Once Upon A Time: Scoring Fantasy & Thrillers with
OUR UNIVERSE: The Stars Connect Us All:
An Interview with Anne Nikitin & Jessica Jones
Interviews by Randall D. Larson
Overviews: Soundtrack Reviews
THE FORGER/Grigorov/MovieScore Media
GAME OF THRONES: HOUSE OF DRAGONS/Djawadi/WaterTower
THE GRAVEDIGGER’S WIFE/Matthias/Kronos
THE LAST OF THE WINTHROPS/Rozow/self
LAW & ORDER: ORGANIZED CRIME S1/Barrett/Lakeshore
LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RINGS OF POWER/McCreary/Amazon Content Services
PRANCER: A CHRISTMAS TALE/McKenzie/Intrada & BackLot
THE RING 20th Anniv./Zimmer/La-La Land
SILENT RIVER/Ralston/ Harmonic Design
STINGRAY/Barry Gray/Silva Screen
STRANGE NEW WORLD/Jackman/Disney
UNE BELLE COURSE/Philippe Rombi/MusicBox
WEDNESDAY/Elfman & Bacon/Lakeshore
VIOLENT NIGHT/Lewis/Back Lot Music
Film & TV Music News
New Soundtrack News
Non-Film Musical Works by Film Composers
Film Music Books
Documentary Film & Soundtrack News
Game Music News & Soundtracks
Christopher Stone began his musical education at the age of 5, in Los Angeles, when he taught himself to play the piano by placing his hands on the keys of his father’s Ampico Player Piano as they moved up and down. He quickly began creating his own compositions. He went on to study piano with Sergei Vladimirovich Tarnowsky, and conducting with Ivan Boutnikoff, Principal Conductor for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. At the age of 15, Stone moved to Paris, France and had the honor of studying composition with Nadia Boulanger who influenced generations of young composers from Aaron Copeland to Phillip Glass. Stone completed his formal music education at the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Vienna, Austria. Although Stone’s early influences were in the classical European musical tradition, two feature films, scored while he was still at university, launched his professional career. Stone’s classical training, bolstered his native ability to connect with and enhance this visual art form, has resulted in numerous awards. He has worked in many genres, and works he has scored have been nominated for or won Emmy Awards, Clio Awards, a Cable/Ace Awards and an Oscar. An extremely prolific composer, he was awarded ASCAPS’s Most Performed Background Scores award six years in a row. During this extremely busy time, Stone never forgot his classical roots. He composed three ballets for the Bethune Theatredanse: “The Time Machine,” “Perelandra,” and “Bird of Passage.” Most recently, he had the honor of composing the tone poem, “Siddhartha” for the award-winning cellist, Andrew Shulman.
Q: By way of background, what brought you into film scoring in the first place?
Christopher Stone: I grew up in a film industry family. My father was Andrew Stone and my mother is Virginia Stone and they made movies together for MGM, and so as a small child I was interested in music from about age 5, and played piano. They would just say “Hey! Why don’t you pretend that you’re scoring a movie? How about do an action scene? Now do a love scene! So do this kind of thing, so they were kind of training me for that job description from a very young age. I came back from formal training in Europe and very slowly got into getting a job, and another, and then another job. It took about fifteen years from the time I got back from school to actually really working full time as a composer.
Q: I believe your first encounter with a horror feature film was the 1987 Renny Harlin movie PRISON, which is credited to you and Richard Band. How did the score come about between the two of you?
Christopher Stone: I don’t know if that was the first one but it was certainly very early. We met through another mutual friend, Joel Goldsmith, Jerry’s son. I had actually met Richard’s father Albert Band long before I ever met Rick, from another mutual friend – a director called Edward Dmytryk, who really helped me out a lot in the early days of my career. He introduced me to Richard’s father, so when Rick and I met it was sort of a natural thing for us to work together. I had the studio at the time, and he didn’t have as much gear as I had then. It was a way of us collaborating, and we recorded it at my studio, basically.
Q: How would you describe the music for PRISON and what it needed, and how did you work with Ricky to compose the score together?
Christopher Stone: To the best of my memory I think we did everything together. I don’t think we went away in our separate areas. I think Rick came up with the basic theme concept and then we more or less collaborated. Rick pretty much came up with most of the thematic development, and I was more like the equivalent of an orchestrator. But when you’re working electronically, mostly, it’s not like someone gets you a sketch on paper and then you go ahead and orchestrate it. There’s clear delineation between who’s the sketch artist and who’s the orchestrator artist. So doing it electronically it gets a little bit more intwined, you know. But in reality I played more of the orchestrator role in that, as it were, and he played more of the composer role.
Q: Does film music in a horror film play a special role in terms of selling the supernatural elements on top of supporting the emotional/dramatic elements that film music is most often called to do?
Christopher Stone: I think so. Of course. It would depend on the movie. Some movies work great with sound design – it really depends on the style of the movie. If the style of the movie is conducive to theatrical development, then yeah the more it becomes very, very integral. A perfect example would be something like PSYCHO, which of course is the classic of all the horror movies, if you want to call it a horror movie. But it was filmed to be very conducive to that – in fact all the movies from that era were really filmed in a directorial style that really is more conducive to thematic development. They took more time with taking shots of houses and people moving through the woods and that kind of thing. So there was a lot more open for a thematic approach. When people say “Why aren’t there any great themes any more?” or like put composers to the guillotine because they can’t write themes any more – well, no, that’s not the reason. The reason is because movies aren’t shot so much any more for thematic development. There’s a lot more dialogue and where there isn’t dialogue there’s a lot of action, so you don’t get a whole lot of open, big scenic spaces… it’s just shot very differently. If LAWRENCE OF ARABIA was shot again from scratch and no one had ever seen the original, it would all be contemporary Middle Eastern music, mixed with some military drums and stuff. It wouldn’t have that big, expansive… we’re just not as sentimental any more.
That’s actually the other big reason: movies aren’t as sentimental as they were back then. People were a lot more emotionally naïve, shall we say, and so they were able to be hooked into a big, thematic, emotional thing, and people are just too jaded in today’s world. I mean, there aren’t any songs anymore that are love songs. There are a lot of songs about other things but love is not one of those things. As a people, a world people, we’ve become far less sentimental and more jaded. Burnt out, emotionally. And that kind of comes back to your original question, how much of the music can affect something in a horror movie. If there is a high degree of emotion in the movie, then the music can add to that heavily – like if you’re really worried about somebody being in jeopardy, where something is about to happen to the characters, it’s a lot easer under those conditions to write something that has emotional impact. As opposed to, let’s say, there are a bunch of post-apocalypse vampire ghouls going through the night, stomping around, are you going to really be able to write anything that’s going to make your heart thump? I don’t think so. It’s because it’s just a different genre.
Q: You were called in to score PHANTASM II in 1988, which also reprised Fred Myrow’s theme from the first film. Would you describe how and where you needed to employ Myrow’s theme and how you brought your own ideas into this second movie?
Christopher Stone: It’s funny – how I got together with Fred was pretty much the same thing as it was with Rick. Just to be honest and realistic, I had the gear! Would they both have rather done it themselves? Probably! [laughs]. At that times neither of them have the gear or the wherewithal to use it? No, not really! I’m just being honest! So, really, I was called in on PHANTASM II more or less to be Fred’s orchestrator, for lack of a better word. So I did that, and I got a co-writing credit which was appropriate for the amount of work I actually did, but honestly, it was more like an arranger/orchestrator job. I used his themes and we talked a lot about stuff, Fred acted like the music producer, but I was using his themes. That’s kind of the best way to describe the working relationship.
Q: Did you have opportunities to provide some of your own pads or electronic music apart from the theme just in terms of scary music and the stuff that really made the story stand out apart from using the theme?
Christopher Stone: Oh sure. There were plenty of instances where I could do that all the way through. We didn’t have the themes going over and over and over again. There were times when we had actual underscore, here and there.
Q: What kind of equipment did you have, back in those days, with II or maybe III?
Christopher Stone: I had a stack of Emulator 3’s, and when I say stack I mean like maybe a dozen of them, and they were $12 grand a pop back then! That was a big investment for me. And I had a 2-inch 24-track, a half-inch four track, and a big Sony console, and a nice control room to put it all in, a whole bunch of outboard gear. In terms of synths I had a Moog Model 15, a couple of ARP 2600s, and a bunch of racks of various Roland and Yamaha synths and stuff like that, a bunch of different Lexicon digital reverbs, also had some plate reverbs, a couple of those. That was a pretty expensive amount of gear for back then, you know, and then in those days there were very few guys around that had that kind of an arsenal. A couple of other guys would occasionally ask me to do a few things here and there, too, but mostly I was just writing my own TV work – and occasionally I would do stuff for people like Fred and Rick.
Q: Those were days when electronic music for films was really coming into its own… being on the cusp of that and participating in it from then to now. What did you feel as far as where you cold go and what electronics can do to enhance and provide a new sonic dimension to film music, especially in these genres?
Christopher Stone: Well, I wouldn’t really categorize what I as doing as electronic music so much, honestly, because in terms of pure electronic stuff, I did very little of that. I was doing mostly orchestral imitation, emulator kind of stuff. I would have to say that there are really two categories of electronic music, one is electronics just for pure electronics sake, right? And the other one is basically your very cheap orchestra.
Q: Which is still true today!
Christopher Stone: Yeah, your hamburger helper orchestra! You record a few instruments for the point, to get some clarity, and fill the rest with samples. And it’s not the composer’s choice, that’s the producer’s choice because they’ll just tell you this is the budget you have to spend on it, so you have a choice, a lot of people say “Well, if you have any integrity, you can use an orchestra all the time.” That’s fine, if they have the budget. If you want to work for free and have absolutely no food on the dinner table, then or course, take your entire salary and record it with a live orchestra,. And to be honest with you, I’ve done that a couple of times, hoping that the directors would appreciate the fact that I was really trying to put the most into it! But they don’t.
Q: That’s the sad truth of it, isn’t it?
Christopher Stone: It is. You put all the money into it, your entire salary, everything, and at the end of the day, shall we hire this guy for the next job? Naw, he’s too cheap.
Q: How was the experience scoring PHANTASM III, and then PHANTASM IV, which gave you a little more autonomy in what you were doing—
Christopher Stone: A lot more!
Q: How were you able to advance your music into the stories developed into these films while staying true to the inherent needs of a continuing franchise?
Christopher Stone: It was definitely a lot more freedom for me, for sure. Especially in the last one where I was able to really start putting in some more of the contemporary scoring techniques, because what has really changed dramatically since the days before – what’s changed the most in the last ten years is a lot more reliance on – I’m talking about scores in general – there’s a lot more reliance on sound design. Basically composers making a lot of various thumps and falls and rises and drops, stuff that has nothing to do with the orchestral context at all. The good news to that is electronic music has really come into its own, now – it took that long for it to really be a sound that is accepted on its own without having to imitate or sound like an orchestra. The downside to that is that a lot of the orchestral techniques we’re using are falling by the wayside. It’s a perishable skill, so it’s going to be in the next twenty years there’s probably going to be a whole group of composers out there who will have absolutely no idea how to write for a clarinet – much less a viola, you know? But, it’s fine, I’m not one of these composers who likes moaning on about “oh, those good-old days of film scoring...” Not really, no. It’s all good old days. The style just changes, and in all honesty I really enjoy writing in the newer vein, because you have a much bigger palette now. I can write for some things that are orchestral when I need it, or get some really cool sound design going. As long as you’ve got the time to do it, it’s great. It’s really many, many times more time consuming. If you’re on a very tight work schedule, getting a sound design score is a nightmare! But if you’re given a ton of time and you can really develop some really cool unusual sounds, then it’s a dream.
Q: With PHANTASM IV and PHANTASM RAVAGER in 2016, where you were able to do more on your own? How would you describe the elements you brought in to enhance those scores on your own terms?
Christopher Stone: I would say it has to do mostly with the electronic elements. I’d become a lot better at doing sound design and being able to mix sound design with orchestral textures. That’s really what I’ve started to enjoy. I got introduced to that whole idea, anyway, after meeting Joel Goldsmith – he introduced me to Jerry Goldsmith, and I interned for him back in the early ‘70s, and he had me there to operate his ARP 2500s to do just that, to incorporate sound design into the orchestral elements. So I got introduced to that whole concept through working for Jerry for about two years.
Q: You couldn’t ask for a better mentor!
Christopher Stone: Yeah that was great. He brought me along to his recording sessions so I got to be there during a number of them, like LOGAN’S RUN, CASSANDRA CROSSING, a bunch of movies I was able to go both to the recording sessions and to the dubbing stage. That was really nice. I was definitely his assistant in the true specs of the assistant role! Panic phone calls at 2AM, that kind of thing! “Why isn’t this working?”
Q: In PHANTASM IV and PHANTASM RAVAGER I’m assuming there was still a place for Fred Myrow’s main theme… how did you use that,….?
Christopher Stone: Oh yeah. You can’t not use that! It’s a great theme. I must say if I’d been saddled with a theme for thirty years, that was certainly a great one to be saddled with. It’s a lot of fun to write with that theme. He really did a bang-out job writing theme and countertheme to it, and it lends itself to being able to put little quotes of it here and there. It was a really, really good theme to work with, musically.
Q: Did you need to modify it at all to fit the rest of your score, or did you keep it the way he originally wrote it?
Christopher Stone: There are some different arrangements, but the melody line wasn’t modified at all.
Q: What brought you into the SWAMP THING TV series in 1990-93 and how did you approach scoring a character that was essentially monstrous while being a super hero at the same time?
Christopher Stone: I was brought into that, actually my agent got me that job, straight up. Then I met Tom Blomquist who ended up being the showrunner on that, and then later he brought me on to WALKER TEXAS RANGER. That came out of the blue.
Q: What was your musical palette for scoring SWAMP THING?
Christopher Stone: I used a lot of my own samples, so that was probably another reason why I was kind of the first choice in some of these things, because, honestly, I had better samples than most people. I wasn’t using just the sample library – I mean I recorded one of libraries for them later, for one of the later libraries.
Q: I would imagine being in the swamp environment at least somewhat in the development of the show allowed you to come up with some pretty cool textural music, but I assume you didn’t have to go in your hip waders out in the Louisiana swampland to record anything like that…?
Christopher Stone: No! But if it was done today I probably had more of a process where I had a Ry Cooder kind of vibe… I probably would have done more of that. In today’s world I probably would have added more of a bayou element in there, which frankly just didn’t cross my mind because nobody else was doing that kind of thing. So I didn’t think to do that. but in retrospect and with what I know now I would have added that as another element which could have been very creepy in areas. But it wasn’t so much about the bayou and bayou culture as it was really about a swamp – a magical swamp at that….
Q: But it definitely worked for what it needed at the time.
Christopher Stone: Yeah, for that time period, yeah. For the style of writing back then.
Q: What was most challenging about scoring SWAMP THING – and most rewarding?
Christopher Stone: I wouldn’t say it was challenging, it was nice. I can definitely tell you the most rewarding parts. First of all, I really enjoyed the whole genre and the theme, and they gave me complete autonomy. What’s really weird, every company you work with – each company and each director – they swear up and down the whole industry works the way they work! They don’t. They just think the whole world operates exactly the way they do. And honestly, you might as well be speaking in a foreign language on every job, because they’re all so radically different from another. Some companies I’d worked with just before that, they’d want to spot everything, they wanted me to send them demos of this and multiple takes on that and try this and we’ve got to spot the whole show and sit down and you will write from here to there and it will sound like this temp score, and everything else! SWAMP THING was very simple, the first time I asked “ok, when do we do the spotting session.” There was silence on the other end of the phone! I was in L.A., they were in Florida. And I just heard like the phone almost drop. “What do you mean, spotting?” “You know, we go through the show together, we figure out what music has to go where,” and I get this kind of like, you know like the scene in NATIONAL LAMPOON VACATION where Chevy Chase looks out over the Grand Canyon and goes ‘uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh?” Sonically, that was what I was hearing on the other end of the phone from this guy! And he said “We don’t have time for that! Just score it!” [laughs] I was, “Oh. Okay! Well, thank you very much. As a matter of fact, yes, I will!”
Actually, I remember I loved it so much, writing that music that when I took the 2-inch tape – in those tape we were using 2-inch audio tape; one of the channels had the time code on it for synchronization – and every week I would drive it down to the FedEx office, box it up, and send it off. I actually had tears in my eyes when I was driving home – and that’s not a joke, I really did! Because it was my favorite job I’d ever had, because I got was paid and then assigned the next one! I would get little notes from them just saying “Great job! Ok we can do the next one!” That kind of thing. So I got a lot of kudos from it, no interference, just score it, be done, and it was great!
Q: Too bad they all couldn’t be that way!
Christopher Stone: Well, yeah. Sometimes if you’re working with people who really know what they’re doing – literally, know what they’re doing – you can actually learn something as a composer. Like, if you’re working with a really top-top grade director, they can teach you something about ow to score a movie. But, for the most part, you’re just trying very hard to do your job without too much crap to deal with, especially the temp scores which can just be a nightmare.
Q: From horror to science fiction, you composed the first two seasons of the 1997 TV series HONEY I SHRUNK THE KIDS, and then Peter Bernstein scored the last season…
Christopher Stone: I’d just finished doing THE STUPIDS, with John Landis and Leslie Belzberg, and so I guess it was just a natural evolution that they brought me on to do that.
Q: Did the music or any of the feature films affect what was wanted for the series, either as a whole or with the episode you scored?
Christopher Stone: No one ever asked me to reflect the feature film music, no.
Q: How did you treat the more fantastical/science fiction aspects of the show, as distinct from its family adventure/comedy tone?
Christopher Stone: I tried to do it very tongue-in-cheek. I tried to do it like I was scoring an animated series. That’s how I wrote the theme and everything, the whole thing had an animated vibe to it, and I remember talking to John Landis on THE STUPIDS and he was a big fan of Warner Bros cartoons, and he said he liked to have things they were sort of cartoony, and this was kind of like life imitating art, or live action imitating art. So I took that to heart, and went “Ok let me do some like…” I mean it couldn’t be straight up Carl Stallingish; I mean I wouldn’t know where to begin, but something that was a little more tongue-in-cheek. So if you’re going to do something scary it had to be overly scary because it’s like Hollywood scary from the ‘50s or ‘60s, you know? So as long as everything was fun, it was good – It shouldn’t take itself too seriously kind of thing. SWAMP THING was a bit like that, too. Try not to get too overly sentimental and bust the genre by taking itself too seriously. I mean the whole SWAMP THING feel was that it didn’t take itself that seriously. It knew that things were campy and so the music was, although not as campy as it was in HONEY I SHRUNK THE KIDS.
Q: You rejoined Don Coscarelli for the “Incident on and Off a Mountain Road” episode of MASTERS OF HORROR in 2005. What was this experience like and how would you describe scoring this rather ghoulish episode?
Christopher Stone: Working with Don is always a great experience. We’ve gotten along obviously very well – otherwise he wouldn’t be hiring me over and over again! I tried to give it as much of a big budget feel as I could, in the music. I guess that means big orchestral. That’s pretty much what I try to do most of the time anyway. I think what I do best is try to give it orchestra sounds that sound so realistic you’re not really sure if it’s a real orchestra or not; so that it sounds like we had a bigger budget. That’s what I strive for. Whether or not I achieve that certainly isn’t for me to say, but that’s at least what I’m always trying to go for – not always, because if you’re doing comedy it’s different. It also has to do with chord changes and melodic choices. For one thing it’s always a tip off in cheap horror movies if that there’s a lot of chromaticism in cheap scores – you know, bom-bom, ba-ba bom-bom, ba-ba bom-bom, bom-bom, ba-ba bom-bom, ba-ba bom-bom… a lot of chromatic stuff and a lot of obvious stuff. The expensive composers like Jerry Goldsmith, that’s where I get my cues from, or at least I try to, and he had what I would call cliché avoidance. He was able to find the right chord changes and it sounds like he’s going to go for the obvious but then he switches gears and goes somewhere else. The cheap composers will just go to the obvious without even knowing they’re doing to the obvious.
Q: This episode was a pretty heavy-duty serial killer story. Do you recall how you treated that as far as the darkness and the impending sense of doom as the character feels as she encounters this guy?
Christopher Stone: I tried to keep it a little bit minimalistic in the front, and then wanted to have more bursts of musical energy later in the story. There’s a lot of dynamics leading up to those moments, so I would gradually build some tension and when the big orchestra stuff came in it just jolted you. That’s what I tried to do.
Q: That was a digital score, right?
Christopher Stone: Yeah.
Q: How about on HONEY I SHRUNK THE KIDS?
Christopher Stone: We did some of that with live orchestra and the rest was hamburger helper.
Q: Hamburger helper sweetened by a little bit of orchestra.
Christopher Stone: I actually prefer it the other direction. Live orchestra sweetened by some electronic filler. Because really the orchestral stuff is what’s up front, more than the filler.
Q: Over a career in film music of some 46 years or more, you’ve probably composed music for every conceivable genre. Looking back how do you regard your work on science fantasy and horror related subjects? Do you find anything distinctive about the musical needs of these genres?
Christopher Stone: No really, no. My natural instinct and my natural bent is more to do a big, emotional thematic kind of treatment. That’s my roots. There’s some people who are more jazz oriented and they’ll do some orchestral stuff, but their real roots are in jazz or something like that. My real roots are in big orchestral classical style music. The horror genre’s fun to do, and I can buy into it and get into it. It doesn’t come as easily to me as it would be if I had done… I would love to have had John Barry’s job. If anybody asked me “Who’s the composer on Earth I would love to have been?” John Barry. BORN FREE, all of that. I would love to have done that. That’s the real me.
This interview was conducted by July 2020. My thanks for Christopher Stone for taking the time out to chat with me about his work in these films. For more information about the composer, see his website: https://composerchrisstone.com/
Special thanks to Tim Ayers for assistance in facilitating this interview.
From BBC Studios and narrated by Academy Award-winner Morgan Freeman, comes this unprecedented six-part series, an epic tale 13.8 billion years in the making. Blending stunning wildlife footage with eye-popping cosmic special effects, it takes viewers on a fascinating adventure to explore the connections that drive our natural world. From the birth of the Sun to the birth of a sea turtle, OUR UNIVERSE uses groundbreaking animation to dramatize the spectacular celestial forces that generated our solar system, while modern camera and CGI technology bring the audience up close and personal with some of the most iconic, charismatic animals on Earth. OUR UNIVERSE is now streaming exclusively on Netflix. The series features original music by Anne Nikitin & Jessica Jones.
Anne Nikitin is an Ivor Novello and Emmy-nominated composer. She is known for her creative and versatile approach in amplifying suspense and emotion in award-winning documentaries, narrative dramas and drama-series. She enjoys writing in a variety of styles but has an affinity for dark, moody, atmospheric music, growing up on heavy doses of goth, indie rock, and 90s electronica, as well as classical avant-garde composers. From sweeping orchestral scores to dirty guitars, mesmeric synths and delicate piano refrains, she creates unique sound worlds spanning a wide range of genres.
Jessica Jones is a BAFTA new talent winning composer for film and television best known for her Emmy and HMMA nominated score for Netflix’s THE TINDER SWINDLER, which broke records as the most streamed documentary ever. Her recent credits also include JIMMY SAVILE: A BRITISH HORROR STORY for 72 Films and Netflix, BBC3’s original drama RED ROSE as well as RECLAIMING AMY WINEHOUSE for BBC 1, recorded by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. Jessica loves to use her voice in her own scores as well as creating delicate textures on her upright piano and violin. Her voice has featured on TV scores including Music and Sound Awards nominee LITTLE BIRDS as well as REFRAMED: MARILYN MONROE and Netflix’s LOST GIRLS.
Speaking about their collaboration co-scoring the new nature docuseries, Anne & Jessica jointly stated, “We’ve been working together on various productions for a number of years now and began co-composing when we realized that our compositional styles and approach to projects are very similar. Through our collaborations, a deep respect and friendship has grown. It’s always such a laugh working and recording together. We share the load, bring ideas to the table that we might not have thought of individually, and feel supported when the going gets tough, as it often does in this industry. We’re partners in crime!”
Photos from OUR UNIVERSE via Netflix.
Watch the trailer for OUR UNIVERSE:
Q: The series 6-episode series is a remarkably unique documentary in its approach, contrasting cosmic elements such as the birth of our sun with the struggles for survival of animal life on our planet. How did you approach its musical needs and determine how you and Jessica were going to develop the score for OUR UNIVERSE?
Anne Nikitin: We’d both worked with the director before, and so we had a good bond with him and the editor. We had early discussions about what we wanted to do with the score, what was it’s unique selling point. They talked a lot about now the universe calls out to the animals, in a sense, sort of personifying the universe as sort of a Mother Universe that affects the behavior of the animals. We thought vocals might be a nice way to go. Jess is a singer, and I’ve always like to use vocals so we’re very familiar with that world. We really loved the sound of the Bulgarian Women’s Choir – there’s a beautiful, ancient, timeless quality to their voices. So we got in touch with them and asked if they would sing for us. We wanted them to represent the universe, so we wrote themes for them to sing, and those themes became present in all six episodes.
Jessica Jones: In addition to the choir, we recorded the BBC Concert Orchestra to support the orchestral element, and they, obviously, were incredible with a full orchestra and full percussion. The whole score is centered around the orchestra and then the choir. We also did a lot of remote woodwinds, we had ney, panpipes, bansuri. We recorded some guitar and drums remotely, lot of upright piano – it’s got everything in there! It’s a score of every voice, and I think it needs that because the show’s got such a huge scale.
Listen to the title track “Our Universe,” featuring the Bulgarian Women’s Choir, via YouTube”
Q: Jessica, I understand you provided the “voice” of Mother Earth, which recurs throughout the series. How did this musical element come about and how have you used it in the series?
Jessica Jones: I only sung a tiny fragment of the vocals. Most of it was the Bulgarian Women’s Choir, who gave it a different quality of voice, sort of earthy and folkloric, and kind of timeless. We thought that they reflected the vastness of space and the fact that it’s 13.8 billion years old. We felt that it could only be a female voice.
Anne Nikitin: The choir, Jess, how many did we use?
Jessica Jones: It was, amazingly, only seven but it sounded like four hundred! It wasn’t even that layered, it was just the power of each of them. They’re amazing.
Anne Nikitin: Each voice is really rich. That’s the selling point of their Bulgarian traditional vocal singing. Every voice has a real resonance and timbre, and you hear all the harmonics, so when they all sing together it’s huge and beautiful. You get this earthy feeling of ancient times.
Q: When you first came on board, what were the discussions you had with the producers about the kind of music needed – and then how did the two of you collaborate together on creating the score?
Anne Nikitin: We’d talked a lot about this vocal idea. The director and editor were on board with it but we had to convince the producers – they wanted to understand the sound that we were talking about with the choir, so we sent them some demos and recordings that this choir had done before – they do these live concerts. Slowly the producers came to love the idea! Then, the way we write, Jessica and I went off into our individual studios and just wrote a whole bunch of sketches – orchestral sketches, vocal sketches, and then we put them in a folder, we listened to each other’s music, and then as the show went on we’d just take the individual themes and rework them.
Jessica Jones: We actually recorded the choir very early on. We had a lot of orchestral sessions, and our choir session fell just after the first one. So for the rest of the episodes we were crafting orchestral cues around some of the themes that we already had in the choir, which is a lot of fun to do because you can take a theme for the sun and use it on the Bears in a subtler way, or change the harmony. Working that way, with pre-recorded audio, it felt like quite a fluid way to keep a thread running through the show – because there’s so many different things, you don’t want it to feel like it’s not connected.
Listen to the track “The Earth Spins” from OUR UNIVERSE, via YouTube:
Q: How was “The Call” of Mother Earth used to throughout the score as a thematic element?
Jessica Jones: “The Call” ended up as a two-note, rising motif, and that comes up a lot. We would use that in the horns a lot, or in the brass and the strings, trying to make that into something people could hold on to, because in the show it goes from the natural world back to space, then back to the natural world. They both inform each other, so we needed that short hook to try and tie us back to the natural world.
Anne Nikitin: Having this very short hook was something that people would be very familiar with – something that was memorable and we could also create variations with and throw it through the different instruments. Each episode has a different animal, and we wanted to create a different theme to represent each animal – different themes, different instrumentation. So having “The Call” was a continuous thread that brought it all together.
Q: How was the score’s thematic architecture identified and developed as you scored the series?
Anne Nikitin: We had different directors on each episode. I think that was really good, because they came from different places and they wanted different things for each animal. We would talk about what kind of identity we would give the animals, so, for example, in the turtles, the editor came up with the idea of prog rock – we thought that was a bit crazy, but we loved the idea and we wanted to be bold so we decided to write something based on this prog rock idea but then marrying it with the orchestra. And then for the penguins it was more of a sort of fun, Disney romantic feel – so it went on like that.
Jessica Jones: We were always trying to use the same themes but completely change them up – so you might use a melody like, like I think we used a melody line in Elephants; the elephant episode is all about water and it’s got a kind of fluid quality to it. Then we took that into Bears and into Penguins, and changed it up with woodwinds underneath it, which made it more playful but it had the same core to it.
Listen to the track “The Elephants Grieve,” featuring The Bulgarian Women’s Choir, via YouTube:
Q: How did you and Anne determine the instrumental palette for the score and its episodes?
Jessica Jones: With the BBC Concert Orchestra and the Bulgarian Womens Choir we wanted it to feel very organic. Because it’s about space, we were trying to avoid feeling like it had to just be synths to feel like an organic palette throughout the show.
Q: The first episode, with the cheetah family seeking food in the Serengeti’s brutal dry season, was my first exposure to the show. As the opening episode, defining what the rest of the episodes are going to be, how did you begin to score that episode?
Jessica Jones: Funnily, we didn’t actually start with Cheetahs. I think it was the second episode that we wrote… we didn’t actually work in the order that the show ended up with – we were working on multiple episodes at the same time. Cheetahs felt like it needed to feel like it was very airy, with a lot of space in the nature moments with Cheetahs. More woodwind heavy with some low percussion. It felt like it’s all about starvation and them trying to find energy from their food, so we had a bit more space there, and when we go out to the wide universe it’s got that vast and timeless quality with the choir.
Anne Nikitin: Our early conversation was: do we want to go in that cliched idea of going synth-heavy in the Universe with sort of a BLADE RUNNER kind of thing – and with orchestra for the animals? That didn’t really sit well with us. We do use quite a lot of synths throughout the show, but we wanted the universe to feel bigger than that. We also wanted it to feel organic, just like Earth. “We’re all made of stardust” is the message, really, and we didn’t want to separate the two because, actually, we are part of the universe. So everything is connected, instrumentally, as well. We used synths to give it a real weight and a push and a pulse when it needed to feel strong and explosive. But other than that we tried to keep it all very organic.
Listen to the track “Jupiter,” from OUR UNIVERSE, via YouTube:
Q: What was most challenging – and most rewarding for you in creating this score?
Jessica Jones: Most rewarding, for sure, was just working with Anne. With that collaboration, it’s just a lot of fun. It’s an easy process, and the whole team was really great to work with; it felt like everyone was on the same page and everyone was supportive of everyone’s ideas. So the collaboration in general was a definite highlight. For challenges, we’ve said this a lot, but keeping nature and space tied together with the music, the show’s premise, obviously, has a little bit of both and you want to make sure they feel connected all the time. I guess that was our biggest challenge.
Anne Nikitin: My answer’s the same as Jessica’s. Definitely working together was the highlight. With these nature series, in particular, there’s so much music, it’s wall-to-wall. It’s huge, and the idea of writing one on your own is quite daunting. Having somebody that you connect with, musically and as a friend, was just so much fun, and suddenly it wasn’t daunting any more at all. We used to look forward working with the directors and editors because they were all so great – producers as well. And like Jessica said, the collaboration was just very organic – like the music! And just a lot of fun. We would throw ideas at them, knowing that they would really respond to them, and if they didn’t respond, it was fine. We spend quite a bit of time testing out ideas, and some of them were rejected and that was great as well; we wanted to know what wasn’t working for everybody, which was also very important to know.
Q: Any final thoughts about your experiences scoring OUR UNIVERSE that we haven’t yet discussed, or I haven’t thought to ask?
Jessica Jones: There’s a story I always keep wanting to tell about when we were recording the choir – when we finished recording with them we went into the room with them at the end and they held out hands and they did this big traditional chant. Incredible. It reverberated through you. Such a powerful memory! I really treasure that.
Anne Nikitin: Same. That was my one memory that I just loved, It was so special, I think we were all tearful, listening. These women were such brilliant artists to work with. They gave us more than we could have hoped for when we recorded with them. And then to throw me and Jessica into the circle and sing to us was just wonderful. It was also great working with our wonderful orchestrator Tom Kelly, with the BBC Concert orchestra – he was helping to bring them alive, and they were lovely to work with as well.
Jessica Jones: Yeah, Tom orchestrated and conducted it and that made the sessions even more enjoyable. He’s brilliant.
Watch a short video about recording the score for OUR UNIVERSE:
Q: Anne, I see that you’ve been scoring DANGEROUS LIAISONS and the second season of FATE: THE WINX SAGA. What can you tell me about what else is going on that you can talk about?
Anne Nikitin: I’ve finished two films – one is a space film called ISS, which is a thriller taking place on the International Space Station. I finished that a couple of months ago, and I’ve just finished one yesterday, called MOTHER’S INSTINCT which is a Jessica Chastain/Anne Hathaway film, another thriller! I like to do dark things (laughs)! They always seem to find me!
Q: Jessica – Same question: I see you’ve been scoring RED ROSE and THE TINDLER SWINDLER. What else is going on?
Jessica Jones: RED ROSE, is on BBC I-Player at the moment but will be on Netflix at some point in the future, I think. And then I’ve got an artist project called Vanbur, and I’m trying to write an album, as well.
My thanks to you both for taking the time to chat with me about scoring this fascinating documentary!
The soundtrack album to OUR UNIVERSE has been digitally released by Netflix Music last November 18th and is available at these links. For more information on Anne Nikitin, see her website at https://www.annenikitin.com/ For more information on Jessica Jones, see her website at https://www.jessicajonescomposer.com/ Special thanks to Andrew Krop and Yefan Zhang of White Bear PR for facilitating this interview.
DEATHCEMBER/Andrew Scott Bell & Others/Howlin’ Wolf - CD
Howlin’ Wolf Records presents DEATHCEMBER, a holiday-themed horror anthology series soundtrack with an international ensemble of renowned composers, directors, and actors. The movie is a collection of 24 films that take a look at the dark side of the festive season. 24 international directors with the most diverse ideas and styles; linked by short animated segments that deal with the Advent calendar itself. The album showcases the talents of composers Andrew Scott Bell (PSYCHO STORM CHASER, WINNIE THE POOH: BLOOD & HONEY) who provides the “Main Theme,” a couple sordid short episode scores of his own, and the transition suites that wind through the score like a writhing snake in the guise of holiday ribbon (combined into the 5:28 minute “Deathcember Suite”); Bell’s compositions are performed by the Budapest Scoring Orchestra with Péter Illényi conducting, featuring oboe soloist Judit Borzsonyi, and clarinet soloist Gyorgy Ree. The episodes are composed by 15 composers of international talent from Belgium, Canada, Germany, Serbia, UK, and USA, including Stephan Nicolas (a nightmarish melody enriched with discreetly floating horror sounds), Jeffrey Peter Mayhew (solo piano as an ode to silent film music), Michael Kaufmann (brutal orchestral music for a shocking claymation pastiche), Eduardo Daniel Victoria (Morricone/Nicolai-esque giallo with a spritz of orchestral flair), Nikola Nikita Jeremic (Golden Age synths for a seasonal homage to Carpenteresque slasher horror), Medhat Hanbali (somber orchestrations for a foreboding Christmas feast), Erik Lutz (a growing unease for synth pads and beats), Dirk Steffan Buro (terrifying thrills and ferocious festivities for a Christmas death), The NightStalker (ghostly vocalise over eerie electronica), Steffen Britzke & Dag Lerner (a panicky pattern of scary synth and percussive riffs), Nemanja Mosurovic (a rustling assembly of piercing plucks and percussive beats), Peter Litvin (surprising sound design), and Michael Kohlbecker (conflicted carols with startling soundfx). The episodes are necessarily short, as are the tracks, in order to accommodate the 24 films, but the material is vigorously exciting and often unnerving; its assortment of palettes and yuletide dread makes for some delicious anticipation of anxiety. The tracks range from one minute to more then five minutes (Kaufman, Litvin, Lutz, Britzke & Lerner, Bell). Nine of the tracks provide very brief dialog snippets from select episodes for your continued enjoyment. In all, the CD includes 34 tracks and 78:47 minutes of Howlin’ Holiday Horror music and a 32-page booklet with notes from a number of the composers featured on the CD. Eerily enjoy this bloody gloved holiday handful of fearsome fun Christmas grue! For more composer details and ordering information, see Howlin’ Wolf Records.
BLACK ADAM/Lorne Balfe/WaterTower Music – digital & CD – vinyl forthcoming from Mondo
Lorne Balfe’s score for the DC superhero film BLACK ADAM is an effective and at times immense compilation as he unpacks and establishes Dwayne Johnson’s anti-hero character for the big screen; and the album is equally colossal with 43 tracks and an hour and 50 minutes of mostly very active music, occupying two discs on its CD version. His main theme is a hugely powerful conception for the character, first introduced for heavy brasses, percussion, and raging choir in the track “Teth-Adam” and invested in many of the cues that follow, including the more straight forward “Black Adam Theme” in track 20 and “Adam’s Journey” in track 40. A secondary theme is associated with the Justice Society of America, a less propulsive and more melodic motif associated with Hawkman, Atom Smasher, Cyclone, and Doctor Fate (who is the only JSA hero who also has a brief theme of his own), as the JSA attempt to restrain the then-villainous Black Adam in the Kahndaq. It’s a bold, heroic theme that carries its own heavy choir repetitions. An interesting variation on the JSA theme for electric guitar, drum kit, heraldic choir and heroic orchestra is heard in “Just Say Shazam,” and a rousing variation with men’s choir in “Slave Champion.” (review continues below)
Listen to the Lorne Balfe’s “Black Adam Theme” from the track, “Legions of Hell,” via YouTube:
“My goal was to get the emotion and darkness of the main characters’ back story across to the audience, whilst simultaneously intertwining the old themes and familiarities of the DC comic book world and introducing a new class of superheroes,” Balfe said in a statement on the soundtrack’s press release. “One way to bring in the feeling of an ancient world together was to collaborate with traditional instruments from Latin America, India, Africa, and the Middle East. A particular highlight for me was a percussion session I did where we enlisted several musicians playing various traditional instruments together to achieve this specific sound. Further, we had a large brass section across the score to give the weight and power of the main character’s past, which I balanced out with high tempo, more melodic sounds to give the audience that more familiar heroic feel. We also experimented a lot with choir on this project which was able to contribute a unique and classical sound that ties in nicely with Black Adam’s story.” In a later interview Balfe also revealed how he was inspired by Johnson’s performance as Black Adam: “There’s a menacing force there, and there’s a dark force too. So all the inspiration you need is there to tell you how it sounds. And it’s what his performance is – it’s dark and bombastic.” These cues and further action heavy tracks resonate throughout the soundtrack, with only a few tracks of relative quietude, such as “Father & Son,” “What Kind of Magic?” “Nanobots,” and “Is This the End?” Overall BLACK ADAM is a powerful and hefty superhero score; Balfe makes the most of his frequently reprised main themes without ever making them feel over-used; his instrumentation is effectual and his thundering choirs maintain a constant presence of the title character which is energetic and functional.
Listen to the Justice Society Theme in the track “The JSA Fights Back,” via YouTube:
THE FORGER (Der Passfälscher)/Mario Grigorov/MovieScore Media - digital Bulgarian-born film composer Mario Grigorov, living in the United States, has composed a very likeable score for this 2022 German biographical-drama film directed by Maggie Peren, starring Louis Hofmann, Luna Wedler and Dominique Devenport, about a 21-year-old Jewish man who escapes the Gestapo and saves lives thanks to his ability to forge passports. But his other talent was rarer: forging his own identity. Grigorov is known for his long-standing collaboration with Academy Award-winning director Lee Daniels, scoring SHADOWBOXER, TENNESSEE, the Academy Award-winning PRECIOUS, and THE PAPERBOY (starring Nicole Kidman). In 2014 he also co-wrote an original song with J.K. Rowling for FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM. Writes the composer about THE FORGER, “From the beginning I felt passionate about scoring the film and began quickly and naturally to compose. I created themes and waltzes that combined Jewish folklore elements with additional vibrant and youthful fusions of the different styles of jazz, classical and folk. To gain the right musical textures I used Berlin-based musicians for live recordings of instruments such as trumpet, clarinet, accordion, viola, drums and upright bass.” Grigorov has given his score a likeable tone that mixes jaunty and melancholy treatments, both fitting the environment of the story and its period and setting. He adds a bit of jazz for environmental flavoring (“Schonhausen,” “Officers’ Dance”) and a fervent if cautious love theme for piano, violin, and accordion (“Falling in Love”). “Wonderful Day” is a delightful rendition of the main theme; “Coming Home” offers a hesitant melody for solo cello and piano; “Last Attempt” is a timid variation on the main theme with piano (taking the melody) and accordion and what sounds like ringing vibes to give it a somewhat dangerous approach. “Aristocrats” comprises somewhat brooding figures for violin and sinewy wind figures, moving into a dour cello statement near its conclusion; “Wrong Floor” effectively conveys a more spritely, if occasionally faltering exploration of strings, percussive slaps, and ringing bells, expressing a sense of jeopardy. “You’re Dangerous” concludes the score with a hollow woodwind figure over cautious notes from the piano and accordion, brightening midway through with a confident piano and violin interaction. The soundtrack closes with a final reprise for a light piano and woodwind arrangement of the score’s love theme. It’s a very appealing score, as affecting for listening on its own as it supplied its emotive drive in the film. After a number of festival showings, THE FORGER has been released by Kino Lorber (USA) and X Verleih (Germany). The digital soundtrack is available from MovieScore Media.
Listen to Grigorov’s Main Theme from THE FORGER:
THE GAME OF THRONES: HOUSE OF THE DRAGON/Ramin Djawadi/
WaterTower Music – digital, vinyl
HOUSE OF THE DRAGON is a prequel to GAME OF THRONES. It is the second TV show in the A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE franchise, created independently by George R. R. Martin and Ryan Condal. Based on parts of Martin’s 2018 novel Fire & Blood, the series is set about 100 years after the Seven Kingdoms are united by the Targaryen Conquest, nearly 200 years before the events of GAME OF THRONES, and 172 years before the birth of Daenerys Targaryen. Featuring an ensemble cast, the show portrays the events leading up to the beginning of the decline of House Targaryen, a devastating war of succession known as the “Dance of the Dragons.” Djawadi reprises his GAME OF THRONES theme as the main title for each of the HOUSE OF DRAGONS episodes, and passages from that theme appear several places in his new HOUSE OF DRAGONS score – the composer and the showrunners decided to keep the original theme song in order to “tie the shows together,” Djawadi said in an interview with AVClub. “Because even though it’s all-new characters and it’s set hundreds of years before, we felt like it needed that stamp to say ‘This is Game Of Thrones – it’s in a different time, but it’s Game Of Thrones…’ Even in the first episode, I wrote new pieces, but thematically, you hear the King’s Landing theme, you hear the dragon theme, so it’s very much calling back to the known themes to set the tone again. But then we depart, and as we get to know all the characters, there are new themes.” Unlike the many families and houses that occupied GAME OF THRONES, the new series focuses on just one house – Targaryen, which becomes the overarching theme of the fantasy drama. Djawadi’s musical texture remains largely within the GAME OF THRONES palette, even when he’s not using that theme, so the music is in familiar territory, instrumentally, while focusing on new characters – Rhaenyra, Daemon, Viserys – and new dragons. Heavy drums remain a solid component of the HOUSE OF THE DRAGON score, fitting both the texture of the Targeryen houses and the shadowy, often conflicting perspective of various subordinate houses who owe fealty to House Targeryen. (review continues below)
Listen to the track “Protector of the Realm” from HOUSE OF THE DRAGON:
The soundtrack album offers up 44 tracks and 2 hours of music, ranging from drum-heavy, aggressively rising electronica (“Compromise and Consequences,” beginning slowly but growing with percussive textures and guitar strumming into its rhythmic drum and rising brass and synth climax); a mix of the GAME OF THRONES theme with powerful elements of low strings, brass, and rising textural figures and forceful marcado strings for the “Aemond Rides Vhagar” dragonflight; a reflective, impassioned melody for string choir in “Protector of the Realm;” a strident chorale piece in “The Power of Prophecy” is reprised in “Sealed in Fire and Blood” over extreme orchestral gestures. “Surrender” provides first a patina of steady sonic resonance and then a defeated keyboard melody over strings with vocalise that opens up into a powerful apex. “King of the Narrow Sea” embodies brutal, arpeggiated combat music over a disorder of strings and rising howls. Suspenseful, scratchy violin figures accompany “Lanterns at Nightfall;” gentle strings with vocalise emphasize “Whatever May Come;” “House Velaryon” imposes brooding string tonalities with a female vocalise; a strident string-driven motif, “The Green Dress,” accompanies Queen Alicent when she boldly enters a Targeryan celebration wearing a green gown: the signal color for House Hightower’s call to arms. A tenuous piano motif over acoustic guitar and strings provides “We Light the Way,” and the powerful “Coronation” theme, followed by a reprise of the “Power of Prophecy” choir material in “The Crown of Jaeharys,” is set against severe string statements. (review continues below)
Listen to the track “Reign of the Targaryens” from HOUSE OF THE DRAGON.
“True Meaning of Loyalty” is a reflective violin melody tempered with GAME OF THRONES elements that open into a string-driven pattern over restrained drumming; “Dragons Do Not Fear Blood” is a forceful, drum and string-driven track with very low downward brass lines. “Bloodlines” presents a recurring cacophonic, percussive energy, ending in a reflective sheen that withdraws for a poignant violin refrain ending in an eloquent vocalise and violin conclusion; while “The Promise” concludes an arrangement of the music from “Coronation/Crown of Jaeharys” (sans choir) over bits of the GAME theme as it slowly drifts into its finale. It’s a massive and rather affecting score with powerful drumming a major component of nearly all tracks, reflecting the formidable, often discordant, and always tenuous relationship between the houses. In addition to the digital album, a 3LP gatefold vinyl configuration of the HOUSE OF THE DRAGON soundtrack is forthcoming from Diggers Factory in partnership with WaterTower Music, which is now available for preorder. See diggersfactory.
Listen to the track “Aemond Rides Vhagar” from HOUSE OF THE DRAGON:
THE GRAVEDIGGER’S WIFE/Andre Matthias/Kronos – CD
This is a very interesting and evocative score recorded by a small ensemble of ethnic and familiar acoustic instruments– ney, quenacho & hotchiku flutes, guitar, violin, keyboards, and a male soprano– which tells the story of Guled, a gravedigger from Djibouti whose life turns upside down when his wife falls seriously ill and finds himself thinking outside the box to be able to afford her therapy. This multiple award winning Somalian film (aka GULED & NASRA) won Somalia’s first ever Oscar submission. The music is composed by Andre Matthias (GAZAR MON AMORE, VANISHING: ASIA, CONTROL, FOUR ASSASSINS, THE DRUMMER) who provided a very delicate, minimalistic musical ambiance that feels very organic and sets the mood for the story. “I did not want the vocals to sound ‘sung’ but rather to add a human sound that did not draw attention to itself,” wrote Matthias in the album’s composer notes. The film “is basically a monothematic score (the lines and harmonies of the main theme are woven into almost every track), [but] the scene in which Guled and Nasra tell their story called for a new theme [which] appears only once, but I incorporated it into my unused end credit music for this album, to end their story fittingly.” The score is intricately subtle, its quiet instrumentation laced with potent sensitivity and eloquently expressing the concerns and feelings of Guled, investing the listener in the very personal predicament he seeks to resolve. Despite it’s intricacy, the score’s emotional depth is intriguing and makes for an intimate and affecting listen. Originally released digitally by the Plaza Mayor Co. in Nov. 2021; Kronos has offered a CD soundtrack, limited to 300 copies; for ordering details, see Kronos.
Listen to the opening track, “Walking Home,” via YouTube:
THE LAST OF THE WINTHROPS/Shie Rozow/self-released – digital Composer Shie Rosow has created a sumptuous, elegant, and highly evocative score to accompany this documentary about Viviane Winthrop, descendant of John Winthrop, who was one of the founders of Massachusetts. The film explores the powerful revelations of a woman who reclaims her sense of self after taking an Ancestry DNA test and finding out that her father, whose heritage is traced to the founders of America, is not in fact her biological father. It’s a deep dive into history, self identity, and nature vs. nurture. The project resonated with the composer, who stated “When I first spoke to Viviane and learned about her story, I connected to it on several levels. I have people close to me who have had relatable experiences causing them to question their own identity. As we discussed the direction of the score, we wanted to have a large cinematic sound. There are some gorgeous shots of landscapes, old towns, and castles in the film, and we wanted to make sure they were supported musically in a majestic way. Yet we also wanted a score that was intimate and personal, that would be contemporary, yet pay homage to the centuries-long history of the Winthrop Family.” With piano and Viola da Gamba as his lead instruments, Rosow created a delicate ambiance with which to portray Viviane, convey the atmosphere of the films setting and historicity, and eloquently depict Viviane’s journey through the film with layered instrumentation and voice (most intimately conveyed in the track “Winthrop Family Tree” (listen below). Rosow’s score is a graceful delight, its refined sound suggestive of the story’s placement in American history as well as Viviane’s coming to terms with the revelation of the DNA results, and her subsequent understanding of her ancestry and finding the path to her true self. “To give the score intimacy I decided to use a lot of piano, often using two, three or even four piano parts together to create rich textures alongside a string quartet,” the composer wrote. “I incorporated synths and musical sound design to keep it contemporary, and at key spots used a full orchestral sound to really elevate those grand moments and contrast with the rest of the score. Finally, I used a voice in three key moments to make sure they were appropriately highlighted.” (review continues below)
Listen to the track “Going to See Berty” via Youtube:
“Going to See Berty” is a delicious mix of violin over an active, pulsating string choir riff; “Family Treasures” is an elegant and meditative pondering of light piano and da Gamba along with violin. “Understanding One’s Roots” is a thoughtful design for a key moment in Viviane’s journey and a persuasive reflection,” with “Family History” supplying a reprisal of the main theme flowing across the cue and providing a new understanding of her placement in her past. “The War” provides a somber and slightly desultory picture of the American Revolution with muted tonal ambiances fused with slight wisps of flickering synth over the continued fragrances of the Viola da Gamba and piano. “Heal Old Wounds” finds a place for a quiet vocalism, sung introspectively over a strand of synth tonality; it sounds slightly tentative but by its end provides Viviane’s tranquil acceptance of where she belongs – both for her and for us, watching her story play out. Most of the tracks are of relatively short albeit very moving acquaintance; until the three tracks playing over the film’s denouement provide opportunities for longer evaluation, with the insightful reassessment of “Dad’s Story,” “Searching for Viviane,” with its soft pianistic flourishes of color amidst its developing orchestration, concluding with a very contemplative eight and a half minute, richly arranged finale, “Acceptance,” mixed throughout with a swath of choral tonality. I found this score to be emotively fulfilling and beautifully composed and performed, creating an absorbing instrumental texture both as it supports the drama while providing an affecting musical clarity of its own. For more information on the film and score, see LastOfTheWinthrops. The soundtrack is now available on all digital platforms. Listen to the track “Winthrop Family Tree:”
LAW & ORDER: ORGANIZED CRIME Season 1/Ruth Barrett/Lakeshore - digital LAW & ORDER: ORGANIZED CRIME premiered on NBC on April 1, 2021. It is the seventh series in the LAW & ORDER franchise and a spin-off of that show as well as LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT. The series stars Christopher Meloni as Elliot Stabler, reprising his role from SVU. The series centers on Stabler, a veteran detective who returns to the NYPD following his wife Kathy’s murder, joining the Organized Crime Task Force, led by Sergeant Ayanna Bell. The show’s format is a “single-arc” storyline that takes multiple episodes to resolve. It’s second season premiered on September 23, 2021 and the series was renewed in May 2022 for a third season, which premiered on September 22, 2022. UK-based composer Ruth Barrett (THE TERMINAL LIST, COLLATERAL, BLOODLANDS, SANDITION, BODYGUARD) has composed the series’ music, with the franchise offering fans a complete soundtrack from music across its first season. “The Law & Order franchise is already recognized for its iconic opening credits and originality of sound,” said the composer in a statement. “When we approached creating music for this show, we had to build another important layer to the monumental return of this character who was deeply missed both by other characters and the fanbase. The music integrates Elliot Stabler’s complicated history and future, with a goal of driving the viewer experience to new heights. We were thrilled about the audience’s visceral reaction.” Barrett’s score is an engrossing one, moving from an urgent new theme for “Stabler” (rising violin triads set amid jangling structures, introducing a repeated 3-note pattern associated with the character before drifting into echoing percussive slams, and lighter percussion elements moving forward into a powerful gathering of elements suggesting the staunchness of the Stabler character); an impassioned motif in memory of his wife with “She’s Gone (Kathy's Theme)” (a wash of synth pads, more repeating patterns reflective of Stabler’s theme, soft voicings occasionally crying out, all quieting to leave us with a haunting timbre of intolerable loss, until it echoes into silence), and the popular cascading tonalities of the “Benson and Stabler (Love Theme ).” “Lost Souls” is a rousing, drifting mix of pads and tonalities, imbued by intriguing patterns of synth that create a rather mesmerizing sonic structure. (review continues below)
Listen to “Stabler’s” theme, via YouTube:
From here, we find a gripping variety of action and suspense pieces which keep the energy moving and the season’s exploration of the underground crime world constantly absorbing. The rhythmic elements that carried “Stabler” are reprised in “Virginia Road Trip,” tying the journey in to the protagonist’s theme. “Arresting Bekher” is a riveting track roiling from it’s tentative opening cadences into a dark mix of heavy synth step-patterns joined by rising electronic figures that grow continuously, permeated by some of the shivering violin figures and elements from Stabler’s theme. “Richie Kill Gina” is a marvelously powerful bit of tension, as it maintains a rising, tonal mix of synth driven by a throbbing beat that gradually accommodates brass intonations, which in turn circulate into a melodic advancement, a few short drum fills that gather propulsion, adding electric guitar figures echoed by strings and a final cadence of erupting ferocity. Further tension is employed with “Jet On Route,” reprising some of the figures from the previous track but set into a recurring curve of strings and synth that adds to its rising sonic pressure. “Wheatley Faceoff” is a scattered sheen of aggressive percussive sound, driven by harsh drum beats, rising synth gradations, slowing midway through with an array of plucky guitar figures and low bass throbs over strings, concluding with a melodic configuration of Stabler’s theme. “Gina in the Morgue” is the soft underbelly of “Richie Kill Gina,” as the composer offers a sorrowful melancholy for the unfortunate woman through layered tonalities of violin and gentle synth pads, culminating in a conclusive rise of string-laden sorrow. “Gauntlet Walk” takes Stabler’s theme and slows it down into a gradual demeanor of lugubrious reflection; while “Season 1 Finale” offers a recapitulation of much of the material that has gone before, built into a resolute mix of varied measures from violin, synths, mechanical designs, haunting phrases and sinewy string lines, driven by a rising, fatalistic beat that carries to the track’s end, winding up with a rush of sound that finishes with Stabler’s Theme in a dour rendering both pretty and unfulfilled that prepares us for the continuation of Season 2. With nearly half of the cues approaching or surpassing the five-minute mark, there’s ample time for the cues to develop, shift in tone and tempo, affording a powerful sonic disposition for the listener. Barrett is a continuously interesting composer whose instrumental choices are bold and very stimulating, her score for LAW & ORDER: ORGANIZED CRIME is a ruthless delight of modern tonal interaction which is charismatic in its presentation of crime, punishment, and emotive temperament.
Listen to the “Benson and Stabler” Love Theme from LAW & ORDER: ORGANIZED CRIME, via YouTube:
LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RINGS OF POWER/Bear McCreary/Amazon – digital, cd, vinyl
The Amazon Prime Video limited series THE RINGS OF POWER, an epic drama series set thousands of years before Tolkien’s THE HOBBIT and THE LORD OF THE RINGS in the Second Age of Middle-Earth, follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-Earth. In his most recent magnum opus, Bear McCreary’s score for the eight-episode series is a massively multifaceted composition filled with more than fifteen distinct character, location or narrative arc themes. As well as the compositional depth of McCreary’s strenuous efforts on this project, the soundtrack releases are setting a new precedent as well: rather than a single album compiling selected music from across the entire season, Amazon has bestowed us with nine soundtrack albums filled with McCreary’s amazing music for this series: a general Season 1 soundtrack featuring Howard Shore’s main title theme for the series (heard as the beginning of each episode) and select tracks by McCreary from across the eight episodes (40 tracks, 2hrs 41 mins.; the original 36-track soundtrack released by Amazon during the show’s first episode, was extended after the season ended to 40 tracks, including Fiona Apple’s powerful performance of Bear’s end title song, “Where the Shadows Lie,” an instrumental version of that song, and two “Amazon exclusive” tracks, “Find the Light” and “Promised King.”) In addition and more uniquely, eight single soundtrack albums were released coinciding with the premiere of each episode, containing McCreary’s music from that episode; all nine albums thus preserving the wide ranging music created for this series. (review continues below)
Listen to Howard Shore’s “Rings Of Power” Main Theme, via YouTube:
With the orchestra and choir serving as the primary basis of his motific arc, McCreary created unique musical color palettes to identify distinctive realms and races inhabiting the world of Middle Earth (through the use of unique Nordic, Middle Eastern, Celtic, Scottish, Irish, Turkish, and West African instruments to emphasize “ethereal female vocals for Elves, declarative tenor male vocals and mechanically steady low string patterns for Dwarves, guttural bass male vocals for Sauron, and whispered choral syllables for mysterious characters known as The Mystics,” as he wrote in his blog about scoring the series [see link below]. McCreary wanted to make sure that “each character’s theme should tell the listener how that character fits into their respective society.” (review continues below)
Listen to Bear McCreary’s theme for Númenor:
Most of the score’s primary themes are presented on the Season 1 album, which serves as a fine selection of tracks introducing the major motivic elements of McCreary’s score with Shore’s main theme opening the collection, while the subsequent eight episode soundtracks fill out the more thorough tracklist of the overall score – there are just a few repeats of cues in the Season 1 tracklist that also appear on the episode albums: 1 track each on episode 1 (“Where The Shadows Lie” – instrumental), 4 (the vocalise “A Plea to the Rocks”) and 5 (Megan Richards’ Harfoot song “This Wandering Day”), and 2 cues (“Wise One,” “True Creation Requires Sacrifice,” and “The Broken Line” half of a two-part track, on episode 8). Among the thematic elements resident to the Season 1 album (and carried over in subsequent interpretations in the Episode albums) is Galadriel’s theme, a lovely motif initially performed by gentle horns over soft strings, backed by delicate, reverent choirs, with a powerful, united climax for brass and choir near the cue’s end, which softens into a graceful choral dissolve; her theme is initially associated with the Elves, of which she is one, but gradually becomes fixed to a “rippling string pattern” that represents her staunch intention to find and destroy Sauron. (review continues below)
Listen to Bear McCreary’s “Galadriel” Theme:
We’re also introduced to the Harfoots via “Nori Brandyfoot,” a vibrant melody initially played on pennywhistle and then taken by string choir; “The Stranger,” a mysterious gathering of Balinese gamelan, winds, cello, and choir which introduces the man fallen from a meteor into Harfoot territory and who becomes a friend to Nori’s family there; his theme is associated with “The Mystics” theme – chanted whispers over an increasing stream of strings and brass, segueing into a propulsive wave of driving orchestra, bridged by several inflections of The Stranger’s theme as we find they become tied together. “Númenor,” a kingdom of men, is indicated initially through such Middle Eastern instruments as duduk, tambur, and frame drums, rising to a heraldic crescendo as we are first introduced to the kingdom in Episode 3. The kingdom of the dwarves, Khazad-dúm, is identified with a low-keyed anthem initially introduced on low cellos, pounding drums, and male chorus, then rising powerfully into a mix of trumpets, violins, with male and female singers reverently taking the chorus. These are only a few of the essential themes that occupy McCreary’s myriad of intricate and formidable motifs and related elements that occupy the sonic landscape of Middle-Earth in this enthralling chronicle of its early history. The breadth of these themes, anthems, intervals, songs, moods, and their instrumentation, textures, variation, placement, passion and intensity are simply astonishing. With nearly 10 hours of music assembled on the nine albums, these compositions are not only magnificently finessed and evocative, it clings to the visual and verbal narrative creating a powerful recreation of the intricate fantasy world of Tolkein, and brings the Second Age of Middle Earth to a vividly crafted reality. Incidentally, McCreary composed each of the film’s cues entirely by himself, in order to maintain a “consistent musical voice” for the score as a whole: “I felt that this score was too complex and nuanced to ask even my most experienced writers at Sparks and Shadows [the composer’s boutique record label] to contribute music,” McCreary wrote. (review continues below)
Listen to the theme for the dwarves, “Khazad-dúm”:
For more details about Bear McCreary’s nine month long process of creating the RINGS OF POWER score, consider his online Appendix blogs about the process to be essential reading: Part 1 – The Journey to Middle Earth; Part 2 – The Themes of Middle Earth; Part 3 – Forming a Fellowship; Part 4 – There and Back Again. In his final comments at the end of Part 4, McCreary writes: “Scoring the first season of THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RINGS OF POWER has been one of the most profound personal and creative experiences of my life. As I have written earlier in these blog entries, I saw the Peter Jackson trilogy at the nexus of childhood and adulthood. As a boy, I had vivid dreams of running across the plains of Rohan with Aragon, Legolas, and Gimli. But then, I consumed the behind-the-scenes documentaries about how Jackson and his dedicated team poured their passion into filmmaking, and gradually my dream changed. I dreamt of becoming a professional storyteller and working with a team of equally passionate artists to bring stories to the screen. Over this past year, I have managed to fulfill both dreams.” I am very eager to hear where Bear McCreary will take us in the music of Season 2 coming up in 2024.
Mondo, in partnership with Amazon Studios, will present both vinyl and 2 disc CD editions of THE RINGS OF POWER Season 1 album featuring Bear McCreary’s music and the main theme by Howard Shore, as well as “Where The Shadows Lie” performed by Fiona Apple. See Mondo for details.
Further recommended reading: Jonathan Broxton’s very detailed review of THE RINGS OF POWER soundtrack at MovieMusic UK.
THE MENU/Colin Stetson/Milan Records - digital THE MENU is a satirical thriller about a couple (Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult) who travel to a coastal island to eat at an exclusive restaurant where the chef (Ralph Fiennes) has prepared a lavish menu, with some shocking surprises. The musical score is by GRAMMY Award®-winning saxophonist, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and composer Colin Stetson (HEREDITARY, COLOR OUT OF SPACE, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE). Of his score, Stetson says in a statement, “From my first reading of the script to our last moments on the mix stage, my experience creating the music on this film has been an absolute joy, as the themes, refrains, and aesthetic have seemed to jump right off of the page and screen for me with every brilliant turn of phrase, perfect edit, and wickedly delivered performance.” Stetson’s opening track, “All Aboard,” released as a single prior to the full album release, offers “the first wink and tease of some as yet unseen darker subtext for the evening’s proceedings is peeking out,” Stetson puts in. “That theme is all frolic and pomp, of our diners blissfully unaware and delighting in the lavishness and importance of it all.” The soundtrack offers an elegant presentation of baroque-styled instrumentation (“All Aboard,” “The Boat”) mixed with modern vibes (“Nature is Timeless”). “The skeleton of the score has more to do with a modern foundation than what I’d call classical music,” Stetson told interviewer Daniel Schweiger for the Filmmusic Institute. “The score’s DNA is in this polymetric, drivingly percussive aspect of the pizzicato strings. Yet there’s no doubt that the default aesthetic of fine dining and food culture in general has been crafted by shows like Chef’s Table… It’s a way of giving the audience a false sense of security and levity through the beginning, so when the ‘incitement’ moment happens I get to use a completely different sonic aspect for the score that will come as a complete and abrupt surprise.” (Read Daniel Schweiger’s comprehensive interview with Stetson at FilmmusicInstutute.com). “Welcome to Hawthorne” is a pleasing mix of pizzicato and bowed strings with woodwinds. “A Revolution in Cuisine” merged soft choral intonations with intricate violin figures, adding in a higher female vocalise on the top near the cue’s end. “The Mess” possesses a more scattered, agitated sonic sensibility as the pizzicato scarred the musical space with sinewy synth lines, rough-edged violin bowing, and reverberant tonality. “Taco Tuesday” mixes an elegant recurring violin figure with further pizzicato and ambient string, while “Our Side or Theirs” restates much of the same with a bit of reversed electronic sounds, creating a mesmerizing sense of foreboding that something is not right in this restaurant. Choir intones first lightly in “Fallen Angel,” then menacingly over a harsh pulse from synths as the choir fluctuates into startling configurations. Things continue to adopt strange and threatening perceptions with “Take the Evening Air,” which adds eerily configured voicings to the sonic mix, later bringing in choir and creating a notably discomforting air; whorls of synth over pizzicato, and jangling echoes create a haunting environment for “Do You Think You're Special.” Things calm down a bit with “The First Cheeseburger You Ever Ate” as a bed of synths supports ringing piano notes and a soft vocalise, opening into a rather pretty melodic interlude, and “The Purifying Flame” supplies a wash of choir and orchestra that is as frightening as it is gradually reassuring; the score closes with “Amuse Bouche (Reprise)” an abrasive rendition of the quietly festive opening track. The score is as unusual as it is intriguing, and makes for a challenging yet alluring listening experience on its own. Quite interesting. The soundtrack is available at these links.
Listen to the track “All Aboard,” via YouTube:
MOTORCYCLE GANG/Albert Glasser/Kronos – CD
Kronos presents this delightfully raucous jazz score for the first time in any format. Directed by prolific and capable B-movie director Edward L. Cahn (BORN TO SPEED, ZOMBIES OF MORA TAU, IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE, THE GAMBLER WORE A GUN, VOODOO WOMAN), the 1957 film follows a troublemaker who returns to town only to find his old tearaway pals have joined a supervised motorcycle club. Friction erupts between him and the new leader about this goody-goody setup, and about the charms of gang moll Terry. Scored in Glasser’s giant monster phase, in between THE CYCLOPS, THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN, and GIANT FROM THE UNKNOWN and ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE, this is a jazzman’s jazz score, an eclectic mix of big band pieces mixed with a few teasing harmonics (the chill “Bathing Suit Girl” on track 3 is a gentle opportunity for the era’s more provocative sensitivities, as is the noirish sophisticated saxophone, luxurious trumpet, and weeping violins of “Terry in the Forest,” “Nick and Terry,” “Terry on the Porch”), and a bit of dangerous suspense music (“On The Trestle,” “In The Café” and the wild conclusion of “The Big Fight”). But it’s the danceable, propulsive jazz that will most provoke your energy. As Kronos’ Godwin Borg writes in his liner notes, and I agree completely, “the drumming alone on this score is world class jazz swing going to rock and roll!” With 17 tracks and 35 minutes of solid sonic stimulus, limited at just 300 copies, this is a 1950’s swing/jazz score to really get your feet moving. Sample the first five tracks, and/or order the album, at Kronos Records.
PRANCER: A CHRISTMAS TALE/Mark KcKenzie/Intrada – CD/
Back Lot Music - digital
Intrada has released Mark McKenzie’s sensitive and sweet HMMA nominated score for new Universal seasonal film, PRANCER: A CHRISTMAS TALE, the newest entry in the PRANCER franchise. James Cromwell heads a cast that also has Sarah-Jane Potts, Darcey Ewart, Joseph Millson. Gloria and her widowed grandfather Bud happen upon a reindeer with mystical characteristics during Christmas holidays; why the reindeer appears magical and how it helps heal family rifts becomes the heart of the film. McKenzie created an electronic palette using strings and woodwinds both in intimate and full textures, with solo recorder and the rare bass recorder adding haunting colors to the ensemble. The results are a richly superlative, demonstrating the composer’s gift for shimmering, distinctive melodies; and while the score deserved a live orchestra, McKenzie has made the most out of his digital samples, which do a pretty good job mimicking a real orchestra; and focusing his score around a live piano that takes most of the thematic elements. That said, the score has a rather full sound and listeners should not be hesitant by the sampled orchestra (it’s perhaps most notable in some of the string choirs); but the composer’s finesse in handling them are excellent and the sound of the score is quite elegant. McKenzie’s penetrating melodies and harmonies are what the score is all about. There are a number of recurring themes in its 20 tracks, from a gentle, passionate composition for guitar and piano in the opening track, “I Can’t Wait To See You,” to a secondary motif (main theme) introduced by a low resonant recorder in “Nothing Is Beautiful Without You,” given an acoustic guitar arrangement in “Love Arrives As A Reindeer,” which also repeats the recorder melody for a bit. “The Greatest Gift Is Friendship,” opens with a bright melody for piano and strings, concluding on light piano over full chugging marcato strings. “Your Smile Lights Up The Room” offers a tentative piano melody over sustained strings, adding soft choir and electronic keyboard playing the main theme in its second half. “Woo-Hoo She Likes You!” is a cheerful, energetic cue for quickly-fingered piano over sharply bowed strings, bridged by winds before emerging into a fragile piano over a rising soft violins. The melody of “She Was As Kind As The Day Is Long” starts out tentatively and quiet for strings and discreet keyboard, moving into a heartfelt statement of the main theme for piano and strings with chorale vocalise accompaniment. “Prancer Dances” is a fun statement of Christmas bells, pizzicato, glissando woodwind, and a sporadic, winding electronic wave. “Healing Memories” offers a softly muted, curative variant of the main theme, opening into an assured presentation by the track’s end; with “Silent Night Hug,” McKenzie provides an impassioned performance of the classic carol for solo grand piano; “Love As Though You’ve Never Been Hurt” concludes the program with a colorful variant on the main theme dappled with chimes, chorale, ending with breezy reprise of the main theme. The album concludes with “Prancer: A Christmas Tale Suite,” a very pleasing 6:13 minute treatment of the score’s thematic variants. The score is wholly emotional, even without seeing the film itself, and McKenzie offers his own wonderful melodic facility to provide this film with a thoroughly captivating and affecting musical score. I found the score a thoroughly engaging composition. Listen to it quietly and let its melodious harmonies captivate and comfort you. See Intrada for more details and sample tracks. Listen to “Prancer: A Christmas Tale Suite” by Mark McKenzie from PRANCER: A CHRISTMAS TALE,” via BackLot Music:
THE RING 20th Anniversary Edition/Hans Zimmer/La-La Land – CD/Waxwork – vinyl This expansive new release of Hans Zimmer’s 2002 score to THE RING, Gore Verbinski’s remake of the hit 1998 Japanese ghost story, RINGU, is a far scream from the original 2005 release on Decca records and its short playlist of 12 tracks (about half of which are from THE RING 2  scored by Henning Lohner and Martin Tillman – who had also provided additional music on the first film). While a likable albeit brief exploration of those two scores, this new double-CD set from La-La Land provides the first film’s score presentation on Disc 1 with 23 tracks, and 17 bonus tracks (including alternate versions and unused cues, etc.) on Disc 2 (including an evocative 11 minute “THE RING suite, the sung version of “Samara’s Song,” the unused and haunting “Katie and Becca,” a cozy “wild” version of the pianistic RING theme, and much more). Kaya Savas provides a thorough set of liner notes for La-La Land’s album, comprised of a three-part, 21-page interview between Gore Verbinski and Hans Zimmer, who discuss in detail how the score came to be. Starring Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, and Brian Cox, THE RING follows its Japanese predecessor’s story and many of Verbinski’s scenes are shot-for-shot borrowed from RINGO; but as reviewer Michael Hann wrote in The Guardian in 2009, “The difference, I think, is that RINGU is a shocking film, while THE RING is a horror film, the difference is found in THE RING’s more coherent story line and the horror of its scary moments, aided by the score by Zimmer and his team.” The score is delicately atmospheric and often haunting, emphasizing strings and piano, developing an ongoing atmosphere of dread using vague melodic fragments and soft strands of hair-thin tonality that whispers gently, raising to a shout only rarely. The emphasis is more on creating the atmosphere and enhancing the suspense than in providing an array of audience-jolting shock sounds, and it works splendidly in creating a fearful mood for the film and producing a spooky journey across the soundtrack album. Favoring violins, two cellos, a piano, percussion and synthesizers, Zimmer’s score maintains a haunting environment from the get-go, gradually increasing the fear factor as the story gets underway. The music creates a relentlessly shadowy ambience that embraces the viewer/listener into the gripping ghost story much the way the long-haired wraith from the well clenches her victims. Mostly avoiding “horror” music, Zimmer creates trepidation and suspense orchestrally with eerie string presences, piano notations (“In The Barn”), along with pulsing percussive elements (“Survey Says/Aidan's Painting;” even the crawling-out-of-the-TV sequence, “Shoo, Flies!,” reverberates with a rush of tonality rather than sound design), saving shuddery synth elements for especially frightening scenes (“Imminent Snoopage,” “Um, Why Is The Lid Shutting?/Floating,” the ferocious “This Is Gunna Leave A Mark .../Run” and the finale music, “Burn, Baby Burn”). “It’s a movie that leads you to a conclusion,” Zimmer told Kaya Savas. “You’re going, ‘Oh, it’s all over. It’s all ended well.’ Then it gets really bad on you, then it turns. And I remember sitting there knowing what was going to happen, at the same time trying to write happy resolution music.” The compelling 8:20 “End Credits” sequence recapitulates a variety of musical sequences from earlier in the score, providing an agreeable, and somewhat fear-provoking, conclusion. “I would easily put THE RING in my top 10 of things I’ve worked on, Zimmer told Savas. “I don’t know why, but that scene at the end… I still get goosebumps and get totally and utterly creeped out.” The album is available from La-La Land Records in a limited edition of 3000 units.
Listen to the tracks “Pretty Fly For A White Girl/ Snakes And Ladders” from THE RING 20th Anniversary Edition, via YouTube:
SILENT RIVER/Brian Ralston/ Harmonic Design Records - CD Written and directed by Chris Chan Lee, SILENT RIVER is about Elliot (West Liang), who is desperate to reconcile with his estranged wife Julie (Amy Tsang). He stops at a desert motel where he encounters Greta (Tsang in a dual role), an uncanny woman on the run from a mysterious past, after which strange and mysterious occurrences begin to haunt him. The film is scored by Brian Ralston and the album is the first soundtrack release on his own private soundtrack label, Harmonic Design Records. It will be distributed by a partnership with Notefornote Music. The score has been crafted with a unique sound design and instrumentation, as Ralston explains in his digital liner notes for the album: “At the outset, we traveled up to Valencia, CA to record custom samples from famed percussionist Emil Richard’s pianotron. Imagine an upright piano, taken out of its ‘box’ with no keyboard. We hit, plucked, bowed, and knocked on the guts like a percussion instrument and created a unique sonic landscape that became the foundation of sounds for everything we did… Most of the sound design elements in this score were created and performed live from organic objects and elements and not from synthesized electronic means – although there are some electronics present.” Ralston also brought in two exceptional L.A. studio musicians, Phil O’Connor playing clarinet and bass clarinet (strikingly heard over a frenetic tornado of strings in “The Video” and menacingly in “The Curiosities Begin”), and Andrew Duckles playing the viola (passionately heard over Richard’s piano samples in “The Memories” and set against electronics in “The Realization of Greta,” one of the film’s most affecting cues). Ralston’s mix of acoustics, electronics, and digital sampling creates a unique sonic landscape that gives the SILENT RIVER score a potent impression much to its unique sonic benefit. “The Room Next Door” is wild with frightening electronic and acoustic tonalities; “The Hand” is a unique percussion grouping (Ralston used a microphonic soundbox to record and amplify unique vibrations from metal and wood; set against electronic pulsations and the like, it creates a mesmerizing wash of ferocious reverberation, halting for O’Connor’s bass clarinet midway through, before resuming its harsher comportment, permeated by echoing brassy sound design). “The Stranger” displays some of Emil Richard’s unique and reverberant percussion samples to disturbing effect, as do the series of tracks, “The Disappearance of P2,” “The Unboxing of P2,” “The Discovery of P2,” with “The P2 Blues” echoing a kind of dirty trumpet with brushed cymbal and jazz piano; “The Fourth Wall” emanates with a dismal luster of frightening sound design; “The Familiar Dinner” opens up a warm arrangement from strings, piano, and sound design, while “The Acceptance” shares its string and piano milieu. “The Explanation” also offers Duckles’ viola along with highly resonant piano notes over a web of synth pad; “The Meeting With Amanda” is rich in unusual sound design and echoing organic material; “The Inescapable Fear” opens with a constant bass throbbing before moving into a hesitant mixture of clarinet, viola figures, and a growing mix of discordant tonalities and sound design. The score culminates with, reasonably enough, “The Ending,” a brash mix of electronic cacophony, blasts of horns, a variety of drum fills, and a mesmerizing pattern of echoing winds, gongs, piano melody, and an emergent rising pattern of reverberating synth tones. SILENT RIVER is a very unique, interesting, and difficult to assess pattern of sounds and melodies, a kind of score one doesn’t hear quite often and yet maintains a challenging structure which is also very alluring in its sonic fusion. Ralston concludes the album with a vociferous solo piano version of “Chopin’s “Grande Valse Brillante Op.34,” suffusing the former sound structures with a closing melody of benign classicism. “I wanted to do something different with this digital only soundtrack release to help set it apart from other indie film soundtracks available out there and provide listeners something they can not get on a physical CD,” said Ralston. “It’s been remixed from the original multi-track audio sessions in the Dolby Atmos surround/spatial audio format that truly makes it come to life in a way that I am not so sure we even achieved in the film’s 5.1 mix.” The Atmos version is available on Apple and Tidal; for streaming platforms that do not yet support Dolby Atmos, fresh stereo mixes will be available. Almost an hour and a half of score is presented on this digital release. In addition, digital liner notes in PDF format will also be included/available for platforms that support it. The film was released to the festival circuit last year and recently had a limited theatrical run in Los Angeles last October. It is now available on VOD on all major digital platforms in the USA with foreign territories to come soon.
Watch the film’s trailer with Ralston’s music, via YouTube:
STINGRAY/Barry Gray/Silva Screen Records – digital/CD Stand by for Action! The latest edition in the Silva Screen series exploring the musical worlds of Gerry Anderson is music from the 1964 TV series STINGRAY, the third Anderson series to be produced as “Supermarionation” and the seventh in the label’s Fanderson soundtrack reissue series of Anderson’s action programs. STINGRAY was also Anderson’s first marionette series to be filmed in color, and with a larger budget that allowed composer Barry Gray a bigger orchestra than he had been able to use on any of the previous series. “After navigating otherworldly vistas with experimental minimalism in FIREBALL XL5, Gray anchored STINGRAY’S underwater exploits with a canon of earth-bound incidentals. Employing flutes and gentle woodwind sounds to set the scene, Gray’s music drew attention to the wonder of the series premise, employing lush heavenly strings for the series’ closing theme, ‘Aqua Marina’ (a croon brought to life by in-demand vocalist Gary Miller),” writes Silva Screen in their announcement. Gray’s main theme is a frantic brassy romp, with some narration and chorus added into the opening Main Title piece, but elsewhere presented orchestrally as needed across the episodes. It’s offset by romantic interludes and an opportunity to enjoy Gray’s jazz background for scenes of the characters off-duty. The album, aside from the Main and End titles, presents two dozen tracks from eighteen different episodes of the series; providing a variety of Gray’s theme interpretations as well as new material needed for the individual shows. Most of the album’s tracks combine a mix of new music interspersed with the main theme and the romantic/melodic/jazz bits – for example, in “Marineville High Alert” from the series’ premiere, the cue opens with a soft violin figure, segueing into a series of pounding drum beats based on the driving punctuation from the main theme with brass joining in with its powerful waves along with some new variations until a full version of the main theme emerges distinctly before settling into a calm melody for violins, and concluding with a final presentation of the theme to close out the cue. (review continues below)
Listen to the track “Marineville High Alert” from the new Silva Screen soundtrack album:
Aside from these thematic variants, the album affords a marvelous opportunity to enjoy Gray’s dramatic music, although most tracks include an assemblage of the main theme somewhere in its progress. “Two Worlds United,” from the “Plant of Doom” episode, opens with a blazing brassy surge among bits of the main theme before calming into tender violin and horn romantic measures and ending with a cute piano refrain from “Chop Sticks.” In the luxurious “Fools Gold” from the episode “The Golden Sea,” Gray takes us down into flowing tendrils of strings and wavelike filigrees of brass, concluding in a restatement of the main theme. “Trouble in Paradise” from “Hostages of the Deep” also mixes elegant sonorities with the main theme rearing its powerful brass in a final flourish. A brassy design, mixing in the six-notes of the main theme, gives “Atlanta’s Achievement” from the “Sea of Oil” episode a nice development, with strong drum beats supporting a breakneck reprise of the main theme – and so on. The main theme remains in nearly all tracks, keeping the focus on the Stingray crew and their heroic activities, with a variety of dramatic elements and plenty mild respites of soft-spoken violins to calm things down, providing a very enjoyable listen throughout the tracklist. Together with Fanderson, Silva Screen Records continues to champion Barry Gray’s incredible musical opus by releasing the material in a series of physical and digital albums and vinyl records, of which this is a very fine addition.
Listen to the Main Title for STINGRAY from the new Silva Screen soundtrack album:
STRANGE WORLD/Henry Jackman/Walt Disney - digital
Disney’s animated feature STRANGE WORLD may have done poorly at the box office and critical reception, but it’s score by Henry Jackman is worth some attention, as it’s a powerful symphonic score with a sweeping scale and expansive breadth. Walt Disney Records has released the soundtrack in digital both mp3 and Dolby Atmos, with 31 tracks and 1 hour 8 minutes of music, including Jackman’s song “They’re The Clades!” with lyrics by Kevin Del Aguila, sung by James Hayden. Regarding the score, Jackman said in a statement for the soundtrack’s release, “I began writing the STRANGE WORLD overture away from picture and came up with this esoteric series of underlying arpeggios and dissonant harmonies which evoke the film’s sense of mystery and otherworldliness. I then situated an adventurous main theme on top of it, which had to be quite angular to fit the odd notes I had conjured.” Interviewed by animatedviews.com, Jackman said about his score that “It is very much a celebration of the symphony orchestra in all of its pomp and glory. That’s not to say that there’s not some extended colors. It’s orchestra plus real concert choir enhanced with a kind of otherworldly synth choir that blends with it. Also, sometimes string lines are combined with fantastical string sounds. But it’s just an augmentation… electronic elements are used to enhance and extend the sound of the orchestra, a bit like augmented reality.” The result is a robust orchestral score with accompanying flavoring from electronics and choir, which gives the music a heightened sense of emotional and empathetic reality. Movies like this “are giant invitations for music, because there’s different kinds of score,” Jackman told Jack Giroux in an extended interview for Slashfilm. “If you were to take that approach to something much smaller, it would be invasive and overblown and faintly ridiculous. But when you have a style of filmmaking that is epic and explores new worlds and has a sense of adventure in its DNA... it has an understanding of the sort of cinematic lineage of all these almost matinee movies where you get to completely move outside of ordinary reality, and for two hours, you’re in a completely different world.” (review continues below)
Listen to the track “The Fate of Strange World,” via YouTube:
The film follows the legendary Clades, a family of explorers whose differences threaten to topple their latest and most crucial mission when they discover and explore Avalonia, a land surrounded by an endless wall of mountains, where Jaeger Clade and his son Searcher brave the wilderness to explore new worlds. Jackman’s music ranges from the awe and wonder of exploring this fantastic environment (“Avalonia” Parts 1 and 2, “Searcher’s Quest,” “Abundance of Life,” “Crazy Creatures,” “Flight of the Poot Pickles,” “The Heart of Pando,” and the like) to the perils of exploration (“The Descent,” a splendid action theme for full orchestra), the threat of a more aggressive kind of life that exists in this strange milieu in the thrilling “Attack of the Reapers,” and compassionate moments between Jaeger and Searcher (“Like Father, Like Son,” “The Misadventures of Ethan Clade,” and “The Tale of Jaeger Clade”). Jackman maintains a compelling understanding of character, environment, and the more fanciful elements that abound within Avalonia. The score works within the film, but as well also creates an interesting and emotive musical journey through the Strange World via the soundtrack which, perhaps, may find a more suitable audience than the film itself may have. The soundtrack is now available from these links.
Listen to the track “End Credits Suite” via YouTube:
UNE BELLE COURSE/Philippe Rombi/MusicBox
In collaboration with Une Hirondelle Productions and Pathé Films, Music Box Records presents the new score composed by acclaimed composer Philippe Rombi (LE TEMPS DES SECRETS/The Time of Secrets; see my review here; BOÎTE NOIR/Black Box; see my review here; LA NOUVELLE GUERRE DES BOUTONS/War of the Buttons). UNE BELLE COURSE (Driving Madeleine, 2022), directed by Christian Carion, stars Line Renaud and Dany Boon; the drama film tells of Madeleine (Renaud), 92 years old, who calls a taxi to take her to the retirement home where she will be living. Charles (Boon), a disillusioned driver with a tender heart, agrees to drive by the places that affected Madeleine’s life. Through the streets of Paris, her extraordinary past is revealed, and a friendship is forged during the drive that will change their lives forever. Rombi here composes a poignant orchestral score with electronic textures, both delicate (with a main theme played on a trumpet) and disturbing (with some deliciously dark strings affording a pleasing Herrmann/VERTIGO-esque flavor to his score for the driving scenes), that evoke the memories of Madeleine’s life. With the bulk of the score following the drive Madeleine takes across Paris (tracks 2-11), Rombi provides a variety of patterns suggested by the Herrmannesque material, though it never seems tiresome but rather invests our interest in the storyline across the album’s soundscape as we focus on the musical journey that accompanies Madeleine’s vehicular journey, and much of it is softly infused with elements from Rombi’s own main theme., which opened the score. After its enticing mysterioso, “Le Jugement/The Judgement” opens into a rise of orchestral flavors which are quite nice; the darkest version of the travel music is heard in “Vengeance,” as a choir of woodwinds intone the furtive melody over softly meandering strings and low, stealthy bass pulses, ending in a severe, rising climax. When the journey is over, Rombi returns to his main theme that opened the score, “Un Nouveau Jour/A New Day” (reprised in “La Lettre De Matt/Matt’s Letter”) a cheerful light piano treatment below massed strings. With “Seul/Only,” Rombi imparts a delicate, wistful melody for piano and strings with just a touch of trumpet notes playing over the top, followed by “Partir/Leave” employing a softly unsettled piano; both of these two tracks are somewhat melancholy, in opposition to the main theme’s eager enthusiasm. A final adaptation of the title theme is heard for trumpet over strings in the “Une Belle Course,” a gentle and gratifying conclusion to Madelene’s journey. Added to the end of the CD is the film version of “Vengeance,” slightly different than the version heard earlier, without the rising climax that ended Rombi’s original rendering. Overall this is a provocative score in its dark mysterioso as well as its bright configuration before and after Madeleine’s journey of memory across Paris as she invests in recollections both satisfying and unpleasant. The album includes two source songs, Dinah Washington’s “This Bitter Earth” and Etta James’ signature “At Last,” both from the period of Madeleines’ youth in the 1950s. In his director’s note (interpreted here by Google Translate), Christian Carion comments on UNE BELLE COURSE: “There are two films in one, the contemporary moments of the taxi and the memories of Madeleine. The latter are, in their staging, a tribute to Hollywood cinema of the 1950s, in particular the films of Alfred Hitchcock... The editing even began with music by Bernard Herrmann while waiting for Philippe’s [sketches].” The album is accompanied by an 8-page CD booklet including statements (in French) from director Christian Carion and composer Philippe Rombi. For more details, and to sample some of the tracks, see MusicBox Records.
Listen to the track “Le Jugement” via YouTube:
VIOLENT NIGHT/Dominic Lewis/Back Lot Music – digital
Composer Dominic Lewis (BULLET TRAIN, BAYMAX!, JOLT, KINGSMEN series, MY SPY, THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE) has created a superlative holiday/action score for this film, with a creative mixture of musical styles and effective hints of traditional yule-tide songs that work very well together with his score (something that cannot always be said of holiday-themed movies). The trend-worthy VIOLENT NIGHT (see Movieweb’s review) is a coal-dark holiday action-comedy about a team of mercenaries who break into a wealthy family compound on Christmas Eve, taking everyone inside hostage. But they aren’t prepared for a surprise combatant: Santa Claus is on the grounds, and he’s not afraid to employ a bit of ultraviolence to show why this Nick is no saint. The film is directed by Tommy Wirkola (HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS, DEAD SNOW) and stars STRANGER THINGS and BLACK WIDOW’s David Harbour, John Leguizamo, Alex Hassell, Cam Gigandet, Alexis Louder, Edi Patterson and Beverly D’Angelo (known for her role in NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION, one of director Wirkola’s favorite holiday movies). Lewis merges bits of carols and Christmas tunes throughout his action tracks, as a tasty variety of bad-guy snooping-around music and strident suspense to keep the action rollicking (often adding in a taste or two of a yuletide cheer mixed in to a fight scene in between the more aggressive confrontational cues), not to mention some musical figures that seem to pay respectful tribute to Michael Kamen’s wonderful holiday soundtrack, DIE HARD, in a few places. Despite the gore-centric nature of the film, the music tends to avoid horror in favor of riding the line between humor, hostility, and holiday sentiment (as one reviewer wrote, the film has “a heart of gold beneath a bunch of bloodshed” (Mashable.com). From “Fight Lights,” “Snow Way Out,” “Filthy Animals,” “Feliz Navi-Dead” to “Naughty List,” these are exciting and provocative action tracks with energetic intervals for the visual fisticuffs and hard-hitting carnage as Santa saves the day; there are enough musical references to maintain our awareness of what holiday this is, and sufficient softer sentiment to keep the film’s younger characters at ease (“For Goodness Flake,” for example). “Winter’s Night” is a charismatic mix of aggressive horn statements interspersed with a full choir chanting Christmas carols, suggestive of a bit of cool Mannheim Steamroller rolling off the rails at high speed. Lewis’ title track, third to last cue on the album, is an evocative melodic treatment mixing “Silent Night” from orchestra and reflective choir singing, while the final two tracks, “HO HO HO” (a more straightforward bit of holiday spirit, almost much like something out of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE) and Lewis’ 1960s pastiche, “Santa Claus Has Had Enough Of Christmas,” are pleasing homages to the season. Also, Lewis is no slouch when it comes to Giacchino-worthy track titles! The score is a ton of fun and the soundtrack is a very enjoyable listen from start to finish. Along with his similarly wide-ranging music to last August’s BULLET TRAIN, Lewis is really pushing the effective envelope of nicely loaded action material with tuneful tongue-occasionally-in-cheek.
WEDNESDAY/Danny Elfman & Chris/Lakeshore – digital
The ADDAMS FAMILY returns with WEDNESDAY a sleuthing, supernaturally infused mystery eight-episode TV series on Netflix charting young Wednesday Addams’ years as a student at Nevermore Academy. Starring Jenna Ortega in the title role, the series follows Wednesday’s attempts to master her emerging psychic ability, thwart a monstrous killing spree that has terrorized the local town, and solve the supernatural mystery that embroiled her parents 25 years ago — all while navigating her new and very tangled relationships at Nevermore. Created, executive produced, and written by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, from director and executive producer Tim Burton, the series features a darkly manic and coolly evocative orchestral score by Danny Elfman and Chris Bacon who give it the richly dark, evocatively quirky, and menacingly delicious soundtrack that both fits the ADDAMS FAMILY style and the kind of frenetic enthusiasm of Elfman’s music for previous Tim Burton projects. The main title offers a flavorful dark gothic mix of harpsichord, frantic strings and horns, and a piping choir, but avoids referencing Vic Mizzy’s iconic theme song from the 1964 ADDAMS FAMILY TV series – largely because this series is about Wednesday Addams, not her entire family, although they do appear briefly in a couple of episodes. As Jordan Williams wrote in an article for Screen Rant [“Why WEDNESDAY Doesn’t Use the Addams Family Theme Song”], Elfman’s “new theme represents the more ominous, dark, and dramatic tone of the young adult show… Music in WEDNESDAY has a much greater meaning than simple nostalgia, but [the] score does still incorporate the macabre themes and harpsichord notes attached to THE ADDAMS FAMILY. Even without the iconic original song, WEDNESDAY’S music still connects the coming-of-age story to the larger ADDAMS FAMILY franchise while establishing it as its own entity.” (Review continues below)
Listen to the track “Devious Plan” from WEDNESDAY, via YouTube:
Aided by Chris Bacon (BATES MOTEL, IMMANENCE, DARK CARGO, SHERLOCK GNOMES; Bacon has been credited for additional music on ten of Elfman’s scores, beginning with AMERICAN HUSTLE in 2013; the two also collaborated jointly on WHEN WE RISE and MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL), Elfman revisits his gothic sensibility from his earlier Tim Burton days, and both composers give WEDNESDAY an impassioned musical accompaniment that fits the dark humor of the series’ tone and spirited performance of Jenna Ortega in the title role. With 48 tracks over an hour and 49 minutes (most in the 2-3 ½ minute range, with three terrifically energetic tracks close to or exceeding five minutes [“Burning Outcasts,” “Searching The House,” and “Poe Cup Race”]) there’s lots of music embodying Wednesday’s theme and a variety of other motifs. “Secret Library” offers an exuberant entrance into a hidden archive finishing with solo violin and a high statement for female choir. “Wednesday On The Case” is a fine, imposing motif full of energy and drive for strings and percussion; “Gomez Accused Of Murder” offers a forceful approach accompanying a major plot point in Episode 5, with its second half reinterpreted with harpsichord notes and a magnificent conclusive rising crescendo, capped by a soft, victorious solo voice, in “Gomez’ Story;” “Crackstone Rises” embodies a gradually advancing and formidable motif for the villain of the story, the town’s ruthless forefather who will suffer no “outcasts” in his watch. “Enid To The Rescue” provides a fine heroic moment for Wednesday’s roommate (an enthusiastically impressive performance by Emma Myers) to shine. (review continues below):
Listen to the Main Title from WEDNESDAY via YouTube:
The soundtrack album is not entirely in show order, with some tracks scattered about in a variation more suitable to listening. The score is persistently captivating and animated, and makes for a very enjoyable and persuasive hearing. See the streaming/purchase link.
Listen to the track “Wednesday on the Case” via YouTube:
The Society of Composers & Lyricists (SCL) will present award-winning composer Nicholas Britell with the Ambassador Award in New York on December 6th and legendary award-winning composer Danny Elfman with the Lifetime Achievement Award in Los Angeles on December 13th. Both events will include live performances. The organization will also host the 4th Annual SCL Awards show on February 15th 2023 in Los Angeles. SCL President Ashley Irwin explained the significance of the awards presented at the Holiday events – “The SCL Lifetime Achievement and Ambassador Awards were created to recognize and acknowledge a select group of music creators without whose valuable contributions our profession would be less than it is, without whose creativity our community would be lacking, and without whose gift our society would be deprived of the wonderful music and song expressed by their expertise. Their achievements will be used as the ultimate standard for future generations of media composers and songwriters.” For more information visit: www.TheSCL.com
SHE SAID is based on the true story of how New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey together broke the story that shattered decades of silence around the subject of sexual assault in Hollywood. Director Maria Schrader, stars Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan, Kantor and Twohey and Ashley Judd discuss the courage and conviction of the survivors, witnesses, and journalists who made the story possible, sparking a global conversation that continues to this day. The film is scored by Nicholas Britell (CRUELLA, ANDOR, MOONLIGHT, DON’T LOOK UP).
Inspired by the 1985 true story of a drug runner’s plane crash, missing cocaine, and the black bear that ate it, COCAINE BEAR is a wild dark comedy that finds an oddball group of cops, criminals, tourists, and teens converging in a Georgia forest where a 500-pound apex predator has ingested a staggering amount of cocaine and gone on a coke-fueled rampage for more blow… and blood. Directed by Elizabeth Banks (CHARLIE’S ANGELS, PITCH PERFECT 2), the film is composed by Mark Mothersbaugh and is scheduled to be released in the United States on February 24, 2023, by Universal Pictures.
Macey and Savanna may not have much. But they’ve got the perfect plan. With a ramshackle café teeter-tottering on the brink of extinction and their lives going nowhere fast, the two sisters conspire to win over their terminally ill Aunt Hilda – the family’s overbearing, curmudgeonly matriarch – in the hopes of becoming the beneficiaries of her vast estate. But as Macey and Savanna soon discover, there may be other relatives who have the exact same idea. Directed by Dean Craig, THE ESTATE stars Rosemarie DeWitt, Tony Collette, Anna Faris, Kathleen Turner, David Duchovny, and Ron Livingston. Music score by Will Bates (I ORIGINS, ANOTHER EARTH, IMPERIUM, DEVIL IN OHIO).
Christopher Young has been asked to write a new score for the 100th anniversary of the 1922 silent film classic, NOSFERATU. The film will premiere with Young’s score next February 24th & 25th in Zürich with acclaimed conductor Frank Strobel leading the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich. In other Chris Young news, he has also just scored ECHO 3, a dramatic action television series created by two-time Academy Award winner Mark Boal (THE HURT LOCKER). The series premiered on Apple TV+ November 23, 2022. It was filmed in English and Spanish, and is a black ops thriller and tale of international intrigue, set in Colombia, and shot almost entirely on location in 2021.
Watch the ECHO 3 series’ trailer:
Composer Roque Baños has scored the Spanish adventure comedy THE 4TH PASSENGER (aka FOUR’S A CROWD), directed by Álex de la Iglesia (Baños scored his 800 BULLETS, THE OXFORD MURDERS, THE LAST CIRCUS, TORRENTE 5, and others). In the wake of using a car-sharing mobile app to cope with his economic problems, Julián, a divorced man, meets Lorena, whom he begins to travel with to Madrid on a regular basis, falling romantically for her. He is about to open up his feelings in one of those travels, but the situation takes an unexpected turn…
Pinar Toprak (CAPTAIN MARVEL, THE LOST CITY, STARGIRL, KRYPTON) has composed the music for SLUMBERLAND, a fantasy adventure film directed by Francis Lawrence based on the classic comic strip, Little Nemo in Slumberland, by Winsor McCay. The film stars Jason Momoa and Marlow Barkley. The Netflix film follows a young girl who discovers a secret map to the dreamworld of Slumberland; with the help of an eccentric outlaw she traverses dreams and flees nightmares, with the hope that she will be able to see her late father again. Read Jon Mansell’s review of the Slumberland score at MovieMusicInternational. A soundtrack album from Netflix Music is available from Amazon, Spotify, and other sources.
Danny Elfman has scored WHITE NOISE, a 2022 apocalyptic black comedy film written and directed by Noah Baumbach, adapted from the 1985 novel by Don DeLillo. The film dramatizes a contemporary American family’s attempts to deal with the mundane conflicts of everyday life while grappling with the universal mysteries of love, death, and the possibility of happiness in an uncertain world. The movie was released in select cinemas on November 25, 2022 and will begin its streaming release on December 30, 2022, by Netflix.
DRAGON AGE: ABSOLUTION is an animated streaming television series premiering on Netflix on December 9, 2022. The fantasy series is based on the Dragon Age media franchise centered on a series of fantasy role-playing video games created and developed by BioWare. The series will follow a group of rebels, mages, and thieves who go head-to-head against a sinister force possessing a dangerous artifact. The series has been scored by composer Penka Kouneva (PANDORA, MIRA MIRA, ENCOUNTER); her music is a blend of Bulgarian influences, classical training, rock sensibility, and modern film and game soundtracks. For more details on the composer, see her website at http://www.penkakouneva.com/
Watch the DRAGON AGE: ABSOLUTION trailer:
Sharon Farber has completed scoring the short film KANASHIMI for director Michael Horwitz. Haunted by grief, the loss of his father and the mounting pressure of becoming a father himself, Adam finds a mysterious baseball glove on the beach. In attempting to track down the owner, he learns of his unlikely connection to a stranger across the world in Japan, a stranger he has more in common with than he ever realized. “KANASHIMI is the most personal project I have ever embarked on,” said Farber. “This film is inspired by my own journey of grief and resolve after my father passed away in 2019… Grief, just like cinema, is universal and I hope the film has a profound impact on all who see it.” The film does not yet have a release date.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua, the historical drama EMANCIPATION tells the triumphant story of Peter (Will Smith), a man who escapes from slavery, relying on his wits, unwavering faith and deep love for his family to evade cold-blooded hunters and the unforgiving swamps of Louisiana on his quest for freedom. The film is inspired by the 1863 photos of “Whipped Peter,” taken during a Union Army medical examination, that first appeared in Harper’s Weekly. One image, known as “The Scourged Back,” which shows Peter’s bare back mutilated by a whipping delivered by his enslavers, ultimately contributed to growing public opposition to slavery. Marcelo Zarvos has scored the film, which premiered in theaters on December 2, 2022, then follows with a December 9 release on Apple TV+. Watch the EMANCIPATION trailer:
A malevolent spirit is coming to haunt the holiday season. Directed by John R. Leonetti (MORTAL KOMBAT: ANNIHILATION, ANNABELLE), LULLABY from Vertical Entertainment comes to theaters and VOD December 16. The film follows a new mother who discovers a lullaby in an ancient book, regarding the song as a blessing. But her world transforms into a nightmare when the lullaby instead brings forth the ancient demon Lilith. The film’s music is composed by Joseph Bishara (INSIDIOUS, THE CONJURING, THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA, THE UNHOLY, MALIGNANT) and Alonso Lozano Arellano (RESTLESS – short), a composer, actor and sound director who makes his feature film co-scoring debut on this picture. Watch the film’s trailer:
PUSS IN BOOTS: THE LAST WISH is a computer-animated adventure comedy film produced by DreamWorks Animation as a spin-off of the SHREK franchise while also being a standalone sequel to PUSS IN BOOTS (2011). In the film Puss in Boots discovers that his passion for adventure has taken its toll: he has burned through eight of his nine lives, so he sets out on an epic journey to find the mythical Last Wish and restore his nine lives. Co-directed by Joel Crawford and Januel Mercado, the film stars the voices of Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek (reprising their roles as Puss in Boots and Kitty Softpaws, respectively). Heitor Pereira, a specialist in scoring animation (MINIONS, DESPICABLE ME 3, THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE, MINIONS: THE RISE OF GRU), is scoring the new film, which is scheduled to be released theatrically in the US on December 21, 2022, by Universal Pictures.
THE PALE BLUE EYE is a forthcoming gothic horror mystery film written and directed by Scott Cooper (OUT OF THE FURNACE, BLACK MASS, HOSTILES, ANTLERS). In 1830, world-weary veteran detective Augustus Landor investigates a series of murders at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. Stymied by the cadets’ code of silence, he enlists one of their own to help unravel the case – a young man the world would come to know as Edgar Allan Poe. Howard Shore has composed the original music for the picture, which is scheduled to be released in select theaters on December 23, 2022, before its streaming release on January 6, 2023, on Netflix. - via filmmusicreporter and other sources. Watch the film’s trailer:
Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures Presents BONES AND ALL, an, er, tasteful 2022 coming-of-age romantic cannibal road film directed by Luca Guadagnino, based on the 2015 novel of the same name by Camille DeAngelis. The film is a story of first love between Maren (Taylor Russell), a young woman learning how to survive on the margins of society because of her predilection for human flesh, and Lee (Timothée Chalamet), an intense and disenfranchised drifter. It’s a road odyssey of two young people coming into their own while realizing that all roads lead back to their terrifying pasts. The movie is scored by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (WATCHMAN series, BIRD BOX, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, THE SOCIAL NETWORK). “I like to think that BONES AND ALL is an extremely romantic movie, addressing the romanticism that lies within us and within relationships in general,” director Guadagnino explained in an interview with Fantastic Man . “Of course, there’s the literal aspect of it being a movie about cannibal lovers, which is extreme in many ways, but I think the more extreme aspect of the movie is the intensity of the feelings that these people go through – the impossibility of love.”
DARBY AND THE DEAD is a new supernatural teen comedy film directed by Silas Howard, starring Riele Downs as Darby Harper, along with Auli?i Cravalho, Chosen Jacobs, and Tony Danza. The film follows Darby, who is granted the ability to see ghosts after suffering a near death experience in her childhood and, as a result, opens a side business counseling local spirits in her spare time. The film is scored by Roger Neill, an accomplished film composer known for scoring all 13 seasons of KING OF THE HILL, collaborating with Mike Mills on acclaimed films BEGINNERS and 20TH CENTURY WOMEN, and Amazon’s MOZART IN THE JUNGLE. Though originally supposed to be a more orchestral score, Roger worked to incorporate a mix of hybrid hip-hop and rock into the film. There is a distinct use of percussion and some found sounds throughout the teen drama that play well into the themes of the film to produce a strong score. DARBY AND THE DEAD premiered on Hulu Dec. 2nd.
Varèse Sarabande revisits one of the pleasures of its early catalog: THREE O’CLOCK HIGH (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) with music by Tangerine Dream and additional music from Sylvester Levay. The CD is available now only on VareseSarabande.com, limited to 1,000 copies. THREE O’CLOCK HIGH was an offbeat take on the ’80s high school comedy. Stylishly directed by Phil Joanou, the film is more Scorsese than John Hughes, starring Casey Siemaszko as a nerd forced into an afterschool rumble with a psychopath bully, played by Richard Tyson. The film became a cult hit on home video. A vinyl LP is available for pre-order, with an on-sale date of January 27, 2023.; the wide release black vinyl will be available at all retailers, while the limited-edition blue vinyl will be available exclusively on VareseSarabande.com, limited to 500 copies. See more details at Varèse Sarabande.
La-La Land Records has announced its Final Five CDs for 2022: AMISTAD: a special 2-CD remastered and expanded release of John Williams’ score, supporting a true chronicling of the 1839 African slave ship revolt aboard the La Amistad and its subsequent landmark U.S. court case. TOMORROW NEVER DIES: Expanded/Remastered 25th Anniversary Limited Edition, music by David Arnold, limited edition of 5000 Units. THE GODFATHER: a deluxe release of Nino Rota’s iconic masterwork, marking the 50th Anniversary of the classic film and its score; the score’s waltz and love theme have both joined the pantheon of the most universally recognizable movie themes in history. The label celebrates the 20th Anniversary of 2002’s SPIDER-MAN with a remastered and expanded 3-CD deluxe presentation of renowned composer Danny Elfman’s original score. And there is a remastered and expanded CD re-issue of legendary composer Jerry Goldsmith’s original motion picture score to the 1989 big screen cult comedy THE ‘BURBS, wherein the composer expertly balances the film’s rambunctious comedy, dark satire, suspense, action – and its heart too – with a bold orchestral work.
See La-La Land Records for details!
Intrada has just announced a world premiere expanded 2CD soundtrack of Basil Poledouris’s score to CONAN THE DESTROYER (1984). The film offered an incredibly rich and colorful palette for Poledouris to write music for… and he supplies an incredibly rich and colorful score. This album “took years of complicated licensing negotiation but patience and discussions finally bore fruit,” writes the label. “Original 1984 MCA album offered 33 minutes of highlights but new remastered release brings running time to nearly an hour, plus an additional 16 minutes of alternates. The crispness and clarity of this original performance by the Union Musicisti di Roma under Poledouris has unrivaled vibrancy, just what one wants from vivid action music.” Also on board are both original and revised versions of the “Main Title.” The entire score is presented from stunning 3-channel stereo session mixes vaulted by Universal. Complex license also brings original MCA album program on second disc. For details see Intrada.
Walt Disney Records follows its October digital soundtrack release of ANDOR: Volume 1 (Episodes 1-4) from Lucasfilm’s original live-action STAR WARS series, with ANDOR: Volume 2 (Episodes 5-8) on November 4th. Featuring the episode scores composed by Nicholas Britell, who commented, “As ANDOR the show evolves, so does the music. Exploring the many different sounds - both orchestral, and those with electronic/synthesizer textures - has been such a thrill.” ANDOR Volume 3 (Episodes 9-12) will be released shortly. The film concluded its first season on Nov. 23.
On November 18, 2022, Silva Screen Records will digitally release Music From WESTWORLD. Performed by London Music Works, the album features music highlights from Ramin Djawadi’s extensive and rich score. Featuring varied and strong themed instrumental tracks from the series, Djawadi’s compositional techniques also utilize vinyl scratches and pulsating drums, low, growling basslines and futuristic sci-fi effects, all the way to incorporating orchestral covers of well-known songs into the soundtrack.
Chanda Dancy has scored the Korean War drama, DEVOTION. Directed by J. D. Dillard, the film is based on the 2017 book Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice by Adam Makos, which retells the comradeship between naval officers Jesse Brown and Tom Hudner, who became the U.S. Navy’s most celebrated wingmen during the Korean War. The film was theatrically released on November 23, 2022. Chanda Dancy (born Chanda Yvette Dancy) is an American film composer, violinist, keyboardist, and singer. Most recently she has composed the scores to AFTERSHOCK (2022), THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS (2021), THE DEFEATED (2020 TV series), and DRAMARAMA (2020). For more information about the composer, see her website. The soundtrack album, from Lakeshore Records, is available at these links. Read Daniel Schweiger’s interview with Dancy about scoring this film at the Film Music Institute website.
Silva Screen has digitally released the third volume of HIS DARK MATERIALS Series Three, presenting Lorne Balfe’s newly composed principal themes the series’ third season. In anticipation of the album, the first single, “The Banished Angel,” was released on October 27th. Balfe describes his score as “Elgar meets Nine Inch Nails” and recounts that “The main thing that we wanted to do was to always have a clear journey of each character’s theme… I wrote their themes separately as a journey, so that we knew musically what would happen throughout the series… I love that slight steampunk feeling of the books where you don’t necessarily know the period or time that you’re in. There’s a mixture of technologies and it’s in the realm of fantasy very [much] like Harry Potter. I think that, to me, is what drew me into that world and the fact there are several worlds- you’ve got the present and the past” Listen to the track “The Banished Angel” from HIS DARK MATERIALS Series 3:
Scott Glasgow’s score for SHADOW MASTER is available from his label Fourteen Kings Music on Spotify and other sources. The film, directed by Pearry Reginald Teo, has to do with a man who, after being slain by a group of criminals, is reborn with animal-like superpowers and makes it his mission to right the wrongs of his city.
Sample the track “Arrested” on Soundcloud. Glasgow has also completed scoring the Western horror film NIGHT OF THE TOMMYKNOCKERS, directed by Michael Su and starring Richard Grieco, Tom Sizemore, and Robert LaSardo. In the 1870s, miners blasting for gold accidentally release ancient creatures known as Tommyknockers, who quickly invade the local town. “This one features a bunch of exotic instruments and approaches – percussion: rock gong, devil chasers, jaw harp, American Indian drums, cimbalom, and so much more; Guitars: tons of bowed detuned stringed instruments by me including a detuned lute and the brilliant playing of Justin Smith, and Western music Morricone style with my own aggressive orchestral material and theme,” said Glasgow. The soundtrack is available on Glasgow’s label – check it out on Spotify or Amazon.
Listen to Glasgow’s title theme from NIGHT OF THE TOMMYKNOCKERS:
Lakeshore Records has released the original series soundtrack to AVENUE 5, featuring music from the first and second seasons by Adem Ilhan (IN THE LOOP). The sci-fi comedy series follows the troubled crew of Avenue 5, a space cruise ship filled with spoiled, rich, snotty space tourists, whom they must try and keep calm after their ship gets thrown off course into space and ends up needing three years to return to Earth. With a directive that the score “needs to sound like no other music,” composer Ilhan set out on an unorthodox recording journey with the help of bass clarinetist Robert Stillman and violinist Emma Smith creating a vividly chaotic yet melodic backdrop to the manic futuristic space comedy. Notes Ilhan, in his liner notes for AVENUE 5: “In this score I knew that I wanted rigidity in order to give pace, but also a constant sense of unease or underlying dread. The script is very funny, but it is powerful because it examines ineptitude in the face of disaster – I felt it would be my job to make that dread be palpable, but also be able to keep the fast momentum flowing.”
The soundtrack for AVENUE 5 is now available at these links.
Picturebooks, Volume 2 is a follow-up to Ronen Landa’s first film music compilation, Picturebooks, released in 2009. “With Picturebooks Volume 2, Landa digs deep into his catalog with beautifully focused intent and purpose,” writes Rachel Reeves in the album’s liner notes. “Artfully selecting original pieces from various short film projects, he has curated a haunting collection of previously unreleased, darker-themed work. Transportive, eerie and affecting; here genres collide to form an intoxicating fog of his own making. Effortlessly transcending the sum of its parts, Picturebooks Volume 2 is a celebration of mood, darkness, and a glimpse inside the imaginative mind from where the music sprang.” The album is now available for streaming from the composer’s label at Lux Eon Records. Buy the digital album or the 12” vinyl album at bandcamp. For more information on the composer, see www.ronenlanda.com
Back Lot Music has released a soundtrack album for the supernatural action comedy sequel R.I.P.D. 2: RISE OF THE DAMNED. The album features the film’s original music composed by J. Peter Robinson (CLEANERS, CHARMED, SPAWN, THE OUTER LIMITS [1995-99]). Directed by Paul Leyden, R.I.P.D. 2 is a sequel to R.I.P.D. (also marketed as R.I.P.D.: REST IN PEACE DEPARTMENT), the 2013 supernatural action comedy film starring Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds. The new film stars Jeffrey Donovan and Penelope Mitchell as they enforcing the afterlife’s laws while stopping a dangerous demon from opening a portal to the underworld. Robinson’s score is available on a digital soundtrack available to stream/download on Amazon and elsewhere.
Listen to the track “Exodus of the Workers” below
(and watch the film’s trailer below that):
Varèse Sarabande announced their November 2022 CD Club titles: L.A. Confidential Deluxe Edition (Original Motion Picture Score) with music by Jerry Goldsmith and Mimic Deluxe Edition (Music From the Dimension Motion Score) with music by Marco Beltrami. The L.A. CONFIDENTIAL deluxe Edition features two programs on one disc: 28 tracks, running 45 minutes, representing the cues heard in the film, followed by the original 11-track, 30-minute score album. New liner notes are by Tim Greiving. MIMIC was last available within Varèse Sarabande’s 2016 12CD set, Little Box of Horrors. For this new release the 34-track Deluxe Edition has been newly assembled and remastered from first-generation sources, and the score packaged with new cover art and liner notes by Randall D. Larson. Both titles are now available in limited editions, digitally and on CD exclusively on VareseSarabande.com .
Acclaimed conductor of prominent orchestras all over the world, Matthias Petsche has recently composed the music for SACHERTORTE (“Chocolate Cake”), a German-Austrian film now showing in the US on Amazon Prime. Directed by Tine Rogoll, the light and airy love film tells a humorous story about the aberrations in the search for great feelings. Check out the digital soundtrack album from Lakeshore, here.
Ben Frost’s (RAISED BY WOLVES) score for the Netflix mystery thriller series “1899” has been released by Invada Records and Lakeshore. In 1899 a migrant steamship heads west to leave the old continent. The passengers, a mixed bag of European origins, and crew discover another migrant ship adrift on open sea. What they find on board, will turn their passage to the promised land into a horrifying nightmare. Lakeshore releases the album in North and South America and Invada releases it in the rest of the world. A vinyl edition, will be available in Spring 2023.
See album links here. Listen to the lead focus track “Kapitän,” via YouTube:
From Dark Temple Motion Pictures comes FREEZE, the latest horror movie from director Charlie Steeds (THE BARGE PEOPLE). The Lovecraftian horror film follows a rescue mission to the North Pole, spearheaded by Captain Mortimer (Wilton) to retrieve an old friend and his lost expedition crew; but he gets more than he bargained for when his ship is frozen into the ice sheet and set upon by bloodthirsty fish-creatures. The film has been scored by photographer, digital artist, and musician Duncan Ritchie, known for scoring the horror film BLACK LAKE (2020) and the short film THE THING IN THE APARTMENT: CHAPTER II (2017; using his band name “Flowers for Bodysnatchers”). For more details, see Ritchie’s website. “The arctic horror movie won the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival’s Best Film Award 2022, which gives it some legit Lovecraft cred,” writes John Squires in an article for the Bloody Disgusting website.
Watch the FREEZE trailer, via YouTube:
MovieScore Media has released the digital soundtrack to the 2022 Vietnamese thriller GIRL FROM THE PAST (Cô Gái Tu Quá Khú), composed by Christopher Wong, Ian Rees, and Garrett Crosby. “GIRL FROM THE PAST is my sixth feature film collaboration with directors Namcito & Bao Nhan, and the first thriller we have worked on together,” said Wong. “What was interesting for me about this film is that it was very psychological and character driven; it didn’t rely on jump scares or sudden loud noises, it was more about finding the right mood and tone to set as the main character’s dark past slowly becomes unraveled in front of the audience.” See more details here.
MovieScore Media has also released the digital soundtrack to the 2022 horror film FEED, about a group of social media experts are hired to help an old family business to strive. But they soon find themselves stuck on a tiny island in a lake in which an ancient Swedish witch is said to live. The film was scored by Oscar Fogelström (THE HYPNOTIST, AURORA, NIGHTSHIFT, DEATH OF A GIRLFRIEND, GREED). “For the main theme I wanted a melody that could be used in both positive and darker sequences,” the composer told MovieScore Media. “Märit’s theme represents the mythical witch who is haunting the island… The instrumentation is organic/electronic where the organic instruments are nyckelharpa and other traditional Swedish instruments with live percussion by Jesper Skarin. Since the witch wears a mask with a bell, we had Jesper do a lot of metallic sounds, including bowed cymbals and different bells. There are also quite a lot of vocal elements in the score with whispers and reversed vocal performances symbolizing the witch. I call this Electronic Folklore.” The digital soundtrack is available from MovieScore Media
Lions Gate Records has release the original score from the STARZ Original Series DANGEROUS LIAISONS with music by Anne Nikitin. The film is a bold reimagining of the iconic characters from Laclos’ classic 18th century novel and tells the origin story of how the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont meet as passionate young lovers in Paris on the eve of revolution. Driven to right the wrongs of their past, we follow the couple as they rise from the slums of Paris and scale the heights of the French aristocracy, seducing and manipulating both the nobility and each other to survive. The album is available from these links. Watch this exclusive behind-the-scenes sneak of Composer, Anne Nikitin's recording sessions for DANGEROUS LIAISONS:
The BBC2 TV series THE ENGLISH features a score by accomplished composer Federico Jusid. The show is written and directed by Hugo Blick (THE HONORABLE WOMAN, BLACK EARTH RISING) and stars Emily Blunt, Chaske Spencer, Stephen Rea, Toby Jones and Ciarán Hinds. The 6-part western drama tells the story of an aristocratic Englishwoman and a Pawnee ex-cavalry scout who come together in 1890 middle America to cross a violent landscape built on dreams and blood. Silva Screen Records has digitally released Jusid’s sweeping, nostalgic and score. “Jusid’s music structure is based on leitmotifs, very simple and symmetric, constantly varied and developed to mirror the protagonists’ journeys,” writes the label. “Big orchestral sounds underpin epic and romantic themes. Sound design, processed percussion and ethnic instruments effortlessly blend in with the orchestral material.” Giving a nod to 1950’s western soundtracks, the score is also enriched by Dvorák’s String Quartet No. 12. known as the “American,” written during Dvorák’s stay in America, and only 3 years after the events of the series.
Also from Silva Screen Records is DOCTOR WHO Series 13 The Specials coming on January 13th, 2023. Leading to this triple CD set, Silva Screen has/will digitally release the volumes separately – EVE OF THE DALEKS on December 2nd, LEGEND OF THE SEA DEVILS on December 9th and THE POWER OF THE DOCTOR on December 16th. These DOCTOR WHO specials are the three additional episodes that followed the program’s thirteenth series, the final episodes to feature Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor, all featuring the music of composer Segun Akinola. For more details, see SilvaScreen.
MY FATHER’S DRAGON is an Irish-American 2022 2D-animated adventure comedy fantasy film showing on Netflix, directed by Nora Twomey. The score has been composed by Mychael Danna and Jeff Dana. The story, told by an unseen older woman, tells of how Elmer Elevator searched the rescue a captive Dragon on Wild Island and finds much more than he could ever have anticipated. A digital soundtrack has been released by Netflix Music and is available on Amazon and other digital music sources; the entire soundtrack album has been posted on YouTube by Netflix Music for your listening pleasure.
EMILY is a 2022 biographical drama film written and directed by Frances O’Connor in her directorial debut. It depicts the brief life of English writer Emily Brontë, portrayed by Emma Mackey. Abel Korzeniowski (BATTLE FOR TERRA, A SINGLE MAN, PENNY DREADFUL Seasons 2-3, TILL) has scored the film, which premiered at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival before being theatrically released in the United Kingdom by Warner Bros. on October 14, 2022, and is scheduled for release in the United States by Bleecker Street in 2023. The soundtrack album is available from Spitfire Audio on Spotify and Apple Music.
Lakeshore releases TRYING Seasons 2 & 3 the original soundtrack from the Apple TV+ series. The romantic comedy series follows Jason and Nikki, who decide to adopt a child; but with their dysfunctional friends, screwball family, and chaotic lives will the adoption panel think they're ready to be parents? The soundtrack album features the music of composer Paul Saunderson, is a British film composer with a career spanning over 40 feature films and 8 TV shows. Purchase/listen to the soundtrack here.
THE SWIMMERS is a 2022 biographical drama Netflix film directed by Sally El Hosaini from a screenplay that she co-wrote with Jack Thorne. The film stars real-life sisters Nathalie Issa and Manal Issa who, from war-torn Syria to the 2016 Rio Olympics, embark on a harrowing journey as refugees, putting both their hearts and champion swimming skills to heroic use. Steven Price (GRAVITY, ATTACK THE BLOCK, SUICIDE SQUAD, BEAST, LAST NIGHT IN SOHO) has scored the film; the digital soundtrack has been released by Netflix, and is available on Amazon and other digital music sources.
Node Records is pleased to announce the release of the soundtrack album for SOMETHING IN THE DIRT, featuring an original score by recording artist The Album Leaf aka Jimmy LaValle. The film, from Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (MOON KNIGHT, LOKI, THE TWILIGHT ZONE), is another of the duo’s genre-bending signature sci-fi and supernatural horror/dark comedy films (THE ENDLESS, SYNCHRONIC). The film tells the story of two neighbors who witness something supernatural in their LA apartment building. The two realize that documenting these unexplainable paranormal events could change their lives with fame and fortune. The journey plunges them down a frayed and uncertain path as they uncover the truth of the phenomena. The score is an electronic-orchestral hybrid that creates its own distinct world. “For the sound of the film, I wanted to do something different from our previous films together... I feel like I was able to craft something really unique to help tell the film’s story,” says LaValle. [See my interview with LaValle on scoring this film, at musiquefantastique.]
For more details about the composer, see his website. The album is available here.
Lakeshore Records announces the release today of THE PEOPLE WE HATE AT THE WEDDING featuring music by EMMY-Nominated composer Tom Howe (GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF). The score utilizes electronics, piano and strings that provide a mischievous and whimsical backdrop to the modern comedy. The debuted globally on Amazon Prime Video on November 18. Purchase/Stream links here.
Netflix Music has released the first soundtrack album for the streamer’s South African original series BLOOD & WATER. The teen crime drama television series has been developed by Gambit Films for Netflix starring Ama Qamata, Khosi Ngema and Gail Mabalane. Set in Cape Town, the series follows a local teen girl who uncovers her family’s secret past as she navigates the complicated world of a South African high school. The album features selections of the original music from the show’s third season composed by Mr Kamera. Also included is the drama’s theme song by Mr Kamera & Frya (previously released as a digital single in 2020). Season 3 of the series is premiering today on Netflix. – via filmmusicreporter and other sources.
THE SON – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack has been released by Lakeshore, featuring music by multiple Oscar and Grammy-winning composer Hans Zimmer. The orchestral score provides an emotionally rich backdrop to Florian Zeller’s film, the sequel to THE FATHER and the second in a trilogy that explores the subject of mental health. Notes Zimmer: “I had always wanted to work with Florian having been so moved by THE FATHER. This film is so rich in its depiction of the struggle to maintain one’s mental health and the wide swathe of emotions displayed by all of the connected characters, I found it remarkably moving to be able to enhance and frame those emotions as empathetically as I could with the orchestra.” Purchase/Stream links here.
In addition to the score album by Danny Elfman and Chris Bacon for the Netflix series WEDNESDAY (see review above), Lakeshore has also just released a four track EP led off by a striking hit version of The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black” performed by Wednesday Addams on cello and additional tracks by The Nevermore Academy Orchestra - “Don’t Stop” and the classical tracks “Four Seasons – Winter: I. Allegro Non Molto (Vivaldi)” and “Concerto in E Minor for Violoncello and Orchestra (Elgar).” See the streaming/purchase link here.
The original score soundtrack from the critically acclaimed Onyx Collective series REASONABLE DOUBT, now streaming on Hulu, was released on Nov. 4th. Reasonable Doubt is about brilliant and fearless defense attorney Jax Stewart as she juggles work, family, friends, and a complicated personal who bucks the justice system every chance she gets. Driving the music of REASONABLE DOUBT is composer duo Adrian Younge and A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad. Both composers are Grammy-nominated and renowned for their contributions to jazz and hip-hop. The album features 28 tracks of original score, and strikes a balance between robust orchestration and intimate execution as it leans into elements of R&B, soul, and jazz. The album is available here.
A CHRISTMAS STORY CHRISTMAS is a, you guessed it, Christmas comedy film directed by Clay Kaytis from a script by him and Nick Schenk, from an original story co-written by Schenk and Peter Billingsley; it is a legacy sequel to A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983), and serves as the eighth movie and ninth installment overall in the Parker Family Saga franchise. The film has been scored by Jeff Morrow (THE PEANUTS MOVIE, TROLLS), whose robust orchestra brings a rich holiday cheer to the family comedy that revisits the iconic character of Ralphie – all grown up and now a dad himself. Of course, as is tradition in the Parker household, despite “dad’s” best efforts to make those spirits bright, things go comically awry and hijinks ensue in this endearing, relatable slice of family life. The film is now streaming exclusively on HBO Max. A digital soundtrack has been released by Lakeshore Records.
The Plaza Mayor Company has released the soundtrack by Raf Keunen to director Paolo Strippoli’s FLOWING (aka Piove; US: Rain), a horror thriller about a singular event occurring in Rome – when it rains, the manholes exhale a dense steam whose origin and composition is unknown; whoever breathes in the mysterious substance will have to deal with what he/she represses, their darkest instincts, their anger. Keunen is a Belgian-based composer who has been scoring films and theatre since the mid 2000s; he is known for scoring the films KANDISHA, I AM NOT A HERO, THE SPY, THE ROOM, and RACER AND THE JAILBIRD. Listen on Spotify. The label has also released LE LYCEEN (Winter Boy), a drama about a 17-year-old high school student trying to get to grips with the new challenges posed by death, life, the city, and “the temptation of renouncement.” The film is directed by Christophe Honoré with music by Yoshihiro Hanno (website here), a film composer based in Paris and known for scoring known for MOUNTAINS MAY DEPART (2015), UGLY (2011) and AME NI YURERU ONNA (2016); listen on Spotify.
Also from Plaza Mayor this month is the soundtrack to THE BOAT by Italian composer and music producer Fabrizio Mancinelli (THE LAND OF DREAMS, COYOTE LAKE, JAILBIRD); the film is a tense thriller about three couples enjoying a trip aboard a luxury yacht that turns into a terrible nightmare. Directed by Alessio Liguori (SHORTCUT, IN THE TRAP, DARKLY, REPORT 51). See Spotify; read Jon Mansell’s review of the score here.
Mercury Classics have released Hildur Guðnadóttir’s brooding original motion picture soundtrack for WOMEN TALKING, a poignant film based on Miriam Toews 2018 novel of the same name. Written and directed by Sarah Polley, WOMEN TALKING is a highly emotive and inspiring story, based on the best-selling novel by Miriam Toews, that follows a group of women from an isolated religious community who grapple with reconciling their reality with their faith. Guðnadóttir’s affecting, ruminative score captures the film’s emotional complexity. Rousing guitar-led motifs underpin the folk-influenced score, punctuated by unsettling percussion and mournful strings. Of the soundtrack, she explains: “WOMEN TALKING tells a story inspired by true events. While the story is both doomsday and a call to prayer, the music needed to be a vehicle for hope – a way forward from a situation that is unbearably dark. It was a very interesting process for me to go through because I inevitably had to put it in context with the big forward and backwards movements that women have been experiencing. Instead of allowing myself to be paralyzed with anger, I felt the way forward was to lean into friendship and connection, as we experience in the film.” The film was released to the festival circuit last September, and is scheduled for a limited theatrical release in the United States on December 23, 2022. Universal Music Group’s new label Mercury Classics Soundtrack & Score has released the film’s soundtrack digitally on December 2nd; a CD will be released on December 16, 2022. Watch the film’s trailer:
More Lakeshore Records news: the label has released CAUSEWAY – Soundtrack From The Apple Original Film featuring music by Alex Somers (HONEY BOY, RICEBOY SLEEPS). Evocative slowed down cellos create the sonic feel and atmospherics that anchor the emotionally rich score. The drama stars Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence, who also produces, and Emmy and Tony Award-nominee Brian Tyree Henry, and is now streaming globally on Apple TV+. Purchase/Stream here. Lakeshore and Broadway Records have released SCROOGE: A CHRISTMAS CAROL – Music From The Netflix Film digitally on December 2; this animated version includes re-imagined songs, written by Oscar and Grammy award-winning composer, the late Leslie Bricusse. Charles Dickens’ ageless legend is reborn in this supernatural, time-traveling, musical adaptation of the definitive Christmas story. The film is now streaming on Netflix. Purchase/Stream the soundtrack here. Lakeshore also announces a digital soundtrack to THE PERIPHERAL – Music From The Amazon Series on Prime Video, featuring music by Mark Korven (THE WITCH, THE LIGHTHOUSE, THE BLACK PHONE, RESIDENT EVIL: WELCOME TO RACCOON CITY). The epic and ominous soundscapes reflect the dark futuristic vision of William Gibson’s sci-fi thriller series. The peripheral centers on Flynne Fisher (Chloë Grace Moretz), a woman trying to hold together the pieces of her broken family in a forgotten corner of tomorrow’s America. Flynne is smart, ambitious, and doomed. She has no future; until the future comes calling for her. THE PERIPHERAL is master storyteller William Gibson’s dazzling, hallucinatory glimpse into the fate of mankind – and what lies beyond. Korven notes: “Working outside my comfort zone on the sci-fi series THE PERIPHERAL was a welcome challenge, and it was wonderful to explore new sonic worlds and landscapes.”
Deep in the Dovre mountain in Norway, something gigantic wakes up after a thousand years in captivity. The creature is the last remaining Troll King, which proceeds to destroy everything in its path and quickly approaches Oslo. TROLL is a Norwegian monster film directed and co-written by Roar Uthaug, released December 1st by Netflix. It received generally positive reviews from critics, with praise for the performances, score, cinematography, direction, and action sequences. (story continues below)
Watch the TROLL trailer:
The score is composed by Johannes Ringen, a Norwegian-born, LA-based composer known for his work on THE BURNING SEA (2021), THE GIRL FROM OSLO (2021), PROJECT Z (2021), and THE QUAKE (2018); he’s also contributed music arrangements to the scores of AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015) and FURIOUS 7 (2015), and additional music for DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS. DEAD (2014). Ringen is a graduate from the Film Scoring Program at University of Southern California where he studied under Emmy Award winning and Oscar nominated composers such as Bruce Broughton, Christopher Young, and Garry Schyman.
Ringen’s score for TROLL is a large-scale symphonic work which corresponds to the gigantic Troll King’s invasion of Oslo; he also includes several pastiche’s of In The Hall of the Mountain King by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) in the end credits. A digital soundtrack has been released by Netflix Music and is available at Amazon, Apple Music, Spotify, and other sources.
Listen to a suite of Ringen’s music from TROLL, via YouTube:
Music Box Records announces they are distributing a CD dedicated to a selection of classic works composed by Georges Delerue (1925–1992), The Classical Music Of Georges Delerue, performed by The Vocal Ensembles La Chapelle du Prince de Conti, Exavocem & Pro Homine. For the thirtieth anniversary of Delerue’s death, this album pays tribute to his classical and vocal music, which is very absent from the discographic production. For more details and to order, see MusicBoxRecords.
Intrada has released a newly-recorded CD of Dimitri TiomkinPiano Music For Concert And Stage. Written for famed dancer and choreographer Albertina Rasch & The Great American Ballet, these solo piano works, both charming and imposing, were composed between 1927 and 1932. Stylistic ideas are varied, showcasing Tiomkin’s early proficiency with the instrument in works encompassing everything from waltz to jazz, from bolero to blues, from two-step to cakewalk. See more details at Intrada.
Caldera Records has released The Roy Budd Playathon on CD, a previously unpublished selection of a legendary jazz marathon featuring Roy Budd, drummer Chris Karan, and bass player Pete Morgan from a 24 hour “Playathon” in Knightsbridge, London in 1989. The tapes have recently been recovered from Budd’s estate and showcase the composer and pianist at the height of his talent as a supremely gifted entertainer with an incomparable knack for breathing new life into standards that were especially close to his heart. In close collaboration with Sylvia Budd, Caldera has released a selection of the concert on disc. For more details see CalderaRecords; to order, see Caldera Playathon.
2021 was a particularly rich artistic year for Maximilian Mathevon. After the album Shockwave 2044 released last month, the composer has now released Ambient Soundspaces. “It is an album of music that I wanted to be contemplative and immersive, whose sounds mix, appear, and disappear according to its evolutions,” said Mathevon. The album is available from Amazon, Apple Music, and Spotify. For more information on the composer and his soundtracks and albums, see http://www.maximilienmathevon.com/
Composer Jeff Rona has published a new Third Edition of his book The Reel World – Scoring for Pictures, Television, and Video Games, which is now out in paperback and e-book from Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. This fully updated and complete guide takes you inside the world of creating music for film, television, and – unique to this third edition – video games. Packed with insider’s tips, the book also advises on how to nurture positive relationships within the creative team and business contacts. The paperback is now available via Amazon, Walmart, and from the publisher.
Jon Burlingame has a new edition of his book, Music for Prime Time: A History of American Television Themes and Scoring, coming out next year. This new edition comprises popular themes in television scoring that have entered the discussion since its original publication 25 years ago; examines the backstory of significant TV themes; covers the (largely unknown) television work of every major film composer who either started in TV or came to it later in their career. This book is available for pre-order at Oxford University Press in hardcover or ebook, and
Silva Screen will release the MISSILE FROM THE EAST, Benji Merrison and Will Slater’s soundtrack to the 90-minute feature documentary that tells the story of the champion East German motorcycle racer Ernst Degner’s defection to West Germany during the Swedish Grand Prix in 1961. For this intriguing documentary, Merrison and Slater created an exciting score that pulsates with exhilarating synth ostinatos, soaring strings, and scattered tune fragments carried by strings and electric piano. Opening with synth ostinatos and gradually shifting into mellow soundscapes, the score resolves in the beautiful closing track “Degner’s World,” a tranquil piano piece. The digital album will be available on Dec. 9th from SilvaScreen.
VILLENEUVE PIRONI is a new documentary telling the story of Canadian Formula 1 legend Gilles Villeneuve and French star Didier Pironi, two fearless Ferrari Formula 1 drivers, forever torn apart by a historic and hugely controversial moment in time. The disagreement between the Canadian and French Formula 1 drivers came about when Pironi took victory from Villeneuve on the last lap of the Italian Grand Prix; Villeneuve felt Pironi’s move was against team orders laid out before the race began. Neither driver spoke to one another again; Villeneuve died in a crash two weeks later, and not long after that came Pironi’s career-ending crash during practice at the German Grand Prix. VILLENEUE PIRONI is a modern-day Shakespearean epic that tells the story of two of the fastest racers in history, their brief and violent intertwined lives, and the emotional scars still felt today by their closest loved ones. Above all it is a life-affirming film that explores love, loss, and legacy, in a sport where passion overcomes fear. Nainita Desai has scored the film which is slated for release in late 2022, exactly 40 years after Gilles Villeneuve lost his life at Zolder in 1982.
SOUL OF THE OCEAN is a 4K feature documentary that explores the complexity of ocean ecosystems as communities of interdependent species and highlights the critical role biodiversity plays in maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems. Alan Williams composed the score for the 78-minute feature-length doc. After numerous festival showings, SOUL OF THE OCEAN was acquired by PBS Nature last March and will be versioned as an episode of the NATURE series, airing sometime in early 2023. The soundtrack can be heard on Spotify or purchased on Amazon. Watch the film’s trailer (which features Williams’ music from the score):
Waxwork Records offers the GODZILLA SINGULAR POINT Original Soundtrack from the Netflix Anime Series by Kan Sawada. Including the full soundtrack from the series’ 13 episodes, the package features 180 gram “Jet Jaguar” colored vinyl, a 12”x12” art print, heavyweight gatefold jackets, and more. Sawada’s score is a lavishly produced composition full of bombastic orchestra driven cues, evoking the intense action of the kaiju terror. Electronic elements are also brought into the mix to accent the futuristic, science fiction nature of the story. Sawada utilizes a variety of instruments and voices to pay his respects to the earlier Showa era films, while creating something uniquely new and original. See Waxwork for details.
Varèse Sarabande announces the 2-LP release of THE IRON GIANT (Original Motion Picture Score) Deluxe Edition with music by Michael Kamen and the LP re-issue of THE OMEN (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) with music by Jerry Goldsmith, conducted by Lionel Newman. The label had previously released Kamen’s IRON GIANT score as a 49-minute program single LP; the 2-LP Deluxe Edition is available on black vinyl with a green vinyl version available exclusively from the label. The 2-LP IRON GIANT package taps directly into the ethos of the film, with a pull tab opening the Giant’s die-cut eyes on the front jacket. Depending on which inner sleeve has been slotted in the first position directly behind the cover, the reveal is different – open the eyes in normal or defense mode! An unboxing video can be seen here. THE OMEN re-issue features the original 12-track 1976 soundtrack album pressed on red vinyl with black splatter. Both albums are available now at all retailers and at VareseSarabande.com.
Mondo announces Goblin’s SUSPIRIA – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack LP, on blue and white splatter vinyl in a spot varnished gatefold sleeve. See details here. Also check out Mondo’s 8XLP box set, volume 2, of music from BATMAN: The Animated Series, available now.
Daniel Pemberton’s nostalgic and wonderfully wistful score to BEING THE RICARDOS, the Academy Award®-nominated and Golden Globe-winning film directed by Aaron Sorkin is available. The single LP collectible record is pressed on limited edition classic black vinyl. Lakeshore Records is now taking advance pre-orders for U.S. customers. The BEING THE RICARDOS soundtrack vinyl hits retailer shelves in January. See more details at Soundtracks and Scores.
Digger’s Factory announces a limited edition vinyl box set of HARRY POTTER movie soundtracks. Featuring the music of John Williams, Patrick Doyle, Nicholas Hooper, and Alexandre Desplat. This unique quadruple LP, 33 track collection of new recordings by The City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra brings together the music from all eight films for the very first time. For more details see Digger’s Factory.
Waxwork Records presents THE SWORD OF DOOM Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Masaru Sato, marking the first time that the soundtrack has been available on vinyl. Directed by Kihachi Okamoto and starring Tatsuya Nakadai and Toshirô Mifune, the film is a 1966 Japanese samurai movie that tells a bloody and violent tale of revenge and redemption. The album is full of dark and yet melodic cues, and takes many influences from traditional Japanese instruments and music. The tone ranges from brash fight scene orchestrations into quiet and lilting flute themes. Working with Toho, Waxwork presents THE SWORD OF DOOM re-mastered on 180 gram Snow, Blood, Flames, and Katana swirled color vinyl, deluxe packaging, new artwork by Yuko Shimizu , heavyweight gatefold jackets with matte satin coating, a 12”x12” art print, and more. See Waxwork for more details.
Launched on Dec. 2nd, Marvel’s Midnight Suns is a tactical role-playing game developed by Firaxis Games in collaboration with Marvel Games. It will feature comic book characters from multiple Marvel Comics properties, such as Midnight Sons, Avengers, X-Men, and Runaways. Players will be able to create their own superhero named “The Hunter” with a choice of over 40 different powers. The game music has been composed by Tim Wynn and Phill Boucher. The game’s soundtrack can he heard on Spotify and purchased on Apple Music and Amazon.
In World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, the latest iteration of the World of Warcraft video game series, the dragonflights of Azeroth have returned, called upon to defend their ancestral home, the Dragon Isles. This game is the ninth expansion pack for the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) World of Warcraft, following Shadowlands. A soundtrack album of the game’s score was released by Blizzard Entertainment on November 22, featuring the music of Neal Acree, Jake Lefkowitz, Glenn Stafford, David Arkenstone, Jason Hayes, and Catherine Nguyen. Listen to the score on Spotify, listen/purchase at Apple Music.
Need for Speed™ Unbound, the latest edition in the Need for Speed™ franchise from Electronic Arts Inc. and Criterion Games™, puts players worldwide in the driver seat of their own street racing fantasy as they outsmart cops and prove they have what it takes to win The Grand. The game’s high-octane score is composed by Brodinski (aka Louis Rogé), a DJ and producer and a key figure of the Parisian electronic scene. The game launched Dec. 2nd on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S and PC on December 2, 2022. Lakeshore Records has released the soundtrack, here.
Randall D. Larson was for many years publisher of CinemaScore: The Film Music Journal, senior editor for Soundtrack Magazine, and a film music columnist for Cinefantastique magazine. A specialist on horror film music, he is the author of Musique Fantastique: 100+ Years of Fantasy, Science Fiction & Horror Film Music and Music from the House of Hammer. He currently writes articles on film music and sf/horror cinema, and has written liner notes more than 300 soundtrack CDs. He can be contacted via https://musiquefantastique.com/ or follow Musique Fantastique on Facebook.