Jordan Gagne: Scoring TREADSTONE (etc.) with Jeff Russo
James L. Venable: Revisiting JAY & SILENT BOB in the REBOOT
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Two-time Grammy nominee and Emmy-winning composer Jeff Russo began his music career in 1990 when he founded his rock band Tonic. The band, nominated for two Grammies in 2003, was a great showcase for Russo’s guitar work and songwriting that allowed him to branch out and begin his solo career in producing and composing. Russo is known for scoring CBS’s STAR TREK: DISCOVERY; FX’s LEGION, and Netflix’s THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY. He has most recently composed the music to Noah Hawley’s feature directorial debut from Fox Searchlight, the sci-fi drama LUCY IN THE SKY, starring Natalie Portman and Jon Hamm. Russo won the Emmy—and received two additional Emmy nominations—for his thrilling and angst-producing score on FX’s award-winning series FARGO.
Our interview took place on June 27, 2019, and we discuss his work on several of his film and television projects.
FARGO (2014): Based on the 1996 Coen Brothers’ neo-noir black comedy thriller: various chronicles of deception, intrigue, and murder in and around frozen Minnesota. Yet all of these tales mysteriously lead back one way or another to Fargo, North Dakota.
Q: Coming into FARGO, how did you begin to conceive a score that would capture the wry tone and personality of the original movie and yet fit the distinctiveness of this new series and its period settings?
Jeff Russo: What you said is exactly what the task was. I needed to stay inside the tone of the film but be able to create our own identity. The true task was to create some memorable thematic material and have it feel like it was borne of this world. In the first season, certainly, it was a lot to live up to, because Carter Burwell’s score for the movie was very iconic and great. He based that original theme on this Norwegian folk song, and I wanted to stay away from that, melodically, and away from those things and yet still try to have it sound of a piece. In the second and third seasons I got a chance to really take it in somewhat of a different direction while still managing to keep the tone we created for Season One. I think as you grow in a series like this, you’re constantly figuring out how to make it better and how to stand apart from the season that came before it. One of the things we decided was that Season Two and Three will have no themes from the previous season except for the main theme, which I’d written for Season One. Other than that, all the characters needed new themes, with the sole exception of the “Wrench and Numbers” theme which is that drum piece from the first season, because that theme connected the characters with the bad guys in Season One, versus Seasons Two and Three. I tried to connect the idea of their being good and evil.
Q: What was your instrumental palette for these scores and did you associate particular instruments with specific characters in the series?
Jeff Russo: I actually try not to do that too much, in terms of trying to give one instrument to a certain character. Evil is usually represented by some sort of rhythmic thing, but generally speaking it’s more of a geographical feeling rather than instruments being tied to characters. I did know that it was going to be an orchestral-based score, but with every season I created unique sounds to add to the melodic elements. In Season One it was the sound of the washing machine, which was a big part of that soundscape. In Season Two I did something with a typewriter because at the beginning of the season that’s sort of where it all began—at the typewriter store. In Season Three I did a lot of metal—banging on cars and windshield wipers and a whole bunch of stuff because the one brother was steeped in his parking lot business and that sort of made sense to me. And in building what will be the score for Season Four, I’m looking to do the same thing.
STAR TREK: DISCOVERY (2017) Ten years before Kirk, Spock, and the Enterprise, the USS Discovery discovers new worlds and life forms as one Starfleet officer learns to understand all things alien.
Q: What was your take on approaching the music of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY, recognizing its past musical history and yet making it your own?
Jeff Russo: Doing something like this is essentially standing in the shadows of giants. It’s a frightening experience and yet it’s also thrilling. I’ve been a huge STAR TREK fan my whole life, and working on it is exciting because of that, yet trying to keep the music in that same world is a tall task. I tend to write from an emotional perspective and a character perspective, and that is something that is near and dear to me and was one of the things that I pitched to the producers early on. I think it was one of the things that they connected with in terms of how I wanted to approach doing the score for DISCOVERY. I wanted to be able to meld what is the classic TREK sound with something that has a bit more of a modern scoring technique. STAR TREK definitely has its sound: there’s a brass component, there are these big strings, and then sometimes quirky, weird sounds, and I tried to impart that onto my scores. I think we made it work. Certainly, as we shifted in tone from Season One to Season Two it became a little more of a swashbuckling show. I’ve yet to figure out what we are going to do for Season Three!
Q: When you first came on board the series, what discussions did you have with the producers that determined the musical direction of the new series—and how did that develop into what we are hearing in the series now?
Jeff Russo: When I went into my first meeting with them, one of the things I first said was that I always prefer to score what a character is feeling rather than what a character is doing and that, I think, made an impression on them. I tend to want to be connected emotionally between characters, and I think that was the thing that set this storytelling apart from some of the previous iterations of STAR TREK. We are telling a story on a much more character-oriented basis rather than on a week-to-week adventure basis. It’s storytelling on a much larger scale. I think those early discussions really lent themselves to how I was going to approach the score. Obviously there’s an action part of the score because there is action in the show, so I do have to address that with music that supports it. I think that’s where we get to a more STAR TREK feeling from the score, but certainly the more connected emotional content of the score is something that is near and dear to my heart.
Q: How has the series’ focus on long-running character story arcs allowed you to configure themes that can be carried across the length of a season?
Jeff Russo: That was also something that I talked about with the producers early on. One of the things that I like to do is treat a series that supports this like a big movie. In doing so you need to connect the episodes with thematic material in order to keep the audience engaged in remembering what happened in the previous episode, because that’s the way I can connect episode 2 to episode 14. With the Red Angel in this last season, I wrote that Red Angel theme for the first and second episodes, and that theme came back every time that character came back and every time we were having something that was related to that. Bringing those themes back and replaying them really does drive home the idea that it’s all related.
Q: What was most challenging about creating your theme for DISCOVERY, an iconic new theme that would fit the universe and yet would be something new? How would you describe its components?
Jeff Russo: I’d pitched this idea of common tone, and how that is the thing that I think about with STAR TREK. It’s the one thing we have in common with every living being in the universe: we’re all living, sentient beings and we’re all connected in that way. So the idea to use a common tone in the theme seemed appealing to me. So I wrote a piece of music around that sort of idea and that’s where I began, and everybody liked that idea. In trying to make a theme that was in the STAR TREK vernacular and yet modern and its own thing, that is what I came up with—and let me tell you, it is a scary proposition being faced with writing what will be in the canon of STAR TREK as one of the themes! Especially when you’re talking about themes written by Alexander Courage and Jerry Goldsmith and all these wonderful composers; it was a daunting task!
LEGION (2017) David Haller is a troubled young man diagnosed as schizophrenic, but after a strange encounter, he discovers special powers that will change his life forever.
Q: LEGION was a series set in a parallel X-Men universe and yet far in tone and style—and music—from other Marvel super hero shows. Would you describe the series’ use of music and the kind of scoring the show needed?
Jeff Russo: One of the touchstones was this sort of psychedelic make-you-feel-like-you-don’t-know-what’s-real-and-what’s-not vibe. And one of the things that [creator] Noah Hawley and I talked about early on was the ability to seamlessly go between the electronic and the organic, and could I write a score that would be able to go back and forth between one type of score and another type of score? Something that left the audience not knowing what’s the reality version and what’s the non-reality version?—because the whole idea that you don’t really know; the audience is not led on. The whole premise was that if the main character doesn’t know what’s real and what’s not; why not invite the audience to feel the same way? How could I write a score that was indicative of that? That’s where I landed, somewhere between an emotional character connected score to an off-kilter, very throw-you-into-a-state-of-unknown, keep-you-on-your-toes type of score. That has been, so far, one of my favorite scores to write because it takes all of the things that I love about music and puts it all into one big soup!
Q: How have you treated the main character of David Haller? I understand you’ve given him three distinct themes to accommodate and sympathize with the shifts in his schizophrenia?
Jeff Russo: One of the main themes was David and Sid and his love for her and her love for him, which began in Season One and then grew to something else in Season Two, and in Season Three now has totally shifted, so I needed to adjust that to fit the entire journey that they’re on together. Some of that is also the most thrilling kind of thing to do, because I never want to get stuck in feeling like “Oh, well I don’t know what to do so I have to do something totally different.” Because it is the same character, but at the same time that character is changing into something else, and I had to figure out how to do that with the score as well.
COUNTERPART (2017) A hapless UN employee discovers that the agency he works for is hiding a gateway to a parallel dimension that’s in a cold war with our own, and where his other self is a top spy.
Q: How about a series like COUNTERPART, where you have a pretty high concept of parallel dimensions? How did you treat the music on this show?
Jeff Russo: This was an interesting show. We wanted to be as subtle about the score here as possible, because this was one of those stories that asks you to imagine what happens if everything you knew and everything you know isn’t true, and there is this other world. How do you react to that? The story of our characters having this interaction with their others was a really interesting way for me to be able to tell a story musically, because I could take the same theme for one of them and just change something slightly for the other, and then over the course of the series, even though we only had two seasons, I got to slightly change it more and more and more, because the idea was that when the world split into two, they were the same at that moment and then they diverged—and as they diverged they became very, very different. I tried to do that with the score as well, where Howard’s theme at the beginning was one thing and then each one of them became two very, very different people and their themes became very different as well.
Q: Do you feel that music has an added responsibility to help create the audience’s suspension of disbelief in a show like this, which deals with far-fetched or very unusual concepts?
Jeff Russo: What you’re saying is very interesting, because the idea is: in order to suspend disbelief you have to feel comfortable, so part of that is for me to connect to characters and emotions because those are things people understand—how to feel is something that can be understood. The idea is a score should help sell that reality in a situation that is as high concept as, say, COUNTERPART. It’s like, how do you suspend your disbelief? This is truly science fiction so the only way for me to help that is to play real characters and the emotions that those characters would feel under these circumstances.
Q: One thing I’ve noticed while focusing on these types of films and their scores for many years is that, while it may be a science fiction film or a horror film, but the best of these is that it’s essentially a human drama in the midst of whatever circumstances it may be.
Jeff Russo: That’s correct. And that’s how I like to treat it – as a human drama set against the backdrop.
LIZZIE (2018) A psychological thriller based on the infamous 1892 murders of the Borden family. After the Borden family welcomes a new Irish maid, she and Lizzie become friends. The friendship between these women becomes something more, even as Lizzie’s relationship with her own parents unravels at a frightening level.
Q: LIZZIE was a very interesting treatment of the historical axe murderess – your score has a very interesting psychological texture in capturing both Lizzie and Maggie. How would you describe your musical approach and its thematic interplay?
Jeff Russo: I wanted to explore Lizzie’s character as she has been rejected by her father and by the world. I wanted to be able to capture that and, in this particular storytelling, her falling in love with the maid. So, again, I come back to the thing that I love to do the most, which is play the emotional content and feeling rather than the act of the axe murder, which actually plays a small part in the movie. Treating the score from an emotional beginning and creating a theme for Lizzie was the most important thing for me. I wanted to make her a character that could be empathized with and not thought of as this murderess person. So that was really the most important thing.
Q: There’s a kind of duality there between the two characters, especially in the murder scene where Lizzie starts it off and then she wants to have Maggie finish it up but Maggie isn’t able to do that so Lizzie has to take it over. How did you deal with their interplay with that particular moment in the score?
Jeff Russo: That was sort of the moment of the most friction between them, because Lizzie thought she was doing it for her [Maggie], where in the end I think she was doing it for herself, and Maggie got caught up in the middle of it. I don’t think she knew where this was going to end up. And because of that you end up with the issue of what’s really going on here? So I wanted have this friction between them in that scene.
Q: Did the film’s time period affect your instrumental palette and style of scoring?
Jeff Russo: No. I actually didn’t want to have it be a score that was of that time period. I just used instruments that I thought would sound correct for the show. In this case I just used some strings and I created some hollow pads using flutes and a lot of other stuff, and manipulating that in the digital realm, and I think that ended up working really nicely.
ALTERED CARBON (2018)
Set in a future where consciousness is digitized and stored, a prisoner returns to life in a new body [“sleeve”] and must solve a mind-bending murder to win his freedom.
Q: What was unique for you in scoring this futuristic science fiction series and how would you describe the music it needed?
Jeff Russo: What we didn’t want to do is make BLADE RUNNER. I wanted to stay as far away from that style of scoring for this particular show, because it could very easily have been compared to that, in terms of the way it looks, the dystopian future, etcetera. In Season One it was very important to connect the characters despite the fact that these characters were not what you were necessarily seeing, because any consciousness could be in any sleeve. So how can I connect the main characters to the other characters? Well there were a couple of scenes that I needed to write, mostly notably for Quell, who has this sort of overarching effect on the entire storytelling, according to the book and according to how we approach Season One, and the approach is similar as we move into Season Two. But, again, it’s about connecting characters.
Q: In a distinctively futuristic science fiction show, you’ve got the emotional content of the characters but is there a need or an occasion where you have to help create the environment, musically?
Jeff Russo: Yeah. You know, it’s always nice when I don’t have to try to help sell something that isn’t on screen. With ALTERED CARBON specifically I really didn’t have to do much because what was shot really did do its job, but, yeah, occasionally you have to help sell the higher reality, so you do that when you have to.
THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY (2019) A family of former child heroes, now grown apart, must reunite to continue to protect the world.
Q: This was really a fun and interesting take on the super hero genre, based on a Dark Horse comic series. There’s a great mix of action, black humor, science fiction, and pending apocalypse with many characters, all good and bad and undetermined. How did you figure out how to begin on the score for this series?
Jeff Russo: This was an interesting one. Like LEGION, I was trying to approach the score from a much different perspective—focusing on each of the characters and how they connect with each other, and how they connect with themselves. I tried to go much more for an emotional take on this type of score.
Q: Do you think the intimacy of television allows you to do more than say the spectacle of a motion picture, in this regard?
Jeff Russo: I think it all depends on how you want to tell the story. I would say AVENGERS ENDGAME, for example, is a very emotional score, Alan Silvestri is a master at doing emotional music, and I would say there is not a lot of action music at all in that movie. There’s some, because that’s what you have to do, but mainly that story is told from a character point of view, they really wanted to transition to that, I feel (I don’t know), but it can be done on a very large scale. I think that I take advantage of the fact that the small screen has an intimacy that is built into it simply because the storytelling is on that scale.
Q: What kind of musical palette were you able to apply on this score?
Jeff Russo: There’s an orchestral element, there’s piano, there’s an organic element and then there’s an electric element. I try to infuse melody into anything I write, and a lot of the sound design stuff I try to leave to sound designers, although in this particular show there is a good deal of ambient elements to the score. The show came built-in with an orchestral need because our main character is a concert violinist and I had to thread that into the score, and knowing that she was going to play on this apocalyptic suite at the end and I was going to have to write that, meant that I could apply a big orchestral element to the whole score.
THE PASSAGE (2019) When a botched U.S. government experiment turns a group of death row inmates into highly infectious vampires called “virals,” an orphan girl might be the only person able to stop the ensuing crisis.
Q: A recent series you scored that’s probably more horrific than anything you’ve done so far is THE PASSAGE. I understand you originally came in on the first pilot a couple of years ago, and then came back in after reshoots sold the pilot into series. Did this require a new scoring approach for the reshot pilot?
Jeff Russo: I would say no, I didn’t change much. I mean, we did have to adjust because they did a lot of reshoots, but the original idea for the score stuck from the pilot stage into the second pilot. So there wasn’t much to be changed other than a rescoring of the new scenes.
Q: The history of vampires in cinema and legend hearkens back many decades and centuries. Did you have a particular way you felt they should be treated in this series?
Jeff Russo: For me I sit down, I watch it and I have an idea and that’s sort of where I go with it. I didn’t have a specific thought that I wanted to go with on that particular show, it was just wanting to be able to tell the story and help sell the nature of these virals, and keeping them feeling like there was still humanity left in them.
Q: How did you treat the more visceral horror elements—the suspense, the more violent sequences?
Jeff Russo: I start leaning back on the way I would treat that kind of storytelling. When there’s a need to help with tension you add some tense music. The idea is always the same in terms of trying to connect with characters, like this. The answers are going to be similar for all of the shows. It’s like I’m moved by a character’s feelings and that elicits a musical response in me, and it helps me some up with ideas on how to best represent a specific character or a specific event in the narrative.
Q: Your associate Jordon Gagne got co-composer credit on this series – how did you work together on scoring this show?
Jeff Russo: He was there from the very beginning and he’s been working with me for quite a long time. We have a really good idea as to how to communicate musically with each other. There are thematic ideas that pass between us, and we sit and spot the shows together and talk about where music should go and how we want to make something feel, and then we go our own separate ways and do the thing and then there’s a score.
Special thanks to Jana Davidoff and Alix Becq at Rhapsody PR for facilitating this interview, and especially to Jeff Russo for taking the time to share his experiences and perspectives projects with me.
Jeff Russo’s latest score is for Noah Hawley’s science fiction drama LUCY IN THE SKY. Starring Natalie Portman, Jon Hamm, and Zazie Beetz, the film concerns an astronaut who returns to Earth after a transcendent experience during a space mission, and begins to lose touch with reality in a world that now seems too small. “The score for LUCY IN THE SKY has been some of the most fulfilling and challenging work I’ve done,” said Russo in Lakeshore Records’ announcement; the 28-track soundtrack album was released digitally in October and on Nov. 29 was released in uncompressed audiophile CD format.
Jordan Gagne is a Canadian composer based in Los Angeles, CA. He has recently scored ABC’s THE ROOKIE and the second season of Netflix’s ALTERED CARBON while also co-composing with Jeff Russo Fox’s limited series THE PASSAGE and the Jason Bourne spin-off TREADSTONE on the USA Network, and many others. He began by scoring short films in 2013, and has released several studio instrumental albums. Among Jordan’s musical influences are Ennio Morricone, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Explosions in the Sky, Mastodon, Max Richter, Trent Reznor, and Arvo Pärt.
Q: Jeff Russo and you are now both scoring the Jason Bourne spin-off series TREADSTONE. Does it share its world with that of Jason Bourne to any extent that will suggest your musical treatment?
Jordan Gagne: I think we have some cool surprises that very attentive listeners will notice; there are some Easter eggs for fans of the Bourne movies and scores. We want the show to stand on its own, and there are definitely a lot of elements that are new to the franchise.
Q: What’s your musical/instrumental palette and style for this show?
Jordan Gagne: We took some of John Powell’s harmonic language and gave it bit of a Cold War era Soviet spin. And similar to the movie scores, we use strings for motion a lot of the time. Bassoon was a big part of the movie scores, so we took that element and tried to Soviet-ify it a bit by kind of doing this Stravinsky Rite of Spring thing with it, even though it’s an action thriller score. All of the orchestral elements are recorded here in Los Angeles, but it’s not purely orchestral. Since we spend a lot of time in 1973 Berlin we have this Kraftwerk-esque influence with a lot of the synth stuff.
Q: Without leaking any spoilers, what’s been most interesting/rewarding for you in scoring TREADSTONE (so far)?
Jordan Gagne: The coolest thing about scoring TREADSTONE is inheriting this really intricate musical world created by John Powell, who has done a lot of my absolute favorite scores, and then trying to figure out how you can do something new with it. The original score was temp’d in so many shows and movies in the early 2000s that it became the standard in scoring. We want to be respectful to that sound but breathe some new life into it by flipping it on its head where we can, creating something entirely new.
Q: You’re scoring the ABC series THE ROOKIE, now in its second season. What was your musical approach here?
Jordan Gagne: The idea of the show is that Nathan Fillion plays a cop who’s starting at age 45; he’s had a mid-life crisis and decides to join the police force in L.A. The first thing that we thought of, musically—myself and the creator/showrunner Alexi Hawley—is that we have this older character, and his sound should be older, it’s like old-meets-young because now he’s with all these 20-something rookies so maybe he has more of a classic rock vibe or something like that, or even blues kind of thing, and then the young people have a more modern vibe. We tried that at the start—on paper it seemed smart, but it didn’t really work. We realized that if the music is poking fun at the character’s age, you don’t take him seriously as a person, and that was something we needed to do. So the solution we found, which I think is kind of clever, is that there’s no “old” component to the score at all. The score is all based on modern, young sounds. There’s an EDM [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_dance_music] component, which is not what you might expect in a network show. But we took all the elements that would be in a show like that and did them with EDM sounds. Like when we have the growing build to the black every time there’s a commercial break, instead of doing that with more traditional sounds we’d do that with EDM sounds—the rise you’d hear in a dance song before the bass drops, where it gets washy and then there’ll be a roll-up to the final hit. So we do that for our act breaks. We kind of have a spin on all the tropes, like the EDM equivalent of all those things. And all the pads are sidechained [https://blog.reverbnation.com/2017/06/08/producer-secrets-what-is-sidechaining-and-why-is-it-so-popular/] which gives a cool, modern pulse to the music. I think that helps, because it made L.A. feel vibrant and young, and gave the show a sense of an adventure.
Q: How did you and Jeff get involved in THE PASSAGE, from the first, unused pilot to the new one that went to series?
Jordan Gagne: Jeff had a bunch of stuff going on, so it seemed like a good thing we could do together as a co-credit, which lightens the load. Fox thought the first pilot had promise, but for whatever reasons decided to redevelop it, so we came back a year later. They’d reshot new scenes, but a lot of stuff from the original pilot was still there. 90% of the Wolgast and Amy storyline was there, although they cut out the future element of the original story, so now it’s all in one timeline. And that’s where we came in the second time.
Q: Musically, you and Jeff scored it with a digital orchestra augmented with strings, and a lot of more synthesized sound to give it more of a genre quality?
Jordan Gagne: Yes. The idea behind the synth was, to me, aiming to be a little more industrial. The idea is that they have this underground industrial complex where they’re keeping the virals [vampires] and doing tests on them, so an analog synth approach felt really good for that. The organic, strings and orchestra material contrasts very well against the you’re-in-a-cellblock-underground vibe. So the mix was classical strings and the industrial synths.
Q: How is the orchestra used, in contrast, for characterization?
Jordan Gagne: We have character themes, although they weren’t confined to a particular sound. I wouldn’t even say that the orchestra is driving that, really. It’s like there’s two dials, and one of them is the industrial synth world, which can make it feel cold and subterranean, and then organic thing would be the emotional side of the show. Everything would be calibrated between those two dials, we can lean to the left here for the strings if we need more emotion, we can lean to the right if we need a horror component or a dark vibe.
Q: What was your process of creating some of the horrific sounds that are used in the more suspenseful and shocking moments of the show?
Jordan Gagne: There are two elements to the horror component. There’s the atonal organic sounds: extended techniques from strings, orchestra, brass, that kind of thing. Then, on the synth side, we’re using digital music programs like Serum and Diva and a little bit of Zebra, and rather than writing orchestral lines we’re manipulating sounds with knobs. If you can create a crazy sound that sounds really wonky, that’s what you want! I can’t say that I’m an expert on any kind of advance synthesis, but I think in this case it’s probably been an asset to not know when you’re doing too much! I know some people would probably hate that I said that, but that’s kind of the truth.
Q: How do you map out, or spot, the music on an ongoing weekly TV series like this?
Jordan Gagne: I don’t think spotting in the traditional sense really happens any more with series television. I think there’s this idea that you would go into the movie and it’s totally dry and then you sit down with the director and watch it and say “We should have music here.” Spotting like that doesn’t really happen because everything would have a temp score; it would be spotted already with that temp. Now, that doesn’t mean there won’t be a spotting session where you can adjust the spotting, but I think there’s a less of a requirement for that to be a skill. For THE PASSAGE, the temp score will be there so in a spotting session we might disagree with where they’ve put it, and we’ll need to fight to either take it out or change it, and that’s kind of the composer’s job, to understand how the music is affecting the picture and how by just changing the spotting a little bit you can effect a big change. But it’s not something they’re expecting you to do, ironically. For instance, THE PASSAGE: the spotting’s mostly done and I feel like the idea is more to calibrate, because usually they’re pretty tied to what they’ve spotted with temp music. But we can calibrate it in the way that makes it feel better for the show or more thematically consistent, or helps tell the story in a better way. You can always beat the temp, for that. People might like the temp but there’s no way it tells the story better than a specifically-written cue. They might just like the music better. A lot of the discussion is focused on the temp, whether it’s good or bad, and then that leads you down the path of how you’re going to tackle the score.
An example of that in THE PASSAGE is in the relationship between Wolgast and Amy, which is like a father/daughter surrogate relationship. Their themes are emotional themes, and they’ve always had music in there, even in the temp. Our job was to give a musical identity to those scenes, and that’s done by changing what they’ve put in temporarily into something that’s written specifically for the story. Wolgast’s whole character motivation is that he lost his daughter, so there’s this empty hole that he’s filling with Amy, this girl that he decides to save. And so, when we tackle that musically we have to keep that emptiness; there needs to be warmth between the two characters that you feel, but the root of it has to be defined by what the relationship is. So we have a theme in the pilot for Wolgast and Amy, and it’s attempting to balance the line between the emotional connection and the emotional emptiness that he has. There’s sorrow there but there’s also warmth. That’s the goal we strive for when working with temp music.
Q: What’s your musical take on the scientific corporation that’s behind all of this? As I look at it from the new pilot, anyway, I see three opposing facets: you’ve got Wolgast and Amy, you’ve got the government agency Wolgast used to work for, and then you’ve got the virals/vampires as the antagonistic creatures/monsters of the show. How does the music differentiate between them, if it can be put that simply?
Jordan Gagne: Oh, it absolutely can, I think. The heart of the show, Wolgast and Amy, is colored with some synth pads and a really sparse kind of reverbed electric guitar—not in a distorted way; it’s a very clean guitar sound that rings out and has this big lofty tail on the notes. That would be their sound. The virals’ sound is the industrial synth component. The whole idea with that is that we open in Bolivia and the research team is going into this cave, and you hear an archaic version of the theme on solo cello, played by Tracie Turnbull. The other live cello performances are my own. We’ve effected it and changed it to make it sound ancient. You hear this theme as they enter the cave, and then Fanning gets bitten and from that point on, that music transfers to him and becomes Fanning’s theme, the Patient Zero theme. But when we get to the modern world, it’s 2019 and if you have the solo cello there all the time, or this kind of ancient string instrument, you might get a cool contrast, but at the same time it can be of confusing. So we reworked that into the industrial synth sound. So the first time you hear the theme it’s on this ancient string instrument, but after that it’s always on a really raspy, low synthesizer. It’s still Fanning’s theme but it takes on the whole viral sound, because all the other virals are from him. That’s where their sound comes from.
Music for the DOD/government complex was tricky, because I think the reflex that you’ll have, even from the making-the-show component, is to have that be dark. They’re the antagonists, they’re pulling strings behind the scenes in a very nefarious way. But if you play that too much with music they kind of become like caricatures of the government, like a mustache-twirling government making secret projects. The mission statement for their doing these tests is to try to cure humanity of disease, so there’s a noble intention behind that. So we tried to tackle the DOD stuff without being overly dark and painting it with this really nefarious brush. If anything we lean to those scenes being dry—having no music. I think in the pilot that rule got bent a little bit, but in theory for the whole series the government stuff is to leave it without music, if possible, just for that reason. We don’t want to have ambiguity.
Q: A score you composed on your own that sounds like it might have some interesting musical opportunities is REACHING DISTANCE.
Jordan Gagne: That was an Australian movie and it’s kind of a psychological thriller that takes place aboard a bus. Musically, the idea there was much more experimental and very percussive. Most of the musical sounds are based on sounds you might hear in a bus—there’s a lot of metal sounds like the railings, a lot of banging and scraping or knocking on an engine block, that kind of thing. The score is comprised of mostly experimental sounds derived from a bus and ideally to make it sound like you’re in a bus, because you literally are for the whole movie. There’s a psychological component to the story and the main character is not necessarily stable, and so it’s supposed to create an unsettling atmosphere with all of these weird metallic sounds. Things like that. It’s very diegetic, I suppose.
Special thanks to Jordan Gagne for taking time out to chat with me and share his experiences and perspectives on scoring these projects. For more details on the composer, seehttps://www.jordangagnemusic.com/
Composer James L. Venable has come full circle—he began scoring Kevin Smith’s animated CLERKS series, based on Smith’s first comedy hit of the same name, in 2000—then went on to compose additional titles in Smith’s View Askewniverse, including JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK, JERSEY GIRL, CLERKS II, and now is back in familiar territory scoring the JAY AND SILENT BOB REBOOT. I askew’d James how he felt rejoining the team and what the new iteration of our favorite stoner boys needed in terms of music.
Q: You’ve just completed JAY AND SILENT BOB REBOOT, which is your latest interaction with the Kevin Smith world. What can you tell me about this new iteration of the characters?
James L. Venable: I felt so blessed to be involved in this movie—I think to come back to any project many years later is a dream come true artistically. Jay and Silent Bob was extra special to me because the original STRIKE BACK was my very first feature scoring gig. I loved the prospect of coming up with brand new music for a modern day Jay and Silent Bob, but I have to admit, at times, I found the idea of finding new musical themes for something already firmly established to be a little intimidating. Once I approached the music as an “expanded continuation” of the original STRIKE BACK score I was able to find the musical voice for REBOOT. The highlight of the whole experience was getting to work with Kevin again. I have always found scoring his dialogue to be like playing jazz improv with a favorite saxophonist. I love the way he tells a story and how his love of movies is expressed in every frame. As a director, he has thought of everything, he gives really clear direction and then leaves room for one to find a way to accomplish it. REBOOT has a lot of heart and really takes the audience on a wide emotional journey; this, combined with Kevin’s comedic sense, makes for some amazing composing opportunities. Plus he really encourages one to be themselves artistically, which is a rare opportunity. I had an extra layer of gratitude while working on this project because he’d had a heart attack about a year ago which gave me cause to pause a few times throughout the process, to say, “Wow this almost didn’t happen and I’m really glad it did.” We were definitely using the latest technology to communicate—this is the first movie I’ve ever had so many submissions sent over via text. I’d send him videos of various scenes with my proposed music and he’d text me back with comments from wherever he was. My favorite responses were for the more emotional scenes in the film, if I could pull his heartstrings enough to bring a tear to his eye, he’d snap a shot of his eye with a tear in it and send it back, and then I knew I made the grade on that one!
Scoring the film was a very different method of music creation from the original JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK, in that STRIKE BACK was right at the tail end of a heyday of recordings happening in L.A. with big orchestras and budgets for that kind of stuff; so we had all the best of live players—like an 80-piece orchestra one day and a 50-piece for two other days, and choir, and all these amazing resources and then on REBOOT it was kind of a different approach—much more lean and kept simple. I recorded the score out of my studio here, but we hired individual musicians for various cues. But it was a much less complex production that JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK had been.
Q: How would you describe the musical heart and soul of those characters as they were filtered through the previous scores you’ve done for those characters and the new reboot?
James L. Venable: I approached Jay and Silent Bob’s theme and score with a comedic-electronic blues approach, combining elements of raga with dash of 80’s hip hop. Kevin and I both wanted the music to play things straight and often over the top, like the comedic scores that Elmer Bernstein composed (STRIPES, ANIMAL HOUSE, etc.). As a big STAR WARS fan, Kevin loves a “leitmotif” approach where one can hear musical themes that reoccur with specific characters or events. I even got to create a leitmotif for Kevin Smith himself, which was a first.
Q: Kevin’s films have a unique brand of humor, too, especially when he started out; it was like something brand new…
James L. Venable: Yes, for sure—and it’s always a reflection of our ever-changing pop cultural landscape which means, hopefully, it never gets old! Because Kevin has weaved real emotion into the stories he tells, his movies allow me, as a composer, to be very clear and musically direct with emotion in a way that most live action features don’t really allow.
Q: Like the best comedy scores, there’s not comedy music. It’s setting the stage and allowing the comedy to play within a dramatic world that you’ve created. How would you describe the evolution of the Jay and Silent Bob music across the arc of those films?
James L. Venable: I would say it got bigger and more pumped with adrenalin, although it’s a hybrid orchestra /electronic musical approach. Production-wise, the music mixer Vincent Cirilli and I approached this score like one would approach an electronica record. I feel the themes are more expanded because the scenes really allowed for the music to develop. There’s lots of action scoring along with moments that the music was there to create a vibe and take a more passive role. Plus Kevin often would grab cues I’d sent over to him early in the process placing them in new scenes and finding all new ways for a given piece to reoccur and establish itself.
James L. Venable’s soundtrack to JAY & SILENT BOB REBOOT is now available on CD via cool indie stores nationwide, or online here. For a look back at James L. Venable’s scoring of JAY & SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK – and much more from POWERPUFF GIRLS to IRON MONKEY, see my interview with him from 2002, archived here: https://cnmsarchive.wordpress.com/2019/10/23/james-venable/
ATONE/Sid De La Cruz/Plaza Mayor Company, Ltd. – digital
Composer Sid De La Cruz (CHECKMATE, WEAPONIZED, SWAT: UNIT 887) has composed the action film ATONE for director Wes Miller (RIVER RUNS RED, PRAYER NEVER FAILS, LILY GRACE: A WITCH STORY). When a group of criminals take the parishioners of a megachurch hostage, an ex-soldier is caught in the crosshairs as she tries to rescue her daughter, who is among the captives. “Wes Miller, the director, wanted the score to be a hybrid of synth/electronic elements with orchestra,” De La Cruz told Soundtrax. “He wanted me to get in the head space of Hans Zimmer’s THE DARK KNIGHT and Johann Johannsson’s SICARIO. He didn’t want the music to be just like those scores but he gave me the idea of what he was listening to. The credits music was the first piece of music I composed, before I saw the film; I’d intended using that as a theme; but after I had a look at the film I started to get inspired and pushed that piece to the side in favor of music I decided fit better. In the movie’s last act, I actually composed a whole set of music that added a different tone to film—I made high energy action music and I also made emotional music. Both pieces of music fit the film, but the action music is what made the final cut—it was more in line of the director’s vision.”
De La Cruz’s score is potent action music for digital orchestra with some intriguing styles that sets it apart from the formulaic. “Kitchen Fight,” for example, opens vigorously with metal percussion over an underbelly of quick electronic bass arpeggios, soon joined by strings and punchy brass figures; it pushes the action forward while allowing for a nicely orchestrated timbre. In contrast to the propulsive runs of action music, there is a likeable reflective theme for synths in “Run Out Of Building,” a motif which pleasingly contrasts the energetic against the emotional as the focus shifts throughout the film, making the soundtrack a satisfying listen on its own. Those electrifying bass notes will recur throughout the score to reinforce tension or serve beneath higher blocks of synth chords and/or articulate brassy intonations. “Mommy’s” accumulation of bongo-like drumming, swaying string lines (escorted by brass, suspended overhead), opens into a poignant, slightly reverbed harp melody that refocuses the energy toward a softer awareness. The following track, “The Escape,” maintains that emotive interaction before “Bathroom Fight” restores the hostility with heavy synth figures counterpointed against the rapid-fire rhythm of the previous bass material. “Ticking Time Bomb” resonates with an affecting sonority of strings, emerging into the conclusive “Life Is Not About the Destination, It’s About The Journey” which restores the harp motive from “Mommy” over see-sawing synth figures and piping winds, connected in a happy ending. “Credits” reprises the languid melodies from “Run Out Of Building” and “The Escape” in a quicker pace, hurried on by strident guitar arpeggios. A very nicely done score and a pleasing listen apart from its film.
De La Cruz has just completed scoring a Western film called HELL ON THE BORDER, starring David Gyasi, Ron Perlman, and Frank Grillo; it is set for release in select theaters and VOD (video on demand) through Lionsgate on Dec.13.
THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN/Franz Waxman (original recording)/
La-La Land - cd
84 years after Franz Waxman recorded his music for James Whale’s follow-up to his 1931 FRANKENSTEIN film, that music has been restored to life, painstakingly stitched together via the best elements from numerous orchestral transfers housed at Syracuse University (where Waxman donated his audio material and printed scores) in order to resurrect this groundbreaking Universal horror movie score into a breathing, living, sonic treasure. “We Belong Played!” cries the monster. This, of course, is the first time that Waxman’s original recordings of the score (thought lost) have been heard apart from the film since its 1935 recording session. The significance of this new release, La-La Land’s seventh in the Universal Pictures Film Music Heritage Collection, cannot be understated, as THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN was the first Universal monster movie to contain a thoroughly interactive, thematically integrated film score—and its composer went on to become one of the leading film composers of cinema’s golden age. Conducted at Universal’s Scoring Stage 10 by Constantin Bakaleinikoff, Waxman’s fully orchestrated, rather sophisticated, and motivically complex score is built around a Wagnerian leitmotif style that featured a shrieking five-note main theme, a luminescent motive for the Bride, a creeping, impish motif for the wicked Dr. Pretorious, a mesmerizing Danse Macabre for orchestra and organ, and a uniquely impressionistic style of musically depicting the sounds of electrical equipment in Henry Frankenstein’s laboratory that remains as iconic today as it was in its day. For many years, a 1993 Silva Screen re-recording by the Westminster Philharmonic, under the baton of Kenneth Alwyn, and a very fine and full-blooded performance it was, served as our home stereo concert of Waxman’s great score. But now to have the very performances that were made for the film during its production, the very sounds that were grafted onto the film stock, is practically transformative, bringing us directly into the world of Whale, Clive, Karloff, Thesiger, and Lanchester. In fact, a comparison of the two main title pieces, Alwyn’s and Waxman’s, in my estimation gives the edge to the latter, at least in the mastering (which has done wonders with the composer’s acetate recordings, which were the basis for these tracks), where the horns sound shriller, the harp glissandi brighter, the fluttering of the trumpets more menacing in that fourth note leap of the main theme, and throughout the album the lively richness of the score is ever-present. Don’t give away your Silva Screen edition, in that not all of the score’s complete music elements have survived to appear on La-La Land’s presentation, which contains about 35 minutes of score—including all the main sequences, thankfully, along with several alternate takes—and which is by far the better reproduction of the score’s sonic clarity. A thorough analysis of the film’s score is presented in the album booklet by Frank K. DeWald, along with technical notes on this album’s creation by album producer Mike Mattesino, who restored and mastered the music.
CHARLIE’S ANGELS/Brian Tyler/Sony Masterworks - CD
Brian Tyler imbues director/co-star Elizabeth Banks’ new version of CHARLIE’S ANGELS with a propulsive score that reflects the 70’s attitude of the TV series while adopting the charged-up energy of modern film scoring. “I composed new themes for the film that would feel nostalgic yet fresh and also work playing alongside the theme from the original TV series,” Tyler said. “The sonic elements of the score conjure up a variety of musical styles: symphonic, hip-hop, and 70s groove. I played many instruments on the score myself such as guitar, vintage drums, Rhodes piano, vibes, and electric bass. I then recorded and mixed those elements in a way that would sound like they were sampled off vintage albums, a technique often employed in hip-hop.” The score is an exciting one, rolling along with an insistent verve which is quite pleasing. Tyler’s original theme for the Angels’ reboot is an engaging piece, sturdy in elegance, rhythm, and melody with an intriguing up-and-down-and-twisted-around melody line. It’s put to great use throughout the film as it moves along adroitly supported by a powerhouse of percussion, swiftly-bowed strings, and a variety of sonic ebb and flow. The brass section leads the charge, propelled by percussion and marcato strokes from the string section, with Henry Mancini-esque ornamental flourishes from the woodwinds popping up to brightly color the orchestra’s forward motion. The score’s harmonic flavor is swept along with the onrushing rhythm, enhancing the energy (the 6-minute long “Hamburg Chase” is a great example of the score’s muscular, headlong propulsion). An elegant and sophisticated theme for “Bosley” lends a bit of heart to the Angels, with a nostalgic touch of Fender Rhodes. “Backstories” also offers a respite for listeners to catch their breath via a few reflective keyboard refrains, before the heavy action accumulates again with “Hacking and Fighting.” “The Angels Arrive” adds a bit of big band sound to the theme, and “Charlie’s Angels” reprises the main theme for a final conclusion. Tyler acknowledges the original 1976 TV theme by Jack Elliot/Allyn Ferguson in the track “Closet of My Dreams,” while “Neon Sky recalls the mid-’70s with a groovy dance tune for synth-processed voices over a throbbing disco bass, as does “Euphoria,” though with a little more dominance on the house beat. A very likeable, even sometimes danceable, score.
DICKINSON/Drum & Lace and Ian Hultquist/Milan - CD
Apple TV+’s freshly edgy half-hour weekly series portraying famed writer Emily Dickinson is a darkly comedic coming-of-age story; rather than score the story’s mid-19th Century period, composer-musicians Drum & Lace and Ian Hultquist delivered a plethora of delightful, modernistic music that really makes an imprint on the series. “Getting the chance to score Emily Dickinson’s world was really exciting to us from the start,” said the composers. “Incorporating modern musical sensibilities against the contrasting setting of the 1850s was a thrilling challenge, and we had a fun time pulling it together. For the score, we were inspired by legendary performers such as The Prodigy and Missy Elliott, but also gave nods to the current musical landscape with artists like Billie Eilish and Lizzo. The use of vocals in the score gave us a way to tap into Emily’s mind and externalize her thoughts and struggles through music.” The music is quirky, unique, and quite intriguing, augmenting the artistic personality of the show’s storytelling with a lush and appealing palette of absorbing electronica. Not being familiar with the artists cited by the composers, I found a sonic reference to the score in my enjoyment of the music of ‘80s musician and composer Ray Lynch, whose 1984 album Deep Breakfast has been a favorite sonic treasure of mine for decades with its enchanting mesh of electronic and classical sounds; at least I am reminded of it when listening to the DICKINSON score. Whatever personal reference may be prompted by its style of music, this score is quite attractive, even beguiling. I was instantly captivating on first listen and highly recommend it. Related: See my previous interview with Drum & Lace and Ian Hultquist on my June-July 2019 column.
DOCTOR SLEEP/The Newton Brothers/WaterTower Music - digital
“Both the film and the novel tell such a deep story at the core,” said the composers about their music for this sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING in the soundtrack’s press release. “Being able to support that story through score has been one of the most rewarding experiences of our careers. Combining the orchestra, a unique choir, modular synths, rare instruments and a mangling of live recordings was essential in creating the sonic palette to support the film.” The music in DOCTOR SLEEP starts with the Dies Irae, that plainsong chant best known for its use in the Catholic Mass for the Dead and so often quoted in classical music and previous fantasy and horror film scores from 1927’s METROPOLIS to 1980’s THE SHINING, where it became the main theme to Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s masterful novel. The motif is associated here with the terrors of the Overlook Hotel as they are presented in this film. The other group of creatures in the tale, beings called the “True Knot,” are represented by a variety of drums. “They’re these ancient beings — a bit like gypsies in a way,” Taylor described in an interview with Brenna Ehrlich for Rolling Stone. “They pick up things as they’re traveling throughout their experiences, so we wanted the music to reflect that. We used random percussion from different cultures — not from one specific place or country.” The brothers’ motif for the grown-up Dan Torrance, juvenile hero of the novel and previous film, features a 90-foot wind harp in San Francisco used to relay Dan’s sensation of being out of control. “We liked the idea that the wind harp is not something you can control,” Andy told Rolling Stone. “It’s an ego-less instrument, because you’re just sort of at the will of what the weather is doing.” Elsewhere, the score uses a 25-foot long hurdy-gurdy called the “hurdy-grande” mixed with an off-kilter heartbeat sound, to evoke the craving that was propelling the True Knot’s leader, Rose the Hat. Beyond these character-driven motifs, the score exudes a spine-tingling assortment of very creepy, sound-design-ish patterns produced via choirs, textured vocals, and synthesizers along with a variety of acoustic instruments to amp-up the film’s scare factor. And amp it does. Suspenseful tonalities drift and reverberate across the soundscape; the sound shifts and changes in color, form, and tempo. Microphones were panned across the orchestra during recording to move between sections and offer an interesting sonic progression, and that soft heartbeat roams percussively across several cues. As the story and the score progress, the eerie sound patterns increase in velocity and volume, becoming ferocious chanting voices and severely agitato performances, roaring brasses and shrieking winds over whispering voicings of synth and strings, particularly at the climax, resolving into a respite of elegant strings as the story ends. All in all, DOCTOR SLEEP creates and maintains a fascinating—perhaps even threatening—sonic texture whose components are ever changing and definitely nightmarish. Best to leave a light on when listening—or for a definitely more potent experience, turn them all off and listen using a headset in the dark.
DRACULA/THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN/
James Bernard (new recording)/Tadlow Music – CD
With La-La Land’s original BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN recordings (see above) and now Tadlow’s welcome re-recording of what many agree is Hammer’s best and most-potent monster score, James Bernard’s iconic music for 1958’s DRACULA (titled HORROR OF DRACULA in its US release through Warner Bros.), this is a good season for classic horror soundtracks. Paired with Bernard’s music for 1957’s THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, both scores defined Hammer film music and prompted a recurring thematic identity for both monster franchises, Bernard scoring all of the period Dracula sequels (through SCARS OF D. and including THE 7 BROTHERS MEET DRACULA, aka THE LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES), while scoring three Frankenstein sequels interspersed with different composers who scored the other three (1970’s THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN generally considered outside the official canon). Neither THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN nor HORROR OF DRACULA’s scores were ever fully released—various segments appeared in Hammer anthology collections over the years, so having what is essentially the full scores for both films powerfully and elegantly re-recorded by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra in Tadlow’s latest archival score restoration, is quite a treasure. Both scores have been reconstructed by Leigh Phillips from the composer’s extant musical manuscripts (see Sidebar after this review) and an outstanding job was done in recreating the scores in all their riotous gusto and life-creating/fang-piercing bloody glory. The only noticeable difference that I can detect is that Bernard’s original recording version of the Main Theme from HORROR OF DRACULA has a little more snarling rage, I think, than the Tadlow recording, by comparing the timbre in the film’s 2013 Region B Blu-ray release and its inclusion on Silva Screen’s Hammer Horror album—but I note that the original Main Title music was missing from Bernard’s original scores (again, see Sidebar below) which likely accounts for that slight difference in texture; and in any case I find the Tadlow recording is more than satisfactory in its treatment of Bernard’s “DRAC-U-la” main theme throughout the album. It’s muscular force and thunderous presence is just as masterful and dynamic. The score’s pièce de résistance is the climactic “The Final Battle”—arguably the finest piece of music in any Hammer film, at least by my account—wherein Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing defeats Dracula by ripping down the curtains and allowing the sunlight to flow into the library and decimate the vampire—Van Helsing holding a pair of candelabras together to form a cross to ensure Dracula cannot move into the shadows. This magnificent music, from its aggressive brassy shrieks, cyclonic string revolutions doubled by snare drum whaps, with intonations of the main theme through it all, gradually slowing down to dissipate into vaporous dust along with the flesh of the evil Count, is just splendid, concluding with a final summation from quiet violins welcoming the calm brightness of day. These two iconic musical moments—and all that has gone between, sinewy mysterioso, the serene violin music for doomed Lucy, and the incursions of Dracula’s theme as the vampire ensnares Mina in his psychic grip—is all marvelously presented.
The music from THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (which properly precedes DRACULA in the album order as it did in the filmmaking sequence) has been less circulated than that of its vampiric cousin; it has more moments of classical sophistication but is also bolstered by a powerful descending main theme built around the main character’s name (FRANK-en-stein)—Bernard’s first simple but powerful manner of thematic word association. The earlier scenes afford more classical 19th Century grace, musically, as we follow Baron F. through his scientific efforts to create a being from spare parts, gradually increasing in tension and strength as body parts are acquired and the creature is brought to life, thereafter mixing pathos for the unfortunate monster and terrific moments of horror as it is led to kill the Baron’s mistress Justine, after which the monster is disintegrated in a tub of acid, leaving his maker to face the guillotine for Justine’s murder. The music is highly engaging in both its quiet drama and its raging hostility—matching the Baron’s advancing obsession and disregard for both ethics and human life; together both scores in their fullest treatment on CD thus far make a terrific pair and restore some of the finest horror film music of the era to a well-deserving, large-scale orchestral treatment. A bonus track, “Rhapsody for Lucy,” a sublime romantic piece for solo violin over cimbalom based on Bernard’s DRACULA theme and composed by Leigh Phillips, completes the album with an exquisite resolution; a captivating tribute to the heroine who had no theme of her own in the film. Informative booklet notes by David Huckvale, author of Hammer Film Scores and the Musical Avant Garde, James Bernard, Composer to Count Dracula: A Critical Biography, and other Hammer-related books, add to the package, describing each track in expressive detail.
Sidebar Restoring DRACULA by Leigh Phillips
For a die-hard Hammer fan, the opportunity to reconstruct and record the scores from two of the studio’s most well-known films was simply too good to refuse (not to mention getting another chance to be back working with James, Nic, Jan, and the CoPPO, at Smecky Studios).
Each restoration project comes with its own set of variables, and this album was no different. However, we were very fortunate to have access to the majority of James Bernard’s original manuscripts; this resulted in the reconstruction process being quicker—and, to some extent—easier than usual. The archival charts were in good shape but, as they were written under tight time constraints, a lot of the finer expressive details were missing from the page (it seems that the performance “style” was something which would have been discussed during original recording sessions). By referencing the original film audio, it was possible to include new dynamic and performance information to such an extent that our musicians would be in no doubt as to the stylistic approach required for each cue (thereby helping the sessions to move on more quickly).
The occasional “gap” was encountered in the scores, and certain pages were missing; so it was necessary to transcribe these sections in order to complete various cues. Two pieces were completely missing from the collection but, thanks to Gaetano Malaponti sending us his detailed MIDI renderings of “Dracula - Main Titles” and “Dracula’s Rage,” we were able to use his files as the basis for the reconstruction of these particular tracks.
In addition to the score reconstruction, James Fitzpatrick commissioned a new violin solo, based on the main “Dra-cu-la” theme. Transforming Bernard’s 9-note motif into a “full-blooded” rhapsody was an interesting compositional challenge, but it was worth preserving just to hear Lucie Svehlova’s beautiful performance on the violin!
FINIS TERRAE/ Christoph Zirngibl/ MovieScore Media – digital
MovieScore Media’s long list of documentary scores gets an exciting new addition with Christoph Zirngibl’s score for the introspective documentary FINIS TERRAE. Directed by Konstantin Ferstl, the picture has been seven years in the making, shot in over 20 countries around the world. As an essay film, FINIA TERRAE aims to be a requiem for a century around the world, from Fidel Castro’s funeral to the forgotten revolutions of the Lacandon rainforest and the fossilized theocracy in North Korea, through vanished countries from the Habsburg Empire to Alain Badiou. From the death of communism to the resurrection of capitalism, the movie is in search of the insulted dreams of the 20th century. The result is a quite compelling and lyrical orchestra/choral soundtrack. The music is haunting and beautiful, and varied across the cinematic soundscape. “The main question for me was how to transfer the emotional impact of a political movement into a musical narrative” explained Zirngibl about the project. “The solution was to write three different themes for the different narrative threads. The “hope theme” (e.g. beginning of “The Secret City”) is about the hopes and dreams of people who are or were living under communist regimes. The “landscape theme” (e.g. “Through a Vanished Country”), deals with the importance of buildings and special places in those regimes, such as the Berlin Wall). Last but not least the main theme (“Finis Terrae”) reflects the melancholy of the narrator and the framework plot. A very important part of the score’s sound is the use of solo-voice and choir to accentuate the importance of the regular people while also linking it to the importance of faith in the framework plot.” By treating the narrative in this manner, the score unobtrusively adds resonance and prompts reaction to the film as it progresses, and adds the proper musical sentiment that the despondent narration avoids. The music also makes a most enjoyable listen on its own, with further relevance when one recalls how the music related to the specific sequences it belongs to in the film. Highly recommended.
Watch MSM’s video featuring a suite from the score.
GEMINI MAN/Lorne Balfe/Paramount – digital/La-La Land – CD
This is a good score in the Zimmer-esque mode, straightforward, rhythmic, and effective in maintaining the story’s forward motion. It may not be entirely fresh and original in timbre and tonality but it works in the film and I quite enjoy listening to these types of scores; Balfe does them very well and always manages to come up with something new of his own within the familiar framework. Directed by Ang Lee, GEMINI MAN is an innovative action-thriller starring Will Smith as an elite assassin, who is suddenly targeted and pursued by a mysterious young doppelganger that seemingly can predict his every move. “Ang and I spent four days in the studio exploring themes with soloists playing live,” said Balfe in the album’s press release. “He wanted a theme that portrayed the delicate relationship between Henry and Junior, so I did a theme that intertwines both melodically, as their bond grows stronger.”
Here, Balfe’s tonal/rhythm-based main theme evokes an eloquence and temperament that is quite attractive, an underlying percussive/electronica riff is added after the first few phrases which adds a strong tension and drive; these will both recur throughout the score. Balfe’s use of blistering brass snarls in tracks like “First Confrontation” enlist a powerful effect that adds gravitas to the music, and the heavy percussion that interacts with the low bass notes adds some engaging friction to the rhythm that is quite striking. The drum motif recurs in “I Know You Inside and Out” after a wafting string introduction, and concludes with that same music provided by soft chorus. There is a degree of sameness to the volatile action cues, mostly made of a similar mix of heavy drumming, marcato-esque strings, and the like (the severe, dropping orchestral chords in “Fighting Gemini” are a nice touch, adding a powerful dynamic to that cue’s first half before the drums start up again), but it’s the tracks in between that are most pleasing, the spooky mysterioso and urgent menace of “Catacombs,” the reflective flutes over violins and cello of “A Perfect Version of You,” the familial eloquence of “Henry and Junior” and the heartfelt “Thanks, Brother” with its rising repeat of the main theme, that give the score its emotive grace. It’s an uneven score but has enough moments of affecting engagement to treat the listener.
JOKER/ Hildur Guðnadóttir/WaterTower Music – digital – vinyl due Dec 13
WaterTower’s release of Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score to Todd Phillips very art-film treatment of JOKER is gaining plenty of admiration and stands to position the Icelandic composer in good standing for another Award, after her Emmy win for HBO’s CHERNOBYL miniseries. And it’s definitely worth the applause with a score that both fits Phillips’ unique take on the origin story of Batman’s arch nemesis and creates a supportive psychological presence that envelopes the story and is the equal in its musical psychology to the astounding performance of Joaquin Phoenix in the title role. The brilliance of Guðnadóttir’s score—like her unique music for CHERNOBYL and her confrontational manifestation of muscular percussion and threatening ambiance in SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO—is the originality of its treatment and its iconoclastic perspective on the film’s story and central character. The brooding of meditative solo cello serves as Joker’s musical alter-ego throughout the film, while compatible melodies from a 90-piece symphony orchestra, favoring its large string section, evokes higher drama and the journey that Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck-cum-Joker winds up taking.
“Todd asked me to write some music based on my feelings from reading the script, which I was inspired to do because it truly resonated with me,” said Guðnadóttir in the album’s press release. She sent him a sample and recalls, “The film is a gritty character study, which to me translated to melodies that are very simple and monotonic, because that’s kind of the way Joaquin’s character Arthur is seeing things. Then I tried to expand within that simplicity the orchestration around Joker’s evolution not with chords or any complicated music, but with texture that I felt resonated with the melancholia of this character.”
The score is a captivating psychological behavioral study, as much an exploration of the psyche of the fictional character as the film itself undertakes, from the misery of “Defeated Clown” to the cackling supremacy of the conclusive “Call Me Joker.” In its uncompromising focus on sonically realizing the steps taken in his erratic mental stability that configures his ultimate new birth as The Joker, the score makes a fascinating listen apart from the film as we can hear the Joker’s journey clearly resonating in the music alone. The score is equally fascinating as the latest examination of the composer’s own journey into film music, and I am quite eager to see where she goes from here.
LADY AND THE TRAMP (2019)/Joseph Trapanese/Walt Disney - digital
While Disney’s drive to remake their classic animated films in live action or CGI may not be everyone’s cup of blue-screen (I’ll admit I loved Jon Favreau’s JUNGLE BOOK but the others since have all failed to attract me, enjoying the animated originals just fine thanks), 1955’s LADY AND THE TRAMP is the latest classic to undergo the trendy redo. The old classic songs are all here, modified by new performances by Janelle Monáe (the jazzy with ‘tude “He’s a Tramp” and the catchy new song, “That’s Enough”), actors F. Murray Abraham and Arturo Castro (the spaghetti scene’s “Bella Notte”) and others (including a second new song). The original’s orchestral score by ‘50/’60s Disney mainstay Oliver Wallace is scrapped with, reasonably enough, a modern orchestral score, nicely crafted by Joseph Trapanese (THE GREATEST SHOWMAN, INSURGENT, THE RAID 2, TRON: LEGACY). The filmmakers brought him in to create an original score that felt both nostalgic and contemporary at the same time with music that goes deeper into the time period and the beginning of jazz, reports the album’s press release. “It is a true honor to be entrusted with the musical legacy of Disney’s LADY AND THE TRAMP,” Trapanese said therein. “Charlie Bean and I worked diligently to celebrate the original film by maintaining the spirit of the classic songs, while being unafraid to explore the benefits of modern production and scoring to create an updated musical identity for today. The early 20th Century American setting inspired us to incorporate Traditional New Orleans music and Americana into the fabric of the film… We aimed to create a signature sound for this generation’s LADY AND THE TRAMP that we hope will excite audiences for generations to come.” For the most part, Trapanese has done an outstanding job. There’s a necessary feeling of nostalgia that permeates much of the score, but there’s also some fun action scoring that puts the composer’s 125-piece orchestra to work, such as “Dog Catcher Chase,” the thunderous, six-minute “Rat,” and “Carriage Chase” (each one very different from the other); there’s a cute theme for pasta-makers “Tony And Joe” that preludes the classic spaghetti moment, and the furtive menace of “The One Way Door.” But the majority of the score is gentle serenity, with little of the New Orleans jazz and America material making it onto the soundtrack album, aside from Monáe’s marvelous jazz renderings. The tunes of some of the songs find their way instrumentally into the score in a few places as well. It’s a likeable score, if a little heavy on the sentimental side. But, then, this is LADY AND THE TRAMP and you don’t get much more sentimental than that, so it’s probably an appropriate dose.
THE LIGHTHOUSE/Mark Korven/Milan – digital/
Sacred Bones Records – vinyl
From Robert Eggers, the visionary filmmaker behind 2015’s folk horror masterpiece THE WITCH, comes THE LIGHTHOUSE, a hypnotic and hallucinatory tale of two lighthouse keepers on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s. “I think, subconsciously, the score was intended as a separate character in the film, much as it was in THE WITCH,” Korven told interviewer Wesley Lara for the hiddenremotewebsite. “There was… lots of space to work in the film. I’d say a bigger challenge was probably working with the sound design, because it demanded a lot of waves crashing, screeching wind, etc. So finding a place for the music within the sound design was the most difficult part… We were just looking for musical ways to get inside the heads of the characters, which were pretty messed up! So the music of course is pretty messed up, dissonant, atonal, mad.” Indeed! Throughout the score, Korven imposes a heavy, dominating tonality that creates a powerful, oppressive atmosphere, settling in on the lighthouse and its two keepers like a sonic fog, rolling growls fed by scrabbling clusters of unidentifiable sound, exuding wails, hollow, desiccated voicings and bleeding corpulent howls that drift and sway across the soundscape and maintain a prickly sensation of apprehension and despair from start to finish. But these are not just random sounds – there’s a purpose and an intention to Korven’s placement and development of his ferocious design; it follows character, it follows story, and it follows where the audience is taken through our association with both. We’re inundated with new sounds and new forms of drifting statements, forming incursions into our psyche that tingles the spine and wallops the nerves, keeping us constantly on edge, anticipating... of what we’re not quite sure. It’s a shuddery and captivating treatment that succeeds at maintaining a prevailing sense of danger and distress, giving Eggers’ film just the right atmosphere to accomplish its creepy storytelling. Definitely one of the most deliciously scary scores of recent years.
For those with a bend toward the vinyl, Sacred Bones Records has released an LP edition of THE LIGHTHOUSE soundtrack; see here.
Listen to the track “Stranded” from THE LIGHTHOUSE:
MIDWAY/Thomas Wander & Harald Kloser/Music.Film – digital/
Varese Sarabande – CD
This new retelling of the naval battle that became the turning point in the Pacific theatre during War II, is directed by Roland Emmerich and scored by his usual pair of composers, Thomas Wander & Harald Kloser. It’s a fine, modern war movie score with a marvelous heroic/patriotic main theme and much to reflect on in the preparation for the battle (a surprise attack by the US Navy made possible only by having partially broken the Japanese Navy’s secret code, thus knowing in advance when and where their Naval Task Force would be attacking). It’s an updated version of the largely incoherent 1976 film of the same name, and the movie benefits from the modern filmmaking. “We agreed that the music for MIDWAY should not be a traditional wall-to-wall orchestral score, with sweeping action cues where every change in mood and sentiment will be followed musically,” said the composers. “We also set ourselves the goal that the orchestral pieces should be limited to the emotional moments of the film. Early on we asked our long-time collaborator Tommy Schobel to create some sort of musically driven sound design, using synth-based versions of sounds old war planes would make, but in a way so they make sense within the bigger picture of the score.” The compatibility between sound design and score that guided the music is interesting but perhaps a little forced. For example, several of the battle scenes—notably “Pearl Harbor,” “Attack On Midway,” and “Above the Clouds”—are mostly pure sound design cues given some synth chords that mirror the propeller sounds provided by the sound designer; these tracks are perhaps influenced by the heavy drone sounds used by Hans Zimmer in his DUNKIRK score, although the conceptualization worked better in that score than it seems to here in MIDWAY (at least judging from those tracks on the soundtrack album), where the jarring effects-mixed-with-music tend to be too much abstract and too little musical design (However, “This Is It” and “Good Luck Sir” work better in that regard since they’re more evenly-separated mixes of sound design and propulsive score.) But to me, it’s still the more eloquent orchestral material that gives the score its more likeable persona. The 23-track album features a great version of Benny Goodman’s big-band standard, “Jersey Bounce,” as well as two period songs by singer Annie Trousseau, giving the film set a proper 1942 vintage feel.
OKUPACIJA U 26 SLIKA (Occupation in 26 Pictures)/Alfi Kabiljo/
Kronos Records - cd
Kronos Records presents Alfi Kabiljo’s score for the 1978 Lordan Zafranovic WWII film, which follows three young men—a Croat, an Italian, and a Jew—who are best friends in pre-WW2 Dubrovnik. When their country is occupied by Nazis and their cronies, the idyllic city becomes a place of terror and gruesome massacres and the friends must now take very different sides in a global conflict. Kabiljo’s score is built around two motives—the primary Friends Theme and a sour, nightmarish tonal wash associated with the coming of war and the disassociation it leverages between the friends—and a variety of source cues characterizing city life in Dubrovnik. Both life in the city and life among the friends begins happily and routine, but with the arrival of the forces of occupation, Kabiljo distinctly changes his musical disposition to reflect a shattered community. The friends theme is presented in its purest form early in the film (though the track is positioned nearly half-way through the album) in the gently harmonic “Jahta” (Yacht), which shows the friends enjoying a happy time apart from the worries of politics. In most other moments, the friends theme is soured by the introduction of the forces of danger and warfare as the music corresponds to the incursion upon friendship and community alike. On the soundtrack, the friends theme is introduced in “Lokrum (Sour Fruit)” where its pretty, folk-ish melody is possessed with a sense of menace and discomfort; the theme is carried forward in a similar atmosphere with “Dva Prijatelja” (Two Friends) in which a tentative flute melody turns sour, signifying danger and disruption. This tonality is reprised in the later “Prijatelji” (Friends); in both cues the main friends theme becomes entangled in the war theme, most notably portrayed in the nightmarish “Ulazak Njemaca” (The Entry of the Germans), the dour sonority of “Tema Otpora” (Theme of Resistance) and the disturbingly immersive surrealistic “Tema Okupacije” (Theme of Occupation); that descent into darker musical territory suggests the broadening differences between the men as each becomes swayed by a different political ideology, the music eventually losing all evidence of happier times before. The source cues are associated with various goings on throughout the film--from the festive accordion dance “Slijepcev Valcer” (Blind Waltz) to a musical carnival, a tango, and a foxtrot, which are all deceptively enthusiastic and cheerful, but are heard behind moments far from happy, such as the accordion piece which is heard behind a scene of rape and bloody murder aboard a moving passenger bus. “Molitva” (Prayer) is a clerical organ melody heard during a scene in a church near the end of the film. The film is a powerful one and still generates staunch political disagreements; in fact the controversy over the film by remnants of the various sides depicted therein have suggested the politics that separated the friends in the film are still running as potent in real life. Despite that, Kabiljo’s score is both delightful and dramatically disturbing, which makes for an especially powerful listen if you’re familiar with its film. Enjoy it simply for its dramatic musicality if you’re not.
TO LIVE TWICE/Arnau Bataller and Simon Smith/MovieScore Media - digital
MovieScore Media presents the charming music to the Spanish dramedy TO LIVE TWICE (VIVIR DOS VECES) with music by Arnau Bataller and Simon Smith. Directed by Maria Ripoll, the film follows a man and his daughter and granddaughter on a crazy road trip in search of true love. With the elderly man on the brink of losing his memory to Alzheimer’s, the small family decides to undertake this journey in the hopes of helping him find the lost love of his youth. Spanish composer Arnau Bataller collaborates with Barcelona-based British film composer Simon Smith, turning in a sweet and sentimental score that underlines the varied emotive semblances of the storyline with a small ensemble comprised mainly of solo violin and piano, with some cues calling for the quiet inclusion of guitar, baritone saxophone, trumpet, and trombone. The pretty music that flows from both instruments creates a delightful backdrop for the story; it belies the austerity of the players through the richness of their performances, and the score never seems too little for the story it’s embracing. It’s soft, sincere, affecting, and quite pleasing.
Watch a video featuring a suite from the score:
TORPEDO (aka U-235)/ Hannes De Maeyer/MovieScore Media – digital;
Quartet Records - CD
U-235, the first ever Flemish submarine film—is set during World War II and tells the story of a gang of Flemish rebels with a secret mission: to sail from The Congo to the United States with a hijacked German U-boat carrying a cargo with which the Allies might win the war. Belgian composer Hannes De Maeyer’s traditional Hollywood-style orchestral score was recorded with the Budapest Art Orchestra, known for their performance of Johann Johannsson’s music to SICARIO. “I have always been a big fan of music from WW2-related films and games such as MEDAL OF HONOR by Michael Giacchino & Christopher Lennertz, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN by John Williams or BAND OF BROTHERS by Michael Kamen,” said De Maeyer. “In preparation of U-235 I completely immersed myself in that world. The major difficulty was finding the balance between nostalgia without making it sound too old-fashioned… There was no doubt that we needed this score to be recorded with large symphonic orchestra full of prominent brass instruments and percussion… The references to and the atmosphere of nostalgic films such as THE GREAT ESCAPE and INDIANA JONES lay in all aspects of the film, including the score.” De Maeyer’s score is drawn from traditional stylistic lines but results in a very pleasing action/drama/heroic score, maintaining the courage and heroics of the wartime action and giving the Flemish characters the honor they deserve in victorious war movie fashion. It’s a score of tremendous vitality and engaging spirit performed by a top class orchestra; De Maeyer hits all the right buttons and the score is a marvelous work in its own right in spite of respectfully embracing the traditions of its cinematic forebears.
Get a sneak peek of Hannes’ creative process during this unique behind-the-scenes video:
News: Forthcoming Soundtracks & Film Music News
On Saturday, October 19, Academy Award, Golden Globe and Grammy winning composer Gabriel Yared was honored with the prestigious Max Steiner Film Music Achievement Award, given annually, by the City of Vienna during the glamorous Hollywood in Vienna gala. “It is with great honor to receive this award in Vienna, the City of many of my musical role models such as Beethoven, Mozart, Max Steiner, and Erich Wolfgang Korngold,” said Yared in his acceptance speech. Another great composer and songwriter, Marc Shaiman, also received a standing ovation by an enthusiastic crowd at the historic Concert Hall in Vienna (Konzerthaus Wien), after performing his Oscar nominated song “The Place Where Lost Things Go” from MARY POPPINS RETURNS on the piano together with the ORF Radio Symphonieorchester Wien and Keith Lockhart conducting. Hollywood in Vienna was founded in 2007 by Sandra Tomek (Tomek Productions); the award is meant to be a symbol of recognition for exceptional achievements in the art of film music. For more information please visit: http://www.hollywoodinvienna.com/
The 2019 Hollywood Music in Media Awards (HMMA) were presented on Weds. Nov 20th
Among the winners are:
ORIGINAL SCORE – FEATURE FILM (Tie!)
Hildur Guðnadóttir – JOKER
Marco Beltrami | Buck Sanders - FORD V FERRARI
ORIGINAL SCORE – SCI-FI/FANTASY
Alan Silvestri – AVENGERS: ENDGAME
ORIGINAL SCORE – HORROR FILM
Michael Abels – US
ORIGINAL SCORE – ANIMATED FILM
John Powell – HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD
Walt Disney Records will release the original motion picture soundtrack to A HIDDEN LIFE, composed by James Newton Howard, on December 13th. The movie is a 2019 biographical war drama film written and directed by Terrence Malick, starring August Diehl, Valerie Pachner, Michael Nyqvist, Matthias Schoenaerts, Jürgen Prochnow, and Bruno Ganz.
- via SoundtrackTracklist
That’s A Wrap! On November 24th, John Williams has reportedly completed his recording sessions for STAR WARS Episode IX, THE RISE OF SKYWALKER, composing and recording at least 135 minutes of music for the 2-hour, 35-minute long movie (per IMDB), his final effort for the Lucasfilm franchise. Disney will release the official soundtrack album on December 20 in both digital and CD formats. For more details, see musiquefantastique.
THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM, the critically acclaimed (and recently HMMA Award-winning) documentary which has captivated audiences around the world, will have its score performed live to picture at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles on Wednesday, December 4th. Five-time Emmy winning composer Jeff Beal will conduct The Hollywood Chamber Orchestra. The event will also feature special guest appearances by director John Chester and his wife Molly, the subjects of the film and real farmers who created Apricot Lane Farms, a regenerative farm on 200 acres outside of Los Angeles.
Tickets are available at ticket master.
[See the interview with Jeff Beal about THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM and other documentary scores in my July 2019 column, here]
The beloved animated Netflix Original Series THE DRAGON PRINCE returns for its third season with all new magical melodies by Emmy Award-winning and Annie Award-nominated composer Frederik Wiedmann. Known for his dramatic film scores and muscular animated super-hero soundtracks, Wiedmann returns to the franchise after scoring the first two seasons; his latest score transports us back to the mythical land of Xadia to see what dangers await our heroes as they continue their fight to bring hope to a conflicted world. THE DRAGON PRINCE is an original animated series produced by Wonderstorm for Netflix. The first two seasons were both critically acclaimed, and fans of every age have embraced the series for its deep world-building, dynamic and representative characters, as well as an engaging storyline full of magic, intense action, and unpredictable twists and turns. Lakeshore Records released Wiedmann’s score digitally in time for Season 3’s premiere on Nov. 22nd.
See my interview with Wiedmann about composing THE DRAGON PRINCE and other scores at musiquefantastique.
La-La Land Records has made their eagerly awaited announcement of its five new end-of-the-year limited-edition soundtrack releases for December: The STAR TREK VOYAGER Collection – Vol. 2, a limited edition four-CD second presentation of exciting score highlights from the acclaimed television series. Composers Jay Chattaway, Dennis McCarthy, David Bell, and Paul Baillargeon continue to musically mine all the drama, heart, action, and wonder of the STAR TREK universe; STARGATE: 25th Anniversary Expanded Limited Edition, a 2-CD remastered, deluxe presentation of composer David Arnold’s original motion picture score to the 1994 landmark sci-fi feature film. Also announced are: 35th Anniversary: Limited Edition of Bill Conti’s previously out-of-print score to THE KARATE KID, NEVADA SMITH - The Paramount Westerns Collection, a 4-CD collection of original film score recordings from eleven of Paramount Pictures’ big-screen westerns from the‘50s and ‘60s. And, if that isn’t enough, the label offers the Disaster Movie Soundtrack Collection – Music by John Williams, a limited edition four disc box set containing the remastered and expanded original motion picture scores to the feature films THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1972) and THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974), and EARTHQUAKE (1974).
See La-La Land’s website for more details.
Disney has done something more or less unprecedented with releasing Ludwig Göransson’s music for the 8-episode STAR WARS spinoff series, THE MANDALORIAN, which premiered on the newly-launched Disney+ channel on Nov. 12th. Rather than issue a collection of cues from the series after the season ends, Disney is releasing essentially all the music for each episode on the day that episode runs – thus, four episodes to date = four digital mini soundtrack albums, averaging about 8 tracks or 25 minutes of music per album. THE MANDALORIAN takes place five years after the events of RETURN OF THE JEDI, after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order, and follows the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy, far from the authority of the New Republic. Göransson’s music is more earthy and organic than John Williams’ gleaming orchestral bravado and mysterioso for the movie series—which is appropriate since THE MANDALORIAN is much more of a sci-fi Western show than a space opera (episode 4’s homage to THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN is just one of the more overt references the series makes to classic and Italian Western stylisms). Because THE MANDALORIAN tells a new story with a new set of characters and its own unique setting, executive producer Jon Favreau felt “the romantic strains of John Williams’ score would not sit well against the imagery that we have”—quoted in a Variety article by Jon Burlingame. Thus Göransson decided to focus his score on an alien soundscape largely created via unusual woodwinds, drums, guitars, piano, percussion; but incorporating a 70-piece orchestra when the more traditional STAR WARS touch is needed. “It still has the soul of STAR WARS,” Göransson said. “It’s a very original, distinct, lonely sound that follows this gunslinger on his journey.” As Burlingame noted in his Variety article, Göransson’s music provides “the facial expressions” that we never see, as the Mandalorian never removes his helmet—which, along with his armor, further inspired the composer to add “metal sounds” throughout the score. For more details, read Jon’s article here.
Daniel Lopatin returns as composer for Josh and Benny Safdie’s latest film, UNCUT GEMS, whose soundtrack will be out internationally December 13 from Warp Records, the same day the film is released in U.S. theaters by A24. The crime thriller follows a charismatic jeweler, always on the lookout for the next big score, on a twisted odyssey in pursuit of the windfall of a lifetime. The soundtrack is available to pre-order here.
British-born, Berlin-based composer John Gürtler has won the European Original Score 2019 award for SYSTEM CRASHER, Nora Fingscheidt’s impressive psychological drama, which previously won the Alfred Bauer Silver Bear Prize at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival. The film has furthermore been chosen as Germany’s representative for the upcoming Academy Awards. Said the judges for the 32nd European Film Awards (to be presented on December 7th in Berlin): “The music in SYSTEM CRASHER is modern, virtuosic, impulsive and surprising. John Gürtler has transformed the unspeakable into music. Where words are no longer possible, his film music manages to function as a non-verbal language, reflecting the inside of the protagonist and carrying the viewer along with it.” Gürtler has written over 40 film scores and produces electronic music, songs and orchestral work.
Listen here to the opening track on the upcoming SYSTEM CRASHER soundtrack album, available digitally on Friday, December 6th.
The latest releases from Milan Records, an imprint of Sony Music Masterworks, include a soundtrack album for the adventure drama THE GREAT ALASKAN RACE. The album features the film’s original music composed by John Koutselinis (IN EXTREMIS, DECLINE OF AN EMPIRE). The soundtrack is now available to stream/download on Amazon Music. The film tells the story of Leonhard Seppala and his dog Togo, and how they saved the small town of Nome in 1925.
Milan/Sony will also release the music from the animated feature A SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE: FARMAGEDDON. The album features the film’s original score composed by Tom Howe (EARLY MAN, PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN, CHARMING). Also included are the original songs used in the movie. Read an interview with Howe on scoring FARMAGEDDON at cineworld, here.
Also new from Milan is the film score of director Brendan Walter’s SPELL, a psych-thriller with questionably supernatural overtones, composed by Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump.
Milan has also released ATLANTICS, which features Senegal-born, Kuwait-raised composer Fatima Al Qadiri. The album features music from Senegalese director Mati Diop’s debut film, which won the Grand Prix jury award at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival for its originality and ambition. It’s a love story set against a backdrop of social and humanitarian crisis. The film will be available to stream on Netflix beginning Friday, November 29.
Watch the trailer on youtube here, and listen to “Boys In the Mirror” from the score, below:
Daniel Pemberton’s score for MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN, a neo-noir crime film directed, written, produced by and starring Edward Norton, has been released digitally by WaterTower Music. In addition, an album of jazz music used in the film, mostly by Wynton Marsalis, including a 1950s Miles Davis/ballad-style arrangement of a song written for the film by Thom Yorke (SUSPIRIA 2018) & Flea (and their original version of the song), is available in a CD or digital album here.
Also from WaterTower this month is Carter Burwell’s score for Bill Condon’s THE GOOD LIAR, a thriller from New Line Cinema about the secrets people keep and the lies they live. Based on the widely acclaimed novel by Nicholas Searle, the film stars legendary actors Helen Mirren (I’m in!) and Ian McKellen, together on the big screen for the first time. “As is obvious from its title,” Burwell said, “THE GOOD LIAR is about untruth, so early on I asked Bill how much lying the music should do. He felt the most important role for the score was to keep drawing us in, weaving its own web to tangle us enjoyably in the misdeeds we’re watching. Not so much lying to the audience as making them co-conspirators.”
“Not all lost dogs are meant to be found...” Miriam Mayer has completed scoring the comedy horror short, BLOODBREED, director Shawn Chiesa and produced by Cris Graves for A24 Films.
Composer Steven Price reports on twitter that OUR PLANET, the Netflix mini-series he scored earlier this year, is being reimagined into an arena show with live orchestra, narrated on screen by the legendary David Attenborough. It premieres in Oct 2020, and will benefit the work of the World Wildlife Fund UK. See more details here.
RaiCom has released a soundtrack album for the Italian/French drama MARTIN EDEN. The album features the film’s original music composed by Marco Messina & Sacha Ricci (LOST AND BEAUTIFUL), as well as additional music by Paolo Marzocchi. The soundtrack is now available to stream/download on Amazon Music.
The movie is based on the Jack London novel of the same name and follows a sailor trying to remake himself as a writer. - via filmmusicreporter
Roger Bellon has scored Netflix’s holiday film, THE KNIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS. The movie tells of a medieval English knight who is magically transported to the present day where he falls for a high school science teacher who is disillusioned by love.
Sony Masterworks has released the soundtrack to the horror film COUNTDOWN with music by Danny Bensi & Saunder Jurrians (OZARK, NOS4A2, BOY ERASED, FEAR THE WALKING DEAD). Of the soundtrack, the composers say, “We had a great time scoring Countdown full of moody analog synths, atonal string orchestras and piercing jump scares. We tried to stay true to a traditional horror score but added some of our own unique twists and unpredictability!” Sony has also released Nate Heller’s music for the Mr. Rogers biopic A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. “The score includes interpretations of the timeless Fred Rogers music from the original show, and expands out from jazz combo feel into a rich orchestral score,” said Heller. The score moves us from sentimental moments, through jagged nervous breakdowns.”
Sony Masterworks will release Alexandre Desplat’s score to LITTLE WOMEN in digital, CD and vinyl formats beginning Friday, December 13. The composer conducted a chamber orchestra to perform his original compositions, and the score serves as a sonic companion to the film’s coming-of-age narrative. The album can be pre-ordered here. Of the soundtrack, composer Alexandre Desplat says, “To capture the life of these four young girls on their path to adulthood, I have called in the four hands of two pianists. They are surrounded by a chamber orchestra, which keeps us in the intimate world of these ‘little women.’ We recorded the score in New York City with the most wonderful musicians whose musicality and virtuosity went beyond my expectations.” `Watch the film’s trailer here. Listen to Desplat’s track “Little Women” below:
Selected at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, MADE IN BANGLADESH is the story of a Dhaka woman who attempts to organize a resistance with her garment factory co-workers, in this piercing indictment of exploitative labor practices and the global trade apparatus supporting them. Danish composer and multi-instrumentalist Tin Soheili composed the film’s original score. “I wanted to avoid endowing the score with geographical heritage, yet I wanted to give our main character, Shimu, a voice, another layer to her contradictory personality,” Soheili said. “The balance of the thematic score and the actual drama was one of the main challenges when creating the music. Sometimes, a simpler approach enhances the characters more clearly, in particular in this project where all actors are ‘real people’, coming from the slums, often with very little actual knowledge of the craft. At times they come across as very realistic and compelling and during those moments there is very little need for any score.” The soundtrack album of Soheili’s score is available from greatmusic.
The high tension of Alexandre Aja’s summer thriller CRAWL, in which Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper are trapped in their flooding basement during a Category 5 hurricane is drastically increased when large Florida alligators are driven into that same basement by the storm surge. The story’s suspense is nicely augmented by a scary musical score by Max Aruj & Steffen Thum. Intrada has released their score on CD. “Aruj & Thum start off literally with a roar—or more accurately, a growl,” the label describes. “Scary musical effect, heard in key places, brings vivid fear to story. Aggressive rhythmic figures and tone clusters underline the intense dramatics. Haunting sad-tinged melody plays for daughter and her moving attempts to connect with her father.” For more details and to sample tracks, see Intrada.
Music Box Records of France presents a 2-CD edition of three complete scores which highlight the collaboration between composer Georges Delerue and director François Truffaut on his three last films: LE DERNIER MÉTRO (The Last Metro, 1980), LA FEMME D’À CÔTÉ (The Woman Next Door, 1982) and VIVEMENT DIMANCHE! (Confidentially Yours, 1983). The release is limited to 1000 units. See Music Box Records. Also coming in December is the premiere CD release of the score from the French TV series LES SAUVAGES (Savages, 2019) composed by Rob (MANIAC, HORNS, REVENGE). Rob’s thematic approach for this political thriller provides a melancholic score, with rhythmic pulse and seductive instrumental color. The release is limited to 300 units. See Music Box Records Les Sauvages.
Spain’s Quartet Records has a sumptuous batch of new releases from late October and November: From early October came the long-requested remastered reissue of Nino Rota’s music for Franco Zeffirelli’s brilliant adaptation of William Shakespeare’s popular 1968 classic ROMEO & JULIET as well as a double CD-set with the completely remastered release of Rota’s romantic symphonic score for Zeffirelli’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s THE TAMING OF THE SHREW (1967). Late October brought an important score collection, Miriam Cutler Film Music was released digitally by MovieScore Media with Quartet offering the CD edition. The album features selections from 18 different movies, most of which have had no prior commercial release. See info here. Quartet’s November releases included the CD premiere of two cult Giuliano Sorgini scores for rare TV nature documentaries produced for RAI in 1974 and 1975, ZOO FOLLE / GLI ANIMALI… CHE SIMPATIA—see details here. Nino Rota appears on the label’s roster again for a Japanese rarity, the score to Koreyoshi Kurahara’s 1973 SUNSET SUNRISE, a “hippie” road movie chronicling the trek that a handful of people take in order to reach Katmandú, the capital of Nepal. Also announced is Angelo Francesco Lavagnino & Piero Umiliani’s score for a rare mondo film, SCUSI, LEI CONOSCE IL SESSO? (1968), Director Alejandro Amenábar’s score to his new film MIENTRAS DURE LA GUERRA (aka WHILE AT WAR), and composer Pascal Gaigne’s score for the new film La trinchera infinita, a historical drama taking place during the Spanish Civil War.
Just in: the label’s December releases include Fernando Velázquez with LEGADO EN LOS HUESOS (Legacy In The Bones), the second part of the Spanish thriller-drama EL GUARDIÁN INVISIBLE (previously released by Quartet). Velázquez’s score is highly vigorous score with thick orchestral colors and a haunting main theme; sensitively performed by the Navarre Symphony Orchestra; ADIÓS, a new action film scored by Zeltia Montes featuring an intense, atmospheric, romantic and dark score performed by the Budapest Symphony Orchestra with added electronic textures; and TA LA LAND, CITY OF FEAR a very limited CD edition with the surprising score by Germán Barón Borrás for Tomás Luchoro’s bizarre film about satanic sects, zombies, aliens, demons, corrupt politicians and anti-heroes in a small Spanish city. See: https://www.quartetrecords.com/
See also Vinyl News below.
Composer William Ryan Fritch’s score to Patagonia Films’ 2019 documentary film ARTIFISHAL has been released. Directed by Joshua “Bones” Murphy, this striking and persuasive film is about the fight for the future of wild fish and the environment that supports them. It explores wild salmon’s slide toward extinction, threats posed by fish hatcheries and fish farms, and our continued loss of faith in nature. ARTIFISHAL is now streaming on Amazon Prime, I-Tunes, and Youtube. More info: https://www.patagonia.com/artifishal.html
Seven songs are now up for an immediate listen and the album can be pre-ordered via Bandcamp https://williamryanfritch.bandcamp.com/album/artifishal-original-score https://williamryanfritch.bandcamp.com/album/artifishal-original-score
Watch the film's trailer:
Une Musique has released a soundtrack album for the French TV series LE BAZAR DE LA CHARITÉ, featuring the original music composed by François Liétout (LA MANTE). The album is now available to download/stream on Amazon Music, and elsewhere. The drama takes place in Paris in November 1897 and revolves around the consequences of a devastating fire which destroyed the building known as the Bazar de la Charité.
- via filmmusicreporter
Composer Ceiri Torjussen has scored an interesting project recently, music for the Council on Foreign Relation’s (CFR) new podcast WHY IT MATTERS. “With a minimalistic sound aimed at sparking curiosity and discovery, the soundtrack cleverly balances elements of both acoustic and electronic music to drive the underlying narrative of the show. It’s good music to think to.” – from the album notes courtesy of the CFR. Torjussen’s score features string quartet, percussion, pianos, and electronics. The soundtrack has been released on Apple Music and Spotify. Earlier this year, Torjussen scored CAT PEOPLE, a documentary directed by Asako Ushio filmed on the streets of LA and on “Cat Island” in Japan; the doc has been released on Amazon Prime; as well as a cool indie thriller called BURN, now available on-demand at vudu, amazon prime, youtube, and google play (watch the trailer here).
Lakeshore Records has released Randy Newman’s highly-anticipated score to MARRIAGE STORY in a digital album, now available order from amazon. The dramedy premieres on Netflix on December 6. Also from Lakeshore is the music from another Netflix film, EARTHQUAKE BIRD, composed by Atticus Ross, Leopold Ross and Claudia Sarne. Adapted from the prize-winning novel by Susanna Jones, the film is about an enigmatic translator with a dark past who is brought in for questioning after a friend ends up missing and presumed dead. Find the soundtrack here.
Lakeshore has also released David Wingo’s digital soundtrack to the political thriller THE REPORT. An admirer of tightly-wound investigative thrillers like ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN and THE CONVERSATION, and how composers like David Shire create “atmospheres of such claustrophobia, anxiety and nervous anticipation” and Cliff Martinez composes such “non-traditional film music for these same kinds of intelligent, tightly-wound films,” described Wingo, “I feel like I’d learned enough to adequately write the kind of score” this type of film needed.
And most recently, Marcelo Zarvos’ score to DARK WATERS is out digitally on Lakeshore. Based on a 2016 New York Time Magazine article, Todd Haynes’ thriller stars Mark Ruffalo as Rob Bilott, a corporate defense attorney who flipped sides to take on DuPont for dumping toxic waste in West Virginia. “The challenge was finding the balance between what’s on the surface and what’s just beneath it,” Zarvos said in an interview posted at the focus features website. “No matter how exciting and dangerous the story is, there is also an emotional element to bring out. In this film, there are three emotional shifts that transform the score, from the first act, which is very much a thriller; to the second act, which is much more about the rhythms of the legal challenge; to the third part, which focuses on the human cost, not only on him but also on the population of the West Virginian town. The challenge was how to go from one beat to the next while still making it feel like the same score.” (read the full interview at focusfeatures.com). The soundtrack is now available from these sources.
Lakeshore also reports that, ahead of the series premiere of SERVANT, the highly-anticipated series coming to Apple TV+ from M. Night Shyamalan, listen to “Dare Me” by the series composer, Trevor Gureckis exclusively playing at io.com. The publication also features a cool interview with Trevor who explains how he brought the score to life with the series creator Tony Basgallop and Executive Producer M. Night Shyamalan.
Norway’s Pling Kong Recordings has issued Norwegian composer Eirik Myhr’s score to THE SECRET OF THE CATACOMBS (2019, Katakombens Hemmelighet), a radio drama series produced for Norwegian national radio based on Tom Egeland’s award-winning youth novel from 2013. Firmly situated within the mystery-adventure genre landscape of THE DA VINCI CODE, it is a journey through magical amulets, mysterious monks, and doomsday prophecies. Eirik Myhr’s score employs propulsive electronic figures and haunting strings colored by tentative, low-register melodies and Gregorian chants. Says Myhr: “This sounds more ‘Hollywood’ in style than most of my previous work,” Myhr remarked about his score. “I also chose to embrace certain synth choir samples that border deliberately on kitsch.” Also recently released by Pling Kong are Myhr’s compelling scores for the stage plays INGENTING and MIO, MIN MIO. Myhr has written music for several Norwegian feature films, including LOS BANDO (2018) and THE TOUGH GUYS (2013); the latter received a music award from the Norwegian composer organization NOPA in 2013. He’s also composed TV themes, music for theme parks, and scored numerous stage plays. In addition to Katakombens Hemmelighet, Pling For more info, visit https://eirikmyhr.no/ and http://plingkong.com/
Listen to Myhr’s main theme from THE SECRET OF THE CATACOMBS:
Chad Cannon’s score to the Netflix documentary AMERICAN FACTORY (Higher Ground Productions) has been nominated for Best Score – one of five nominations earned by the film, for the Cinema Eye Honors . Lakeshore will release the soundtrack digitally on November 15. The 2020 Cinema Eye Honors awards ceremony is set for Monday, Jan. 6, at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York. For details on Cinema Eye, see https://cinemaeyehonors.com/.
The Discovery Channel’s 6-part documentary series WHY WE HATE explores one of humanity’s most primal and destructive emotions – hate. The series follows brave individuals seeking to quell violent conflict and correct misperceptions, hears from former terrorists and architects of genocide, and allows viewers to consider lessons from some of the most brutal and enduring examples of hate throughout the world. The music is by four-time Emmy-winning composer Laura Karpman (UNDERGROUND, PARIS CAN WAIT, TAKEN). “WHY WE HATE is one of the most significant projects I’ve ever worked on,” Karpman said. “The music embodies every aspect of the human condition, from the most violent explosions of hate, to the most touching elevations of redemption. The music of the main title is large and orchestral, weaving a melody layered over the circle of fifths, so that the music never feels like it’s beginning and never feels like it’s ending. Like evolution and the anatomy of human struggle, the music goes and goes and goes – relentless and filled with hope.” Decca has released a digital soundtrack album of the score, available at Amazon, Apple Music, and Spotify.
Bluestone Symphonics will release the digital soundtrack to AUTOMATION on November 15th, featuring the score composed by Joel Christian Goffin (DEAD END, LOVE ADDICT). Directed by Garo Setian in his feature film debut, the science fiction movie has to do with a prototype automated worker robot named Auto whose success on the night shift at Alert Insulation leads to plans to replace almost all the human employees with the next generation of robots. But to Auto’s dismay, he is also to be replaced by the new and improved robots—something he refuses to accept, and takes murderous action to prevent. Pre-order the soundtrack via amazon.
Dragon’s Domain Records, distributed through buysoundtrax.com, presents STRAIGHT INTO DARKNESS, the expanded edition of the original soundtrack for the 2004 wartime horror drama given a unique, multifaceted and multi-dimensional score by Michael Convertino (THE HIDDEN, CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD). The music has been mastered by James Nelson at Digital Outland, with detailed liner notes written by author Randall D. Larson, with the participation of writer/director Jeff Burr and composer Michael Convertino. Also announced by the label is the premiere release of Chuck Cirino’s score for the 1987 action comedy BIG BAD MAMA II; The Paul Chihara Collection, Volume 3, featuring music for two television films by Paul Chihara (DEATH RACE 2000, PRINCE OF THE CITY), who has had one foot in film scoring (having composed scores for over 90 motion pictures and television series) and the other in concert music for more than 45 years, and provides a pair of terrific orchestral-enhanced-by-analog-electronic scores for these two movies. For details, sample tracks, or to order, see buysoundtrax.com
Notefornote music has released the CD soundtrack to the science fiction film ENCOUNTER, featuring a score by Penka Kouneva (PANDORA - co-composed with Joe Kraemer, MIDIGHT MOVIE, ÁGA). Directed by Paul Salamoff (2015’s THE LAST BREATH…) and starring Luke Hemsworth, the film tells the story of a group of friends who uncover an otherworldly object in a rural field, which they---=7 soon discover holds greater secrets than they could imagine. For details see Notefornote. Also new from the label is a digital soundtrack release of Kevin Riepl’s score to GREENLIGHT. This 2019 horror film stars Chase Williamson, Chris Browning and is directed by Graham Denman. Riepl is known for scoring BATMAN VS. TEENAGE MUTANT TURTLES, BATMAN UNLIMITED: MONSTER MAYHEM, and GEARS OF WAR. For details, see Notefornote.
“Far in a dystopian future, the human race has lost the sense of sight, and society has had to find new ways to interact, build, hunt, and to survive. All of that is challenged when a set of twins is born with sight.” Bear McCreary’s score for the new Apple TV+ original series SEE is now available exclusively for streaming on Apple Music; the album will be available for download via iTunes on December 6, and all other services on February 7, 2020.
Composer H. Scott Salinas’s score for the National Geographic documentary SEA OF SHADOWS has been nominated for Best Score at the International Documentary Association (IDA). The Sundance-winning film also received a Best Feature nomination; the IDA Documentary Awards will take place on December 7, 2019 at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles. The SEA OF SHADOWS soundtrack is available from these sources.
Lolita Ritmanis, known as one of the three members of Dynamic Music Partners, known for their striking super-hero animated film scores, has composed the score for the Latvian World War I movie BLIZZARD OF SOULS (Dveselu putenis). The feature film has been made in honor of the more than ten European countries that are also celebrating the centenary of the end of the First World War. The movie is an adaptation of Aleksandrs Grins’ novel, which was written literally in the wartime trenches as the author was a WWI Latvian rifleman; his book was forbidden in USSR. Ritmanis recorded the score in Riga, Latvia (the birthplace of her parents), assembling a 60-piece orchestra and 50-voice choir. A soundtrack CD title has been produced, manufactured, and released by the composer’s music label, and is available via La-La Land Records in a special cardboard-sleeve limited edition here
For more details on the movie, see https://www.dveseluputenis.lv/en/
Yugo Kanno has scored the Japanese TV drama SHERLOCK – UNTOLD STORIES which premiered last October on Fuji TV. Based on the Conan Doyle character and set in modern day Tokyo, Shishio Homare (“Sherlock”) works as a crime consultant freelancer, aided by a friendly psychiatrist named Watson and watched closely by the suspicious police inspector Reiji Etou. The show’s theme song was written by actor-pop star Dean Fujioka, who stars as Sherlock in the series. A 26-track soundtrack CD of Kanno’s score, including Fujioka’s theme song, has been issued on Pony Canyon of Japan.
Watch the English-subtitled trailer for the series here.
LIMETOWN is a new streaming series starring Jessica Biel and Stanley Tucci on Facebook Watch. Biel stars as Lia Haddock, a journalist for American Public Radio, who unravels the mystery behind the disappearance of over 300 people at a research community in Tennessee. The series features score by Ronit Kirchman (THE SINNER), a composer, music producer, songwriter, singer, and multi-instrumentalist. She creates music for film and television, theater and dance, multimedia installations, and the concert stage. She performs internationally and is also an accomplished visual artist and author. For more details on the composer, see https://ronitkirchman.com/. Watch the LIMETOWN trailer:
With 1984’s GREMLINS being re-released to theaters in the UK this December, a new trailer has been released set to music by videogame (MASS EFFECT, JAMES BOND 007: BLOODSTONE), film (QUEST: A TALL TALE) and TV composer Richard Jacques – the track used in the trailer is called “A Most Marvellous Adventure” from Jacques’ album Fantastic Adventures published by Fired Earth Music/West One Music Group and is available from amazon.
France’s Omega Productions Records has released, for the first time on physical media, the soundtracks to Jess Franco’s erotic horror films LA COMTESSE NOIRE (1975; known as FEMALE VAMPIRE) in a double program with DES FRISSONS SUR LA PEAU (1973, known in the US under its original title, TENDER AND PERVERSE EMANUELLE), both composed by frequent Franco composer, Daniel J. White. For more details, see musiquefantastique.com or check out omega productions to order [Note: site pages are NSFW]. Also check out their latest vinyl release in Vinyl news below.
MovieScore Media explores darkened musical textures with Nainita Desai’s highly unconventional thriller score for Neil Biswas’s DARKNESS VISIBLE. The score features lots of prepared bass, creepy human voice (fun fact: Nainita’s voice!), medieval bowed instruments and organic textures & motifs. “I wanted to explore the concept of evil present within Ronnie that grows and envelopes him the deeper he immerses himself into the sub-culture of the city,” explains Nainita about the score. “During the filming, I also wrote lots of sketches and thematic ideas away from the pictures – to find a theme that represented the concept of evil that encroaches and grows more prevalent, and also a theme that represented the pulse of the city. I used slightly unconventional Indian classical instruments such as the sarangi and ancient bowed instruments such as the viol and violette to create atmospheric motifs and textures.” For more details see moviescoremedia.
Watch the promo video, featuring a suite from the score:
Also, MovieScore Media presents the soundtrack of Raf Keunen to the Norwegian period espionage thriller THE SPY (Spionen). “We wanted to use only acoustic instruments for THE SPY, since the film takes place during World War II,” explains Keunen about the project. “To add more contemporary effects, I’ve used piano strings in different formats: as a harp, as a drone note without the attack and as a percussion instrument.” In addition to the score, songs were recorded with a Brussels jazz orchestra and incorporated into the story!” For details, see moviescoremedia.
MSM has also released the score to PSYCHOSIA, about a psychologist researching the nature of suicides who forms a tight bond with one of her patients only to discover that something is not as it seems. The music is by Finnish composer Pessi Levanto (OMA MAA, SWINGERS), who supplies a very unusual, experimental score for the movie. “As [this film is] deeply rooted in European art house tradition, also the music had to be far more minimalistic and abstract compared to Hollywood-style orchestral music which I’ve utilized in the past,” said Levanto. “We found the desired sound in microtonal harp and solo voice which I utilized in a collage-fashion to deepen the more surreal moments in the film.” For details, see moviescoremedia.
French composer Anne-Sophie Versnaeyen has composed the original score to Nicolas Bedos’ LA BELLE EPOQUE. The story that follows Victor, a disillusioned sexagenarian, who sees his life changing the day an entrepreneur offers him to plunge back into the time of his choice. Victor decides to relive the greatest moment of his life, his encounter with what he called his “True Love.” Working with Bedos on establishing the music’s form, it was decided to create two types of musical families: the first one called “classicals” with an ostinato motif for bassoons and bass clarinets in the bass line and themes by brass instruments and a small string ensemble. The second type is centered on a “ballad” theme with drums, bass instruments, clarinets, guitars and bass guitar, as a reference to independent American cinema. The soundtrack album is now available via Sony Masterworks.
Matthew Margeson (KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE, MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN, ROCKETMAN) is composing the original music for the forthcoming horror film adaptation of FANTASY ISLAND. Margeson has previously collaborated with Wadlow on KICK-ASS 2 and Blumhouse’s TRUTH OR DARE. For more details, see musiquefantastique.
French Composer Romain Paillot’s latest score, ACHOURA, is for a French-Moroccan horror film directed by Talal Selhami (MIRAGES) which is due to hit theaters soon. Starring Sofiia Manousha, Younes Bouab, Omar Lotfi, the film is about four childhood friends who are reunited when one of them surfaces after twenty years, forcing them to confront a creature straight out of a spine-chilling Moroccan legend. The soundtrack, performed by the Budapest Symphony, is now available on all the major streaming platforms (Apple Music, Amazon US, Amazon France, Spotify, Deezer, etc.). The score may also be heard on Youtube here.
Kronos Records has announced four new releases coming in mid-December:
KUARTETS by Kristian Sensini. Sound-samples and pre-order http://kronosrecords.com/KL191.html Kronos Records is proud to present KuartetS, the first solo album by Italian composer Kristian Sensini of HYDE’S SECRET NIGHTMARE fame.
LILLY’S BEWITCHED CHRISTMAS by Anne-Kathrin Dern. Sound-samples and pre-order http://kronosrecords.com/K99.html . The score for a modern day fairy tale with magical, beautiful haunting melodies with spooky and quirky bends, guaranteed to thrill and fill you with the Christmas spirit. Main theme for the Lilly the Witch franchise by Klaus Badelt.
JESÚS DE NAZARET by Alejandro Karo. Sound-samples and pre-order http://kronosrecords.com/K100.html . Kronos CD #100 goes to the soundtrack for this beautiful new Mexican film. JESUS OF NAZARETH is the work of rising composer Alejandro Karo, who managed to compose a score that mutates from the drony arid desert themes to deeply spiritual melodies that soar higher and higher as the Christ approaches his sacrifice for mankind.
NOAH LAND by Leon Gurvitch. Sound-samples and pre-order http://kronosrecords.com/K101.html Another splendid offering for Kronos Records’ 10-year anniversary celebration. Turkish filmmaker Cenk Ertürk’s acclaimed film NOAH LAND is the drama of Omer, who while suffering through a mid-life crisis, has to face angry villagers in order to realize his estranged father’s dying wish to be buried under the enshrined Noah Tree which his father claims to have planted half a century ago. Gurvitch is a rising star in European film music who has created a very intimate and effective dramatic score for this film. (Previously issued digitally by MovieScore Media).
German label Chris’ Soundtrack Corner has recently released two new albums in its series of rare Italian soundtracks: SECOND SPRING is a 1975 West German/Italian drama featuring music by Stelvio Cipriani, whose original score written for the film was, unaccountably, replaced by library tracks for the film's final mix, with only a few cues from the original score remaining in the film. The result is a varied but quite likable score with a dominant romantic fragrance and appealing soft jazz in the composer’s finest form. For info see here. Also available is METRALLETA STEIN, an adventurous crime thriller written and directed by José Antonio de la Loma, taken for the first time from the first generation tapes and featuring original and library music from composers Daniele Patucchi, Stelvio Cipriani, Luis Bacalov, Mario Molino and Carlo Rustichelli; an interesting hodge-podge with an enjoyable result. See here for more details.
Award-winning composer Zhiyi Wang’s lush symphonic score to Chinese box-office hit MY PEOPLE, MY COUNTRY has released his score for “The Guiding Star” – one of the film’s seven chapters – on Soundcloud. The film is an anthology of seven propaganda stories directed by several directors, which are based on seven moments since the foundation of People’s Republic of China. The film was coordinated by the famous Chinese director Kaige Chen; “The Guiding Star” chapter is his. “We had the pleasure to work with the Budapest Scoring Orchestra to record the score, along with some Chinese folk instruments, like Dizi, Yangqin and Morin khuur (a Mongolian instrument) to introduce an exotic flavor,” said the composer. Watch a clip from the powerful orchestral track “Motherland” on Vimeo here. Listen to the entire score to “The Guiding Star” on Soundcloud here.
Japanese label Cinema-KAN has released a CD boxed set reissue of the “Heisei” era Gamera trilogy (GAMERA: GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE, GAMERA 2: ATTACK OF THE LEGION, GAMERA 3: REVENGE OF IRIS), featuring the score composed by Kow Otani (SHADOW OF THE COLOSSUS, GODZILLA, MOTHRA AND KING GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK). The new CD is fully digitally remastered in UHQCD (Ultimate High Quality CD), and packaged in a newly-designed box.
The box set is available from ArkSquare, CDJapan, Amazon Japan, Screen Archives, and other soundtrack CD sellers.
Also newly released from Cinema-KAN is the world premiere CD soundtrack to 1977’s LEGEND OF DINOSAURS AND MONSTER BIRDS, composed by Masao Yagi (DELINQUENT BOSS, GANGSTER COP, YAKUZA LAW). The new CD contains previously unreleased music, and the label describes the score as “like the Italian scores of that era” – an apt description since it’s a very catchy score although it’s melodic confluence was counterproductive to augmenting the film’s drama and monster attacks! The soundtrack CD is available from ArkSquare, CDJapan, Amazon Japan, and other soundtrack CD sellers.
Sony Music has released the Season 3 soundtrack to the Netflix original series THE CROWN with music by BAFTA and Ivor Novello Award-winning composer Martin Phipps (BLACK MIRROR, PEAKY BLINDERS). Of the soundtrack, Phipps says, “It was a great honor to pick up the musical reigns on this pitch-perfect show, and so rewarding to collaborate with Peter Morgan and the team of directors. The genius of THE CROWN is its ability to find the human stories inside the heightened world of the monarchy. In Season 3 we tried to connect the score less with the grandeur and pomp of our characters surroundings, and more with the emotion of their personal journeys. This translated, musically, into a shift away from thick, pulsing orchestral textures, and more towards minimal, singular sounds. The score still needed to have depth and gravitas though, and I hope we feel the suppressed power of the establishment lurking beneath these more personal melodies.”
Meanwhile, Milan Records has released the original motion picture soundtrack to PROXIMA with music by Academy Award-, Golden Globe- and Grammy-Award winning composer and musician Ryuichi Sakamoto. The album features music from the French film directed by Alice Winocour, which made its award-winning debut at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.
Beat Records of Italy has announced the GATES OF HELLTrilogy –a tribute to the popular apocryphal trilogy directed by horror cinema legend Lucio Fulci in the early 80s, three movies that marked the evolution of the director’s style over just two years: PAURA NELLA CITTA’ DEI MORTI VIVENTI (1980; City Of The Living Dead), E TU VIVRAI NEL TERRORE… L’ALDILA’! (1981; The Beyond) and QUELLA VILLA ACCANTO AL CIMITERO (1981; The House By The Cemetery); all three are included in the label’s special 3-cs set. Also announced is the premiere release of the obscure 1980 Italian science fiction horror film ALIEN 2 SULLA TERRA, an apocryphal sequel to Ridley Scott’s ALIEN, scored by Guido & Maurizio De Angelis in a uniquely experimental style. With nearly 80 minutes of music, the soundtrack will be available in CD and vinyl formats. The will also release in early December Roberto Pregadio’s easy listening score from the cult movie directed IL MEDICO LA STUDENTESSA, Francesco de Masi’s music from Mario Caiano’s 1963 Western film IL SEGNO DEL COYOTE (which has been out of print for some time since its original 1998 release), a reissue of the expanded edition of Ennio Morricone’s 1984 fore I LADRI DELLA NOTTE (Thieves After Dark) directed by Samuel Fuller.
See Beat Records. The label is also offering, as an exclusive gift to purchasers from its website, Piero Umiliani’s previously unreleased score to the 1981 heist comedy TESTE DI QUOIO – see Beat Records Special.
The soundtrack albums to Chad Stahelski’s JOHN WICK trilogy with scores by Tyler Bates and Joel J. Richard, are available for the first time as 2LP sets in gatefold jackets, exclusively from Varèse Sarabande Records and Music.Film Recordings. The vinyl editions will be available at varesesarabandevinyl and other retailers.
The Omega Productions Records presents for the first time in multichannel, the soundtrack to GEORGINO, composed by Laurent Boutonnat. Released in 1994, GEORGINO is a rich work both in its visuals, its sounds. The musical score shapes the images of a fantastic tale, whose melancholic atmosphere accentuates the madness of the characters. This edition marking the 25th anniversary of the film contains a double gatefold vinyl containing all the songs in the 2007 edition, a CD digipack containing all the songs in the 2007 edition, a vinyl 10” (25 cm) including an unprecedented result of 22 minutes soundscapes based after the film, a 7” (18 cm) flexi-disc containing three vintage radio spots, a 32-page booklet featuring notes by writer and film researcher/lecturer Jean-Baptiste Chantoiseau and Lucas Giorgino, and a partial reproduction in facsimile of the original score of GEORGINO. The edition is limited to 1000 copies. See OmegaProds here.
See also Beat Records’ release of ALIEN 2 SULLA TERRA in CD and also vinyl, in News above.
For CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE, in which players are immersed in a modern-day terrorism environment, Activision recruited game compose extraordinaire Sarah Schachner to match the game’s gritty realism. Activision wanted the game to be as realistic as possible, wrote Shirley Ju in Variety, who interviewed Schachner about the score. “It covers a lot of the types of situations that we see in war right now,” Schachner told her. “It deals with conflicts in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. You play as multiple characters and what’s interesting is that the game’s not from an American perspective. It’s not good guys versus bad guys. It’s not always clear what’s right or wrong. It’s gray. It’s messy. It’s confusing.” (Read the Variety article here; order the soundtrack from amazon). Oh, and by the way, CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE won best game score at the Hollywood Music in Media Awards on Nov 20th, Congrats Sarah! [See full list of winners up at the start of News].
Lakeshore Records together with EA Games has released the soundtrack to NEED FOR SPEED: HEAT, now available digitally. The album features score by Pedro Bromfman, known for his score to EMMY®– and Golden Globe®-nominated NARCOS hit series on Netflix.
Quartet Records has announced vinyl editions of the Roman Polanski thriller THE TENANT, scored by Philippe Sarde, and Riz Ortolani’s music to the horror film NON SI SEVIZIA UN PAPERINO (1972; Don't Torture A Duckling). See Quartet Records Vinyl.
Sony Music presents the original game score to DEATH STRANDING, featuring the music of Ludvig Forssell for Sony Interactive Entertainment’s all-new, genre-defying action-adventure game starring Norman Reedus, Mads Mikkelsen, Léa Seydoux and Lindsay Wagner. From legendary game creator Hideo Kojima, DEATH STRANDING is now available for the PlayStation® 4 (PS4™) system. After the collapse of civilization, mysterious explosions have rocked the planet, setting off a series of supernatural events known as the Death Stranding. With spectral creatures plaguing the landscape, and the planet on the verge of a mass extinction, it’s up to Sam Bridges to journey across the ravaged wasteland and save mankind from impending annihilation.
Watch the extended trailer on youtube; for info on the PS4 game see playstation.
Randall D. Larson was for many years senior editor for Soundtrack Magazine, publisher of CinemaScore: The Film Music Journal, and a film music columnist for Cinefantastique magazine. A specialist on horror film music, he is the author of Musique Fantastique: A Survey of Film Music in the Fantastic Cinema and Music from the House of Hammer. He currently writes articles on film music and sf/horror cinema, and has written liner notes for nearly 300 soundtrack CDs. Special thanks to Benjamin Michael Joffe for copyediting assistance.