying call-to-action that will fundamentally change the way you see, and watch, movies.
For BRAINWASHED: SEX – CAMERA – POWER, composer Sharon Farber provided a unique and unexpected, genre-bending score for this hard-hitting doc, which has been making its way through the festival circuit since it’s premiere at Sundance 2022 earlier this year. Director Nina Menkes knew that she wanted the subjects in the film and their emotions to speak for themselves, and Sharon understood that this was no subject to take lightly. Her score needed to be unobtrusive, non-manipulative, and devoid of sadness/pity. The resulting score is something wholly unexpected for a documentary, sounding like something more out of a sci-fi thriller or fantasy adventure movie. Sharon’s music leans into mystery and the investigative nature of the documentary, compelling audiences to follow the twisting, unfolding exploration of sexual exploitation, problematic cinematography, and shifting power dynamics of the film industry at large. BRAINWASHED: SEX – CAMERA – POWER opened in select theaters on Friday October 21, with others to follow across the country (see kinomarquee.com)
Praise for BRAINWASHED:
“Destined to forever change how you look at films.” – Kate Erbland, INDIEWIRE
“[Menkes] calls for a radical reinvention of how shots and film grammar are formulated... Viewers are meant to wrestle with this film, not passively consume a simple message – and they’ll leave invigorated.” – Violet Lucca, BUST
“Subversive!...Menkes is not afraid to take on the film canon, and the director’s hailed as the gold standard.” – Ray Lobo, FILM THREAT
“The knowledge that took me years of study and practice to acquire is now available to anyone who watches Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power.”— ALLIANCE OF WOMEN FILM JOURNALISTS, Marilyn Ferdinand
Watch the film’s trailer:
Q: How did you become involved with BRAINWASHED?
Sharon Farber: I was brought into the project by Summer Yang, the producer of the film. Nina Menkes, the director, wanted a woman to score the film – she felt that it would be the right thing to do. Summer introduced her to me and I sent her some of my music which she really liked; we had a Zoom call and after a while she said, yeh, I’d love to work with you. I was very drawn to the story and to the truth about it, especially as a woman, and I really wanted to do it. Nina felt the same and it was a very fruitful collaboration.
Q: How did the doc affect you when you first saw it and began to arrange your musical treatment?
Sharon Farber: It was kind of a shock to watch it! Some of the scenes are not easy to watch. As a woman, I’ve had my share of experiences in this industry. I was never sexually assaulted, but I’ve had people who treated me a certain way because I’m a woman. To see in Nina’s film all of these elements that, until recently, were taken for granted, even by women, those things disturbed me – things that were said to women, things that women, especially actresses, needed to do in order to be a part of a specific scene. I mean, it’s amazing how much we were not aware. Maybe today we’re more conscious of it, because of the Me Too movement, but even for women we look at a film in a certain way and this is all so embedded in us that we never stop to ask, “hold on, why are we seeing this but we’re not seeing that?” What is so important in seeing the woman’s breast right now while we are not seeing any of the man because he’s fully dressed and she’s naked?! We never actually think about that until someone like Nina comes and shows you! So that was disturbing, to say the least; and not only because I’m a woman, but I also have a daughter, and I’m thinking about her future and what are the experiences that she will need to go through in life. Of course, I try to teach her to be strong and know where she is and who she is, but sometimes she might have to go through some experiences that would not be so easily dealt with. Even my husband, when he saw it he felt offended, because it’s shown to you in a way that you can not say, “This is just someone’s opinion.” It’s shown in such a way that you’ve got to say there’s a problem that needs fixing, because the way women are being shown in films leads to many things that can be truly dangerous later, like the rape culture that we have, and the sexualization of women. After you see the film you just can’t ignore it. You can say, “Maybe it’s too much” or “maybe that’s not what they meant,” but even if a director doesn’t mean for it to be like that, the way it has been executed does bring all these issues that we have to deal with.
Q: What can you tell me about your main title music, with its references to VERTIGO and other film scores in what’s been described as a “genre-bending” score?
Sharon Farber: This was definitely a challenge, because in the beginning, Nina said, “I love VERTIGO and I think it works beautifully and I want something close. And I said, “First, I don’t want to be sued, and second, I want to create something that is me; something that might suggest the emotions that a genre score like VERTIGO is evoking, but I want it to be my own. So I started thinking about why VERTIGO was something that Nina felt was appropriate for the film. For me, it was, A: the old Hollywood sound, because this is where everything starts, in old Hollywood, and, B: the mysterious and the dark underline of it that spoke to her because her film has a very distinctive story to tell, and it develops from showing the things that are a little lighter to things that are very dark. So this was the overtone and that’s what I was trying to bring in with what I was creating: this mysterious but dark feeling of something that is going on that is not right, and we have to talk about it.
Of course, this is a documentary, and when you score under dialog you have to be very careful not to overshadow that dialog, and all the things that we do in order to score a documentary. But there’s still a lot of room for the music to speak. This was Nina’s first experience working with a composer, so she was very detail-oriented, which I liked, because I find that many times when directors work with me, through their comments, the score becomes better, so the composer’s second job is to be open to these comments. You know, if you have something you really believe in, you pick your battle, but we need to have an open mind for the director’s vision, because that’s what we’re there to serve. Nina definitely showed me her vision and we worked together on some of the scenes, and she’d say “can I have less of this or more of that?” and together we came to a point where we were very, very happy, both of us. But creating something that sounded like VERTIGO but wasn’t VERTIGO was definitely a challenge, because it’s so iconic and such a genius score! But I think I was able to bring about the elements that Nina felt were important for the score. As I said, the score does evolve with the film and it does get darker and darker as we go forward.
Q: How did you configure your score so that it could be somewhat discrete, as Nina wanted, and yet give the music the kind of effectiveness it should have?
Sharon Farber: That was challenging. I had a few themes that went through the whole score and many times I would connect those themes together. For example, I had one theme that went with low basses and cellos, and on top of it I would have this triplet with woodwinds and strings; so on the one hand you have the mysterioso of the woodwinds and high strings, and on the other hand you have the menacing and dark theme with the basses and the cellos. I think both of them together intertwined brought about this feeling of uneasiness and of something that would eventually happen and when it happens it will be way more darker and will explode into this very heavy feeling. I followed the storyline and as it became darker the music became darker as well.
Q: Beyond the main title, how would you describe your musical palette for the film and how you wanted to support the film’s tone and effect with your score?
Sharon Farber: The main title gave a lot of freedom for the music to stand out. My musical palette was mainly strings, woodwinds, and some horns, until the darker part of the film, where we talk about sexual assault, and that’s where I had low clusters of heavy brass that make you feel like you are suffocating because it’s so emotionally heavy. I wanted to induce this feeling of heaviness, of something that is so disturbing with the power of low brass in thick clusters that you can’t separate it because it’s so dark. It’s like you want to be able to take these chords and separate them so they’re not that heavy, but you can’t because of the truth that it is very heavy and it is very disturbing, and something that needs to be spoken about. And as I said, at the beginning it was more strings and woodwinds, and also lots of harp, vibraphone, and celeste. We recorded the harp separately from the rest of the session because I knew it’s such an important part in the music, because it created this mysterious feeling – along with the vibraphone and the celeste – so I wanted to be able to control the mix and make sure that what I wanted to come out would come out. As we went into the story more and more it became less of woodwinds and harp and more of the low brass and low strings – and the thickness and heaviness. The music is such a big part of every film, and it has to work on the subconscious level. The images were already so heavy but when we got to this part we didn’t want to make it light. The music needed to be heavy in that part.
Q: How did you treat the numerous movie clips and their music? How were the clips licensed or did you create original music to accompany them?
Sharon Farber: That’s a very important question because there are about 175 of them! That was extremely complicated. Some of the clips had their original music, and some of them either didn’t have music in that spot or I was asked to recreate music. Some of them came one after the other, so let’s say you have three short clips coming in a row. I had to go into the first clip – let’s say this clip did have music in it. I had to go from my own thematic material in the key of the entering cue, and then I go with the key of the last cue, going back to my own thematic material. Sometimes it would be that I had to go in and out and in and out! It was very complicated to make it seem like it’s one piece of music going from one clip to the other, and so the listener doesn’t don’t feel this is this, and then it’s that. I needed to make it very smooth so it doesn’t bother the audience. And it was definitely challenging to find the right way of doing these so that, on the one hand, I could bring in my own musical ideas, while on the other hand, not interfering with the music that is there – if it is there – and not totally changing the feel of the scene. I’ve never had to do anything like that, but I think it worked well!
Q: Where was the score recorded and with how many players?
Sharon Farber: It was recorded in Bulgaria, remotely. So it was midnight to 7AM here in L.A.! I’d recorded in Bulgaria before with the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra SIF 309, and I really enjoyed the experience, so we hired them for this and they did a great job. I had about 54 or 55 players. We had double winds and a complete brass section and the strings, harp. The soundtrack has just been released by MovieScore Media.
Q: Nina has described her hopes that this doc will be an “electrifying call-to-action that will fundamentally change the way we see, and watch, movies” – What are the thoughts from your perspective, having studied and scored the film from start to finish, about its significance and what it will provide to women and to men?
Sharon Farber: I think she’s absolutely right, because I can tell you that I don’t watch films the same way as I watched them before. Now I’m so aware of how the director decides to shoot a scene in regard to the lighting of the scene, how the women are lit, and how the men are lit. After I scored this film I saw another movie, a love story between a man and a woman; the man was serving in the Army in Iraq, and there is one scene in the movie where they are speaking on the phone. He’s standing up on his end of the call, fully clothed with his Army uniform, you hear drills in the background, you see soldiers running and things like that. She is in her apartment and they’re just talking on the phone. She is lying down on her bed wearing only a t-shirt and underwear. And the camera slowly pans from her toes, slowly all across her body, past her underwear and t-shirt and to her lips, and it’s like, why is this needed? Why can’t she sit in her kitchen with a cup of coffee and talk to her husband? Why is he being shown as the big macho guy and she’s like this? I would never have noticed that before BRAINWASHED! We are conditioned as well – men and women alike: we have all been conditioned to think about things in a certain way, but because we don’t ask questions there are consequences, and until someone like Nina has the guts to ask these questions, things won’t change. So I think that anybody who sees this film will have kind of a different outlook on the next film that they are going to watch, and maybe look at them in a bit of a different way so the next generation of filmmakers might make decisions that would be a bit more respectful.
Q: Any final comments or thoughts about your experiences scoring this doc that we haven’t covered that you’d like to add?
Sharon Farber: I have been truly honored to be a part of a film that might make a difference in society. You know, as Nina said, she’s not the sex police – of course you can show sex and affection, and this is part of who we are. But there are ways to film things that are a bit more conscious about what the implications can be, and to be a part of a project that recognizes the experiences of so many women, in front of and behind the camera, for so many years and little has changed except the effect of the Me Too movement. But there’s still so much to do – to be a part of a film that might affect the conscience of people who make decisions in how to show something. When you go to a film when you’re 16 and they show you something in a certain way, this is how you will think about it, unless someone tells you, “Hold on, there may be a different way to look at it.” But if you don’t, then this is how you’re going to grow up and this is how you’re going to treat others based on what you were conditioned to think, whether it is right or not. Especially when you were younger. So if this film can be studied in universities and colleges and be a part of the new conversation of respect, I think then we have a chance of really making a difference. To be a part of a film that might make a difference is an honor. I’m very grateful to Summer for recommending me and to Nina for hiring me, and all the crew who were part of it who did such an amazing job.
Q: What’s next for you, film-musically, that you would be able to talk about?
Sharon Farber: Right now I’m working on two beautiful short films that I committed to a while ago. I also have a commission from the Gay Mens’ Chorus along with Vox Femina on April 26, it will be premiered at Royce Hall with 220 singers, and I’m very excited about that. I actually have another concert on the 26th in Washington DC doing about 50 minutes of my music so I’m not sure how I’m going to clone myself and be in Washington at the same time, and I’m waiting on a few more projects I can’t disclose yet. So there’s a lot going on.
Special thanks to Andrew Krop and Yefan Zhang of White Bear PR for facilitating this interview, and especially to the remarkable Sharon Farber for taking the time to discuss it with me. For more information on Sharon, see her website https://www.sharonfarber.com/ Learn more about BRAINWASHED: SEX – CAMERA – POWER here. This interview has been gently edited for clarification.
The digital soundtrack album has been released by MovieScore Media’s documentary sub-label, Reality Bytes, and is available here.
Steve Jablonsky is an American composer for film, television and video games. Some of his frequent collaboration partners include film directors Michael Bay and Peter Berg, and fellow composer Hans Zimmer. He previously composed the score for Michael Bay’s blockbuster TRANSFORMERS films. He also created the music for a number of Bay’s other films, including the 2005 futuristic thriller, THE ISLAND, and several of Bay’s Platinum Dunes horror remakes, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, FRIDAY THE 13TH, THE HITCHER, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and THE AMITYVILLE HORROR. Jablonski’s recent credits include writing the original music for 2021’s heist film RED NOTICE starring Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot, and Ryan Reynolds, and the second season of the CBS-TV crime drama comedy, WHY WOMEN KILL (2021). Uniting the unsung heroes of the DC canon, Krypto and Ace, DC LEAGUE OF SUPER-PETS is an amusing and fun-filled, action-packed adventure that boasts a terrific combination of two of everyone’s favorite things: pets and DC Super Heroes. And while both dogs date back to the mid-1950s in the comics, the film brings them together for the first time on the big screen. Growing up together on Earth after the destruction of the planet Krypton, Krypto may be the Man of Steel’s best friend, but he only knows life as a Super-Pet and has no idea how to simply be a dog, or even befriend anything with four legs. So, when Krypto learns that Superman has been disabled by yellow kryptonite and abducted by Lex Luthor and Lulu, a telekinetic guinea pig and all-powerful evil genius, along with the rest of the Justice League, Krypto must convince a ragtag group of homeless shelter animals to master their own newfound powers for a rescue mission. The full spectrum of heart and humor conveyed in the film was a major influential element for the composer. “When I first watched an early cut of SUPER-PETS, one of the things I enjoyed the most was how emotionally connected I was to the pets,” Jablonsky recalls. “The movie is really funny and action-packed, but at its core this story is about the pets and their profound journey to find forever homes. From the beginning of my scoring process, the filmmakers and I discussed how important it was for the music to support this journey and heighten the emotional moments of the film.”
In a recent interview Jablonsky about his approach to scoring this film.
Q: Coming in to the DC LEAGUE OF SUPER-PETS, I understand one of your first concerns was if you could reference the previous character themes for Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. How did you manage to acquire the OK and use these themes briefly in your score?
Steve Jablonsky: You heard correctly! The reason for that was inspired by the opening scene, which is basically the same opening as the 1979 SUPERMAN, but including Krypto the dog and how he left Krypton with Kal-El. So I’m thinking, “I have to use John Williams’s music as the pod thing is lifting off and shooting through space!” That was one of the greatest pieces of film score, for me personally, growing up, that I’ve ever heard, that whole Krypton theme, it’s so simple and so powerful. That sparked the conversation: “Am I allowed to use that?” And then later on when Batman shows up, “Am I allowed to use that theme?” I asked the filmmakers and Warner Bros if they liked the idea, and they said yes, and then I asked the Warner Bros Music Executives, who very quickly, I’m happy to say, said “Yeah, we can use that.” The Elfman Batman… those are the ones I grew up with and those are just the ones that felt right for this. I know other iterations have come since then, many others, Zimmer obviously being the most prominent, but I felt that the originals would fit better in this. And for the Wonder Woman Theme I have to credit, I believe it was Hiram Garcia, one of the producers, who said in a meeting, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we used her theme from the TV show?!” We both loved the Wonder Woman TV show, having grown up with Charles Fox’s theme. So we got permission and I found a place for it, right when she first appears. Everybody loved those ideas, so we got approval for all three of those themes. But we just used them in those particular moments, because it’s not really about them, it’s about the pets finding them, and finding their home. We’ve just used those themes in the opening a little bit here and there, when they appear, and other than that we used my own themes, but in a somewhat similar style.
Q: I think that added a really nice touchstone, because those of us who are familiar with those immediately recognize that and are called back to those original themes and seeing how it’s used here briefly really added a new element and put this film into the canon of the great super hero scores.
Steve Jablonsky: Oh, that’s great to hear! The day that I recorded the opening cue and the brass was playing that John Williams’ theme, I was like “Oh ,my God!” That was one of the coolest moments for me. I didn’t even write it and it was super exciting and cool to hear it being played for me, and I’d arranged it. Those scores mean so much to so many people I thought it would be cool to have them in there!
Q: In terms of your own motivic ideas, how would you describe you thematic architecture for the characters and other elements of the film?
Steve Jablonsky: I started like I would start any film, just trying to break down what characters need themes, because there are a lot of characters in this movie! So we decided to break it into a few groups. Each supe could theoretically have their own theme, but then we’d probably have a dozen themes that we’d be bouncing back and forth. And we decided, Krypto, he has his theme, Lulu, the evil guinea pig, has her theme, and I wrote one for Lex Luthor as well. Superman and Lois have a love theme, heard towards the end when he proposes to her. And the Super-Pets, as a whole, have a theme that develops as they figure out their powers. Once we had that blueprint, I think the first one I wrote was for Lulu, just because I like her character so much; she’s tiny and hilarious and also the most powerful thing in the whole film, so I thought let’s just go out and give her a huge brass anthem that’s dark, and, again, I had John Williams in the back of my mind and thinking, just do something big and orchestral. There was a similar approach for Krypto; I just thought let’s do something a little brighter and more fun – and with the orchestration and all that, try to create that vibe instead of getting too serious.
Q: You’re playing it mostly straight throughout the film, leaving the humor mainly to the characters; but how did you apply music to the pets’ personalities?
Steve Jablonsky: The humor was probably the trickiest part, and it usually is, just figuring out how much to address the humor and how little to address it. Typically my gut instinct is to not address it, or if I do address it to do it with space, meaning make a hole in the music for the joke and let the characters react and then come back with the music. That seems to work pretty well. That’s a pretty standard thing composers do. But, yeh, we didn’t want this to be too much of a straight comedy. It’s similar to other comedies I’ve done in the past where the directors have said “We want to treat it seriously.” They’re telling jokes all the time, left and right, but at the core we want it to feel like a serious storyline and a serious drama and the jokes, if they’re good jokes, they’ll get the laugh and you won’t have to go “bink bink bink” on the celeste or something! There are a coup-le jokey moments where I think we played more comedically, but overall it’s exactly like you said, we treated it fairly seriously.
Q: What was your musical palette for the score, which I understand mixes orchestral elements with electronic synths?
Steve Jablonsky: Yeah. Initially I thought let’s just do this entirely orchestral, and then as I started experimenting, as happens with my scores, typically, I started sneaking in little synthy elements here are there, but nothing quite as heavy as I have done in scores like TRANSFORMERS, where I had very aggressive synths and electronic drums, for example. Here, Luthor and Lulu want to conquer the entire planet, but they’re both very goofy about it – Luthor in particular, so there are some light synths bouncing around in there. Overall, though, I used it a little bit less just because I wanted to stay in the orchestral world a bit more, since we set up the opening scene that way. I don’t think I used any synths in the opening sequence. Maybe just for color to make it interesting but nothing too heavy handed.
Q: What orchestra recorded the score and how many players did you have?
Steve Jablonsky: We recorded it in Los Angeles, so it’s all the great players. I work with a gentleman named Peter Rotter, he’s a musician contractor and before any session I call him and say “the score is this, and I think we need this many strings and this many trumpets…” We’ve work together for so many years I can tell him, “Remember the orchestra we had on TRANSFORMERS 4,” or whatever it might be? “That’s a good start there and maybe add a trombone.” The total players, I’m sure, was over 100, because we had 80-85 musicians in the orchestra and the choir was about 32. We did that also in Los Angeles. We recorded it in the midst or COVID, and that was a challenge, because we were required to space the players 6-feet apart; and the singers in the choir had to literally be in their own box cubicle type thing, they had to build these things that have in the studios, and it somehow worked out.
Q: How did you use theremin to evoke Lex Luthor’s manic genius, whole maintaining his villainy as a full character trait in this movie?
Steve Jablonsky: When I was working on his theme, I don’t know where that came from, but I thought, “you know what? It’d be funny to use a theremin.” You put it exactly, he’s a mad genius but he seems like an old school genius where he just wants to take over the world and he’s got inventions and always trying experiments. Mark Maron plays him so well and so funny that I thought, as on-the-nose as they is, maybe it would work just for humor and to tell people immediately that he’s not that serious! He is an evil scientist character, an evil genius, but at the same time he’s funny. I put it in thinking it probably wouldn’t stay, and a couple of the producers said “Oh, that’s interesting! Maybe…” I could see the hesitation, because it caught them all off guar, but then it just stuck. Once I started using it, because it’s such a specific sound, Lex can just show up on screen for a minute and I can a little bit of theremin and you go, ok that’s “Lex’s theme, and the theremin goes away. So it’s useful in that regard that it just sticks out of any mix so clearly that it’s easy to use, I guess is the way to put it. Just have a little bit of it and then it can go away. One of the producers did say, “I like it, but let’s try not to have it every where!”
Q: Would you describe how you treated the action and fight scenes in your score, while keeping a fun attitude in the music, or what was your technique in scoring that big action moments.
Steve Jablonsky: It’s a combination of orchestration and harmonies – again I don’t mean, because you mentioned TRANSFORMERS earlier and it’s in my brain, but that orchestration for TRANSFORMERS, a lot of it, it the bottom half of the orchestra, as far as the range, there’s so much going on in the lower strings, the lower celli, everything’s kind of heavy. Here, everything’s a little higher. There’s woodwinds all over the score and there are none in TRANSFORMERS – or there may be a couple, but… here it’s just orchestrated a bit lighter, a bit more traditionally, I guess, not so much low emphasis on the low end, and here’s not so many low synths banging away down there making everything feel heavy. Something as simple as a flute run, really quick lines that John William sand all those guys do so well, they create a lightness and they just make it feel a bit more fun – I can’t think of a perfect word, but more light and fun. So I did a lot more of that in the orchestration as opposed to simpler, longer, lower, heavier things that I would do in other darker movies. It’s a subtle different – I didn’t think about it too much, its just how the picture led me. Just thinking about it now, and thinking about your question, here’s a lot more fast, fun orchestration in the higher range than I would ever do for Michael Bay! Because he would say, “What’s that? Let’s not have that!” And the percussion, as well, I didn’t go so heavy, like the big heavy drums – there is percussion in there but I tried to keep it lighter and fun and fast-paced. It’s similar music but just through orchestration and not having some of the darker harmonies, at least to me it feels a but lighter and more appropriate to something like this.
Special thanks to Jeff Sanderson at Chasen PR for facilitating this interview, and to Steve Jablonsky for taking time out to discuss his score for LEAGUE OF SUPER-PETS with me.
The soundtrack album to DC LEAGUE OF SUPER-PETS was release in July from WaterTower Music and is available at these links. The movie is available on Blu-Ray and 4K from Warner Bros, and is streaming on HBOMax.
A JAZZMAN’S BLUES/Aaron Zigman/Milan Records - digital
Directed by Tyler Perry, this is a tale of forbidden love and family drama that unravels 40 years of secrets and lies in the deep south. The film stars Joshua Boone and Solea Pfeiffer as star-crossed lovers Bayou and Leanne. Milan has released two albums, a score album featuring Aaron Zigman’s bluesy instrumental score, A Jazzman’s Blues (Score from the Netflix Film), and a separate album containing an original song along with songs arranged by award-winning composer Terence Blanchard, A Jazzman's Blues (Soundtrack from the Netflix Film), featuring some of the most popular juke joint blues of the ‘30s and ‘40s, newly rearranged and produced by Blanchard to be performed by the film’s talented cast (Zigman provides two cues for this album, a score track not included on the score album, “Reading With Leann,” and an especially likeable 4-minute medley of Zigman’s orchestral themes in “Themes of a Jazzman’s Blues”). Meanwhile the original score album features instrumental music written by Zigman, who has crafted an emotionally-moving soundscape for the film’s universal themes that evoke love and loss, joy and heartbreak. Zigman’s score is low-keyed and somewhat melancholy, treating the characters and the drama while Blanchard’s jazz covered the era and its music. There’s a kind of John Barry quality in much of Zigman’s delicate tonalities, emphasizing piano and strings, which is quite moving. More somber elements such as “Leanne is Leaving” and the rather threateningly active “Round Up The Boys,” proffer a more unsettling mood. “Cissy Lies” is a provocative short cue, while “Bayou Enter Bus” is an especially fragrant track for piano with a dollop of sax, and the conclusive “He’s Not Here” ends the score album with finality, resolving in a sad, disconsolate air. The score album is thoroughly enjoyable and captivating in its persuasive moods; while Blanchard’s Jazzman's Blues soundtrack is a delight in its compilation of period-friendly and stimulating big band jazz tunes and vocals (most performed by the powerful voice of Amirah Vann) – and Zigman’s “Themes of a Jazzman’s Blues” on that album is an excellent short mix of his score elements. The score album itself makes for a provocative listen that reflects the film’s emotive tempi and impassioned rhythms. Very highly recommended.
Listen to Zigman’s score track “Round Up The Boys” from A JAZZMAN’S BLUES, via YouTube:
ALIENS: FIRETEAM ELITE/Austin Wintory/20th Century Studios - digital Austin Wintory’s score for this video game is set in the iconic Alien universe. Aliens: Fireteam Elite is a cooperative third-person survival shooter that drops your fireteam of hardened marines into a desperate fight to contain the evolving Xenomorph threat. Developed by Cold Iron Studio in collaboration with Disney’s 20th Century Games (under the name of 20th Century Studios), the game is a standalone sequel to the original ALIEN trilogy. In contrast to Alien: Isolation, Fireteam Elite is more in line with Aliens: Colonial Marines, and focuses on action rather than survival-horror. Austin Wintory came on board to compose the score largely due to his reputation with Journey. Wintory’s score is an absorbing score with tendrils of Goldsmith and Horner and Goldenthal segueing into and out of Wintory’s own Xenomorphic orchestral maneuvers. “Hoenikker” is an especially propulsive action theme dappled with percussion, raging horn blares and jagged rustlings of disturbing creature vocalizations; rolling rustlings of low strings, snare drums, and brass figures in “Extract,” a sobering, echoing woodwind melody for “UAS Endeavor,” the spaceship whose elite crew faces the Xenomorphs here. (review continues below)
Listen to the track “Hoenikker” via YouTube:
At nearly 7-minutes in length, “Giants in the Earth” provides a developing musical drama via a number of motifs and frightening measures, from a sequence of engaging, piping woodwinds, eerie insectile-like resonances, and both metallic and light drumming, arriving at a reprisal of forward motion from the “Hoenikker” brass sequence. It’s a well-developed fusion and prompting some very intriguing extended game play. “Derelict” conveys a strident texture of discovery as the Fireteam investigates an abandoned ship; brief howls of woodwinds developed in “Derelict” resurface in “Boarding,” which continues the dangerous recce, growing more frightening each step of the way; breaking into a few of James Horner’s low brass punches from ALIENS, followed by flavors of reverberant Goldsmith resonating within “Not a Simple Bug Hunt,” as the listener is delivered into a dangerous pattern of seek and survive; “Rapid Uncontrollable Mutation” emanates with a repeated low bass throb around which a series of rotating and swirling figures maintain a growing sense of unease; “Seismic Tremors” reprises much of that while engaging in its own propagating level of anxiety, marching into the following “Exceeding Recommended Safety Limits” with its martial cadences, brass statements, and clusters of agitated sonic treatments. I’m not a gamer so I can’t address the score’s effectiveness in the gameplay, but I can attest to the enduring levels of apprehension Wintory so articulately presents to this splendidly horrific enterprise! “What [the creators] really liked was being able to start off where we’re a bit in homage territory, and as we get farther into the gameplay I could aggressively push the music in new places,” Wintory said in an interview with me last April. “Obviously, it had to still always feel like ALIEN and ALIENS, in particular, which is like horror-action music with a strong sense of that mid-Century sci-fi sensibility which is very angular and very dissonant and expressionist. I really wanted to retain those elements but start to bring in new things, so I started sneaking in some really weird electronic elements.” The soundtrack is available on Amazon and other streaming services.
Listen to a session video previewing Wintory’s ALIENS FIRETEAM ELITE soundtrack, via YouTube:
BAD SISTERS/ PJ Harvey & Tim Phillips/Hollywood Records - digital
Hollywood Records has released the BAD SISTERS Original Series Soundtrack by multi-award-winning musician and writer PJ Harvey and composer Tim Phillips [SHAMELESS, SHINING VALE]. A delicious blend of both dark comedy and thriller, BAD SISTERS follows the lives of the Garvey sisters, who are bound together by the premature death of their parents and a promise to always protect one another. The 13-track soundtrack collection assembles folky and otherworldly atmospheres reflective of the show’s emotional ebb and flow, stitching together Harvey’s entrancing vocal conjurations as well as banjo, drumkit, bass, hand drums, staccato strings, and various synths. This earthy approach adds another dimension to the series itself, deepening the atmosphere. Regarding the soundtrack, Phillips commented, “BAD SISTERS needed to have its roots in an earthy, feminine place and also to show heart, humor, mystery and suspense. We decided that central to this should be the use of PJ’s vocals, so we devised a novel method of working: We created a vast sample library of her singing all sorts of different things such as howls, whoops, cackles, whispers, scales of notes, quarter tone note bends, vocal slides between notes, and specially assembled melodic lines of public domain Irish poetry. We built it into a massive sample instrument so her voice would be available on demand for the scoring of the production. It was then put through a variety of sonic treatments to turn her voice into a very flexible sonic texture, sometimes heard singing words, sometimes as an instrument in the ensemble. All of this makes for an intriguing and likable – even bizarre – sonic flavor, nicely fitting the strange storyline and behavior of the titular baddy ladies. This in term provides a musical delight as various vocal noises interact with recognizable instruments and create the bizarre world of these close-linked siblings. Adding to the sonic frenzy, Phillips co-created an unusual instrument with Harvey they dubbed The Pollytron, to create unique emotional soundscapes for the movie, while Harvey, in turn, created a curious variety of other-worldly vocal expressions; between the two, and the occasional real instruments that played a part in the score’s structure, the two of them created a strange, unfamiliar, and utterly delightful soundscape.
The soundtrack is available here.
Listen to the track “Execution” via YouTube:
THE CONVERSATION/Dalibor Grubacevic /Plaza Mayor Company - digital The biographical drama film THE CONVERSATION (2022, aka Razgovor) is an American-Croatian co-production based on a true story of a meeting in June 1945 between two powerful men with very opposite philosophies and perspectives on the future of their country. During a dangerous time as the Balkans war had just been won and the Nazis defeated, with The Red Army close at hand, a conversation occurs that will shape the world. Directed by Dominik Sedlar (THE MATCH, IN BETWEEN ENGAGEMENTS, CAFFE AUSCHWITZ) and composed by Dalibor Gruba?evi? (THE MATCH, THE BRIDGE AT THE END OF THE WORLD, RIVERS OF CROATIA), the film contains a score as potent as the intense drama of the film’s storyline. Constructed around the interaction between a string ensemble and a piano, with brass and percussion occasionally filtering in, Gruba?evi? gives the sound a chamber music ambience, with the string section serving as his primary voice. The dark intensity of the conversation being held between Josip Broz Tito, the ruler of Yugoslavia and Aloysius Stepinac, Archbishop of Croatia, following the Soviet liberation of Croatia, forms the totality of the story’s drama. The only music to veer away from the formidable discussion is a pretty piano motif associated with the memory of a woman recalled by one of the two conversants. Despite the strictures of the film’s central element, Gruba?evi?’s score provides much of the emotive passion of the story, and by itself it’s a thorough treat for the ears, offering a penetrating melodic flavoring for both ears and mind. Highly recommended. The soundtrack has been released by the Plaza Mayor Company and is available at these links. Listen to the end credits from THE CONVERSATION, via YouTube:
FORSVUNDET TIL HALLOWEEN (THE SEEKERS: THRILL NIGHT)/Lasse Elkjær/self-released - digital
This Danish horror film (the country’s first Halloween movie), follows estranged friends Asger and Esther, who must work together to rescue Asger’s kidnapped sister Petra on Halloween, while Petra battles the thieves that took her. The film premiered in the US on Disney+ on October 7th, 2022 as the streamer’s first Danish feature. Composer Lasse Elkjær, an award-winning composer from Denmark who is now based in Los Angeles, is also known as an assistant for Christopher Young. “I recorded with the Budapest Art Orchestra, and I have been working with them on and off for the last 12 years,” Elkjær told Jon Mansell in a recent interview at MovieMusicInternational. “I discussed the size of the orchestra with composer Bruce Broughton, one of my former professors. I then decided on a 52-piece orchestra, with an emphasis on solo instruments in the wood section, a bit less brass than originally planned, and plenty of strings.” The score possesses a pleasing orchestral sound that avoids dark nuances in favor of a light, family-friendly musical atmosphere. The composer’s “Main Theme” is quite appealing and serves as the primary motif for the score, driving the action, the fun, and the energy of the storyline through woodwinds, a string choir, and children’s chorus; the theme recurs often throughout the score, given a slightly darker, eerier rendition near the end in track 22’s “Forsvundet Til Halloween.” There are a couple of “Chase” cues midway through, beginning tenuously and then developing into a rapid race for rescue using the main theme; these two tracks surround “The Haunted House,” which resonates spookily, as a track called “The Haunted House” should, with percussive chimes, brooding violin strains, sinewy woodwinds, and a couple of musical jump scares. “Exploring the House” naturally follows, continuing the anxiety of entering the house, and serves up an effective foreboding through a variety of arpeggiated keyboard runs, maintaining a sense of danger and vulnerability as the kids seek, if not ghostly haunts, the thieves who purloined sister Petra. “Petra Is Calling” provides a close call and an attempt to rescue her, with the dramatic activity and apparent victory of “Busted” and the following “The Thieves Escape,” the tenuous search of “The Basement,” and flourishing reprise of the main theme in “Going Home” resolves the story nicely. After the final rendition of the title theme, which its slight scary denouement proffering a warning to the kids via eerie tonalities, scary keyboard notes, and shivering percussive scrapes, and echoing, woody reprises of the main melody, the score closes out with a pair of bonus tracks, “Trick or Funky Treat” and “Sunset,” both of which provide modern keyboard and pop elements. It’s a fun score throughout, nicely conceived and crafted by the composer.
Listen to the film’s main theme, via YouTube:
MUSIC FROM THE TERMINATOR MOVIES/Fiedel, Beltrami, Elfman, Balfe, Holkenborg/Silva Screen – digital Scoring for the TERMINATOR franchise has come full circle with this new album from Silva Screen, as London Music Works curates the franchise’s musical journey. Following the scores chronologically, the presentation opens with Brad Fiedel’s pre-MIDI age synth clash between human and machine. After 1984’s TERMINATOR and 1991’s TERMINATOR 2, Fiedel’s score is followed by Marco Beltrami’s predominantly orchestral backdrop in TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES (2003); then Danny Elfman’s TERMINATOR: SALVATION score (2009) pulls back from the orchestral sound and morphs into a sensual man-machine contrast. TERMINATOR: GENISYS (2015) allows Lorne Balfe to reprise the vintage synth sound of TERMINATOR 2, while creating his own style of soundscaping. The score for TERMINATOR: DARK FATE (2019) shows Tom Holkenborg’s (AKA Junkie XL) respectful homage to Brad Fiedel and his iconic 1984 theme, and then updated Fiedel’s work by writing for and performing on synthesizers from the 2010s, bringing the franchise’s vibe up to the modern era and allowing statements of the theme in this score to have a richer, almost organic electronic sound. The album takes the listener through a 35-year sonic voyage to explore the original treatment, how other composers have developed the theme and its musical elements, and how 2019’s DARK FATE made use of new musical states-of-the-art to bring the character and its ongoing storyline into our modern day. The critically acclaimed London Music Works specializes in playing film and TV soundtracks and has done a fine job in treating these scores with orchestral acumen and modern electronics alike. Listen to London Music works performing the Main Theme from THE TERMINATOR, via Silva Screen:
LARA CROFT TOMB RAIDER: THE CRADLE OF LIFE/Alan Silvestri/Varèse Sarabande - CD
The first TOMB RAIDER movie had been scored by Graeme Revell with a mixture synthesizers and live orchestra. With THE CRADLE OF LIFE, Silvestri took a similar approach although the electronica was perhaps emphasized a little more prominently, providing a large-scaled, epic form main theme that surges over a clacking bed of synth pads, with soaring choral accompaniment overhead, providing what is really one of his most provocative adventure themes, giving the second TOMB RAIDER movie a sense of sweeping anthemic verve that its first incarnation hadn’t quite achieved. Directed by Jan de Bont (SPEED, TWISTER), the film costarred Gerard Butler (as Croft’s old flame) and Ciarán Hinds (as the villain) in a search for the mythical Pandora’s Box. Splendidly performed by The Sinfonia of London and Chorus, recorded at Abbey Road Studios, the music is brimming with massive action sequences for full orchestra and choir, while also accommodating the rhythmic, programmed electronic style originated in the first film. The mingling of the synth loops with the film’s overall symphonic sensibility gives the score a modern edge without hampering its traditional sense of orchestral energy and enthusiasm. Silvestri’s string writing propels the orchestra, punctuated by potent bursts of percussion and dazzling brass figures. The mix of sweeping orchestral lines, blistering synths, and a driving electric guitar give CRADLE OF LIFE a visceral freshness that, due to the poor reception of the film, has been most unrecognized. With Varèse Sarabande’s new deluxe edition, expanding their 15-track 2003 CD release with a mouth-watering 2-CD set with 25 tracks we’ve gained a kind of sonic treasure hunt in terms of the full riches of Silvestri’s nicely sound-Crofted TOMB RAIDER score [ahem]. Tim Greiving provides detailed liner notes that describe the making of the score, with comments from Silvestri.
The CD, a limited collector’s edition on 2000 copies, ships on October 28th. For details and more sample tracks, see Varèse Sarabande.
NOTRE-DAME/Éric Demarsan/Music-Box – CD
In my May, 2022, Soundtrax column I reviewed Simon Franglen’s dramatic score from Milan for NOTRE-DAME BRÛLE, a film mixing dramatization with newsreel footage of the massive Cathedral fire. We now have NOTRE-DAME, a new drama series inspired by true accounts which explores the impact of the 2019 fire of Notre-Dame on a diverse group of Parisians. In collaboration with Netflix, Music Box Records presents on CD the original score composed by Éric Demarsan for the series. His score is both intimate and dramatic, equally resonant in its impassioned sonority to the earlier film and able to stand on its own as an important and moving listening experience. Three of the tracks were composed by Guillaume Le Hénaff, who also co-composed the powerful track “Un Nouveau Front” (A New Front) with Demarsan. The score starts out with ambient melodies that are largely quite poignant and tonal, with a dominant theme introduced in “La Cathédrale” (The Cathedral), a powerful motif for piano and violins which will reappear midway through in “L’espoir, Malgré Tout” (Hope, Despite Everything) and later in “Malgré Tout.” An urgent track for various violins and winds is found in “A La Recherche Du Père” (In Search of the Father); an impassioned romance in “Une Histoire D'amour” (A Love Story), and a concern for safety in “Ceux Qu’on Aime” (Those We Love). Other notably captivating tracks include “Ceux Qui Se Battent” (Those Who Fight), “Trop De Risques” (Too Many Risks), “Le Temps Qui Presse” (The Pressing Time), “Dans Nos Bras” (Into Our Arms), and the immersive “Les Beaux Moments” (The Beautiful Moments). “Tic Tac” provides low, metal drums beneath violin figures and, midway through, a clatter of percussion hits and recurring whines or violins, ending in an emotional resolve. The album closes with the poignant “La Part Du Feu” (The Part of the Fire), a sad melody for piano and strings. It’s a persuasive work, both in its fine composition and performances and in what it provides in a dramatic presentation of the fire that nearly brought down the historical cathedral but, due to the efforts of so many, remains standing to this day with rebuildable damage. The NOTRE-DAME mini-series was released on Wednesday, October 19, 2022 exclusively on Netflix.
Listen to the track “L’espoir, Malgré Tout” (Hope, Despite Everything) via YouTube:
OVERWHELM THE SKY/Costas Dafnis/La-La Land - CD
La-La Land Records presents a limited edition CD release of composer Costas Dafnis’ original score to the acclaimed independent feature film drama OVERWHELM THE SKY, starring Alexander Hero and directed by Daniel Kremer. The film is “An Existential Epic Neo-Noir,” loosely adapted from Charles Brockden Brown's 1799 novel Edgar Huntly, or Memoirs of a Sleepwalker, in which Eddie Huntly, an East Coast radio personality, moves to San Francisco to marry Thea, the sister of his best friend, Neil. Shortly before Eddie’s arrival, Neil’s body gets found in a park, and Eddie refuses to believe it is a mugging gone awry. Described as “an epic odyssey of a spiritually shell-shocked man searching for answers in a world of loners, mourners, kooks, seducers, deceivers, and sleepwalkers and featuring evocative San Francisco location shooting, strikingly gorgeous monochrome cinematography, and an extraordinary original music score that blends full orchestra with experimental instrumentation, OVERWHELM THE SKY is a wildly acclaimed American original that goes daringly big on a low budget,” writes the film’s production notes. (review continues below)
Watch the trailer to OVERWHELM THE SKY:
Making the most of those limited financial resources, Costas Dafnis “paints a dark and evocative musical environment for this ambitious surrealist, neo-noir film, bathing the listener in a powerful sonic experience that is both hauntingly melodic and unnervingly atmospheric,” writes the soundtrack label. “It’s a bold and complex work, one that hints at composers like Herrmann, Corigliano, Glass, and Kamen, who’s works are at home both in film and the concert hall – a perfect complement to this strikingly original film.” Dafnis is a composer and sound artist based in California. In addition to concert music he writes for theater, dance, and games, lectures in film at San Francisco Art Institute and technology and composition at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. In addition to Dafnis’ music from OVERWHELM THE SKY, the album includes his orchestral suite from director C.R. Coppola’s 2021 feature film TORCH, a thriller in which a girl who grew up in the Belize jungles went to live in San Francisco after a childhood trauma; when her older boyfriend encourages a trip back to her jungle home, she is soon reminded that the jungle has a dangerous dark side. Both of these scores support psychologically troubled characters and situations, and Dafnis’ orchestral music connects with the characters’ pragmatic attempts to make sense out of situational trauma and gain some understanding from these discomforting incidents. Dafnis’ musical palette is as boldly aspiring as the film itself, mirroring the characters’ experiences largely using a interesting sonic aesthetic, with a mix of tonality and atonality in its instrumentation and avoidance of melodic treatments. As one film reviewer of OVERWHELM THE SKY wrote, the film’s “crawlingly impactful score by Costas Dafnis is superbly assembled aesthetically, with the woodland park settings feeling otherworldly and psychologically enveloping, while the city settings really make this a consuming film noir” – roobla.com. The score is thus an intriguing and thought-provoking listening experience which moves freely from a wide variety of sonic patterns and palettes. The TORCH score is presented in three short movements of about 18 minutes length; the music here is given a more melodic treatment than OVERWHELM THE SKY, but both are remarkable works and are definitely of attention. This limited edition CD release of 1000 units features exclusive liner notes by writer Nick Clement, a note from the director, and art design by Scott Saslow. For more in the composer, see his website here. For more details on the CD, see La-La Land Records.
PENNYWORTH Season 3/Lorne Balfe/WaterTower/digital
WaterTower Music has released the Soundtrack to Season 3 of the DC series PENNYWORTH. DC’s HBO Max original series tells the continuing story of the origin of Alfred Pennyworth (Jack Bannon), a former British SAS soldier, who forms a security company in a 1960s alternate history of London and goes to work with young billionaire Thomas Wayne (Ben Aldridge) and his wife Martha (Emma Paetz), before they become Bruce Wayne’s parents. Season three of the psychological thriller begins after a five-year time jump: the civil war is over, and a cultural revolution has changed the world for better or worse – ushering in a new age of Super Heroes and Supervillains. Balfe’s score is a very malleable one, based around a eloquent action motif which is arranged in a variety of treatments. The sitar, or other similar instrument, is a frequent musical utensil in Season 3’s storyline as it’s associated here with John Salt, who escaped from prison and missing; “Searching for Salt” is a very engaging treatment of his theme, which midway through alters into a rhythmic action piece which is quite nice (listen to it here); a similar sound is found in the beginning of the track “Alfred Pennyworth” before the melody is taken by trumpet. A fine and rather pensive theme is provided for “Virginia Devereaux,” a high-ranking CIA official who travels with Patrick Wayne to England, and a powerful motif if provided for the artist named Francis Foulkes, whose phony and pretentious antics during a party fluster Alfred. Balfe reprises his provocative theme for Sykes, the sadistic sociopath played by Paloma Faith from Season 2, giving her here an equally alluring arrangement in which an electric guitar dominates the main melody. A new theme emerges for Captain Gulliver “Gully” Troy, Alfred’s former SAS captain, who became the enhanced super-soldier Captain Blighty at the end of Season 2, which is reprised later for rock guitar in “Electric Smash.” “Fox on a Mission” echoes the second, rhythmic, half of “Searching for Salt,” opening it up into a nice spy motif for Lucius Fox, a young scientist who works for the CIA to infiltrate the criminal Raven Union. “Prison Break” posits its own rhythmic treatment with sax and guitar over a running snare drum line, closing out with a melancholy “Lullaby for London.” There’s also an engaging song leading off the album, “Candlesticks and Caravans,” co-written by Balfe & Harriet Slater (who plays Sandra Onslow, a professional singer at Pennyworth’s nightclub). This is a thoroughly engaging soundtrack rich in melodic fusion and interesting sonic treatments, carrying over nicely from the second season and a proper successor to David (GOTHAM) Russo’s main theme and score for Season 1. WaterTower earlier this year released two albums featuring Balfe’s music from Season 2 and Russo’s score from Season 1. The new season’s soundtrack is available now at these links. The third season is now showing on HBO Max. Watch the Season 3 Trailer here.
Listen to the track “Gully Troy” via YouTube:
THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL/Theodore Shapiro/Hollywood Records - digital
Based on the international best-selling book series The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani, this film follows best friends Sophie and Agatha who find themselves on opposing sides of an epic battle when they’re swept away into an enchanted school where aspiring heroes and villains are trained to protect the balance between Good and Evil. Directed by Paul Feig, the movie stars Charlize Theron, Michelle Yeoh, Rachel Bloom, Laurence Fishburne, Kerry Washington, and Sofia Wylie as Agatha & Sophia Anne Caruso as Sophie. The 23-track album has released in both standard audio and Dolby Atmos on major digital platforms. The original score by Theodore Shapiro matches the whimsical landscape and population of the film. “The world of THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL is incredibly rich, drawing visually on everything from ancient myths to modern couture,” Shapiro said. “The score for the film follows this lead, combining medieval sounds like recorders and frame drums with Baroque harpsichords, an epically sized orchestra, and modern beats and programming. My mantra was: cinematic and epic, but never forgetting a pop sensibility.” (review continues below):
Listen to the track “Family Duel and Sophie’s Dream Waltz” via YouTube:
The score opens with the themes for each of the main characters – “Family Duel and Sophie’s Dream Waltz” both introduces the concept and Sophie’s character with a rich, choir-infused drum-and-brass opening that clarifies a bit of Sophie’s personality and the flavor of the environment; while in “Everything’s Just Fine,” the much more down-to-earthy sounds of Agatha’s personality are construed with marimba, woodwinds and brass, keyboards, and much more subtle musical iterations. “Good And Evil Orientation” is a pleasing mix of the school’s magical diversity, softening into quiet strains and tentative gestures. Shapiro counters each motif of the Good entity with a musical potion for the Bad, providing fun and musical counterpoints. Add to that the team boys of the school and its drum-and-brass heavy “Tedros And The Everboys” to energize the rest of the school’s personality quotient. Their theme, in fact, segues right into the following track, “Cyclops Fight,” with huge percussive rumbles, more brass howls, and encouraging female choir shouts, ending in a quiet respite. “Tower of Blood” is infused with a variety of sonic structures including choir, bridged by emanating whispers and howls from both genders, calming into a spooky, menacingly haunted denouement that’s definitely not in the “Good” category. Full choir resonates solidly with “Hester And The Dragon Tattoo,” richly endowed with voices, shrieking brasses, and roiling drums. A lighter element is bestowed to “Wish Fish,” as woodwinds, strings, and mandolin elegantly dapple the track’s surface; continued by soft choir and strings until all hell breaks loose at 2:28 with a tremendous infusion of percussion, wildly bowing strings, and blaring brass intrusions before returning to the calmer niceties of the earlier arrangements. A similar assembly of haunting elements is heard in “The Pumpkin Patch,” which reprises Sophie’s Dream Waltz melody. “Never After” is the score’s longest track, at 6:48, slowly developing from hesitant quietude into a impulsion of rising chords, slowing, then rising again, placing a bit of Sophie’s Dream Waltz theme into the forward-moving track, which slowly filters off and reemerges in a final fluctuation of music dissolving into mist. “Cloud of Feathers” provides a kind of heady celebration of the School term’s successes. After a brief recognition of “True Love,” the score concludes with “Going Home,” serving as both a final celebration and a recognition of achievement and friendship. The album concludes with a song, “Who Do You Think You Are,” performed by Kiana Ledé & Cautious Clay, which sonically encapsulates the dichotomy of right and wrong, of good and bad, and what it means to not be all of one or the other, but rather a little bit of both. This is a very delicious score; a delightful and engaging musical soundtrack by all means.
The soundtrack is now available from these links.
Watch the Original Score Featurette for THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL:
SISSY/Kenneth Lampl/Movie Score Media - digital
SISSY is a horror thriller directed by Hannah Barlow and Kane Senes, starring Aisha Dee, Yerin Ha and Hannah Barlow, released by XYZ Films and Shudder (USA). The film follows teenage Australian best friends Cecilia (Sissy) and Emma who, after a decade, run into each other. Cecilia is invited on Emma’s bachelorette weekend where she gets stuck in a remote cabin with her high school bully who harbors a taste for revenge. The film is as much a broad satire and social commentary as it is a grisly and inventive Australian horror-comedy. Kenneth Lampl has been scoring a wide variety of motion pictures since 1999. He’s described his SISSY score as “a psychotic rollercoaster, veering its way from sinister Italian Giallo and tense Herrmann-esque thriller to over-exuberant, saccharine-coated, Disney magic. The music is intended to capture the unreal, inner fantasy land of social media and its impact on the slowly unraveling mind of our main character Sissy. Best to keep your belt fastened until the ride comes to a complete stop.” The score begins with a clockwork-style cadence in “The Opening,” which introduces young Sissy and Emma as they make videos about their friendship; “Sissy’s Waltz” finds a young adult Sissy, now going by Cecelia, as an influencer on social media while a gentle violin waltz plays. Later that day, during a trip to a drug store, Cecelia bumps into Emma for the first time in twelve years; “The Chemist” is the hyper-cheery background muzak being played in the store. Emma invites her to a bachelorette weekend at a remote cabin in the mountains; Lampl’s pleasing “Road Trip” music accommodates the drive. On arrival, Cecelia is unaware it’s at the home of Alex, the school bully whose mistreatment resulted in young Sissy’s maiming Alex with a trowel. Alex is equally unprepared to see Sissy/Cecelia, and immediately takes to viciously bullying her, and here’s where the music, as well as the storyline, takes a dark turn for the worst. “The House and Alex” provides a recurring and jarring keyboard figure enhanced by suspenseful tones and distant gongs, reflecting Cecelia’s discomfort and perhaps influencing her state of mind at the unpleasant reunion with Alex. “The Time Capsule” refers to a box of Sissy and Emma’s shared belongings which they buried in a park near their school as a best-friends pact; Lampl’s unnerving music for this scene, and further references to it, lend no surprises when we later learn that the box also contains the trowel with which Sissy injured Alex, and we will be unsurprised to find that trowel unearthed and ready to be used again later in the film. “The Meadow” begins happily as the girls have a picnic lunch by a mountain stream, but things quickly turn aggressive and the composer’s pretty music becomes a repeating lament; as the succeeding tracks “The Rock,” “The Body,” “Aftermath” suggest. “Realization” reprises the dirge-like quality of “The Meadow” as things go from bad to worse and “The Final Conflict” concludes the film with a reprise of “The Opening” music. Lampl’s “End Credits” consist of bells, gongs, and other reflective musical chimes, providing an ironic denouement to the story. Two waltz-like cues are included at the album’s end, both callbacks to “Sissy’s Waltz.” The film is quite engaging and perhaps even disturbing in its structure and plot, but it has resonated with audiences and critics, many of whom cited the film’s “clever twist on the morality tales about the dangers of bullying,” and “a gutsy romp in the playground of horror, employing the genres codes and conventions to construct a hard-to-forget snapshot of the frequently volatile terrain of contemporary feminine identity.” Lampl’s score is intentionally over-lush as the music most often is reflecting Cecelia’s self-centered perspective and the score, both flavorful and largely unpredictable, is thoroughly satisfying in every respect.
Read Daniel Schweiger’s Film Music Institute interview with Lampl about scoring SISSY, here.
Listen to the track “Aftermath” from the SISSY soundtrack, via YouTube:
Hollywood Records has released its newest episode of their music docuseries & podcast - THE BIG SCORE. This episode features Academy Award-nominated Carter Burwell giving an inside look at his work on the feature film THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN from Searchlight Pictures (more on this film in Soundtrack News below). THE BIG SCORE is an original series offering first-person audio and video vignettes that delve deep into the creation of film and television music for influential and award-winning movies and series from Searchlight Pictures, 20th Century Studios, Hulu, Freeform, FX, National Geographic, Onyx Collective and more. Whether watching and/or listening, audiences will gain personal perspectives, stories, and insights from some of today’s most innovative composers and artists, plus exclusive behind the scenes access into the recording process and creation of their scores. Fans can catch THE BIG SCORE wherever they listen to podcasts, while the accompanying docuseries streams on YouTube. Video episodes run 5-7 minutes, intercutting the main interviews with direct scene commentary and behind-the-scenes footage. Meanwhile, the podcast will span 20-30 minutes, providing in-depth perspective from the composers. Other interview subjects will include directors, music supervisors, and artists who contributed to writing, recording, performing, or music production. Find Carter Burwell’s episode and all previous episodes here.
Follow The Big Score on social media: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok.
Directed by Neil Marshall (DOG SOLDIERS, THE DESCENT) and starring Charlotte Kirk, Jonathan Howard, and Jamie Bamber, THE LAIR tells the tale of Royal Air Force pilot Lt. Kate Sinclair, who is shot down over Afghanistan and finds refuge in an abandoned underground bunker where deadly man-made biological weapons – half human, half alien – are awakened. Christopher Drake, known for his scores for Marvel and DC animated films and series and such recent horror offerings as TUSK (2014), the Shudder CREEPSHOW series (2019-2022), THE RECKONING (2020) and THE MANOR (2021), has scored the film. THE LAIR film had its world premiere at the 22nd annual FrightFest in London last August, and premiered in theaters, On Demand, and Digital October 28th, 2022. Watch the trailer for THE LAIR:
Ceiri Torjussen has scored DELHI CRIME (Season 2) (Andrew Lockington scored the first season; each season tells a different crime story). The Netflix drama is set in New Delhi, India, and has been the #1 series in India since its premier in August. Brilliantly directed by Tanuj Chopra, it is gritty and compelling viewing. Torjussen has scored Season 2 with music sometimes dark and brooding, covering many difficult aspects of the investigations.
Written and directed by Shawn Wright, NIGHT OF THE AXE is a forthcoming horror thriller currently in production and being composed by Andrew Scott Bell (WITNESS INFECTION, PSYCHO STORM KILLER, WINNIE-THE-POOH BLOOD & HONEY). The film follows a group of young adults trying to enjoy a high school reunion party, who are terrorized by an escaped mental patient obsessed with satisfying his blood lust. One by one they are made victims of the sadistic killer. Who will survive? A gore soaked, old-school shocker from Facemelt Features!
The new STAR WARS franchise, TALES OF THE JEDI, is an animated anthology series created by Dave Filoni for the streaming service Disney+. The show explores different Jedi characters from the prequel trilogy era. The 6-episode series is produced by Lucasfilm Animation, with Filoni as supervising director. Veteran STAR WARS animation composer Kevin Kiner (STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS, STAR WARS: REBELS, THE BAD BATCH, also PEACEMAKER) has scored the series, which consists of six episodes split into two “paths,” one following the character Ahsoka Tano and the other depicting the character Count Dooku. TALES OF THE JEDI premiered with all episodes on October 26, 2022.
Watch the series’ trailer:
PLANE is an upcoming action-thriller film directed by Jean-François Richet and starring Gerard Butler, Mike Colter, Daniella Pineda, Yoson An, and Tony Goldwyn. In this white-knuckle action movie, pilot Brodie Torrance (Butler) saves his passengers from a lightning strike by making a risky landing on a war-torn island – only to find that surviving the landing was just the beginning. When most of the passengers are taken hostage by dangerous rebels, the only person Torrance can count on for help is Louis Gaspare (Colter), an accused murderer who was being transported by the FBI. In order to rescue the passengers, Torrance will need Gaspare’s help, and will learn there’s more to Gaspare than meets the eye. Marco Beltrami and Marcus Trumpp are scoring the picture, which is scheduled to be released in the United States on January 27, 2023.
Warner Bros Pictures has confirmed to @moviescorewire that the upcoming feature WONKA, starring Timothée Chalamet as a young WillyWonka on his earliest adventures, will get an original score by Joby Talbot (SING, THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN TV series, PSYCHOVILLE, BURKE AND HARE, THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY ). Paul King helms for release in December 2023.
SLASH/BACK is a 2022 Canadian Inuit science fiction film directed by Nyla Innuksuk in her feature debut. Written by Innuksuk and Ryan Cavan (TV-movie SINISTER SWITCH), the film is set in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, a sleepy hamlet nestled in the majestic mountains of Baffin Island in the Arctic Ocean, which awakens one day to discover an alien invasion threatening their hometown. But the aliens soon learn not to don’t f*** with the girls from Pang!
The film’s score has been composed by Canadian-born composer Michael Brook, who has been scoring films since the early 1990s. SLASH/BACK premiered at the 2022 South by Southwest Festival in Texas last March, and the film was shortlisted for the Directors Guild of Canada’s 2022 Jean-Marc Vallée DGC Discovery Award.
Watch the film’s trailer:
With the conclusion of the first season of THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RINGS OF POWER, all nine soundtrack albums from the Amazon Prime Video series are available, including Bear McCreary’s soundtracks to episodes 1-8, and the overall Season 1 soundtrack album featuring Howard Shore’s original main title theme and selections of McCreary’s music from the first season. The 36-track Season 1 soundtrack released last August from Amazon has now been extended to 40 tracks, including Fiona Apple’s powerful performance of Bear’s end title song, “Where the Shadows Lie,” an instrumental version of the song, and two “Amazon exclusive” tracks, “Find the Light” and “Promised King.”) The Season 1 soundtrack does not include any of the tracks that are exclusive to the eight episode soundtracks.
“Scoring this incredible season of television has been among the greatest honors of my life,” McCreary said in a Facebook post. “I am thrilled to collaborate with such a remarkable group of creatives and executives – all wonderful, caring, dedicated storytellers and people.” McCreary has also authored a four-part blog, “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power – the Appendices” which can be read on his website beginning with Part 1 and is essential reading. THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RINGS OF POWER, or simply THE RINGS OF POWER, is a fantasy television series based on the novel The Lord of the Rings and its appendices by J. R. R. Tolkien. Developed by showrunners J. D. Payne and Patrick McKay for the streaming service Prime Video, the epic drama series is set thousands of years before Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in the Second Age of Middle-Earth, and follows an ensemble cast of characters as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-Earth. A second season is expected to debut in 2024. The nine soundtrack albums provide a thorough collection of McCreary’s outstanding music for this series, and are now available from most music streaming services. See Vinyl News down below for info on forthcoming CD and vinyl editions.
Mercury Classics Soundtrack & Score will release the breathtaking original motion picture soundtrack to TILL, directed by Chinonye Chukwu and written by Michael Reilly & Keith Beauchamp and Chukwu. TILL is a profoundly emotional film telling the true story of American educator and activist Mamie Till-Mobley’s relentless pursuit of justice for her 14-year-old son, Emmett Till, who, in 1955, was lynched while visiting his cousins in Mississippi. In Mamie’s poignant journey of grief turned to action, we see the universal power of a mother’s ability to change the world. From stirring strings underlined with foreboding dark pulses to mournful movements followed by deeply inspiring sequences, Abel Korzeniowski’s powerful orchestral soundtrack captures the raw emotional turbulence of grief and defiant strength. Of his score, Korzeniowski explains “The musical themes tell the story of coping with the effects of violence by those who survived, finding strength where there is no more hope, finding courage where the pain is unbearable. It is a tribute to those, who against all odds, and despite the world’s indifference to their plight, continue to preserve their humanity.” The film opened in select theaters on October 14th before a nationwide release beginning on October 28th; on that date the original motion picture soundtrack was released digitally via Mercury Classics Soundtrack & Score. The soundtrack album is available here.
WATCH the trailer:
WaterTower Music has released the first soundtrack album for the HBO original series HOUSE OF THE DRAGON, featuring the original music from the show’s first season composed by Emmy Award winner Ramin Djawadi. The soundtrack is now available to stream/download on all major digital music services. The fantasy drama is a prequel from GAME OF THRONES set 200 years before the events of the previous series, and tells the story of House Targaryen. See Vinyl News down below for info on a forthcoming vinyl edition.
Silva Screen Records presents The Godfather Suite (50th Anniversary) – Music by Carmine Coppola, Nino Rota, and Francesco Pennino performed by the Milan Philharmonia, conducted by Carmine Coppola. This album is the first recording to bring together music from Francis Coppola’s THE GODFATHER and THE GODFATHER PART II films in this way. Its original release coincided with a high-profile television event called THE GODFATHER: A Novel for Television (also known as THE GODFATHER SAGA). The seven-hour chronological edit of the two films, with no flashbacks, premiered on NBC in November 1977 and ran across four episodes. The extended cut featured additional music and arrangements, which were overseen by Carmine Coppola, who selected and re-arranged musical highlights from the two films, including all of Rota’s main themes and his own source music pieces, creating what is essentially a 14-part symphonic suite. It’s all beautifully executed, with great romantic flourishes, and it’s a fitting tribute to the talent of Carmine Coppola, who passed away just months after the release of THE GODFATHER PART III. London Music Work’s instrumental arrangement is included here in addition to the Suite. See details at SilvaScreen. Release date: November 4, 2022.
Also announced by Silva Screen is Stand By For Action! Gerry Anderson In Concert, a live recording of the first ever Gerry Anderson celebratory concert. With dressing-up and cosplay encouraged, this unique celebration of the life and TV productions of Gerry Anderson MBE had its world premiere on April 16th 2022 at the Birmingham Symphony Hall, UK. Hosted by special guest Jon Culshaw, this was the first time a career-spanning collection of Gerry Anderson music had been performed live in concert, transporting fans through over 60 years of the Gerry Anderson back catalogue, and paying homage to his special partnership with composers including Barry Gray, Richard Harvey and Crispin Merrell and brought to life by a full 55-piece orchestra, conducted by George Morton.
The recital covered everything, from the simple 1950s pleasures of THE ADVENTURES OF TWIZZLE and FOUR FEATHER FALLS, to the thrilling 1960s majesty of STINGRAY, THUNDERBIRDS, JOE 90, all the way to Anderson’s final production NEW CAPTAIN SCARLET. Recorded on April 16th, 2022 at the Birmingham Symphony Hall, UK, the Stand By For Action! concert was a celebration of this incredible body of music which helped to bring life to some of the most popular television series ever made. The CD has been released by Silva Screen on October 28th. See ordering details here.
Milan Records has released Anne Rice’s INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE (Original Television Series Soundtrack), an album of music from the AMC series by acclaimed composer and performer Daniel Hart. The composer fully embraces the complexity of Anne Rice’s classic novel with a soaring, orchestral score befitting the lush, gothic tale of love and immortality. In addition to the album’s 18 instrumental tracks, Hart contributes an original vocal song performed by actor Sam Reid, who plays the infamous vampire Lestat in the series. At times delicately romantic and others hauntingly dramatic, Hart’s score coalesces into a musical collection as opulent and timeless as its source material. Of his score, the composer says, “[Executive Producer] Rolin Jones and I spoke at length about what kind of music Louis, Lestat, and Claudia should have this time around: from what instrumentation, melodies, and rhythms would suit them best to how we could best capture their love, their misery, their anger and more. From every joy to every cruelty and every heartbeat, I found their stories to be full of endless melodies. Music is such a huge part of these characters’ lives and journeys, and I feel lucky to have accompanied them in this way.” The soundtrack is available from these links
Quartet Records, in collaboration with MGM Studios, celebrates the centenary of the legendary Elmer Bernstein with an expanded release of one of his most energetic, enthusiastic and rhythmic western scores: THE SCALPHUNTERS (1968), which tells the story of Joe Bass (Burt Lancaster), who is forced to trade his valuable furs for a well-educated escaped slave; the rugged trapper vows to recover his pelts from the Indians who took them, and later from the renegades (“scalphunters”) who slew them. Due to the success of the film and its score, Bernstein re-recorded a short, 28-minute album for United Artists Records. This album was reissued on LP and later several times on CD, but the score as actually heard in the film has been unreleased until now. This Quartet CD, which also celebrates the label’s 500th release, includes the original album recording, remastered from first-generation tapes, as well as the original score recorded at the Samuel Goldwyn Stage from mono elements recently discovered at MGM. The package includes a 20-page booklet with in-depth liner notes by film music writer Jeff Bond. Also from Quartet, in collaboration with EMI Music Publishing and GDM, celebrates the centenary of iconic filmmaker, author, poet and intellectual Pier Paolo Pasolini with this remastered reissue of Ennio Morricone’s cult score for ARABIAN NIGHTS (1974), based on stories from 1001 NIGHTS. Morricone had a long working relationship with Pasolini after composing the original scores for UCCELACCI E UCCELLINI and TEOREMA, but served only as a musical advisor on the previous episodes of the trilogy. Here he’s back in full swing, writing the longest score for any of his Pasolini pictures. Featuring variations on two beautiful romantic themes as well as diabolic organ music for the episode of the djinn, Morricone’s colorful orchestral tapestry is a true exotic delight. The package features an 8-page booklet featuring liner notes by Gergely Hubai discussing both film and score. This new Quartet release contains the same material as the previous GDM edition from 2003 that is now long out of print. For details see Quartet.
A new choral version of David Buckley’s main theme for the Netflix series THE SANDMAN, based on the Neil Gaiman graphic novel series, has been released by WaterTower Music. The new arrangement, composed by Buckley, is performed by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir. The full Season 1 soundtrack was released last August (see details, here); the Choral rendition is a new, standalone track available through these links. (In case you missed it, read my interview with David Buckley on scoring THE SANDMAN, in my August 2022 Soundtrax column). Listen to the Sandman Theme, Choral Version, via YouTube, below:
Intrada announces the world premiere complete 2-CD release of the thrilling Jerry Goldsmith sci-fi score to HOLLOW MAN. Paul Verhoeven directs and Kevin Bacon, Elisabeth Shue, and Josh Brolin star in this aggressive experiment-goes-awry thriller. Goldsmith creates one of his lengthiest scores of all time, bringing incredible energy to the picture, utilizing wall-to-wall music. He offers a strong, forward-moving rhythmic idea for suspenseful scientific experiments plus numerous episodes of gentle mystery and uneasy suspense. But Goldsmith’s forceful, ferocious action music dominates. The previous album yielded generous selection of highlights but this Intrada restoration features over half an hour of previously unreleased score plus another 45 minutes of alternate tracks. The 2-CD album is assembled from original digital stereo mixes provided by Bruce Botnick; informative booklet notes by Jeff Bond complete the package. See Intrada for details.
Japanese composer Yugo Kanno (JOJO’S BIZARRE ADVENTURE, BATMAN NINJA, MOZU: THE MOVIE) has scored the 2022 Japanese horror film KARADA SAGASHI (Body Searching). Directed by Eiichirô Hasumi (RESIDENT EVIL: INFINITE DARKNESS TV series, ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM: THE GRADUATION, MOZU: THE MOVIE), the film follows a high school student and her friends when they become trapped in a time loop by a ghost and the only way to escape is to find the corpse of the ghost’s previous victim. The film was released on October 14 in Japan; release elsewhere has not yet been announced. A soundtrack album is available via ArkSquare and CD Japan.
Swedish composer Jon Ekstrand (I AM GRETA, LIFE, MORBIUS, HORIZON LINE) has composed the music for Lasse Hallström’s bio film, HILMA, which explores the enigmatic life of Hilma af Klint, who is now recognized as one of the Western world’s first abstract artists. A digital soundtrack has been released by OONA Soundtracks which is available to listen on Spotify and purchase on Apple Music and Amazon.
Listen to Ekstrand’s track, “The Temple” from HILMA:
Hollywood Records announces the release of the ROSALINE Original Motion Picture Soundtrack with music by Drum & Lace and Ian Hultquist and featuring songs “Dancing On My Own” and “Escape” performed by Anna of the North. Shakespeare’s classic love story “Romeo and Juliet” sounds very different when Romeo’s ex, Rosaline, is telling the story. See what Rosaline will do to win Romeo back in this comedic modern twist on a classic tale. And with Isabela Merced as Juliet, Hispanic Heritage Month just got better! Director Karen Maine speaks on the music: “I worked with Ian Hultquist (who scored my first film, YES, GOD, YES) and Drum & Lace (aka Sofia Hultquist), who I’ve also long admired, and I wanted the music to underscore the anachronistic elements of the film. To do that, Ian and Drum & Lace created a score that compositionally feels modern but uses a mix of instrumentation from the film’s period (lutes, flutes, harps, harpsichord, and so much more) along with the occasional synth element. I also threw in a few Renaissance covers of modern songs, which Ian and Drum & Lace recorded using the same techniques as the score.” Having worked previously on period pieces, the composers’ musical palette translated easily to ROSALINE, whose sound can be described as “Baroque-Pop,” mixing orchestral and synth instruments while staying true to the quintessential story of Shakespeare. “One of the most interesting, challenging, and fun parts of working on [the film] was integrating traditional instruments of the time, such as harpsichord, lute, wooden flutes, renaissance drums and more, into a score with a pop-sensibility. Learning how to write and arrange for these instruments and making them work alongside harps and synths, was exhilarating and was furthered when we had a chance to cover a few iconic pop songs with our Renaissance ensemble,” says Ian and Sofia. The score is comedic, contemporary, and fun, using as many live instruments as possible. Sofia’s vocals can also be heard within the score. Ian and Sofia recorded covers of pop songs which are used diegetically throughout the film. The soundtrack is available at these links.
Enjoy the ROSALINE trailer:
Roald Dahl’s MATILDA THE MUSICAL is a 2022 musical fantasy comedy film directed by Matthew Warchus, based on the stage musical Roald Dahl's Matilda by Kelly and Tim Minchin, itself based on the 1988 novel Matilda by Roald Dahl. It is the second film adaptation of the novel, following the 1996 movie. The new film stars Alisha Weir as the title character, alongside Lashana Lynch, Stephen Graham, Andrea Riseborough, and Emma Thompson. Tim Minchin, who previously wrote songs for the musical, has created new songs for the film (in order to keep a runtime of 117 minutes, not all of the songs from the stage version are to be featured in the movie). Christopher Nightingale has composed original incidental music to underscore the film as he did in the stage version. The film’s soundtrack album, containing both the songs and Nightingale’s score, will be released worldwide on November 18, 2022 digitally and December 9, 2022 on physical CD.
BATMAN AND SUPERMAN: BATTLE OF THE SUPER SONS is the latest animated direct-to-video superhero film produced by Warner Bros. Animation and DC Entertainment. It is the overall 49th installment in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies, it is the first fully-CGI animated film from DC Entertainment, and it tells the story of Jonathan Kent and reluctant young sidekick Damian Wayne who are burdened with saving the world from impending doom from the alien mind control of super-villain Starro, a highly advanced alien life-form resembling a giant starfish with a single central eye and prehensile extremities. Kent and Wayne must join forces to rescue their fathers and save the planet by becoming the super heroes they were intended to be. The film premiered at the New York Comic Con on October 7, 2022, and has been released to home video on October 18. The film is scored by Dynamic Music Partners (Kristopher Carter, Lolita Ritmanis, and Michael McCuistion), the exemplary composer team known for their amazing scores for DC and Marvel animated universe films. Their score was recorded in Los Angeles featuring a live orchestra of superb studio musicians. The BATTLE OF THE SUPER SONS soundtrack is out on all major digital and streaming music platforms. The movie itself is now available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray and Digital.
Watch the film’s trailer:
Lakeshore Records has released GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S CABINET OF CURIOSITIES – Soundtrack From The Netflix Series featuring music by the ten composers who created the score to each episode directed by a different filmmaker, appearing in the Oscar-winning filmmaker’s four-day horror anthology miniseries event that began on Netflix October 25. In CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, acclaimed Academy Award-winning filmmaker and creator, executive producer, and co-showrunner Guillermo del Toro has curated a collection of eight unprecedented and genre-defining stories meant to challenge the traditional notions of horror. From macabre to magical, gothic to grotesque or classically creepy, these eight equally sophisticated and sinister tales (including two original stories by del Toro) are brought to life by a team of writers and directors personally chosen by del Toro. Stream/Purchase the CABINET OF CURIOSITIES soundtrack at these links https://lnk.to/CabinetofCuriosities. Read the MusiqueFantastique posting that includes quotes from several of the composers of CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, here.
Lakeshore Records has also released THE STRANGER Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, digitally on October 21, featuring music by composer, cellist, and electronic musician Oliver Coates. The score utilizes electronics and strings to provide a forbidding, rhythmic backdrop to the unsettling film that illustrates the secretive friendship between two strangers. The film premiered on Netflix on October 19. For Henry Teague (Sean Harris), worn down by a lifetime of physical labor, this is a dream come true. His new friend Mark (Joel Edgerton) becomes his savior and ally. However, neither is who they appear to be, each carry secrets that threaten to ruin them – and in the background, one of the nation’s largest police operations is closing in. Notes Coates: “The director Thomas M Wright sent me a recording of an Australian underpass at night, the sound of vehicles passing overheard. There was a physicality, breath and silence in the sound. I started sending him quick sketches based on breathy dark string loops against his field recording and we worked for the next eight months on THE STRANGER, before the shoot and throughout the edit. We wanted the musical language to keep pressure on the rhythm of the film, and to stay terse in the motifs. It is dark but fast-moving like an escaping dream.” Purchase/Stream: https://lnk.to/The-Stranger
Hollywood Records is excited to announce the release of THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN (Original Score) with music composed by Academy Award-nominated Carter Burwell. Set on a remote island off the west coast of Ireland, the movie follows lifelong friends Pádraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson), who find themselves at an impasse when Colm unexpectedly puts an end to their friendship. Pádraic’s repeated efforts only strengthen his former friend’s resolve and when Colm delivers a desperate ultimatum, events swiftly escalate, with shocking consequences. The 21-track album debuted on October 21, on all streaming platforms. Starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, the film is directed and written by Martin McDonagh, whom composer Carter Burwell previously worked on IN BRUGES, SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS, and his Oscar-nominated score for THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI. “We have similar sensibilities,” explained Burwell. “Martin’s writing is very particular – it involves a dark view of the world, a really vicious sense of humor, and a lot of humanity. That combination is something we have in common.” Initially McDonagh already had, for one section of the film, a piece in mind that’s performed by a Balinese gamelan ensemble – mostly metallic instruments. “I happen to be a big fan of gamelan music,” continues Burwell. “It’s also a bit strange for a movie taking place in Inisherin. But I kind of like the strangeness, and I found myself weaving gamelan instruments into the score as an experiment.” In addition to the gamelan, Burwell used three main instruments: the celeste – a keyboard that plays bell sounds – the harp, and the flute. He says, “These are all very pretty, almost childlike instruments, which wouldn’t be out of place in a fairy tale. They fit Pádraic, who is a little bit of a man-child. As you follow the dark road that the story goes down, the music starts to feel more ironic. Even though these were all very light sounds, the tunes are not.” Burwell also worked with a small but strong orchestra at Abbey Road in London.
Silva Screen Records, in association with Film Fest Gent, presents Mark Isham: Music for Film, the ninth album from the now well-established and critically acclaimed Silva Screen Records series. Spotlighting some of Isham’s best work, this is the first time that an entire album is devoted to the composer’s film and television scores.
The album presents a unique selection from Isham’s massive opus, including studio recordings of concert suites from 42, AMERICAN CRIME, THE BLACK DAHLIA, EIGHT BELOW, the Oscar-nominated score A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT and from his recent score THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT. Further highlights include the jazz-infused selections from JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH and THE MODERNS and a symphonic version of one of his best-known original compositions On the Threshold of Liberty, which was also used to great effect in RULES OF ENGAGEMENT. Guest of honor at the 2022 World Soundtrack Awards, Mark Isham has been one of the most versatile film composers of the past four decades. Performed by the Brussels Philharmonic and conducted by Film Fest Gent music director Dirk Brossé, the album features trumpet solos on selected pieces, played by composer Mark Isham, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s principal trumpet Thomas Hooten. Release date: November 4, 2022. See: SilvaScreen
Director Amin Matalqa’s (CAPTAIN ABU RAED, THE RENDEZVOUS, STRANGELY IN LOVE, THE UNITED) latest film, 5000 BLANKETS stars Anna Camp, Carson Minniear, and Rob Mayes, and is composed by Panu Aaltio (CAPTAIN ABU RAED, THE RENDEZVOUS, ORCS, PALAIN: DAWN OF THE DRAGONSLAYER, THE UNITED). The film follows a woman whose husband has a mental breakdown and goes missing, prompting her and her young son to set out to find him on the streets, sparking a movement that inspires a city.
Lakeshore Records has released RAYMOND & RAY, the soundtrack from the Apple Original Film featuring music by Emmy®-winning composer Jeff Beal, digitally October 21. The multi-faceted score showcases keyboards, strings, jazz bass, bandoneon and in particular trumpet (the instrument played by Ethan Hawke’s character), to provide a fluid backdrop that enhances the shifting tone of the film that ranges from comical to highly emotional. The film follows half-brothers Raymond and Ray who have lived in the shadow of a terrible father. Somehow, they still each have a sense of humor, and his funeral is a chance for them to reinvent themselves. There’s anger, there’s pain, there’s folly, there might be love, and there’s definitely grave-digging. Says Beal: “I was honored to work on this special project for Rodrigo García, and to provide the jazz trumpet solos for Ethan Hawke’s pivotal scenes. I feel like the film composer and jazz trumpeter in me had the perfect artistic playground.”
Purchase/Stream the album here.
Starring Cate Blanchett in the title role, Todd Field’s TÁR won a six-minute standing ovation when it was premiered at the Venice Film Festival on 1 September. Deutsche Grammophon’s groundbreaking concept album, released digitally and on CD, captures the process of music-making that lies at the heart of the film. The tracklist ranges from extracts from the Elgar Cello Concerto and Mahler’s Fifth Symphony to a series of stunning new works by Hildur Guðnadóttir. A video for one of these, “Mortar”, will be released by DG on November 11th. Having opened in select US cinemas earlier this month, the film will open wide in the US on October 28, with international release dates to follow in early 2023. A vinyl edition of the concept album will be issued on January 20, 2023. Written and directed by three-time Oscar-nominated filmmaker Todd Field, and starring two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett (“utterly magnetic … a colossal performance” -The Guardian) TÁR tells the story of high-powered composer-conductor Lydia Tár. DG’s concept album complements the film by inviting listeners to experience what Field refers to as “the messiness” of the work involved in preparing classical music for performance, via a combination of snippets from real-life recording sessions, sequences from fictional rehearsals, music listened to by the film’s characters, and completed versions of the music on which we see Lydia working. Guðnadóttir was fascinated by Field’s script as soon as she read it, with its focus on the inner workings of the music-making process and the emotional and psychological elements that invisibly influence composition and performance. “It’s been a real privilege to get to do a deep dive into the multifaceted process of making music with the wonderful artists that manned all the TÁR posts,” she says.
La-La Land has announced its November soundtrack releases: The Quinn Martin Collection Vol. 4, featuring Dominic Frontiere’s classic scores for the 12 O’CLOCK HIGH TV series, and an expanded edition of James Horner’s beloved score to DR. SEUSS' HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS. Head over to https://lalalandrecords.com/ on Nov 1st!
Milan Records announces the November 18th release of THE MENU (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) by GRAMMY Award®-winning saxophonist, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and composer Colin Stetson. THE MENU follows a couple (Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult) as they travel to a coastal island to eat at an exclusive restaurant where the chef (Ralph Fiennes) has prepared a lavish menu, with some shocking surprises.
Of the score, Stetson says, “From my first reading of the script to our last moments on the mix stage, my experience creating the music on this film has been an absolute joy, as the themes, refrains, and aesthetic have seemed to jump right off of the page and screen for me with every brilliant turn of phrase, perfect edit, and wickedly delivered performance. It is pure pleasure working with such an incredible team and I am truly grateful for the whole of it.” Stetson is known for scoring such titles as HEREDITARY (2018), RED DEAD REDEMPTION 2 (2018), COLOR OUT OF SPACE (2019), MAYDAY (2021), AMONG THE STARS (2021), TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (2022), and the forthcoming UZUMAKI (2023). Pre-order the full soundtrack from THE MENU at these links
Watch the film’s trailer here; listen to the advance track, “All Aboard” below, via Sony on YouTube:
Coming Oct 28 from Milan Records, Daniel Pemberton’s soundtrack to ENOLA HOLMES 2. A CD version is supposedly also in the works, according to the Danial Pemberton Society on Facebook.
Walt Disney Records has released the first digital soundtrack from Lucasfilm’s original live-action series ANDOR, featuring music from Nicholas Britell’s original score from episodes 1-4. The series, streaming exclusively on Disney+, explores a new perspective from the STAR WARS galaxy, focusing on Cassian Andor’s (Diego Luna) journey to discover the difference he can make. The series brings forward the tale of the burgeoning rebellion against the Empire and how people and planets became involved. It’s an era filled with danger, deception, and intrigue where Cassian will embark on the path that is destined to turn him into a rebel hero. Britell says, “It’s been a thrilling and actually quite emotional experience to become a part of this universe. I’ve tried to create a musical landscape that feels authentic and integral to the story. Tony [Gilroy, creator] and I explored every nuance – from crafting the on-camera music, to creating the ever-evolving score, to imagining each episode’s unique variations on the theme.” Volume 1 is available at these links, and will be followed by ANDOR: Volume 2 (Original Score) digital album available on November 4 and ANDOR: Volume 3 (Original Score) set for release on December 2.
Horror soundtrack specialist Howlin’ Wolf Records presents Rocky Gray’s score for 10/31 PART III, the third installment in the gruesomely popular 10/31 Anthology Series, with segments directed by a variety of renowned cult-cinema filmmakers. The soundtrack pays homage to great synth scores from the ‘80s accented by flourishes harkening back to scores by Italian progressive rock icons Goblin and Fabio Frizzi. Rocky Gray is an award-winning composer of over 30 features, shorts, and video games. An accomplished musician, he was the original drummer for the multi-platinum goth rock band Evanescence, and later drummer and lead guitarist for We Are The Fallen and Living Sacrifice, respectively. He most recently earned rave reviews and a “Best Score” win for THE BARN II at the 2022 GenreBlast Film Festival. See more details at Howlin’ Wolf Records.
The latest film in Charles Band and Kenneth J. Hall’s PUPPET MASTER horror film series, in which a group of anthropomorphic puppets animated by an Egyptian spell cause havoc, is the retro PUPPET MASTER film DOKTOR DEATH. This latest spin-off features music by Richard Band, who wrote the original PUPPET MASTER theme and score most of the films in the ensuing franchise, and Jerry Smith, the latter in his first feature length credit after scoring a number of horror-related shorts (STITCHES, TAXI, HANGNAIL) and music for featured interviews in the HALLOWEEN 4K Collection (1995-2002).
Watch the film’s official trailer:
Klaatu Records presents the score for the 2003 independent horror film, UNDEAD (2003), directed by The Spierig Brothers (JIGSAW, PREDESTINATION, DAYBREAKERS). The film follows the residents of a small Australian fishing village who become zombies following a meteor shower. Those who managed to avoid the fate of the others must band together in order to find a way out. The score is by composer Clifford Bradley (HERE I AM). The digital soundtrack album is available from Klaatu’s bandcamp page.
Kevin Manthei (ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, ROBOT CHICKEN, GENERATOR REX, etc.) has released an album of piano music called Tape Piano, which explores the ambient and relaxing side of the piano using four different and distinct pianos. Two are recorded through analog cassette tape for an imperfect yet intimate sound; one is a felt piano that was recorded to be uber soft and delicate; and the final piano is a classic Steinway from the 1900s. Finally, unique reverbs and delays are used, said Manthei. For more details, to listen, or to order, see bandcamp.
PORTRAIT OF THE QUEEN: A Documentary About The Image Of The Single Most Iconic Woman Of Our Times. This will be her story spanning through seven decades, seen through the lenses of the world’s greatest photographers as they created an iconographic image that remains unique, while everything around her, culture, society and politics, changes at the speed of light. The documentary is directed by one of the world’s most sought-after photographers, Fabrizio Ferri, and composed by Remo Anzovino, whose thematic musical score is fragile, delicate, and forthright as well as being wonderfully melodic. The music is a mix of the more established melodic film score, in tracks such as “The Heart of the Queen” and “The Icon” with the composer incorporating a more contemporary sound into the proceedings at various stages, always balancing these styles equally and successfully. The soundtrack, featuring liner notes by Jon Mansell, will be available on Amazon and elsewhere on Nov. 21st. Listen to the title theme on Spotify. For more details, and to watch the doc’s trailer, which includes Remo’s music, see Nexo Digital.
David Schweitzer has scored the BBC documentary film ELIZABETH: THE UNSEEN QUEEN, and East Prussian Archive has released a soundtrack album now available from Spotify, Amazon, and the usual digital music markets.
The 3-episode Netflix documentary series ISLAND OF THE SEA WOLVES explores Vancouver Island. Where the Pacific meets the wilderness of Canada lies a mysterious island; but peer a little deeper and we find something even more remarkable: a community full of charismatic animal residents, just waiting to show you around. Join Cedar the wolf, Spiro the eagle, Sky the sea otter, and the rest of their neighbors on Vancouver Island in this stunningly-shot narrative series, voiced by Will Arnett. The series premiered on Netflix on Oct 11, and has been scored by Laurentia Editha (GROWING UP ANIMAL, ALIEN WORLDS. KINGDOM OF THE MUMMIES) and Denise Santos (EDEN: UNTAMED PLANET, GATHERING STORM, WASTELANDER).
Watch the doc’s trailer:
Mondo, in partnership with Amazon Studios, will be releasing both Vinyl and 2-disc CD editions of THE RINGS OF POWER Season 1 album, featuring Bear McCreary’s music and the main theme by Howard Shore, as well as “Where The Shadows Lie” performed by Fiona Apple. See Mondo for details.
In addition to the digital soundtrack release, WaterTower Music has announced the release of the highly anticipated vinyl edition of Ramin Djawadi’s score to HOUSE OF THE DRAGON: Season 1 (Soundtrack from the HBO® Series), which features a monumental 44 tracks from the first season of HOUSE OF THE DRAGON – the prequel to GAME OF THRONES. Four of the composer tracks were released over the course of the season to great acclaim by show enthusiasts; now fans can enjoy the full HOUSE OF THE DRAGON: Season 1 soundtrack on a 3LP gatefold vinyl configuration which is now available for preorder here only through Diggers Factory in partnership with WaterTower Music. See diggersfactory.
Burning Witches Records announce a soundtrack reissue of SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT. “Little Billy witnesses his parents getting killed by Santa after being warned by his senile grandpa that Santa punishes those who are naughty. Now Billy is 18 and out of the orphanage, and he has just become Santa himself…” Perry Botkin’s chilling electronic score to the famed and much loved 1984 festive slasher is as charming, warm, disturbing, and extreme as the movie it accompanies. Lovingly transferred from the original 1984 session tapes and remastered at Abbey Road Studios, this new vinyl release includes 2 new cues not before released on vinyl, plus 10 alternate mixes from the original film sessions.
For details see Light In The Attic.
Waxwork Records, in conjunction with Hollywood Records and Paramount Pictures presents SLEEPY HOLLOW – Music From The Motion Picture by Danny Elfman for the very first time on vinyl. The 1999 gothic supernatural horror film was directed by Tim Burton and stars Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, and Christopher Walken; based loosely on Washington Irving’s 1820 short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” The score stands as one of Elfman’s largest orchestral scores and utilizes weighty brass, eerie choral pieces, and unnerving strings. His use of romantic themes cut a calming tone throughout the dark and mysterious gothic-fairy-tale. Waxwork’s edition is a deluxe double LP album, featuring 180 gram “Headless Horseman” colored vinyl (Skull White, Blood Red, and Black Steed Swirl), new artwork by Steven Reeves, heavyweight gatefold jackets with matte satin coating and blood red spot UV gloss varnish, and a 12”x12” art print. For details see Waxwork.
Mondo, in conjunction with WaterTower Music, continues their ongoing DC soundtrack series with Original Motion Picture Score 3XLP BLACK ADAM, composed by Grammy Award-winning and Emmy-nominated composer Lorne Balfe. Balfe explained his process behind the three LP spanning score: “One way to bring the feeling of an ancient world together was to collaborate with traditional instruments from Latin America, India, Africa and the Middle East... Further, we had a large brass section across the score to give the weight and power of the main character’s past, which I balanced out with a high tempo, and more melodic sounds to give the audience that more familiar heroic feel. We also experimented a lot with a choir on this project, which contributed a unique and classical sound that ties in nicely with Black Adam’s story.”
Available for pre-order now! See Mondo here.
The soundtrack to HOUSE features original music by Asei Kobayashi, Mickie Yoshino, and Yoshino’s Japanese rock band, Godiego. The now classic soundtrack effectively lures you into a false sense of security. Beginning with upbeat pop-sing-a-longs and jovial tracks, the soundtrack slowly transforms into a dark sonic landscape of chaos and psychedelia. The second half of the soundtrack offers a juxtaposed tone that sets the stage for dismemberment, man-eating pianos, flashing colors, hallucinatory visions, and gallons of blood seen in the film. In celebration of the movie’s 45th Anniversary, Waxwork Records presents the HOUSE Original Motion Picture Soundtrack officially for the first time outside of Japan and reissued for the first time since its 1977 debut. Our LITA Exclusive variant is pressed on 180g pink swirl vinyl, and is complete with a 12×12 art print and new artwork by Jake Foreman. For details, see LightInTheAttic
Four Flies Records present Alessandroni Proibito, an exclusive boxed set of five 7-inch records. It contains a total of 14 previously unreleased tracks from the soundtracks of 4 soft-core erotic films that included hard-core sequences and, therefore, fell somewhere in-between normal commercial distribution and the underground scene of adult movie theatres. Taking an artisanal approach to his musical craft, Alessandroni was not afraid of having to deal with spicy subject matter, wobbly productions, implausible plots, improvised actors, or cinematographers who were clearly no disciples of Storaro. And he was so good at making a virtue out of necessity, at turning budget constraints into creative advantages, that he created soundtracks that far surpass the films’ quality, with music that at once captures and elevates the spirit of the erotic genre as if into a condensed symbol. Recording many of the pieces in a DIY fashion at home, using a 4-track Teac tape machine to arrange his compositions, these recordings often feature drum machines – which provide that retro, early electronic music vibe – as well as funk guitars and exotic-sounding percussion in the rhythm tracks. In addition, there is an extensive, almost bewildering use of synthesizers to replace solo instruments that would have required a paid session player. On top of this minimalist arrangement, Alessandroni layered what he could: some piano chords, a little flute and, most importantly, his signature 12-string guitar phrasing. The result is a unique and stunning mixture of electronic music and acoustic instruments, in a style that stops short of kitsch and ranges from cinematic ambient pieces like “Tensione erotica” to disco-funk tracks like “Snake Disco” and “One Sunday Morning,” both of which feature vocals by Alessandroni himself. Alessandroni Proibito comes with artwork by Eric Adrien Lee and a matching 30x70cm folded poster inspired to the insert-size posters which used to be hung outside movie theatres to attract cinema-goers. The boxed set is being released in a limited edition of just 300 copies and will never be reissued. First come, first served. The albums are available at these links, which will direct you to FourFlies website or bandcamp pages.
Writing in Variety, Jon Burlingame reminds us that game scores have, over the past two decades, become a huge part of the media music landscape; yet, despite being eligible for music’s highest honor since 1999 (in the film and TV music category), only one game has ever been nominated: Austin Wintory’s landmark score for “Journey,” in 2012. But now, “after years of lobbying by game executives and composers alike,” Burlingame writes in an Oct 14th article, “the Recording Academy [has] announced a new category, the score soundtrack for video games and other interactive media to ‘recognize excellence in score soundtrack albums comprised predominantly of original scores and created specifically for, or as a companion to, a current video game or other interactive media’.” Read Burlingame’s full article here.
Decca Records releases the soundtrack, composed by Jeff Rona & Jools Scott , for the video game Dance of Death: Du Lac & Fey (2019) developed and distributed by Salix Games Ltd. In the game, Vctorian London is in danger. Jack the Ripper stalks the streets, forcing two great immortal Arthurian heroes, Sir Lancelot Du Lac and Morgana Le Fey , to return to England. Will they arrive in time to end his reign of terror? The album is already available from October 7 in digital download (Amazon/Apple Music/Spotify). – via Astur Score
Randall D. Larson was for many years publisher of CinemaScore: The Film Music Journal, senior editor for Soundtrack Magazine, and a film music columnist for Cinefantastique magazine. A specialist on horror film music, he is the author of Musique Fantastique: 100+ Years of Fantasy, Science Fiction & Horror Film Music and Music from the House of Hammer. He currently writes articles on film music and sf/horror cinema, and has written liner notes more than 300 soundtrack CDs. He can be contacted via https://musiquefantastique.com/ or follow Musique Fantastique on Facebook.